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Title: Home Life in Russia, Volumes 1 and 2 - (Dead Souls)
Author: Gogol, Nikolai Vasilevich
Language: English
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HOME LIFE IN RUSSIA.

BY

A RUSSIAN NOBLE.

(Nikolai Gogol)

REVISED

BY THE EDITOR OF

"REVELATIONS OF SIBERIA."

(Krystin Lach-Szyrma)

IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. I.

LONDON:

HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS,

SUCCESSORS TO HENRY COLBURN,

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.

1854.



PREFACE.


In laying before English readers a Work, of which the scene is
exclusively laid in Russia, and which, it is confidently anticipated,
will be recognised as furnishing a most interesting and graphic account
of the manners and customs of a very extraordinary nation, the Editor
considers it his duty to devote a few words to an explanation of the
circumstances connected with the publication of these volumes.

The Work is written by a Russian nobleman, who offered the MS. in
English to the publishers, and the Editor's task has been confined to
altering such verbal errors as might be expected, when we bear in mind
that the Author has written in a language which is not his own.

The story may be said to be unique. It gives us an insight into the
internal circumstances and relations of Russian society, which only a
Russian could afford us. The Nosdrieffs are an exceptional class, whose
type is peculiar to a half-civilization where a blow is accounted as
no disgrace, and "giving the lie" imparts no stigma. And yet men who
quietly pocket such insults, we find are tolerated in good society,
and, strange to say, are not thought the worse of on that account. The
Napoleonic dictum, "_grattez le Russe, et vous trouverez Tartare_,"
is in this instance most fully verified. But we will not spoil the
reader's enjoyment by any further intimation of the persons, whose
acquaintance he will make while perusing the following pages. The
author affirms that the story is true, and that the main facts are well
known in Russia. There is hardly a class of Russian life and society
which is not introduced upon the scene, and the Author displays their
foibles with an unsparing hand. Still he must not be regarded as an
enemy to his Fatherland: he acts under a salutary impression that the
_exposé_ can do no harm, and may possibly effect some good: and if
he have such good fortune that his book obtains access into his own
country, we feel sure that its truth will be immediately recognized,
and its severity pardoned, at least by those not in authority, on
account of the Author's strenuous exertions to do his part manfully in
ameliorating the condition of his fellow sufferers in Russia.

In conclusion, we may regret that we are not at liberty to mention
the author's name--not that the work itself requires any further
verification, for its genuineness is avouched by almost every line--but
the truth is, that the writer is still anxious to return to his native
country, and is perfectly well aware that the avowal of his handiwork
and such a display of his satirical powers, will not serve as a special
recommendation, except, possibly, as a passport to the innermost
regions of the Siberian wilds.

With these preliminary remarks, the Editor begs to offer "Home Life
in Russia" to the English reader, as a worthy companion to the
"Revelations of Siberia," and as adding one more to our scanty list of
books which throw light upon the domestic life of our 'ancient allies'
and present foes.

LONDON, 1854.



HOME LIFE IN RUSSIA.



CHAPTER I.


One fine summer's afternoon a few years ago, a pretty, neat-looking,
but small spring-britchka, drove into the court-yard of an inn, in the
governmental town of Smolensk. The vehicle was one of that peculiar
description to which bachelors, retired colonels, staats-capitains, and
landowners, rejoicing in the possession of about a hundred-and-fifty
_souls_, give the preference for travelling purposes; in short, all
those who in Russia are called "gentlemen of the middle rank."

The traveller who occupied the high seat in this convenient conveyance,
was a man, who at first sight could not have been taken for handsome,
yet we should do him injustice were we to affirm the contrary of him,
for he was neither too stout nor too thin; it would also have been
impossible to add that he was too old, as little as it would have
been right to call him youthful. His arrival in the above-named town
created no particular sensation, and, indeed, it took place without
the occurrence of anything unusual or even extraordinary; two Russian
mouzhiks, however, who were standing before the door of a dram-shop on
the opposite side of the inn, were apparently making their strictures
and observations, but which, were confined to conjectures concerning
the britchka, not upon the gentleman occupying the carriage.

"Dost thou see it?" said the one to the other, "there is a wheel for
you! what do you think of it, would it break or not, supposing it had
to roll as far as Moscow?"

"It might stand the journey," replied the other, musingly, as he
scratched himself sedulously behind the ear.

"But supposing it was on its way to Kazan, I think it could not stand
the wear and tear of such a distance?" said the first speaker again.

"It will never roll into the ancient Tatar fastness," responded his
friend somewhat affirmatively.

Thus ended their learned conversation, the scientific depth of which
we will not venture to explore. But previous to the britchka being
stopped by its driver before the entrance door of the inn, a young
man had happened to pass; he was dressed in a pair of white, very
tightly-fitting, and extremely short, twill inexpressibles, buttoned up
under a dress-coat of the most fashionable cut, and from under which
a snow-white linen shirt-front visibly displayed an elegant bronze
pin of common Tula manufacture, representing a weapon in the shape of
a pistol. This young gentleman turned round, and also honoured the
travelling-carriage of our stranger with a hasty glance, at the same
time adjusting his hat upon his head, to guard it against the attack of
a sudden gust of wind, and then--turning upon his heel, he too went his
way.

When the carriage had entered the court-yard, and stopped before the
principal entrance of the inn, the traveller was welcomed by the
head-waiter, or saloon-walker, as this class are commonly called in
Russian hotels,--so lively, and spin-about a fellow, that it was
actually impossible to look him in the face, or, in consequence of his
mercurial evolutions, to recognise even the outlines of his features.
He now came running out breathlessly with a napkin over his arm. He
was all one length, without symmetry or the slightest appearance of
proportion, and wore a long demi-cotton jacket, which nearly fitted
his back instead of his waist; he shook his head, and made his long
hair, which was cut _à la mouzhik_, fly in all directions, and led the
stranger quickly up-stairs through the long range of wooden galleries
of the inn, and showed the fatigued traveller into the apartment,
which, by the decrees of the hotel authorities, he was to occupy.

The room was much the same as such rooms usually are, because the inn
was of a similar character, _i.e._, such an inn as is to be found in
all provincial towns of the vast Russian Empire; where, for the sum of
two or three roubles, during the course of twenty-four hours, the weary
traveller is accommodated with a comfortable room full of beetles,
which, like blackberries, peep out from every corner; another door led
into an adjoining bed-room, always barricaded with a chest of drawers,
or a washing-stand, and occupied by a peaceable and silent neighbour,
whose predominant propensity is a lively and irrepressible curiosity
to ascertain all he possibly can about the private and public affairs
of the new comer. The exterior of the building was in strict harmony
with its interior: it was extremely long, and two stories high; the
lower portion was not whitewashed, but was permitted to display its
brownish red bricks, that had grown dark with years, and looked gloomy
and dirty, not only from the sudden changes of wind and weather, but
because they had no doubt been originally of a peculiar dirty tint. The
upper story was painted all over with the eternal yellow, a colour so
fancied and admired in Russia; on the ground-floor there were several
small shops, in which harness, leather, cords, crockery, and cake of
all description were displayed to the best possible advantage.

In one of these above-named shops, in the corner one, or rather at the
window belonging to it, a dealer in heated mead-water, was standing
close to his samovar made of bright copper, and it so happened, that he
had a face as red as his samovar, so that at a distance, one might have
easily fancied there were two self-boilers standing at the window, had
it not been for the feet of one of the samovars being ornamented by a
jet-black, long, flowing beard.

Whilst our gentleman traveller was examining the room allotted to
him, his luggage and other effects were brought in. First of all, his
portmanteau, originally made of white leather, but now looking somewhat
old, and testifying to the fact that it had been more than once on the
road. This portmanteau was carried in by the coachman Selifan, a man of
middle stature, dad in a toulup, and the servant Petruschka, a brisk,
handy fellow of about thirty, dressed in an ample, shabby-genteel coat,
evidently cast off from the the shoulders of his master. He also was a
man of middle size, apparently of a sulky nature at first sight, with
very broad lips and a large nose.

After they had deposited the portmanteau, they brought in a small
mahogany travelling box, inlaid with ebony and other ornamental
woods, a pair of boot-legs, and a cold fowl, carefully wrapped in a
piece of brown paper. When all these effects were properly located in
their respective places, the coachman Selifan left the room with the
intention of looking after his horses, whilst the servant Petruschka
began to make his arrangements in a small adjoining antechamber, very
dark and much like a dog-kennel, into which he had already succeeded in
conveying with him his travelling cloak, together with a peculiar odour
of his own which was also common to a large bag of his, containing a
variety of articles, forming the indispensable toilet of a travelling
servant. In this same dark dog-kennel he fixed against the wall as well
as he possibly could, a shaky, three-legged bedstead, and stretched
upon it something not unlike a mattress, but as meagre and flat as a
pancake, and perhaps not less greasy. This mattress, however, he had
obtained not without some difficulty, from the landlord of the inn.

During the time that these servants were thus busily engaged in making
themselves and their master comfortable, the latter had himself
descended into the reception saloon.

What character these so called reception-rooms bear--many of my
readers, who have travelled in Russia, will know perfectly well
--everywhere the same walls, painted in oil-colours, darkened by the
smoke of stoves and tobacco in the upper parts, and greasy from the
backs of visitors and travellers in the more accessible regions below;
the walls are principally thus disfigured by the resident tradesmen of
the town, who, on a market-day will gather together in friendly groups,
to take their usual quantum of tea, and talk over business and things
in general. There are the same grimy ceiling and glass-lustres with
their numerous prismatic ornaments dangling around them, shaking and
ringing whenever the head waiter runs across the room over the worn-out
carpet, whilst swinging about his tray fearlessly and in the most
acrobatic manner imaginable, though it be covered with cups and saucers
like the ocean shore with sea-gulls--the same pictures all around the
wall, painted, of course, in oil; in a word all was here similar to
what it is elsewhere, the only striking difference worthy of notice was
perhaps a painting representing a nymph with such an enormous bosom as
undoubtedly my reader has never seen. Similar fancy portraitures of
nature's bestowings, however, make their appearance in many historical
pictures, which, heaven knows, at what period, from whence and by whom,
have been brought to us into Russia, and exposed to our view. Sometimes
indeed, we have to thank our aristocracy for them, who as admirers
and patrons of the fine arts, commission their travelling couriers to
purchase them in Italy and elsewhere, according to their taste and
judgment.

Our hero took off his travelling cap and liberated his neck from the
close embrace of a woollen rainbow-coloured neckcloth, resembling those
which a dutiful wife will knit with her own fair hands for her beloved
husband, and present it to him with the necessary instructions how
to tie it and untie it; as for bachelors, I really cannot say whose
kind hands knit such ties for them, but for my own part, I never had
the fortune to wear such neck-wrappers in my life. After having freed
himself of his woollen tie, the gentleman ordered his dinner to be
brought to him.

Whilst various dishes were being served up to him, such as are
customary in Russian hotels, as for example; stchee, or cabbage soup,
with small meat pies, especially prepared--and indeed always kept
ready for all travellers and for many weeks in advance--calf's head and
green peas, sausages and greens, roast fowl, salt cucumbers, and the
everlasting sweet flour tarts, continually ready and in store; whilst,
as we before said, all these good things were being displayed before
him, either cold or warmed up, he amused himself by addressing various
questions to the head-waiter, inquiring who the former hotel-keeper was
and who the present, what the expenses were, and how large the income
was, whether the landlord was a thorough rogue or only partially so, to
which the head-waiter would invariably reply: "Oh, yes, Sir, a great
scoundrel, Sir!"

Thus, then, as is the case in civilized Europe, there are also in
civilized Russia, a great many respectable people, who cannot eat their
dinner in an hotel, without speaking to the waiter, and who even cannot
forbear passing a joke or two upon him.

However, our traveller did not limit his inquiries to apparently
unimportant matters, but he also and with wonderful circumspection and
in due rotation inquired of the head-waiter who the Governor of the
town was, after the names of the Presiding Magistrate and the Imperial
Procurator--in a word, he did not omit any of the higher officers
of the crown, but even tried to ascertain with as much precision as
possible, if not with complete success all or any information he could
elicit as regarded the most important and richest landowners of the
vicinity, how many _souls_ or peasants each of them might possess, how
far out of town he lived and what his character and disposition were,
and how frequently he came from his country-seat to visit the town.
He also inquired very minutely about the condition and health of the
environs, whether that particular government had been visited by any
contagious diseases, such as epidemic and other fatal fevers, the ague,
cholera, and similar plagues; and all this was asked with such apparent
solicitude, and the replies were listened to with such marked interest
as to make it quite obvious that simple curiosity was not the only
motive that prompted him to put all these various questions.

In his manner there was something sedate and solid, and he had a habit
of blowing his nose very noisily indeed, and though it is impossible
to say how he contrived to do so, it must be admitted that the noise
was something similar to a blow through a hautbois. This, in itself
apparently, quite harmless habit had, nevertheless, the good effect of
attracting the more particular attention of the head-waiter, who, each
time he heard this singular noise, at once shook his head and made his
hair fly in all directions, whilst straightening his frame and bending
down his bust in a more respectful inclination, he asked the stranger
if he wished for anything else?

After dinner, the gentleman took a cup of coffee and seated himself
upon the sofa, and to increase his comfort he put a cushion behind
his back; and cushions in Russian hotels, instead of fine and elastic
wool are generally filled up with something not unlike bricks and
pebbles; upon this the stranger yawned once or twice, and then wished
to be shown into his apartment where he lay down and slept soundly for
about two hours. After this refreshing siesta he rose, and wrote upon
a slip of paper, accordingly to the regulations of the establishment,
and the request of the head-waiter: his rank, profession, Christian
and family name, for the due information of the police authorities.
Upon this paper, the head-waiter whilst hurrying down stairs, spelled
with as much agility as he was capable, the following: "Councillor of
State, Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff, landowner, travelling for his own
amusement and affairs."



CHAPTER II.


Whilst the head-waiter was still engaged in decyphering the words
written on the slip of paper, Tchichikoff left his room and went into
the street, to examine the town, with which he evidently appeared to be
pleased; for he, no doubt, found that it in no way yielded precedence
to any other governmental or provincial town of the Empire: the yellow
colour was strikingly predominant upon all the stone edifices, whilst
a more modest dark grey hue was thickly diffused over all the wooden
buildings. The houses were of regular and irregular construction, of
one, two, and one a-half stories high, with everlasting balconies,
of course very pretty according to the good taste of provincial
architects. In some places, these houses appeared as if lost in midst
of the plain-like large streets and their interminable long wooden
garden-enclosures; in other places again, they were huddled together,
and here life and commerce were more perceptible.

Some of the sign boards, though many were washed clean by heavy rains
and snow-storms, displayed here and there a well painted cake, a pair
of Suwarrow boots, or a coat and pair of inexpressibles, with the
inscription "tailor, from Paris;" then again a hosier's shop, exhibited
hats and gloves, stockings and night-caps, with the superscription:
"Arsenieff Philipoff, foreign merchant;" on another house might be seen
a very large sign-board with a billiard-table painted upon it, and
two players in dress-coats, such as the dramatis personae wear in an
after-piece, when they enter as "guests," upon the stage. The players
on this sign-hoard were represented in the act of aiming at a ball with
their cues, their arms slightly bent backwards and rather ill-shaped
legs, as if they had been in the act of making an unsuccessful attempt
at an _entrechat._ Under this billiard-table was written in large
characters: "And here is the establishment."

Here and there a man or woman was hawking wares about the street, or
selling them at a stand, such as nuts, apples, soap, and cakes--which
bore a striking resemblance to soap; then again a coffee and tea-shop,
or eating-house, with a large sign board outside, with an enormous
fish on it, in the back of which a gigantic fork was stuck, like an
harpoon in a whale. Most frequent of all were the double-headed and
swarthy looking Imperial eagles spreading their protecting wings over
the entrance of the numerous taverns with the laconic inscription,
"dram-shop." The pavement was in a bad condition everywhere. The
curiosity of Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff, the Councillor of State,
went even so far as to honour with a minute inspection the public
garden of the town; he found the trees very scrubby and scantily
planted, taking feeble root, leaning for support against three posts in
the shape of a triangle, and very neatly painted with green oil-colour.

Although these trees were not much higher than common reeds, yet
they were mentioned and described in the newspapers on the occasion
of the last illumination of the town in the following exceedingly
complimentary style: "Thanks to the munificence and protection of
our Governor-General, our town is being rapidly embellished, and has
again been endowed with an additional ornament--a public garden--full
of shady and broad-leaved trees, spreading their protecting branches
against the oppressive heat of the day, and it is very gratifying
indeed, to witness how loudly the hearts of the good citizens beat, and
their tears of gratitude flow in acknowledgment and gratitude towards
our Lord-Lieutenant and Governor."

After asking the policeman on duty the nearest way to the
parish-church, the town-hall, and the residence of the Lord-Lieutenant,
Tchichikoff went to take a walk near the river, which flowed through
the centre of the town; on his road thither he happened to pass a
lamp-post, from which he tore off a play-bill, which was flapping
loosely; no doubt with the intention of reading it with more leisure,
when at home; he looked attentively at a lady of rather elegant
appearance who was passing along the wood pavement the other side of
the street, and who was followed by a little page in a military livery,
carrying a large bundle in his hands; once again he cast a long and
general glance around him as if with the intention of familiarizing his
memory with the position of place and streets, and then went straight
home to his room, slightly assisted by the ever attentive head-waiter,
during the process of getting up-stairs.

Having had tea, he sat down before a table and ordered a wax candle,
produced the torn off play-bill from his pocket, and bringing it
closer to the light, he began to read it, slightly closing his right
eye. However, there was nothing remarkable in the play-bill: one of
Shakespeare's dramas was to be performed; the part of Hamlet was
allotted to a Mr. Matchaloff, and that of Ophelia, to Miss Assenkova,
the other dramatis personae were of indifferent reputation, and for
that reason less interesting; nevertheless, Tchichikoff read them all,
and got even as far down the list as the price of the pit and gallery,
and discovered that the bill had been printed in the governmental
printing-office of the town.

When he had perused the whole, he turned the bill and examined the
other side of it, to see if there was by chance something more to
read, but finding nothing, he wiped his eyes and folded the bill
carefully together, and then deposited it in his mahogany travelling
box, into which he was accustomed to put anything, and everything he
could lay hold of. The day, we imagine, was concluded with a plate
of cold veal and ham, a bottle of sour Crimea-wine, and in a sound
night's rest--all in one breath--as we express ourselves in some of the
extensive towns of the broad Russian Empire.

The whole of the following day was devoted to paying visits.
Tchichikoff went out to pay his _devoirs_ to all the important officers
and _employés_ of the town. With hat in hand, he waited upon the
Lord-Lieutenant, who, on closer inspection, proved to bear a great
resemblance to Tchichikoff himself, for he was neither too stout nor
too thin; but he wore the decoration for merit of St. Anne round his
neck, and it was whispered about that he might shortly be honoured
with a presidential star; however, he was a good-natured man, and even
sometimes found leisure and pleasure to assist his lady in embroidering
upon canvass.

Tchichikoff next went to present himself to the Vice-Governor, the
Procurator, the Presiding Magistrate, the Commissary of Police,
the Public Contractor-General, the Inspectors of the Imperial
manufactories--our memory fails us, and we regret it; but in excuse
we may state that it is rather difficult to remember the different
grades of the all-powerful of this wicked world; it will therefore
suffice to say, that our traveller displayed an unusual activity as
regarded the visits he paid on that particular day. We will conclude a
notice of them, by stating that he even went so far in the marks of his
civilities, as not to forget to pay his compliments to the Inspector
of the Surgical division and the Town-architect. When he had performed
all these obligations, he was still sitting and musing in his britchka,
and meditating whether he had not omitted any one; but really, there
were no more officers of the crown to whom he could have shown his
attentions.

In his conversation with these omnipotent personages, he contrived,
very cleverly, too, to say to each of them separately something either
laudatory or complimentary. To the Lord-Lieutenant he insinuated the
flattering observation, that the entrance into his Lord-Lieutenancy
was like that into Paradise, and that the roads were everywhere even
and smooth as velvet, and that those governments which appoint so
trustworthy managers merit the highest praise. To the Commissary of
Police he expressed his admiration of the watchfulness and the civility
of the policemen under his orders, and in his conversation with the
Vice-Governor and the Presiding Magistrate, who had no higher rank than
simply "councillors of state," he made an adroit mistake by addressing
them twice as "your excellency," which of course pleased and flattered
them amazingly.

The results of his praiseworthy attentions were, that the
Lord-Lieutenant immediately honoured him with an invitation for that
same day to an evening party _en famille_, whilst the other officers of
the crown invited him, the one to dinner, another to a game of whist,
a third asked him, as a favour, to come and take a cup of tea, and so
forth.

About himself, our friend Tchichikoff obviously avoided saying
much, and if he spoke of himself at all, it was but in very general
terms indeed, and with an undeniable modesty; his conversation, in
such instances, assumed rather more of a learned phraseology and
expression. Thus he would remark, for instance, that he was the
most insignificant worm that crept over the surface of this world of
trouble and deception, and therefore quite unworthy to be an object of
particular notice; that he had seen much, and acquired a great deal
of experience during his life; that he had struggled and suffered in
the service for the just cause; that he had many enemies, some of them
even capable of preying on his very vitals; and that now, exhausted by
fruitless contests, he was longing for tranquillity, and in search of a
modest corner, where he might pass the remainder of his career in quiet
and retirement; and, finally, that in passing through this beautiful
town, he considered it to be his bounden duty to testify his respect
and admiration to the magistrates of the place by waiting upon them.
This was about all that the _élite_ of Smolensk could learn touching
the strange face that had arrived within the walls of the town, and
which strange face did not fail to show itself that very same evening
at the _réunion_ of the Lord-Lieutenant.

The preparations for this evening party occupied our hero considerably
above two hours, for he devoted such unusual care and attention to his
toilette as, we venture to say, is perhaps seldom witnessed. Having
enjoyed a short but sound after-dinner nap, he ordered fresh water
to be brought in to him; he then began to wash very carefully both
his cheeks, using soap very freely, and putting his tongue against
each of them in turn--to tighten the skin, no doubt; then, taking the
towel from off the shoulder of the officious head-waiter, he commenced
rubbing and drying his full face, beginning from behind his ears, yet
he did not do so without sneezing twice, and directly into the face of
the clever head-waiter.

Having performed this operation, he took up his position before the
looking-glass to adjust his shirt-front, and to abbreviate two hairs
which protruded from his nostrils, and soon after he was shining in his
glory and a dress coat of light coffee-brown colour with bronze buttons.

Thus tastefully and elegantly attired, he seated himself in his own
carriage, and drove off through the interminable and dimly-lighted
streets. The house of the Lord-Lieutenant, however, was illuminated
as if for a regular ball; all the carriages that arrived had their
lights; two _gendarmes_ were maintaining order in the entrance-hall;
in the distance were heard the loud yells of coachmen and footmen--in
a word, all was as it ought to be. On entering the reception-room and
_salon_, Tchichikoff was obliged to close his eyes for a moment, for
the brilliancy of the lamps and lights, and the dresses and toilette
of the ladies, were literally bewildering. All was one blaze of light.
Black dress-coats were flying about in all directions, separately
and in heaps, as flies will do around a sugar-loaf in the middle of
a hot day in July, when the grumbling old housekeeper is cutting it
into square, sparkling pieces before an open window; little children,
if any, will gather around her, and watch with intense interest and
curiosity the movements of her bony hand, raising in measured time the
active hammer, whilst the airy brigade of flies, carried along by a
whispering zephyr, approach her fearlessly as conquerors, and, taking
advantage of the rays of the sun, which dazzle and dim her sight,
besiege the tempting bits in small and large divisions. As they have
been already abundantly nourished by the dainties of a fine summer, and
at each flight desert some rich meal for another, they do not descend
upon the sugar to feed, but come there with the intention of showing
themselves, of parading up and down upon the sweet heaps, of rubbing
their fore or hind legs against one another, or of performing the same
process with their airy wings, and again stretching them out, and
scratching their little heads, then turn round and fly away, only to
return again, after joining a new and perhaps more numerous detachment.

Tchichikoff had not yet recovered from similar effects and reflections,
when he found himself surrounded and soon after arm-in-arm with the
Lord-Lieutenant, who introduced him at once to his lady. But even
here our new guest did not lose his countenance; he said something
complimentary, suitable to the circumstance, and very _à propos_ for
a man of his--the middle age--of a rank neither too exalted nor too
insignificant. When the dancers took up their positions for a first set
of quadrilles, the non-dancers were obliged to fall back towards the
wall. Tchichikoff was among them, and did as they did by putting his
arms behind him _à la Napoléon_, and for about two minutes he appeared
to pay the greatest attention to what was passing before him.

Many of the ladies were dressed with good taste, and in the latest
fashion, while others again displayed robes and jewels, such as could
only be got in the shops of a provincial town. The gentlemen also,
here as elsewhere, could be divided into two distinct classes: to
the first belonged those who were tall, slender and thin, and who
are always found buzzing around the fair sex; some of them even were
of the same description as those we are wont to see in the _salons_
at St. Petersburg; they wore their whiskers in the same studied and
carefully-brushed manner, or had the oval of their faces carefully
and neatly shaved; they were familiar with the same easy manners in
presence of ladies, and they also spoke French fluently; they knew how
to amuse and make the ladies laugh whether they liked it or not, just
exactly as the fashionables do in the imperial capital.

The second class was composed of bulky and stout men, such as our
friend Tchichikoff, that is to say, of the middle size, who could
neither be called too stout or too slender. This latter description
of gentlemen was always anxiously engaged in avoiding too close a
proximity with the fair sex, and looking about right and left with the
intention of espying, if possible, whether the servants of their host
had not already prepared a green cloth table for a game of whist. Their
faces were round as a full moon; upon some of them pimples and warts
were visible; others again displayed the marks of small-pox; and as for
their hair, they did not wear it in curls, brushed _à la Titus_, or cut
_à la diable m'emporte_, as the French call it; their hair was neatly
arranged or smoothly brushed down; and as for their features, they were
rather round and strongly marked. Such men as we have described were
the right honourable dignitaries of the town of Smolensk.

It is a curious fact that men of such frame know better how to manage
their little affairs in this world of trouble and disappointment
than those who are tall, slender or thin. Slender men are appointed
in Russia--perhaps also elsewhere--as special commissioners, or are
generally selected for such an office; they are to be met with,
here, there and everywhere, somehow or another. Their existence is
rather too easy, airy, and not at all calculated to be depended
upon. Stout men, on the contrary, never accept doubtful or ambiguous
appointments. They all grasp at something more substantial; and if
they take up a position in life, it always proves to be a safe and a
profitable one, and though the foundation may sometimes shake under
their weight, they themselves are not to be unseated. They hate outward
display and refinements; their coats may perhaps not be of the best
fit or the latest fashion like those of the slender gentlemen, but
in compensation, their money bags are filled with the blessings of
providence.

The slender man may, after three or four years of extravagance, not
have a single serf to mortgage at the Imperial Bank, whilst the stout
man's glance is calm and satisfied, for somehow or another, he has
saved sufficient to buy a modest cottage in some snug corner of the
town, of course in the name of his wife--this attracts less attention,
and is done for greater safety; for, in another snug corner of the
same town we find another comfortable house belonging to the same
stout man; also, at a later date, he builds a villa in the environs,
and finally makes the acquisition of a whole estate with all its
appurtenances.

Thus then the stout man, having served God and the Emperor, and gained
universal esteem, retires from public service, leaves town for his
estate, and becomes a farmer, a landowner, a real Russian gentleman,
a regular, what we call in Russia, _bread and salt man_--he lives and
he lives well indeed. But when he has done living, then come again his
slender heirs; and in the Russian fashion, they spend in a race all the
wealth, goods and chattels of their stout parent.



CHAPTER III.


We will not attempt to conceal from our reader that reflections like
those which concluded the last chapter preoccupied the mind of our
friend Tchichikoff, at the time when he was casting his eyes around
the company before him; the consequence was, that after mature
consideration, he closed in with the ranks of the stout men, where he
met with faces he was already acquainted with--the Procurator with his
dark and heavy eyebrows, who was continually winking his left eye,
as if he meant to say, "Follow me into the other room, my friend,
and there will I tell you something." However, he was a serious and
sober-minded man; next was the Commissary of Police, a middle-sized
man, but sharp and acute, and with all that a philosopher; the
Presiding Magistrate, a very judicious and amiable man, who was met by
every one with much affability, and treated like an old acquaintance.
Tchichikoff bowed low to all of them in turn, though rather lower than
they had done, but not without something pleasing in his peculiar mode
of salutation.

In this group of men he also made the acquaintance of Mr. Maniloff, a
landowner of agreeable and polite manner, and of Mr. Sobakevitch, also
a landed proprietor, who at first sight appeared of rather stiff, if
not of clumsy carriage, and who, whilst replying to the civilities of
Tchichikoff, accidentally trod upon his toe, saying at the same time,
"I beg your pardon." After these introductions, he was presented with a
playing card, and invited to join a game of whist, which he accepted as
a matter of course, with his usual bow of politeness.

The players took their seats around the green table, which they did
not leave until suppertime. All conversation was strictly prohibited,
as usually happens when the mind is given up to serious occupations.
Although the Postmaster was generally a talkative person, yet, from the
instant he felt the cards in his hands, he ceased to be so, and his
face assumed the expression of a meditating philosopher. He compressed
his upper lip upon the lower one, and kept them in that position nearly
during the whole time the game lasted. If he played a court card, he
could not help knocking audibly with the knuckles of his hand upon
the table, and whispering at the same time, if it was a queen, "off
starts the pope's wife:" if it was a king, "here goes the mouzhik from
Tambov!" To this the Presiding Magistrate would coolly reply; "And I
will have her! And I shall pull his beard."

At the same time, and whilst playing a trump card, or knocking against
the table, various expressions were made use of, such as, "Ah! _bilá
ne bilá_! I don't know what to play, so I come out with a diamond;" or
simply exclamations of, "Hearts! heartlings! spades! spadelings! club!
clublings!" and a variety of other words, epithets and names, with
which they had christened in their own immediate circles the various
colours of the playing cards.

At the termination of their game, they had as usual in such cases, a
few disputes, which they settled in rather a loud voice. Our guest and
friend, Mr. Tchichikoff, of course took part in the dispute, but he did
so with considerable ability, and so well, that though every one heard
him protesting, yet all were obliged to agree that he did so with very
good taste indeed. He never said, "you played this or that card," but
"I believe you were pleased to play the ace," and "I had the honour of
covering your knave, Sir," or something equally civil. And in order to
convince his opponents still more upon the subject of their argument,
he invariably presented to them his silver snuff-box, on the bottom
of which they could perceive tonquin-beans which were placed there on
purpose to increase the flavour of his snuff.

The attention of our stranger was particularly attracted by the
two landed proprietors, Maniloff and Sobakevitch, of whom we have
already had occasion to make mention. He availed himself of the first
favourable opportunity to take the Presiding Magistrate and the
Postmaster aside, and tried to learn from them all the information they
could give him about these two gentlemen. A few questions and answers
which passed between them, showed that our hero not only possessed the
propensities of an inquisitive disposition, but also cherished a wish
for positive information; because he first of all inquired how many
serfs each of these landowners possessed, and in what suburbs their
estates were situated, and then only bethought himself of asking the
Christian names of those in whom he appeared to take such a lively
interest.

This mode of taking an interest in persons is rather unusual in Russia,
for we always begin our inquiries by asking for the Christian names
of father and son first, and then only let our real intentions peep
out. However, notwithstanding the omission of this general rule,
Tchichikoff succeeded in a very brief time indeed, in completely
captivating the good graces of the two gentlemen-farmers. Maniloff,
who was yet in the prime of life, with eyes as sweet as sugar, and
which he was continually winking when he laughed, was actually charmed
with our friend's person and manners. He pressed his hand warmly and
long, and begged of him most urgently to do him the honour of visiting
him on his estate, which according to him was not more than fifteen
wersts from the gates of the town. To this very polite invitation,
Tchichikoff replied by a very civil inclination of the head, and a
truly affectionate pressure of the hand, adding that he would not only
be happy to do so, but that he considered it even to be his sacred duty
to do himself that honour.

Sobakevitch also invited our guest, but he did so in a rather laconic
manner, simply saying: "And don't forget me;" whilst he attempted a
bow, accompanied by a scratch with his left foot; this manoeuvre drew
the attention of Tchichikoff to his feet, which were shod in such a
pair of gigantic boots, that we really believe it would be impossible
to meet with a couple of feet proportioned to their size, especially
now-a-days, when even Russians begin to look more at shape and fashion.

On the following day, Tchichikoff went to dine and spend the evening
with the Commissary of Police, where at three o'clock in the
afternoon they sat down to a game of whist, and never rose till two
hours after midnight. Here, however, he had the advantage of making
the acquaintance of Mr. Nosdrieff, also an owner of some estates, a
man of about thirty years of age, and of a very lively and volatile
disposition, who, after three or four words, treated our stranger _en
frère_. With the Commissary of Police, Nosdrieff appeared to be also
very familiar and on fraternal terms; when they took their seats for
the purpose of playing their long game, however, the Commissary of
Police and the Procurator had the habit of very carefully examining his
tricks, and followed very attentively every card he played.

Upon the following day, Tchichikoff went to pay a visit, and remained
to tea at the chief magistrate's, who received his guests in a dressing
gown, which looked somewhat greasy and worn out. Among the company
there were also two ladies, whose names our guest did not catch. He
also called in the evening upon the Vice-Governor; he dined at the
great dinner of the public contractor, and at the modest table of the
Procurator, whose dinner must have cost a great deal; and he supped
at the Mayor's, whose supper was worth the two dinners. In a word,
Tchichikoff had no two hours time to stay at home, so much was he
engaged in town, and if he returned to his hotel, it was only for the
purpose of taking necessary rest.

In all respects, our traveller appeared to be welcome everywhere, for
he knew how to make himself comfortable in all positions; in short, he
proved a man of considerable experience and tact, as well as a complete
man of the world. It did not matter to him what question or argument
was brought forward; he never seemed embarrassed or at a loss how
to sustain the subject; if horses and races were on the _tapis_, he
knew how to give his opinion on races in general, and horse-breeding
in particular; if dogs were praised, he was not at a loss to say
something about the perfections of the canine race; if the proceedings
of the Imperial Courts of Inquiry were discussed, he proved that these
cases, as well as the general conduct of the Imperial _employés_,
were familiar to him; if the game of billiards was brought forward,
even upon the billiard-table he did not give a miss; if benefactors
were praised, he also knew how to acknowledge their merits, even with
apparent tears in his eyes; if comments upon distilleries and spirits
were expressed, he also knew how to find fault with the spirits of
wine, &c.; if the indiscretions of custom-house officers and inspectors
were complained of, even them he knew how to judge and condemn, just as
if he had himself been a custom-house officer or inspector.

But it was remarkable that he knew how to express and clothe his
comments and opinions in such a pleasing and unpretending manner that
he never compromised his position. His voice was neither too loud, nor
did he whisper, he spoke exactly as a man ought to speak; in a word,
you might have turned him any way, and still you would have found him
a gentleman, and of course all the Imperial _employés_ of the higher
ranks in the town of Smolensk were pleased and satisfied with the
appearance and manners of the new and _distingué_ personage who had
arrived among them.

The Lord-Lieutenant's opinion of Tchichikoff was, that he believed him
a man of strictly honourable intentions; the Procurator pronounced him
a very practical man; the colonel of the garrison said that he was a
learned gentleman; the Presiding Magistrate was convinced that he was
a man of deep knowledge and great modesty; the Commissary of Police
affirmed that Tchichikoff was very civil and amiable; but his wife
proclaimed him to be the most amiable and well-bred man she had seen
for some time. And even Sobakevitch, who seldom had a good opinion of
any one, nevertheless, after his return home from town late at night,
and whilst undressing and preparing to retire, said to his wife, a
slender lady of not very prepossessing appearance: "My darling heart, I
have spent the evening at his Excellency's the Lord-Lieutenant, I have
dined with the Commissary of Police, and have made the acquaintance of
Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff, a Councillor of State; an exceedingly
amiable gentleman!" whereupon the conjugal couple fell asleep.

Thus our hero had gained golden opinions from all manner of men in the
good town of Smolensk, without in any way making known anything which
might inform them as to the immediate object of his visit to that town.
He was equally reserved as to his antecedents, but we fortunately
are well acquainted with them, and for a better comprehension of the
following story, we think it will be advisable to let our readers into
the secret of Mr. Tchichikoff's birth, parentage, and education.



CHAPTER IV.


It is a very dubious circumstance whether the hero we have selected
for our story will meet with much favour at the hands of our readers.
Ladies he is sure not to please--and this assertion we advance
confidentially--because ladies expect a hero to be a perfect creation,
and if he present but the slightest mental or corporeal imperfection,
then, woe to the author! However carefully he may describe his
character, and were he even to draw his portrait brighter than a
crystal mirror, his exertions, his talents, will be valueless, his time
and labour thrown away.

The very corpulence and middle-age of Tchichikoff are calculated to
injure him from the very outset: corpulence is unpardonable in a hero,
and many fair ladies will turn away in disgust, and say, "Fie! how
ugly, how very uninteresting!" Alas! all this is but too well known
to the author, for the more he has looked about him, the more he has
found it the case that perfect heroes are the only ones that meet with
success in this world.

On glancing at all the productions of foreign genius, he has never met
with any but fair and perfect heroes and heroines, and even in "Uncle
Tom's Cabin" he was astonished at finding none but youthful, fair, and
virtuous sufferers.

These, then, are the characters that have met, and still seem to meet
with unbounded success in the reading world, though they have been, in
our humble opinion, hunted down as it were with a Russian knout, ever
since romance became fashionable. Our task, as a Russian author, is a
very difficult one indeed, and especially so at the present moment; and
unless we can lay before our reader something unmistakeably original,
we ought not to have ventured on it. However, trusting in indulgence,
and boldly asserting that the perfect and virtuous heroes are
completely used up, we beg to introduce an _imposing_ hero.

Dark and humble is the origin of our friend Tchichikoff. His parents he
knew belonged to a lower degree of nobility, but whether of hereditary
or acquired rank, he was profoundly ignorant; there was no family
resemblance between them; at least, such was the opinion of a near
relative of his mother's, a woman who was present at his birth. She
exclaimed, as she took the new born babe in her arms, "He has not at
all turned out what I expected he would be! He ought at least to have
resembled his mother," which would have been even better, but he was
born simply as the proverb says, "not like his father nor like his
mother, but like a passing stranger."

His early life presented but acid-tasteing incidents and recollections,
as if regarded through a pane of glass frozen over and covered with
snow; he had no friend, no play companion in his early youth. He
greeted the world in a country-house with low windows, which were never
opened either in winter or summer; his father was a sickly-looking
man, who wore a long kaftan or surtout, felt shoes on his bare feet,
kept continually heaving deep sighs, walked up and down his room with
evident preoccupation, and used to spit frequently into a spittoon
standing in a corner; he also sat often uninterruptedly upon a wooden
chair before a table with a pen in his hand and some ink on his
fingers, and even upon his lips, his eyes fatigued by eternal copyings.

"Never tell a falsehood, fear God and pray for the Emperor, respect
your superiors and cherish your benefactors," were the sentences and
exhortations to which our hero had to listen while still a child and
incapable of judging their importance; the continual and uniform noise
of his father's feet dad in their felt shoes, and dragging across the
floor, accompanied by the well-known but harsh voice of his parent,
saying, "You are noisy again, you little rogue!" This is the _triste_
picture of his early childhood, of which he had now scarcely preserved
a faint recollection.

But in life all changes unexpectedly; on a fine and sunshiny morning in
the spring, when snow had disappeared from the fields and the roads,
the father took his son and seated himself with him in a modest telega,
drawn by a small horse of the race called 'the hawk' by Russian
horse dealers; this open equipage was guided by a little hunchbacked
coachman, the only representative of his family and the only serf
Tchichikoff's father possessed, as he was also the only servant to do
all the work in his master's house. This hawk-race horse dragged them
along the high road for more than two days and a half; they slept on
the road, crossed the brooks and rivers, fed on cold fish pies and
roast mutton, and arrived only late on the third day in the small town
of Bobruisk, their destination.

Before the eyes of the little boy, glittered in unexpected magnificence
the houses, shops, and streets of the little town, and so much was he
at first bewildered by what he saw that he involuntarily opened his
mouth widely, and kept it so for some time. His ecstacy was, however,
interrupted by the quadruped hawk, falling with the telega into a deep
hole, which was the entrance into a narrow lane, which led, as they
advanced, down a steep declivity and was buried in mud on either side;
for a long time the poor hawk-horse kept exerting itself and kicking
about on all fours, assisted by both the hunchbacked coachman and
the master himself, until at last the strength of all three combined
brought the vehicle out of the hole, and before a small modest-looking
house, with two scrubby poplars before and a small insignificant garden
behind.

This house was inhabited by a relation of Tchichikoff's mother, an old
trembling woman much advanced in years, and who, notwithstanding her
age, went every morning to market, and on her return from there, used
to dry her wet stockings by holding them up and close to the samovar!
When she beheld the little boy, she took him on her knees, clapped his
rosy cheeks with both her hands, and seemed exceedingly pleased with
his childish corpulence. With this original and affectionate woman he
was to remain for the future, and go daily to the parish-school of the
town of Bobruisk.

After passing the night with them, his father left them the next
morning and started at once on his road home again. At their separation
no tears flowed from the parental eyes, but he presented his son with
half a rouble, a few caresses and what is more valuable still, with the
following exhortations:

"Now then my boy, Pavluschka, study and learn, do not be foolish nor
become a good-for-nothing boy, but try as much as possible to please
and always obey your masters. If you obey your superiors; then, whether
you have been successful or not in your studies, if Providence refuses
you natural talents, you will still be able to get on in the world and
go-ahead, even before all others. Have little or nothing to do with
gay companions, they will teach you nothing good; but if you cannot
avoid making acquaintances, then he upon friendly terms only with those
richer than yourself, for they might be later of use to you by their
influence. Do not drink or play foolish tricks by standing treat, but
conduct yourself in such a manner that others may treat and compliment
you. Above all, be careful and economic and spare and gather up all
your pence, for money is the most influential thing in this world. Your
friends and gay companions will be the first to betray and desert you
in case of need, but the money you have saved will never betray you in
whatever circumstances you may find yourself placed. You can do much
and succeed in everything in this world provided you have money."

After concluding his instructions and advice, the father parted with
his son, took his seat on his telega, and the quadruped-hawk trotted
along the high road towards home, and from that time the lowly little
boy never saw his fond parent again; but his parting words and advice
remained deeply impressed in his innocent soul.

Young Pavluschka went to school, immediately, on the following day.
Any particular talent, for any particular science, was not observable
in the boy; he distinguished himself more by assiduous application and
orderly behaviour: but his want of talent, was counterbalanced by a
mind full of practical wisdom. He at once understood and appreciated
his peculiar position, and behaved in regard to his companions in
such a manner, that they not only treated him always, but even gave
him an excellent opportunity to reserve the greatest portion of
the sweet-meats and knick-knacks, to sell at a later date, on very
advantageous terms, to the very donors. Whilst still a child, he
possessed sufficient strength of mind to refuse himself, and abstain
from everything. Of the half-rouble given to him on the departure of
his father, he had not spent a single copek, on the contrary, at the
end of the year the sum at his disposal had increased considerably,
showing nearly an incredible result of his carefulness and speculative
mind. He commenced his speculation by making an hussar on horseback,
out of wax, and sold him uncommonly advantageously. After this, his
first success, he ventured sometime later into a variety of other
speculations; such as buying honey-cakes in the marketplace, which
he took with him to school and seated himself near those of his
school-fellows, who were the richest, and as soon as he saw them moving
about on their forms, with evident uneasiness, he took it for granted
that his friend felt the pang of hunger, and immediately passed him
under the bench a honey-cake or a copek-loaf, for which the other was
but too glad to pay him at once, in order to satisfy the cravings of
his boyish appetite.

He passed nearly two months at home devoting all his time and attention
to the education of a mouse, for which he had made with his own little
hands a wooden cage, and at last he had succeeded so far as to make the
little animal sit up on its hind legs, lie down and get up again when
commanded, and ultimately sold it very advantageously indeed. When he
had economised about five roubles, he got himself a small bag, which he
had sown himself, put the round sum of five into it, tied the bag up,
and began to collect his rising capital in another.

As regards his conduct towards his teacher, he behaved himself, if
possible, with even more wisdom. It must be observed that the master of
that school was extraordinarily fond of quietude and good conduct, and
could not bear the sight of intelligent and lively boys; he imagined
that they would infallibly laugh at him. It was sufficient for any of
the more intelligent boys to show their talent or make the master guess
that they possessed some, even if it was betrayed by a slight movement
with the eye-brows, it would have been sufficient to attract upon them
his anger and resentment. He would persecute and punish the intelligent
boy with unrelenting severity.

"'Twill cure you of your pretentions and want of respect, you saucy
boy, and bring you back to your right senses; I'll make you kneel
down--you shall have a day's fasting!" And the poor boy, not able to
account for his punishment, had to kneel down and fast nearly every day.

"Disposition and talent! all that is stuff and nonsense!" he used to
say: "I only look at your conduct. I will give any boy good marks for
all sciences, no matter whether he know even the alpha of it, provided
his conduct is good and praiseworthy; but wherever I observe a spirit
of insubordination and inclination to ridicule, I'll give that boy a
nought, whether he be talented enough to put a Solomon in his pocket!"

Thus spoke the master in the public school of Bobruisk, to his pupils,
no doubt because he had himself been brought up in an establishment
where the silent system was carried to such a perfection that a fly
would have been heard flying across the school-room; where not one of
the scholars in the course of the whole year had had ever any occasion
to cough or blow his nose, and when not even the slightest noise ever
betrayed that there were any scholars assembled.

Tchichikoff was also successful herein, and at once understood the
animus of his school-master, and in what his general conduct towards
him ought to consist. He never winked once, nor did he raise his
eye-brows during the whole time the school hours lasted, however
mischievously his school-fellows pinched and annoyed him; scarcely had
he heard the bell ring as a sign for their dismissal, when he rushed
forward before anyone else could have a chance, to hand his master his
three-cornered headdress; when he had shown him this attention, he
generally hastened to leave the school immediately, and always managed
so well, as to meet his master at least three times on his road home,
in order to have an opportunity to salute him, and take his cap off in
the most respectful manner.

His manœuvres with his school-master were crowned with complete
success. During the whole time of his being at the school, he always
received the best marks, and on leaving it he was dismissed with the
most flattering testimonials, and presented with a book with gold
edges, and the following inscription in gold letters: "For praiseworthy
application, and meritorious conduct."



CHAPTER V.


When Tchichikoff left the school, he made his appearance in the world
as a young man of very prepossessing appearance, and with a chin
that already had begun to require the services of a razor. At the
very same period he lost in quick succession his fond parents. The
inheritance left to him consisted of four worn-out flannels, two old
and irretrievable coats lined with squirrel skins, and a trifling sum
of money. His father had been, as it seemed, an excellent adviser as
regarded economy, and the principles connected with it, but had done
little himself to cultivate that virtue, for the little he left his son
was very unimportant indeed. Tchichikoff sold at once the modest house
and the small stretch of land attached to it for a thousand roubles,
and took his hunchbacked servant and his then two little boy serfs
Selifan and Petruschka with him to the town of Pskov, where he intended
to establish himself, and enter the service.

During the time of his preparations for departure from Bobruisk, his
old school-master, who had been so very fond of silence and good
conduct, had been dismissed in his turn from the public school, either
for his stupidity or some similar reason. The poor master, overwhelmed
with grief at his disgrace, addicted himself to drinking, and at last
could not even satisfy that inclination from the want of the necessary
funds; ill in health, without a crust of bread or any assistance, he
hid himself and his sorrows in a miserable cold hovel.

Some of his former scholars, especially those who had displeased him
so particularly, on account of their malicious intelligence, when they
heard of his pitiable condition, immediately raised a subscription
in his favour among them, depriving themselves even of many little
necessaries to assist the poor ruined man. Pavel Ivanovitch
Tchichikoff was the only one who lacked generosity; he contributed
the smallest silver coin of the realm, adding that he could afford no
more; his colleagues refused to accept the donation, and called him a
miserable specimen of selfishness personified.

The poor school-master, when he heard of this trait of one whom he
considered his best scholar, covered his face with both hands, and
burst into a flood of tears, which trickled down his pale and meagre
cheeks like shot, until his eyes became dim like those of a crying
child. "On my death-bed Heaven has condemned me to shed tears over
a serpent," exclaimed he at last, in a feeble voice, and then added
again: "Oh, Pavel Pavluschka! it is thus, then, that men can change!
and when I think of it again, what an excellent boy he used to be,
always of an exemplary conduct, no vestige of malice in him! He has
deceived me, cruelly deceived me!" And hereupon the instructor of
Tchichikoff's early youth breathed his last.

Nevertheless, it cannot be said that the nature of our hero was of a
harsh and unfeeling description, or to such a degree insensible that
he did not feel pity and sympathy for the sufferings of others; he felt
the one as well as the other, he would have been even glad to alleviate
the wants of his friends, provided they would not prove expensive, nor
oblige him to break into that sum of money, which he had laid aside
with the intention of not touching it under any circumstances, for
he bore in mind his father's advice: "Take care and economise your
copeks, or you will come to a bad end." However, he had no particular
attachment to money, for the sake of money, he was not ruled by a
stingy feeling of saving, nor was he a niggard. No, he was not animated
with an insatiable desire for wealth, for the sake of keeping it
hidden; life opened itself before him with all its attractions for a
youthful mind; he wished to possess a beautifully furnished house,
carriages and horses, and numerous serfs and servants, such were the
thoughts that begun early to pre-occupy his mind.

And it was in order to obtain all these wishes and comforts in the
course of time and his life, that he economised every copek he possibly
could, and that he strictly refused himself in his earlier years all
pleasures, or to others any assistance. Whenever he happened to see
a wealthy parvenu drive along the streets, showing off a splendid
droschki, and richly caparisoned horses, he would stop short and admire
him with an air of envy, and forget himself in the sight before him,
then suddenly recovering as if from a dream, add: "Some years ago you
were perhaps a serf, you have purchased your freedom, and are rich; but
for all that I see your origin by the peculiar cut of your hair!"

And the sight of all those that appeared to him to enjoy fortune and
comforts, produced upon him a sorrowful impression to a certain degree
inexplicable to himself. When he had left his school, and disposed
of his trifling estate, he would not allow himself even the least
relaxation, but was full of anxiety to begin his task in life at once,
and enter the service in a civil capacity without delay. However,
notwithstanding his excellent testimonials, he obtained with great
difficulty a modest situation in a government office.

And heaven knows that in a country like Russia, the greatest talent
is worth little without influential protection to hack it! The place
he held in the government office was an insignificant one which
brought him an annual revenue of no more than forty or fifty roubles.
But he was determined to work hard, to overcome all difficulties,
and to succeed. And, really, perseverance, patience, and self-denial
were qualities which he revealed in an incredible perfection. From
the early morning until late at night, never feeling the fatigues of
body and mind, he continued, to apply himself to his writings and
copies; he never went home, but slept upon the benches and tables of
the government office, he used to dine often even with the porter and
servants; but with all that he knew how to preserve cleanliness and a
respectable appearance in his dress, to give a pleasant expression to
his face, and even assume some semblance of nobility in his movements
and manners.

It must be observed that the official servants of the crown distinguish
themselves generally by neglected, and in every respect disadvantageous
appearance and manners. And this was especially the case with the
colleagues of Tchichikoff; the faces of some of them looked really like
badly-baked bread; the one had a cheek all on one side, another a chin
out of proportion, a third was gifted with an upper lip as large as a
bladder, which even used to burst now and then, in a word, they were
far from being handsome. They used to speak in a harsh and unpleasant
tone of voice, as if they had conspired to cut some ones' throat; they
were addicted to pay frequent tributes to Bacchus, proving by such an
inclination that the Sclavonic race was still addicted to the worship
of the heathen gods; they did not even mind making their appearance in
the office tolerably inebriated, which spread an unpleasant perfume all
around the place, and which was far from being aromatic.

In the midst of such an assembly of _employés_ of the Imperial
Government, it was impossible that such a man as Tchichikoff should
remain unnoticed and undistinguished; presenting, as he did, in
every respect such a striking contrast as regarded his personal
appearance, general bearing, and above all other good qualities, total
abstemiousness from any intoxicating drink, as if he had secretly
joined some teetotal brotherhood in England.

Notwithstanding all these advantages in his favour, his path to glory
was a very difficult one indeed: he happened to be the under-clerk of a
chancery-judge, an elderly man, who was the very image of insensibility
and sternness; always the same, unapproachable, whose face had never
been wrinkled by a smile, whose lips had never whispered even an
inquiry after another fellow-creature's health. Nobody could have said,
that he ever knew this man, or saw him different from what he appeared
daily, whether in the open street, or in his own lonely house; if he
had shown but once a slight interest in anything, if he could have but
once forgotten himself and his sternness by getting intoxicated, and
then have betrayed a smile; if he could but for once have given himself
up to a mad gaiety like the highwayman, who, after the capture of a
rich booty gives way to intemperance and debauchery--but no, there was
not a vestige of anything of this sort, in this granite man. There
seemed absolutely nothing in the man; he was not a villain, and yet he
possessed no virtues, and something awful seemed to replace the visible
absence of all else.

The hard, marble-like features of his face, without any striking
irregularities, presented no harmony; his harsh features were in an
unpleasant contradiction with themselves. The traces and little holes
left by small-pox which covered his whole face, were the only striking
peculiarities which classed it among the number of those faces, upon
which, according to a popular saying, the devil had been threshing
peas over-night. Now, although it appeared, at first sight, as if
human ingenuity would fail to ingratiate itself with such a being,
nevertheless Tchichikoff made the attempt.

In the commencement of this superhuman design, he began by trying to
anticipate his slightest wishes in the merest trifles; examined most
carefully every one of the quills, with which he was in the habit of
writing, and after having made them as it were to pattern, he took good
care to place them always ready to his hand; blew and swept from his
table the snuff as well as the dust; supplied him with a new rag for
the use of his inkstand; found out the place where he used to keep his
official cap, a most filthy affair, such as has, perhaps, been rarely
seen before, and took good care to place it constantly close to him at
the last moment of his sitting in the office; brushed his back, if the
old man had happened to rub off the whitewash from the wall; but all
the attentions remained without being in the slightest degree noticed,
just as if they had never happened to be shown to him.

At last, however, Tchichikoff succeeded in putting his nose as it
were into the household and domestic life of the old original, and
discovered that he had an adult daughter, with a face resembling that
of her father, that is to say, a face with traces upon it, as if the
devil had been threshing peas on it over-night. Upon this quarter he
now determined on directing his attacks. When he had ascertained to
which church she was in the habit of going on Sunday, he watched her
enter, and took up his position exactly opposite to her, carefully
dressed, and with a stiff collar, and neatly-plaited shirt-front.

By this stratagem he ultimately succeeded; the stem chancery-judge
began to waver, and gave him an invitation to tea; and, before the
other officials had yet found time to look around them, Tchichikoff
had brought matters to such a satisfactory conclusion for himself,
that he soon saw himself established in the house, and living with the
old chancery-judge. He had rendered himself a useful and indispensable
servant to the old man, and went to market for him to purchase meal
and sugar for him; towards his daughter he behaved as if she were his
bride; as for the old judge, he had accustomed himself to call him dear
papa, and ever kissed his hand.

All the officials of the judge now expected that at the end of the
month of February, before the long and general fast began, their friend
and colleague, Tchichikoff, would become the happy and chosen husband
of their superior's daughter. The stern and harsh old judge now begun
even to bestir himself in his favour and to push him forward, and
really, in a short time after, Tchichikoff was himself promoted to the
vacant seat of a chancery-judge. With this success also, seemed to
terminate the principal aim of his intimacy with the stem old judge;
because, scarcely had he been appointed to his new office, when he
secretly removed all his property from the house of his patron, and on
the following day he was already quite at home in his new apartments.
He ceased henceforth to call the old chancery-judge, papa, nor did he
ever after think of kissing his bony hand, and as for the anticipated
marriage with the judge's daughter, it was left to oblivion, and as
if such a subject had never been on the _tapis_. However, whenever he
happened to meet the old man in the street, he would always advance
civilly towards him, take him by the hand and invite him to a cup of
tea at his house, so that the old judge, notwithstanding his eternal
sternness and inexplicable indifference to anything generally, could
not help shaking his grey head thoughtfully, and murmuring in his
beard: "He has deceived me, awfully deceived me, this child of Satan!"



CHAPTER VI.


This was the most difficult passage during the whole course of
Tchichikoff's eventful career. Thenceforward his progress towards
position and fortune became easier, and in course of time he even
became a man of some importance and weight. He now began to display
all those qualities that ensure success in the world; agreeable in his
manners, delicate in his actions, and enterprising in business. Blessed
in the possession of such indispensable and valuable qualifications,
he succeeded in a very short time in securing himself a certain income
and independent position, from which he knew how to derive excellent
advantages.

It must be observed that at that particular time, and in consequence
of the bitter complaints that had reached the imperial ears about the
merciless exactions of the official _employés_ in the provinces of the
Empire, the Lord-Lieutenants of the various governments had received
strict injunctions to punish with the utmost severity the impudent
impositions of the imperial servants, and courts of inquiry were
everywhere held for the purpose of putting a stop to the sufferings of
the people from these imperial blood-suckers. These courts of inquiry
did not in anyway alarm Tchichikoff, on the contrary, he even knew how
to derive advantages from this imperial ordinance, and he furnished a
striking proof of the ingenuity of the Russian spirit, which is always
prepared to find ways and means when necessity demands them.

In order to avoid any unpleasant consequences, he had adopted the
following system: as soon as a petitioner presented himself before him
and proceeded to explain his case, and put his hand into his pocket
with the evident intention of producing from there the requisite
letter patent of recommendation, in order to obtain his Excellency's
the Prince Hovanskois' (as we call it familiarly) signature to his
document, "No, no," he used to say, with a smile on his countenance,
whilst stopping the egress of the generous hand, "you think, perhaps,
that I--oh no, by no means. It is our bounden duty, we are obliged to
attend to your interest without the slightest pretention to a private
remuneration for our trouble. As regards your application, you may rest
tranquil and assured it shall be attended to by to-morrow at latest.
Allow me to request the favour of your address; you need not even take
the least trouble further about the matter, all your documents shall be
forwarded to your house."

The enchanted petitioner returned home quite in ecstacy, thinking
to himself: "At last I have met an honest man among our imperial
_employés_, and I should be very glad to see more men of a similar
stamp among us. He is a real gem!" The delighted petitioner waits
patiently for a day, and then a second, and then a third day passes
without his business or application having been sent to his house as
promised. He returns again to the government office, and finds that
his business has not been even begun; he addresses himself to the
invaluable gem.

"Oh, I beg of you a thousand pardons, my dear Sir!" says Tchichikoff,
very politely, and affably laying hold of both the hands of the
disappointed petitioner, "but really, we had so very much business on
hand; however, by to-morrow you shall be attended to, absolutely, by
to-morrow, and most punctually, I can assure you, my dear Sir, I feel
quite ashamed at the delay!"

And all this was said in the most winning manner, and accompanied
by the most civil courtesies. If, on such an occasion, his morning
gown (imperial _employés_ generally transact public business at home,
and in a very _dégagé_ costume,) should accidentally unfold itself;
his hands were always prepared to cover up the folds and amend the
_négligé_? appearance. But, notwithstanding these civil assurances, the
petitioner's business was neither attended on the next day nor on the
day following, nor even on the next day following the day following.

The disappointed petitioner began to repent; can there be anything the
matter? He at last comes to the conclusion, that it has always been
the custom to give a gratuity to the copying-clerks.

"And why should I not give a trifle to these poor fellows?" says he to
a friend. "I know but too well how miserably the government pays their
services; I am ready and willing to give them a couple of roubles, to
be sure."

"A couple of roubles will never do; you will have to fork out a
bank-note."

"What! a bank-note to copying-clerks?" demands again the astonished
petitioner.

"Why do you seem surprised, or out of temper?" his friends ask him;
"what you anticipate will happen according to your intentions; the
copying-clerks will receive a couple of roubles, and the remainder of
your bank-note will find its way into the pocket of their superior."

The perplexed and slow-minded petitioner strikes his forehead with
his hand, and is surprised at the changes in this world, and the
new polite customs that had suddenly sprung up among the imperial
_employés_. Formerly, a petitioner knew exactly what to do, and how
to behave himself: he had simply to present a ten-rouble note to
the head employé, and his business was attended to; but now-a-day a
twenty-five-rouble note seems scarcely sufficient, and you have even to
wait for a week before you can guess it. The devil take the shameless
civilities and nobility of the imperial _employés_!

Some time after his instalment in his new dignity, an excellent
opportunity to advance his fortunes presented itself to Tchichikoff;
a committee was being formed for the construction of a very extensive
and capital government storehouse. Tchichikoff found ways and means to
be elected a member of it, and soon proved himself to be one of the
most active promoters. This committee began its operations immediately.
During six years, the committee busied itself about the building: but,
whether it was the harshness of the climate, or the fault of proper
material, the Crown building never rose above its foundations.

Meanwhile, and at the other end of the town, there sprung up, as
it were from the ground, houses built on the principles of modern
architecture, and the individual property of each member of the
building-committee. These members now began to enjoy the well-being
of home comforts, and got married in quick succession. It was then,
and then only, that Tchichikoff began by degrees to emancipate himself
from the harsh laws of abstinence and pitiless privations which he had
imposed upon himself. It was only now that he ventured to relax from
his long tasting, and it seemed that he had not always been a stranger
to the enjoyments of comfort and general well-being, from which he had
had sufficient strength of mind to abstain during the years of his
adolescence, when no man can pretend to have been complete master of
his passions.

He now even went as far as to display a few extravagant propensities,
such as keeping a cook of some reputation, and made the purchase of
very fine Irish linen shirts. As for the cloth which he wore, it was
no longer of such inferior quality as was worn by the other officials
of the province; he began to bring into fashion different shades of
coffee and snuff-colours, and similar brownish tints; he made the
acquisition of a fine pair of carriage-horses, and used to drive about
in a droschki and pair, holding the reins of one of the horses himself,
and making the horse bend his neck into the shape of a ring; he also
began to indulge in a fine Turkish sponge to wash his face with, mixing
his water profusely with Eau-de-Cologne; he even went so far as to buy
a peculiar kind of soap, which was very expensive, but possessed the
virtue to render the skin of his face smooth and velvety; he already--

But suddenly--in the place of the former sleepy president of the
building-committee, a new chairman was appointed by the imperial
ordinance: a military man, severe and strict in his principles--a man
who was an enemy to all impositions upon the public as well as upon
the Crown; in short, a detester of falsehood in any shape. Immediately
after the day of his arrival, he caused a general consternation among
the members of the building-committee by demanding a report and an
account of their proceedings, and found defalcations at every step
of his investigations; he also discovered and inspected the houses
of modern architecture. In consequence of all these discoveries,
he assembled a general meeting, and pushed his inquiries with the
utmost diligence and severity. All the _employés_ connected with the
building-committee were at once dismissed the service; their houses
of modern architecture were confiscated for the benefit of the Crown,
and changed into benevolent institutions and public schools; all was
blown down, as it were, like castles in the air, and among the severest
sufferers was our friend Tchichikoff.

His general countenance and his affable manners, strange to say,
displeased the new president at first sight; the exact reason, Heaven
only knew, sometimes such results will happen quite unaccountably,
but the fact remained the same--the new president could not endure
the sight of the old committee member. However, as he happened to
be a military man, it was not likely that he could know much, if
anything, of the ways and means of officers in the civil service; and
in a very short time indeed, and thanks to a respectable exterior,
and the knowledge of applying themselves to any and everything, other
_employés_ found an opportunity of ingratiating themselves in the good
graces of the new president, and the new honest and upright commander
found himself soon in the hands of another and, if possible, a more
dishonest set of officials than the former, and of which fact he had
no opportunity of convincing himself; he was even much satisfied at
having at last met with honest men, such as the Crown ought always to
employ, and boasted of his own judgment in the choice he had made.

His new _employés_ guessed and understood their chiefs character at
once. Every one of the men who were under his command, became desperate
hunters after anything that bore the slightest semblance to falsehood;
everywhere, and under all circumstances, they prosecuted untruth like
a fisherman of the Volga would hunt after a fine sturgeon; and they
hunted after it with so much perseverance and success, that in a very
short time indeed every one found himself at the head of a capital of a
few thousand roubles.

At that very same period, a number of the former _employés_ of this
same committee turned again upon the way of truth, and were graciously
received again in the service with their colleagues. But Tchichikoff,
notwithstanding his strenuous exertions to ingratiate himself again,
and in spite of the protection of his intimate friend, the private
secretary of Prince Hovanskoi, who had become the right-hand man of
the new president of the building-committee, he could not succeed in
obtaining for him the most insignificant appointment under the new
manager of the imperial interest. The president was a man of a peculiar
character, though he was led by the nose (of this fact he was of course
unaware); he would persevere in his once fixed opinion, provided it had
presented itself to his mind and attention, and whenever it had taken
root in his head, it would remain fixed there like a nail; nothing
would ever be strong enough to extricate it from there, for he was
frill of tenacity.

All that his friend, the private secretary of the Prince, could
possibly obtain for Tchichikoff, was the destruction of the sullied
certificate of his services as an _employé_ in the building-committee;
and even this favour he could only extract from his superior by a
representation in the most touching terms of the pitiable position of
Tchichikoff's family, which, by the bye, he had the good fortune of
counting among the things that were not in existence.



CHAPTER VII.


"Well!" said Tchichikoff to himself, "it seems the bow could not stand
the stretching. Tears will not amend the fault; I must betake myself to
another task." And determined on beginning his career anew, he put on
once more the armour of patience, and again subjected himself to every
species of privations, however unpleasant they seemed now, after having
accustomed himself to enjoy even luxuries. He was obliged to remove to
another town, and make himself again notable, if not notorious.

Somehow or another, matters did not go on satisfactorily at all. He
was obliged to resign two or three appointments in a very short space
of time: the duties were in his opinion rather onerous and mean. It
must be observed that Tchichikoff was a man of such unexceptionable
propriety, it would have been difficult to meet with another like him
anywhere in the broad Russian Empire. Although he had been obliged
to wind his way through the midst of a sullied society, yet he had
always succeeded in keeping his heart and his person dean; he was fond
of holding an appointment in an office where the tables were well
polished, and where gentlemanly habits were strictly regarded. He was
never guilty of coarse expressions in his conversation, but was always
offended when others omitted to show due respect to rank and position.

It will perhaps be interesting to our reader to know, that he had the
habit of changing his linen every other day, and in summer, during
the excessive heat, even every day; the least odour gave offence to
his olfactory nerves. For this very reason, whenever his servant
Petruschka came to undress him and take off his boots, he used to hold
a smelling-bottle to his nose, whilst in many other instances his
nerves were as sensitive as those of a young girl; and for this reason
it was all the more difficult to him to accustom himself again to the
habits of those who were addicted to the use of strong spirits, and
generally displayed unbecoming manners. However much he tried to exert
himself to keep up a good spirit within him, he nevertheless could not
help pining away, and becoming even of a lemon-coloured complexion from
the reverses of fortune.

He had already begun to grow corpulent and assume those pleasant and
round forms, in which the reader found our hero at the commencement of
the acquaintance with him, and more than once he had smiled at himself
whilst looking at his face in the mirror and whilst whispering many a
pleasant and insinuating smile; but now when he happened to look at
himself furtively into the looking glass, he could not help exclaiming:
"Holiest mother! how ugly I look to be sure!" And after this he would
not venture to examine himself for a long while. However he endured
and conquered the vicissitudes man-folly and patiently, and--at last
entered the government service again, as a custom-house officer, in
the frontier town of Bialystock.

We must here observe, that the custom-house service had been
already for a considerable time the secret object of his wishes
and speculation, because that particular branch of administration
constitutes the chief revenue of the Empire, and consequently allowed
the best pay to the officers employed in the service. But this was
not the only reason for his giving the preference to a custom-house
appointment. He saw with what exquisite articles of refinement all
the custom-house officers used to parade in town, what fine china and
linens they all sent to their sweethearts, sisters and cousins. And
many a time he had already exclaimed, whilst heaving a deep sigh:
"Oh, how I should like to get an appointment in the custom-house! the
frontier is not far off, the people seem all more enlightened, and
especially, what an excellent chance to provide one-self with fine
linen!"

We must add, that at the same time, he also thought of the expensive
French soaps, which had the virtue to increase and preserve the
complexion! what its particular denominations was, heavens only knew,
but accordingly to his suppositions, it would certainly absolutely
be found at the frontier. And he therefore had long felt a desire to
get himself an appointment in the custom-house; but he was prevented
from sending in an application, on account of the advantageous profits
which he derived from the building-committee, and in this his judgment
was correct. Whatever the advantages of a custom-house appointment
might offer _in spe,_ they were nevertheless like a lark in the skies,
whilst the building-committee was like an owl in his hands. Now was his
time to exert himself to the utmost, and obtain the long wished for
appointment in the custom-house, and really he at last obtained his
wish.

He started upon his new duties with an unusual eagerness. Such
abilities, penetration and application as he displayed in his new
functions had not only never been witnessed before, but even never
heard of. In less then three or four weeks after his appointment to
office, he had so perfectly rendered himself master of everything,
that his equal could not be found; he knew and understood all--he had
no necessity either to weigh or measure anything, but knew from the
invoices how many arschines a piece of cloth or silk contained; or on
taking a piece of goods in his hands, he could say exactly how many
pounds it weighed.

As regarded the regular business of an excise-man, namely, "searching,"
he displayed as his colleagues used to express themselves, the scent of
a pointer; it was perfectly impossible not to be surprised, on seeing
how he could display so much patience and trouble to touch and examine
even every button, but all this was done with a killing coolness and an
incredible politeness. And at the time, when the persons thus exposed
to his "researches," were annoyed to madness, and lost their temper,
and felt a wicked inclination to smash his pleasant countenance, he
would, without changing either the expression of his face, or his
polite manners, only add: "Would you, perhaps, have any objection to
incommode yourself a little by rising from your seat?" or, "Would
your ladyship have the kindness to step into the other room?" (even
the ladies are not spared the annoyances of custom-house officers
in Russia.) "There your ladyship will find the wife of one of our
officials, who will have the honour to explain to you the regulations
of the custom-house," or, "Will you allow me to rip up with this small
pen-knife a little of the wadding of your cloak?" and saying this, and
suiting the action to the word, he would produce from there, shawls and
dresses as coolly as if he was taking them out of his own portmanteau.

His superiors even pronounced their opinion about him in the following
terms, "that he was the devil himself and not a man:" he made his
"researches" in carriage wheels, harness, and even in the ears of the
horses, and heaven knows where he did not search for contraband goods;
at any rate, an author would never hit upon the idea of searching in
those places, where a custom-house officer has the right to pry.

The poor traveller who happened to leave or enter the Empire on that
particular frontier, was sure to feel for some minutes at least, after
the custom-house officer had performed his duty, the cold perspiration
run down all over his body, and exclaim perhaps whilst crossing
himself; "This is rather carrying custom-house regulations too far!"
The position of a traveller who had the misfortune to fall in the hands
of Tchichikoff, must have been similar to that of a schoolboy rushing
out of the master's room, where he had entered under the impression
that he would receive a simple reprimand, and where he had unexpectedly
met with a sound thrashing.

In the course of a very short season indeed, those persons, who were
in the habit of carrying on a regular system of contraband trade
were completely ruined by his watchfullness. He was the terror and
ruin of the whole of the Polish Jew race. His faith and honesty were
unimpeachable--almost unnatural. He even declined to accept a portion
of such monies as were the result of sales of the various confiscated
goods or trifling sundry articles, which were not accounted for to the
Crown, in order to avoid loss of time and expense.

Such zealous and disinterested service could not fail to become the
subject of general admiration and surprise, and found at last its
recompense with the higher authorities. He was knighted and elevated
to the rank of Councillor of State, and soon after be submitted a
project for capturing all contrabandists, asking only the favour to
be appointed the executor of his scheme and for the necessary means.
He was immediately invested with unlimited power, and the privilege
of search wherever he thought proper. This was all he could wish for.
At that time a large and powerful contraband society had been formed,
based upon a regular system of fraud upon the Crown; more than a
million worth of goods secretly imported into the Empire, yielded
double the amount to this bold enterprize.

Tchichikoff had had long since an idea of this organization, and had
even twice already repelled the envoys who had been sent to bribe him;
but he refused to listen to any of their proposals, adding dryly, "It
is not yet time." But scarcely had he obtained uncontrolled authority
in everything, when he in the next moment after his confirmation, sent
word to the secret associations, saying: "Now is the time."

His calculations were but too just. Now he stood a chance of gaining in
one year, that which he could perhaps have never acquired otherwise in
twenty. At the beginning of the foundation of this society, he would
not have anything to do with them; because he was nothing else but a
simple custom-house officer, consequently, besides perhaps compromising
himself, his share in the transactions would have been insignificant;
but now, now it was quite a different affair altogether; he was a
Councillor of State, and could therefore fix his own terms.

In order to ensure speed and complete success, he even gained over
another colleague of his, who could not resist the luring temptation,
although he was already a greyhaired man. The conditions between
the two contracting parties, namely the imperial _employés_ and the
contrabandists, were securely fixed, and the smuggling association
began its operations.

The beginning of their operations was brilliant; some of our readers
might perhaps have heard some time ago of the long-forgotten history
of the wise Spanish sheep, who went out travelling in double coats;
well, these very same Spanish sheep with a double fleece, imported
on this occasion, Brussels lace of nearly one million roubles value.
This was the first operation upon the interests of the Crown in
which Tchichikoff played a prominent part. Had he presided over and
led this undertaking himself, not even the cleverest and acutest Jew
in the world would have ever succeeded in carrying out such a daring
enterprize. After three or four journeys of the Spanish sheep across
the frontier line, both chief custom-house officers had realized a
capital of about four hundred thousand roubles each. It was even said,
that Tchichikoff's share in the enterprize exceeded half a million
roubles, because he was so much more daring.

Heaven knows to what incalculable amount these already very round and
handsome sums of money would have increased in the course of time, if
some evil spirit had not crossed in a fatal moment their path. The
devil set the two chief officers by the ears; to speak intelligibly
and simply, the two _employés_ picked a quarrel about a mere nothing.
Somehow or another, perhaps in a moment of excitement, and perhaps even
while under the influence of a glass or two of good wine, Tchichikoff
happened to call his worthy colleague a staròver (dissenter), and the
other, though he really was a staròver, it is impossible to say why,
felt horribly insulted, and answered him there and then, immediately,
loudly, and in an unusually cutting tone of voice, as follows: "You
lie! I am a Privy Councillor of State, and not a staròver; but as for
you, you are a staròver!" And then he also added, a few minutes later,
and as if to spite his friend: "Yes, take that and all!"

Though he had in this manner shaved the other, as it were, by retorting
on him the appellation applied to himself, and though the expression
of "Yes, take that and all!" might have had a powerful meaning; not
satisfied with this, he sent in to government a secret information
against Tchichikoff. However, it was said, that besides this quarrel,
there was another cause of difference between them; and it was rumoured
about, that it was concerning a woman, young, fresh, and healthy as a
sweet beet-root, according to the expressions of the other custom-house
officials; it was also known that some _bravos_ had been hired to give
a sound thrashing to our hero, which had really happened on a certain
fine evening; but that, in the end, both superior's friends had been
made fools of by the fair woman, and that a certain Stabz-Capitän
Schamschareff gained the day over them, and succeeded in carrying the
fair Briseïs off before their very noses.

The nearer particulars of this affair are wrapped in obscurity, and
we therefore leave it to our courteous reader to imagine the details
according to their own taste. The most important of all was, that the
secret connection between our hero and the smugglers became known
to the superior authorities. And though the Privy Councillor of
State had ruined the simple Councillor of State through his infamous
denunciation, he did not escape the due punishment himself, but was
immediately degraded and dismissed.

Tchichikoff and his coadjutor were arrested and brought up to judgment,
all their property was confiscated for the benefit of the Crown, and
their misfortune and disgrace broke over them like a thunder-storm.
When the storm was over, and when they began to recover again a little,
they seemed quite horror-struck when they looked upon what they had
been guilty of. The Privy Councillor could not resist the shock, and
died soon after, but the simple Councillor of State bore up more
manfully. He had succeeded in secreting a considerable amount of his
fortune, notwithstanding the strictest investigations of the Court
of Inquiry that was held over them. He used the finest diplomacy the
human mind is capable of to extricate himself as advantageously as
possible from his disgraceful position, and his experience assisted
him in this most powerfully, for he knew already well enough of what
stuff the men with whom he had to deal were made; he employed the
greatest circumspection, his politest manners, the most touching and
persuasive terms, burnt incense and confused his judges by a profusion
of flattery, which did not in the least injure his position; he even
went so far as to consider money no object, provided he could succeed
in extricating himself; in a word, he turned the tables so well in his
favour, that he could reappear again in the world, at least not so
much disgraced as his more unfortunate colleague, for he ultimately
succeeded, though narrowly, in escaping from being sent to Siberia.



CHAPTER VIII.


Tchichikoff's reserve funds had, however, dwindled down to a mere
trifle; his splendidly furnished house with all its foreign refinements
was taken from him and given as a reward to some other official.
All that was left to him, amounted to a sum of about ten thousand
roubles, besides a couple of dozen fine Holland shirts, a convenient,
light britchka, to which bachelors give the preference for travelling
purposes, and two faithful serfs, his coachman Selifan and his valet
Petruschka, (the little hunchback had died some time before), and
we must also not forget to mention that his former colleagues in
office, moved by compassion at his disgrace and sad prospects--for
they believed him penniless--had had the generosity to leave him a
few pieces of that peculiar French soap which possesses the virtue of
preserving the freshness of the skin; and this was all that he could
call his property.

And it was in such a position that our hero made his appearance! Such
then was the excess of misfortunes that befel him! And this it was what
he called in Smolensk to suffer in the service for truth and the just
cause. Now the conclusion might have been drawn that, after so many
sad experiences and changes of fortune and position in life, he would
wisely retire with his round sum of ten thousand roubles into a small
and quiet provincial town, and put on for ever a comfortable Tartar
cotton morning-gown, and seat himself at the window of some modest
private house, and look on a Sunday at the fights and quarrels of the
mouzhiks before him in the street; or take a walk in the poultry-yard,
and feed with his own hands the fowl which he would like to have cooked
for his dinner, and would have continued to lead a quiet and retired
though not entirely useless existence.

However, it did not happen thus. Justice must be rendered to his
unconquerable fortitude of character. All that had happened to him
would perhaps, if not have killed another man, at least would have
served him as a caution and quieted him; but with our hero it was
not so, the inward flame of his passion was as ardent as ever. He
felt acute grief and vexation, swore at the whole world, angry at the
injustice of Providence, disgusted at the injustice of men in general;
but for all that he could not forbear making new essays. In a word, he
displayed such an extraordinary amount of patience and perseverance,
against which the wooden patience and perseverance of a German are
nothing, because it is constitutional with them.

Tchichikoff's blood, on the contrary, was like an ever-playing
fountain, and it was requisite for him to possess a powerful will and
wisdom, to bridle all those passions which would have liked to escape
and enjoy unbounded freedom. He began to muse and to reflect on the
past and on the future, and the conclusions he arrived at were not at
all devoid of sound judgment.

"Why should it be always I? Why should I continually be the victim
of a cruel destiny? Who is the man in our empire who lingers over
his duties? All, the whole nation, from the Emperor himself down to
the meanest serf, all have their mind bent upon acquisition. I have
ruined nobody; I have not robbed the lonely widow, nor have I made
any children orphans. I have derived profit from superfluities, have
only taken what every one else in my place would have taken; if I had
not profited by the chance offered me, others would have done so. Why
should others alone enjoy wealth and comforts, and why I alone be
condemned to live and die like a worm?

"And what am I now? For what am I good now? With what countenance
should I now be able to look into the face of any pater familias? How
can I escape the pangs of shame, knowing that I walk uselessly on the
face of the earth: and what will my children say when I am dead and
gone? They will say our father was a villain: he left us no position,
no fortune!"

It is already well known to our readers that Tchichikoff was
particularly anxious about his heirs. A very tender subject. Many a man
would perhaps venture head and neck, if it was not for the question
which presses itself inexplicably upon him--"What, will my children
say?" And the possible head of a future generation, like a precautious
cat, looking sideways to espy if his master is in the way, seizes
hurriedly everything that happens to be near him, either a piece of
soap, some candles, tallow, or a canary bird if it should happen to
fall under its claws; in a word, he allows nothing to escape.

Thus lamented our disconsolate hero: meanwhile his activity was not
extinguished within him; it only slumbered for a while. There was
always something that preoccupied his mind, and only waited for the
chance of a sound plan. He armed himself once more with his peculiar
virtues, and determined again to begin an active and difficult life;
he again submitted himself to the well-known privations of former
life, and again from an elevated and respectable position, he launched
himself into sullied and low life. And in the expectation of something
better turning up, he was obliged to accept the situation of a
commission-agent, a profession yet badly received and acknowledged by
our citizens, pushed about on all sides, shabbily paid and treated with
disregard and even with contempt. However, necessity obliges us to
many things, and also excuses them, and our hero therefore determined
upon accepting the situation.

Among a variety of business with which he had been entrusted, was
also the following: to mortgage in the Imperial Bank of the Council
of Guardians, a few hundred serfs. The nobleman who had commissioned
him to undertake this business was ruined, and reduced to the last
extremity. His landed property was already completely encumbered, by
an epidemic among his cattle, villainous and dishonest stewards, bad
harvests, epidemic diseases which had carried off numbers of his most
valuable serfs, and at last by the follies of the nobleman himself, who
had purchased and furnished a house in St. Petersburg at an extravagant
expense but in the last Parisian fashion, and who had spent upon this
mad fancy his last rouble, so that he had nothing to eat. And for this
reason, he was obliged to have recourse to the last extremity, and
determine upon parting with his life estate.

The Imperial Bank for the mortgage of landed property and serfs,
under the title of Council of Guardians, is one of the numerous
paternal institutions of recent date, and of all of which his Majesty
the Emperor is himself the head. The transactions of the Imperial
Council of Guardians claim his peculiar attention, and consist chiefly
in advancing monies to such noblemen of the Empire as have become
embarrassed from various causes, but principally from such as we have
already alluded to. The monies of the Crown are advanced upon real
estate, namely upon land and serfs. It is principally left to the
Council of Guardians to fix the period for repayment of the advanced
funds, and if the nobleman thus assisted cannot redeem his mortgaged
property in due time, it is again left to the discretion of the
Imperial Council of Guardians to have the property of the nobleman
valued by a special committee, and then it is sold to the Crown, which,
after refunding itself, hands the residue to the thus ruined nobleman.

This system of paternal accommodation, which the Russian nobility
enjoys at the hands of his Majesty the Emperor, fully accounts for the
enormous number of Crown serfs, which number has increased since the
establishment of the Imperial Council of Guardians nearly to a million
souls.

At the time when Tchichikoff was intrusted with the mortgage of those
few hundred serfs, the Council of Guardians had been but recently
established, yet much of its operations had already transpired, and
circulated among the nobility, and for that reason they were very
reluctant to profit by this paternal accommodation. Tchichikoff, in his
capacity of agent, had received instructions to conclude the mortgage
of the serfs on the most advantageous terms; he therefore thought it
proper to dispose everything favourably, (without previously well
disposing a few of the Imperial _employés_, it would be hopeless to
apply for anything like information, and it is therefore advisable to
smooth their throats with a profusion of port and sherry), and thus,
having as far as necessary well-disposed every one of the _employés_
in the Council of Guardians, with whom he would have to transact
business, he explained his errand to be connected with a very peculiar
circumstance.

"Half of the serfs I wish to mortgage, have died since my arrival
here at Moscow, and I am therefore alarmed lest there might be some
misunderstanding about them later--"

"But allow me to ask you," said the secretary of the Board of
Guardians, "are these two hundred serfs we are now speaking about,
included in the census your nobleman has handed in to government, when
the last census was taken?"

"Yes, they are included," answered Tchichikoff.

"If so, I can see no reason why you should feel faint-hearted?" the
secretary returned, "if the one dies, another is born, and thus makes
up the deficiency."

Meanwhile, a sublime idea seized upon the imagination of our hero, a
thought that had perhaps never occurred to human mind before.

"Oh, I am the very image of simplicity," he said to himself, "I am
looking about for my gloves, and have them already on my hands. Suppose
I were to buy up all those serfs that have died lately, and before the
new census is taken, suppose I made the acquisition of about a thousand
dead serfs, and, suppose the Council of Guardians was to make me the
trifling advance of two hundred roubles for each such serf; that would
make a capital of two hundred thousand silver roubles. And now is just
my time, an epidemic has but recently ravaged the whole of the country,
and, thank Heaven, the number of people that have died from it is not
insignificant at all. The country gentlemen have lost much, thanks
to their gambling propensities, they have spent a deal in feasting,
and have, in fact, ruined themselves most satisfactorily; all seem to
have hurried off to St. Petersburg, to seek for appointments at court;
their estates are neglected, and are administered any how, the payment
of imposts to the Crown becomes with every year more difficult, and
therefore, I am led to suppose that they will be glad to cede to me
their valueless dead serfs, in order to avoid the payment of the annual
tax upon them till the return of the next census; it might even happen
that some of them will not only jump at my offer to purchase their
valueless stock, but even pay me something extra for my generosity, my
philanthrophy.

"Nevertheless, and, of course, it is a difficult, a complicated, a
dangerous undertaking, for I might easily get myself into serious
trouble, perhaps cause a great scandal, be sent to Siberia.... But
wisdom an imagination have been given for some purpose to man. That,
the most encouraging feature in my speculation, is, that the subject
will appear incredible to every one, nobody will ever believe it. It
is true, according to a recent ukase, it is impossible to buy serfs
without the land they were born upon, nor can they be mortgaged without
it. But I mean to purchase them for emigration, yes, for settling them
elsewhere, now vast tracts of land are granted for a mere nothing in
the provinces of Kherson, and dose to the Turkish frontiers.

"It is there that I will settle them; in the government of Kherson;
dose to the Turkish frontiers; let them live among the heathens. As for
their privilege of emigration, that can be done lawfully, and according
to the sense of the imperial ukase, all this can be legally settled
in the proper courts of the Crown. If they should ask me the proofs
of the existence of such serfs? Why not? I shall not be at a loss to
do even that, and from the very returns of the census, and with the
genuine signature of the Capitän-Ispravnik (district judge). The
new village which is to spring so suddenly into existence, I shall
call 'Tchichikoff's New Settlement,' or according to the name which I
received at my baptism, make from Pavel, 'The Village of Pavlovsk.'"

It is in this manner that the strange idea on which our story is
founded, formed itself, in the head of our hero; whether our reader
will feel himself under any obligation to him, we do not know; but as
for ourselves we must confess, we feel indebted to Tchichikoff for
this subject beyond description. Whatever might be said for or against
it, without Tchichikoff's idea this novel would never have made its
appearance.

Making a devout sign of the cross in the Russian fashion, Tchichikoff
set about the execution of his fixed plan immediately. With a view of
choosing places of residences, and under other pretences, he set about
examining here and there the various corners of our vast Empire, and
paid particular attention to those districts where the sufferings and
losses from various disasters, such as epidemics, bad harvests, and
other causes, had been felt most severely; in a word, he sought for
those districts where he might be able to buy his stock, namely, dead
serfs, on the most advantageous terms.

He did not address himself at random to every landed proprietor, and
serf-owner, but made his choice among them, and according to the best
of his judgment; or he applied to those men, from whom he had every
reason to anticipate no particular scruples about transacting this
strange business with him; he therefore introduced himself to them
under the most favourable auspices, made their particular acquaintance,
tried to gain their favourable opinion and esteem, so that he might, if
possible, obtain from them what he wanted in a friendly manner, and as
cheaply as possible.

From this reason, therefore, our reader must not be displeased with us,
if the characters that will be introduced to them during the progress
of Tchichikoff's career are not entirely to their taste, this is the
fault of Tchichikoff, but not ours; for we are obliged to follow him
wherever he chose to go. As for ourselves, if any blame should be cast
upon us, for bringing such uncomely characters before a British public,
especially at this present critical moment when a war with Russia is
being carried on, we can only express our regret at the fact, but our
conscience forbids us to represent our countrymen in any other than the
real light.

Such then was the character of our hero, such as circumstances had
created it, and the contact with the world and life had fashioned it
in later years! But it is very likely that a positive definition of
one of his characteristic traits will be demanded; what is he really
as regards his moral qualifications? that he is not a hero full of
perfections and virtues, we must confess, is obvious at first sight.
Who, or what is he then? he must be a villain? Why should he be a
villain? Why should we be so severe towards others? There are no real
villains to be met with now-a-day; there are well disposed persons,
agreeable, and even unexceptionable persons, but such persons, as would
exhibit their physiognomy to the gaze of the world, and present their
cheek for a public box on the ear, of such persons it is likely that
two or three might be met with, and then even, they have begun already
to speak of the charms of virtue.

We shall therefore be justified in calling our hero; not like the
French a _chevalier d'industrie_ but in simple English terms; a
gentleman acquirer. Acquisition is the root of a great many evils, and
that threatens our peace even now. The desire of acquisition rages
now in all classes of society, and especially in Russia, commencing
from the Emperor himself, down to his meanest serf, all are mad with
a desire for acquisition. Without this desire on the part of the
Emperor for the acquisition of Turkey, the nation at large would not
have acquired the fanaticism to stand by his side, and back his mad
propensity for acquisition; why should it not be excusable in one of
his humble subjects?

Such then was the object which had brought our friend Tchichikoff to
the pleasant town of Smolensk; the purchase, namely, of dead serfs.
During the progress of his schemes, he was thrown into much curious
society, and met with numerous queer adventures; these will form the
subject matter of our work. While accompanying our hero on his perilous
journey, we shall become acquainted with almost every class of Russian
society, and the whole will furnish us at the least with a faithful,
if not a flattering, idea of that nation which holds itself at the
present day, as the supporter of the orthodox Church, and future master
of the world's destinies.

In itself, the nefarious scheme devised by our hero, affords an
extraordinary instance of the cunning inherent in the Russian
character, for its whole success was based on the knowledge he
possessed of the utter baseness of the national character. None of
the actors in this strange drama will appear to exhibit the slightest
compunction about defrauding the government, as long as they can gain
any slight advantage to themselves, and even the certainty of condign
punishment in the very possible event of detection, cannot cause them
to refrain from their innate propensity. The fact is an humiliating
one, but in our character as the historian of an actual event, we have
not dared to omit a single trait which may seem to elucidate our story.
We only wish it was in our power to draw a pleasanter portrait of our
countrymen, and we fervently trust that the time may yet arrive when
such stories as the present one, may be numbered among things that
were.



CHAPTER IX.


More than a week had already passed away since Tchichikoff's arrival in
Smolensk, during which time he had continued paying morning visits and
attending dinner and evening parties, and in so doing, had spent--as
the common phrase goes--his time very pleasantly. At last he determined
upon extending his civilities beyond the limits of the town, and
resolved to turn his attention to the pressing invitations of the
landowners in the vicinity; among whom Maniloff and Sobakevitch were
those to whom he had made a formal promise. It is very possible too,
that this resolution arose from another, a more positive, a graver
motive; perhaps, even an affair of the heart. But of all this the
reader may learn more by degrees, and in proper time, if he will only
take the trouble, and muster the patience, to read on and follow our
traveller on his journeying.

Selifan, the coachman, had received instructions to be ready early in
the morning, and to have his horses and the britchka ready to start
at a moment's notice; Petruschka, his servant, was ordered to stay
at home, and mind his master's apartment and his portmanteau. The
reader will not deem it superfluous, we hope, to make the distant
acquaintance of these two domestics of our hero, whom he was accustomed
to call his men or serfs. Although, and of course, they will not have
to appear as prominent characters, or even victims of despotism; yet,
their denomination of serfs may serve us as an excuse for exciting the
curiosity and sympathy of our courteous reader in their behalf, and for
placing them among the third, or even second-rate personages, who are
to figure in the adventures of our hero Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff.

Although, the plot, or the links that connect the whole, is not
especially founded upon them, still, now and then, they will have
to appear in order to pull us through this long "chain of events;"
besides, as we are in England, we like to be minute in everything, and
in this instance, and regardless of our being a Russian, we will do
our best, and try to be as particular as an Englishman. In addition,
the description will demand but little time and space, for it will not
be necessary to add much more to that which the reader already knows;
we therefore proceed to state at once that Petruschka was accustomed
to wear, and to walk about in a large snuff-coloured coat, formerly
cast off from the broad shoulders of his master, and that he had, as
is common among persons of his calling, a very large nose and broad
lips. As regards his character, he was addicted more to the silent
system, than inclined to talkativeness; he had a laudable inclination
for general information, _i.e._ he was fond of reading books, though
he did not care much about their contents; it was a matter of perfect
indifference to him, whether it was the adventures of an amorous hero,
or simply a spelling, or a prayer-book, he read them all with equal
attention; if therefore, a grave work on chemistry had been presented
to him, he would have accepted it with equal resignation. It was not
what he read that pleased him, but more the reading itself, or better
said, the process of reading, because from the composition of letters,
originate words, which again when spelled have a meaning, which many a
poor devil like Petruschka has every difficulty to understand.

He had the habit of going through his reading process, generally in a
recumbent position, which he took up in the anteroom, where he used to
stretch himself upon his bed and upon a mattress, which, in consequence
of the frequent use and this peculiar indulgence of his, had shrunk
into a mere nothing in comparison to its original size, and had
actually become as thin as a pancake. Besides his passion for reading,
he had two more characteristic habits; he liked to sleep without
undressing, just as he was, in the same surtout, and conveying with him
a _je ne sais quoi_, an atmosphere of his own, which was not unlike the
odour of an over-crowded room, so much so, that it was sufficient for
him to put up his bedstead, no matter where, if even in an hitherto
uninhabited apartment, and bring into it his cloak and other articles
of wardrobe, when suddenly it would seem as the chamber had been
occupied for the last ten years.

Tchichikoff had his peculiarities as well, and was in many instances a
man of delicate feelings; sometimes, when rising early in the morning,
he would inhale the air with his refreshed nostrils, but of a sudden
he would sneeze and slowly add: "Well, Petruschka, the devil knows
it, you seem to perspire strongly. I only wish you would go and take
a warm bath." To this, Petruschka made no reply, but tried to busy
himself immediately with something; or he went with brush in hand to
his master's dress-coat which was hanging over the door, as if to
dean it; or would arrange or put some of his effects in order. It is
difficult to say what he might be thinking of at this precise moment,
when he was thus rebuked and silent; perhaps he thus spoke to himself:
"What an original my master is, to be sure, he seems not to be tired of
repeating the same observation, fifty times over." Heaven knows! it is
very difficult to tell what a wretched serf thinks at the moment when
his lawful master scolds him. However, this is all we have to say at
present about Petruschka.

The coachman, Selifan, was quite a different man. However, on second
thoughts, we feel rather timid about troubling our reader so much with
the affairs of persons of so low a condition, for we know by experience
how little inclination there exists to make acquaintance with the lower
classes. At any rate that is the case in Russia, where we have ranks
of every shade and description, and where a frightful predilection
prevails to become acquainted with persons of merely a higher _nuance_
of rank, and a bowing acquaintance with a count or a baron of the
Empire, is esteemed but too often more valuable than the most intimate
ties of friendship.

And thus passing over the coachman, Selifan, we return to our hero,
who having given his orders and already made his preparations on the
previous evening, awoke the next morning early, washed himself with
a wet sponge from top to toe, an operation which he had a particular
habit of performing, usually on a Sunday; the day happening to be the
one as well on which he shaved himself carefully and even so minutely,
that his cheeks looked as smooth and shiny as satin; he put on his
coffee-coloured dress-coat with the gilt brass buttons, and then his
travelling cloak with its numerous collars. Thus dressed he descended
the staircase, carefully assisted, now on side, now on the other, by
the one ever attentive head-waiter, until he took his seat in the
britchka.

The travelling carriage drove with great noise from the court-yard into
the open street. A passing priest respectfully saluted the traveller,
as if giving him his benediction on the road, whilst a few boys in
ragged shirts and breeches stretched out their little hands and shouted
after him, "Pray, good gentleman, do not forget the wretched orphans."
Selifan, the coachman, observing that one of the little urchins was
very expert in throwing somersets, gave him a touch with his whip on
passing him, and away went the britchka clattering over the stones.

It is with no little pleasure that a traveller beholds in the distance
the painted mile posts, which are the limits of the fatiguing pavement
and other annoyances on passing through a town; a little more shaking
and jolting about in his carriage and Tchichikoff found himself at last
upon a more even and pleasanter road. Scarcely, however, had he left
the town at his back when his sight was gratified with, what _we_
term, "rural beauty," on either side of the road, such as mole-hills,
fir-trees, low and stunted shrubs, and pine groves intermixed and
surrounded by juniper and other such trees and bushes. Now and then the
scene would be enlivened by the sudden appearance of a village laid out
in a monotonous-geometrical order, and resembling in its architecture
a huge pile of timber covered over with a grey roof, under which the
ornamental wood-carvings forcibly reminded one of the embellishments of
a Dutch towel.

Here and there a few mouzhiks might be seen yawning as usual, and
sitting upon their sheepskins before their houses, whilst the women
with their fat bodies and cheeks were peeping out from the windows
above; from the lower story of the houses some serious sheep or a
sullen pig would exhibit their grave faces. Such are the scenes that
present themselves but too often on the high roads of Russia.

After having passed the fifteenth werst, Tchichikoff bethought himself,
that it must be about here that, according to the words of Maniloff,
his estate and village ought to be found, but after having passed the
sixteenth werst-post he still saw nothing of that which was so minutely
described to him, and had it not been for two peasants who were just
passing, it is very difficult to say whether Tchichikoff would have
found the spot or not. Upon the question being put to them, how far it
was to the estate called Zamanilovka, the mouzhiks took off their hats,
and one of them, being rather more intelligent than his comrade, for he
wore his beard in the pointed style, replied, "It is perhaps Manilovka
and not Zamanilovka, that your glory wishes to inquire for?"

"Just so, yes, Manilovka!"

"Manilovka! very well, if you drive on a werst farther, you will be
there, that is to say, straight on and then to the right."

"To the right?" now inquired the coachman, in his turn.

"Yes, to the right," replied the peasant, "that will be your road to
Manilovka; as for Zamanilovka, such a village does not exist. It is
called so, that is to say, its name is Manilovka, as for Zamanilovka
you will not find it; straight on before you, you will perceive upon
a hill a house built of stone two stories high, in which lives the
master, that is to say the owner of the estate. That then will be
Manilovka, but as for Zamanilovka there is no such a place here, and
never was." They now drove off in search of Manilovka. They had already
gone two wersts, and came to the turning of a private road; they seemed
to have passed two, three and even four wersts more, but still they
did not behold the stone building that was to be two stories high.
Suddenly, Tchichikoff bethought himself that if a person invites a
friend to visit him at his estate, situated about fifteen wersts from
town, it usually turns out to be at least thirty wersts distance; at
any rate, the situation of Maniloff's estate seemed at present to be
known but to few.

The dwelling-house of Maniloff's family stood, nevertheless, on a
rising hill, quite isolated, that is to say, upon an elevation exposed
to all the winds that might be blowing from any quarter; the declivity
of the mount upon which the house stood was surrounded by a carefully
cut grass-plot, upon which were scattered about a few bushy heaps _à
l'anglaise,_ shrubs of lilac and yellow acacias; here and there a
group composed of five or six birch trees raised their thin branches
and small leaves, thus forming a scanty cupola. From between two such
cupolas peered out a pavilion with a flat roof, painted in light green
and resting upon wooden columns of a sky-blue colour, with the laconic
inscription: "Temple of solitary meditation;" a little lower in the
foreground a brook rushed forth noisily from under the green foliage,
which is not an uncommon thing in an English garden belonging to a
Russian proprietor.

At the foot of the elevation and partly upon its incline, were
scattered in the distance and in all directions a number of small grey
wooden huts, forming the village; at the sight of these dwellings
our hero began--for some reason or other best known to himself--to
count them; and on counting their number he found them upwards of
two hundred. They were nowhere intersected by trees or shrubs, they
presented nothing else but the monstrous appearance of heaps of wood as
previously described.

The scene, however, was enlivened by two women, who had tucked up their
petticoats in a quite picturesque manner, and fixed them carefully
to their sides; they were wading up to their knees through the brook,
holding each one end of a ragged net, in which might have been seen a
couple of entangled crayfish, and a fat trout; the women seemed to have
some dispute, for they appeared quarrelling and scolding one another.
In the distance, on the right hand side of the hill, loomed a dull
looking fir-tree forest. The weather even, seemed in harmony with the
scenery; the day was not exactly a dull one, nor could it be called a
bright one, the sky was of a peculiarly greyish tint, not unlike the
worn-out cloak of a garrison soldier. To complete the tableau, the
cock, the prognosticator of the changes in the weather, even seemed out
of tune; regardless of the fact that his head was damaged by the beaks
of his fellow-creatures--according to their fashion he was crowing _à
tue-tête_ and even clapped his tattered wings against his ragged sides.



CHAPTER X.


On driving up to the entrance-hall, Tchichikoff perceived the lord of
the mansion standing upon the door steps, clad in a long parrot-green
coloured surtout, holding his hands over his forehead in lieu of an
eye-shade, no doubt for the purpose of concentrating his sight, for the
purpose of more minutely examining the arriving carriage. Whilst the
britchka was driving nearer towards the house, the eyes of the master
seemed to dilate and brighten up by degrees, and his smiles increase in
proportion.

"Pavel Ivanovitch," shouted Maniloff, for it was he, when he beheld
Tchichikoff stepping out from the carriage; "at last you have been
kind enough to remember us."

Both friends embraced each other most heartily, and Maniloff led his
guest into the house. Although the time necessary for going from the
outer premises into the anteroom, thence into the dining-room, until
they arrived in the regular reception-room, would be rather short,
yet we think it an opportune moment, and will endeavour to make the
best use of it and say a few words _en passant_ about the owner of the
estate and mansion. But here we must observe that such an undertaking
is fraught with many difficulties. It is far easier to delineate a
strongly-marked character; to picture such a one is easy, for you
have simply to throw the following characteristics upon the canvass,
such as, black and piercing eyes, overshadowing eye-brows, a frowning
forehead, a black, or fire-coloured large cloak thrown as if carelessly
over the left shoulder--like Zamiel in "Der Freischütz"--and the
portrait is finished; but there are men in this world, and they are
numerous, who at first sight are very much alike, but if you look
closer, you will find many unattainable traits and peculiarities in
them, which are particularly their own; to describe this species of
men is a very difficult task indeed. With them, it is necessary to use
strenuous exertions and the greatest attention, before you are able to
delineate even a portion of the fine and nearly imperceptible traits of
their character, and in general, it is requisite to set about into such
an undertaking with an experienced mind and eye.

Heaven alone, therefore, could, with any correctness portray the
character of Maniloff. He seemed to belong to that class of men which
we term in Russia among the good-natured ones, "neither a clown in
town, nor a fool in the village." At first sight, he was a man of
rather prepossessing appearance, and of a pleasing countenance; but
these advantages seemed to have been too much sugared by nature. In his
manners and demeanour there was something which courted acquaintance
and friendship; he smiled enticingly; he was fair, and had blue eyes.
In the beginning of a conversation with him it was impossible not to
say: "What an agreeable and kind-hearted man!" and the following moment
you would say nothing; whilst in the third you would most likely
exclaim: "The devil understand the man, and what he means!" and you
will leave him; if you have not that good fortune, you are sure to feel
a killing _ennui_. You will not hear from his lips anything amusing,
not even an insinuation, which you may hear from any one else, provided
you touch but slightly the chord which is most in harmony with his
interests.

Every one has his hobby-horse in conversation, as in other matters;
the one has all his passion concentrated upon dogs and horses; another
fancies he is an herculean admirer of music, and acutely feels all its
delicate passages; a third is a _passé maître_ in gastronomy; a fourth
endeavouring to play a _rôle_, if but an inch loftier, then the one
assigned to him by nature and his position in society; a fifth, with
more moderation in his wishes, meditates how he could manage to be
seen on the promenade walking side by side with an imperial colonel,
or aide-de-camp, thus to show himself off to his friends known and
unknown, in a word, every one has his peculiar ways and manners; but
Maniloff had none.

At home he was accustomed to speak but little, for he seemed always
busy thinking and meditating, but what about? that also might be
known in Heaven. Nor could it be said that he busied himself in the
management of his property, for he never took the trouble to visit his
fields or his estate in general; thus, then, agriculture was left to
go and find its own way. If his steward spoke to him, and suggested an
alteration or improvement, saying, "This or that could or might be done
for the better." "Yes, not a bad idea, that of yours, steward," would
be his invariable reply, and he continued to smoke his Turkish pipe,
a habit which he had contracted at an early age, while serving in the
Caucasus, where he was pronounced to be one of the quietest, nicest,
and best-bred officers in the regiment; "Yes, not a bad idea, indeed,"
would he repeat in conclusion.

If one of his peasants came to him, and whilst speaking to his lord
and master, scratched his head, and stroked his beard, saying: "Would
your glory allow me to go to town in search of work, and better my
condition?" "Go," he would reply, and continue to smoke his pipe,
for the idea never occurred to him that his serf came to ask him the
privilege of absenting himself, for the purpose of becoming a drunkard.

Sometimes Maniloff would also lean over his balcony, and look silently
upon the lawn and noisy brook before him, and then add: "How well it
would be if there was a subterranean walk leading from the house, or a
stone bridge across the murmuring brook, upon which I should have liked
to see little shops on either side, occupied by tradesmen, who could
satisfy my peasants' wants." At such and similar thoughts and wishes,
his eyes used to fill to overflowing with their peculiar sweetness, and
his countenance expressed the greatest satisfaction; these projects,
however, remained what they originally were--thoughts and wishes.

In his study, there was always the same book lying on the same place,
with a mark on its seventeenth page, which he had acquired the habit of
reading for these last two years. In his house there was continually
something wanting, either here or there; in the drawing-room there
was some superb furniture covered with rich silken damask, which no
doubt must have been very expensive; two chairs, however, were to be
seen there, uncovered with this material, no doubt for want of it, and
therefore, were left to exhibit their uncovered carcases; nevertheless,
Maniloff had every time the politeness to caution his guests not to
seat themselves upon any one of them; because, said he, they were not
yet ready.

In some of the rooms there was even no furniture at all, although he
had often spoken of the necessity of furnishing them, especially during
the first weeks after his marriage: "My darting," he used to say to his
wife, "my darling, it will be necessary to provide these rooms with
proper furniture, if only temporarily, until we get more settled."
In the evenings, a candlestick of fashionable appearance--dark
bronze, with three small figures, representing the graces, and richly
ornamented with mother-of-pearl, would be placed on the table; but,
next to it another one--a common brass invalid, shaky, bent down on
one side, and greasy all over, yet, without either the master, the
mistress, or any of the domestics being aware of it. His wife--however,
they seemed perfectly satisfied with each other. Although more than
eight years had elapsed since they had lived in happy matrimony,
still they continued to be upon _petits soins_ one for another, and
exchanged all sorts of sweet-meats and affections, which were offered
and accepted in the most touching tones of voice, as for an example:
"My darling, open your rosy lips, and I will put this sweet little bit
into your mouth." And of course, the pretty little mouth was gracefully
opened at such a loving request.

Birth-days were celebrated by exchanging all kinds of agreeable
surprises, such as knitted articles and embroideries in silk, wool
and pearls, and other ornamental knick-nacks. And very frequently
too, whilst the husband was sitting in his easy-chair and his wife
on the sofa, either the one or the other party would suddenly rise,
heaven knows from what impulse, and leave--he his pipe, and she her
needlework, if she happened to have some of it in her hands just at
that moment--for the purpose of impressing a tender and such a long
and affectionate kiss, that it would have been easy to smoke a pachito
during the time this affectionate demonstration lasted.

In short, they were what is commonly called on the happiest terms. Of
course, we could observe, that there are many other occupations in a
house besides continued kissing and bickering, fating birth-days, and
exchanges of presents; and many and various are the questions that
could be put as regards a household in general. Why, for instance, is
the kitchen department so much neglected? Why are the provision stores
so indifferently attended to? Why is the housekeeper dishonest, and
why are the servants so slovenly and negligent? Why does the whole
batch of domestics sleep so mercilessly long, and waste the time
during which they are awake? But all these facts and observations
were beneath the notice of Madame Maniloff, for she was well-bred and
brought up. And a good education, as is well known everywhere, can
only be obtained in a private institution; and in these institutions,
as it is well known again, three principal occupations, or subjects,
constitute the foundation of female perfections: the French language,
as indispensable to conjugal happiness; the pianoforte, as a medium to
create some pleasant moments to a husband; and at last, and not least,
a general knowledge of household matters: knitting purses, braces, and
embroidering generally, for the purpose of exchanging presents.

There are many changes and improvements in various methods of teaching
these indispensable branches of human perfections, particularly in the
present time; all these, however, depend more or less on the clever or
judicious management of the proprietors of these modern and fashionable
institutions. In some of these places, the three branches above-named
are classed in the following order: first, the piano forte, then the
French language, and at last, household knowledge. But in some again it
also happens that housekeeping obtains the first rank, _i.e._, knitting
and embroidering of presents; then follows the French language, and the
series is concluded most harmoniously by the pianoforte. It is obvious,
therefore, that methods of teaching exist in great variety.

It will not be superfluous to observe also that Madame Maniloff--but I
think I will stop here with my further remarks, for I must confess I am
afraid to speak of ladies; besides, it is high time to return to the
gentlemen, who have been already standing for some moments before the
door of the reception-room, mutually inviting one another to step in
the first.

"Pray do not so much incommode yourself on my account; I shall step in
after you," said Tchichikoff.

"No, my dear Pavel Ivanovitch! pray advance; you are my guest," replied
Maniloff, pointing civilly with his hand towards the door.

"Do not incommode yourself, I beg you will not. Step before me, if you
please," said Tchichikoff.

"No, pardon me, but I shall not suffer such a civil and well-bred guest
as you are to follow after me."

"Why, you overwhelm me with civilities! Pray pass on."

"Never mind, do me the favour to walk in first."

"But, my dear Sir, why all these ceremonies?"

"Because--and if you please," said Maniloff again, using now one of his
most enticing smiles, whilst continuing his civil gesticulations.

At last, both friends entered the room backwards, at the same time
squeezing one another gently against the door.

"Allow me to introduce you to my wife," said Maniloff. "My darling,
allow me to introduce to you our friend Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff."

And in truth, Tchichikoff now beheld for the first time a lady, whom
he had not observed during the moments that elapsed whilst he was
exchanging complimentary gestures with his host. She was pretty,
and dressed with taste. The light _gris de perle_ coloured morning
_capotte_ became her exceedingly well; her finely-shaped hand was
in the act of throwing some needlework hastily upon the table,
and snatching up instead a fine _batiste_ pocket-handkerchief with
prettily-embroidered comers and initials. She rose slightly from her
seat on the sofa, and gracefully welcomed her guest; and Tchichikoff
hastened with evident eagerness to kiss her hand in the old Russian
fashion.

Madame Maniloff spoke in a slightly affected tone of voice, and assured
her guest that he caused them a real pleasure indeed by his arrival,
and that her husband had not allowed a day to pass without speaking of
him, his friend, continually.

"Yes," added Maniloff, "my wife has already several times inquired
after you, and even often said, 'Why does your Petersburg friend not
come?' 'Wait a little longer, my darling, he is sure to arrive, for he
gave me his promise.' At last, you have been kind enough to gratify us
with your presence. Indeed, you cause us quite a delight, as pleasant
as a May-day, or 'birth-day of the heart.'"

Tchichikoff, on hearing that his host's exaltation had already attained
such a pitch as to call his arrival a gratification as pleasant as
a "birth-day of the heart," became a little confused, and answered
civilly, and in a dignified tone of voice, that he could not boast of a
princely name nor of an exalted position.

"You possess all," Maniloff interrupted, whilst sweetly smiling as
usual, "you possess all, and even more.".

"How did you like our town?" added Madame Maniloff. "Have you spent
your time pleasantly?"

"A very charming and pleasant town, my lady," answered Tchichikoff,
"and I have spent a most agreeable week indeed; I have been in the
choicest company."

"And how did you like our Lord-Lieutenant?" Madame Maniloff again
inquired.

"Is he not one of the most civil and amiable men in our province?"
added, in his turn, Mr. Maniloff.

"That is perfectly true," said Tchichikoff; "he is a highly
accomplished and estimable man. How well he knows how to enter into the
spirit of his exalted position, and how well he understands all his
arduous duties! It is desirable to see many more such men administering
our country!"

"And how kind and civil he is in his receptions, and how delicate and
condescending in his manners;" Maniloff added again, with a smiling
face, whilst satisfaction made him nearly close his eyes, like a cat
when gently tickled with the finger behind the ear.

"A very condescending and agreeable man indeed," continued Tchichikoff;
"and how clever he is, to be sure! I never anticipated that much of
him. How well and tastefully he embroiders various household ornaments!
He showed me a purse of his own knitting, and I must confess that I
doubt whether a lady could do it much better."

"And the Vice-Governor, is he not an amiable gentleman?" questioned
Maniloff, again closing his eyes slightly.

"A very, very deserving man indeed," replied Tchichikoff.

"But allow me to ask you, how did you like the Commissioner of Police?
Am I not right in saying he is a very agreeable man?"

"An exceedingly agreeable man, and, at the same time, what a learned,
what a well-informed man! I spent an evening at his house, where we
played a game at whist with the imperial Procurator and the President
of the Courts of Justice: we were assembled till the last cock crowed,
and I agree with you, he is indeed a most estimable man."

"And pray, what is your opinion of his wife?" inquired Madame Maniloff.
"She is a charming lady?"

"Oh, Madame, she is one of the most worthy ladies with whom I have the
honour to be acquainted," replied Tchichikoff with an air of conviction.

After enumerating all these persons in due rotation, and in the manner
described, they did not fail to bestow equal praise also upon the
President of the Courts of Justice, the Postmaster-General, and, in
fact, upon all the higher _employés_ in the town of Smolensk, who,
in their opinion, seemed to be one and all the most respectable and
praiseworthy persons in the province, if not in the vast Russian Empire.

"And pray, do you spend all your time here in the country?" demanded
Tchichikoff, in his turn, at last, and with the evident attempt to
change the subject of conversation.

"Mostly here," replied Maniloff. "Sometimes, however, we go to town to
spend a day or two and pay a few visits, just for the sake of a little
recreation and intercourse with civilized society. One is apt to become
boorish from living continually shut up in a country residence."

"True, very true," said Tchichikoff.

"Naturally," continued Maniloff. "It would be a different life if we
had some pleasant neighbours, or acquaintance with persons with whom,
in some respects, we could have some friendly intercourse and exchange
opinions, talk about life and good company, or have an argument on some
scientific subject, and thus stir up the dormant spirit, which again,
as you well know, would give an impulse--"

Here he intended to express something more, and be if possible more
explicit; but finding that he had lost the thread of his own ideas, he
began to gesticulate with his hand in the air, and then continued to
speak:

"Then of course the country and retirement would have many still more
pleasant attractions. But we have no such persons around us. The only
recreation we enjoy now and then is a book or a newspaper."

Tchichikoff fully agreed with Maniloff's opinion, and added, "That
there can be nothing pleasanter than to live in retirement, to delight
in the scenes of nature, and to read now and then a good book as a
recreation."

"But allow me to tell you," said Maniloff, "that having no such friend
with whom to exchange--"

"Oh, to be sure, that is true indeed!" interrupted Tchichikoff, "for
what are all the treasures of this world? 'Care not so much for money
as for good connections!' said some clever man somewhere."

"And you know it, Pavel Ivanovitch!" said Maniloff, whilst giving to
his face not only more than its usual expression of sweetness, but
even, if possible, an expression not unlike the mixture concocted by
a clever physician of the world, who mercilessly sweetens his drugs,
in the hope of pleasing is patients all the more. "Then, one feels a
sensation--or something not unlike the 'heart's rejoicing'--something
like that which I feel now, when chance gives me the felicity--nay,
allow me to say, the exceptional gratification of seeing you here, and
being delighted with your very pleasant conversation--"

"Pray pardon me, but why do you call me and my conversation so
pleasant? I am an humble man, and nothing else," replied Tchichikoff,
with great humility.

"Oh, my dear Pavel Ivanovitch, allow me to be candid. I would give
away the half of my property, if I could possess but the half of the
accomplishments that you can boast of."

"On the contrary, I on my part would esteem it as the highest--"

It is impossible to say to what extent the expressions of mutual esteem
and admiration would have been carried between the two friends, if the
entrance of a servant had not interrupted them, who came to announce
that dinner was ready.

"Allow me to invite you to our table," said Maniloff, respectfully.

"You will excuse us, if we cannot ask you to a dinner like those you
have been accustomed to partake of in the metropolis: with us all is
simplicity--a modest; meal _à la Russe_, but offered with a candid
heart," added Madame Maniloff.

Hereupon the two men had again a slight and polite difference as to
who should enter before the other, but at last Tchichikoff entered the
dining-room backwards.



CHAPTER XI.


On their entrance in the dining-hall, they found Madame Maniloff
waiting with her two little sons. These children were of that tender
age when parents are induced to seat them already among adults, though
they still are accommodated with high stools. Near them stood their
teacher who bowed courteously and with a smile.

The lady of the house took her seat before the soup-tureen; her guest
was placed between herself and husband; the servant tied a napkin under
the chin of the little boys, and the dinner ceremonial commenced.

"What pretty little boys!" said Tchichikoff, after a while, and
looking intently at them. "What is their age?"

"The elder is in his eighth year, and the younger celebrated his sixth
birth-day yesterday," answered Madame Maniloff, smiling.

"Themistoclus!" said Maniloff, whilst turning towards his elder boy,
who was just engaged in liberating his chin from the napkin which the
servant bad tied too tightly round his neck. Tchichikoff lifted up his
head and frowned slightly when he heard this classic name, of which
heaven knows why Maniloff had made the final syllable _us_; however he
recovered immediately from his surprise, and his features reassumed
their wonted expression.

"Themistoclus, my boy!" repeated Maniloff, "tell me which is the
finest town in France?" Here the teacher directed all the power of his
attention upon his pupil thus questioned by his father; and it seemed
as if he intended to pierce him with his glance; but he gradually
calmed down, and soon after nodded approvingly with his head, when he
heard Themistocles give the answer:

"Paris."

"And which is the finest town in Russia?" demanded again Maniloff.

The master fixed his eyes again upon his pupil and frowned.

"St. Petersburg," replied Themistocles, quickly.

"And what town besides?"

"Moscow," again replied the boy with sparkling eyes, for he seemed to
be sure of his lesson.

"Now for the last question," said his father, evidently pleased with
his child's progresses. "Who are the natural enemies of Russia and of
Christendom?"

"The Turks; and we ought to take Constantinople from them," replied
Themistocles, with the air of a conqueror, and looking for approval
towards his master.

"Oh, the clever darling!" exclaimed Tchichikoff, when he had heard all
these replies. "Really," he continued, whilst turning with an air of
agreeable surprise towards the happy parents, "I am of opinion that
this little boy displays signs of great proficiency."

"Oh, you don't know him half," replied Maniloff; "he possesses a
great deal of perspicuity. As for the younger son, Alcides," (here
Tchichikoff, was startled again as before), "he is not so sharp a boy
as his elder brother; Themistoclus is livelier, and his eyes will
sparkle at anything. If even an insect, he will immediately run after
it, and pay it the greatest attention. I intend to have him educated
for the diplomatic career. Themistoclus," he continued, turning again
towards the boy, "would you like to be an ambassador?"

"Oh yes, papa!" answered the child, with his mouth full of cake, and
balancing his head like a Chinese mandarin.

At that very moment, the servant, who stood behind the future
ambassador, wiped that young gentleman's nose, and it was well he
did so, or else some mishap would have been the consequence. The
conversation at table now turned upon the pleasures of domestic life,
and was now and then enlivened by the observations of Madame Maniloff
on the theatre and the actors of their town.

The teacher listened and looked very attentively upon the conversing
parties, and whenever he saw the company laughing at some
observations, he would at once open his mouth and join them in a
most hearty approbation. No doubt he was a man with a deep sense of
gratitude, and strove to display in this manner his acknowledgment
for the treatment he met at the hands of his employer. Once, however,
he could not prevent assuming an expression of reproof and knocking
gently upon the table, while frowning at his pupils, who sat opposite
to him. This was done at an opportune moment, because Themistocles had
just bitten the ear of his brother Alcides, who instantly closed his
eyes, and opened his mouth, and was on the point of beginning a most
lamentable tune; but seeing the frowning forehead of his master, and
fearing he might lose his dinner, he brought back his mouth to its
former position, and began to gnaw lustily, with tears in his eyes at
a large bone of roast mutton, which made both his cheeks shiny with
grease.

The lady of the house frequently encouraged her guest in the following
manner:

"You scarcely eat anything; you have taken so very little indeed."

To these observations Tchichikoff would invariably reply:

"I am very much obliged to you, Madame; I have had plenty--besides,
pleasant intercourse surpasses the finest dish."

They at last rose from table. Maniloff seemed exceedingly pleased, and
laying his hand gently on the back of his guest, he was on the point
of leading him gently into the drawing-room, when the latter suddenly
informed him, and with an air of confidential importance, that he had a
wish to converse with him on the subject of some important business.

"In that event, allow me to show you into my private room," said
Maniloff, and led him into a small adjoining chamber, the windows
of which afforded a view of a gloomy fir-tree forest looming in the
distance. "This is my own little corner," added Maniloff.

"A very pretty and comfortable room," said Tchichikoff, whilst casting
a glance around. The room had really its pleasing features; the walls
were painted of a light blue colour of a greyish tint; it contained
four chairs, one arm-chair, a table; upon the latter lay the book with
the marked page, of which we had already had occasion to speak, a few
writing materials, and a quantity of tobacco. That fragrant weed was
laying about in various forms and places, in packages, in pouches and
boxes, and lastly even upon the table. Upon both windows numerous
little heaps of tobacco ashes from his pipe were ranged, not without
taste, in symmetrical order. It was obvious that this arrangement
sometimes assisted the master of the house in passing his time
pleasantly.

"Pray be seated in this arm-chair," said Maniloff; "here you will be
more comfortable."

"I beg you will allow me to prefer this chair."

"Permit me to insist upon your' seating yourself in this arm-chair;"
said Maniloff with a smile. "This old arm-chair has been assigned by me
for my friends; and, therefore, whether you like it or not you must sit
down in it."

Tchichikoff seated himself in the arm-chair.

"Will you take a pipe or a cigar?"

"I thank you, but I do not smoke," replied Tchichikoff civilly, as if
with an air of regret.

"And pray, why don't you?" inquired Maniloff, also civilly, and with an
air of regret.

"I did not contract the habit, I am afraid, because I was told that
smoking originates consumption."

"I beg to observe that this is a prejudice. I am of opinion that to
smoke a pipe is by far more healthy than taking snuff. In my regiment
we had a lieutenant who was an excellent and well-bred officer, his
pipe never quitted him, not even at table--and with your leave--not
even at any other place. At present he is more than forty years old,
and thank Heaven, as well and healthy as he could wish to be."

Tchichikoff observed that such instances were of frequent occurrence,
and that there were many phenomena in human nature, quite
incomprehensible to the most cultivated mind.

"But allow me now to put you a question." He then proceeded in a tone
of voice in which there was a peculiar and nearly a strange expression,
and after having spoken the last words, he, for some reason or other
looked around him. Maniloff also looked round, but for what reason he
did so, it is impossible to tell.

"How long, may I ask, if you please," continued Tchichikoff, "is it
since you last handed in to government the census of the population on
your estate?"

"Oh, if I recollect rightly, it is some time since;" replied Maniloff,
"but to tell the truth, I do not exactly remember when."

"And can you perhaps recollect if many of your serfs have died since?"

"I must confess I don't know!" said Maniloff with a little
embarrassment; "but I could question my steward about it. Hilloah!
Ivan! or some one else, call my steward, he ought to be here to-day."

Soon after, the manager of Maniloff's estate made his appearance.
He was a man under forty years of age, with a closely shaved head,
fashionably dressed, and evidently enjoying and spending a pleasant
existence; because his fat and rosy cheeks seemed to attest that he
was well familiar with the comforts of a soft mattress and downy
pillows. It was easy to see at a glance that he had accomplished his
aim in life, as is usual among men of his calling: early in youth he
was but an adopted orphan, charitably brought up in the family of
his present master, and instructed in a little reading and writing;
later he managed to marry the house-keeper--a favourite of her
ladyship's--contrived to become housekeeper himself, until ultimately
he got himself promoted to the rank of steward. And when he had become
the general manager of the estate, he did like other stewards do: he
frequented and connected himself only with the richer families in the
village, exacted more tribute from the poorer, rose at nine o'clock in
the morning, heated his samovar and took his tea comfortably.

"I say, my good fellow," Maniloff addressed himself to his humble
steward; "how many of my peasants have died since you sent the last
census to government?"

"Your glory wishes to know how many? Since then many have indeed died,"
replied the steward, whilst putting his hand before his mouth in lieu
of a shield, to screen a slight hiccup, which he was unable to repress.

"Yes, I must confess, I thought as much myself," added Maniloff;
"just so, a great many have died since." Hereupon he turned towards
Tchichikoff, and repeated again; "exactly so, a great many have died."

"But, about how many in number?" demanded again Tchichikoff.

"Yes, to be sure, how many in number? repeated Maniloff.

"Yes, your glory; but how could I fix upon the number? It is impossible
to say how many, no one has counted them," said the steward again, and
with increasing embarrassment.

"Just so," said Maniloff, whilst turning towards his guest; "I
anticipated as much; there was a great mortality during these latter
years; and I think it is difficult to say with any precision how many
have died."

"You had better number the dead, my good man;" Tchichikoff addressed
himself to the steward, "and make out a correct list of all, together
with their family and Christian names."

"Yes, to be sure," added Maniloff adopting the same positive tone of
voice as his guest: "and give their names carefully."

"It shall be done, your glory!" replied the steward, and left the room.

"But for what purpose do you want these particulars?" inquired
Maniloff, after the steward had left them.

This question seemed to embarrass his guest considerably; his face
flushed, his countenance betrayed uneasiness and was altogether
striking in its momentary change, and difficult to be described in
words. At last Maniloff was obliged to listen to one of the strangest
and most extraordinary proposals to which human ears were ever yet
fated to listen. "You wish to know for what purpose? The reasons
are the following: I should like to purchase some serfs--" said
Tchichikoff, whilst recovering gradually; but scarcely had he uttered
the last word, when he had a sudden attack of his cough, and did not,
of course, conclude the phrase.

"But allow me to ask you," continued Maniloff, "on what condition do
you wish to purchase peasants, is it together with the land they live
upon, or do you want them for colonisation elsewhere, that is to say,
without the land they live upon?"

"No, that is not exactly what I mean," replied Tchichikoff, after a
moment's hesitation, "what I wish to purchase, are dead serfs."

"What? pardon me--I am rather deaf in one ear, but it seemed to me as
if I had heard the strangest words that could possibly be spoken."

"Strange, perhaps," added Tchichikoff, more coolly than might have been
expected after his first agitation; "yes, my dear sir, I have a wish to
make the acquisition of the dead--who, however, must stand booked as
existing or living in the columns of the last governmental census."



CHAPTER XII.


When Maniloff was convinced that he had rightly heard and understood
what his friend had just spoken, he could not prevent his Turkish
pipe dropping upon the floor and opening his mouth and eyes as widely
as they would allow themselves to be opened; he remained passively
thus for a few seconds. Both friends, who, but shortly before, had
been familiarly discoursing on the pleasures of friendly life and
intercourse, were now sitting opposite one another immoveably, gazing
into each others eyes as if mesmerized, or like those portraits which
in olden times were hung on either side of the looking-glass.

At last Maniloff mustered animation again, picked up his pipe,
and, while doing this, he looked up seriously into the face of his
companion, striving to catch, if possible, a smile upon his lips, as if
to convince himself that all was but a jest; however, he could discover
nothing to confirm him in this hope; on the contrary, Tchichikoff's
face looked, if possible, more serious and composed than usual; at last
he thought it likely his guest might have become the victim of a fit of
insanity, and as this idea occurred to him he looked with the utmost
terror fixedly at him.

But no, Tchichikoff's eyes were perfectly calm and bright, there was
no wildness nor uneasiness in his glance, such as there would be
in the gaze of a madman; all his mental faculties seemed to enjoy
perfect health. Maniloff was at a loss what to imagine next, in order
to account for the strange words and intention he had heard; but he
could hit upon nothing to relieve him of his anxiety, except, letting
the tobacco smoke, which the sudden surprise had made him swallow,
unconsciously escape in thin wreaths.

"And thus then should I like to know if you would agree to part with
such of your serfs as are actually dead; that is to say, not actually
living, but nevertheless existing in a point of law; I am ready to make
such arrangements about them as would be most agreeable to you."

But Maniloff was still so much overwhelmed and confused, that he could
do nothing else but stare into the face of the speaker.

"You seem to feel embarrassed?" observed Tchichikoff, slowly.

"I?--no, not exactly," Maniloff at last murmured; "but I cannot
comprehend--excuse me--I did not of course enjoy such a brilliant
education, such a one--if I might express myself so--as is visible
in every one of your movements; I have no talent for choice
expressions--it might be also, that here--in this instance and in the
manner in which you have just now chosen to express yourself--that
there is something hidden--the meaning of which, I must confess, I
could not catch, and I must presume that you have chosen to express
yourself in this manner for the sake of a more select construction of
your phrase--"

"Oh no, my dear Sir, no," interrupted Tchichikoff, "not at all, my
proposal is like the phrase, pure and simple; I positively mean that
what I said, namely: I wish to possess such serfs as are positively
dead."

Maniloff was now actually lost in amazement; yet he felt that it
became incumbent on him to do or say something; but what was he to do,
what was he to say?--Heaven alone could inspire him. He finished at
last by allowing another cloud of tobacco smoke to escape, but not as
previously, out of his mouth, for this time the smoke evaporated from
his nostrils.

"And now, if you have no objection, we might at once come to an
understanding and proceed to draw up the contract of sale," said
Tchichikoff.

"What? a contract of sale, for the dead?"

"Oh, no, my dear Sir, no," replied Tchichikoff, with slight impatience.
"We shall write down, and presume them to be living, for such they
actually are represented to be in the last census of the whole
population of the Empire, and consequently, also in a point of law as
well I am accustomed never to make the slightest deviation from our
laws--either civil or military--though I have suffered much for this
principle when I was in actual service myself, and allow me to assure
you, my duty has always been a sacred obligation to me; the law--I
never deviate from it."

These last observations very much pleased Maniloff, and reassured him
considerably; but notwithstanding this assurance, it was impossible
for him to enter into the spirit of the business proposed to him,
and instead of an answer, he began to smoke so fast, that the room
was soon filled with a dense fog, and the head of his pipe became so
heated, that it began to crackle like a hoarse bassoon. It seemed as
if he wished to inhale from his pipe an opinion upon the unprecedented
project of his guest; but to no purpose, his pipe continued its
crackling noise as before.

"You have, perhaps, your doubts on the subject?" said Tchichikoff.

"Oh! I can assure you, not the least," rejoined Maniloff. "Do not
think for a moment that I could have the slightest reason to form any
critical opinion as regards yourself. But allow me to ask you, will
this speculation, or, in order to explain myself more distinctly--this
negotiation--yes, will this negotiation not be in contravention to the
civil laws and the future views and welfare of the Russian Empire?"

After having spoken thus, Maniloff made a few peculiar movements with
his head, and looked steadfastly into Tchichikoff's face, showing
in all the lineaments of his features, and in his compressed lips,
such an undefinable expression, as perhaps never was beheld on a
human face before; and if such an expression could find its equal, it
could, perhaps, only be seen on the faces of those clever statesmen
of all nations, who at the present day are discussing the political
differences between Russia and Turkey.

Tchichikoff, however, answered simply, that such a speculation, or
negotiation, would in no ways be in contravention with the civil or
military laws of the country, and the future welfare of Russia; and a
moment later he added, that on the contrary, the government would even
derive an advantage, because it would receive the payment of the lawful
capitation tax.

"Well, then, you think that--?"

"I am of opinion that all will be right and and well," said Tchichikoff
again.

"Ah, if it is all right, then it is altogether a different thing; then
I can have no objection whatever," said Maniloff, and recovered even so
far as to assume his usual smile.

"Now we shall only have to fix upon a price--"

"How--a price?" said Maniloff with a new air of surprise, and stopped
short for a while. "Is it possible that you could think that I would
take money for such serfs, who, in some respects have already ceased
to exist, and consequently, have become valueless to me? No, since you
have a strange fancy for them, or, if I might use the expression, a
phantastical wish for them, I am quite agreeable to deliver them up to
you gratuitously, and am even ready to pay the expense of the contract
of sale, in order to be agreeable to you."

We should deem it the greatest act of negligence on our part, if
we were to omit mentioning in the narrative of these events, that
the words thus spoken by Maniloff had the effect of diffusing an
extraordinary amount of gratification over the countenance of his
guest. However circumspect, self-possessed and prudent Tchichikoff
habitually was, yet in this instance he had every difficulty in
mastering a feeling which nearly made him jump from his seat like a
goat, and such an attempt could certainly only be caused by an excess
of joy. He turned so suddenly in his arm-chair that the woollen
covering of the pillow was tom in consequence; even Maniloff could
not help looking at him with some fresh bewilderment. Impelled by
gratitude, he gave so many thanks, that the donor of the gift could not
help blushing deeply, made a negative movement with his head, and then
only found words to say, that, what he gave was a mere trifle.

"Not at all a trifle," replied Tchichikoff, warmly pressing the donor's
hand.

Here a deep sigh was also allowed to escape from his broad chest,
and it seemed as if this sigh was full of the warm effusions of his
feeling heart; not without some feeling and expression in his language
Tchichikoff, continued in the following words:

"If you knew, my dear Sir, what a favour you have granted me by this
apparently trifling obligation.... to me, a man without name or
fame.... Yes, truly, how much have I not suffered? like a bark amidst
the boisterous waves of the agitated ocean.... What tribulations, what
persecutions have I not experienced, and how many and bitter were the
sorrows that I have tasted! but why? would you perhaps ask me? Because
I always watched over truth, because I kept my conscience pure, my
honour intact; because I stretched forth my hand to assist the mourning
widow, and shielded the deserted orphan!"

Hereupon Tchichikoff could not help arresting the progress of a falling
tear with his pocket-handkerchief.

Maniloff, too, was nearly moved to tears on hearing this eloquent
language. Both friends pressed each other's hands long and warmly,
and they looked long and silently into each other's eyes, in which a
few more tears might have been seen glittering. Maniloff seemed not
disposed to part with the hand of our hero, and continued to press it
so warmly, that the other did not know how to liberate it. At last he
succeeded in extricating it gently, and said that it would now be a
good thing to conclude the contract of sale at once, and that it would
be desirable that Maniloff should come for that purpose to town at his
earliest convenience. He then rose, took his hat, and began to bow a
farewell.

"What? are you going to leave us already?" said Maniloff, who had
scarcely recovered from his emotion before he was frightened again.

At that moment, Madame Maniloff entered her husband's study.

"Lisinka," Maniloff exclaimed, with a rather pitiable expression in
voice and countenance, "Pavel Ivanovitch wishes to leave us!"

"Because, perhaps, we do not entertain our guest well enough," remarked
Madame Maniloff.

"My lady, here," said Tchichikoff, "here, in this spot," saying these
words, he laid his hand upon his heart, and continued: "Yes, here shall
for ever remain the recollection of the pleasant moments I have passed
in your company; and believe me, there would be no greater felicity for
me in this world, than to live--if not in the same house with you, at
least in your immediate neighbourhood."

"Ah! my dear Pavel Ivanovitch," said Maniloff, whom this idea on the
part of his friend seemed rather to please, "that would really be
excellent, delicious, if we could live together under the same roof,
or under the shadow of the same poplar, and philosophise on some
subject, or launch ourselves into--"

"Oh, that would be like living in Paradise!" exclaimed Tchichikoff with
a sigh. "Farewell, my lady!" continued he, whilst pressing his lips
upon the hand of Madame Maniloff; "farewell, most esteemable friend!
Pray do not forget our little business!"

"Oh, be sure of it!" replied Maniloff. "I do not bid you farewell for
more than two days at the most."

All three entered again the reception-room.

"Farewell, my pretty little darlings!" exclaimed Tchichikoff, when he
beheld Alcides and Themistocles once more, who were engaged playing
with a wooden dragoon, who thanks to them, had already lost his hands
and nose.

"Farewell, my little pets, you must excuse me this time for not having
brought you something, because, I must confess, I was not aware of your
existence; but, the next time I come, you may depend upon it, I shall
surprise you with something nice to play with. To you I will bring a
sword; would you like to have a sword? eh--"

"Oh, yes," replied Themistocles.

"And you shall have a drum; I know you would like to have a drum--eh?"
he continued, bending down to Alcides.

"Drum--bum--bum," answered Alcides, as if he had it already.

"Very well then, I will bring you a drum, it shall be such a nice
drum, that you will be able to play any tune upon it, and then you may
turrrr-rurrr-rurrr and tratata upon it as long as you like. Farewell my
little darlings! farewell!"

Hereupon he kissed the little boy upon the head, and turned with a
smile towards Maniloff and his wife, with a smile like that usually
assumed by persons who wish to convey to loving parents the innocent
wishes of their children.

"Pray, dear Pavel Ivanovitch," said Maniloff, when all had already
passed through the entrance, "pray, stay with us, look at the dark
clouds around."

"These are but a trifle, they do not alarm an old traveller like
myself," replied Tchichikoff.

"But do you know the road to Sobakevitch's estate?"

"Indeed, no, I was about asking you that question."

"Allow me then, I will immediately explain it to your coachman."
Hereupon Maniloff very civilly explained to Selifan where he would have
to drive his master to. The coachman finally understood, that he would
have to pass two turnings and take the third, then took off his hat and
exclaimed; "Thanks to your glory and long health!"

Tchichikoff drove off, and was saluted with wavings of
pocket-handkerchiefs by his amiable hosts until they were out of sight.

Maniloff continued to stand and linger upon the stone steps before his
house for some considerable time, and followed with his eyes the now
fast disappearing britchka, and when he had already completely lost
sight of it, he still continued to gaze into the distance and smoke his
pipe. At last he entered the house and went into his own room, where he
seated himself upon a chair opposite to the seat occupied previously
by his guest; he began to give way to reflections, and was heartily
rejoiced that he had had an opportunity of having been agreeable to his
new acquaintance.

After having thus meditated for some time, his thoughts began to wander
upon some other subject, until at last he lost himself, heaven knows
in what reflections. He also thought of the blessings of friendly
intimacy; he began to imagine, how pleasant it would be to live
together with a faithful friend on the banks of some silvery stream; he
then began to construct a stone bridge across his imaginary river, and
concluded by building a splendid castle in the Spanish style, so high
and beautiful, that he could behold Moscow the Holy from its turrets;
nor did he forget either to imagine a magnificent Venetian balcony,
where he beheld himself and his bosom friend, comfortably taking tea in
the evening, and smoking real Turkey whilst having a pleasant argument.
He continued to imagine, that he and Tchichikoff received an invitation
to an evening party from some high functionary, and that they drove up
to his house in a splendid carriage and four, that they were received
in the best company; and finally, that one of the imperial ministers
(of the foreign cabinet,) being informed of the exemplary friendship
existing between the two friends, informed his Majesty the Emperor of
its existence, and that they were promoted to the rank of generals
in consequence. Thus he continued to dream on, until at last he lost
himself again in his _châteaux d'Espagne_.

But suddenly he recovered his consciousness, thanks to the
extraordinary application of his friend Tchichikoff, which he could not
forget on any account; though it was of no use for him to think and
study the nature and purpose of this strange whim of his friend, for he
could not, either explain to himself the object, nor find the solution
of this extraordinary negotiation as he still termed it, in his own
mind. Thus he continued to sit in the same chair and smoke his pipe
until he was called to supper, and went to bed at a late hour.



CHAPTER XIII.


Tchichikoff was reclining comfortably, and in an excellent temper
of mind in his britchka, which was now rolling rapidly along the
high road. In the preceding chapters a little something has already
transpired with reference to what his principal object consisted in,
what his taste and inclination were, and for that reason it cannot be
surprising that he, soon after his departure from Maniloff's house,
plunged body and soul into a reverie upon what had passed between
himself and his new friend.

Supposition, circumspection, anticipation seemed in turn to occupy his
mind; and his speculations must have been of a pleasant nature, for
his face betrayed it; and he seemed, as it were, to smile inwardly.
Thus engrossed with his own thoughts, he did not pay the slightest
attention to his coachman Selifan, who in his turn and in consequence
of the excellent reception which he had met with among Maniloff's
servants, was engaged in giving a lecture peculiar to himself, to the
tiger-spotted outside horse, the reins of which he held fast in his
right hand.

This tiger-spotted horse, as he used to call it, was, in his opinion
a very sly and vicious animal indeed, for it only pretended to pull
as hard as its two helpmates, whilst the brown insider or leader, who
was of a more straightforward disposition, was doing his work most
heartily. The natural fondness of Russian coachmen for their horses,
goes frequently so far that they will speak to them as if to rational
beings, and such a discourse, if it may be called so, took place
between Selifan and his three horses that were attached before the
britchka.

"Oh, you artful scamp; but wait a moment, I'll dodge you!" said
Selifan, rising slightly upon his seat and giving a smack with his whip
to the idler. "I'll teach you what your duty is, you German pantaloon.
The brown one is a respectable horse, for he is doing his work like a
horse, and I shall give him with pleasure an extra measure, because
he is an honourable horse, and so is the leader too. Na, nuh! you are
shaking your head, are you? You are a fool; listen, I'll tell you, when
you are spoken to! for I shall not teach you anything that is wrong,
you Master Careless! Look up! where you are going!"

Here he gave him another hearty correction with his whip and added:
"Oh, you robber of a horse!" After this he indulged all three with
a shout as the Jamtchicks are accustomed to do. "Halloah yo, my
darlings!" and laid the whip gently across their shoulders, but not
with a feeling of anger, but by way of encouragement, as if satisfied
with all three. Having thus shown them a little of his approbation, he
again addressed his observations to the tiger-spotted idler.

"No, my fine fellow, you must be steady if you wish the world to
acknowledge your merits. Look you here and listen; at the gentleman's
house where we have been, there are some worthy people, and such
persons I like to speak to and have some intercourse with; because
everyone likes to be on friendly terms with good people. I had tea with
them and ate and drank many a good thing there, because it gives me
pleasure to do so among worthy people. A virtuous man meets with due
respect everywhere. Look for an example at our master, he is esteemed
by everybody; because, now, will you listen? because he served his
country and the Emperor well, and is now a Councillor of State in
consequence."

Thus reasoning, Selifan lost himself at last in the most abstract
arguments. And if Tchichikoff had been listening he might have heard
the most curious and interesting observations concerning himself
personally; but his thoughts were so much occupied with his own
projects, that a sudden, and loud clap of thunder alone could awake him
to the scene around him, and cause him to look up again at the exterior
world; the sky was covered with heavy dark clouds in all directions,
and the dusty high road became sprinkled with heavy rain-drops. Soon
after the thunder-peals were more frequent, they grew louder and
nearer, and at last the rain came down as if out of a bucket.

At first the rain came sideways, and fell heavily on the left flank
of the britchka, then it changed suddenly and washed its other side,
until at last it began to fall horizontally upon the leathern roof of
the carriage and continued to drum upon it with renewed power, and the
drops at last reached even the face of our traveller. This induced him
to draw down the leathern blind with its round glass holes, through
which he began to examine the scenes around him and give the order
to Selifan to drive quicker. Selifan also, had been unpleasantly
interrupted in the midst of his reflections, and without losing an
instant he produced from under his seat a something in the shape of a
miserable-looking grey cloth cloak into the tattered sleeves of which
he slipped his arms as speedily as the numerous holes would allow
him to do, and then snatching up again the reins, he used once more
his whip; and his troika sped on again with fresh vigour, as if the
rain as well as Selifan's mode of encouraging them had had the most
invigorating effects upon the horses.

As for Selifan, he could not for the life of him remember whether he
had passed the second or the third turning. Imagining a great deal and
recollecting a little of the road he had just passed, he guessed that
he had already left many a turning on either side of the road behind
him. Thus then like many Russians, never at a loss for imagination
what to do next in a decisive moment, and without venturing into long
speculations, he took the first turning to his right and shouting
again: "halloah yo, my darlings!" he drove his horses into a full
gallop, never caring for a moment, whither this road may lead him next.

The rain seemed to have set in with the appearance to last for
sometime. The dust of the high-road was now converted into a thick
paste of mud, and with every moment it became more difficult for the
horses to pull through it. Tchichikoff already began to feel uneasy at
not seeing anything yet of Sobakevitch's estate, for, according to his
calculations, they ought to have been there long ago. He tried again
to look through the glass holes of his leather curtains; but to no
purpose, it seemed as if an Egyptian darkness surrounded them.

"Selifan!" he at last shouted and popped his head out through the
curtain.

"What does your glory wish?" replied Selifan.

"Look about you, don't you see the village yet?"

"No, your glory, I cannot see it anywhere." After having spoken thus,
Selifan belaboured his horses once more and began a song--no, rather
a tune, like the "Lieder ohne Worte" of Mendelsohn Bartholdy--without
an end. In this tune were comprised all the sounds of approbation and
reproach addressed to all the horses by their drivers, throughout the
vast expanse of the Russian Empire, from one extremity to the other;
suitable under all circumstances just as it comes to the mind and upon
the tongue, naturally, without choice or preparation.

Meanwhile, Tchichikoff began to feel that his britchka was balancing
about on all sides, and dealt him many an unpleasant shaking and severe
knocks; these unpleasant sensations brought him to the conclusion that
they must have deviated from the high-road, and were now driving over
some uneven field. Selifan seemed also to be under the same impression,
however, he did not say a word about it.

"You blunderbuss, upon what road are you driving me now?" Tchichikoff
inquired angrily.

"What am I to do, your glory! it is so very dark, indeed, I cannot even
see my whip!" Saying this, he drove the britchka so carelessly that it
was nearly upset from the sudden shock, and Tchichikoff was obliged to
cling with both hands to his seat. Then, and not till then, it was that
he conjectured his coachman Selifan was not sober.

"Stop, stop, you will upset me!" he cried out to him.

"Oh, no, your glory! how could I? how could I upset your honour?" said
Selifan. "It is a bad thing to be upset, I know it well myself; how
could I therefore upset you, I certainly shall not upset you." Hereupon
he began cautiously to turn the britchka round and round again, until
he had at last succeeded in turning it all upon one side. Tchichikoff
fell out of his carriage and lay there with his hands and feet deeply
imbedded in the mud. Selifan had, however, succeeded in stopping his
troika, though the horses would have done so, no doubt, from their own
accord, for they seemed very much exhausted.

Such an unexpected mishap had completely bewildered him; he crept down
from his seat and posted himself before the britchka, with both his
hands firmly fixed on his sides, whilst his master was still trying
to raise himself up again upon his legs; thus glancing for a moment
upon his master and the carriage before him he added with an air of
incredible surprise: "And I have upset him!"

"You are as drunk as a trooper!" exclaimed Tchichikoff.

"Oh, no, your glory! how could I be drunk? I know it is a bad thing to
be drunk, I have been talking to some friends, that is true; but then,
it is a good thing to speak to worthy men, in that there can be no
harm. I must confess we had a bit and a sup, but then there can be no
harm in having something to eat and drink with worthy people."

"But what did I tell you the last time you got drunk--eh? Have you
forgotten it?" inquired Tchichikoff.

"Oh, no, your glory! how could I have forgotten what you told me I
know my duty well. I know, it is bad to get drunk. I have only been
speaking to some worthy friends, because I--"

"Only wait until you get a good thrashing again," interrupted
Tchichikoff; "and then you will know what it is to speak to worthy
people."

"Just as it may please your glory!" replied Selifan, with an air of
resignation, "if I am to have a thrashing, I must, have it; I shall
not escape it. And why should I not be punished if it is my fault, you
as my master have a right to do so. It is also necessary that mouzhiks
should be punished, now and then, to keep them in subordination and
good order. If it is my own fault, then it is but just that I should be
punished; and why should I not receive a thrashing?"

To such logical reasoning, his lawful master could not possibly imagine
what he was to reply. But at that very moment also, it seemed as if
Providence itself had taken his pitiable position into commiseration.
In the distance the loud barking of dogs was audible. Tchichikoff,
overjoyed, gave immediate instructions to his coachman that he should
drive on at full speed. A Russian driver has often an excellent sense
of presentiment instead of the sense of sight; for that reason it
often happens that he will dose his eyes, drive on full gallop, and
yet arrive somewhere. Selifan, without hearing or seeing anything, had
nevertheless succeeded in guiding his horses upon a road which led them
straight into the village; and they stopped only then, when the horses
and britchka came violently in contact with the gates of a house, and
when it was already impossible to drive on any further.

All that Tchichikoff could perceive through the dark flood of rain was
the roof of a house; he immediately ordered Selifan to go and find out
the gates, which, no doubt, would have taken him a considerable time,
if in Russia we had not excellent country dogs, instead of drowsy
porters, who, in this instance, announced the arrival of our strangers
so loudly, that Selifan himself was obliged to stop up both his ears.
A light began to dawn in one of the windows and threw a foggy glimmer
straight in the direction of our travellers, who were able to find the
gates at last.

Selifan began to knock, and soon after a small gate was opened
through which the head of a figure wrapped in a sheep-skin made its
appearance, and master and servant were obliged to listen to a woman's
creaking voice, uttering the question of: "Who is there? and why are
you making all this noise?"

"We are travellers, my good woman, allow us to pass the night here,"
Tchichikoff pronounced in a faint voice.

"What hurried travellers you seem to be, for look here at the time of
night!" the old woman again said, "besides, this is not an inn, a noble
lady resides here."

"What are we to do, good mother--you perceive we have lost our way; and
surely you cannot expect us to sleep on the steps."

"Yes, the night is dark, and the rain is pouring down in torrents,"
added Selifan.

"Be silent, you fool," said Tchichikoff.

"But who are you?" demanded the old woman.

"I am, a nobleman, good woman."

The word, nobleman, seemed to startle the old woman, and make her
reflect. "Wait a little, I'll go and tell her ladyship," the old female
muttered, and in a few minutes later she made her appearance, again,
with a lantern in her hands. The gates were thrown open. A light even
began to glitter in another window.

The britchka entered the court-yard, and stopped before a small house,
which it was impossible to examine more particularly on account of the
utter darkness around it. Only one portion of it was dimly illumined
by the light proceeding from the window, a puddle formed by the heavy
rain and flowing rapidly along before the house, was also visible in
the same light. The rain pattered noisily upon the wooden roof, and
streamed in loud jets into a large water-tub. Meanwhile, the house dogs
joined into a loud discordant howling; the one threw his head back and
set up such a long and plaintive howl, as if he were, Heaven knows
generously paid for it; another replied to the first in a particular
hoarse voice, as if he had already done his best in the concert;
whilst a third joined them with a shrill ringing tone, not unlike a
post-horse bell; it seemed to be the tenor voice of a juvenile dog; and
all their canine voices were drowned at intervals by a deep base bark,
undoubtedly a paternal barker, provided with an inexhaustible doggish
nature, because he rattled away his tune in such a determined manner,
that it would forcibly remind one of a counter-bass voice in a concert,
when in the full tide of tone, the tenor raising himself on tip-toes,
impelled by a strong desire to sing forth his highest note, and all in
fact raise themselves, and their voice as high as possible. At such
decisive moments, whilst they throw their heads back, the tenor alone
will be sometimes original, and hide his unshaved chin in his white
neck-doth, sit down, or bend forward nearly to the ground, and yet send
forth from his hiding place, his note, as loud and audible as to shake
the very windows of the concert-room.

From the simple barking of these canine musicians, it was easy to
surmise that the village must have been something extraordinary, too;
but our wet and frozen hero thought for that moment of nothing else
but a warm bed. The britchka had had scarcely time to stop before the
entrance of the house, when he already hastened to alight, and jumped
cleverly upon the landing, gave himself a considerable shaking, and
nearly fell the to ground.



CHAPTER XIV.


Another woman, rather younger, but very much like the first in
appearance, now made her exit from the house upon the landing-steps
before it. She led the stranger into the house, and then into a
room. Tchichikoff cast two hasty glances around him whilst entering;
the apartment was decorated with old and old-fashioned striped
paper-hangings. Between the windows there were some pictures
representing various species of birds; small rococo-fashioned
looking-glasses, with dark frames, in the shape of curled leaves were
suspended in a great variety around on the walls; behind each of them,
or rather in the frames, were placed, either letters, an old pack
of cards, or a stocking; an old clock with Roman figures, intermixed
with flowers, also hung on the wall and was ticking loudly. It was
impossible to notice more with two glances only.

Besides Tchichikoff felt as if some one had besmeared his eyes with
honey, for he had the greatest difficulty in keeping them open. A few
minutes later, and the lady of the house made her appearance. She was
an elderly person, and entered with a species of nightcap and a flannel
hurriedly thrown round her neck. She was one of those noble ladies who
reside on their estates, because she was not rich enough in her opinion
to live in town--one of those old women who continually complain of bad
harvests and severe losses in their household, and who have the habit
of keeping their heads bent on one side, whilst they meanwhile know how
to heap money into narrow bags, and hide them in all the drawers and
upon all the shelves available. In one of these little bags, they will
keep nothing else but the shiny silver roubles, in another only the
half-roubles, in a third again a few golden imperials, and so on till
they have a whole collection of all the coins of the Empire.

At first sight, it would seem that these drawers contain nothing
else but articles of wardrobe, such as night-caps, stockings, linen,
night-gowns, reals of cotton, old silken cloaks cut up for the purpose
of being transformed into a gown, as soon as the one in use is worn out
or burnt somewhere at the elbow, whilst the old lady was superintending
the baking and cooking of holiday pastries. But they are too careful;
the old gown does not run with them the risk of being burnt or worn
out at the elbows, or anywhere else so soon; and the careful old lady
generally leaves the cut up silken cloak for some smiling niece or
widow-sister, together with her little bags containing the collection
of all these precious coins as well as her night-caps, sacks and
cottons.

Tchichikoff apologised, and begged to be excused for arriving so late
at night.

"Never mind, never mind," said the old lady; "in what wretched weather
Heaven has brought you here! After such fatigues it would certainly be
desirable to eat and drink something warm, but it is so very late that
it will be quite impossible to prepare anything."

The last words of the matron were interrupted by such a strange,
hissing noise that her guest could not help feeling frightened; this
peculiar alarming sound resembled the hissing of serpents, which seemed
to have made a sudden appearance in the room; but on looking upwards,
Tchichikoff felt tranquilized, for he discovered that the antique dock
hanging on the wall was on the point of making an attempt to strike.
After this strange hissing, immediately a rattling, and at last, after
mustering all its mechanical strength, the clock succeeded in striking
two; but with such a sound, that it seemed as if some one was striking
with a stick against a broken saucepan. After this effort of the
time-piece, the pendulum again continued its usual monotonous tick-tack
as before mentioned.

Tchichikoff bowed courteously and thanked the old lady for what she
said, and begged to assure her that he wanted nothing so much as a
bed, and was only anxious to know in what part of the country he was,
and how distant the estate of his friend Sobakevitch might be from her
estate. Upon this inquiry, the old lady replied, that she had never
heard of such a name, and that she was of opinion that such a person
was not to be found anywhere around in her neighbourhood.

"The name of the landowner Maniloff is perhaps better known to you?"
Tchichikoff remarked.

"And who is Maniloff?"

"An owner of some extensive estates, my good Madam."

"No, I have not heard of such a name either--he does not live here
about."

"And pray, what country gentlemen have you in your neighbourhood?"

"We have Bobroff, Svinin, Kanapatieff, Harpakin, Trepakin, Pleschakoff,
Senunoff--" "And pray, Madam," Tchichikoff interrupted her quickly,
anxious to avoid the recitation of a catalogue of names, "are they rich
and wealthy?"

"No, my dear Sir, there are but few rich or wealthy among them. Some
of them have about twenty to thirty, others again from forty to fifty
serfs; but of those who possess about four hundred peasants there are
very few."

Tchichikoff perceived at once that he had arrived into a quite
out-of-the-way neighbourhood.

"How far am I from town my good lady?"

"About sixty wersts. How sorry I am, to be sure, that I have nothing
eatable to lay before you; would you perhaps like to take a cup of tea?"

"I am very much obliged to you indeed, but at the present moment I wish
for nothing else but a bed."

"You are right, after such an unpleasant journey, nothing could be
more desirable, I therefore invite you, my good Sir, to make yourself
as comfortable as possible upon this sofa. Fetinia, bring a feather
mattress, a pillow, and some blankets. In what awful weather providence
has been pleased to send you to me! What a thunder-storm! I have kept
my candle burning all night long before the image of my patron-saint.
But, my good Sir, you are covered with mud like a wild hoar all over
your back and left side! Where have you been pray, to appear in such a
disorderly state?"

"Thank heaven that I am only besmeared and that my sides are whole."

"Oh ye, my good saints, what horrors! But do you not want something to
rub your back with?"

"I thank you, my good lady, I thank you very much indeed; but pray do
not incommode yourself any further on my account, I shall only ask you
to tell your maid to dry and clean my coat to-morrow."

"Do you hear, Fetinia?" said the old lady, turning to the younger
woman, who entered the room that moment with a candle in her hand,
and who had already previously brought in the things her mistress
had ordered. She was now in the act of heating up with both hands an
enormous feather-bed, which, in consequence of being thus handled, sent
forth a cloud of down, which instantly filled the room. "You must take
that gentleman's clothes to-morrow morning, and dry them well before
the fire, as you did with those of your late master, and then rub the
mud out carefully, and clean them properly."

"Very well, my lady!" answered Fetinia, whilst spreading the blankets
over the mattress, and pulling the pillow on the bed.

"Now, Sir, your bed is ready," said the old matron, after having cast
a careful glance over it. "Farewell, my good Sir, I wish you a pleasant
night and rest. But is there, perhaps, anything you would wish for yet?
You might perhaps be accustomed, my good gentleman, or like to have
your feet scratched by somebody. My late husband would never go to deep
unless this was done to him."

But her guest was so rude as to decline having his feet tickled. The
old lady retired, and Tchichikoff began to undress himself immediately,
handing over to Fetinia all that he stripped himself of, and it
consisted of every article of clothing; Fetinia, after having wished
him a good night's rest in her turn, took the wet paraphernalia of our
hero and retired also, closing the door after her.

When Tchichikoff was thus left alone, he looked, not without a great
deal of satisfaction, upon his couch, which nearly reached to the
ceiling; Fetinia seemed to be a clever hand at beating up a feather
mattress. He approached his bed and got upon a chair close to it, from
this he precipitated himself into it, and felt descending to the floor;
the sudden pressure of his body upon the mattress had the effect of
sending forth again a new volley of down, which filled every corner of
the small room.

After having blown out his candle, Tchichikoff rolled himself up in
his blankets like a newborn child is wrapped up in its linen, and fell
immediately fast asleep. He awoke the next morning at a very late hour;
the sun was shining through his window straight into his face, and the
flies, which the previous night had slept quietly in their comers on
the walls and ceiling, now began to turn all their attention upon our
hero; one of them took its seat upon his lips, another upon his ear,
and a third Seemed to study how it could manage to gain footing upon
his eye, but those which had had the imprudence to come too close to
his nose, became the victims of their own folly, for he inhaled them
whilst taking breath, unconsciously, in his somnolent state, and this
operation upon the flies made him sneeze; this circumstance was also
the cause of his suddenly awaking.

On casting a glance around the room, he now observed, that all the
paintings did not represent birds as he thought on the previous
evening; among them was a portrait of Prince Paskievitch, and another
oil-painting representing an old man, in a military frock-coat with
red sleeves; a costume as worn during the reign of the late eccentric
Emperor, Paul the First. The dock began again its unpleasant serpentine
clatter and struck ten broken kettle strokes; a woman's face peeped
through the half-opened door, but withdrew immediately, for it seemed
that Tchichikoff had thrown off his blankets during the night, in the
hope of sleeping better no doubt. It seemed to him as if the head that
had been just peeping into the room was familiar to him. He began to
collect his thoughts; on asking himself the question, who it might
have been, at last he recollected that it must have been the old lady
and proprietress of the house. He put on his shirt, his clothes were
already dried and cleaned, and were lying dose to his bed. When he
was dressed, he stepped before the looking-glass and sneezed again
so loudly, that a turkey-cock, which was just then passing under his
window, which was very low, on the ground-floor, began to roll his
voice like a drummer, as is customary among these original birds, no
doubt wishing Tchichikoff a good morning in his own fashion, upon which
the poor animal was called a fool by our hero.

This salutation, however, brought Tchichikoff close to the window, and
he began to examine the scene before him. The window opened to all
appearance upon nothing else but a poultry-yard; at least, what he
beheld before his sight was a narrow court, filled with a numerous
variety of domestic birds. Turkey-cocks and fowls seemed numberless; in
the midst of them a common house-cock was walking proudly up and down
with measured steps, shaking his comb fiercely and leaning his head on
one side, as if he was listening to something, a pig and her offspring
also made themselves conspicuous; they were all digging with their
snouts in a heap of cinders, meanwhile, the mother caught hold of a
young chicken and ate it up quite accidentally whilst grunting with a
degree of satisfaction at the tender morsel; then she continued to dig
on again as before, and as if nothing at all unusual had happened.

This narrow court or poultry-yard, was separated by a wooden wall,
beyond which extended some large fields, where cabbage, onions,
potatoes, carrots, and many other household vegetables were growing
in great abundance. In the midst of this orchard and in a great
confusion, grew scattered here and there some apple, cherry, plum, and
other fruit trees and shrubs, all covered over with nets, to protect
them from the depredations of sparrows and other birds. There was a
swarm of the former flying about from one spot to another. To keep
these daring enemies of the orchard more effectually from plundering
the fruit trees and vegetables, there were several guys in different
places with outstretched arms; upon the head of one of them and in
order to make him the more frightful-looking, a nightcap of the old
lady had been placed.

Beyond the orchard, were several corn-fields, flanked by the huts
of her ladyship's peasants, which, although built irregularly, and
not in straight lines or streets, seemed, nevertheless, to confirm
Tchichikoff's opinion that the old lady was rather comfortably
circumstanced, because they were kept in good repair. The usual straw
roofs appeared all to have been recovered with fresh materials; the
gates and doors had their hinges in good repair, and such of the
stables and stalls which were open to his inspection, showed some new
and well-made carts and sledges. In some of them he could count two and
even three of each description.

"Well, I am sure, who would have thought that the village is not
so unimportant as one would believe it at first sight," murmured
Tchichikoff to himself, and thereupon he made up his mind to have a
conversation with the old lady, and try to make a better acquaintance
with her upon his all-engrossing subject.



CHAPTER XV.


Our hero now, in his turn, peeped through an aperture of the door
through which the old lady had popped her head a quarter of an hour
before, and perceiving her sitting before a small tea table, he entered
the room in a cheerful and flattering manner.

"Good morning, my dear Sir; how have you passed the night?" said the
old lady whilst slightly rising from her seat. She was better dressed
than on the previous night; she wore a black silk dress, and no longer
had the nightcap on her head, but still there was something twisted
round her neck.

"Very well, very well indeed," answered Tchichikoff, seating himself
in an arm-chair. "And how did you sleep, my dear Madam?"

"Not at all, my good Sir."

"And pray, what was the reason?"

"Indeed, I passed a sleepless night. My back and spine cause me great
pain, and my foot all above the ancle, the higher up the leg, the more
I suffer."

"It will pass over, I am sure it will, my dear good lady. Do not take
so much notice."

"I pray to God, it would pass over. I continually use some bears'
grease, as well as friction, with turpentine. But allow me to ask
you, what would you like to take with your tea? I have some very good
cherry-brandy in this small decanter."

"That will be very nice, my good lady, for I am very fond of
cherry-brandy."

My intelligent reader will already have observed, that Tchichikoff,
though polite, spoke nevertheless, with a rather civil familiarity,
when compared to his manners at Maniloff's house, in fact he stood on
no ceremony with the old lady, and made himself comfortable. Here I
might also be allowed to make the observation, that we other Russians,
though we might not, and cannot in many things rival our more western
friends, yet in what term the good manners and behaviour, we have
outdone by far the most civilized nations. It is quite impossible
to enumerate all the numerous shades and _finesses_ of our good
manners. An Englishman or a Frenchman can impossibly form an idea
or understand all the peculiarities and differences in our Russian
conduct. Englishmen or Frenchmen will speak with pretty nearly the same
tone of voice and courtesy to a _millionaire_ as they would employ to
a greengrocer, though within themselves they would or might give a
decided preference to the former.

But with us it is not so. We can boast of many clever persons who would
speak quite differently to a landed proprietor possessing two hundred
serfs than to one who owns three hundred peasants; and with him who
owns three hundred they would again not talk in the same tone of voice
as with the owner of five hundred; and with the proprietor who owns
five hundred again not so as with the owner of eight hundred; in a
word, you may increase by degrees the ownership to a million, and you
may yet depend upon still meeting with shades of differences in their
tone of voice as well as manners.

Let us suppose for a moment that we enter one of the numerous imperial
offices established for the administration of law and justice in
any of the more important towns of the Empire, and that such an
imperial office is presided over by a person called the Manager of
the Chancellerie. I would beg my courteous reader to muster courage
and look at that person at the moment when he is sitting in his place
surrounded by all his inferiors; you will be assailed by something more
than respect or fear, nay, I venture to say that you will be incapable
of pronouncing a syllable; for what pride or dignity does not his face
express? You could not do better than take up a brush and paint a
Prometheus--a real Prometheus! His glance is like that of an eagle! his
walk is easy and regular. And that very same proud eagle, as soon as he
leaves that same seat of his greatness to approach the cabinet of _his_
superior, becomes as alert as a long-legged snipe, and hurries with
his documents under his arm as if he was pursued by a hawk.

In society, and especially at evening parties, though Prometheus is not
of an exalted rank, yet he remains the same proud and conceited man;
but as soon as he happens to meet with some one higher in dignity, such
a metamorphosis takes place with our Prometheus, that even Ovid would
have had the greatest difficulty in describing him properly. He has
become a fly--no, even less than a fly--he has reduced himself to a
grain of sand!

But this is not my friend Ivan Petrovitch, you would say in looking at
him. Ivan Petrovitch is taller, and this is a little, sickly-looking
person; the other speaks in a loud bass voice, and is never wont to
smile, but this person warbles like a bird, and laughs continually. And
yet, if you go near and examine him closer, you will find it is your
friend Ivan Petrovitch. Aha! oho! will be your exclamation. However it
is time for us to return again to our _dramatis persona_.

Tchichikoff, as we have already perceived, had come to the resolution
of standing on no ceremony with the old lady, and, therefore, took up
a cup of tea, poured some of the cherry-brandy into it, and began the
following conversation with his hostess:

"You have a fine estate and village, my good lady. Pray, how many serfs
do you possess?"

"Well, my dear Sir, I have about eighty souls living in yonder
village," the matron answered; "but oh, misery! the times are bad, and
besides, I had a bad harvest last year; may the Lord have mercy upon
us!"

"However, to judge from appearances, your peasants look healthy, and
their huts are in good repair. But allow me to inquire your name?
Pardon me, I am so very absent--I arrived so very late at night--"

"My name is Korobotchka, I am the widow of the late Secretary of the
Manor."

"I am very much obliged to you for the information. And pray, what are
your Christian names?"

"Anastasia Petrovna, if you please."

"Anastasia Petrovna? a very fine name that of Anastasia Petrovna. I
have an aunt, a sister of my mother's, whose name is also Anastasia
Petrovna."

"And pray, what is your name?" inquired the widow of the late
Secretary. "You are, no doubt, as far as I can guess, one of our
district judges?"

"No, my good lady," replied Tchichikoff, smiling. "You have not guessed
rightly, for I am not a judge, but I travel for my own little affairs."

"Ah! then you must be a public contractor. How very much I regret now
that I sold my honey so cheap to those merchants; I am sure, my good
Sir, you would have bought the honey of me."

"Pardon me, but I think I should not have bought your honey."

"What else? Perhaps some flax? But alas! I have very little at the
present moment, perhaps not more than half a pud."

"No, my good lady, but I might buy perhaps some other kind of goods;
tell me, if you please, have many of your peasants died lately?"

"Oh, my dear Sir, I lost eighteen men!" said the matron, with a deep
sigh. "And it was a severe loss to me, for those who died were such
healthy and hard-working peasants. It is true, since they died others
again have been born; but what good are they as yet? they are all too
young. I bad but recently a visit from the judge, who came to claim the
imperial capitation tax. Those eighteen are dead, and yet I have to pay
the tax upon them all the same till the next census is taken. Last week
a fire destroyed my smith, and that is again a severe loss, he was such
an ingenious artisan, for he could even do locksmith's work."

"So you have suffered from a fire? this is sad indeed, my good lady."

"May God preserve me from such a calamity! for a real fire would be
worse still; the smith burned himself to death, my good Sir. Somehow, a
fire took place within his own body; he had been drinking too much, for
a blue flame seemed to consume him, he smouldered, and became as black
as a coal; but you can have no idea what an ingenious workman he was;
and now I shall not be able to drive out at all, for I have no one to
shoe my horses."

"All calamities are the decrees of Providence, my dear lady,"
said Tchichikoff, with a sigh; "the wisdom of God is beyond our
understanding. You had better let me have them, my excellent Anastasia
Petrovna?"

"Whom, my dear Sir?"

"Well, all those that are dead."

"But how am I to let you have them?"

"My good lady, that is quite simple. Or, if you like it better, sell
them to me. I am even willing to pay you some money for them." "But how
is this? I really cannot understand you. Could you really intend to dig
them up again out of their graves?"

Tchichikoff now perceived that the matron had gone too far, and that it
became necessary to explain to her in what his proposal and business
were to consist. In a few words, he made her understand, that the
transfer, or sale, would only exist upon paper, and that her dead serfs
would be noted down in that document as existing, or, more properly
speaking, living.

"But pray, what do you want them for?" said the old lady, in opening
her eyes as wide as surprise would allow it.

"That is my business," replied Tchichikoff, drily.

"But they are positively dead, my good Sir!"

"And who says that they are living? Your loss consists in their being
dead; you have still to pay the capitation tax for them as regularly as
before, is it not so? Very well, then; I am ready to deliver you from
all further trouble and payment on their account. Do you comprehend
me now? I offer, not only to take them off your hands, but I am even
willing to pay you the amount of fifteen roubles. Now, I hope the
matter will be dear to you?"

"Really, I don't know," the old lady said, hesitatingly. "Because, I
never in my life sold any dead serfs before."

"What next, pray! This would be rather a wonder if you had sold any to
anybody before. Or do you imagine, perhaps, that there is really any
advantage to be derived from dead serfs?"

"No, that I do not believe. Of what use would they be? certainly of
none whatever. The only thing that embarrasses me is, that they are
really dead."

"Well, I am sure, this old woman seems to be of an obstinate
disposition," thought Tchichikoff. "Listen, my excellent lady. Pray,
reflect upon it seriously; you are ruining yourself. You have to pay a
tax for them as if they, were positively living."

"Oh, pray, my good Sir, do not mention it, even!" interrupted the
widow. "Only last week I took more than one hundred and fifty roubles
to the office of the Receiver-General And I had to bribe the judge
besides."

"There, then, don't you see it, my dear, good lady. Now, I beg you will
take into consideration and imagine that you will have no more occasion
to bribe either of the tax-gatherers, because I shall undertake to pay
for them; I, not you; I take all and every responsibility upon myself.
I am even disposed to defray the expense of the necessary contract of
sale; do you understand that?"

The old lady began to make her reflections. The proposed transaction
seemed to her to be a profitable one, with the exception, however, that
this was quite a novel and unheard-of business; and for that reason she
began to feel considerable apprehension lest this strange purchaser
might take some undue advantage of her. He arrived at her house without
a formal introduction, and Heaven only knew whence he came; besides, he
had made his appearance at so very late an hour of the night.

"Well, my good lady, does the offer suit you?" demanded Tchichikoff.

"Truly, my good Sir, but it has never happened to me to sell deceased
people. I have been in the habit of selling some of my living serfs,
and I remember now that I sold two pretty little girls, about three
years ago, to our pope, and he has been exceedingly pleased with them
ever since, for they have become very clever maids; they can weave
napkins and towels now most beautifully."

"There is no question about the living between us, God bless them. I
want your dead." "Really, I am rather fearful at my first trial in such
a business, lest I might suffer some severe loss in the transaction.
Pardon my candour, but you might wish to impose upon me, my good Sir,
and they--yes, they might be worth something more."

"Listen, good mother--how strange you are to be sure! can you think
them to be worth anything? Just oblige me by reflecting for a moment;
they are nothing else but dust. Do you understand me? they are simply
dust! Take for example the most trifling or the most worthless thing,
suppose even a dirty rag, and yet you will find that rag worth
something; that article will at least be bought at some paper-mills,
whilst what I want of you cannot be made use of in any way; now then,
pray tell me, of what use could they be to you?"

"My good Sir, you are right enough, they are of no value to me
whatever, and the only reason that makes me hesitate, is that they are
already dead."

"Oh, the blockhead of an old woman!" said Tchichikoff to himself,
whilst beginning to lose, by degrees, his wonted patience and
forbearance, "the devil may come to an understanding with her! I
feel the perspiration already running down my back, thanks to the
old she-dragon!" Whereupon he produced his pocket-handkerchief and
began to dry his forehead, which was really covered with heavy drops
of perspiration. However, Tchichikoff was wrong in getting into a
passion, for many another respectable and imperial person is as dull in
the comprehension of business matters as Lady Korobotchka appeared to
be, and may prove themselves and their heads as empty as a band-box;
whenever they take to an opinion, they will stick to it with an
obstinacy from which no argument, no proofs will ever dissuade them;
though they may be as bright as noon-day, they continue to recoil from
it, like an india-rubber ball will rebound when thrown against the wall.

After having wiped away the heavy dew-drops from his forehead,
Tchichikoff determined to try if he could not bring her upon the right
path by another way.

"My good lady," he said, "either you do not wish to understand me, or
you speak thus for the sake of speaking. I offer you money--fifteen
roubles in bank notes. Do you now understand me? This is a sum which
you will not pick up in the open street. Oblige me, and tell me
candidly, at what price did you sell your honey to those merchants?"

"At twelve roubles the pud."

"I fancy, my good lady, you are burthening your conscience with a
light sin; you could not have sold it at twelve roubles the pud."

"My patron saint is my witness that I did so."

"Very well then, I believe you, but mark me now! for that money you
had to give your honey; you perhaps spent a whole year in gathering
it, and perhaps with much care, trouble, and anxiety too; you have
been watching your bee-hives during the summer and have been obliged
to nurse them throughout our long winter months, whilst your dead
serfs are neither goods nor chatties of this world. With them you
had no cares, no troubles nor anxieties, and if they have left this
wicked world for a better one, it was by a decree of Providence that
you have sustained a loss in your household. Therefore, and as I have
said before, there you received those twelve roubles for your troubles,
whilst I am now offering you money for a mere nothing, and if you
please not twelve roubles but fifteen, and not in silver, but in three
beautiful new imperial bank notes."



CHAPTER XVI.


After such strong arguments as those with which we concluded the last
chapter, Tchichikoff could not doubt any longer that the old lady would
give way and consent to his proposal.

"Truly," replied the old matron, with an air of simplicity, "and
considering that I am a poor and inexperienced widow, who have no
regular insight into business matters, I think it will be better for me
not to be in a hurry in this bargain; I shall wait a little time, some
other purchaser may come, and, meanwhile I should be able to obtain
some information about the prices."

"For shame, for shame, my good lady! It's really a shame. What are you
speaking now, pray consider? Who ever will come upon the idea of buying
your dead serfs? What benefit could possibly be derived from them?"

"They might perhaps be turned to some account in a household--" replied
the old woman, but did not finish her phrase, but looked him into the
face as if frightened at the idea herself, and yet anxious to know what
he would say in reply.

"Turn the dead to account in a household! Wherever have you heard of
that before? Would you perhaps use them as guys in your orchards to
frighten the sparrows away?"

"The holy powers be with us! What strange language you douse to be
sure!" exclaimed the widow whilst crossing herself.

"Where else would you like to put them? however, I will leave you their
skeletons as well as their graves; I only want you to transfer them to
me on paper. Well then, what do you say? Will you agree? pray give me
an answer at least!"

The old lady began to reflect again.

"What are you thinking about, Anastasia Petrovna?"

"I really do not know what to decide upon, you had better buy some flax
of me."

"What am I to do with your flax? I am really surprised at you; I speak
to you of quite a different matter, and you want to stuff me with flax!
Everything in proper time, I will call at some other time, and then
I shall have no objection to deal with you for your flax. Now, then,
Anastasia Petrovna, how is it to be?"

"By my saints, the goods you want, are so very strange, so very
unusual!"

Here Tchichikoff outstepped the bounds of patience, and rising from his
chair, he upset it in his fury, and wished the old woman to the devil.

At the name of the devil, the old woman became unusually alarmed.

"Oh, pray do not mention him! the Lord preserve us!" she exclaimed,
whilst trembling violently with a pale face. "It is only three nights
ago since I dreamt of the evil one all night long. I happened to come
upon the idea of wishing to tell my own fortune by a pack of cards,
just shortly after I had said my evening prayers, and it seems that the
Lord has sent him out against me to punish me for my wickedness. Oh,
he was so frightfully ugly; and his horns seemed by far larger than
those of my oxen."

"I am only surprised that you don't dream of them by scores. Prompted
by a feeling of Christian humanity, I intended, on seeing a poor and
lonely widow striving against difficulties--no, I will not do it now,
and may what will become of you and of your whole village!"

"Oh, how you do swear, to be sure!" said the widow, whilst looking
terrified.

"But it is quite impossible to keep my temper with you. Without wishing
to give you offence, I cannot help quoting an old proverb, and compare
you to a farm-yard animal,--the species of which, out of respect
for you, I will forbear mentioning--lying on a hay-stack, not eating
itself, and preventing others from doing so. I should have liked to
purchase even some of your household produce, because I am in the habit
of contracting also for imperial supplies."

In saying this he slightly imposed upon the old lady; however, it
seemed to slip quite accidentally from his tongue, without any
premeditation; it served, however, to further his views, quite
unexpectedly. Contractors for the supply of the imperial army, the
sense which these words conveyed, had a very strong effect upon the
nervous system of Anastasia Petrovna, at least, it made her articulate
the following words in almost a nearly supplicating voice:

"But, my good Sir, what is the cause of your great anger and
impatience? If I had known beforehand that you were a gentleman of such
a hot temper, I would, of course, not have given you the slightest
provocation."

"I too have a reason to be angry with you? Bah, you are mistaken, the
thing is not worth an egg-shell, and wherefore should I lose my good
temper?"

"Very well, then, my good Sir, I am ready to let you have them for
fifteen roubles, in bank notes; but pray remember me in your contracts
of supply; if you should want to purchase some rye-flour, oatmeal, or
some wheat, and some cattle, then please do not forget to treat me as a
friend."

"I shall not take any advantage over you, my worthy woman," said
Tchichikoff; meanwhile he used his hand to wipe away the perspiration
from his forehead, which was running down his face in three large
streams. He inquired of her, if she had perchance, an agent in town,
or a friend whom she could intrust with the signature of the contract
of sale in her name, and any other authorization that might be deemed
necessary in the completion of the document.

"To be sure I have, the proto-pope's father, Kirilla's son, serves in
the very government office in which you will have to sign the papers,"
answered the widow. Tchichikoff asked her to address him a letter of
authorization, and in order to avoid her any further trouble, offered
to compose and write it out for her.

"It would be a good thing," thought Lady Korobotchka, "if he would
contract for some of my grains and cattle, I must try to please him
now: let me see? yes, there is some of yesterday's paste still left.
I'll go and tell Fetinia to make him some pancakes; it would be also
a good idea to bake him a sweet cake stuffed with eggs, I know they
bake it well in my house, and besides it will take but little time and
trouble."

The good old lady left the room with the intention of carrying out
her hospitable projects about the sweet egg cakes, to which no doubt
she meant to make the addition of a few more of the eatables that are
generally stored up in the household of Russian families living in the
country. Tchichikoff made use of this opportunity, and entered the
reception-room in which he had passed the night, with the intention
of taking the necessary writing materials from his dressing-case. The
reception-room was already swept, and in good order, the luxurious
feather-bed had been removed, a table was placed before the sofa, and
covered with a white doth. After depositing his dressing-case upon the
table, Tchichikoff sat down to rest himself a little, because he felt
himself as wet from perspiration as if he had been plunged into the
river; every article of his dress, beginning from the shirt down to his
stockings, was ringing wet.

"Ough! how mercilessly the old tiger cat has treated me to be sure!"
said he, after taking breath again, and opening his dressing-case.

The author is of opinion, that there are a great many readers, who are
sufficiently inquisitive to wish to know something more about the
construction of the inner compartments of this dressing-case, made
in the French style by some Russian mechanic. If we are right, why
should we not gratify them? Here then is the interior arrangements:
in the centre, you may imagine you behold the shaving apparatus, such
as brushes and soap box, next to them, six or seven partitions for
razors; then on either side, a square opening for ink and sand-stands,
with a hollow or curved shelf for pens, pencils, sealing wax, and
all such things of longitude; then again a few more partitions, with
and without covers, for such articles as are of a shorter kind, and
they were filled with visiting cards, invitations to christenings and
funerals, playbills, and a variety of other small articles, which
he secured to keep as souvenirs. All this upper division, with its
various compartments could be taken out, and you would have seen a
space occupied by heaps of writing paper of all sizes, then followed
a small but hidden box of money, which was opened by a secret spring
fixed in the side of the case. He always had the habit of opening this
money-safe so hurriedly, that it was quite impossible to see how much
money he carried about with him when travelling. After having produced
the necessary material, Tchichikoff arranged his pen and began to
write. At that moment Lady Korobotchka entered the room.

"What a pretty dressing-case you have, my good Sir," said the widow to
him, whilst sitting down dose to him. "No doubt you bought that pretty
box in Moscow?"

"Yes, my lady, in Moscow," answered Tchichikoff, continuing to write.

"Thought as much; for everything is well made there. About three years
ago, my sister bought some warm shoes for her children, and they were
so well made, that they have lasted them even till now; the material
is excellent in Moscow! Oh, ye saints, what a collection of stamped
papers you have there!" she continued, whilst casting a look into his
dressing-case.

And she was right, he had a large quantity of stamped paper.

"I wish you would make me a present, if but of a sheet! I am quite out
of it for the present; it might happen that I shall have to write a
petition, and have no suitable paper."

Tchichikoff explained to her that the paper was not of that
description, that it could only be used for the purpose of drawing up
contracts of sale, but not petitions. However, in order to quiet as
well as to please her, he presented her with an old sheet of trifling
value.

When he had written the letter he requested her to sign it, and
demanded at the same time a list of the names of those of her dead
serfs, as he was shortly about to consider as his property. It
appeared, however, that Lady Korobotchka was not in the habit of
keeping any accounts or lists, but could remember the name of everyone
by heart; Tchichikoff was, therefore, obliged to note them down as she
dictated their names in due rotation.

The names of a few of his future dependants did puzzle him
considerably, but much more so their surnames, which seemed to have
been given to them by their lawful mistress as distinguishing marks of
their various professions. After having taken down their names with
the different items, Tchichikoff stopped to take breath, and inhaled a
savoury perfume, like that of melted butter.

"Will you please to come and take a little luncheon now?" said his
amiable hostess.

Tchichikoff looked round, and saw the table covered with a variety of
good things, such as mushrooms, fish, pies, muffins, pancakes, to which
there was a variety of sweet and fat sauces, sauces mixed with sweet
onions, sauces mixed with poppy-seed, cream and butter sauces, sprat
and other small fish sauces.

"Pray taste this pie with egg and meat stuffing, first," said Lady
Korobotchka.

Tchichikoff seated himself at once to the strongly-recommended pie with
egg and meat stuffing, and after having eaten nearly the half of it,
he began to praise it very much. And indeed, the pie was really very
excellently prepared, and considering the bother he had to come to an
understanding with the old lady, it seemed particularly delicious.

"And now some pancakes or muffins, if you please?" said she again.

In reply to this, Tchichikoff rolled up three pancakes at once, and
after dipping them in the melted butter, he dispatched them into his
mouth, and wiped his greasy lips and hands upon the clean napkin.
After repeating this operation twice or three times, he begged his
hostess to order his horses to be put to his britchka. Anastasia
Petrovna immediately called her servant Fetinia, gave her the necessary
instructions, and ordered her at the same time to bring a fresh supply
of hot pancakes.

"Your pancakes are delicious, indeed," said Tchichikoff, whilst helping
himself freely to some more of the hot ones that were put before him.

"Yes, they bake them well at my house," replied his hostess; "it is
only a pity that we have such bad harvests, which makes the flour so
very dear. But why do you hurry yourself so much, my dear Sir?" she
said to Tchichikoff, when she saw him take up his travelling-cap, "your
carriage cannot yet be ready and waiting?"

"That will soon be done, my good lady. I keep my coachman always alive
to his duty."

"Well, then, pray do not forget me in your contracts for the imperial
supplies."

"I shall not forget you, my excellent lady, I shall not forget you,"
repeated Tchichikoff, whilst walking out of the house.

"Do you by chance buy pig's grease?" inquired the widow, whilst
following him from behind.

"Why should I not buy some? of course I do, but that will be at some
other time."

"I shall have some pig's grease to offer to you at Christmas."

"I will buy some of you, I will, indeed, I am ready to buy anything of
you later, even pig's grease."

"You may, perhaps, also like to buy some birds' feathers of all
descriptions of me. I shall have a quantity at Michaelmas next."

"Very well, very well, my good lady," answered Tchichikoff.

"There, you see, my good Sir, your britchka is not yet ready," said his
hostess, when they had arrived upon, the door-step.

"Oh, never mind, it will soon be ready. Pray tell me only how we shall
have to drive to come upon the high road?"

"How should I explain that to you? Let me see," said the old lady after
a moment's reflection; "it is rather difficult to describe because
there are so many turnings; perhaps I had better give you a little girl
to show you the road. I dare say you will have a small seat for her to
sit upon on your carriage?"

"Yes, to be sure I have."

"Very well, then, I will intrust you with one of my little girls; she
knows the road well enough, but look you here! do not decoy her, for
some of the merchants have already carried one of my girls off."

Tchichikoff promised her that he would not kidnap the girl, and Lady
Korobotchka, tranquillized by his assurance, began now to look around
her in the court-yard of the house; she fixed her eyes, first upon
the housekeeper, who was carrying across the court a large vessel
with honey, and then upon a peasant who made his appearance at the
gates, and by degrees the old lady was soon completely devoted to her
household concerns.

"Ah, here is my britchka at last," exclaimed Tchichikoff, as he saw his
carriage driving up. "Well, you idiot, what the deuce has kept you so
long? It seems the fumes of yesterday have not yet quite evaporated."

Selifan made no reply to this observation.

"Farewell, my excellent lady! But stop, where is your little girl?"

"Come here, Pelagey," said the widow addressing herself to a little
girl of about eleven years, who was standing close by, dressed in a
home-woven woollen frock, and with bare feet, which, at a distance
might have been mistaken for boots, so much they were besmeared with
fresh mud. "Go with this gentleman, and lead him upon the high road."

Selifan assisted her to get upon his seat, in doing this she put
one of her dirty feet upon the carriage steps, and after leaving a
mark behind, she at last took her seat next to Selifan. After he had
seen her safely seated, Tchichikoff in his turn put his foot upon
his carriage steps, and after making it visibly incline on the right
hand side--because he was rather weighty--he at last took his seat
comfortably, and said: "Oh! now I am all right! farewell, my good lady!"

The horses moved on, and the carriage left the court-yard. Selifan
was sulky during the whole journey, but at the same time very careful
and attentive in the observance of his duty as a driver, which always
happened when he had been negligent or drunk. His horses were exceeding
dean, as well as their harness and the britchka. The horse collar
of one of the three horses, which was usually put on its neck in so
dilapidated a state, that the hemp was visible under the leather,
was now cleverly sewn up. During the whole time he continued to
be speechless, and now and then only lifted his whip, but without
addressing any lecture to his tiger-spotted idler, who stood as much
as ever in want of a correction; however, the usually talkative
driver, held his reins loosely in his hand, and used the whip only
occasionally, and then only passed it across their backs as a matter
of form. Yet from his sulkily-compressed lips were heard at intervals
monosyllables of an ill-tempered meaning, such as, "Now then, now, you
raven! take care! speed on!" but nothing else.

Even the other side horse, as well as the leader seemed to feel some
discontent, when they heard nothing of that to which they had been
accustomed: either words of reproof or approbation. The tiger-spotted
idler seemed rather disgusted, because he felt the most unpleasant
touches tickling his fat sides.

"Now then, now then, what the deuce is the matter with him! he is
harder at me than ever!" thought the idler to himself, whilst pointing
his ears. "He knows where to hit, and no mistake! He won't beat me in a
straight-forward manner upon the back, but picks and chooses the most
sensible parts, he hits my ears, and keeps annoying my flanks."

"Is it to the right?" was the dry question which Selifan addressed to
the little girl sitting next to him, whilst pointing with his whip
towards a dark road, looming in the distance among some verdoyant com
fields.

"No, no, I will show you where," answered the little girl.

"Where is it?" demanded Selifan, after having driven for some distance.

"That is the road," replied the child, whilst pointing with her hand.

"Eh, you little stupid!" said Selifan; "that is to the right; she does
not even know what right and left means."

Although the day was fair, the road was wet and heavy, and so muddy,
that the wheels of the britchka were soon thickly covered with it,
which considerably increased the weight of the carriage; besides, the
soil was of a dayish nature and exceedingly sticky. This was the
chief cause that they could not reach the high road before mid-day.
Without the assistance of the little girl, they would not have been
able to progress so fast, because the narrow paths and turnings were
innumerable, and led in all directions, like captured lobsters when
thrown out of a bag, and Selifan, if alone, might have driven heaven
knows where. Soon after, the little girl pointed to some building at a
distance and said, "There is the high road!"

"And what are those buildings?" inquired Selifan.

"That is an inn," answered the child.

"Now we shall be able to find the road ourselves," said Selifan, "you
can be off home again." He stopped his horses, and helped her to get
down from his seat, murmuring through his teeth, "Eh, you little
black-leg!"

Tchichikoff gave her some coppers, the value of about a penny, and she
soon disappeared in one of the next turnings. The poor little child
seemed overjoyed, not so much about the trifle which she had received,
as from the pleasure she had enjoyed in sitting and riding in such a
beautiful carriage, drawn by such handsome horses.



CHAPTER XVI.


On arriving at the inn, Tchichikoff ordered his coachman to halt,
mainly for too reasons; on the one hand, he wished that his jaded
horses should have a little rest, and on the other, that he himself
should have something to eat, and recruit his exhausted strength.

The author must confess that he very much envies the appetite and
the stomach of such men as his hero. He entertains the greatest
indifference for all those gentlemen of the _haut ton_, who inhabit
either St. Petersburgh or Moscow, and who waste their time in anxiously
thinking about what they would like to eat to-morrow, and what dinner
they could imagine for the day after, and preparing themselves for
that dinner by undergoing the operation of swallowing a pill on the
evening previous; who gulp down oysters and devour lobsters, together
with a variety of other marine and land curiosities, and end by going
on a journey for health, either to Baden Baden, or the Caucasus.

No, these gentlemen have never had the good fortune to excite my envy;
but our men of the middle rank, who at one inn ask for cold ham, at
another for roast pork, and at a third for a tail, or a head of a
sturgeon, or a lump of smoked sausage with onions in it, and then,
without any further ceremony, at any hour of the day sit down to
table and eat and drink heartily, such men indeed enjoy the enviable
blessings of heaven, a sound stomach and a good appetite. I remember
many a gentleman belonging to, what we term in Russia, the _haut ton_,
who would have gladly parted with the half of his numerous serfs, and
the half of his mortgaged and non-mortgaged fortune, with all its
foreign and domestic improvements, on one condition, namely: that he
should receive in return, such a stomach and appetite as the gentlemen
of the middle rank possesses; but what a pity that no monetary
sacrifices, nor the gift of their estates with or without foreign
improvements will ever obtain them in return such a stomach as the
gentleman of the less exalted position can boast of.

The inn which received Tchichikoff under its hospitable wooden roof,
had an entrance verandah which rested upon four pillars, resembling
some old-fashioned church chandeliers; the aspect of the whole, was a
dark, smoky-looking structure, altogether, not unlike the miserable
huts of the peasantry, only in larger dimensions; the fresh workmanship
of the carved cornices which ornamented the windows, and the large
entrance door, formed a striking contrast with the dark walls of the
gloomy house, upon the shutters of which a variety of flower-pots were
painted upon, what was once, a sky-blue ground.

After ascending a narrow, dark and inconvenient staircase, Tchichikoff
arrived at a spacious landing, where he opened a creaking door, and
was encountered by an enormously stout old woman dressed in a yellow
and flame coloured print dress, who officiously addressed the stranger
with: "step in here if you please!" In this room his eye fell upon
familiar objects, such as are to be met with at every small country
inn, of which there are again uncountable numbers on the high roads of
Russia.

Among these familiar objects we may mention, an immense hooped samovar,
smoothly plained fir walls, a three legged, but large cupboard, covered
with an array of tea-pots, cups and saucers standing in a corner,
neatly painted china easter eggs, hanging before the images of the
saints suspended by pink and blue ribbons, a large favourite cat with
her new born offspring, a looking glass, which instead of reflecting
two eyes showed the curious party to be in possession of four, and
instead of a face something not unlike a muffin, and finally numerous
small bundles of fine herbs, which had been hung up to dry close by
the lamps burning before the images. Any one on approaching these
simples, and inhaling their perfumes could not have resisted a sneeze
in consequence.

"Have you a little bit of sucking pig?" such was the question with
which Tchichikoff addressed himself to the fat old woman.

"I have some, your glory!" was the short reply.

"With cream and horse-raddish?"

"Yes, your glory! prepared with cream and horse-raddish."

"Let me have it then!"

The landlady hurried off, and soon returned again with a plate and a
napkin so unmercifully stiffened, that it crackled like dried bark; she
produced a knife with a bone handle, which from age and use had become
of a very dark yellow colour, its blade was as thin as a pen-knife,
a fork with two prongs only, and lastly a salt box, which it was
impossible for her to make stand upright upon the table.

Our hero, begun immediately, as was his habit, to enter into
conversation with the hostess, and inquired with apparent solicitude,
if she kept the hotel herself, or whether it was her husband who
did so; how large the income was, and whether her sons lived with
her in the house; whether the eldest was a single, or married man,
and what sort of wife he had got, whether she brought a large, or a
small marriage portion into the family; and if the father-in-law was
satisfied, or displeased that he received but trifling presents at the
wedding, in a word, he omitted no question that could possibly have
been put.

From these and similar inquiries, it will be obvious that he was also
anxious to know what sort of landowners lived in her neighbourhood,
and he was consequently informed that there existed in the vicinity
a great variety of landed proprietors, for instance: the Blochins,
the Potchitaeffs, the Milnoffs, Tcheprakoff, a Colonel in the army,
Sobakevitch.

"Ah! you know Mr. Sobakevitch?" Tchichikoff demanded, interrupting her,
and he was informed that the old woman knew, not only Sobakevitch, but
also Mr. Maniloff, and that Maniloff was, in her opinion, more of a
gentleman than Sobakevitch; that the former, when putting up at her
inn, would always order a roast chicken, or demand some cold veal;
and if she had any sheep's liver, he would even ask for that, and yet
scarcely touch anything; whilst Sobakevitch was accustomed to ask for
only one dish, but sit down to it, and eat it all, and even ask an
addition of the same, and for the same price.

When he had thus questioned and conversed with the old landlady, whilst
continuing to eat his sucking pig, of which there remained but one
small piece more, the noise of carriage wheels arriving at the inn
was heard. He rose and looked out of the window, and beheld a light
britchka drawn by a troika, three beautiful and well-fed horses, pulled
up before the inn.

Two gentlemen alighted from this carriage. The one was fair and of high
stature; the other less tall and of dark complexion. The fair man was
dressed in a dark doth paletot; the other wore a simple Turkish morning
coat, commonly called an archaluck. At a distance, a second miserable
looking empty vehicle, drawn by four long-haired and poor looking
horses, followed the first, the harness was in a wretched condition,
and the horses' collars were tattered, and tied up with strings.

The fair complexioned gentleman immediately entered the house and
walked up-stairs; whilst his darker companion remained below, seeking
for something in his britchka, and speaking to the servant. At the same
time he made signs with his hand to the driver of the other vehicle,
which was now gradually approaching. The voice of the speaker below
seemed familiar to Tchichikoff, and whilst he was frying to recognise
him, the fair man had had already time to find the door, and entered
the room.

He was a man of tall stature, with careworn or rather jaded features,
and wore a pair of small Scotch-coloured moustachios. From his pallid
complexion it could easily be perceived that if he had not smelled
much gunpowder, he must have been perfectly familiar with the smoke
of tobacco. He bowed civilly to Tchichikoff, which the other returned
as civilly. In the course of a few minutes they would have infallibly
spoken, and have become well acquainted one with other, because the
commencement was already made, and they would have expressed at the
same time, with mutual satisfaction, that the dust on the high road
had been completely laid by the heavy rain of the preceding night, and
that it was now cool and pleasant travelling, but at that moment the
dark-complexioned traveller entered the room, threw his cap upon the
table, and passed his hand through his rich black hair.

He was a man of the middle stature, well made, and of gentlemanly
appearance, with a highly healthy-coloured complexion, with teeth as
white as snow, and a pair of whiskers as black as ebony. He was fresh
as milk and blood can possibly be; health seemed to gleam out of every
one of his features.

"Bah! bah! bah!" he exclaimed suddenly, and opening his arms as he
beheld Tchichikoff, "What good fortune."

Tchichikoff recognized in the speaker, Mr. Nosdrieff, the same
gentleman with whom he had the pleasure of dining at the Procurator's
house, and who in a very brief time indeed had placed himself on such
a familiar footing with our hero, that he had called him several times
_thou_, which is, by the bye, not unusual in Russia, though it would
shock the ear of an Englishman. However, Tchichikoff on his side, had
given no provocation to this familiarity.

"Where have you been?" said Nosdrieff; but without awaiting a reply,
he continued: "My dear fellow, I have just returned from a fair.
Congratulate me! I have nearly ruined myself by gambling. Would you
believe it, I never lost so much in my life before? And the result is,
that I have been obliged to travel with common post-horses. Just look
through the window, and convince yourself, my dear fellow!"

Here he with his hand turned Tchichikoff's head towards the window,
and nearly made him hit himself against the framework.

"Do you see what miserable looking wretches they are? I can assure you
they had every difficulty in dragging themselves along the road, and I
was therefore obliged to get into that fellow's britchka."

With this polite remark, he pointed with his finger towards his
travelling companion.

"Are you not yet acquainted? My brother-in-law, Mr. Muschnieff. I have
been speaking to him of you, my dear Tchichikoff all the morning. I
told him, mind, we are sure to meet that delightful gentleman, Pavel
Ivanovitch. But, my dear fellow, if you could only imagine how much I
have lost by gambling! Would you believe it, I lost not only four of my
finest race-horses, but also a considerable amount in bank-notes--all
gone I Now I have neither my watch nor chain."

Tchichikoff looked at him, and really found it was as he said, he had
neither his watch nor his chain. It even seemed to him as if one of his
whiskers was less frill than the other.

"And if I had had but twenty roubles more in my pocket at the time,"
continued Nosdrieff, "but the trifling sum of a twenty-rouble note,
I should have won back again, all, no, not merely all, but I am
sure, that at this moment I should have had thirty or forty thousand
roubles more in my pocket-book, this I can affirm, upon my word, as a
gentleman!"

"Now then, softly, you said the same then and there," said the fair
man, "and when I gave you a fifty-rouble note, you lost it in no time."

"I should not have lost it; by Heaven, I should not have lost it,
without a mistake of my own, I could not have lost it. If I had only
doubled my stake after the parole, I should have ruined the croupier."

"However, you did nothing of the kind," added his brother-in-law.

"Certainly not, because as I told you, I bent my comers too rashly. And
you think, perhaps, that the major plays well?"

"I don't care how he plays, but the fact is, that he has won your
money."

"Never mind with his infernal good luck, I could play as well. But let
him come and try his chance with me at any other game, and you will
soon be able to see how I shall treat him. I must confess this fair
was one of the finest I have been at for some time. The tradesmen
themselves agree that they never saw so many people in their town, and
that seldom have they known such a run of business.

"All that I sent to the market, from my estate, has been sold at
the most advantageous prices. I sincerely regret, that you, my dear
fellow, were not with us. Imagine only, about three wersts from town,
a regiment of dragoons was lying in their barracks. All the officers
of that regiment and a few more from other places, in all, about forty
men besides myself; we were always together, but when we sat down to
drink--then it was, my dear fellow, that I should have liked to see you
among us.

"What a nice fellow that Stabz-Capitän Pozelueff is!" Nosdrieff ran on.
"We were always together. We had some excellent wine supplied to us by
the celebrated merchant Ponomareff! But, by the bye, I must tell you,
he is a great scoundrel, and you ought not to buy anything in his shop;
he has the habit of mixing with his wines, heaven knows what stuff,
he put in some sandal-wood, bad spirits, and even some of that raw
Kahetian wine of the Caucasus, the rascal! but then I must confess,
whenever he produces a bottle of what he calls extra fine, and which
he usually keeps in a secret place, then you may depend on tasting
something palateable, and fancy yourself in paradise. The champagne
we had at his house was so delicious, that that with which the Lord
Lieutenant treated us to the other day, was as bad as a bottle of stale
ginger-beer compared with it. Only fancy, it was not Cliquot. He also
produced from his usual hiding store an extra bottle of claret, which
he called bonbon. Its flavour was that of a rose, or a whole bouquet
if you like. Oh, we had such a spree with that fellow! and a prince,
who happened to arrive after us demanded some champagne, and could not
get any in the whole town, for we, I mean the officers and I, had drunk
every bottle of it. Would you believe it, my dear fellow, that I for my
own account drank seventeen bottles of champagne during our dinner!

"Now then, I am sure you could not have drunk seventeen bottles all by
yourself," his brother-in-law interrupted him.

"On the faith of a gentleman, I did as I said, I drank them all,"
answered Nosdrieff.

"You may say what you like, but I tell you, that you could not even
empty ten bottles of champagne."

"Very well then, will you lay a wager to that effect?"

"Why should I bet with you about it?"

"Now then, come, stake your new rifle, which you bought at the fair."

"No, I won't."

"Just lay me a wager about it!"

"I won't even try."

"It's well you won't try, else you would remain without your rifle as
you now are without your cap. Oh, my dear fellow Tchichikoff, you can
have no idea how much I regret that you were not with us! I know you
could never have parted with my friend Lieutenant Kuvschinikoff, I am
sure you would have soon become intimate. He is not such a man as our
Procurator, or all the other niggards of our province, who tremble at
each copek they spend. That fellow spends his fortune like a prince,
and is ready to play any game. Ah, my dear Tchichikoff, why did you not
come to the fair. Really you are a humbug! pardon my saying it, but I
could not help it, allow me to embrace you, my dear fellow, because
I like you amazingly!" and he embraced Tchichikoff, only to go on as
follows.

"Muschnieff, my dear fellow, just look at us, here we are both,
Providence brought us together; what is he to me and what am I to him?
But my dear fellow, you have no idea, how many carriages there were
at every evening party, all _en gros_. I joined a lottery and won two
pots of pomatum, a china tea-cup and saucer, and a guitar; but I played
later again and lost all, and six silver roubles besides.

"Yes, my dear fellow, we have been at some of the most delicious
evening parties. I also made some purchases at the fair, fortunately
I did so, whilst I had yet some money in my pockets. But by the bye,
where are you driving to?"

"I am on the road to a gentleman's house in the neighbourhood,"
answered Tchichikoff.

"Cut him, my dear fellow! and come with me!"

"Thank you, but I cannot accept your invitation, I have some business."

"Bah, what business can you have! you only pretend that, oh, you sly
old father Opodildoc Ivanovitch!"

"Really, I have some business to attend to of a very important nature
too."

"I lay a wager, you are telling me a fib! now tell me at least where
are you going to?"

"I have no objection to tell you that I am going to visit Sobakevitch."

Here Nosdrieff burst into a fit of laughter, with such a ringing
voice as a man of perfect health only can enjoy, and at the same time
displayed a range of teeth as white as sugar to the last; his cheeks
became flushed and trembling, and the effect of his loud outburst could
have caused a neighbour in a third room, separated by two doors, to
startle from his slumbers, and exclaim: "What the deuce is the matter
with that fellow?"

"What do you find so laughable in that," demanded Tchichikoff, partly
vexed at the loud outburst.

But Nosdrieff continued to laugh as loudly as before, adding: "pray
have mercy, or else I shall burst from laughing!"

"There is nothing laughable in that, I should think; besides I gave
him a promise that I would come and visit him," said Tchichikoff.

"But, my dear fellow, allow me to assure you that you will be disgusted
with your own existence, if you go to see him, he is a regular Jew
killer! and I know your disposition; you are too hasty in your
judgment, if you hope to meet there any playmen, or a bottle of good
bonbon claret. Listen, my dear fellow! send Sobakevitch to the deuce,
and come with me! I promise to give you a famous treat! I have some
excellent wine from that scoundrel Ponomareff, who was immensely civil
to me, and assured me that I should not be able to get any thing nearly
so good as his claret and champagne, were I to search for it throughout
the town and fair; for all that I believe him to be a great rogue, and
that he has taken me in most unmercifully. I told him as much, and
added besides; you and all the public contractors are, in my opinion,
the greatest rogues on earth! At all this, my dear fellow, he used to
laugh whilst stroking his carroty beard.

"But, my dear fellow, I nearly forgot to tell you; I know now you will
not be able to refuse me your admiration, I am going to show you
something, which I tell you beforehand, I won't part with, were you
even to offer me ten thousand roubles on the spot.

"Halloa, Porphir," he shouted whilst approaching the window, and
addressing his servant by this name, who was below, holding a knife and
a crust of bread in one hand, and a piece of smoked sturgeon in the
other, which piece he had contrived cleverly to cut off whilst fumbling
about in his master's carriage.

"Halloa, Porphir," shouted Nosdrieff again, "bring me that little dog
out of the carriage! You shall see, my dear fellow, what a beautiful
dog that is," he said, while turning himself again towards Tchichikoff.
"It is like a stolen dog, the owner would have rather liked to part
with himself than with that dog. I gave him that wretched mare, which
as you know, I took in exchange from Captain Hvostireff."

Tchichikoff, however, had never in his life known, or seen either the
wretched mare, or the Captain Hvostireff.

"Would your glory like to take any thing?" asked the landlady civilly.

"Nothing. Oh, my dear fellow, what fun we had to be sure! However, old
woman, let me have a small glass of something. What have you got?"

"Some anisette, if your glory wishes."

"Very well, let me have some anisette," said Nosdrieff.

"Give me a small glass as well!" said his fair brother-in-law.

"At the theatre, I heard an actress sing like a canary-bird; the
lieutenant who sat next to me whispered his favorite motto into my
ear, and said: 'this young bird would be an excellent subject for a
favourable opportunity!' I fancy there were at least fifty large booths
upon the Market Place. And Fenardi spun a windmill, at least four hours
at a time."

Here he took a small glass of liqueur from the hands of the landlady,
who bowed very low at the moment.

"Ah, give him here!" he exclaimed, as he beheld Porphir entering the
room with a small dog in his hands. Porphir was, as nearly as possible,
dressed like his master, namely, he wore a similar Turkish morning
coat, with the only difference, that it looked greasy.

"Bring him here--put him on the floor!"

Porphir deposited the little dog upon the floor, who stretched out his
fore paws and began to smell the ground.

"Here is the dog," said Nosdrieff, laying hold of his skin and holding
him up in his hand. The young dog howled forth a rather plaintive tune.

"But you have not done what I told you," said Nosdrieff, turning
towards Porphir, whilst minutely examining the dog's stomach; "it seems
you have neglected to clean him?"

"Pardon me, Sir, I have combed him."

"Where then do those fleas come from?"

"I can't say, your glory. They must have got upon him somehow whilst he
was lying in the carriage."

"Nonsense, stuff, you idle fellow, you appear to have forgotten to do
as I told you, and have given him some of your own jumpers besides.
Look here, my dear Tchichikoff, just examine his ears, now just feel
them with your own hand."

"Never mind, I can see without feeling: he is of a good breed,"
answered Tchichikoff.

"Nay, oblige me, only just feel his ears!"

Tchichikoff, in order to oblige him, complied with the request, and
felt the ears of the young dog, and then added: "yes, it will be a fine
dog."

"And his nose, can you feel how cold it is? just try it with your hand."

Tchichikoff not wishing to offend him, even felt the dog's nose,
saying: "yes, he seems to have a fine scent."

"A thorough-bred bull-dog," continued Nosdrieff, "and I must confess I
longed to have a real English bull-dog, long ago. Here, Porphir, take
him away again."

Porphir took the young bull-dog gently under the stomach, and carried
it back again into the carriage.

"I say, Tchichikoff, you must now come as far as my house, it is only
five wersts off, and we shall be there in no time, and later if you
like you may proceed to Sobakevitch's."

"And why should I not," thought Tchichikoff to himself, "I'll really
drive as far as Nosdrieff's estate and see what it is like. He is not
worse than anybody else; he is a good a gentleman as any, and besides,
he is a gambler and has lost. To judge by appearances he seems rather
clever, consequently, it might easily happen that I shall easily obtain
what I want."

"Very well then," he added aloud, "I will, but on the express condition
that you will not detain me, because my time is precious."

"Ah, my soul, that is right! I am delighted my dear fellow, allow me to
embrace you, to kiss you."

Hereupon Nosdrieff and Tchichikoff embraced and kissed one another on
the cheek--as is the custom between intimate friends in Russia.

"And we shall all have a delightful journey home!"

"Pray, no, I hope you will excuse me," said his fair brother-in-law, "I
must hasten homewards."

"Nonsense, stuff, my dear fellow, I shall not let you off."

"Really, I must, else my wife will be angry with me, and besides, now
you will be able to take a seat in Mr. Tchichikoff's britchka."

"No, no, no, and don't you think of escaping us!"

Mushnieff, Nosdrieff's fair-complexioned brother-in-law, was one
of those men whose dominant character seemed to be a spirit of
contradiction. Scarcely has a person had time to open his mouth, when
he will be already to contradict him, it is therefore obvious that
they will never agree upon any point that is in just opposition to
their different and separate opinion, they will therefore never call a
foolish man a wise one, and especially such men would as a matter of
course never consent to dance to another's whistle; but in the end, it
will always appear that their general character is a weak disposition,
and that at last they will agree upon the very thing they originally
had been contradicting, namely, they will affirm the fool to be a wise
man, and the next thing they will do, is to go and dance most heartily
after another man's whistle, in a word, they begin roughly and end
smoothly.

"Nonsense!" said Nosdrieff, in reply to some observation of his
brother-in-law; he then took his travelling cap, put it on his head and
the fair gentleman followed the two others.

"I hope you will excuse me, but your glories have not paid me for the
liqueurs," said the old landlady.

"Ah, very well, my good woman. I say my dear brother-in-law, just
pay that old woman will you. I have not a copek in my pocket," said
Nosdrieff.

"How much is it?" demanded the brother-in-law.

"A rouble only, may it please your glory," said the hostess.

"Stuff! nonsense!" shouted Nosdrieff, "give her only half-a-rouble;
that will be quite sufficient for the trash."

"It's rather little, your honour," said the old woman; however, she
took the money with a curtsey, and hurried to open the door as fast as
her bodily constitution would permit her. She had sustained no loss
in taking what was given to her, because she took care to demand four
times the value of her had spirits.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The travellers took their seats in their respective carriages.
Tchichikoff's britchka drove in a line with that in which Nosdrieff
was seated with his brother-in-law, and thus they had every facility
for continuing their conversation during their journey to Nosdrieff's
estate. These two carriages were followed at a slight distance behind
by Nosdrieff's dilapidated conveyance. In it were seated his servant
Porphir, and his new acquisition the young bull-dog.

As the conversation of the three travellers could be but of little
interest to the reader, we will omit it altogether, and say a word
instead about Nosdrieff, whose fate it will perhaps be to play an
important part in this narrative.

Nosdrieff's face we premise to be already a little familiar to our
reader. Men like him could easily be met with by everybody, who will
take the trouble and travel in Russia. They are what are called men who
have cut their eye teeth. Their reputation begins from their boyhood,
when they were much admired by their school-fellows, but for all that
never escaped a sound thrashing occasionally. In their face, there is
always something open, straightforward, if not impudent, to be seen.
They soon succeed in ingratiating themselves, and ere you have had time
to recover from your surprise they call you already "my dear fellow."
They seem to establish their friendly relations for an eternity; but it
will always happen that those who have been imprudent enough to form
an intimacy with them, will, on the very evening of the day, at some
friendly supper or rout, fall out with them. They are always very great
talkers, hard drinkers, and what is termed, jolly good fellows, and
with all that, men of prepossessing appearance.

Nosdrieff, at thirty-five years of age, was in all these talents as
accomplished as he was when only eighteen or twenty; exceedingly
fond of dissipation. His marriage did not in the least interfere
with his pleasures, nor change him, so much the less, since his wife,
shortly after their marriage; quitted this world for a better one,
leaving behind her two little children, which were of no earthly use
or consolation to him. His infants, however, were properly taken
care of by a housekeeper. He never could stay at home for more than
twenty-four hours at a time. His sense of divination was so acute that
he could smell at a distance of twenty or thirty miles where a fair
was to be held, or a ball or rout to be given. In no time he was sure
to be there, lead on a dispute, create a disturbance at the green
table, because he, like other men of his description, had a passion
for gambling. He was fond of card-playing, as we have seen already
in the first chapter; and he did not play without a little cheating,
because he knew so many different tricks and finesses, and for that
very reason the game often ended in another sort of play; he either got
a sound thrashing, or his full and glossy whiskers pulled about so much
so, that very often he had to return home with only one of his hairy
ornaments, and that even of a spare appearance.

But the constitution of his full and rosy cheeks was so excellent,
that with an extraordinary fertility of growth, a new pair of whiskers
soon made their appearance again, and even finer and stronger than the
former.

But the strangest feature in his character was--and this could perhaps
only happen in Russia--that a very short time after, he could coolly
meet again the very same friends who had but recently horsewhipped him,
and meet them as if nothing had been the matter between them; and as
the phrase goes, _he_ said nothing, and _they_ said nothing about it.

Nosdrieff was in some respects also an historical personage. He never
went to an evening party without there being some talk about him
afterwards. Some event or another was sure to take place wherever he
went; he would either be obliged to leave the room under an escort of
strangers, or be forcibly led away by his own friends, who ventured
to introduce him. If either of these cases did not happen, it might
be depended upon that something else was sure to occur and make him
notorious, and which to any other person would not happen under any
circumstances; he would either get tipsy to such a degree as to do
nothing else but laugh continually, or commit himself to such a degree
that at last he will begin to blush at them himself.

Strange to say, he would try to impose upon persons without the least
advantage to himself: he would of a sudden protest, that once he
possessed a horse or a dog of a green or a blue colour, and such and
similar nonsense; so that those who have been listening to him, will
leave him and say, "what falsehoods that man is telling, to be sure!"

There are people, who have a passion for injuring their fellow-men
frequently without any provocation. Some of us Russians, for an
example, men of rank, of prepossessing appearance and with large
decorations on their breasts, will often give you unquestionable
assurances of friendship whilst pressing your hand warmly, speak to you
about scientific things, which require deep study--and then, the very
next moment, and in your presence, they will go and play you some base
trick. And they will injure you as meanly as a man of the fifteenth
degree of the Russian nobility--which by the bye is the lowest, though
this was not at all what you could have expected from a man wearing a
star or two on his breast, discussing scientific things which require
deep study and serious meditation. So great will your surprise be at
his conduct, that you will remain abashed, shrug your shoulders, and
say nothing.

Nosdrieff had exactly such a passion, whoever was the more acquainted
or befriended by him, was sure to be the chosen victim of this
despicable passion of his; he launched some of his monstrous nonsense,
anything more stupid could scarcely be imagined, yet he succeeded
either in breaking off some promise of marriage or some contract of
sale, and what not; and in doing all that, he never called himself your
enemy; on the contrary, if fate would have it, that you should meet him
again, he would accost you like an old friend, and even say, "halloah!
here you are at last, but you are not my dear fellow, because you never
come to see me."

Nosdrieff was in many respects also a multifarious man, to use a
common phrase, we may call him, a man up to anything and everything.
At the same instant he would propose to you, to go and drive wherever
you like, If even to the end of the world, or in search of Sir John
Franklin, then again he would be ready to enter into any speculation
with you, exchange with you everything that could possibly be
exchanged,--a rifle, a dog, a horse, not that he had any object of
gain in it, not at all, it was simply another trait of his restless and
foolish character.

If fate would have it so, that he might meet an inexperienced player
or a flat at any of the towns or fairs which he used to visit, and
that he should win of him his money in a gambling match, he would buy
all and everything that would be first brought under his notice or be
offered to him; he then purchased indiscriminately, horse-collars,
perfumes, and neckerchiefs for the nurse of his children, a stallion,
grapes, a silver mouth bason, Irish linen, buckwheat flour, tobacco,
holster-pistols, Dutch herrings, oil paintings, mechanical instruments,
pots and saucepans, boots, china tea-services--in fact, as long as his
money lasted, he would continue his purchases.

However, it was a rare occurrence when any of this great variety of
articles were ever sent to his home; it happened nearly invariably that
all these goods passed the very day of their purchase into the hands of
some more fortunate gambler, very frequently even he would have to make
the addition of his favourite Turkish pipe, with its amber mouth-piece
and other ornaments, and he had even known extreme cases, when he
had to part with his carriage, horses, and coachman, so that he, the
master, was left behind, possessing for the time being nothing he could
call his own but his clothes, running about to find some friend to give
him a place in his carriage and drive him home--and this seems very
much to have been the case with him in this instance, when he met with
Tchichikoff at the inn.

Meanwhile, the three carriages had arrived before the gates of
Nosdrieff's house. In the house there had been no preparations made
for their reception. In the centre of the dining room there was a
scaffolding on which two mouzhiks were standing, and whitewashing the
wall and ceiling, whilst singing the tune of some interminable song.
Nosdrieff immediately gave orders that the workmen as well as the
scaffoldings should quit the room, and hastened into an adjoining
apartment to give the necessary instructions to that effect. His guests
heard Him give his commands for the preparation of a dinner to his
cook; when this was audibly heard by Tchichikoff, he began to feel an
appetite, as well as the conviction that they should not be able to sit
to table before five o'clock.

Nosdrieff, after returning to his guests offered to show them all and
everything on his estate, and in his village; and, in little more than
two hours he had positively shown them everything worth seeing, so
that there remained nothing else to be looked at. First of all they
went to examine his stables, where they saw two mares, the one a grey
silver-coloured animal, the other a chesnut one, then a black stallion,
not a showy looking horse at all, but for which Nosdrieff swore that he
had paid ten thousand roubles.

"You could never have paid ten thousand roubles for that animal," his
brother-in-law observed coolly. "It is not worth even a thousand."

"By Heaven, I gave ten thousand for him," said Nosdrieff.

"You may invoke Heaven as a witness as much as you like, I don't
care," his fair-complexioned brother-in-law persisted.

"Very well then, let us have a wager about it," exclaimed Nosdrieff.

But his brother-in-law did not like to lay him a wager.

Nosdrieff then showed them some empty stalls, in which he used to keep
excellent race-horses formerly. In the same stable they also saw a
goat, who, according to a proverbial faith, was deemed indispensable in
a stable near the horses, and it seemed that this goat was on excellent
terms with his fellow-animals, for it walked about under their stomachs
as if quite at home. After this, Nosdrieff led them away, showed them a
young wolf, whom he kept tied to a pole.

"Here is a whelp," said he, "I feed him purposely with raw meat. I want
to bring him up to become a perfect wild beast."

They then went to look at a pond, in which, according to Nosdrieff,
there were such enormously large fish, that two men would have every
difficulty in pulling out one of them.

In this, however, his brother seemed not inclined to contradict him.

"Tchichikoff, my dear fellow, come along, I'll show you a pair of
beautiful dogs," said Nosdrieff, whilst leading on; "their muscular
strength will amaze you, their power of scent is as sharp as--a needle!"

"Just look at that plain," said Nosdrieff, whilst pointing with his
finger to a field before them, "there is such a number of hares that
you can scarcely see the ground; I caught one the other day with my own
hands by his hind legs."

"I venture to say, that you will never catch a hare with your hands!"
observed his brother-in-law.

"But I tell you I caught one, and caught one purposely with my own
hands!" answered Nosdrieff. "But now come along and I will show you,
my dear fellow," he continued whilst turning towards Tchichikoff, "the
frontier line of my estate."

When they had walked a considerable distance, they really arrived at
the boundary mark of his estate, which consisted of a wooden post with
a small board fixed to it.

"Here we are, at the frontier!" said Nosdrieff, "all, what you can
possibly see on that side, is mine, and even on the other side, all
that extensive forest which looms there in the distance, and that,
which is beyond the forest, all is mine."

"But since when has that forest become yours?" inquired his
brother-in-law. "You have bought it lately? for it was not yours some
time ago?"

"Just so; I bought it quite recently," answered Nosdrieff.

"How did you manage to buy it so quickly, so suddenly?"

"It's a fact, I bought it about three days ago, and the deuce, I paid a
handsome price for it."

"But, if I remember well, you were just at that time at the fair?"

"Oh, what a simpleton you are! Is it then impossible to be at the same
time at a fair, whilst buying a piece of land? Well, then, I was at the
fair, whilst my manager bought the forest and land."

"Ah, your manager! that is another affair," said his brother-in-law,
but even then he seemed to question the matter as a fact, and shook his
head.



CHAPTER XIX.


Nosdrieff's guests were obliged to return by the same wet and muddy
road on which they came. When they had arrived at the house, Nosdrieff
led them into his private cabinet, in which, however, there were
no traces of such articles as one would expect to see in a private
study: namely, books or papers; the principal ornaments seemed to be
a collection of swords, and two rifles, the one the value of about
three hundred roubles, the other might have cost eight hundred. The
brother-in-law looked around him, shook his head, but said nothing.

After this Nosdrieff exhibited some Turkish daggers, upon the one of
them was unfortunately the name of a celebrated Russian armourer of the
name of Siberiakoff. The exhibition was concluded by a grinding organ,
which the owner began to turn with the intention of entertaining his
guests with some music. The organ had a rather pleasing tone, but there
seemed to be something wrong with it, because the Mazurka which it was
just playing ended with "The Marlborough March," and "Marlborough's
March" again, was suddenly superseded by a mixture of one of Strauss'
waltzes.

Nosdrieff had long since left off turning the handle, yet there seemed
to be an obstinate flute in the organ, which would not cease to send
forth a long and plaintive tone, which continued for some considerable
time to whistle all by itself. To make up for this mishap, Nosdrieff
produced his collection of pipes; there was a great variety of them,
some of common red and white day, some meerschaums already coloured,
and some others quite new, some of them were carefully sown into
doeskin, others again had no doeskin; he also showed them some cherry
tubes of great beauty and length, with amber mouth-pieces, and without
any; among those with mouth-pieces there was a very valuable one which
he had but recently won in a raffle, he did not fail to boast of an
embroidered tobacco-pouch, which he had received from a countess,
whilst on his road to Smolensk, and who had fallen head over ears in
love with him, and if we are to believe still further what he said
about this adventure, the lady's hands were of such a beautiful shape
that he could not find better words to express his appreciation, of
their perfection but by calling them "fatally superfine," which no
doubt meant with him the highest degree of perfection.

After having shown all he possessed to his guests, he led them into the
dining-room, where they took a small glass of liqueur to excite the
appetite, and then sat down to dinner, considerably after five o'clock
in the afternoon. A good dinner seemed not to be the first condition
in the happy existence of Nosdrieff; a variety of dishes did not play
a principal _rôle_ upon his table; some of the eatables were too much
roasted, whilst others were not sufficiently cooked. It was obvious
that his _chef de cuisine_ was accustomed to a kind of freemasonry in
his art, and that he had made up the dishes with the first comestibles
that came under his hands or notice; if pepper was the nearest article
in his reach, he would throw some pepper into the saucepan, if cabbage
was at hand, he was sure to stuff the saucepan with cabbage, add some
milk, ham, peas, in a word, everything was thrown pell-mell into the
boiler, provided it was hot; as for the taste, he was sure that his
cookery would have plenty of that.

To make up for any deficiencies of his cook, Nosdrieff stuck to the
wine; soup was not yet served, when he had already supplied his guests
with some port wine in two large tumblers, and some Haut Sauterne
in two others, because in small provincial towns and country places
they do not keep simple Sauterne. Nosdrieff then ordered his servant,
Porphir--who served at table--to bring in a bottle of Madeira, of
such an exquisite taste and dry quality that the Prince Field-Marshal
Paskievitch would have been proud to taste it. The Madeira wine was
really of a fiery taste, because the wine merchants were too well
acquainted with the taste of landed proprietors, who like a strong and
dry glass of Madeira, and for that reason they mix it unmercifully with
brandy, and sometimes even with the monopolised imperial raw spirit, in
the hope that the excellent constitution of a Russian stomach will be
able to digest it.

A little later, Nosdrieff ordered that another bottle should be brought
in of some particularly good wine, which, according to his words, was
both Burgundy and Champagne; this wine he poured out very freely to
the right and to the left, to his brother-in-law and to Tchichikoff;
Tchichikoff, however, observed with a side glance, that Nosdrieff
had taken but little himself of his extra wine. This made him become
very cautious, and, as soon as Nosdrieff seemed warmly engaged in
conversation with his brother-in-law, he immediately took advantage of
the opportunity to pour some of that extra wine into his plate.

In the course of dinner, a roast heath-cock was put upon the table,
which, according to Nosdrieff, would have its mild a taste as cream,
but which, to the surprise of his guests, had a positive taste of a
badly cooked sea-gull. They then tasted some French _beaume_, a sweet
liqueur with such an extraordinary name that it was quite impossible
to recollect it, for the host himself, called it the second time by a
different appellation.

They had finished dining long since, and had been drinking all sorts of
wine, yet the host and his guests remained seated at table. Tchichikoff
did not like the idea of beginning a conversation with Nosdrieff, on
his all-important subject, in the presence of his brother-in-law, whom
he considered a stranger, and the matter on which he intended to speak
to Nosdrieff demanded a private, confidential, and friendly interview.

However, the brother-in-law did not look like a dangerous man at the
moment, because he seemed to have taken a copious libation, was moving
to and fro in his chair, and continually twitching his nose with his
left hand. He began to feel uneasy and as if he had a presentiment
of an approaching hopeless condition; he at last begun to beg to be
allowed to return home, but with such an idle and heavy voice, as
if, to use a Russian phrase, "he was pulling a horse-collar upon the
horse's neck with a pair of pincers."

"Oh, no, no, no! I shall not allow you to go!" said Nosdrieff.

"Pray do not offend me, my good friend, by detaining me, I really must
leave you," his brother-in-law said, "you will very much offend me if
you insist upon my staying any longer."

"Nonsense, folly! we will presently have a small game."

"Not I, my dear fellow, you may do as you like; my wife will have all
sorts of ideas, I shall have to tell her of the fair. I really must
give her some pleasant surprise after my long absence. No, oblige me,
and do not try to keep me here any longer."

"Send your wife to the d--l! what's the use of your going home in your
present state?"

"No, brother! she is such an excellent and virtuous wife; she is full
of favours for me--would you believe me, I feel the tears coming into
my eyes. No, do pot keep me any longer, on my honour as a gentleman, I
shall leave you, and I give you this assurance like an honest man."

"Let him depart, of what good could he be?" Tchichikoff whispered
slowly to Nosdrieff.

"You are right, by Jove!" said Nosdrieff, "I cannot bear the sight of
these nervous fools!" and he added aloud, "well, the d--l be with you;
go and make love to your better-half, you slave to gynæocracy!"

"No, brother, you ought not to call me by any of those foreign names,"
his brother-in-law replied, "as for my wife, I owe her my existence.
She is an amiable and loving woman and is full of such tenderness--she
often moves me to tears; no, the more I think of her the more I wish to
return to her; she is sure to ask me what I have seen and done at the
fair, and I shall have to tell her all, for she is an angel of a woman!"

"Be off then, and tell her as much as you like! there is your cap."

"Nay, brother Nosdrieff, you are wrong in wanting respect for your own
sister; by committing a breach of politeness towards her, you offend me
as well, and you know well what an amiable woman my wife is."

"Therefore, I cannot advise you better than to hasten into her arms as
soon as you like, and sooner if possible!"

"Yes, brother, I must leave you, excuse me, but really I cannot stay
any longer. My heart would be rejoiced if I could stay, but I must not
tarry any longer."

Nosdrieff's brother-in-law continued yet for a considerable time to
express his regrets and excuses, without noticing that he had been
already seated for some time in his own carriage, that he had long
since departed from Nosdrieff's house, and that nothing but open fields
and the high road were before him. It might be easily imagined, that
his wife heard but little of what he had seen and done at the fair.



CHAPTER XX.


"What a stupid fellow!" said Nosdrieff, whilst standing at the window
and looking after his brother-in-law's carriage as it was gradually
disappearing in the distance. "Look here how he is driving off; one of
his off horses is rather a fine animal, I have long had my eye upon it.
However, it is quite impossible to come to any understanding with the
man. He is such an odd fellow."

After saying this, Nosdrieff and Tchichikoff entered another room.
Porphir brought in some candles, and Tchichikoff observed in the hands
of his host a pack of cards, for the sudden appearance of which he
could not possibly account.

"What do you say, my dear fellow," Nosdrieff remarked, whilst pressing
the hack of the pack with his fingers in such a manner, that they got
slightly bent, and the wrapper in which they were broke; "Now then, and
in order to pass our time pleasantly, I propose to hold the bank with
three hundred roubles in it."

But Tchichikoff pretended not to have heard the other's proposal, and
said, as if suddenly recollecting something: "Ah! by the bye, and ere I
forget it again; I have request to make."

"What is it?"

"Give me first your promise to fulfil it."

"But what is your request?"

"Never mind, give me your promise!"

"'Tis granted."

"Your word of honour."

"My word of honour."

"And now hear my request: you have no doubt, my dear fellow, a number
of dead serfs, that have not been yet struck out from the lists of the
last census?"

"Yes, I have; but why?"

"Transfer them to me, to my name."

"And for what purpose do you want them?"

"Suffice it, if I tell you I want them."

"But for what purpose?"

"As I told you before I want them; the rest is my business, in a word
then, I want to have them."

"No doubt you are up to something. Come, old fellow, confess it, eh?"

"To what should I be up? how could I be up to anything with such
worthless trash, as dead serfs?"

"But why should you then tell me you want to have them?"

"Oh, what a curious fellow you are! you wish to touch everything, or
rather thrash with your own hands, and smell at it besides!"

"But why don't you tell me?"

"And where would be the advantage if you knew it? well then if you must
know it, it is a sudden fancy I have."

"Well then, look here, my dear fellow: unless you tell me the truth,
you shall not have my dead serfs!"

"And now I must confess, that this is not honourable on your part: you
gave me your word of honour, and now you try to back out of it."

"As you like, my dear fellow, but you shall not have them unless you
tell me of what use they could be to you, dead as they are."

"What shall I tell him," said Tchichikoff to himself, and after a
moment's reflection, stated, that he wanted those dead serfs for the
purpose of gaining a greater influence in society, that he did not
possess a large property, and that until his fortunes changed these
dead serfs would be a consolation to him.

"Stuff, nonsense!" said Nosdrieff, not giving him even proper time to
finish his phrase, "bosh, my dear fellow!"

Tchichikoff could not help making the observation to himself, that his
invention was far from being clever, and that the pretence was a very
weak one indeed.

"Well then, I will be more explicit," said he, whilst recovering
himself from his first defeat, "but pray do not betray me in letting it
out. I have come to the resolution of getting married; but I must tell
you that the parents of my intended are very ambitious persons. 'Tis
quite a bore to me. I am sorry even that I gave my promise; they insist
that the future husband of their daughter should absolutely have, at
least, three hundred serfs to call his Own, and as I am short of the
round sum of hundred and fifty, I thought ..."

"Bosh! bosh!" Nosdrieff shouted again.

"Now, my dear fellow," said Tchichikoff, "in telling you this much, I
have spoken the truth, there is not even this much of imposition in
what I told you," and here he showed the extremest point of his little
finger.

"I lay my head, that you told me a falsehood."

"This is offensive in reality! what do you take me for? And why should
I absolutely tell a falsehood?"

"'Tis all very fine, my dear fellow, but I know you; you are a gay
deceiver. Allow me to tell you something between ourselves, and quite
confidentially. If I was your commander-in-chief, I should have you
hanged on the first and nearest tree."

Tchichikoff felt shocked and offended at this remark, for every
observation, however slightly uncivil or offensive to propriety, was
highly disagreeable to him. He avoided as much as possible allowing
any familiarities to be taken with him, and in extreme cases would
only permit such to be taken as might be termed the most delicate. And
for that reason, he was now deeply offended, and sensibly hurt at the
observation made by Nosdrieff.

"By heaven I should have you hanged," repeated Nosdrieff, "I tell you
this candidly, not with the intention of offending you; oh no! but
simply, friendly and confidentially."

"Every thing has its limits," said Tchichikoff, with an air of dignity.
"If you like to boast in such language, I would advise you to go into a
barrack;" and then he added, "if you don't like to let me have them for
nothing, well then sell me them."

"Sell them! but I know you well, you are a gay deceiver. You will not
offer me a fair price for them?"

"Eh! you are a fine bird too! look at them! what are they to you. Do
you value them like diamonds?"

"It is as I thought, when I told you that I knew you."

"Pardon me, my dear fellow, but you have quite Jewish inclinations.
You ought to let me have them for nothing."

"Now then, listen, in order to show you how far you are mistaken in
me, and that I am no selfish animal, I shall take nothing for my dead
serfs. Buy my stallion of me, and I'll give them to you into the
bargain."

"But, my dear fellow, what am I to do with a stallion?" said
Tchichikoff, quite bewildered by such a proposal.

"What to do? But remember, my dear fellow, I paid ten thousand roubles
for the animal, and I'll let you have him for only four thousand."

"But of what use could a stallion be to me? I do not keep a
horse-breeding institution, like his most glorious Majesty our Emperor
does."

"But, my dear fellow, you seem not to understand me. I'll only take
three thousand roubles of you now, and as for the remaining thousand,
you may pay me later at your own convenience."

"But I do not want your stallion, nor any one else's. Heaven be with
the whole race!"

"Well, will you buy my hunter, the grey mare?"

"I do not want a mare either."

"For that mare, and the other grey horse you have seen in my stables,
I'll only take three thousand roubles from you."

"But I do not want any horses."

"You may sell them. You are sure to get at any fair, or sale, more than
three times their present value."

"Then it would be better for you to sell them yourself, if you are
convinced you could get as much as three times their value."

"I am sure, I could make as much, but I wish you to derive that
benefit."

Tchichikoff thanked him for the friendly intention, but obstinately
refused either to have the grey mare, or the grey horse.

"Well then, will you buy some of my dogs? I'll sell you a pair with
a skin as smooth as a thirty degrees frost! a spotted pair with
moustachios, and upstanding hair like a pig's bristles, the roundness
of their ribs is quite incomprehensible, their paws are swiftness
itself, they scarcely touch the ground."

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

"But I wish you to have some dogs. Very well, if you won't have any of
my dogs, you ought to buy my organ, it is a most wonderful instrument;
on my word of honour, it has cost, me more than one thousand five
hundred roubles; but you shall have it for nine hundred."

"But what am I to do with an organ? I am not a German, that I should go
dragging it along, and grinding it in the streets, whilst begging the
passers by for alms."

"But, my dear fellow, you are mistaken, it is not an organ like the
Germans carry about, it is a regular, really musical organ; just come
along and look at it, it is all of mahogany. I'll show it you once
more."

Hereupon Nosdrieff seized Tchichikoff by the hand, and began to pull
him into the next room, and however much the other resisted by stemming
his feet against the floor, and as well by persuading him that he
perfectly well recollected the organ, it was of no use, and he was
obliged to listen once more to the tune of Marlborough's march, and
Strauss' familiar valse.

"If you don't wish to make a bargain for all cash, then listen to what
I propose to you. I'll give you this organ, and as many dead serfs as
I have got, and you will give me in return your britchka, and three
hundred roubles in hard cash."

"What an idea! and pray, in what am I to drive home?"

"I'll give you another britchka. Come, let us go to the coach-house,
I'll show it to you! You will only have to paint it afresh and it will
be an excellent carriage."

"Oh, good heaven, it seems the devil has possessed him!" thought
Tchichikoff within himself, and he came to the resolution, whatever
the consequences might be, to decline all descriptions of britchkas,
organs, and all imaginable breeds of dogs, without regard to their
incomprehensible swiftness and smell.

"And, remember," added Nosdrieff, "I offer you a britchka, an organ,
and all my dead serfs, the whole in a batch!"

"I won't have them!" Tchichikoff exclaimed once more.

"Why won't you have them then?"

"Simply because I won't have them, and there is an end."

"What a curious fellow you are; it would seem it is quite impossible to
live on friendly terms with you, as is customary among good comrades,
you are such an obstinate fellow! It is evident you are a deceitful
man!"

"But for what do you take me, surely not for a fool? just reflect for a
moment: why should I make the acquisition of such things as are of no
earthly use whatever to me?"

"Pray don't talk. I know you now perfectly well. You are a regular box
of antiquities! However, listen to me, will you play faro? I'll stake
all my dead serfs on a card, and my organ in the bargain."

"Well, to venture a game, means to expose one-self to uncertainties,"
spoke Tchichikoff, and meanwhile he kept glancing stealthily at the
pack of cards which Nosdrieff had taken in his hands again. The cards
seemed to him to be of an artificial make, and the comers looked very
suspicious.

"What do you mean by uncertainties?" demanded Nosdrieff. "There cannot
be the least uncertainty, provided only fortune smiles on you, you
may win enormously. Look here! what luck! said he," as he commenced
the game of faro, in the hope of exciting a gambling passion in his
guest. "What a chance! what luck! look here: thus you might win in
reality! there is the confounded nine, upon which I lost all. I had a
presentiment, that this card would sell my luck, and closing my eyes, I
thought to myself: I am sold if that confounded card turns up."

As Nosdrieff spoke thus, Porphir entered with a fresh bottle.

But Tchichikoff positively refused either to play or to drink.

"But why won't you play at least?" demanded Nosdrieff.

"Because I am not in the humour. And besides, I must confess I am not
partial to gambling."

"Why, how is this, you are not fond of gambling?"

Tchichikoff shrugged his shoulders, and added: "just so, I am not an
amateur."

"You are a precious fool!"

"I can't help that, Heaven has made me so."

"You are a regular humbug! Till now, I was under the impression that
you were a reputable man in some respects, but now I plainly perceive
that you have not the slightest sense of propriety and good manners. It
is impossible to speak to you as one would speak to a friend. You have
no candour, no straightforwardness; you are the image of Sobakevitch,
you are like him, a regular sneaking fellow!"

"But why do you scold me and call me all sorts of names? Is it my fault
if I don't like gambling? And if you are such a man as to value such
a trash as your dead serfs are, well then, sell them to me, name your
price."

"Since you are such a mean fellow, you shall not have them at all!
Originally,' I intended to present them to you as a token of my
friendship, gratuitously, but now you shall not have them at any price!
Nay, were you even to offer me a kingdom, I would not part with them.
You are a shuffler, a wretched potter! From this very moment, I won't
speak another word with you. Porphir, go and tell my stable-boy not to
give any oats to his horses, let them feed on dry hay."

The latter determination of Nosdrieff's, Tchichikoff was far from
anticipating.

"Now I could wish I had never seen you before," added Nosdrieff.

Regardless of this altercation between them, the guest and his host
nevertheless sat down and took supper together, although this time
there were no wines with inexpressible names put on the table. The only
bottle that passed between them was a bottle of Kahetian wine, which
possessed all the peculiarities of a green and sour vinegar beverage.
After a silent supper, Nosdrieff led Tchichikoff into a small adjoining
room in which a bed had been prepared for him.

"Here is your bed; I do not wish you even a good night's rest!"



CHAPTER XXI.


Tchichikoff remained after Nosdrieff's departure in the most unpleasant
frame of mind. He was inwardly angry with himself; he scolded himself
for having accepted Nosdrieff's invitation, and thus uselessly
losing his time. But what vexed him most was that he had imprudently
begun to speak of his all-important object, like a child, like a
fool; because this business was not of a nature to be entrusted to
Nosdrieff--Nosdrieff, a man without any worth or sense; he could
compromise him, he could tell stories, make additions, and spread,
heaven knows what calumnies about, and thus place him in the greatest
difficulties--it was neither right nor well! "I have made a regular
ass of myself," said he to himself.

He spent a very sleepless night. Some very small, but also very daring
insects, kept biting him unmercifully, so much so, that he could not
help scratching the wounded spots, and prompted by utter agony, adding
each time, "I wish you to the devil and your master, Nosdrieff, as
well!" After a very short but sound slumber, he awoke very early the
next morning. The first occupation he undertook was to slip into a
morning-gown and into his boots, he then went across the court-yard
into the stable, and ordered Selifan to put the horses immediately in
his britchka. On returning from the stable he met Nosdrieff, who made
his appearance also in a long morning-gown, and with a Turkish pipe in
his mouth.

Nosdrieff accosted him in a friendly manner, and inquired how he had
passed the night.

"Tolerably," answered Tchichikoff, rather dryly.

"And I, my dear fellow," continued Nosdrieff, "I have passed a most
wretched night, I have been victimised by an army of insects, and I now
feel as if I had been sleeping in a barrack. Imagine, I dreamt that I
had been regularly horsewhipped, yes, truly, and by whom do you think?
This you will never guess; by my intimate friends, Colonel Pozelueff
and Lieutenant Kuvschinikoff."

"Yes," thought Tchichikoff to himself, "it would be an excellent thing
if you were to receive a thrashing in reality."

"By heaven, and it feels painful even now! When I awoke I really
felt pains all over me, and such an unpleasant itching, no doubt the
confounded fleas have again been at me. You had better go now and dress
yourself, and I will be with you almost immediately. I have only to go
and scold my manager, the rogue."

Tchichikoff went into his room to wash and dress himself. When he had
done so, he entered the dining-room, where he found the table laid
with a tea service and a bottle of brandy. In this room, his eyes also
met with the remains of the dinner and supper of the preceding day; it
seemed as if the broom had not made its appearance there; the floor was
strewn with bread crumbs, and tobacco ashes were even still lying on
the table cloth.

The host himself did not fail to make his appearance soon after; he
had no other dress on him but a loose Turkish morning-gown, which
rather displayed than concealed his broad chest, upon which a regular
beard seemed to grow freely. Holding in one hand his long Turkish pipe
and in the other a cup of tea, he would have made a characteristic
subject for a painter, who hates gentlemen of propriety, with curled
hair, like a hairdresser's sign-board, or a head shorn _à la diable
m'emporte_.

"Now then, what are you thinking about?" said Nosdrieff, after a
momentary silence, "will you, or will you not play for my dead serfs?"

"My dear fellow, I have already told you once for all, I won't play,
but if you like I am ready to buy them."

"I won't sell them, because it would not be acting in a friendly manner
towards you; but I'm still disposed to play for them as long as you
like. Come, let us have a turn, if but one only!"

"As I told you before, no."

"And you won't barter, either?"

"No, I won't."

"Now, listen and don't be so obstinate, let us have a game of draughts,
if you win they shall all be yours; and, I remember now that I have
got a number of dead serfs, that ought to be struck out from the census
list of the living. Holloa, Porphir, bring me the draught-board here."

"Tis a useless trouble, I shall not play."

"But that is not playing at cards; there can be no chance or shuffling;
all depends upon ingenuity. I must even tell you beforehand, that I
am no player at all, and that you might as well give me a price in
advance."

Tchichikoff thought to himself, "Well, I'll venture to play a game with
him! I used to play once at draughts tolerably well, besides, there is
no chance for him to cheat. Very well, then, in order to oblige you
I'll play you a game."

"My dead serfs against a hundred roubles."

"Why? it will be high enough, if I lay fifty against them?"

"No, fifty roubles is quite a ridiculous stake. I would rather, in
order to make up a round sum, include a couple of my thorough-bred
dogs, or a gold watch-guard."

"Very well," Tchichikoff answered.

"How many draughtsmen will you give me in advance?" demanded Nosdrieff.

"How did you come upon this idea? certainly none."

"At least give me the two first moves."

"No, I won't, I am a bad player myself."

"I believe you, my boy, you and a bad player!" exclaimed Nosdrieff,
whilst pushing forward a draughtsman.

"I have not played draughts for a long while," said Tchichikoff, whilst
also advancing a draughtsman.

"I believe you, my boy, you and a bad player," said Nosdrieff, pushing
forward another draughtsman.

"I have not been playing for a very long while," Tchichikoff said, also
advancing a draughtsman.

"I believe you, my boy, you and a bad player," said Nosdrieff, whilst
again moving a draughtsman, and at the same time he advanced a second
one with the sleeve of his Turkish morning-gown.

"'Tis long ago since I took them last in my hands--oh, eh! my dear
fellow, what is this? put that back!" said Tchichikoff.

"What?"

"This draughtsman there," said Tchichikoff, but at the same time he
saw another before his very nose, ready to enter and become a king,
but from where it came, and how it could have so suddenly advanced,
it was impossible for Tchichikoff to account. "No," said Tchichikoff,
rising from table, "it is impossible to play with you! To advance three
draughtsmen at once is against the rules of the game altogether."

"How do you mean, three men at once? That was a mistake. One of them
might have advanced accidentally, I'll move it back if you like."

"But where does that other come from?"

"Which other?"

"This one here, ready to become a king."

"Well, I'm sure, don't you recollect it?"

"Certainly not, my dear fellow, I have noticed every move, and I
remember them all; you have only just now advanced it. Its place is
here."

"How, where is its place?" said Nosdrieff, blushing deeply, "but, my
dear fellow, it seems to me that you would like to take me in."

"No, not I, my dear fellow, but it is evident that you want to do so
with me, only you are rather unsuccessful."

"For whom do you take me?" said Nosdrieff, "do you think that I could
be capable of shuffling?"

"I do not take you for anybody, but from henceforth I shall never play
with you again."

"But stop, you can't back out of this game, you have began it, you must
play it out," said Nosdrieff hotly.

"I have the right to refuse, because you have not been playing as it
becomes a gentleman."

"You lie, for you cannot prove it!"

"No, my dear fellow, it's you who are the liar!"

"I have not been shuffling, you dare not refuse to continue, and you
must finish the game."

"You cannot compel me to do that," said Tchichikoff coolly, and
approaching the table, he upset the draughtsmen.

Nosdrieff jumped from his seat in a rage, and drew so close to
Tchichikoff that he made him step back two paces.

"I shall oblige you to play it out. It matters little, that the
draughtsmen are mixed. I remember every move. We will arrange them
again as they were."

"No, my dear fellow, there is an end to it, I shall not play with you."

"Then you positively refuse to finish the game?"

"You must allow yourself that it is impossible to play with you."

"Now, you obstinate fellow, tell me once more, will you or will you
not play?" spoke Nosdrieff wildly, whilst walking still closer up to
Tchichikoff.

"I will not!" Tchichikoff exclaimed, but at the same time he raised his
hands towards his face ready for any contingency, because the matter
threatened to become rather hot. This precaution was taken in good
time, because Nosdrieff in his excitement had raised his hand, and it
might easily have happened, that one of the full and agreeable cheeks
of our hero, would have been covered with dishonour, which could not
be washed away; but he fortunately succeeded in escaping the blow, and
seized the madly infuriated Nosdrieff by both hands, and held him
tightly.

"Porphir! Ivan!" shouted Nosdrieff in his madness, whilst striving to
liberate himself from Tchichikoff's powerful grasp.

Hearing these names, Tchichikoff, in order not to have the servants
witnesses to a scandalous scene, and feeling convinced also, that to
holding Nosdrieff any longer would be of no advantage to him, he let
loose his hands. At that same moment, Porphir entered the room followed
by Ivan, a herculean looking fellow, with whom it would not have been
advisable to pick a quarrel.

"Then you refuse to finish the game?" said Nosdrieff. "Give me a
positive answer quickly, you obstinate blockhead!"

"It is impossible to finish the game," answered Tchichikoff, and looked
out of the window at the same time; he beheld his britchka, which was
standing there quite ready, and Selifan seemed to wait but for a signal
to drive up to the door; but it was impossible for Tchichikoff to leave
the room, the door was guarded by two powerful slaves and tools of
Nosdrieffs.

"Then you positively refuse to finish the game?" demanded again
Nosdrieff, with a face as red hot as fire.

"If you had been playing as becomes a gentleman, I would have finished
it, but now I cannot."

"Ah! you say you cannot, you humbug, when you see that you are likely
to lose the game, then it is that you cannot play! Horsewhip him,"
he shouted, in a hoarse and infuriated voice, whilst turning towards
Porphir and Ivan, and seizing himself a long cherry pipe tube.
Tchichikoff became as pale and white as a sheet. He had evidently an
intention to say something, but he felt, that his lips moved without
speaking a word.

"Horsewhip him!" Nosdrieff again shouted, rushing forward, with the
cherry tube uplifted in his hand, all excited and perspiring, as if
he was about to storm an impregnable fortress. "Beat him!" he shouted
in the same voice with which, in the heat of an onset some valorous
lieutenant would address his men and say, "forward, children," and
whose daring has become so well known throughout the regiment, that
special orders are always given that he should be kept back with the
rear guard, whenever an action of importance is undertaken.

But the fortress, against which Nosdrieff was storming, was far from
being impregnable, on the contrary, its outworks betrayed her inward
weakness, and its fear was so great, that the commander-in-chief--the
soul--went to hide himself in his heels.

The chair with which Tchichikoff attempted to defend himself, was
wrenched from his hands by Nosdrieff's serfs, and bereft of this last
hope he closed his eyes and felt neither dead nor alive, yet he tried
to grasp once more at the Tcherkessian pipe of his brutal host, and
heaven knows, what the consequences might have been. But providence
seemed to pity the position as well as the ribs, shoulders, and all the
well-formed portions of our hero.

At this unexpected yet opportune moment, the sounds of post-horse
bells were heard loudly ringing in the court-yard, and the wheels of
a carriage rolled quickly over the stones before the entrance of the
house. It was a telega, drawn by three horses, that had arrived so
suddenly; shortly after, heavy footsteps were heard quickly approaching
the room in which the actors of our present narrative were so
dramatically collected.

They all looked involuntarily out of the window, and beheld a
stranger in moustachios, dressed in a half military and half plain
coat, alighting from the telega. Having taken his information in the
anteroom, he entered at the very moment when Tchichikoff had not yet
recovered from his stupefaction, and when he was in the most pitiable
position in which a mortal man can possibly be.

"Allow me to ask which of you two gentlemen is Mr. Nosdrieff," said
the stranger, looking with some astonishment at Nosdrieff, who stood
there with the cherry pipe tube in his uplifted hand, and then at
Tchichikoff, who had scarcely begun to recover from his disadvantageous
position.

"Allow me first to ask you with whom I have the honour of speaking?"
said Nosdrieff, whilst approaching the stranger.

"I am a commissioner of the military police."

"And what do you wish?"

"I come to inform you that in obedience to higher commands, I shall
consider you my prisoner until proper inquiries will have been
instituted into the affair in which you are compromised."

"What nonsense! What affair do you mean?" demanded Nosdrieff.

"You were inculpated in an affair, or rather a riot, in which a certain
lieutenant of the guards, by name Maksimoff was insulted and even
horsewhipped, whilst in a state of intoxication."

"That is perfectly false, Sir! I never saw in the whole course of my
life your lieutenant Maksimoff!"

"My dear Sir, allow me to inform you that I am an officer. You may call
your servants liars but not me."

Tchichikoff did not wait to hear what Nosdrieff would reply to this
observation, but seized his cap, passed stealthily behind the back of
the commissary of the military police, and left the room. He was soon
seated in his britchka, and ordered Selifan to drive off as fast as his
horses could gallop.



CHAPTER XXII.


Our hero was still considerably terrified at the thought of his narrow
escape. Although the britchka was literally flying at a fearful
speed, and Nosdrieff's village nearly lost in the distance, hidden by
fields, slopes and hills, yet he still continued to turn round, and
cast glances of terror behind him, as if expecting to see suddenly his
pursuers.

His breathing was short and interrupted, and when he laid his hand upon
his broad breast to feel the beating of his heart, he felt it throbbing
like that of a quail in a cage.

"Oh! what a regular shower-bath! How could I ever expect that of the
fellow!" Such exclamations were followed by a variety of difficult
and strong wishes for the future of Nosdrieff, and were concluded by
epithets certainly not of the choicest language.

"Say what I may," Tchichikoff remarked confidentially to himself,
"without the sudden appearance of the commissioner of the military
police, I might at this present moment be one less among the living
in this world! I should have disappeared like a bubble on the ocean,
without leaving a trace behind me, no heirs or children to inherit my
honourable name, my modest fortune!" Our hero seemed very anxious and
concerned about his successors.

"What a nasty gentleman!" thought Selifan. "I have never seen such an
ill-disposed man before. He deserves to be despised. I could rather see
a man without food, but a horse must be fed because a horse likes oats.
That is the proper food for his maintenance. What meat is to us, so is
oats to the horse, and that is the proper food for horses."

The horses also seemed to have a bad opinion of Nosdrieff; not only the
leader and the brown horse, but even the tiger-spotted idler seemed to
be in bad humour. Although the idler was used to receive less good oats
generally, and was also accustomed never to have them given to him by
Selifan, without being previously called a rogue, yet in this instance
he seemed quite disgusted; for notwithstanding the scolding he received
his fair portion of oats, and not as now, common hay; he used to eat
his bad oats with pleasure, and after, even put his enormous head into
the crib of his comrades to see what good things they were enjoying.
This he did especially when Selifan was not in the stable; but now they
had had nothing else but hay, that was bad; all three were dissatisfied.

But soon after, the whole batch of malcontents were suddenly and
unexpectedly interrupted in the effusion of their wrath against
Nosdrieff in an unexpected manner. All, not excluding even the
coachman, recovered and came to their senses again, when they felt
themselves in contact with a travelling-carriage, drawn by six powerful
horses, and heard the shrieks of ladies sitting inside, and the
scolding and swearing of the strange coachman.

"Oh, you scoundrel! did I not shout to you as loudly as possible! Turn
to the right, you crow! Are you drunk, or what else is the matter with
you?"

Selifan felt at once that he was on the wrong side, but as a Russian
does not like to acknowledge his error before another, he therefore
shouted forth his reply with an air of importance:

"And what do you mean by driving like a madman? Have you, perhaps, left
your eyes in pawn at a dram-shop?"

After having spoken thus, he endeavoured to back his britchka, trying
to liberate his horses, which had become entangled with those of the
other carriage; however, he only succeeded in making things worse.

The ladies sitting in the carriage looked at the scene of confusion
before them with the utmost terror expressed upon their faces. The one
was an elderly lady; the other, a young person about sixteen years of
age, with golden ringlets, very tastefully arranged around a pretty
face and head. The charming oval of her face was as evenly formed as
a new-laid egg, and, like it, it possessed that peculiar transparent
whiteness which is only to be seen in a new-laid egg, when held up
towards the light by the gentle hand of a clever housekeeper, who
is examining its freshness by allowing the rays of the sun to shine
through it; her finely-shaped ears seemed also equally transparent,
and were intersected by warmly-flowing veins. From the sudden fright,
her rosy lips had opened to display a range of ivory teeth, and tears
were sparkling in her eyes. All this was so charming in her, that our
hero glanced at her for some moments quite motionless, and paying no
attention whatever to the dispute which had arisen between the two
coachmen and their horses.

"Will you back your horses, you Novgorodian crow?" shouted the strange
coachman.

Selifan tugged at his reins; the strange driver did as much, and the
horses, in obedience to the impulse, retreated a little, and then came
into contact again, were anew entangled, and the confusion was greater
than before.

While the confusion was thus growing worse confounded, some peasants
began to gather round the carriages and horses; they came running as
fast as they could from an adjoining village; and as such a sight is
for a Russian peasant like a Christmas-box, or like a newspaper and a
glass of stout would be to an Englishman, so but little time elapsed
before the carriages were both surrounded by a few hundred gaping
mouzhiks, and the village was left to the care of only old women and
young children. The entangled traces were soon cut; a few heavy blows
applied to the head of the tiger-spotted idler made him retreat; in a
word, the horses were soon separated and led aside.

The interest and the curiosity of the gaping peasants rose to an
incredible degree. Every one of them was anxious to give an advice or a
suggestion:

"You go, Andrushka, and lead that front horse a little about, the one
that is standing on the right-hand side from us; and Uncle Mitja would
do well to mount the tiger-spotted animal! Get on his back, Mitja!"

During the time that Selifan and the strange coachman were arranging
the traces of their respective horses, Tchichikoff had continued to
look very attentively at the young lady stranger. He made an attempt
to address her several times, but, somehow or another, he thought
there was no favourable opportunity. Meanwhile, the ladies drove off,
the pretty head, and face with the fine outlines, the slender figure,
all disappeared like an apparition; and there remained nothing but
the high-road, the britchka, the three horses already familiar to our
reader, Selifan, and the level and empty fields surrounding them.

"A charming little woman!" said he, whilst opening his snuff-box,
and taking a pinch of snuff. "But what is the most handsome thing
about her? It is pleasant to see, that she seems just to have left
a boarding-school, or some such institution, and that there is yet
nothing womanly, or rather matronly about her, and that is one of the
most unpleasing features in the sex. She is still like a child, all in
her is still natural, she will speak what she thinks, she will laugh
at every thing that pleases her. She might yet be taught any thing and
every thing, she might become an accomplished and virtuous woman, and
she might also turn out the very contrary. If she now happens to come
under the control and advice of her mother or aunts, then farewell
natural innocence! In a year they will have changed her so completely
by instilling into her, what they are pleased to term the dignities of
a woman, that her own father will have every difficulty to recognise,
in that young person, his own daughter.

"From the elder ladies, she will derive conceitedness and affected
manners, move about according to the dictates of fashion, torment her
brains to know, with whom, about what, and how much she might venture
to speak, and especially how to look at them; every moment she will
be alarmed least she should speak more than is strictly necessary. At
last, she will become confused from so much unnatural exertion, and
dissimulation will become natural to her, and then--heaven knows what
she may come to next!"

Having spoken thus much to himself, Tchichikoff remained silent for
some moments, and then he added:

"It would be rather satisfactory to know who she is? Yes, what her
father might be? Is he perhaps a rich landed proprietor of high
respectability, or simply a respectable man with a large fortune
acquired in serving his country? Because, let me suppose, that this
pretty little girl receives but five thousand roubles as a marriage
gift, she would become a most acceptable, nay a very enticing little
woman. And this would constitute, so to say, the happiness of a
respectable man."

The sum of five thousand roubles represented itself so attractively
to his mind, that he began to scold himself inwardly for not having
obtained some information about who the ladies were from their
coachman, during the time that the confusion among the horses lasted.
Soon after, however, the appearance of Sobakevitch's village began to
distract his attention from the ladies, and he returned to his friend
and more serious purposes.

The village seemed to him tolerably large, and even of importance;
there were two forests, the one of birch-trees, the other of pines,
the one of a gay colour, the other dark, spread out like wings on the
right and left of the village; in the centre of it stood a large wooden
building with a balcony, a roof with red tiles, and dark grey painted
walls, the style of architecture reminding one of a barrack, or the
primitive buildings of German emigrants.

It was evident that the builder of this house must have been in
continual opposition to the taste of the owner. The builder was a
pedant, and adhered to symmetry, the owner preferred conformity to the
purpose, and, thus it seemed that in consequence of the differences of
taste, the lawful lord of the mansion had blocked up the windows of the
whole of one of the fronts of the house, and left only a small aperture
instead, no doubt to serve as a skylight to some lumber-room.

The principal entrance to the house stood by no means in the centre,
notwithstanding the good intents of the architect, because the owner
of it had ordered one of the side columns to be removed and thus the
principal entrance did not display as originally intended four columns,
but only three. The whole of the court-yard was enclosed by a strong
and unusually thick wooden wall. The proprietor seemed to have been
particularly concerned about everything being of the greatest possible
durability.

Upon the construction of his stables, penthouse and kitchen, he had
employed full grown and heavy logs calculated to last an eternity. The
houses of his peasants in the village were also of a wonderfully strong
and lasting construction, they nowhere displayed any of the common
gingerbread ornaments, but every one of them was a solid mass of logs
of wood. Even the wall was enclosed by such large stems of fir as would
only be employed as sleepers for a railway, or in the construction
of ships. In a word, upon whatever kind of building Tchichikoff
happened to cast a glance, his sight met with a _pièce de résistance_,
unmistakeable, presenting a durable but clumsy appearance.

END OF VOL. I.



HOME LIFE IN RUSSIA,

BY

A RUSSIAN NOBLE.

REVISED

BY THE EDITOR OF

REVELATIONS OF SIBERIA.

IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. II.

LONDON:

HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS,

SUCCESSORS TO HENRY COLBURN,

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.

1854.



HOME LIFE IN RUSSIA.



CHAPTER I.


On driving up to the entrance-hall, Tchichikoff beheld two faces at
once, looking out through the window: the one was a feminine face,
narrow and long, like a cucumber; the other was the round face of a
man, broad like a Moldavian pumpkin, out of which our Russian peasants
are accustomed to make their light and two-stringed balalaikas, the
charming instrument with which, some handsome cock of the village will
on a fine summer's evening gather young and old around him, and sing
and whistle some merry ditty to the white-bosomed maiden of his heart,
who delights in the slow and melancholy strains of his music.

The two faces which had just presented themselves at the window
disappeared again suddenly. A servant, dressed in a grey jacket with a
blue upstanding collar, came out upon the landing and led Tchichikoff
into a reception-room, in which soon after the host himself made his
appearance. Perceiving and recognizing who his guest was, the host
exclaimed abruptly: "Pray, enter!" and he led him into the interior of
his house.

As Tchichikoff cast a side glance upon Sobakevitch, the man seemed
to him very much like a bear of the middle size. To complete this
resemblance, he wore a coat perfectly of the colour of a bear's skin,
with large sleeves, and a pair of large inexpressibles. His walk was by
starts, sideways and bent together, and he was in the continual habit
of treading upon other people's feet. His complexion was of a glowing,
hot colour, like that of a new penny.

Tchichikoff glanced once more and stealthily at him as they were
passing the dining-room; "A bear, a complete bear!" he thought to
himself. It was impossible to conceive a more striking resemblance.
Knowing that he had the habit of trampling upon other persons' feet,
our hero was very careful how he placed his, and allowed him to walk
before him. The host seemed to feel the sin of his awkwardness and
immediately turned round and said, "Have I, by any chance, hurt you?"
But Tchichikoff thanked him, and said, "That as yet he had not felt any
inconvenience."

On entering the reception-room, Sobakevitch pointed to an arm-chair,
saying again, abruptly, "Pray be seated!" In sitting down Tchichikoff
looked at the walls and the pictures that were hanging on them. The
pictures all represented finely grown men, apparently the leaders of
the last struggle for Hellenic independence; they were full-sized
engravings; Mavrocordato in a pair of red breeches and military dress,
with a pair of spectacles upon his nose; Miaouli and Kanaris.

All these heroes were represented with such enormous ties-and
extraordinary moustachios, that the sight of them made Tchichikoff
shudder. Among the heroic Hellenes there was also the portrait of the
Russian General Bagration, memorable for his services in the year
1812, a meagre, careworn old man; heaven knows why he had been placed
among these dashing heroes. Next came the portrait of the Grecian
heroine, Bobelina, whose foot seemed to be larger than the whole trunk
of any of the fashionables of our present drawing-rooms.

The host being a healthy and strong-built man himself, seemed to like
that his rooms should also be adorned with the portraits of strong and
healthy persons. Close to the Grecian heroine, Bobelina, and quite
close to the window, hung a cage, from which a well-fed blackbird was
peeping out, which was also very much like Sobakevitch.

The guest and host had not been silent for two minutes, when the door
suddenly opened and the lady hostess made her appearance, a lady
of a very high figure, in a cap profusely ornamented with ribbons,
which seemed to have been dyed at home. She entered the room very
ceremoniously, holding her head as straight as a palm-tree.

"This is my beloved Pheodulia Ivanovna!" said Sobakevitch.

Tchichikoff respectfully approached Pheodulia Ivanovna, and according
to Russian fashion, kissed her hand, which she nearly pushed between
his lips, at the same time he had an opportunity to observe, or rather
smell, that her hands had been washed in salt cucumber water.

"My darling, allow me to introduce you to Pavel Ivanovitch
Tchichikoff!" continued Sobakevitch, "I had the honour of making his
acquaintance at our Lord-Lieutenant's, and at the Postmaster-general's."

Pheodulia Ivanovna asked Tchichikoff to sit down, saying also very
abruptly, "I beg you will be seated!" and making a peculiar movement
with her head, not unlike that of an actress playing a tragedy queen.
After having done this, she seated herself upon the sofa, covered
herself with a merino shawl, and did not again move either her eyes or
her lips.

Tchichikoff lifted up his eyes again and beheld once more the Grecian
hero, Kanaris, with his enormous ties and interminable moustachios, as
well as the heroine, Bobelina, and the blackbird in its cage.

For more than five minutes all three remained silent; the only sign
of animation proceeded from the blackbird, who was pecking the wood
of his cage with his beak, and gathering the bread crumbs on the
bottom of it. Tchichikoff glanced once more around the room, and all,
whatever his eyes beheld--all was solid, clumsy, and tasteless in the
highest degree, and had a particular and strange resemblance to the
host himself; in one of the comers of the room, there stood a large
paunch-bellied nutwood bureau, upon four shapeless legs, a perfect
bear. The table, the arm-chairs, the common chairs, all were of the
most heavy and uncomfortable description, in a word, every article
which constituted the furniture of this room seemed to speak; and I am
also Sobakevitch!

"We have been thinking of you at the house of the President of the
Courts of Justice, Ivan Gregorievitch," at last said Tchichikoff,
perceiving that no one seemed inclined to break the silence and begin
to speak, "we thought of you on Thursday last. I spent a very pleasant
evening there."

"True, I was not at the President's on that evening," answered
Sobakevitch.

"He is an excellent and worthy man!" exclaimed Tchichikoff.

"Whom do you mean?" said Sobakevitch, looking at the corner of his
store.

"The President of the Courts of Justice, to be sure."

"Well, he might have seemed so to you; he is a freemason, and such a
fool, that the world cannot produce his equal."

Tchichikoff was rather startled when he heard this cutting
qualification of a person he knew, but recovering immediately from his
surprise, he continued: "To be sure, every man has his foibles, but I
cannot help expressing my admiration for the Governor-General."

"The Lord-Lieutenant, a man worthy of admiration?"

"Yes, and I hope you will agree with me in that opinion?"

"He is the greatest scoundrel on the face of the earth."

"What did you say? the Governor-General the greatest scoundrel?"
exclaimed Tchichikoff, perfectly incapable of comprehending how the
Lord-Lieutenant of the government of Smolensk could possibly have
entered the ranks of scoundrels.

"I must confess, I should never have believed that," he continued.
"However, allow me to observe, his actions do not at all seem such,
on the contrary, I should rather say that I believe him a man who
possesses many pleasant weaknesses." Here he also alluded to the
knitting and embroidery talents of his Excellency the Lord-Lieutenant
of the province, as an authority for his opinion of him, and expressed
himself in the highest terms of the winning expression of the
Governor-General's countenance.

"And his face even, is that of a scoundrel!" said Sobakevitch. "Only
place a knife in his hands, and let him free upon the high road, he
will cut your throat, he will murder you even for a copek! He and the
Vice-Governor, also, are of the same cast, they both are Gog and
Magog."

"No, I cannot be mistaken, he is not on good terms with them," thought
Tchichikoff to himself. "And I think I shall do better to speak to him
about the Chief of the Police force, he seems to be his friend."

"However, as far as I am personally concerned," he said, "I must
confess that I like the Chief Commissioner of the Police force better
than any other dignitary in Smolensk. He is such a straightforward and
candid man, his face speaks in his favour, and proclaims his kindness
of heart."

"He is a rogue," said Sobakevitch very coolly, "he will sell you,
betray you, and then even dine with you! I know them all but too well;
they are all great rogues, the whole town of Smolensk is inhabited by
such men; a rogue sitting on a rogue, and driving on a batch of rogues.
All are Christian sellers. To my knowledge, there is but one honest man
among them, and that man is the Imperial Procurator; but even he, if we
were to judge him strictly, even he is a pig."

After such laudatory, though rather short biographies, Tchichikoff
perceived that it would be useless to mention any other of the
dignitaries of Smolensk, and then only he recollected that Sobakevitch
was not in the habit of having a good opinion of any one.

"Come, my darling, let us now go to dinner," said the worthy spouse,
Lady Sobakevitch, to her husband.

"Allow me to invite you to dinner," said Sobakevitch. Alter saying
which he advanced towards a table, upon which an introductory meal
had been placed; the host and his guest each drank, as is customary,
a small glass of brandy, and had a bit of salt fish, or some such
appetite-stimulating foretastes, and in doing thus, they but did what
is customary in every town and village throughout the vast Russian
Empire; thus excited and prepared, they entered the dining-room, into
which they followed the hostess, who led them on like a goose her
goslings.

A small table was laid for four persons. The fourth place was soon
occupied, but it was difficult to say affirmatively by whom, whether
that person was a lady or a girl, relation, a guest or friend living in
the house; she was not adorned with a cap, was about thirty years of
age, and wore a variegated dress.

"Your cabbage-soup, my darling, is delicious to-day," said Sobakevitch
to his wife, whilst cutting and helping himself to a second enormous
piece of stuffing, and putting it into his soup. This stuffing, as it
might be called, for want of a better denomination in the English
language, is a well-known dish in every Russian household, and is
always served together with the national sour cabbage-soup; it is
made of the ventricles, head, and feet of a sheep, and stuffed with
buck-wheat grits.

"Such stuffing," he continued, turning towards Tchichikoff, "you could
not get to eat in town, where they have the habit of serving you with
Heaven knows what stuff!"

"The Lord-Lieutenant's dinners, however, are not so contemptible," said
Tchichikoff.

"Do you know how and of what stuff his dinners are made? If you knew
it, I'm sure you would not eat them."

"I do not know how they are prepared, and therefore cannot judge; but
his pork-chops and boiled flounders were delicious."

"It seemed so to you. But I know well what they buy in the market.
Their cook, the impudent fellow, who seems to have learnt his art in
France, is capable of buying a cat, skinning it, roasting it, and
serving it up as a hare."

"Fie! what an unpleasant allusion you make," said his wife.

"And why so, my dear? it is a fact, and I am sure they do that, if not
even worse. All that we would throw away in our country kitchen, the
town people would put in their soup, and find it even a delicacy--yes,
a delicacy. Such is their taste!"

"You are always in the habit of talking such nonsense at table," said
his wife, with an evident air of displeasure.

"Why, my heart," said Sobakevitch, "if I was to do it myself, it would
be a different thing; but I tell you candidly that I will never eat any
of their stuff. You may cover a frog with a crust of sugar, and yet I
would not take it into my mouth, nor what they call oysters; I know
what oysters are like."

"Take some mutton," he continued, addressing himself to Tchichikoff;
"this is a shoulder of mutton with grits. This is not a stew, as they
make it in town kitchens, where they employ mutton which has been
offered for sale for three or four days in the market."

Hereupon Sobakevitch shook his head angrily, whilst adding:

"When I am to have some roast or boiled pork, let me have the whole pig
on the table; if some mutton, I want to look at the whole animal; if a
goose, let me have the whole bird. I would rather feed on ope dish, but
feed to my heart's content."

Sobakevitch confirmed this principle by the deed: he placed the half of
the shoulder of mutton on his plate, ate it all, picked and licked over
the bones to the last.

"Yes," thought Tchichikoff to himself, "his lips are as good as his
mouth."

"It is not so with me," said Sobakevitch, whilst wiping his hands and
mouth on a napkin, "it is not with me as it is with a Pluschkin; he has
eight hundred serfs, but eats a worse dinner than any of my shepherds."

"Who is this Pluschkin?" inquired Tchichikoff.

"A scoundrel," answered Sobakevitch. "His avarice is so great that you
cannot form an idea of it. A prisoner lives better than him. He nearly
starves all his peasants."

"Really!" Tchichikoff exclaimed, with evident interest; "and you
believe that many of his serfs have died from want?"

"They die like flies."

"Do they really! But allow me to ask you, how far he lives from your
estate?"

"About five wersts."

"About five wersts!" Tchichikoff exclaimed again, and even felt a
perceptible pulsation of the heart. "But if I was to drive out of your
court-yard, would it be on the right or on the left-hand side?"

"I would not advise you even to know the road to that dog's kennel!"
said Sobakevitch. "It is more excusable to visit some forbidden place,
than the house of such a man as Pluschkin."

"Oh no, I did not ask that for any particular purpose; but simply
because I take an interest in knowing something about places and
positions of every description," was the reply of Tchichikoff.

After the shoulder of mutton followed some flounders, of which each
was considerably larger than the plates; then a turkey, nearly of the
size of a young calf, stuffed with all kinds of good things--with eggs,
rice, liver, and a variety of other condiments, which all had been
pressed into the fowl's stomach.

With the turkey, the dinner had an end; but when they rose from the
table, Tchichikoff felt heavier by at least half a hundredweight. They
entered the reception-room, where some sweetmeats, such as pears,
cherries, strawberries and other berries, preserved in sugar or honey,
were displayed on small china plates; however, neither the guest nor
the host could or would touch any. The lady hostess left the room for
the purpose of displaying some other kind upon other small plates, in
the hope that her guest would like to taste some of them. Profiting
by her momentary absence, Tchichikoff turned towards Sobakevitch, who
was lying in an arm-chair, and groaning after such a more than copious
dinner, and allowing some indistinct sounds to escape from his mouth,
using the one hand to make the sign of the cross, and holding the other
before his mouth. Tchichikoff addressed him in the following words:

"I should have liked to speak to you about a certain little business."

"Here are some more sweetmeats," said the hostess, returning with some
few small plates; "these are very rare fruits, and preserved in honey."

"Very well, my darling, we'll taste them later," said Sobakevitch.
"You had better now return into your own room, for Pavel Ivanovitch and
myself are going to take off our coats and rest ourselves a little."

Lady Sobakevitch offered to send in some soft pillows, but her husband
opposed it, and answered her, "Never mind, we will take our rest in
these arm-chairs;" and the lady left the room.



CHAPTER II.


Sobakevitch bent his head slightly on one side, prepared to hear what
the little business consisted in.

Tchichikoff began to speak, but his argument was of a very obscure
nature; he alluded in very general terms to the whole Russian Empire,
and expressed himself in terms of great praise about its territorial
extent, and said, that even the ancient Roman Empire was far less in
extent and power, and that other nations are justly surprised at the
magnitude of the largest Empire in the world.

Sobakevitch continued to listen, with his head bent on one side.

And that, according to existing statutes of this vast empire--the
grandeur of which has no equal--the census population, namely, those
who have to pay a capitation tax, though hundreds and thousands of them
have already, since then; terminated their worldly existence, remain
still upon the lists, and are taxed until the next census be taken--a
period of fifty years--on a _par_ with the living; although, and it
must not be forgotten, that, as a medium of equalization, the new-born
population within the space of these fifty years is not liable to any
taxation before the next census be taken again; and this was done
for the purpose of not over-burthening the imperial administrations
with too many difficult and tedious regulations, but principally to
avoid as far as possible any additional complication of the already
over-complicated mechanism of the imperial administrations.

Sobakevitch still listened with his head bent on one side.

And, that notwithstanding the justice and efficiency of this measure,
it yet presented but too numerous instances of heavy burthen and
great expense to the majority of landed proprietors, obliging them to
pay the tax for both their dead serfs as well as for their living
subjects, and that he, Tchichikoff, feeling a particular and personal
regard for him, Sobakevitch, was willing to undertake the payment of
this burthensome capitation tax for the dead, in consequence of his
unfeigned esteem and friendship for him. As regards the principal
objects themselves, Tchichikoff expressed himself very carefully
indeed; in alluding to them, he never called them dead serfs, but not
existing, poor souls.

During the whole period of Tchichikoff's speech, Sobakevitch had
continued to listen silently as before, with his head slightly inclined
on one side, and not even once was there the slightest change in his
countenance, or a different expression visible in his face. It seemed
as if this body had no soul, or as if it was not at all where it ought
to have been; like an indefatigable miser, he seemed to have hidden it
in some secret corner, and covered with such an impenetrable shell,
that whatever battered upon its surface could not stir or move the
kernel within.

"And thus," said Tchichikoff, awaiting a reply with some degree of
anxious expectation.

"You want some dead serfs?" demanded Sobakevitch, simply, without the
slightest emotion or surprise, as if the question was about bread,
salt, or meat.

"Yes," answered Tchichikoff; and again he softened down the expression,
adding, "the non existing ones."

"I can let you have some; why not?" said Sobakevitch.

"And, since you have some, I have no doubt you will be glad to get rid
of them?"

"With pleasure; I am ready to sell them," said Sobakevitch, whilst
slightly raising his head, for he began to suspect that the purchaser
would undoubtedly know how to derive an advantage from his speculation.

"The devil!" thought Tchichikoff to himself, "this man wants to sell
them before I have made him an offer to purchase any!" and he then said
aloud: "And what would your price he? although I must confess that the
objects are such, that it is rather strange to speak of a price."

"Well then, and in order not to ask a high price from you, I will fix
them at a hundred roubles a-piece," said Sobakevitch.

"A hundred roubles!" exclaimed Tchichikoff, opening his mouth widely,
and looking him straight into the eyes, not knowing whether he had
heard rightly, or whether Sobakevitch's tongue, prompted by his heavy
intelligence, had tripped, and pronounced accidentally one word for
another.

"Well, is that too dear for you?" articulated Sobakevitch; and then he
added: "But allow me to ask, what would your price be?"

"My price! We have, no doubt, misunderstood one another; we seem to
have forgotten what our subject is. As far as I am concerned, and
laying my hand upon my heart, one rouble would be the fairest price I
could offer you."

"Halloa! what a ridiculous price, to be sure, one rouble!"

"Why, according to my judgment, and as I think, I could not give more."

"But remember, I do not sell you any cat's-paws."

"However, you must agree; they are not any real men."

"That is your opinion; but go and find me such a fool, who would agree
to sell you a census serf for a single rouble."

"But allow me to ask you, why do you call them census serfs? They
are dead long since, nothing remains of them but an incomprehensible
sound in their appellation. However, in order to avoid the trouble of
entering more particularly in a discussion on abstract matters, I am
ready to offer you one rouble and a half, but more I really could not."

"You ought to be ashamed to offer me such a price! You like to drive a
bargain; well then, tell me your real price."

"I really cannot offer you more, my dear Michael Semenovitch, believe
me, on my honour, I cannot. What cannot be done that might be done?'
said Tchichikoff; yet, notwithstanding, he made an addition of half a
rouble.

"Why are you so niggardly?" said Sobakevitch; "it is really not
dear. Another scoundrel would cheat you; he would not sell you real
serfs like I do, but some worthless stuff; all mine are like green
hazel-nuts, all picked men; and if they are not artizans by profession,
still they are strong, healthy, and fit for everything. Just let us
examine them a little. There is, for an example, my former cart-maker,
Micheeff; he never worked at anything less than a spring-cart. And,
if you please, not such workmanship as they sell you at Moscow, which
lasts for an hour, and not longer; oh no, his work was of first-rate
durability, and besides, he used to do the carving and polishing work
as well."

Tchichikoff opened his mouth, with the intention of making the
observation, that the peasant Micheeff, the spring-cart maker, had
already left this world for some time; but Sobakevitch entered
suddenly, as the phrase goes, with spirit into the nature of the
subject, Heaven only knows whence he derived his power of language and
vigour of expression; however, he continued:

"And my Stephan, the joiner! I'd wager my head, that you cannot find
me another peasant like he was. He was a regular Hercules! If he had
served in the guards, he would have been one of the finest soldiers in
the regiment, he was above seven feet high!"

Tchichikoff was again on the point of making the observation, that
Stephan had also departed this world; but Sobakevitch, as it appeared,
was carried away by his subject, his flow of language was not easily to
be stopped, now was the time to listen to him.

"Milushkin, the potter, was capable of putting you a stove in any part
of the house. Again, Maxim Teliatnikoff, the shoemaker; whatever he
pierced with his awl, became a pair of boots, and whatever boots he
made, for such I paid him the compliment of a thank you. And Germei
Sorokopleokin! I can assure you that this fellow alone was worth all
the others, he used to hawk about in Moscow, and paid me an annual
quit-rent of five hundred roubles. Such were the people, and far from
such stuff as you might buy from a fellow like Pluschkin."

"But allow me to observe," Tchichikoff at last said, quite bewildered
by such an abundance of words, to which there promised now to be no
end, "why do you enumerate all their former professions? all these
qualities are of no use to them or others now, because all these
people are dead, at this time being."

"Oh, yes, to be sure, they are dead," said Sobakevitch, as if
considering and recollecting suddenly, that they were in reality all
dead and gone, and then he added, "however, I must observe, what are
the people now reckoned as living? yes, what are these people? flies,
but not men!"

"But for all that they exist, and that is a point of imagination."

"Oh no, not at all a point of imagination! I will describe to you what
a fellow my Micheeff was, and I am sure you will not be able to find
many more like him; he was of such a size, that he could not have
entered this room, and that is no point of imagination! And in his
shoulders, he possessed such power as you will rarely meet with in a
horse; I am therefore curious to know where you could find such another
point of imagination?"

"No, really, I could not offer you any more than two roubles,"
Tchichikoff said again.

"Very well, then, and in order to be agreeable to you, and that you
might not pretend that I demanded too high a price, and that I would
not oblige you, you shall have them at seventy-five roubles each dead
serf, but all in bank notes, and I really do it all out of friendship
for you."

"Does he really take me for a fool," thought Tchichikoff to himself,
and then added aloud: "All this seems very strange to me; it would
appear that we are playing a comedy, else I really could not explain
how--you seem to be a man of sound judgment, you can pretend to a
superior education, don't you therefore see and understand, that the
object in question is simply, phu, phu! what is it really worth? who
could make use of it?"

"But you wish to purchase them, I think it therefore obvious that you
want them."

When Tchichikoff heard this, he bit his lips, and could not find an
answer. He began to mutter something about family connexions and
household circumstances, but Sobakevitch interrupted him, and said
simply:

"I do not want to know anything about your circumstances, I never mix
in family concerns, all that is your own affair. You stand in want of
serfs, I am ready to sell some, and I may add, you will be dissatisfied
with yourself if you don't buy them of me."

"Well then, two roubles," said Tchichikoff.

"What a curious man you are; you seem to have fixed upon two, and now
you cannot get off them. Offer me your last price."

"May the devil take him," thought Tchichikoff to himself, "I will give
him half a rouble more, and make the proverb true, for the dog to buy
nuts with!

"Very well then, I offer you half a rouble more."

"Now then, I will also tell you my last word; fifty roubles I really
it is a loss to me, you will not buy them cheaper anywhere, especially
such excellent peasants as they were!"

"What a fist that man is to be sure," said Tchichikoff to himself, and
then he continued aloud with a slight degree of anger:

"Really, I must confess, it was ridiculous to treat the matter as
serious, because in many another place I could get dead serfs for
nothing. Many a one would be extremely glad to give them to me, and
thus get rid of them as soon as possible. A fool would he be indeed,
who after my offer would still persist to keep them and continue to pay
the capitation tax."

"But do you know also, that purchases of this description--I say this
between ourselves, and in good friendship--are not always safe and
practicable; and if I, or any one else was to mention them to a third
party, such a person could get himself into great difficulties, and
expose himself to lose all confidence for the future, as regards trust
in contracts or any other business transactions."

"Oh, the rascal, that is what he is aiming at," thought Tchichikoff,
and here he spoke with an air of great unconcern, "as you like, my dear
Sir, I wish to buy them, not for any particular purpose, as you seem
to suppose, but simply from a fancy, an inclination of my own. If you
won't accept two roubles and a half then, fare you well!"

"I shall not be able to confuse him: he is obstinate," thought
Sobakevitch. "Heaven be with you! give me thirty and take them all!"

"No, I perceive you don't wish to sell them. Farewell!"

"Stop, stop! wait a little!" exclaimed Sobakevitch, holding him by the
hand, and treading upon his feet, because our hero had forgotten to
take care of himself, and as a punishment for it, he was obliged to
limp upon one leg.

"I beg your pardon! It seems I have hurt you. Pray be seated here. I
beg your pardon once more."

Hereupon he made him sit down again and rather cleverly too, as a bear
would do who has been already taught to perform some evolution.

"Really, I think I am only losing my time; besides I am in a hurry."

"Pray sit down, if but for a moment. I will tell you immediately
something very pleasant."

Hereupon, Sobakevitch seated himself quite dose to Tchichikoff, and
whispered into his ear, as if a secret:

"Will you make it a quarter?"

"That is to say, twenty-five roubles. No, no, no, I will not even give
you a quarter of a quarter. I will not give you an additional copek."

Sobakevitch remained silent; Tchichikoff did the same.

This silence lasted for about two minutes. The Grecian hero Kolokotroni
looked very seriously from his frame on the wall upon the bargaining
parties below.

"What will really be your last price?" said Sobakevitch at last.

"Two roubles and a half."

"Really a human soul seemed to have with you no greater value than a
dried beetroot. Give me at least three roubles."

"I cannot."

"Well! what am I to do with you? You shall have them. It is a loss to
me, and no mistake; but such is my doggish nature, I could never refuse
to be agreeable to my fellow-creatures. But I think I am right in
saying that it will be requisite to draw up a contract of sale for the
lawful settlement of the bargain."

"Most certainly."

"In that case, I shall have to go to Smolensk," said Sobakevitch.

Thus then the bargain for Sobakevitch's dead serfs was concluded. They
agreed to meet the next day in town, and to settle all the formalities
of the contract of sale at their first meeting there.

Tchichikoff now demanded a list of all the dead serfs that were to
become his property. To this request Sobakevitch agreed willingly, and
sat down immediately at his writing-desk, and wrote down not only the
names of every one but also their laudable qualifications.

"The note is ready," Sobakevitch soon said as he turned round.

"Heady? Allow me to look at it." Tchichikoff took the paper in his
hand, and whilst running his eyes over it, he was surprised to behold
its neatness and accuracy; not only were profession, name, age and
family estate minutely noted down, but there was even a special column
in which particular annotations had been made as regarded the degree of
morality and conduct of his deceased serfs; in a word, it was a real
pleasure to look at the document.

"Now I hope you will have no objection to pay me a god-penny," said
Sobakevitch.

"Why should I give you anything on account? You shall receive the whole
amount at once, on our first meeting in town."

"You well know that such is the custom with us in the country," replied
Sobakevitch.

"I really do not know how I am to manage that, for I have not much
money about me. However, here is a ten-rouble note."

"What are ten roubles? Give me at least fifty."

Tchichikoff wanted to make him believe that he could not spare any more
for the present; but Sobakevitch insisted so positively that he had
some more money about him, that he could not help producing another
bank-note, and saying:

"Very well, then, since you insist upon having some more, here are
fifteen more, which makes it altogether twenty-five roubles. But allow
me now to trouble you for a receipt."

"What do you want a receipt for?"

"You know well it is better to have a receipt for the payment of money.
Our hours of existence are uncertain--something might happen."

"Very well, let me have the money."

"Why should you have the money first? I hold the notes here in my hand.
As soon as you will have written the receipt, in that same moment you
may have the money."

"Pardon me; how am I to write out a receipt? I must first see the
money."

Tchichikoff allowed the bank-notes to be taken from his hand, and
Sobakevitch being now in possession of them, approached the table and
covering them with his left hand, began to write out with his right the
receipt upon a small piece of paper, that he had received an account of
twenty-five roubles in imperial bank-notes for a number of serfs sold
by him to Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff. After having written and signed
the receipt, he once more examined the bank-notes.

"This note is a rather old one," remarked he, slowly, whilst carefully
examining one of them against the light; "a little tom also. However,
we must not look upon these trifles when we deal with friends."

"Oh! you fist, you fist!" thought Tchichikoff to himself, "and a beast
besides."

"By the bye, would you perhaps like to have some of my females?"

"No, I am very much obliged to you for the offer all the same."

"I should not have asked a high price; out of regard for you, I would
not charge more than a rouble a-piece."

"No, I do not stand in want of any of the female sex."

"Well, if you cannot make any use of them, then it is useless to speak
another word-about them. It is impossible to dispute on matter of
colour and taste. 'The one likes the pope, the other his wife,' as our
proverb says."

"Oh, I nearly forgot to ask you to keep this little transaction a
secret between ourselves," said Tchichikoff in taking leave.

"Oh yes, this is perfectly understood. It is useless to mix a third
in this matter; that which happens by common consent between intimate
friends, must remain in their friendship. Farewell! I was glad to see
you. Do not forget me in future. If you should have an hour to spare,
come and dine and pass a little time with us. It might again happen
that we could be agreeable one to another."

"Don't you believe it!" thought Tchichikoff to himself, whilst taking
his seat in the britchka. "He has charged me two roubles and a half
for each of his dead serfs! the man is the devil's own fist!"

When the britchka had left the court-yard of the house, Tchichikoff
turned round to cast a last glance around him, and in looking back, he
saw that Sobakevitch still stood upon the door-step of his house, and,
as it seemed, was looking out to see what turning his guest was about
to take.

"The fist, he is still on the same spot," murmured Tchichikoff between
his teeth, and ordered Selifan, who had just turned in the direction of
the village, to drive his carriage in such a manner that they should
not be seen from the gentleman's house.

He intended calling at Pluschkin's, whose serfs, according to the
words of Sobakevitch were dying like flies, but he did not wish that
Sobakevitch should know about it. When the britchka had passed the last
house in the village, he hailed the first peasant whom he happened to
see, and who was carrying a large log of wood upon his shoulders, like
an indefatigable ant towards his dwelling, and addressed him thus:

"Halloa, my bearded man! how can I drive to Pluschkin's estate,
without passing your master's house?"

The mouzhik seemed 'obviously embarrassed at the question.

"Well, don't you know?"

"No, your glory, I don't."

"Eh, what a fellow you are! And with all that you wear grey hair and
beard! don't you know the miser Pluschkin, who has the reputation of
starving his peasants?"

"Ah, you mean the ragged one!" exclaimed the peasant. He then added
another stronger surname, but as it is an expression not used in
society, we will omit it, though it was a strong and harmonizing word
with the first surname of the miser. It might be easily imagined that
the second surname must have been a very pointed one indeed, for
although the peasant had passed on, and the britchka had been long out
of sight from the village, Tchichikoff was still smiling at the word
whilst sitting in his britchka.



CHAPTER III.


On driving up to the house, Tchichikoff soon perceived a human figure,
who began to converse with the peasant who had just arrived with his
telega. For a long while he could not discover to what sex this figure
belonged; whether it was an old woman or a mouzhik. The dress was
absolutely shapeless, but nevertheless very much like a female's garb,
the head-dress was a kind of colpack, as worn by the aged village
crones, yet the voice seemed to him to be too loud for a woman's.

"Oh,'tis an old woman!" he thought for a moment to himself, and
immediately added: "oh, no. To be sure,'tis a woman," he said at last,
after a closer examination.

The figure, on its side, also looked very attentively at Tchichikoff. A
guest or a stranger seemed to be to it a wonderful apparition, because
it not only looked at him alone, but also at Selifan and the horses,
beginning from their tails, and ending with their heads. To judge
by the keys which were hanging down its left side by a broad belt,
and because it was scolding the poor peasant of the cart in a very
loud voice, Tchichikoff came to the conclusion that this figure was
obviously the housekeeper.

"Halloa, old mother," said he, as he got out of his britchka, "where is
your master?"

"Not at home," the housekeeper interrupted him, not waiting even for
the question to be finished, but a moment later she added: "and what do
you want?"

"I have some business with him."

"Will you then walk into this room," said the housekeeper, turning
round and showing him her back covered all over with flour, and the
lower portion of her garb tom beneath.

He entered a large and dark passage, the air in which was as cold and
damp as in a cellar. From the passage he emerged into a small room,
also very dark, scarcely enlivened by a glimpse of light, which shone
through a large crevice in the lower portion of the door opposite. On
opening this broken door before him, he at last entered an apartment in
which real daylight greeted him, though the disorder which prevailed in
it surprised him considerably.

It seemed as if the other portions of the house were undergoing a
regular scrubbing, and that this room had been chosen for the temporary
reception of all the furniture. Upon one of the large tables stood an
old broken chair, and, next to it lay an old clock with its silent
pendulum, around which some spiders had already found time to spin
their cobwebs. There also leant against the wall an old-fashioned
cupboard, covered with old silver plate, decanters, glasses and china.

Upon a large writing table, inlaid with mother of pearl mosaic, which
was broken out in many places, leaving but the yellow spots of the
mastic behind, lay a variety of objects; a heap of written small slips
of papers, upon which lay a marble letter-weight with a handle in
the shape of an egg on it, an ancient looking book, bound in rough
Russian leather with red edges, a lemon, dried and withered away to
the size of a walnut, a piece of a broken arm-chair, a wine glass
containing a dark fluid with three dead flies in it, a few letters,
some sealing-wax, a small dirty rag, picked up somewhere on the road,
two quills, besmeared all over with ink, which had dried upon them long
since, a tooth-brush, which had become quite yellow from age and use,
and with which the owner seemed to have been in the habit of cleaning
his teeth ever since the French invasion of 1812.

Whilst Tchichikoff was still looking around him at the strange
arrangement of this apartment, the same housekeeper entered again,
through a small side door, which he had seen on his arrival in the
court-yard. But now this person appeared to him rather a steward than a
female housekeeper: because a woman is not likely to use a razor upon
her face, and this person seemed to have the habit of shaving, though
it appeared to be done but occasionally, because the whole of the lower
portion of her face looked rather like a scrubbing-brush for a horse's
skin made of strong iron wire.

Tchichikoff giving his face an expression of inquisitiveness, now
looked anxiously forward, awaiting the steward to be the first speaker.
The steward, in his turn, seemed also determined to await what
Tchichikoff had to say in explanation of his presence.

At last, however, our hero getting tired of this unpleasant suspense
and silence, resolved to address the strange-looking person before him.

"Well, where is your master? is he at home?"

"He is here," said the steward.

"Where is he?" repeated Tchichikoff.

"Well, my good Sir, you are perhaps shortsighted," said the steward. "I
am the master whom you wish to see."

Hereupon our hero could not help stepping back a few paces and looking
steadfastly at the man before him.

It had happened to him to meet with people of all bodily descriptions,
even with such persons as most likely our courteous reader and
ourselves never met; but such a man as he now saw before him he had
never met with before.

His face did not present any particularly striking features; it was
nearly like all faces of lean and old men; his chin projected to such
an extent that he was obliged to cover it with his pocket-handkerchief
so as not to spit upon it occasionally; his small eyes very far from
being dimmed by age, on the contrary, from under their heavy eyebrows
they glittered like those of a mouse, when that little animal comes
forward from its hole and puts forth its little snout to smell about
if there is any danger from a cat, or whether some naughty boy has not
laid a trap for it.

His dress was much more characteristic and remarkable. No investigation
or expedient would have availed to discover of what peculiar material
his morning-gown had been patched together; the sleeves and upper body
of his dress were greased and besmeared to such a degree, that they
actually had the appearance if not exactly the peculiar smell of that
celebrated Russian leather called "jüchte," and which is commonly used
among the lower classes to make their boots of.

From his back, four skirts hung loosely down instead of two, and out of
which the cotton wadding was profusely bursting forth. There was also
something tied round his neck, but it was impossible to define whether
it was a stocking, a garter, or a pair of braces; at all events, it was
not a neckerchief.

In a word, if Tchichikoff had met this man thus attired near the portal
of a church, he would have undoubtedly tendered him a few coppers,
for be it said to the honour of our hero that he was of a charitable
disposition, and that he could seldom resist the temptation of giving a
copek to a beggar.

But before him there now stood not a beggar, but a Russian landlord
of rank. A man who called more than a thousand human beings his own
serfs, and it would have also been difficult for any one to find many
other proprietors possessing such extensive granaries filled with such
a variety and quantity of com, flour, and meal--or to behold stores and
warehouses like his, stocked with equal quantities of linen, cloth,
wool, in fleeces, and shorn from the skin, smoked meats, dried fish,
and other products of a fertile soil.

Pluschkin had been standing for some minutes without speaking a word,
but Tchichikoff was still unable to begin a conversation, for he was
completely disconcerted by the singular appearance of the man before
him, as well as by everything that surrounded him in the room. For a
long time he could not imagine in what terms to explain the object of
his visit. He was several times on the point of expressing himself in
the following terms: that, having heard the praise of his benevolence
and the rare qualities of his heart, he felt it to be his duty to come
and pay his personal tribute at the shrine of such great virtues, but
he suddenly bethought himself, and felt that this would be saying too
much.

Casting another hasty glance upon everything in the room, he came
to the conclusion, that the words benefactor and rare qualities of
the heart, might be successfully replaced by the following terms:
economy and order; after this observation, he adapted his address in
consequence and spoke thus:--

"That he had heard much to the advantage of his system of economy and
the wise administration of his vast estates, and that he therefore felt
it his duty to seek his acquaintance and acknowledge personally his
profound esteem for a man of such great reputation." We must confess,
that some more plausible reason might have been brought forward,
however; nothing better suggested itself to the mind of our hero at
that particular moment.

To this complimentary address, Pluschkin murmured something in reply
between his lips, because he had no teeth; what the exact words were it
is impossible for us to tell, very likely something to the following
effect: "The devil take you and your esteem!"

But, as hospitality is still in fashion with us, so much in fashion
indeed, that even a miser dare not offend its laws and privileges,
therefore the old niggard added immediately, and a little more audibly,
"I pray you, Sir, be seated!"

"It is long since I have received company," said he, "and I must
candidly confess I see no advantage in welcoming idle visitors. Some
foolish people have introduced the fashion of driving about from one
estate to the other, and thus neglect their own households--and if they
happen to arrive, you have even to feed their horses and men as well!
I have already dined some hours since, and my kitchen is so very low,
badly constructed, and the chimney is crumbling, that, were I to order
some fire again I might easily set the whole house on fire."

"Oh, oh, is that it!" thought Tchichikoff to himself, "it is well I
made a good dinner at Sobakevitch's house, on the cabbage and shoulder
of mutton."

"And a truss of hay and some bushels of oats are no joke in these hard
times in any household!" continued Pluschkin, "and really, the more
I think of it the more absurd this evil custom seems to me. I have
but a small estate, my peasants are idle and do not like to work, but
think only how to get into the dram-shop--really it is frightful to
contemplate, one might easily go begging."

"However, I have been told," calmly observed Tchichikoff, "that you
call more than a thousand serfs your own."

"And who has told you that? My dear Sir, you ought to have spit into
the face of that person who told you this! he is a fool and wants to
pass a joke upon you. All proclaim me to be the possessor of a thousand
souls, but if they were to number them they would really find none.
During the last three years the fever has carried off numbers of my
best and healthiest peasants."

"Is it possible! and have you indeed lost many?" exclaimed
Tchichikoff, with visible interest.

"Yes, the fever has carried off a great many."

"But allow me to inquire how many in number?"

"About eighty souls."

"No, is it really so many?"

"My good Sir, I have no interest to hide the truth."

"Allow me to ask you one more question. I suppose you estimate the
number of your dead serfs to be eighty, since you handed in your last
census?"

"If that was the case, I should thank heaven for not having lost
more," said Pluschkin, "no, my good Sir, since I sent my last census
to government, and paid my capitation tax, I have lost more than one
hundred and twenty serfs!"

"Really, one hundred and twenty peasants!" exclaimed again Tchichikoff
loudly, and even opened his mouth more than usual, in consequence of
his astonishment.

"Good Sir, I am too old to tell a falsehood. I am fast advancing to my
fourth score," said Pluschkin. He seemed even a little offended at the
stranger's apparently joyful exclamation.

Tchichikoff also observed that he had gone too far in not observing due
compassion with that which another person considers a grievous loss;
and, therefore, after heaving a deep sigh, he added that he felt the
greatest commiseration for him.

"'Tis all very fine talking about commiseration, but with all that you
cannot put it in your pocket," replied Pluschkin. "I may quote as an
example a certain colonel, who lives on an estate next to mine, and who
has come heaven knows wherefrom! he says that he is a relation of mine;
calls me his uncle, his dear grand uncle! and even kisses my hands; but
when he begins to speak of his commiseration, he raises such a howling,
that I do not know how to save my ears. He has a face all on fire; and
with all that appearance pretends to like meagre fare and buck-wheat
grits. No doubt that young fellow spent all his money when he served in
the army, or some ballet-girl girl has cheated him out of it; and that
I must suppose makes him now so full of commiseration!"

Tchichikoff endeavoured to explain to the old man, that his
commiseration was quite of a different nature from that of the colonel,
and that he was ready to prove it, not with empty words, but with
tangible facts; and without any further arguments, he proceeded to
the business at once, and informed the old miser of his readiness
to undertake the payment of the capitation tax for all such of his
peasants as had died since the last census, victims of a contagious
fever.

This proposal seemed perfectly to bewilder Pluschkin. He opened his
eyes wildly, looked for a long time steadfastly into the face of the
speaker, and at last put the following question to him:

"Pardon me, my good Sir, but have you perhaps also served in the army?"

"No," answered Tchichikoff, with a pleasing air of artfulness, "I have
served in the civil ranks."

"Oh! a civilian?" repeated Pluschkin, and began to move his lips, as
if he was eating something. "But how do you mean it? This offer which
you make to me, would be a positive expense to yourself?"

"To be agreeable to you, I am even willing to be a loser."

"Oh, my good Sir! oh, you are my benefactor!" exclaimed Pluschkin,
so much overcome with joy, that he did not observe that a large drop
of fluid snuff had made its appearance on the point of his nose, and
that whilst raising his arms to accompany his exclamations he opened
his morning-gown, and thus displayed an under-dress not at all fit for
description.

"What a consolation you have brought me! oh, good Heaven! oh, my holy
saints!--" and more than this Pluschkin was incapable of articulating.

But a minute had scarcely elapsed, since this joy had shown itself so
suddenly upon the mummy-like face of the old man, when it again as
suddenly disappeared from his features, and his face again assumed its
usual expression of care and anxiety. He recovered even as far again
his self-possession as to wipe his nose, and rolling his handkerchief
into a ball, he began to pass it across his lips, to and fro.

"With your permission, and without wishing to offend you in the least,
will you allow me to ask you, whether you will agree to undertake to
pay the tax annually till the next census? and the money for it, would
you like to pay it to me, or at once into the imperial treasury?"

"I would suggest that we should come to the following arrangement: we
will draw up a contract of sale, in which we will agree that all the
hundred-and-twenty serfs are alive, and that you have sold them to me."

"Oh, by a contract of sale," said Pluschkin, musingly, and again
munching his lips. "But you see, my dear Sir, a contract of sale is
an expense. And the imperial _employés_ are so very impudent indeed!
Formerly you could oblige them to do their duty by presenting them
with a rouble and a sack of flour, but now-a-day one is obliged to
send them nearly a cart-load of grits and a ten rouble note besides,
there is such a love for money now prevalent among them. I am quite
surprised how it is that nobody else has paid any attention to this
real nuisance. Some one ought to have come forward and spoken words of
exhortation and salvation to those rogues! Words of exhortation pierce
every heart. Whatever people may say, I am of opinion that no sinner
can resist words of salvation."

"I should say, you could resist them!" thought Tchichikoff to himself,
and he added aloud, that he was ready--out of pure esteem for the old
man--to pay the expense of the contract of sale out of his own pocket.

On hearing this offer made to him, that even the expenses of the
contract of sale would not be an expense to him, Pluschkin came to the
conclusion that his strange guest must be completely deranged, and that
he only pretended he had been in the civil service of his country, and
that there could be no doubt that he had served as an officer in the
army, and had been in the habit of courting actresses and ballet-girls.

Notwithstanding this opinion, he could impossibly hide his
satisfaction, and wished his guest and his children and grandchildren
all the blessings of Providence, without asking him previously whether
he was married, and whether he had any family. He then hurried towards
the window, and thumping with his bony fingers on the glass, he shouted
out:

"Holloa, Proschka."

In a minute later, hurried footsteps were heard in the passage, and
soon after behind the door of the apartment in which our hero and his
host were; but the person outside continued for some time making a
fearful noise with his boots, at last the door was opened and Proschka
entered. He was a boy of about thirteen years of age; the boots which
he wore were so large, that each step which he made forwards threatened
to leave his boots behind.

Why the boy, Proschka, wore such a large pair of boots we can explain
immediately; Pluschkin kept for the whole of his retinue--however
many--but one pair of boots, which were always to be left behind the
door in the passage. Every servant who was called by his master was
obliged to skip bare-footed across the court-yard, but as soon as he
entered the long and dark passage leading to his lord's apartment he
was obliged to step into the boots, and then only allowed to enter the
room of his master.

In leaving the chamber, he had to strip himself of those boots,
and return to his own quarters on his natural soles. If any one
had happened to have been standing at the window of Pluschkin's
mansion--especially on a freezing autumn morning--he would have
witnessed the skipping and jumping of the whole of his domestic
servants, who made such evolutions as can scarcely be equalled by even
the cleverest clown or ballet dancer.

"But, do me the favour, my good Sir, to look at this boy's face!" said
Pluschkin to Tchichikoff, whilst pointing to the face of his servant
boy, Proschka, "he seems as stupid as a log of wood, but try only to
leave anything lying loose, in a minute he is sure to steal it! Now
then, stupid boy, what have you come here for?"

After having said this he remained silent a few moments, which was
answered by a silence from Proschka as well.

"Heat the samovar, do you hear me? and then give this key to Mavra,
and tell her to go into the pantry; there she will find a large fish
biscuit--given to me by Lady Alexander Stepanovna--tell her to serve
this cake with the tea!"

After saying this, he could not help looking with an air of suspicion
even upon Tchichikoff. Such traits of unusual generosity began to
appear to him quite impossible, and he thought to himself:--

"The devil knows him and where he comes from; he might be a man fond of
boasting, like all those military spendthrifts; he will humbug me just
to have something to boast about, drink my tea, eat my cake, and then
say farewell!"

After reasoning thus with himself, he came to the conclusion that it
would be better to be careful and test the honesty of his strange
guest, and he therefore proposed that it would be a good thing to
proceed at once to the drawing up of the contract of sale, because man
was mortal; to-day alive, and to-morrow heaven knows where.



CHAPTER IV.


Tchichikoff assured the old miser of his readiness to conclude the
contract that very minute, and only demanded a list of all the peasants
that were now to become his property.

This readiness considerably tranquillized Pluschkin. It was obvious
that he was trying to remember or do something, and really, after a
few moments of reflection and hesitation, he approached his cupboard,
produced a bunch of keys, and opened the glass doors of it, he was a
considerable time in removing a number of decanters, wine glasses, and
cups, and at last exclaimed: "It is impossible for me to find it now, I
had some sweet liquors of cream, provided my servants have not drunk
it! they are so disobedient! Ah, should this perhaps be it?"

Tchichikoff now beheld a small decanter in his hands, which was thickly
covered by a coat of dust. "This was distilled by my late and much
lamented wife," continued Pluschkin; "my roguish housekeeper seems
to have completely mislaid it, and has not even put the cork in, the
negligent old wretch! Cobwebs, spiders, and dies have fallen into the
bottle, however, I have removed them, and will now pour out some for
you, a nice and dean glass full."

But Tchichikoff respectfully declined to taste any of such liquor,
saying that he had already been eating and drinking.

"You have already been eating and drinking;" said Pluschkin. "Yes,
truly, a well-bred man may be recognised by the smallest trifles;
he does not eat, and yet is fed; but when some of those hungry and
dishonest run-abouts come, you may feed them as long as you like. The
Captain for instance--who visits me by far too often; 'dear uncle,'
he is accustomed to say, 'pray let me have first something to eat!'
and after all, I am as dear an uncle to him as he is a nephew to me.
I have not the least doubt, but the young fellow has nothing to eat at
home, and of course keeps annoying me, and running about everywhere.
But, by the bye, I think you will require a list of all these idlers?
To be sure, whenever one of them died, I made it a point to note down
his name, so as to have them ready for being scratched off at the
approaching census."

Pluschkin while saying this, put on a pair of wretched spectacles,
and began to stir about in a heap of papers. In untying various
packages, he treated his guest to such a cloud of dust, that he made
him sneeze. At last he produced a slip of paper, written upon on every
available space. The names of the dead serfs covered it as thickly as
mushrooms. There were Christian and family names of every kind and
length, such as Ponomareff, Pimenoff, Semenoff, and Panteleimonoff, and
even the long name of Gregory Dogeschainedogedish; in all more than a
hundred-and-twenty different names.

Tchichikoff smiled with inward satisfaction at the sight of such a
number. Securing this curious document, and putting it in his pocket,
he made the observation to Pluschkin, that he would have to come to
town in order to conclude, in a legal manner, the contract of sale of
these dead serfs.

"Go to town, but how? how am I to leave my house? my servants are one
and all either thieves or scoundrels, in a day they would be capable of
robbing me so well, that on my return I should not be able even to find
a nail to bang my coat upon."

"In that case, you have perhaps a friend in town?"

"Yes, to be sure, a friend, but to whom? All my acquaintances have
died, or have forgotten me; but stop, my good Sir! I now remember one,
how should I not have a friend, to be sure I have one!" exclaimed the
old man suddenly. "I am on friendly terms with the President, he used
to visit me often in bygone years, how should I not know him, or he me!
we were like wheels of the same carriage, always together, up to any
mischief! how should we not know one another? he is my best friend!
would you advise me to entrust him with this business?"

"I advise you most certainly to do so," replied Tchichikoff.

"Then I will write to him, because he is a very intimate friend
of mine! indeed, now I remember it, our friendship dates from our
childhood, we were intimate school-fellows."

And suddenly over this wooden parchment-like face a warm flush passed,
but it did not express feelings of a pleasant recollection, no, only
something like a faint shadow of real feeling, an apparition similar
to the unexpected appearance of a drowning man above the surface of
the water, who causes a shout of joy among the crowd gathered along
the shores. But unavailingly do his suddenly rejoiced brothers and
sisters throw out cords and ropes to his assistance, hoping to see once
more his head, or outstretched hands, trying to seize it--alas! it was
his last re-appearance. All is silent, and the now silent and smooth
element becomes but more ominous and terrifying. Something analogous
was also visible in the expression of Pluschkin's features, after a
momentary flush of sensibility, the expression of his face became but
more unfeeling and repulsive.

"There was a sheet of note-paper lying on the table," he said, "but I
wonder what has become of it; you have no idea how impudent my servants
are!"

Hereupon he began anxiously to look about, under the table, upon the
table, stirring about everything, but at last, not being able to find
it, he shouted as loud as he could:

"Mavra! halloa, Mavra!"

Upon this call, a woman servant entered the room, holding a plate in
her hands, upon which lay the well-known Easter-cake of his daughter
Alexandra. The following conversation took place between them:

"You magpie! tell me immediately where you have put the sheet of
note-paper, that was lying here upon my table?"

"Good Heavens, Sir, do not be alarmed, but I really have not seen it,
excepting a small piece with which you covered a wine-glass the other
day."

"I see clearly by your eyes and countenance that it is you who have
surely taken it."

"For what purpose should I have done so? It could have been no use
whatever to me, for I cannot read nor write."

"Tis a falsehood, you have taken it and carried it to your cousin,
Karpuschka, the carpenter, I know him to be a scribbler and of course
you have given it to him."

"That I have not, and besides if my cousin wanted some paper, he has
the means to buy it,-for he is a good workman and can earn sufficient
to pay for it. No, it is not he who has your paper."

"Mind what you are saying and doing, for on the day of judgment the
demons will torment you, yes it is with iron rods that they will
scourge you! you may depend upon it they will punish you for your
wickedness in this world!"

"But why should they scourge me, when I never even touched your slip
of paper? I may, perhaps, like other women, have my faults, but I have
never been accused of theft before."

"The demons are sure to scourge you, and say besides: 'that is what
you deserve you wicked woman for betraying and deceiving your lawful
master, yes, it is with red-hot iron rods that they will torment you!'"

"And I shall proclaim my innocence;" added the poor woman crying, "I
shall invoke Heaven and declare that I did not touch or take any of
your property. And here it lies upon the table. You always scold and
accuse us though we are innocent!"

Pluschkin now really beheld the note-paper before him, and for a moment
he stopped short, whilst chewing with his lips, then he added:

"Well, why are you so excited? what a talkative woman you are to be
sure! Scarcely have I spoken a word to you, when you are ready with ten
answers! Go and fetch me a light to seal my letters with. But no, stop,
you are sure to lay hold of a tallow candle, grease melts: it will be a
loss; bring me a pine-torch."

Mavra left the room, Pluschkin seated himself in an arm-chair and
taking a pen up, he kept turning the sheet of note-paper for a
considerable time in his hand, thinking at the time, could it not be
possible to save the half or a portion of the paper, but at last he
felt convinced that it was an impossibility; he therefore dipped his
pen into the ink-stand and into a mouldy fluid, at the bottom of which
there were numerous dead flies, he began to write; his letters were
very much like music-notes, he was obliged to stop at each pen stroke,
for his hand shook and trembled violently over the paper, and the
progress of his writing and increase of lines was very slow indeed,
for he could not help thinking and regretting, that much of the paper
before him would have to remain unwritten upon.

And to such a degree of meanness and degradation could a well-born
man degenerate! undergo such a change! But is this like truth, like
reality? All approaches truth and reality, for a human being is liable
to undergo incredible changes. The youth of this day would start back
horrified if the portrait of his old age could be shown to him. Oh!
gather on our way--as you leave your downy pillow to start and enter
into harsh and hardening manhood--gather up all the tender impressions
of human nature, do not leave them behind you--do not pick them up
later! Harsh and frightful is such old age when looming in the future,
for it indemnifies for nothing! The grave is more merciful, upon a
tombstone may be written: here lies a man! but you can read nothing
upon the cold, unfeeling features of pitiless age.

"Do you perhaps know any one among your friends--" said Pluschkin,
whilst folding up his letter, "who might stand in want of a few
run-away serfs?"

"Ah, you have even some run-away men?" demanded Tchichikoff eagerly,
but composing himself again quickly.

"Yes, unfortunately, I have some. My son-in-law has been hunting
after them, but he assured me, that he has lost the trace of them
notwithstanding his diligence and perseverance, however, he is a
military man, accustomed to do business on horseback, if he had taken
the trouble to apply to the various courts and--"

"Pardon me for interrupting you, but how many are they in number?"

"Well, as near as I can guess about seventy."

"No, is it possible?"

"By Heavens, it is as I tell you! With every new year I find that more
and more of my men run away. My people are one and all awful gluttons,
from good living and easy tasks they are apt to burst like the frog in
the fable, whilst I have scarcely sufficient to eat myself. Really, I
should feel disposed to accept any reasonable offer for them. Pray,
speak to your friend about them: let us suppose he only recaptures
ten of them, and his trouble will be amply rewarded. And you must not
forget to tell him that our census serfs are worth five hundred silver
roubles a-piece everywhere."

"No, my good old man, don't you believe it; this piece of news my
friend shall not even be allowed to dream of," thought Tchichikoff to
himself; and then he added aloud, "That it was a perfect impossibility
to find such a friend; that the trouble and expense of recapturing
run-away serfs would exceed by far their collective value; because it
would be madness to apply to any court of law for assistance, for it
is well known that if a man enters a court of justice in Russia, he
generally has to leave, if not his own liberty behind him, at least his
property, without the exception of the very coat on his back; but if he
was really embarrassed for a little money, he would do himself pleasure
by proving him his sincere sympathy, and that he was ready to make an
offer; but as it was a mere trifle, it would be really idle even to
mention a word about it."

"Pray, and how much could you offer me?" demanded Pluschkin, with the
anxiety and eagerness of a real Shylock, his hands trembling like
quicksilver.

"I could afford to pay you at the rate of twenty-five copeks in silver
for each of your run-aways."

"And how do you propose purchasing them--will you pay ready money?"

"Yes, I am prepared to pay immediately."

"My good and dear Sir, pray don't be hard with an old man; be generous
and just; pay me at least forty copeks a head."

"Most estimable man!" exclaimed Tchichikoff, "I would not only have
paid you forty copeks, but even would have been glad to pay you five
hundred roubles for each run-away vagabond. It would have been a
gratification to me to offer you such a sum, because I see it plainly
now, that you, my worthy and excellent old Sir, are suffering from the
effects of your own misplaced benevolence."

"By Heavens, it is so! By Heavens, you spoke the truth!" exclaimed
Pluschkin, bending down his head and shaking it sorrowfully. "All from
benevolence!"

"You will agree with me, my excellent old man, that I at once knew how
to appreciate your character. And why should I, therefore, not give you
five hundred roubles for each of these serfs? but, the fact is, I am
not possessed of a large fortune; however, to be agreeable to you, I
am ready to make an addition of five copeks, so that, in this manner,
every serf will cost me the round sum of thirty silver copeks."

"Make another effort, for the power lays in your hands; give me but two
copeks more above the thirty."

"So I will, if you wish it, I'll give you two copeks more. How many
have you of those run-away rascals? You told me, I believe, seventy in
all?"

"There are a few more. In all, they number seventy-eight."

"Seventy-eight! Let me see, seventy-eight and thirty-two copeks a head,
that makes--" Hereupon our hero only took one moment for consideration,
and then continued deliberately: "That makes a total of twenty-four
roubles ninety-six copeks." He was a clever arithmetician.

After this clever calculation, he made Pluschkin write out a receipt
in form, and paid him the receipt in full upon the table, which the
other took up in both hands, and carried towards his desk, with as much
anxious precaution as if he was carrying some precious liquid, fearing
every moment lest he might spill some of it.

When he had arrived before his desk, he once more covered his money
with an ardent look, and then he laid it as carefully into one of his
secret drawers, where, no doubt, it was destined to lie buried until
Father Carp and Father Policarp, two worthy popes of his village, would
come and have to bury the wretched man himself, to the indescribable
joy of his daughter and son-in-law, and perhaps, also, to to the
great satisfaction of the always hungry Captain, who had succeeded in
establishing a relationship with the old miser.

After having hidden his treasure, Pluschkin returned to his arm-chair
and sat down; it seemed that he now was completely at a loss of a
subject for conversation.

"Do you already intend to leave me?" said he, as he happened to
perceive a slight movement which Tchichikoff made, and which was only
for the purpose of taking his pocket-handkerchief from his pocket.

This question reminded our hero that really there was no reason or
inducement for him to stay any longer with the old miser.

"Yes, it is high time for me to depart," said he, whilst taking up his
hat.

"Won't you really stay and take a cup of tea?"

"No, thank you; I think we had better leave it till the next time I
have the pleasure of seeing you."

"Why, I have given orders for the tea-urn to be heated. For my own
part, I must confess, I am not at all partial to tea-drinking, like
the rest of our countrymen; the beverage is very dear, and besides,
sugar has risen to a most unmerciful price. Froschka! I don't want the
samovar; take the cake back again to Mavra, mind you understand me
rightly; tell her to put it on the same shelf where she took it from;
but no, stop--leave it on the table; I think I shall take it back again
myself."

"Farewell, then, my dear Sir, the Almighty bless and keep you. As for
the letter to the President, do not forget to give it him immediately
on your return to Smolensk, as well as my kindest regards. Yes, let my
dear old friend read it; I know he will be pleased to hear from me. How
should he not recollect me? we used to live together, like two wheels
of the same carriage."

After this, that ancient apparition, the worn-out old miser, led his
guest the same road back on which he had entered his house, and saw
him into the court-yard, and safe into his carriage, but as soon
as the britchka had passed the gates, he ordered them to be closed
immediately; he then made a turn of inspection around his extensive
premises, with the view of convincing himself that the watchmen were
all on their guard, for he had posted sentinels at every available
corner; these poor fellows kept thumping with a large wooden spoon
against the bottom of small empty casks, instead of upon iron plates.

Being satisfied that every one was doing his duty, he entered the
kitchen, under the pretence that he came there to convince himself
that the food of his servants was good and eatable, and thus tasting
of everything, he stuffed himself with cabbage and porridge to his
heart's content; he then scolded them all, down to the scullery-maid,
reproached them with bad conduct, and, after having done this, he
quietly returned to his own room.

When he found himself alone, he began to think how he could manage to
mark his sense of gratitude to his amiable guest for an act of such
unheard-of generosity.

"I think I shall present him," thought he to himself, "with my watch.
It is a good one, a silver lever one, not one of those common Geneva or
pinchbeck watches. I remember it is rather a little out of repair; but
what does that matter? he can get it repaired himself. He seems a young
man yet, and of course he wants a watch--it will help to please his
sweetheart.

"But no," added he, after musing for a while, "I think I shall leave
him the watch as a legacy after I am dead; then he will be sure to
remember me."



CHAPTER V.


Our hero, however, felt happy and in the best disposition of mind
without the old man's watch. For such an unexpected acquisition of
stock was in his opinion a most valuable gift, and he had really
every difficulty in mastering his joy; but then it was also one of
the most advantageous speculations--though certainly of an unheard-of
nature--that he had ever made in his life. He got for a mere nothing,
not only dead, but even run-away serfs, in all more than two hundred
regular census slaves, and to him, whether dead or alive, most valuable
beings.

As a matter of course, it must be acknowledged that whilst driving up
to Pluschkin's mansion, he had a secret presentiment that something
unusual would happen to him; but certainly he was far from guessing
that such a brilliant success would actually crown his anticipations.

Twilight began to merge into darkness of the evening, when the britchka
approached the town. The crepuscule was mingling with the dusk quicker
and faster, and it seemed as if objects in the distance were mixed up
and in confusion. The red and white-coloured turnpike gates seemed of
an indefinable colour, very different from their usual gay appearance;
the mustachios of the sentinel on duty seemed to be on his forehead,
much above his eyes, as for his nose, it appeared as if he had none.

The sudden noise and the jolting of the wheels across the pavement were
an undeniable proof that the britchka had safely entered the gates of
Smolensk.

The britchka soon after sustained a few more severe joltings and
shakings, until at last it made a regular jump as if into a hole;
fortunately it stopped short before the gates of the inn where
Tchichikoff was met by his servant Petruschka, who, with one of his
hands was trying to keep together the skirts of his long surtout, not
wishing perhaps that they should be open and flying about, whilst, with
the other hand, he assisted his master to alight from the britchka.

The head-waiter had rushed forward to meet Tchichikoff. He held a
candle in his hand and a napkin thrown over his shoulder. It is
impossible for us to tell whether Petruschka was pleased or not to see
his master returning safely home. However, he exchanged a familiar
glance with his friend Selifan, in consequence of which, his usually
sulky countenance for the nonce, seemed to undergo a change which bore
some slight approach to cheerfulness.

"Your glory has been on a long excursion this time," said the
head-waiter politely, as he was showing him up-stairs.

"Yes, rather," answered Tchichikoff, when he had arrived at the landing
leading towards his room. "Well, and how are you?"

"Thank heavens and your glory for your kindness!" replied the
head-waiter, bowing lowly in acknowledgment of the condescension.
"A cornet in the Lancers arrived last night, and has taken number
sixteen, the apartment next to that of your glory's."

"Who? a cornet! of what regiment?"

"I really cannot inform your glory to what regiment he belongs, but he
comes from Rizan, has a splendid carriage and three beautiful horses."

"Very well, that will do; go and behave yourself well in future," said
Tchichikoff. But as he crossed the ante-room, he quickly turned up his
nose, and said to Petruschka, whilst hurrying along, "You ought at
least to have opened the windows, you careless fellow!"

"I have had them opened, your glory," replied Petruschka; but in
saying this, he told a falsehood, and though his master knew well
enough that he was trying to impose upon him, he did not condescend
to waste another word about it. After the fatigues of his journey and
adventures, he felt exceedingly tired, and was anxious to retire. He
ordered a very light supper to be brought up, which consisted of a few
thin slices of tender sucking-pig, which he ate rather hastily, and
then undressing himself quickly, he went to bed immediately, and tucked
himself well up in his blankets, and was soon fast and sound asleep.
He began to snore most wonderfully, and slept as soundly as only those
happy mortals sleep who do not suffer from the attacks of gout or
flies, nor from any superabundance of mental faculties.



CHAPTER VI.


Tchichikoff was just awaking, and stretching out his hands and legs
like a man preparing for gymnastics, he also began to be aware that he
had slept uncommonly well. After lying for about two minutes longer
thus outstretched upon his back, he suddenly smacked his fingers in the
air, for he at once distinctly remembered, and with a face radiant with
satisfaction, that he now possessed nearly four hundred serfs, a stock
worth about half a million of silver roubles.

After these satisfactory reflections, he jumped gaily out of bed,
and did not even think of looking at his face, for which he had a
particular affection, and in which, as it seemed, he thought his chin
was the most attractive feature, because he had the habit of passing
his hand frequently over it when in the presence of any intimate
friend; he did this particularly when he had been shaving in the
morning.

"Just look here," he used to say, whilst stroking it gently with his
hand, "behold what a chin I have got--perfectly round and smooth!"

But this time, he examined neither his chin nor his face, but
directly, such as he was, he got into his red morocco-leather morning
boots, richly embroidered with silk of a variety of colours, for the
manufacture of which the ancient Tartar town of Kazan is so justly
celebrated; and thanks to his Russian constitution, that heeds no
temperature, just as he was, with nothing but his night-shirt on, in
the real Scotch fashion, he forgot for a moment his sedate character
and middle age, and executed two regular jumps round his room, touching
himself, very cleverly indeed, twice with the soles of his feet.

The very next moment, he immediately sat down to attend to his
business: as he was thus seated before his dressing-case, he rubbed
his hands cheerfully for a moment--just as they would be rubbed by
a honest and incorruptible judge when he is about to sit down to a
luncheon before pronouncing his judgment in court; after having done
this, Tchichikoff produced at once his papers and documents.

He was anxious to settle his affairs in Smolensk as speedily as
possible, and leave nothing undone which could be attended to on that
very day. He determined upon drawing up the contracts of sale himself;
to write down and copy everything with his own hand, so as not to have
to pay a copek to any of the government _employés_. He was perfectly
familiar with the particular style and lawful forms of such documents;
and he, therefore, with a bold hand wrote down in large characters, one
thousand eight hundred and forty such a year, then immediately lower,
but in much smaller characters, councillor of state, gentleman, so and
so; in fact, all was done and written as it ought to be, and in two
hours later his work was accomplished.

When he once more cast a glance over the various documents with the
names of the serfs on them, who had at one time been real slaves,
working, tilling, drinking, cheating their master, and perhaps
also simply honest serfs, it was then that he felt a strange and
incomprehensible sensation suddenly overcome him.

Each of the lists possessed, as it were, a distinct character, and
through that fact, it seemed again that each serf named upon them
assumed also an individual character. The serfs who formerly belonged
to the widow-lady, Korobotchka, had nearly all nicknames attached to
them. The note of old Pluschkin distinguished itself by its brevity of
construction; many of the names were only indicated by the first two
letters of the Christian and family name, and then followed two points,
or rather blots.

Sobakevitch's list attracted his special attention by its unusual
fullness and minuteness; not one of the various qualifications of any
one of his serfs had been omitted; one of them had been noted down as a
"clever joiner," to the name of another the following was appended, "a
sharp fellow, eats no tallow." Particular _nota benes_ were also made
who their father, and who their mother had been; only one individual
of the name of Phedot was distinguished thus, "father unknown, but was
born of a girl in the house, of the name of Capitolina, good principles
and no thief."

All these particulars had a peculiar appearance of reality; it seemed
to Tchichikoff himself, as if these poor dead serfs were alive
yesterday. He kept looking for a long time at their names, until he
felt his heart melting, as it were, to a feeling of pity, and heaving a
deep sigh, he exclaimed:

"Good heavens, how many there are of you, to be sure! Poor fellows, I
wish you could tell me, what you have been doing during your existence!
How have you been battling your way through this world of woe?"

And his eyes rested involuntarily upon the, to us, already familiar
name of Peter Savelieff Neuvaschaikorito, who once had been the
property of Lady Korobotchka. And again he could not forbear making the
observation:

"What a rich name to be sure, he takes a whole line all to himself;"
and he then continued, "when among the living, were you a clever fellow
in your profession, or simply a clumsy mouzhik; and were did you meet
your death-blow? Was it in a dram-shop, or on the high road, or were
you surrounded by those dear to you by the ties of nature? Stephen
Korobka, joiner, a sober and steady man. Ah! here he is, Stephen
Korobka, that is the fellow, who, according to Sobakevitch, would have
been a giant in the Imperial Life-Guards! No doubt the poor fellow
wandered about in obscurity with a hatchet on his side, and his boots
across his shoulders, making his meals at the slender expense of one
copek for brown bread, and two for dried fish, whilst, on returning
home from his yearly work, he would bring with him a purse stuffed with
silver roubles, and perhaps have some bank notes sewn up between the
lining of his shirt or boots--where are you now? Have you, anxious for
larger profits, been even as far as Moscow, and elevated yourself as
high as the spire of Ivan Veliki, and tried to ring the changes on an
Easter-night, but unsuccessfully fallen to the ground, whilst some more
clever fellow than yourself standing close by would scratch himself
behind the ear, and say: 'poor Stephen, can't you stand the noise?'
and coolly take your place.

"Maxim Teliatnikoff, shoemaker--shoemaker. Oh, ah, a shoemaker! 'drunk
like a cobbler,' says our proverb. I know you, know you well, my fine
fellow; if you like, I can tell you in a few words your own history;
you were brought up to your trade by a native from Germany, who fed
you at the same table, and beat your shoulders with the same strap
to punish you for your own neglect and carelessness, and kept you at
work and strictly in doors; at that time you were really an excellent
fellow, but not a cobbler, and your German master thought that he could
not praise you enough in the presence of his wife or friends. But when
you had finished your apprenticeship, you said to yourself: 'now I
will keep a strap myself, and not have to scrape together, one by one,
the copper copeks as my German master used to do.' Thinking thus, you
contrived to pay your yearly impost to your lawful master, and were
allowed to remain in town and set up in your profession. You succeeded
so far well enough, for you happened to obtain numerous orders by way
of encouragement, and you sat down to your work. Some wretched tanner
supplied you with rotten leather, three times cheaper, it is true, than
you could have bought a good material for; and really for a short time
you even succeeded in making double profit upon each pair of boots you
sold; but in about two weeks later, the boots of your manufacture were
completely worn out, and you were called by your customers all sorts
of names. In consequence of this mode of dealing, your shop was soon
deserted by them, and by yourself; because you took to drinking and
rolling about the streets, whilst in your state of intoxication you
would often exclaim: 'No, really there is no consolation in life! we
Russians cannot make a decent living, these foreigners push themselves
forward everywhere, they positively take the very bread out of our
mouths!'

"What peasant have we here? Elizabeth Vorobei. What a shame! a woman!
how has she got among the men? He is a thorough cheat, that fellow
Sobakevitch, even here he has tried to take advantage over me!"
Tchichikoff was right, it was really a woman. How she had slipped among
the men, it was quite impossible to tell, but certainly it was done
very cleverly, for the woman might at a first glance have easily been
taken for a man. However, he did not take the imposition in good part,
and struck the name from the list at once.

"Gregory Dogeschainedogedish! What sort of a man have you been, I
wonder? Were you perhaps one of those carriers by profession, driving
your gallant troika from town to town, and fair to fair, bidding a long
farewell to your family and friends to go and lead a wandering life in
the service of some travelling tradesman between Russia and China? Did
you surrender your soul to Heaven on the high road, or were you carried
to your last resting-place by your village kindred, and your mourning
wife and children?

"And you, my fine fellows?" he continued, as he cast a glance over the
list of run-away serfs belonging to Pluschkin.

"Although you may be alive, yet where is the advantage of possessing
you? you are as worthless as your dead brethren, and Heaven only knows
whither your swift feet have borne you? Were you really so ill-used
by old Pluschkin that you thought it better to run away, or were you
naturally inclined to become vagabonds, and now plunder travellers on
the high road and in the forests? Are you perhaps incarcerated in some
gloomy prison, awaiting your sentence, or have you become the property
of a new master, and are at this moment tilling the land of another
lord?

"Jeremy Kariakin, Nikita Volokita, and Antony Volokita his son; these
fellows, I presume, were excellent run-aways, if I am to judge by
the first and classical syllables of their name. Some one of you,
I can have no doubt, has had the misfortune to fall into the hands
of what you call in the country the Capitän-Ispravnik, who, as a
gentleman strictly looking after passport regulations, has no doubt
cross-examined you on the subject, and perhaps in the following terms:

"'Whose serf are you?' said he, perhaps, in his imperative voice,
whilst interspersing his question with a few strong and fitting terms.

"'I am the serf of such and such a nobleman,' you will have answered
boldly.

"'Why are you here?' demands again the military Capitan.

"'I have received my due permission to go and search for work in town,'
is again your bold reply.

"'And where is your passport?'

"'With my landlord, the citizen Pimenoff.'

"'Send for Pimenoff immediately. Are you Pimenoff?'

"'I am Pimenoff.

"'Did this man give you his passport?'

"'No, your glory, he has given me no passport of any description.'

"'How dare you tell me a falsehood?' says the Capitän-Ispravnik,
adding, meanwhile a few strong and suitable terms.

"'Just so,' is your bold reply to this observation, 'I did not give it
to him because I returned home late, but I gave it for safe keeping to
the bell-ringer, Antip Prochoroff."

"'Send for the bell-ringer! Did he give to you his passport?'

"'No, Sir, I did not receive a passport from him.'

"'Why, that is another falsehood,' says the military Capitan,
strengthening his affirmation with a few more impressive words. 'Now,
can you tell me where your passport is?'

"'I am sure I had a passport,' you said quickly, 'but it seems I have
lost it somewhere on the road.'

"'And how do you account for the possession of this soldier's cloak?'
demands again the Capitän-Ispravnik sternly, whilst adding again a few
strong and fitting terms, 'why have you robbed the imperial servant of
his garb? and why have you dared to plunder the Pope's coffer of his
coppers?'

"'I'm innocent,' you say boldly, 'I have never yet been convicted of
theft.'

"'And how is it that they have picked you up drunk and incapable, and
dad in this cloak?'

"'I really can't say; no doubt some one else has put it on me.'

"'Ah, you are a rogue and a vagabond,' speaks the Capitän-Ispravnik,
shaking his head at you, and putting his hands to his sides. 'Guards,
put the fellow in irons, and lead him away into the darkest dungeon.'

"'Very well, your glory, I submit myself with pleasure,' is your polite
reply.

"And hereupon you produce your snuff-box, and treat with its contents,
and in the most friendly manner, the two invalids who are putting
the chains on your legs, asking them coolly how long ago they were
discharged from their hard service in the army, and in what battles
they have fought. And now you continue to live some time in prison,
until due inquiries are made about you, and your case properly and
leisurely investigated.

"At last, the following decision arrives: the run-away serf, Nikita
Volokita, will be transferred from the prisons of Zarevo-Kokaisk to
the prison of Mosaisk, from there a fresh order transfers you again to
the prison in Vesegonsk, and thus you continue to be transferred from
dungeon to dungeon, and you say to yourself as you inspect your new
habitation:

"'I don't know, but somehow I like Vesegonsk better than any of the
other places; the place is larger and cleaner, and the company here
much gayer!'

"Abakum Phiroff! and what are you? where and in what part of the vast
Empire could you now be met with? Have you gone down the river Volga
and taken a fancy to an agitated life on the swelling waves, and joined
some of the gay river men?"--

Saying this, Tchichikoff stopped short and began to muse and reflect.
What might he have been thinking about? Did he try to imagine the fate
of Abakum Phiroff, or did he plunge into reflections like any other
Russian, whatever his age might be, no matter of what rank or fortune,
when he reflects upon the broad road of human life?

And in truth where is Phiroff now? He wanders boisterously and gaily
along the rich shores of the Volga; he has hired his services to some
travelling merchant. Flowers and ribbons ornament his peculiarly shaped
hat; he seems now as cheerful and contented as any of his comrades
born and bred to that peculiar life; they are just bidding farewell to
their wives and sweethearts--tall, active, and healthy women, looking
as picturesque as the men, in their wide frocks and flowing tresses
mixed with gay ornaments and coloured ribbons; songs with and without
choruses, and again interrupted, but a solo or an accompaniment of
the national guitar or balalaika is to be heard all along the piers
and shores. The bustle and life among the people assembled is now at
its height, for they are completing the cargo of their barges, into
which they store the last sacks, containing wheat, barley, oats and
other grains, which the fertile soil in that part of the country so
abundantly produces.

Along the shores are yet hundreds and thousands more sacks filled with
various grains, heaped in columns and towering like Egyptian pyramids
into the air, and ready to be shipped as soon as the warm rays of the
spring can burst the melting ice, and allow this bread-stuff arsenal to
drift down the river, barge following barge like a band of swans when
proudly floating down the rapid stream.

Such is the occupation of our Russian river-men on the shores of the
Volga, where he has hard work, but where he leads a comparatively
independent and cheerful life, and where his gay and melodious songs
are heard from the source to the efflux of that magnificent river.



CHAPTER VII.


"Holloa, he! twelve o'clock," Tchichikoff said at last, looking at
his watch, "how could I so utterly forget myself? if at least there
had been any business-like result in these reflections, but as it is,
it was but folly and nonsense!" Saying this, he changed his highland
costume for a more becoming one, buckled tighter up his full stomach,
perfumed his face and hands with some Eau de Cologne, put his warm
travelling-cap in his hand, and the various documents under his arm and
hurriedly left the inn, hastening towards the government offices to
conclude his contracts.

He did not hasten for fear of being too late; oh, no, he was not
afraid of being too late, because the President of the Council was now
his intimate friend, and could prolong or shorten the sittings in the
court at his own convenience; he was as powerful in his office as Homer
in his classical poems, who lengthened his days and sent tempestuous
nights when he wished to shorten the quarrels of his favourite heroes,
or allow them to fight out their differences.

With our hero it was different, he felt an inward longing to terminate
his business as quickly as possible; until he had done so, he would be
sure not to feel either tranquil or comfortable, because the reflection
occurred to him, that the serfs were not a positive reality though
he had a point of law in his favour, and that under such peculiar
circumstances it is always prudent to hasten the conclusion as quickly
as possible.

But scarcely had he walked a short distance in the street, and whilst
musing on the subject of his errand, covered as he was in a large
coffee-coloured travelling cloak, he could not avoid running, as he was
just on the point of turning round the corner, against a gentleman also
dressed in a large coffee-coloured travelling cloak and huge cap to
match it covering his head and ears.

This gentleman could not repress an exclamation of joyful surprise at
the sight of Tchichikoff, for it proved to be his friend Maniloff. They
sank at once into each other's arms, and remained in that position,
firmly clasped together, for more than five minutes in the middle of
the thronged pavement. The exchange of their mutual affection was so
tender and strong, that both suffered for the rest of the day from
pains in their fore-teeth. Maniloff's gratification was so great, that
actually nothing else but his nose and lips could be seen on his face;
as for his eyes, they had literally molten away for joy.

For more than a quarter of an hour he held firmly clasped between his
own Tchichikoff's hand, and by his affectionate pressure heated it to a
considerable degree. In the most elaborate, elegant, and chosen terms,
he assured his friend that he had hastened to town to embrace his dear
Pavel Ivanovitch; his address was concluded with such compliments as
might perhaps only be spoken to a young lady when she is led to a
country-dance.

Tchichikoff opened his mouth without knowing what he was going to say
in acknowledgment of such great civilities, when Maniloff suddenly
produced from under his cloak a parcel of papers, rolled up in the
shape of a tube, and tied together with a pink ribbon.

"What is that?" inquired Tchichikoff.

"The dead serfs, my dear Pavel Ivanovitch," replied Maniloff, with his
usual honeyed smile.

"Ah!" he immediately untied and unfolded the papers, and cast a hurried
glance over the lists and was pleasantly surprised at the neatness and
accuracy of the writing.

"A beautiful hand-writing," said he, "it will be quite unnecessary
for me to copy it over again. And even a beautiful black line like a
frame around it! pray, and who has taken the trouble to draw these
accomplished lines around it?"

"Pray do not ask me," said Maniloff.

"Yourself?"

"My wife."

"By heavens! I am really ashamed to have given you and your kind lady
so much trouble, I am indeed quite ashamed!"

"For our own dear Pavel Ivanovitch, nothing is a trouble!"

Tchichikoff bowed deeply and civilly an acknowledgment. When Maniloff
heard that his friend was on his way to the government offices for
the purpose of concluding the formalities of the contracts of sale,
he immediately offered to accompany him thither. The two friends
joined their arms and went away together. At each indifferent, uneven,
or broken flag-stone, Maniloff immediately and civilly assisted
Tchichikoff to pass over, and in his anxiety, even nearly lifted
him from the ground with his arm, adding at the same time, and with
a pleasant smile, that he would not suffer his dear friend to hurt
his little feet against any stone whatever. Tchichikoff felt really
ashamed, not knowing how he could return the attention, because he was
conscious that he was rather of a heavy weight.

While continuing to exchange civilities, they arrived at last upon
a large and open square, where they beheld the Imperial government
offices before them; the building was a very extensive one, three
stories high, and painted white, like chalk, no doubt a symbolic sign
of the purity of the hearts of those who were appointed to administer
justice; the other buildings in the square were altogether out of
proportion with the immense white house.

The most remarkable features in it were; a sentry's box, before
which a soldier with his musket was walking up and down, several
droschki-stands surrounded by their idle drivers, and at last a range
of wooden walls, painted grey, and with their usual inscriptions and
characters drawn on them, with either chalk or charcoal; there was
really nothing else worth mentioning to be seen on this desolate, or as
it would be called in Russia--handsome square.

From out of the windows of the second and third stories, now and then
a few heads of the unimpeachable and incorruptible administrator's
assistants would make a momentary appearance and then immediately draw
them back again, no doubt because their President entered the room at
the moment.

The two friends now entered the large building and found themselves
before a wide staircase, which they did not ascend, but rather scaled
in a canter, because Tchichikoff was trying to escape the further
assistance of Maniloff's arm, and therefore rushed quickly forward,
whilst his friend Maniloff on the other hand, was also anxious to
hasten forward in order to prevent Tchichikoff feeling tired from the
ascension of the long flight of stairs. With these different objects in
view, they both rushed madly as it were onward until they both met at
the landing above, which, ended in a sudden collision in a dark passage.

Neither the passage nor the interior of the rooms which they entered
immediately after, in any way made a pleasant impression upon their
sight as regards cleanliness. It is true also, that at that particular
moment, neither of them was disposed to pay any attention to the
circumstance; and all that which was wanting in order and cleanliness,
was therefore left to remain dirty and disorderly just as it was,
assuming not the least feature of attraction. The door-keeper of the
offices received his guests in a shabby and inelegant costume, and
opened the door to the new comers.

It would perhaps have been deemed desirable to have a minute
description of the various rooms through which our two heroes passed;
but the author must confess, that he has a particular repugnance for
any and all places of justice in any country, but particularly so for
those in his own country. And even, though it has happened to him to
pass or rather wind his way through some courts of justice decorated
in the highest fashion, and covered with carpets and marqueterie, and
polished tables, yet he always endeavoured to hurry his steps as much
as possible, while casting down his eyes, and therefore it is quite
impossible for him to give any interesting description of the inner
charms and attractions of the courts of justice in the Russian Empire.

Our heroes saw numerous piles of waste paper and of white paper, many
downcast heads, broad shoulders, dress-coats, and imperial shape and
even some common grey cotton jackets, which contrasted very strongly
with the other colours; some of these grey jacketed gentlemen had
their heads bent all on one side, and nearly leaning on the paper,
as if ready to fell asleep over their work, and yet they were busy
scribbling, copying perhaps some brief or inventory concerning a
mortgaged estate, which the Crown was about to take possession of,
because the righteous owner had been ruined or banished from the
country.

At intervals, short exclamations could be heard pronounced in a subdued
and often unpleasant tone of voice, such as: "Mr. so and so, will you
give me the application of No. 777! You are in the continual habit of
mislaying the cork of the imperial ink-bottle!"

Now and then the sounds of a voice speaking in a tone of importance
was also heard, no doubt proceeding from a superior officer, and
consequently in a more autocratic manner:

"Here, take that and copy it off immediately, if not, I shall order
your boots to be taken off your feet, and you shall have to sit for six
hours without a chance of eating anything."

The noise produced by the quills in operation was very great indeed,
and resembled very much the noise produced by a carriage when passing
through a forest across a road strewn with dry autumnal leaves.

Tchichikoff and Maniloff approached the first table they were near, and
at which two _employés_, rather young men, were sitting, and busying
themselves in doing nothing, they addressed them in the following
manner:

"Will you allow me to inquire, where the 'contract of sale' business is
transacted in these offices?"

"And what is your business?" said both _employés_ at once, whilst
turning to the speaker.

"I want to hand in a petition concerning some contracts of sale."

"And what is it you have been buying?"

"Before telling that, I should have liked to know first where the
contract of sale department is--is it here or in another place?"

"You must first tell us what you have been purchasing and at what
price, and then we shall tell you where you will have to apply to, but
without knowing this we cannot advise you." Tchichikoff saw at once
that curiosity only prompted them to address these questions to him,
and that like all young men or _employés,_ they wished to gratify their
curiosity and give at the same time a greater importance to themselves
and to their occupations.

"My good young gentlemen," said Tchichikoff, "I am perfectly aware
that all contracts of sale, no matter at what price a bargain has been
concluded, are settled and legalised at one and the same place, and
if you don't know what is doing at your table, then we shall at once
proceed to ask some one else."

The _employés_ made no reply whatever to this observation, but one of
them pointed with his fore-finger to the corner of the room, where an
elderly man was sitting behind a table and stirring about in a heap of
papers.

Tchichikoff and Maniloff passed through a long range of tables straight
towards the old man. He seemed to be very seriously engaged with his
occupation.

"Sir, will you allow me to ask you," said Tchichikoff with a bow,
"whether this is the department or section for the conclusion of
contracts of sale?"

The elderly _employé_ lifted up his eyes and spoke abruptly in reply:
"contract of sale business is not transacted here."

"And pray, where then?"

"In the section for the conclusion of contracts of sale."

"But where am I to find this section?"

"It is under the superintendence of Ivan Antonovitch."

"Could you perhaps tell me where I might find Ivan Antonovitch?"

The old man pointed with his forefinger to another corner of the
extensive room. Tchichikoff and Maniloff hurried towards the seat of
Ivan Antonovitch, who had espied them already with one of his eyes and
scrutinized them now with the other, which having done, he immediately
plunged again if possible still deeper into his occupation.



CHAPTER VIII.


"Allow me to ask if you please," spoke Tchichikoff with a civil bow,
"is this the section for the contracts of sale?"

Ivan Antonovitch appeared as if he had not heard the question at all,
and busied himself as completely as possible among his papers without
saying a word in reply. It was evident that this person was already
a man of a sedate and serious age, and not at all like those two
youngsters or madcaps. Ivan Antonovitch seemed to be already at some
distance beyond forty years; his hair was black and abundantly covered
his head; the centre of his face seemed to rush forward towards its
extremity, the nose, in a word, it was a face that would be called in
ordinary Russian parlance, a muggy one.

"Allow me to ask you, Sir, if this is the department for the conclusion
of contracts of sale?" Tchichikoff demanded again.

"Yes," answered Ivan Antonovitch, turning his muggy face towards the
inquirer for a moment, and, then immediately beginning to write again.

"My business is the following: I have purchased of several landed
proprietors in this province a number of serfs with the intention of
settling them elsewhere: the contracts of sale are prepared and now
only require to be lawfully legalized."

"Are the contracting parties present?"

"Some of them are in town, others have sent their powers of attorney."

"Have you brought a written petition on the subject?"

"I have done so, Sir. I should have liked, that is to say, I would
be very glad indeed to terminate this business as soon as possible.
Therefore, could we not, for an instance, begin at once in order to
finish all this very day?"

"Oh to-day! that is quite impossible," said Ivan Antonovitch. "Due
inquiries must be made in the first instance to ascertain if no
objections could or would be raised in the matter."

"As regards this, and in order to speed the subject, I may inform you,
Sir, that Ivan Gregorievitch, the president, is an intimate friend of
mine."

"But allow me to observe to you, Sir, that Ivan Gregorievitch is not
the only person who would have to attend to this matter; there are
other persons as well," said Ivan Antonovitch dryly.

Tchichikoff caught at once the hint which Ivan Gregorievitch had
dropped for his information, and said, "nor shall others have to
complain of me, I have been in the civil service of our country myself,
I know what business and promptitude means."

"Well, then I would advise you to go at once to the President," said
Ivan Antonovitch, in a rather pleasanter tone of voice, "let him give
his instructions to whom it concerns, and as for ourselves you may be
assured that your business shall be attended to."

Tchichikoff produced a white bank-note from his pocket-book and laid it
on the table before Ivan Antonovitch, which the other did not seem to
see at all, but instantly covered with a large book. Tchichikoff was
about drawing his attention to it, but Ivan Antonovitch with a peculiar
nod of his head made him understand that it was perfectly unnecessary.

"That man will shew you into the President's private office," said Ivan
Antonovitch, whilst making a sign to one of the _employés_ to approach,
who happened to be just in the way and no doubt ready to devote all his
energies to the service of justice and his country, in which devotion
he seemed to have even sacrificed his coat, if we were to judge by his
two sleeves, which had burst at both elbows and which now displayed
the lining to great advantage, and for which services and devotion of
years such men are generally dismissed with a useless title or a paltry
pension.

This man then joined our friends and served them like Virgil once
assisted Dante, and led them through a long range of tables and rooms
into the office of the President, where they saw a lonely, large and
comfortable arm-chair, in which and before a table and two huge books
they beheld the President, radiant like the sun.

At this sight, the modern Virgil felt an inexpressible feeling of
delight overcome him suddenly, so great and powerful indeed, that he
would not dare to venture a step further but turned round immediately,
and thus showed the back of his coat which was completely worn out
and covered all over with down and feathers. When the two friends
had entered the apartment they saw that the President was not alone;
behind him sat Sobakevitch, who was completely hidden by a large
cheval looking-glass. The entrance of the two guests was hailed with
an exclamation of joyful surprise, and the presidential chair was
pushed back loudly. Sobakevitch also rose from his seat, and as he thus
happened to be standing before the looking-glass, his huge figure and
extensively wide and long sleeves of his coat loomed larger than ever.

The President most cordially embraced Tchichikoff, and the walls of the
justice-room re-echoed their tender exchange of affection, they then
civilly inquired after the respective state of their health, and it
proved that they were both suffering from pains in their loins, the
natural consequence of a sedentary life and occupations.

The President seemed to have been already informed by Sobakevitch of
Tchichikoff's purchase, because he now begun to compliment him on the
subject, which at first seemed rather to take our hero by surprise,
especially when the idea occurred to him, that two of the contracting
parties, namely Maniloff and Sobakevitch, with whom he had come to an
understanding of mutual secrecy, were now standing opposite one another.

However, he soon recovered himself, and thanking the President for his
civil inquiries, he immediately tinned towards Sobakevitch and asked
him politely.

"And how do you do?"

"Thank Heavens, I have no reason to complain," answered Sobakevitch.
And really he had no cause of complaint; it would have been easier for
a piece of pig-iron to catch a cold and begin to cough, than for this
wonderfully constituted landed proprietor.

"True enough, you have always enjoyed an excellent state of health,"
the President observed, "and I remember your late father, was as strong
and healthy a man as yourself."

"Yes, he was in the habit of going bearhunting all by himself,"
answered Sobakevitch.

"However, I am of opinion," said the President again, "that you could
master a bear as well, if you liked to encounter one."

"No, I could not," Sobakevitch answered; "my late father was much
stronger than I am;" and, after a deep sigh, he continued: "No, the men
of our present day are not what they used to be formerly. Take me even
for an example; what is my life and strength? I have just sufficient
energy to bear my life."

"Why, what makes you complain of your life?" the President inquired
again.

"It is not good or satisfactory!" exclaimed Sobakevitch, whilst shaking
his head slowly. "Just judge yourself, Ivan Gregorievitch: I am at the
beginning of my third score, and have not once suffered the slightest
complaint or indisposition, not even from a cold. Now you will agree
with me that this cannot be for the better. Some fine day will dawn
when I shall have, no doubt, to pay dearly for this, my present state
of health and life."

Hereupon Sobakevitch relapsed into what seemed a state of melancholy or
hypochondria.

"What a strange fancy, to be sure," the President and Tchichikoff
thought at the same time, "to be brooding on such a subject."

"I have a letter for you my dear President," said Tchichikoff,
producing Pluschkin's letter, with the evident intention of changing
the subject of their conversation.

"And pray from whom?" the President demanded, as he was breaking the
seal; and, having done so, he exclaimed: "Ah! is it possible, from
Pluschkin. He is still a wanderer on the surface of this world. What a
strange fate, that man's is; for I must tell you, gentlemen, that he
was one of the most accomplished, and wealthiest men I ever happened to
know! and now--"

"A real dog," said Sobakevitch, "a rascal, who has starved the greater
part of his serfs."

"Very well, and with great pleasure," said the President, when he had
read the letter; "I am willing to be his representative and agent in
the matter. When do you wish to sign the contracts, now or later?"

"Now, if you please," said Tchichikoff; "and I shall even beg of you
to transact all the business, if possible, to-day, because I wish to
leave town to-morrow on some important affairs. I have brought with me
the various documents--such as the contract of sale, the petition, and
the list of names; in fact everything is ready."

"All this is well and good," said the President; "do as you please;
but we do not intend to part with you so easily. The contracts shall
be attended to, and signed this very day, on condition that you will
consent to remain with us. I will give my instructions immediately,"
continued the high officer of the crown, as he opened the door leading
into the office, which was now crowded with _employés_, who, like the
industrious bees, were gathered in heaps of a hundred, on the spot;
if it was possible that so many of them could have found any real
employment. "Ivan Antonovitch, is he there?"

"Here!" answered a voice from the interior.

"Send him to me!"

The muggy face of Ivan Antonovitch, already so familiar to us, soon
after made its appearance before the President's room, and he entered
with a profusion of servile bowing.

"Take these papers, Ivan Antonovitch, all these contracts of sale must
be--"

"By the bye, do not forget, Ivan Gregorievitch," interrupted
Sobakevitch, "that we shall require witnesses, at least two for each
contracting party. I would suggest that you should send at once to the
Procurator, he is a regular holiday-man, and is sure to be at home--his
public business is usually managed by his lawyer, Mr. Solotucha, the
greatest sharp I ever met with in this world. The Superintendent of the
Medical Faculties is also a holiday-bird, and likely to be at home, if
he has not already gone to play cards somewhere; however, there are
a great many more besides those two, and who live even nearer, for
instance, Truchatchevitch, Beguschikin, all these people live free of
expense in this wide world."

"Just so, exactly, you are perfectly right!" said the President; and he
immediately gave instructions to some of his messengers to go in search
of the parties just mentioned by Sobakevitch.

"I will also request you," added Tchichikoff, "to send for the attorney
of a widow lady, with whom I have also concluded a trifling business.
Her agent is the son of the Proto-pope, Father Kyrila; I am told he
holds an appointment in your offices."

"To be sure we shall have him as well," said the President. "Everything
shall be done to your satisfaction, but as for my _employés_, I must
beg, nay even insist upon, your giving them no gratuity. I never suffer
any of my friends to pay for anything."

Saying this, he immediately gave all the necessary instructions to
Ivan Antonovitch, who seemed not to like the arrangements at all.
The contracts of sale seemed to produce a very favourable impression
upon the mind of the President, especially when he had glanced over
them, and found that the purchases made by Tchichikoff amounted to
nearly half a million of silver roubles. He kept looking for several
minutes at Tchichikoff, straight into the eyes, with a feeling of great
satisfaction, and then added, smiling:

"It is thus, then! In such a manner then my dear Pavel Ivanovitch, you
have made some valuable and important acquisitions indeed!"

"Yes, really, I have made some acquisitions," replied Tchichikoff,
modestly.

"A good speculation, really--a capital undertaking!"

"Yes, indeed, and I must own that I am of opinion that I could not
venture into a more profitable business. Whatever the opinion of
the world may be, I opine that the aim of a man is never thoroughly
defined, if he does not stand with a firm footing upon a solid
foundation, and not upon any frivolous chimera of a youthful
imagination."

Hereupon, he added in a few more strong terms, and in good time, his
disapproval of the hot-headed liberalism of the present youthful
generation. But it was remarkable that with all his clever reasoning,
there was a slight irregularity in the usual calm and dignified tone
of voice, as if he was at the same time whispering to himself, "Oh, my
good fellow, how mercilessly you impose upon people!" He even did not
venture to lift his eyes either to Sobakevitch or Maniloff, fearing to
meet some peculiar expression in their faces or countenance.

However, his alarms were imaginary. Sobakevitch's face was perfectly
devoid of any expression whatever, whilst Maniloff was perfectly
captivated by his elaborate speech. He only kept nodding his head
approvingly, and throwing himself into that peculiar position into
which an amateur of music would plunge when his favourite _prima donna_
has surpassed even the notes of the violin, and sent forth a tone which
the throat of a bird would have been incapable of articulating.

"But why don't you mention to our friend Ivan Gregorievitch,"
Sobakevitch interrupted at last, "what kind of acquisition you have
been making? And you, my dear President, why don't you ask him what
purchases he has been making? Excellent people, as valuable as gold.
I must inform you that I have even sold him my old Micheeff, the
coach-builder."

"No, really, have you sold that excellent fellow Micheeff?" the
President inquired. "I remember now your coach-builder, Micheeff, very
well--an excellent and clever artisan. He has often mended my droschki.
But stop, allow me--how is this--I remember now, you told me that he
was dead."

"Who! Micheeff dead?" said Sobakevitch, and nearly betraying himself.
"It was his brother who died; as for the coach-builder, he is
perfectly alive and healthier than ever he was before. He finished the
other day a britchka with which you might venture to travel in a canter
to Moscow. I am of opinion that he ought to be appointed to work for
the Emperor alone."

"Yes, truly, Micheeff is a very clever fellow indeed," said the
President, "and I am even surprised that you could agree to part with
him for any amount or consideration."

"Micheeff is not the only one. I have even sold Stephen Korobka, the
joiner; Milushkin, the potter; Maxim Teliatnikoff, the shoemaker--they
are all gone, I have got rid of every one of them."

But when the President asked him why he had thus disposed of them,
as they were all such clever and indispensable workmen on a country
estate, Sobakevitch answered, whilst sawing his right arm in the air:

"Bah, I was attacked by a peculiar whim of mine, and I said to myself,
I am determined, and will sell all these fellows, and thus, then, I
got rid of them all on account of a fancy." After this explanation;
he allowed his head to hang down, as if he was addressing inward
reproaches to himself, and then he added again:

"Though you see that I am already a greyhaired man, yet I must confess
I am still deficient in wisdom."

"But allow me to ask you, my dear Pavel Ivanovitch," the President said
again, "how did you purchase these serfs, without the land they were
born upon? is it with the intention of removing them from here?"

"Just so, for emigration."

"Ah, for emigration views, that is another thing. And pray for what
part of the country? if the question is not indiscreet?"

"To what part of the country--oh, ah, I shall take them into the
government of Kherson."

"Oh, that is one of the finest provinces in the Empire!" exclaimed
the President, and expressed his high praise of the excellency of the
soil in that province, and the richness of its steppes. "And have
you sufficient land for the accommodation of your newly-acquired
population?"

"Just sufficient for comfortable distribution among my new serfs."

"Have you a fine flowing river, or a brook?"

"A river. However, there is also a large brook." Saying this,
Tchichikoff involuntarily looked at Sobakevitch, and though the other
remained as cool and indifferent as before, nevertheless it seemed to
him as if the following was as it were, written in the expression of
his face. "Oh, what a falsehood! for it is not likely that you will
have a river and a brook as well, when, perhaps you have not even a
piece of land!"



CHAPTER IX.


Whilst a lively conversation continued to be carried on between the
parties assembled in the President's office, the witnesses began to
arrive one by one: among the earlier arrivals was a man already known
to our reader, the winking Procurator; he was immediately followed by
the Superintendant of the Medical Faculties, then came Truchatchevitch,
Beguschikin, and all those whom Sobakevitch had enumerated as uselessly
walking about on the face of the earth.

Many of them were total strangers to Tchichikoff, whilst the missing
witnesses were easily supplied from the ranks of the _employés_ in
the offices, in fact there was rather a superfluity of them, for not
only the son of the Proto-pope, Father Kyrila was present, but even
the worthy old man himself. Every one of the required witnesses now
began to sign their names on the various documents, not forgetting to
append their rank or title. As for each individual signature, it was
an original for itself as regards the execution of the letters which
formed the names, and certainly it would have been very difficult
indeed to find corresponding ones in the Russian alphabet.

The well-known individual, Ivan Antonovitch displayed considerable
activity, and in a very short time, all the contracts of sale were
duly booked and registered in the government ledger; according to
the regulations, an impost of a half per cent was calculated on the
whole, including the publication of the transaction in the "Ministerial
Gazetteer," and at the conclusion of the business, Tchichikoff found
that his expenses were but a mere trifle. The President even gave
instructions, that one half only of the half per cent impost duty
should be received from his friend; as for the other half, it was
carried to the account of some other indifferent petitioner.

"And now," said the President, when all the business was concluded,
"now, we shall only have to sprinkle a little wine and inaugurate your
excellent and important enterprise."

"I am agreeable," said Tchichikoff. "I leave it entirely to you to fix
upon the place and time. It would be sinful were I not to feel most
happy to be agreeable in turn to such estimable company as all those
around me; yes, gentlemen, now is the time to uncork a few or more
bottles of that excellent sparkling wine of our brothers in France."

"No, pardon me, you misunderstand the matter: for we will ourselves
provide the sparkling entertainment," said the President, "we feel
this to be an obligation, our duty. You are our guest; we are bound
to regale you. Do you know, gentlemen, what I will suggest to you;
whatever we do later, for the present I propose that we adjourn at once
and all, just as we are, to the house of our friend the Commissioner
of Police; he is a wonderful man amongst us; we need only give him a
slight hint and pass the fish-market or a wine-cellar, and you may
depend upon it that we shall make a luncheon equal to a feast! at the
same time I may observe that we shall have an excellent opportunity for
a nice game of whist or lansquenet."

Such a suggestion no one could possibly withstand. The witnesses felt
a voracious appetite at the mere mention of the fish, market; they all
rushed to take their hats and caps, and the sitting of the court was
adjourned. When they passed through the room in which Ivan Antonovitch,
the muggy-face, was sitting, he bowed politely, and whispered to
Tchichikoff:

"You have purchased serfs for nearly half-a-millions' worth, but
rewarded my troubles with a lonely twenty-fiver."

"But what serfs!" replied Tchichikoff to this, also in an undertone;
"really useless, worthless people, not worth half the money."

Ivan Antonovitch, hearing this, felt at once convinced that the
stranger was of a positive character and would give him no more.

"How much a-head did you pay for Pluschkin's serfs?" Sobakevitch
whispered into his other ear.

"And why have you put on the list that Vorobieff," said Tchichikoff, in
reply to his question.

"What Vorobieff?" demanded Sobakevitch.

"I mean the woman, Elizabeth Vorobieff, it seems as if you even took
some pains to pass her off as a man."

"I attempted nothing of the sort," said Sobakevitch, as he went to join
the other guests.

The guests proceeded all in a crowd towards the house of the
Commissioner of Police. The commander of the police-force of Smolensk,
was really and without flattery a wonderful man. Scarcely had he been
informed of what his friends expected from him, when he immediately
called one of his satellites, a fine and quick young fellow in shiny
boots, to whom He seemed to whisper but two words, and then added
aloud: "You understand me?" and thereupon, whilst the guests were
trying to spend a little while in the next room, in playing a game of
whist; the following dishes made their successive appearance upon the
table: three different kinds of sturgeon called respectively: osetra,
beluga, and sewruga, smoked and pickled salmon, fresh and preserved
caviar, some cheese, smoked ox-tongues, and a variety of other fish
dainties, made up the supplies from the fish-market.

Then were brought up additional supplies, furnished by the master of
the house from his own kitchen; a large pie, containing the head,
cartilage and jaws of a sturgeon that must have weighed more than three
hundred pounds, besides a variety of other minced tarts, baked in sweet
oils and butter.

The Commissioner of Police was in some respects considered as the
father and benefactor of the town. He was perfectly at home among
the majority of the citizens, and was accustomed to visit their
shops and the market-places as if they were his own warehouses. He
generally sat--as the phrase goes--in his right place, and did his duty
accordingly.

The majority of the tradesmen courted him particularly, because he was
not proud; and really, his condescension towards them was very great
indeed, when we take into consideration his exalted position; he stood
as godfather to all their children, and attended every one of their
evening parties, and though he made them pay heavy fines, whenever he
found an occasion, yet he did it so exceedingly cleverly, that they
could not feel angry with him for doing his duty: he would tap them in
a friendly manner, on the shoulder, and add a pleasant smile, treat
them with an excellent cup of tea at his own house, promise them to
call at their house of shop and play a game of draughts, inquire after
everybody and everything; ask them how they were satisfied with trade,
and in fact, take a lively interest in all their concerns.

If he should happen to hear that one or the other of the children had
caught a cold, or was otherwise indisposed, he would immediately attend
upon him personally, and suggest a variety of remedies to cure him,
in a word he was a clever man! If he happened to drive about in his
droschki, he was sure to make as many calls as he possibly could,.and
meanwhile drop a sly word to the one or to the other, and say:

"Now then, master Micheitch, I think it high time for us two to have a
hand at a game of cards, what do you say to that?"

"Yes, Ivan Alexeitch," answers Master Micheitch, good-humouredly,
whilst taking off his cap, "I think it a favourable opportunity for us
to have a game."

"Well, brother Elias Paramonitch, would you like to come and look at my
trotter? I am ready to run a race with your horse I saw the other day;
we will try them and have a trifling bet on them."

The merchant who was madly fond of race horses, but especially of
trotters, smiled at the proposal with an unusual gratification, and
whilst stroking his long beard he would say:

"Very well, Alexei Ivanovitch, we will try them!"

At such moments all idle bystanders would usually take off their caps
and smile with inward satisfaction at each other, and appear as if they
wished to say:

"Alexei Ivanovitch is an excellent, kind and good-hearted gentleman!"

In a word, he had succeeded in gaining universal esteem, and the
opinion of all the merchants who knew him was, that if Alexei
Ivanovitch once captivated a fellow, he never parted with him again.

The Commissioner of Police, when he perceived that the luncheon was
ready on the table, suggested to his guests that they should finish
their game of whist afterwards, and all entered that room from which
an agreeable and inviting perfume began to titillate the nostrils and
stomachs of the guests, and into which Sobakevitch had already for some
time been casting longing glances at an immense sturgeon which was
lying on a side table, upon a large dish.

The guests tasted as a relish to sharpen their appetite, a _liqueur_ of
that dark olive colour, which is only seen in Siberian precious stones,
and which are used in Russia for valuable ornaments only; having done
so they approached the table from all sides with fork in hand, and
began to display their choice of taste, or if we may say so, every one
his character and inclination, in attacking the one, the fresh caviar,
another, the large fish pie, a third, the cheese and so forth.

Sobakevitch left all the smaller dishes unnoticed, and betook himself
at once to the large dish with the sturgeon upon it, and whilst the
other guests were eating, talking and drinking, he had succeeded in the
short space of a quarter of an hour, and without any great exertions
in eating nearly the whole fish, so that when the Police-master
accidentally bethought himself of the fish, saying:

"By the bye, I wonder, gentlemen, how you will like this wonderful
production of nature?" and then approaching the dish with fork in hand
and followed by his guests, he found but the tail left of his wonderful
production of nature.

As for Sobakevitch, he feigned not to notice it, but taking up a plate
he coolly approached another dish with small fried fish upon it, and
used his fork to pick up a few of them, as if he had no real appetite.
After having thus quietly dispatched the sturgeon, Sobakevitch sat
himself down in an easy chair, and neither ate nor drank any more, but
like a cat, kept licking his lips and winking his eyes.



CHAPTER X.


The first toast proposed after luncheon, was as our reader may easily
and naturally imagine, to the health and prosperity of the noble landed
proprietor from the government of Kherson; then, to the welfare and
happy settlement on his estate of his newly acquired peasants; and
last, not least, to the health of his intended spouse, the boisterous
hip, hip, hurrahs, which followed the last toast, forcing a pleasant
smile from the lips of our hero.

Immediately after his health had been drank, he was at once surrounded
by every one present, one and all of whom begged and entreated him to
prolong his sojourn in Smolensk for, at least, two weeks.

"No, no, Pavel Ivanovitch! say what you like, but give way to our
persuasions, for you cannot deny our proverbs, and if you leave us you
would but cool our huts--enter upon the threshold and retreat! No, no,
you had better stop and spend your time with us! We will marry you if
you like; what do you say to that Ivan Gregorievitch, shall we marry
him?"

"We'll marry him, we'll find him a wife," his Excellency the President
rejoined. "However much you might feel inclined to struggle with hands
and feet against it, we are determined to marry you! No, excellent
papa, there is no getting out of this, since you have fallen among us,
you must not complain. We are not jesting with you."

"Well, gentlemen, why should I struggle, with hands and feet?" said
Tchichikoff, smiling. "Matrimonial ties are not to be rejected
thoughtlessly, provided the bride could be found."

"We'll find you a bride. How should we not? We shall find everything,
all--whatever your heart may wish for."

"Ah! in such a case--"

"Bravo! he will stay!" was the general shout. "Vivat! hurra to our
Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff! Hip! hip! hurrah!" And all approached
him again to shake hands and touch glasses. Tchichikoff made his
response to everybody. "Stop, stop, once more!" said those of a more
lively disposition, and touched glasses again; they then assailed him
for a third time, and touched glasses for a third time.

In a very short time afterwards they became all very gay and lively.
The President, who was a most amiable man when in a cheerful
disposition, embraced Tchichikoff several times and in the excess
of his overflowing heart, said to him, "Oh, you are my darling--my
mother!" and then he would smack his fingers at him, and begin to dance
and sing around him.

After the champagne, they had some sparkling Hungarian wine, which
considerably heightened the good-humour of the company. They had now
entirely forgotten their game of whist; they were arguing loudly,
shouting, singing and speaking of everything, not even excluding
politics, nor the military preparations that were carried on already at
that time with hostile intentions towards Turkey; which, as a matter of
course, led them further on to express their mutual disapprobation of
the Emperor's conduct, and which free expressions at any other time
they would have severely resented even from their children.

In this instance, they conversed freely and decided the most important
questions of state, which would have considerably embarrassed even
a Menschikoff and a Nesselrode. Tchichikoff never felt so happy and
well-disposed as on this occasion, and fancied himself to be really
a landed proprietor of the beautiful province of Kherson; he began
to speak of a variety of improvements; on the system of English and
American improvements in agriculture and machinery; on the happiness
and beatitude of two loving hearts, and even began to recite to
Sobakevitch the verses of Werther to Charlotte, to which declamation
the other could do nothing better than wink with his eyes, because,
after the meal he had made of the sturgeon, he felt a great inclination
for a doze.

Tchichikoff now began to feel that he was becoming rather too free and
communicative, and therefore accepted the droschki of the Procurator.
The coachman of the imperial gentleman proved to be a fellow of a sharp
intellect, and displayed it on the road, for he did not guide his
horses with both hands, but contrived to do so with his left only,
whilst with his right, he managed to help the gentleman to keep his
seat on the equipage. In this manner, our hero drove home in a strange
carriage, whilst a thousand stranger ideas kept continually crossing
his mind. A fair bride, with golden hair, rosy cheeks with a mole on
both, a splendid estate and villages in the fair province of Kherson,
and a large fortune to match it. Selifan even received some sundry
instructions concerning his new method of administration, to call
together all the recently acquired serfs, and to pass them in review
one by one, and show them the land and hut allotted to them in their
new settlement by their noble lord and master.

Selifan listened silently and for a long while, but then he left the
room, saying to Petruschka, "Petruschka, go and undress your master."
Petruschka began to take off his boots, and his master succeeded in
undressing himself properly; and after turning over several times
in his bed, which in consequence creaked most unmercifully, he fell
asleep, under the positive impression that he was a landed proprietor
of the fair province of Kherson.

Meanwhile, Petruschka carried into the lobby the pantaloons and the
snuff-coloured dress-coat with the brass buttons, and having spread
them across a wooden stand, he began to whip and brush so well and much
that the landing of the staircase was soon filled with a cloud of dust.

As he was on the point of taking the clothes off, he happened to glance
down the landing and saw Selifan, who was returning from the stable;
their glances met, and they at once understood one another as if by
intuition. "Our master is fast asleep, now is our time to go and look
about a little." To take the dress-coat and trowsers into the room was
done in an instant, and immediately after Petruschka had rejoined his
friend below, and both went out together.

Not a word was said about where they intended to go, and on the road
they talked of the most indifferent subjects. Their walk was not a long
one; they simply crossed the street and entered the house opposite to
the inn; they then approached a low smoky glass door, which led, as
it were, into a cellar, where they beheld a number of strange-looking
people sitting around wooden tables; some were well shaved, others
again wore their beard long, according to the national custom; some
were dressed in a sheep-skin with the wool inside, others again simply
in shirt-sleeves, and here and there a few in a common felt cloak.

What Petruschka and Selifan did there, we cannot say, but when they
left the house in about an hour after they entered it, they made their
appearance in the open street, arm-in-arm, preserving a strict silence,
but helping and upholding one another most carefully, and cleverly
avoiding each stone and turning. Hand-in-hand and holding each other
strongly, they remained for more than a quarter of an hour at the foot
of the staircase; at last, being convinced that they were right, they
began the ascent, in which they succeeded to their mutual satisfaction
after many exertions.

They now entered the room, and Petruschka stood musingly for a
few minutes before his bedstead, which, as our reader may perhaps
recollect, was of the most wretched description; he was thinking how he
should lie down in order to sleep with the greatest degree of comfort,
at last he laid himself down perfectly across the bed, so that his feet
rested upon the floor. Selifan laid himself down also upon the same
bed, but so that his head rested upon the stomach of his comrade, and
thus forgot completely that he had no right to sleep in this room at
all, but ought to have gone down in the lower hall or in his stable to
watch his horses.

In this position they both fell immediately fast asleep, and began
to snore as loudly and as deeply as any Russian bear could possibly
snore; their deep notes were answered from the other room by their
master, in a fine, nasal, steam-pipe whistle. Soon after, the whole
of the establishment had sunk as it were into a magic slumber, with
the exception, however, of one lonely window, in which a light was yet
glimmering; this room was occupied by the lieutenant who had arrived
with his own carriage and horses. According to the head-waiter's
information, he came from Rizan, and was evidently passionately fond of
boots, or he had already ordered four pair of Wellingtons and was now
busily engaged in trying on the fifth pair.

He had already several times approached his bed with the evident
object of laying down to his rest, but it was impossible--he could
not succeed; the boots were too well-made, and he continued yet for a
considerable time to look at and admire his boots, which were very well
made indeed; the heels especially seemed to keep his attention awake,
because they were extensively high--according to the latest fashion.



CHAPTER XI.


The purchases made by our friend Tchichikoff became the gossip of
the day, and created a great sensation in Smolensk. The whole town
conversed freely on the subject, opinions were given, and conclusions
arrived at, whilst questions arose whether it was a good speculation to
purchase serfs in the north, with the object in view of transplanting
or settling them in the south.

Animated, as the majority of persons are by a spirit of contradiction,
many pronounced themselves perfectly capable of enumerating all the
advantages and disadvantages on the great undertaking of the stranger.

"Certainly," said some one of them, "you are perfectly right on several
points, and your argument is as dear as it is obvious, no objection
can be raised against it: the soil in the southern provinces of the
Empire, and especially near the Crimea, is very rich and productive;
but his estate seems to be situated at some considerable distance from
the Dnieper, which flows through our very town, and what is our friend
Tchichikoff, and what especially are his serfs to do without a river?
for you cannot deny it--he has no river."

"Well, my dear Stephan Dmitrievitch, don't excite yourself, for
Heaven's sake don't, to be without a river is, after all, not so bad
as you seem to imagine, allow me to tell you, that the process of
emigrating and settling serfs, is by far the greatest difficulty. Is it
not well-known what our serfs are? to transplant them as it were upon
a fresh soil, and train them again to a foreign system of agriculture,
is, in my humble opinion, a herculean task, besides you must not
forget, that if the serf really arrives alive at his new destination,
he generally finds nothing to shelter his head under, but has to build
his own hut, though the cattle is found for him. Add to all these
disadvantages, and you know it as well as I, the desperate character of
those fellows, and you will come to the conclusion, that if they take
it in their heads to run away, you may but whistle after them, and this
argument you must allow to be as clear and conclusive as that two and
two make four."

"No, no, my dear Alexei Ivanovitch, allow me, pardon me, if I disagree
with you on that point, that the serfs of Tchichikoff should take
it into their heads to run away. The Russian is fit for everything,
and can accustom himself to any climate. Send him even to Siberia or
Kamtchatka if you like, but give him only a pair of leather gloves and
his hatchet, and you may depend upon it that he will clasp his fist,
and build himself another hut in no time."

"Allow me to tell you, Ivan Gregorievitch, that you have lost sight
of a very important fact indeed: you have forgotten to inquire of
what character Tchichikoff's new serfs are? You seem to forget that
a wise owner will never sell a good, industrious, and valuable serf.
I am ready to lay down my head upon the block, if Tchichikoff's
newly-acquired peasants are not one and all confirmed drunkards, and
riotous people, and thieves and murderers in the bargain."

"Just so, exactly, I agree with you on this point; and I will allow
that all Tchichikoff's slaves are confirmed drunkards, but we must also
take into consideration, that in this very fact lies the moral, yes, I
repeat it, in this fact lies the hidden moral, which has escaped your
penetration; as you justly observed, they are all scoundrels now, but
leaving their old abode, and settling in a different country, they
might easily become most valuable subjects. Such instances and examples
have been very frequent within our own country, as well as in other
empires, nay, even history proves them."

"Never, never," said the Inspector of the the Imperial Manufactories,
"believe me, such things can never happen, because Tchichikoff's
serfs are now going to encounter two formidable enemies: their first
antagonist will be the close proximity of the Malo-Russian provinces,
where, as you all well know, spirits of wine are sold duty free. I
can assure you that in less than two weeks they will become like
inner-soles from pure drinking. Their other enemy is their natural
disposition for idling and wandering about, which is sure to develope
itself most powerfully during the progress of their emigration. Unless,
indeed, Tchichikoff was to have them continually under his eyes, and
was to keep them with a strong hand like a Jamtchick his troika, scold
them for the least trifle, not trust to anyone else but himself, be
continually with and after them, and when occasion require it, treat
them like our great Emperor Peter did, even with his generals, namely,
give them a box in the ear, or a blow in the neck."

"But why should Tchichikoff take all the trouble to box their ears and
face himself, he could easily meet with a trustworthy steward to manage
his estate as well as his serfs."

"Oh, oh, find a trustworthy steward; but, my dear man, you forget that
they are generally all scoundrels, and the real blood-suckers of the
peasantry!"

"They are all rogues because of the indolence of the land owners, who
will not take the trouble and look after their own interest."

"You are perfectly right;" re-echoed the majority. "If our proud and
wealthy landowners were only to know a little of their household
interests and understand how to choose their confidants, matters would
stand quite different in our holy Russia, and stewards, would be honest
men."

One of the gentlemen present who happened to be an imperial manager,
hereupon said, that it was quite impossible to find a conscientious and
honest manager for less than five thousand silver roubles a-year. But
the President at once rejoined that such a virtuous man might even be
met with at three thousand a-year.

But the manager boldly rejoined: "where could you find such a person?
hanging about your elbows perhaps?" And the President in turn again
replied: "he is not exactly hanging at my elbow's ends, but at any rate
not far off from here, and if you like to know where, I can tell you
that he lives in my very district, and his name is Peter Petrovitch
Rasgerischin; and that is the very man that would suit our friend
Tchichikoff as a manager for his estates and serfs."

Many entered feelingly into Tchichikoff's position, and the
difficulties that would necessarily arise from the displacement of such
a large number of serfs, began to alarm them very seriously indeed;
in their apprehensions some of them went even so far as to predict the
possible outbreak of a riot, especially as the thought occurred to them
of what description the serfs of Tchichikoff were represented to be.

With reference to this latter contingency, the Commissioner of Police
observed, "that it was foolish to anticipate a riot, because a few
hundred peasants were about to emigrate, and admitting even that some
slight disturbances were to happen, there existed the power of the
Capitän-Ispravnik to stifle it in its very birth, and that if the
Capitän-Ispravnik did not choose to attend to the matter in person,
it would be quite sufficient for him to send his cap, which like the
policeman in England, would be powerful enough to drive the rioters
back to their duty and home in an incredibly short space of time."

Many others again offered their advice how the spirit of revolt--which
in their wise opinion of the serfs of Tchichikoff, was sure to break
out among them--could be repressed or prevented, especially when the
poor fellows, namely the serfs, were to be torn away from their native
soil, and perhaps the bosom of their families.

The opinions and suggestions on this point were numerous and original;
there were some who advised rather stringent measures, all replete
with military rigour, if not barbarity, at any rate of a very severe
nature indeed; however, there were also a few who advised kindness
and compassion. The Postmaster observed, that he was under a sacred
obligation, that it lay in his power to become a father to his slaves,
to use his own expression; introduce even among them the blessing of
moral and physical emancipation and enlightenment, at the same time he
did not forget to mention with great praise the Lancastrian system of
mutual education.

It was in such a manner that the good inhabitants of Smolensk
expressed, themselves on the subject of our hero's enterprise, and many
of them, overpowered by their goodwill towards him, even communicated
their suggestions personally to him, and even went so far as to offer
him the services of an escort, for the safer conveyance of his serfs
to their place of destination.

For their advice, Tchichikoff thanked them most cordially, saying, that
if he should have occasion he would not fail to avail himself of their
kind suggestions, but as for the preferred military escort, he declined
it in the most positive terms, assuring them at the same time, that it
would be perfectly unnecessary, as the peasants which he had bought
were all of an extremely mild character, and that they felt a free
and independent inclination to settle over in another country where
they were sure to feel happy; and that as to the anticipated riot,
which his friends apprehended, he assured them that under such happy
auspices this was a contingency which could impossibly happen among his
newly-acquired serfs.



CHAPTER XII.


Such and similar conversations and discussions produced, however, the
most beneficial consequences for the interest of Tchichikoff, and which
he was far from anticipating; namely, the news was spread about, that
he was nothing more or less than a millionaire. The inhabitants of
Smolensk, without this new advantage, had already taken a particular
fancy for Tchichikoff, as we have seen already from the first chapter;
but now, and after such a report they began to like him more than
heartily if possible.

However, if we are to speak the truth, we must confess that they
were all excellent people, lived in concord and unity, and behaved
themselves in the most friendly and christian-like manner; whilst their
daily conversation bore the stamp of a peculiar simplicity and candour
quite of a primitive nature: "My dear friend Yliah Ylitsch! listen,
brother Anthipator Sacharievitch! you have told a falsehood, my dear
old gossip Ivan Gregorievitch!" and whenever they addressed themselves
to the Postmaster, whom they called Ivan Andreievitch, they were sure
to add, "sprechen sie deutsch?" in a word all lived in a very friendly
and homely manner.

Many of them were hot without pretensions to a superior education; his
Excellency the President of the Council, for instance, knew by heart
several of the poems of Pushkin and Zoukovsky, and could recite them
with due emphasis, especially the passage commencing, "The forest
sleeps, the plain is silent," and the word "hush!" was so cleverly
pronounced by him, that it really seemed as if the forest was actually
fast asleep; in order to add more effect and truthfulness to his
recitation, he used at this passage to close his eyelids immediately.

The Postmaster inclined more towards natural philosophy, and continued
reading very diligently, even during the night Young's "Night
Thoughts," and the "Key to the Secrets of Nature," by Eckartshausen,
from which books he was even in the habit of making very long extracts,
but of what description these extracts were it is impossible for us to
tell; on the whole, he was sharp and acute, flowery in his language,
and fond of composing original phrases, which, we regret, it is equally
impossible for us to render in the English language.

The other men of importance were also, more or less, of a cultivated
mind; some of them used to read translations from all languages, others
again, delighted in the study of the authors of the country, or read
the newspapers, whilst some even did not read at all Some individuals
were also difficult of comprehension, and could not understand you
unless you took the trouble, as the phrase goes, to dot their i's
for them; some again were as dull as a blockhead--if we may use the
expression; they would continue to stick to their prejudices and remain
lying on their backs like a log of wood; it was perfectly useless to
try to lift them up; they would listen to no persuasions.

As regards their general bodily appearance, it is already well-known
to our readers that they were of an imposing countenance, solid and
sober-minded men, there was not the least frivolity about them. They
possessed all those qualities, which caused their wives in moments of
tender conversation, and _tête-à-têtes_ to address them pretty nearly
in the following language: "Dear mullet; my little fat man; little
fairy; pretty blacky; kiki; joujou," and so forth. And in general they
were all good-natured and kind-hearted men, pervaded with a due sense
of hospitality--a great and favourable characteristic trait of the
whole nation. For if even a stranger had had an opportunity to taste
what they call their "salt and bread," or sat with them at a game of
whist, he became at once as it were dear to them.

And so much the more was it the case with Tchichikoff, who, thanks
to his agreeable and gentlemanly manners, had completely ingratiated
himself in their esteem and good opinion, because he had the secret
gift of pleasing, whenever it was to his advantage convenient to do
so. They had taken so great an affection for him, that he could not
possibly imagine a scheme or pretence under which he could leave the
town; all he now heard daily was, "One little week more, only one more;
you must stay and live with us, our dear Pavel Ivanovitch!" in a word
he was treated in the most affectionate manner, and nursed, as the
phrase goes, like a child in baby linen. But incomparably remarkable
was the impression (the direct road to madness) which Tchichikoff had
produced upon the fair sex of Smolensk. To explain this extraordinary
fact, only approximatively, it would be necessary to say a great deal
of the fair ladies themselves, their society; and paint in glowing
colours the qualities of their hearts. But here it is that the author
feels seriously embarrassed, because the thought occurs to him that he
is now writing to please the fair inhabitants of the British isles, and
that he has no longer the right to be elaborate in the description of
the moral and physical qualities of his own countrywomen. On the other
hand, he still feels a great respect for the husbands of Smolensk, and
as for a third reason--the third reason is that it is really difficult
to divine, or dive into the depth of the female heart.

The ladies of Smolensk were--no, it is impossible to tell what; I feel
a peculiar timidity overcoming me all of a sudden. In the ladies of
Smolensk the most prominent features were--it is really strange, but
my pen refuses to obey the hand, and seems as if loaded with lead. Be
it so; the description of their character I will leave to one more
worthy than myself; to one who knows how to paint in vivid colours and
with a powerful brush, and reserve to myself, in this instance, the
modest privilege of saying a few words on their personal appearance and
manners; it is a very superficial glance.

The ladies of Smolensk then, were what is termed presentable, and in
this respect they could be confidently placed as a model to all other
ladies. As to their manners, observances of fashion, maintenance of
etiquette, and great propriety in its finest shades, but especially in
the due observance of the laws of fashion in its last particulars, they
rivalled, nay, even surpassed, the court ladies of St. Petersburgh and
Moscow. They dressed with great taste, drove about town in their own
open carriages, made according to the last imported model from Vienna
or London, with a seat behind in which a fat flunkey covered over with
gold lace was rocking himself gallantly.

Visiting cards were as the French say de _rigueur_, no matter whether
the name was written upon the deuce of diamonds or the ace of spades,
to have them, was a sacred obligation. For the sake of a visiting
card two lady friends and even near relatives, fell out for ever,
because the one had omitted to send her card in return to the other,
and thus found wanting in reciprocating civility. And, notwithstanding
the earnest endeavours of their husbands and friends effect a
reconciliation between them, it proved a total failure; and although
many difficulties might be overcome in this world, yet this remained an
impossibility, the reconciliation of two ladies, who fell out because
the one of them committed a _manque de_ towards her friend. Thus then
these two ladies continued to live in mutual disaffection.

As regards the privilege of occupying the first seat at concerts and
evening parties, there happened also numerous differences and serious
scenes; inspiring their husbands, sometimes, with an extraordinary
sense of chivalrous and magnanimous courage in supporting and
defending their rights and claims. Duels of course were not fought
between them, because they were all knighted men and imperial
_employés_, but instead, the one tried to annoy the other as much as
possible, which in many instances is really worse than fighting a duel
on the most disadvantageous terms.

As regards the _morale_ of the ladies of Smolensk, they used to be,
strictly speaking, extremely severe and rigid--full of an aristocratic
indignation at the lightest offence, and the least flaw or weakness in
that respect was condemned and punished with the utmost rigour. And
if even, something or another did happen (which we will by no means
call improper) among them, they always agreed to come to some secret
compromise, so that it remained impossible ever to ascertain the real
cause of the scandal, in fact, they followed the wise maxim of the
great Napoleon, who, on such occasions used to say: "il faut toujours
laver le linge sale en famille!"

As for the present Emperor of the French, it is impossible for us to
tell positively, what his opinion on such a subject would be, though
we are led to believe that he is a man of considerable experience in
family matters; as for the kind husbands of the ladies in Smolensk,
their honour continued to remain perfectly intact, and the decorum
was preserved in every instance of that kind; for they were so well
prepared to meet an attack, that if even they happened to see something
or another, or bear of it, they were always found ready with a
dignified reply or a short proverb like the following: "whose business
I ask you is it, if the cousin and her cousin chose to sit in the pit?"

We must also not forget to add, that the ladies of Smolensk, were
distinguished for their elegant expressions, and in that respect
resembled and reminded us of the ladies at the imperial courts of
Moscow and St. Petersburg; they were extremely careful and graceful
in their words and actions. They never used to say, I have snuffed my
nose, I am perspiring, I spat; but they expressed themselves in nearly
the following terms: I have availed myself of my pocket handkerchief,
dancing and walking excites me. It was also quite impossible for them
to say; this glass or plate is not dean, nor would they use any term
approximating to it, but instead, expressed themselves, perhaps, thus:
this glass or plate has been considerably neglected, or something very
much like it.

And in order to render the Russian language more aristocratic (for in
Russia one likes to ape aristocracy if not autocracy), they had the
habit of omitting one half of the words in their mother tongue, and
replacing them cleverly with French phraseology, which language, rich
as it is in _homonymes_, allows of expressions much stronger and more
equivocal than those we have mentioned above, completely rejected as
vulgar from the memory of the fair ladies of Smolensk.

And this is nearly all we have to say about the ladies of Smolensk,
speaking superficially. But if we were to glance deeper into the
character of these ladies, we should, of course, discover many more of
their interesting propensities; however, we will not venture to do so,
because it is very dangerous to look to any depth into the heart of a
lady. And thus limiting ourselves to superficial glances, we will again
proceed in our observations.

Up to this time, the ladies in general had taken no very particular
notice of Tchichikoff, they had rendered him, however, full justice by
acknowledging him to be a perfect gentleman, and a man of extremely
agreeable manners; but from the moment that the report was spread
about, that he was a millionaire, they discovered in him many more
hitherto hidden qualities. However, the ladies themselves were not at
all selfish; the fault was lying in the word millionaire, not in the
millionaire himself, but positively in the word; because in the only
sound of the word, or in the bag of money, is concluded a something
that acts most powerfully upon the honest as well as the dishonest man,
in fine, it produced an effect upon everybody.

The wealthy man enjoys the privilege of looking with leisure upon the
most creeping business, the most barefaced civility, based upon no
principle whatever; many men of such character know perfectly well that
they will receive nothing for degrading themselves thus far, and even
that they have no right, whatever, to accept anything for doing so, but
yet they will persist and rush forward to meet him, to smile when he
approaches, to take off their hat when he passes, and do everything
to obtain an invitation to any dinner party where they may be sure of
dining with the millionaire.

We will not venture to affirm that this servile inclination was
perceptible in the ladies; however, in many of the drawing-rooms in
town, the observation went the round, that Tchichikoff was certainly
far from being handsome, but yet, that he was such as a man ought to
be, and were he to be a little stouter or a little thinner, he would
have certainly not have been even good looking. At the same time, it
was also whispered about and rather to the disadvantage of slender men,
that they resembled more a tooth-pick than a man.

In the toilettes of the ladies, many additions became about this
time visible. The bazaars were crowded with visitors and purchasers
nearly to suffocation; promenades were even brought into fashion, and
the number of carriages driving about were nearly innumerable. The
tradesmen seemed bewildered, when they saw that several pieces of silk
stuff which they had purchased in the capital, and which they had not
been able to sell till now, because they were pronounced too costly,
found suddenly a ready sale, and even occasioned disputes as to who
should have the preference in their acquisition.

During the promenade, one of the fair ladies was observed to have
something like a large ring adjusted in her dress, which would have
been wide enough to cover the cupola of a church, and which very much
embarrassed her in the progress of her walk, so much so indeed that the
police-officer on duty ordered the common people to leave the parapet,
so as not to be in the way of her Excellency.

Tchichikoff even in spite of his usual equanimity could not forbear
to remark at last such unusual attention. One fine evening when he
returned home to his hotel, he was surprised to find a neatly-sealed
letter upon his table; where it came from, and who had brought it, it
was impossible for him to ascertain; even the acute head-waiter could
tell him no more but that some person brought it who had received
instructions not to tell that it came from a lady.

The letter began in the following positive style: "No, I feel that I
must write to thee!" Then something was said about a secret sympathy
of souls; this opinion was affirmed by numerous little dots, which
occupied more than half a line; then followed some thoughts very
remarkable for their truthfulness, so much so, that we consider it
indispensable to copy them.

"What is our life? A wilderness, covered with sorrows. What is the
world? A crowd of insensible beings." After this much, the fair writer
observed that she, was bathing with her tears the last lines of a
tender mother, who had ceased to live for her these last twenty-five
years. Tchichikoff was then invited to leave town for the solitude,
because it was impossible to breathe freely in a place where the heart
remained incarcerated by the chains of society. The latter part of the
letter expressed real despair, and concluded in the following verse:


    Two turtle-doves will show
    Thee,--my cold grave,
    Their mournful cooing will tell
    Thee,--that I died in tears.


This is as nearly as we can give it in English, though we must confess
that the original was also deficient in poetical composition. However,
it was to the purpose, and quite in the spirit of the day. There was no
signature at the bottom--no Christian name, nor family name, nor was
the month or date mentioned. However, there was a postscript--whoever
is accustomed to receive letters from ladies is of course aware they
are in the habit never to post their epistles without the addition of a
P.S.; and as for my fair readers they know best why they never omit it.
The postscript of the fair unknown to our hero went on to say that his
own heart ought to tell him who she was, and that she would be at the
Lord-Lieutenant's ball the next night, and that it was there that he
should behold the original.

This epistle considerably excited and pre-occupied the mind of our
hero. In this anonymous communication there was so much that was
mysterious and provoked curiosity, that Tchichikoff could not resist
reading it a second and then again a third time, and at last said, "I
am really curious to know who the fair writer might be!" In a word,
the affair, to judge from appearances, promised to become a serious
one. For more than an hour after he continued to think of it; at last,
stretching out his arms and leaning his head on one side, he exclaimed:

"I must confess the letter has been written very feelingly indeed."

Then, and as a matter of course, the letter was carefully folded up and
placed in his writing-desk, dose to an old play-bill and an invitation
to a wedding, which he had kept there for these last seven years in the
same apartment. Half an hour later he positively received an invitation
to the ball of the Governor of Smolensk, in which there was nothing
unusual, for at the seat of the provincial administration, where the
Lord-Lieutenant resides, there are rejoicings and balls, else he could
not depend upon the powerful support of the country nobility and gently.

From the instant he received the invitation to the ball all else was
set aside, and he began immediately to devote all his attention to
the preparations for the evening party; because there were now many
inciting and pleasant reasons. And for such reasons, perhaps, was there
since the creation of the world, never so much time employed in the
preparations for an evening party. More than an hour was exclusively
devoted to the examination of his face in a looking-glass. He attempted
to execute a variety of expressions; at first he tried to assume an
air of importance and propriety, then again a proud respectfulness,
mingled with a smile, and again simply an air of respectfulness
without a smile; a few bows and inclinations were addressed to the
looking-glass, accompanied by indistinct sounds, in some instances
very much resembling the French language, though Tchichikoff did not
understand French at all.

He presented himself with numerous pleasant surprises, moved his
eyebrows up and down, contracted his lips, and even seemed to smack his
tongue; in a word, what does a person not do when alone, especially
when under the impression that he is good-looking, and convinced that
there is no indiscreet person to glimpse at him through the keyhole?

At last, he pinched slightly his chin, and said, "Oh, you little
rogue," and then he began to dress. It was in the best of humours that
he accomplished his evening toilette. Whilst putting on his braces,
or tying his cravat, he began to scratch compliments with his feet,
and bow forward with unusual grace, and though he was no dancer, he
nevertheless executed an _entrechat_. This _entrechat_ produced a
slight but innocent effect; it shook the chest of drawers, and his
hair-brush fell from the sofa.



CHAPTER XIII.


The appearance of our hero at the ball of the Governor of Smolensk
created considerable sensation. Every one present turned round to
receive him, some even held their playing-cards in their hands,
whilst others stopped short in the most interesting part of their
conversation, they deserted all and everything to rush forward and
greet our hero.

"Pavel Ivanovitch! Good Heavens! here is our Pavel Ivanovitch! Amiable
Pavel Ivanovitch! Most worthy Pavel Ivanovitch! Pavel Ivanovitch my
soul! Here you are at last, excellent Pavel Ivanovitch! Allow me to
embrace you my dear Pavel Ivanovitch! Give him up to me, let me embrace
him most passionately, my own dear Pavel Ivanovitch!"

Tchichikoff felt himself suddenly embraced on all sides, without the
least chance of preventing it. He had not quite liberated himself
from the affectionate embrace of the President, when he found himself
already in the arms of the clever Commissioner of Police; the
police-master passed him over to the hands of the Inspector of the
Medical Institutions; the Inspector of Hospitals gave him up to the
arms of the Imperial Contractor, the Contractor to the Architect.

The Lord-Lieutenant, who was standing at that moment and conversing
with several ladies and presenting them with some _bonbons,_ left them
hurriedly to go and greet his guest, nearly crushing the favourite
lap-dog of his lady; in a word, Tchichikoff spread joy and pleasure
all around him. There was not a face present that did not express
satisfaction, or at least reflect the general gratification that
suddenly prevailed over the company assembled. Our hero returned thanks
and compliments to every one individually, and felt unusually versatile
and cheerful; bowed right and left, as was his habit, slightly
inclining towards on side, but with perfect ease, so that he charmed
everybody.

The ladies, too, surrounded him like a garland of flowers, and spread
as it were a cloud of a thousand perfumes over him: the one was scented
like a rose, another like a violet, a third was strongly perfumed with
patchouli.

Tchichikoff at first, did nothing else but raise his nose and smell
about him. In their dresses there was immense taste; the muslin, satin,
and other silk dresses were of such pale and fashionable colours, that
it was impossible to find them a proper name, to such a degree had the
perfection of taste risen. Ribbon-favours and artificial bouquets, were
strewn in great profusion and in the most picturesque disorder all over
their dresses, though this disorder must have cost some weary hours
to some intelligent dressmaker. The light and graceful headdresses
only rested on the tips of the ears, and they seemed to say: "oh, I am
flying away, a pity it is that I cannot carry off my fairy herself!"
Their waists were exceedingly well laced, and presented to the eye
the most solid and well-proportioned forms (we must not forget to
observe here, that the ladies of Smolensk were generally inclined to
_embonpoint_, but used to lace so tightly and ingeniously, and were of
so very agreeable manners that it was perfectly impossible to notice
their fulness of body.)

All was with them, studied and preconcerted with unusual carefulness;
their neck and shoulders were uncovered as much as was absolutely
necessary, and not a hair's-breadth farther; every one of them
displayed her powerful charms so long until she felt perfectly
convinced they had succeeded to ruin the peace of a man; as for their
other treasures they remained hidden with much ingenuity; either under
a light silken _fichu_ or some Brussels lace surrounding their graceful
neck, and called by the ladies "modesties."

These modesties, wound before and behind, all that which was not
calculated to effect the perdition of their admirer, but they allowed
him to guess that it was really there that his perdition was hidden.
Their long white kid gloves were not drawn up as high as the elbow, but
were allowed to remain carelessly wrinkled a little above the hand,
which thus displayed to greater advantage the fulness of a charming
arm; the long gloves of some of the ladies had even become torn, in
consequence of the charming roundness of their arms; in a word, all
seemed to be impressed with the idea: no, this is not a provincial town
in Russia, it is the capital itself, it is a second Paris.

Nevertheless, here and there an old-fashioned head-dress, never seen
before on earth, or an extravagant plume would suddenly appear in the
midst of fashion, as it were, to keep up contrast, and follow its own
inclination. However, this could not be otherwise, such occurrences
are inevitable in provincial towns, they will make their appearance
in spite of any precautions. Tchichikoff thus standing and admiring,
thought: "I wonder which of them is the mysterious composer of that
interesting letter?" and would have dearly liked to stretch forth his
neck and nose; but before his very nose he beheld a long range of
curls, headdresses, feathers, necks, ribbons, perfumed modesties, and
dresses.

A polka-mazurka was just beginning: the Postmaster's lady, the
Capitän-Ispravnik, a lady in a blue plume, a lady in a white plume,
the Tcherkessian Prince Chiphaihilidseff, officers, from the guards
of St. Petersburg, and imperial _employés_ from Moscow, foreigners and
Russians--all started off in a mad dance.

"The whole province is whirling round," said Tchichikoff, as he
retreated into the background; but as soon as the ladies took
their seats again after the dance was over, he immediately began
to look about in all directions to try if possible, to discover by
the expression of their faces or the sparkling of their eyes, who
the authoress of the letter might be. Everywhere his eyes met with
glances that betrayed a nearly imperceptible expression of captivating
attraction, so very imperceptible.

"No," said Tchichikoff to himself, "women are such subjects,
that--" Here he could not help moving about his right arm in the air,
and then he continued; "it is perfectly useless to speak of them. If
anyone was to attempt to describe or define all that which flushes
their faces, the serpentine movements of their muscles, the insinuating
glances, all this, and much more, the result would be, that he could
define nothing whatever. Their eyes alone, are in themselves an
unlimited empire, in which to venture decides the fate of man. From
those boundaries he is sure never to return, nor will any mechanical
instrument, however cleverly contrived, hook him out of it again. Were
I to venture, for an example, to give an idea of their glance: so dewy,
velvety. Heaven knows what else their expression and colour conveys
to the human mind; there are some looks full of harshness, and others
again full of tenderness; some full of longing, or as some say, full
of effeminacy, or devoid of this peculiar softness, but what is more
dangerous than all these expressions, is to be caught and captivated
by such looks, when they pierce the heart, and when you find yourself
utterly enthralled. No, it is really impossible to find the right term:
the half of the human race devote their lives to gallantry, and to
nothing else but that."

Meanwhile Tchichikoff became more and more bewildered, and incapable
of deciding who the fair authoress of the letter might be. As he was
trying to give a greater effect to the piercing glance of his eyes, he
seemed to discover that the ladies on their part had also increased
the expression of their glances, in which he fancied he beheld hope
mingled with sweet torments, all calculated to destroy the peace of
his tormented heart, so acutely did he seem to feel it, that he at last
exclaimed: "No, tis of no use, I cannot guess which it is."

This, however, did not completely destroy the excellent humour he was
in. Unconstrained and with perfect freedom, he proceeded to exchange
complimentary remarks with several ladies, approached them with a
firm and easy step, or, as they say, he paced it gallantly, as old
bachelor-fashionables do in their high-heeled boots, when they have all
the appearance of racing mice, running and hopping in turn. Pacing thus
gallantly, with graceful inclinations towards the right and towards the
left, he executed at the same time with his foot, something like the
tail of a shooting star, or uncommonly like a comma.

The ladies were, of course, not only delighted with him, but discovered
a variety of more pleasing and fashionable manners in him, and they
even thought they perceived in his face the undeniable signs of a
high mind and something aristocratic and martial in his countenance,
which qualities, as is well known, please ladies exceedingly. On his
account there arose nearly a little scandal: it had been observed
that Tchichikoff chose to take his position more generally dose to
the entrance door; some of the ladies having noticed this, hastened
immediately a dance was over, to secure a seat in that part of the
_salon_, and if one of them had been more successful than the others,
there arose immediately a sensation among them, which threatened to
become really serious, for such pushing conduct was pronounced by those
who were too late, and of course disappointed, to be highly improper
and importunate.



CHAPTER XIV.


It is thus that Tchichikoff entertained the ladies, or rather, and
better, it is thus that the ladies entertained and surrounded him
on all sides with their chit-chat, interspersing it with endless
insinuations and fine allegories, which were left for him to guess
and interpret to the best of his intelligence, which, however, caused
the perspiration to appear in large drops on his forehead; he was so
captivated by their amiability that he had entirely forgotten to pay
his tribute of respect in the first instance to the lady of the house.
He only bethought himself of his forgetfulness, when her ladyship had
been already standing for a few moments before him.

Her Excellency, the wife of the Lord-Lieutenant, said in a more than
flattering tone of voice, and with a graceful movement of the head;
"Ah, Pavel Ivanovitch, at last I have the pleasure to meet you!"
I cannot exactly remember the words her Excellency spoke on that
occasion, but they were full of that peculiar affability, which is used
in modern novels, describing the fashions in high circles. Our hero
turned round, and was just on the point of returning the compliment of
her ladyship, and perhaps with as much good taste as any other hero of
a novel, when suddenly raising his eyes, he stopped short, as if from
the effects of an electric stroke.

Before him stood her ladyship, but not alone. She gave her arm to a
charming _blondine_, with fine and regular features, with a round yet
pointed chin, a bewitching oval face, such a head as an artiste would
have chosen as a model for his Madonna, and which faces are indeed very
rare appearances in Russia, where a taste for strongly developed forms
is prevalent in everything, in mountains, in forests, and in steppes,
in faces, in lips and in feet; it was the same fair _blonde_ with whom
he met on his road when leaving Nosdrieff's estate, and when, through
the inadvertence of the coachmen, or the fault of the horses, their
carriages had come into collision, and given so much trouble to the
peasants to separate and bring them in order again. Tchichikoff became
so much confused at seeing her that he could not utter a sensible
phrase, and therefore stammered a few words, Heaven knows what, but
something which a hero of a modern novel would never have ventured.

"You do not know my daughter?" said her Excellency; "she has just left,
her Majesty's institute at St. Petersburg."

He answered, that he had had already the good fortune of making her
acquaintance, accidentally; he then made an attempt to add something
more, but that something more, would not pass his lips. Her ladyship,
addressed a few more words to him, and then left him in leading away
her daughter to the other end of the saloon, to introduce her child
to her other guests; but Tchichikoff continued to remain on the same
spot, as if riveted to it, like a man, who had left his house in the
best humour, and gone into the street with the intention of taking
a pleasant walk, with his eyes disposed to look at everything, but
suddenly stops short and still, recollecting that he has forgotten
something.

No one can look so foolish as a man in such a position; in an instant
his careless thoughts desert his countenance, he tries to remember
what it is he has forgotten; is it perhaps his handkerchief, but no,
his handkerchief is in his pocket; perhaps his purse, but no, it is
also in pocket; it seems to him that he has everything about him, and
yet something whispers secretly, that he has positively forgotten
something. And he will immediately look dull and distractedly upon the
passing crowd around him, at the hurrying equipages, at the glittering
helmets and arms of the passing soldiery, upon the gaily coloured
sign-boards, but all will have lost its former charms for him.

Tchichikoff became at once a stranger to everything that passed around
him. At that particular moment, also, numerous insinuations and
questions full of a charming curiosity were addressed to him by the
fair ladies.

"Are poor mortals of this world permitted to be so curious as to
inquire a little, the subject of your meditations?"

"Where are those happy spots on which your thoughts seem to dwell?"

"Would you tell me the names of the one who has plunged you into these
sweet meditations?"


Tchichikoff replied to all these phrases with the utmost indifference,
and the pleasant phrases fell as it were into the water. He was even
to such a degree uncivil, that he soon after left them and went away
to the other end of the saloon, wishing to see in what direction her
ladyship and daughter had gone. But the ladies seemed not inclined to
part with him so soon; everyone of them resolved inwardly to use the
most powerful means of aggression upon him, so dangerous to our hearts.

It must be observed that some ladies, I wish it to be understood,
that some ladies, only, not all of them, possess a few foibles; if
they are conscious that they have any high perfections about their
persons, be it a fine forehead, a charming mouth, small hands, they
will immediately fancy, that the handsomest part of their person is the
first to attract general attention, and that all around on beholding
it, will exclaim in one outburst of admiration: "Look here, behold,
what a classic Grecian nose she has, or what a marble-like resplendent
forehead!" Whoever of them has fine shoulders, is persuaded at first
starting, that all the young men will feel perfectly bewitched by
her charms, and whisper as she passes them! "heavens, what charming
shoulders that lady has!" but as for her face, hair, nose, forehead,
they will forget to look at all, and if they should happen to do so, it
would be with indifference, as if upon something not forming parts of
the same person.

Such were the thoughts of some ladies. Every lady vowed to be as
charming as possible during the evening and the dancing, and to expose
in all its glory that corporeal perfection, which was perfection
itself. The wife of the Postmaster, as she was valsing round, bent
her head so longingly on one side, that it was really unmistakeably
charming. Another very amiable lady--who had arrived with the intention
of not dancing at all, because the reason was the sudden apparition of
a small pea-like exuberance on her left toe, in consequence of which
she had been obliged to put on a pair of very easy boots--could not
resist the temptation to valse once round in her easy boots, to stop
as it were the foolish pretentions of the Postmaster's wife.

But all these well laid out plans and manoeuvres did not produce the
desired effect upon Tchichikoff. He even did not notice the circle
they had been forming round him, but endeavoured to raise himself on
tip-toes and look out if he could discover what had become of the fair
_blondine_; he also tried his fortune in discovering by sitting down
and looking across shoulders and heads. At last he was successful,
and discovered her, sitting close by her mother's side, upon whose
head a plume fixed to a kind of Turkish turban, was balancing most
majestically.

It seemed now, as if Tchichikoff wanted to take them by assault; was
it sudden gratification at having found what he had been searching for
that acted upon him, or did some careless person push him from behind,
but he literally rushed madly forward, heeding no one. The Public
Contractor received such a push from him, that the poor man shook,
and nearly lost his equilibrium, which might have caused the downfall
of a whole range of guests; the Postmaster also stepped bade a few
paces and kept looking after him with the utmost astonishment, mingled
with a smile full of irony, he took no notice of either of them, but
rushed quickly forward; he saw but the fair _blondine_ in the distance,
who was just putting her white and long kid gloves on, no doubt in
preparation for the following dance.

As he passed along, he cast a hasty glance upon four couples who were
delighting, as it seemed, in a mazurka; the gentleman's heels dashed
noisily against the floor; a cavalry colonel was dancing with body
and soul, and hands and feet, and making such _pas_ as no one perhaps
ever executed even in a dream. Tchichikoff glided cleverly through
the mazurka and between the high-heels of the dancers, and advanced
straight towards the place where the Lord-Lieutenant's lady was sitting
with her daughter beside her. However, he approached them rather
timidly, not pacing it so easily as before, nor tripping gallantly and
fashionably; he even seemed confused, and a decided embarrassment was
undeniably perceptible in all his movements.

It is impossible for us to affirm whether sensations of love had
really taken possession, or had been awakened in the bosom of our
hero, because it is a matter of some doubt whether gentlemen of his
description, namely: not so very stout, and yet not too thin, are still
susceptible of the impressions of love; but with all that, there was in
his case something so very unusual indeed--a feeling for which he could
not account for to himself. It seemed to him, and as he confessed it at
a later period, that the whole ball, with all its noisy conversation
and boisterous music, seemed for a few minutes to have been removed to
some considerable distance from him; the violins and comets-a-piston
seemed to be played behind a mountain, and, in fact, all appeared to
be covered with a dim mist, not unlike that seen in an unartistic
production of an extensive field in a Dutch landscape; and in the midst
of this misty and carelessly painted field, appeared prominently,
and distinctly, and beautifully finished the fine features of the
enchanting _blondine_.

Her oval pretty face, her graceful and svelt stature, of which only a
young girl that has just left the imperial institution may boast, after
a short sojourn in the world of fashion, her white, almost too simple,
muslin dress, encircling easily and freely her lovely form, which was
defined in a peculiarly regular outline. It seemed to him that she
resembled a pretty little puppet or plaything artistically carved in
ivory; she shone alone, and appeared luminous and bright in the midst
of this dismal and impenetrable crowd.



CHAPTER XV.


Such seems to be the course of life in this world, and therefore it
appears also that Tchichikoff, for a few minutes of his existence,
suddenly became a poet, but the appellation of poet seems to be
rather a strong term; at any rate, he felt within himself the sudden
sensations of a lively youth, if not those of a dashing hussar.
Perceiving an unoccupied chair near the two ladies he immediately sat
down in it. His conversation was not very lively in the beginning, but
after a while he felt more at home, and began to feel even a peculiar
confidence gradually taking possession of him.

Here, and to our great discomfiture, we must observe that sedate
people and persons occupying high positions in life, are generally
rather heavy in their conversation with ladies; but, as masters past
in this adroitness, we must proclaim our young officers, beginning
from a comet, but not passing, on any account, the rank of colonel.
How they manage to be so amiable and gallant, heaven only knows; they
do not seem to speak very scientifically, nevertheless, you see their
fair listeners laugh most heartily and move about their seats; as for
the civil men of the Empire, heaven also knows, what they have to say
for themselves; no doubt they extol the vastness of the Russias and
the importance of their functions as public servants, or utter some
complimentary phrases, which, though not devoid of imagination, smell
horribly of books; if a civilian has positively the good fortune to say
anything amusing, he is sure to laugh at it much more heartily than any
one else.

We have made these observations on the two distinct avocations of men
in Russia, in order to show on which side lies the preference, and
that our readers should understand at once, why the fair _blonde_
began to yawn during her conversation with our hero. Our hero, however,
did not notice the circumstance at all, and continued to relate a
thousand pleasing incidents, which he had repeated in many other
places before now, and under the same circumstances; namely, in the
government of Simbirsk, in the family of Lady Sophia Bespetchna, whilst
paying his attentions to her daughter Adelaide; in the house of Fodor
Fedorovitch Perekrojeff in the government of Rizan; at the country
seat of Phrole Vassilievitch Pobedonosnoi, in the government of Pensa;
in the government of Viatka, during his sojourn with Colonel Peter
Varsonovitch, where he also had paid considerable attention to the fair
sex.

All the ladies appeared now to be utterly displeased with the conduct
of Tchichikoff. One of them passed him purposely to make him feel her
displeasure, and touched even, as if inadvertently, the fair _blondine_
with the hem of her dress, and as for the long scarf which graced
her shoulders, she even contrived to touch with its silken tassels
the face of the fair girl; at the same moment he heard behind him
an observation made by some fair lips, mingled with the perfumes of
violets, which were far from being agreeable; but, on the contrary,
stung him to the quick. But, he either did not hear the remarks
distinctly, or pretended not to have heard them, besides they were far
from being in his favour; he, therefore, thought it best to respect
their opinion and remain silent, though he regretted it immediately
after, but then it had become too late.

A general dissatisfaction, and in many respects very justifiable one,
indeed, became visible on many faces. However important the weight
of Tchichikoff might have been in that society, and though he was
considered a millionaire, and though his face betrayed a high amount
of talent, and his countenance even something martial, yet there are
trifles for which a lady forgives no one; were he even the Emperor of
Russia himself of gallant memory, he might consider himself a lost
man. There are instances, when a woman, however weak and feeble in
comparison with a man, becomes suddenly not only stronger than a man,
but even more powerful than anything on the face of the earth.

The sudden change in Tchichikoff's conduct towards the other ladies,
which they considered unheard of before, determined them on forming a
league among themselves against him, and which they concluded for his
ruin, behind the chair on which he was sitting. The fact was, that they
thought they had discovered in a few of the observations he addressed
to his fair partner, though they were dry and commonplace enough,
remarks that concerned them personally. To complete his disgrace with
them, he had the misfortune to relate to her an anecdote about an event
that had happened at a ball in another province, on which occasion
some young fool had composed a whole poem in honour of the ridiculous
persons who had happened to be present at that particular ball, and
from which poem he recited a few passages on the dancing assembly.

These verses were at once, and blindly, supposed to be the composition
of Tchichikoff himself. The general dissatisfaction with him rose, if
possible, to a still higher degree, and the ladies began to speak of
him in various comers in the most disadvantageous terms indeed; as for
the fair _blondine_, she was completely annihilated, and her doom was
sealed at once.

Meanwhile, a most unexpected and unpleasant catastrophe threatened
the laurels of our hero; at the time, when the fair _blonde_ was
yawning, and he exerting himself to relate to her the most pleasant of
his reminiscences, and trying even to imitate the Greek philosopher
Diogenes; at that moment, and at the extremest end of the saloon, who
should make his appearance but Nosdrieff. But where did he come from,
was it from the refreshment-room, or from the small green room where
gambling was carried on without limit. Did he enter freely of his own
accord, or was he thrust forward by some one, or by fatality herself?

Whatever brought him there is impossible for us to tell, but the fact
is that he made his appearance quite suddenly and in the best humour
of the world; he seemed exceedingly pleased and gay, and held the arm
of the Procurator firmly in his own, which caused the other to frown
repeatedly with his thick and heavy eyebrows, as if trying to hit
upon a scheme by which to escape from this strong grasp and this too
friendly arm-in-arm promenade.

The position of the Procurator appeared to be perfectly unbearable.
Nosdrieff, who seemed to have imbibed considerable courage from
two cups of tea, which of course he had not swallowed without a
considerable addition of rum, began as usual to tell the most
incredible stories. On perceiving him at a distance, Tchichikoff
determined at once, though with great regret, to give up his enviable
seat, and hasten away as quickly as possible; because an internal
feeling told him that this encounter would have fatal consequences.

But as if to confirm his presentiment, in that very instant his
Excellency the Lord-Lieutenant prevented him carrying out his intention
as he turned towards him and remarked good-humouredly, that he was very
glad to meet his friend Pavel Ivanovitch, whom he wished to be a judge
between himself and two ladies, to decide the question, whether woman's
love was permanent or not; at that same moment Nosdrieff also caught
sight of our hero, and came straight up to him.

"Ah, the gentleman from Kherson, the Chersonese slave-owner!" he
exclaimed, as he approached and burst out into a fit of laughter which
made his fresh, rosy-coloured cheeks tremble, "Well, how many more dead
men have you acquired? But your Excellency does not perhaps know," he
continued, in the same strain, as he turned towards the Governor of
Smolensk, "that our worthy friend here deals in dead serfs! By Heavens,
listen to me, Tchichikoff! I tell you as a friend, and all here present
are your friends, and even his Excellency is present, if I could do it,
I would hang thee; by Heavens, I could hang thee!"

Tchichikoff seemed really not to know where he was.

"Would your Excellency believe," continued Nosdrieff, "that when he
said to me: 'sell me your dead serfs,' I nearly burst with laughter.
I arrive here, and am told that he has been purchasing serfs to the
amount of three millions worth, with the purpose of emigrating with
them into the Government of Kherson; but how is he to settle them over?
he has been bargaining with me for my dead serfs. Listen, Tchichikoff,
I tell you candidly, and I proclaim it even in the presence of all, you
are the devil's own favourite, his Excellency is present; and what do
you say, Procurator?"

But the Imperial Procurator, and Tchichikoff, and the Governor of
Smolensk himself, became so very much confused, that they did not know
where to seek for countenance and what to reply, meanwhile; Nosdrieff,
without paying the least attention to them, continued to address
himself to our hero in a half-inebriated state and most insulting
language.

"Ah, my fine fellow, you, you--I shall not leave you, before you
have told me for what purposes you have purchased these dead serfs.
Listen to me, Tchichikoff, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, for
you know but too well that you have not a better and a more candid
friend than myself. His Excellency is even present, and what do you
say, Procurator? Your Excellency would not believe how much attached
we are to each other, if you were to say, now, here you are both, and
ask me the question: 'Nosdrieff, upon your honour, who is dearer to
you--your own father, or Tchichikoff?' I would answer unhesitatingly,
'Tchichikoff;' by Heavens I would. Allow me, my darling friend, to
impress a kiss upon you. I hope your Excellency will allow me to
embrace him. Yes, my dear Tchichikoff, pray do not resist me, allow me
to impress but one friendly kiss upon your tender snow-white cheek!"

Nosdrieff was so harshly repulsed with his intended kiss, that he
nearly rolled to the ground. Everyone stepped back, and nobody would
listen to him any more; nevertheless, the words he had spoken about
the purchase of dead serfs were uttered in so loud a tone by him, that
every person present, even those in the farthest comers of the room had
heard them, and their attention was awakened.

This news seemed to be so very strange, that all present remained
as if rivetted to the spot, and kept looking at each other for some
moments with a peculiarly statue-like, stupidly curious countenance.
Tchichikoff observed that several ladies exchanged glances full of a
malicious expression, and in the faces of several of them he thought he
perceived undeniable signs of insinuation which considerably increased
his embarrassment.

It was well known to every one that Nosdrieff was a merciless
story-teller, and that it was nothing unusual with him to advance the
greatest absurdities; but a mortal--it is really difficult to define
the composition of a mortal--whatever the news may be, provided it is
news, he is sure to communicate it immediately to some other mortal,
and if it should be only for the sake of adding, "look ye, what a
falsehood they are speaking about!" and the other mortal inclines with
gratification his ear to listen to it, although he will observe after
having heard it, "Yes, really, it is a shameless falsehood, and not
worth the least credence;" but immediately after he will hasten to meet a
third mortal, to tell everything about it, and exclaim together with a
noble indignation, "what a mean falsehood."

And such news soon makes the round of the town; and all the mortals,
however many there might be living in it, are sure to discuss on it to
satiety, and then acknowledge that it was really too base a falsehood
and not worth attention, nor the trouble of speaking about any more.



CHAPTER XVI.


This apparently absurd occurrence seemed nevertheless to annoy our
hero considerably. However stupid the words of a fool might be, yet
sometimes they are powerful, enough to disconcert a wise man. He
began to feel uncomfortable and ill-at-ease, like a man who might
have accidentally stepped with a pair of patent leather boots into
a neglected London sewer. In a word, he felt very uncomfortable. He
tried not to think of it any more, attempted to cheer himself up again.
In order to distract himself he sat down to play a game of whist;
nevertheless, all went like a wheel out of repair. He played twice the
wrong colour, and forgetting the rule that you don't cut the third
time, but leave the chance to your partner, he did so to the great
annoyance of his _vis-à-vis_.

The President could not understand at all how his friend, Pavel
Ivanovitch, who understood the rules of the game so well, and who was
even an acute player, could make all these blunders, and put a trump
upon his king of spades, upon which card he had reckoned as upon a wall
of stone.

The President and the Postmaster, and even the Commissioner of Police,
as a matter of course, passed their friendly jokes upon our hero at
these occurrences, and insinuated that Pavel Ivanovitch must be, nay
was, in love, and that they nearly guessed who had caused all his
absence of mind, and drawing attention from the game. But all these
observations made no impression upon him, and do what they like, they
could not succeed in making him even smile or return their jokes.

At supper he was still in the same disposition of mind, and could not
even then rally, notwithstanding that he was placed in very good
company, and that the hateful Nosdrieff had been obliged to leave
the house, because the ladies themselves could not help expressing
themselves scandalised with his conduct. The supper was very excellent,
and seasoned with general gaiety; all the faces which appeared as it
were from under the three branched candelabra, flowers, tarts and
bottles, were illuminated with the most unfeigned pleasure. Military
men and civilians, ladies, dress-coats, all became most amiable, even
to affectation. The gentlemen deserted their chairs and hastened to
take the dishes from the hands of the overburthened servants, with the
intention to present them themselves to their fair partners at table. A
dashing colonel presented a plate with liquid sweets to his lady on the
point of his unsheathed sword. Some gentlemen of a sedate and serious
age, among whom Tchichikoff happened to sit, were discussing politics
most earnestly, whilst eating at the same time some fish and meat
unmercifully seasoned with vinegar and mustard. They were conversing
on a subject in which he generally liked to take a lively part;
nevertheless, he remained silent, and like a man who seemed to be much
fatigued or annoyed from a long journey, who feels a peculiar dulness
of spirit, and who is incapable of taking any interest in anything.
He even did not wait for the end of the supper, but left the company
suddenly, and returned to his hotel much earlier than he was wont to do.

In that small apartment, so well known to to the reader, with the door
barricaded with a chest of drawers, and with the beetles looking out
from the comers occasionally, the disposition of his mind and soul was
so full of uneasiness, in fact as uneasy as the chair upon which he
was sitting. His heart felt sick and oppressed as if from a tiresome
void that was left within it. "I wish the devil had those who imagined
and brought into fashion those infernal balls!" said he, passionately,
within his own heart. "Where-ever did they pick up the silly idea of
dancing and feasting? the whole province has been visited, for three
years running, by bad harvests and general dearth, and they give balls
and festivals! What an ill-timed fancy; to dress themselves up in gaudy
paraphernalia! And as if I had not seen that some of the silly women
had wrapped themselves up in shawls worth, a thousand roubles! And all
that at the expense of their poor serfs, or, what is still worse, at
the expense of men like ourselves. It is but too well known, why a man
takes advantage of his position, and injures his soul and conscience;
simply for the purpose of offering to his wife a shawl or some such
gaudiness for the name of which I do not care a fig.

"And why is this so? for the important reason, that some other
gossiping body should not have occasion to say that the wife of
the Postmaster or Procurator had a handsome dress on, and for such
pretentions you have to pay down often more than a thousand roubles in
hard cash. The hue and cry, is; 'a ball, a ball, let us rejoice!' balls
are really a nuisance, not at all suitable for the Russian genius, not
at all to the taste of our Russian nature, the devil knows for whom
balls are fit; an adult, a perfectly grown up person will suddenly
take it in his head to appear all in black, laced and dressed up like
a young fiend, and begin to fight about with his legs like a madman.
Another again, though standing near his partner, will turn round to
his friend and pretend to speak of things of importance, and still
continue to cut capers like a goat, right and left.

"All this is pure monkeyism, nothing but monkeyism! Because a Frenchman
of forty is as childish as he was in his youth, we Russians ought to
be ashamed to imitate him! No, really, after each ball I cannot help
feeling as if I had committed a sin; and I would fain not even think of
it. My head feels absolutely as empty as after a tedious conversation
with a fashionable, who speaks of everything, touches slightly on a
hundred subjects at the time, he will make use of all that he has been
successful enough to pick up in books, be showy, brilliant; but as for
his own imagination, it is incapable of producing anything original,
and it is then we find, that the simple conversation of a common
tradesman, who knows his business well, is more useful; it is then we
find how empty and foolish the conversation of the man of fashion is.

"And as for their balls? What good can possibly be derived from a ball?
Let us even suppose for an instance that an author was to undertake to
describe all the scenes and occurrences of the ball room, such as they
really are? Even in his book, it would appear as insipid and foolish
as it is in reality. And pray, what is a ball? Is it moral or is it
immoral? The devil take me if I know what to call it! It is with utter
disgust, that one would throw away the book even, that speaks of, or
describes a ball!"

It was thus unfavourably that Tchichikoff expressed himself on balls
in general; but it seemed that another cause of displeasure was
deeply involved in these expressions. His great displeasure was not
principally directed against the ball itself, but rather the occurrence
that took place there, and his sudden breaking down from his enviable
position, which made him appear, Heavens knows in what light in the
opinion of the guests assembled, and that he had been playing a
peculiar, strange, and equivocal _rôle_.

Of course, looking at the matter in the light of a man of the world, he
saw at a glance, that the whole affair was bosh and nonsense, that the
word of a fool could not harm him, especially now, that the business
itself was completely, satisfactorily and legally terminated. But man
is strange: he was exceedingly provoked by the ill feeling of those,
for whom he had no condescension himself, and of whom he had even
spoken in very strong and cutting terms, ridiculing their vanity and
follies.

This aggravated him so much the more, because, after having seriously
reflected upon the subject, he could not deny that he had in a great
measure been the cause of their ill-feeling himself. However, with
himself he was not angry at all, and in this he was right, as a mat--of
course. We possess all the indulging weakness to be less severe with
ourselves, and vent our anger in preference upon our neighbour or
servants. And thus it was also with Tchichikoff, who soon managed to
find a fellow-creature who had to talk and bear upon his shoulders all
that his angry mood inspired him with. This victim fellow-creature, was
Nosdrieff, and we must confess, that the poor fellow was unmercifully
abused for his interference and indiscretion; the expressions which our
hero used at the time of his anger, was so very strong indeed that this
English paper--we are convinced--could not bear them, and for this
excellent reason we beg to omit them. Yet we may add that the whole
race of the Nosdrieff's was wished at the bottom of the sea, in which
even his most distant relations were included.

Tchichikoff continued for some considerable time to remain seated
in his uncomfortable chair, tormented by unpleasant recollections,
cursing heartily, Nosdrieff, his ancestors and descendants, whilst the
tallow-candle before him was melting rapidly down, because the wick was
long since covered with a large black cap, and the light threatened
every moment to expire altogether; a dark and gloomy night stared at
him through the window, and was preparing to give precedence to the
break of day, in the distance the hoarse crowing of a few early cocks
became also audible, and in the yet soundly somnolent town, many a poor
and homeless sheep-skin-wearer, might have been seen wandering about
hopelessly and heaving sighs of despair, which unfortunately for old
Russia are threatening to become more and more innumerable.

At this particular time, too, there happened also something unusual
at the other end of the town, and which occurrence threatened to
increase the already very unpleasant position of our hero: namely,
through the distant and narrow streets of Smolensk a peculiarly shaped
and antique-looking carriage was ricketting over the pavement in its
approach to the centre of the town; the name and description of this
carriage would have bewildered the cleverest coach-builder of England.

It was not like any of the carriages we are now accustomed to see in
the streets of large towns; it was neither what we call a britchka
nor a tarantas, nor was it anything like a barouche or a cart, but
the nearest resemblance it presented, was to an immense hollowed
water-melon, placed upon four wheels. The sides of this water-melon,
or rather its cheeks, since they were to represent the doors of that
carriage, still bore a trace of yellow colour about them, opened and
shut very indifferently, because the handles and locks were in a
dilapidated condition, and were not fastened with screws or nails,
but common string. The water-melon (which reminds us forcibly of the
carriage built in five minutes by the clowns at the Haymarket) was
filled up with a variety of pillows of all sizes, bags containing
bread, cakes and pastry. The stand behind was occupied by a sitting
servile creature, in a short grey home-spun cloak, with unshaved beard,
intersected here and there by silvery grey; this servile servant was
known by the name of young Safran.

The noise and creaking of the iron hinges and rusty screws was so loud,
that it awakened a sleeping policeman at the other end of the town,
who, suddenly aroused, seized his halberd and shouted out with all his
might, "Who comes there?" but, seeing that nobody was coming, he easily
understood that he had taken the distant rattling noise for somebody
approaching, at the same time he caught upon his coat an insect, which
he at once took close to the lamp-post and executed on the spot upon
his nail. After having thus punished the invader, he returned to his
post, laid aside his halberd, and fell again asleep, according to the
custom of the Russian police.

The horses before the water-melon kept falling on their fore-legs
continually, because they had never been shod at all, and because
the pavement of a town seemed to them perfectly strange ground. The
old-fashioned vehicle made a few more turnings in and out of a few more
narrow streets, and then turned again into a perfectly dark lane, at
the end of which it passed a dilapidated old church, and then suddenly
stopped before the house next to it, which was inhabited by the
Proto-pope and his wife.

A young girl, with her head wrapped in a large handkerchief, was the
first person that alighted from the old coach; she seized the knocker
of the door with both her hands, and began to make as great a noise
with it as a man (young Safran was dragged by his legs from his seat,
because he had plunged himself in a death-like sleep).

The dogs of the house began barking as loud as they possibly could, and
the gates were soon after thrown open, though it took considerable time
to get the old vehicle through them into the court-yard, which was a
very narrow one indeed, stocked with logs of wood, a poultry-yard, and
other court-yard incumbrances; the second person that now alighted from
out of the water-melon coach was an old lady, and this old lady was no
one else than her ladyship Korobotchka.

The old lady had, soon after the departure of our hero, felt
considerable uneasiness, and, in consequence, remained under the
impression and apprehension that he might have taken an unwarrantable
advantage over her inexperience, and, not having slept during three
consecutive nights, she determined upon coming to town at once,
notwithstanding that her horses were not fit for such a long journey,
in order to ascertain positively what the real market value for dead
serfs was, and to convince herself that she had made no mistake and
sold them perhaps--which heaven forbid--for three times less than their
real value.

What the further consequences of her arrival in town were, the reader
will perhaps glean from a conversation between two ladies only. This
conversation--but I think it will be more amusing to leave the dialogue
for the following chapter.



CHAPTER XVII.


Early in the morning, considerably earlier even than is fashionable
to pay visits in the town of Smolensk, the door of an orange painted
house, with balconies and sky-blue pillars was suddenly thrown open,
and a lady, wrapped in a long silk cloak of a chess-board pattern,
rushed hurriedly into the street, followed by a servant in livery, who
wore a cloak with numerous little collars, and a large gold-laced band
ornamented his round and carefully brushed hat.

The lady slipped hastily over the steps, and into the open carriage,
which had been waiting for her already for some time before the
principal entrance of the house. The servant in livery immediately
after shut the lady up in the carriage by closing the carriage-door
after her, and having put up the steps, he seized the straps, which
were fixed behind the carriage, and shouted to the coachman, "drive on!"

The lady in the carriage, being the bearer of the latest news, was,
of course, particularly anxious to arrive at her destination with the
least possible delay. Every moment she kept peeping out of the window
of her carriage, and found to her apparently great annoyance that he
had still the other half of her journey to make. Every house which the
carriage passed seemed to her to be unusually longer than ordinarily;
the chalk coloured workhouse, with its narrow and low windows,
stretched itself in the most tiresome length, so much so indeed,
that the fair occupant of the carriage could no longer repress her
impatience, but exclaimed, "how provoking, this miserable edifice seems
to have no end at all!"

Her coachman had already twice received instructions to drive on
quicker, and she herself shouted twice to him saying: "you are
unbearably slow this morning, Karpuschka! for heaven's sake hasten,
hasten on!"

At last she had arrived at her destination. The carriage stopped before
a building of wood, only one story high, but very extensive, painted
of a dark slate colour, with white plaster-work ornaments on the top
frames of the windows, with a wooden railing projecting as far as the
pavement, behind which a few scanty-looking poplars were growing, the
leaves of which were covered with imperishable dust, heaped upon them
by continual winds. In every one of the numerous windows, flower-pots
with Dutch tulips, pleasantly relieved the gloomy slate-colour of the
house, a parrot was balancing himself to and fro in his cage, trying
to catch with his beak the ring in it; and two lap-dogs were lying on
a cushion in one of the windows, enjoying the early rays of the rising
sun. In this house dwelt the very intimate friend of the lady who had
just arrived in her carriage.

The author feels considerably embarrassed as to the names of the two
ladies, because in the Russian language it happened that the real names
of the two ladies conveyed the most fitting idea of their character,
and which it would be nearly impossible to render properly in English.
Many an author is often embarrassed for a name, and many another not
at all, as for ourselves, we must confess, we feel really considerably
so. There are persons that say: "What is there in a name?" Nothing!
With those persons we beg to differ considerably, because we are of the
opinion, and maintain it, that there is much, if not all in a name. To
wit, the name of Nicholas! does it not convey the idea of the most,
barbarous, if not the most unchristian potentate of Europe? reigning
over sixty-two millions, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine
hundred ninety-nine other unfortunate barbarians! (since we are in free
England, we beg to exclude ourselves from making up the even number of
sixty-three millions, at which enormous amount the faithful subjects
of his Imperial Majesty have been computed, according to the latest
statistics of the Empire.)

Again, the name of Victoria! does it not convey an idea of the most
Christian and lovely Queen that reigns over the most enlightened, and
most liberal nation in Christendom? And since the prestige of these two
names cannot be denied, we feel still more confirmed in our opinion
that there is much, if not all in a name.

And for this reason we will also christen in the most conscientious,
and in the most fitting English expression, the two ladies we ye now
about to introduce to our fair readers.

Without any further apologies and preliminaries, then, we will call
the lady who received the early morning visit of her friend, simply
and thus, as she was well known in Smolensk: "the in every respect
amiable lady." This name she had acquired in the most legitimate maimer
indeed, because she stood on no sacrifices to be always amiable to
the highest degree of amiability. Though, of course, her passionate
feminine character made but too frequent incursions upon her reputation
of perfect amiability; and though in each of her amiable qualities,
and especially words, there seemed pins and needles hidden; and, good
Heaven! preserve that lady who would dare to presume in anything to be
the first, for such presumption was sufficient to make the blood boil
in the very heart of the in every respect amiable lady.

But all these amiable qualities were hidden under the most exquisite
taste and fashion. Each of her movements was impregnated and executed
with much gracefulness and taste, she was even very fond of poetry,
and knew also how to incline her head into a musing attitude in a word,
all were of opinion that she was really and in every respect, the most
amiable lady in Smolensk.

The other lady, namely, the one that had arrived in her carriage, was
not of such a polyhedrical character, and for that reason we shall call
her; the simply amiable lady. The arrival of the latter lady awakened
at once the little lap-dogs that were lying in the sun; the longhaired
Adèle that was always entangled in her own wool, and the proud Popuri
upon his tine high legs. Both dogs barking, rushed with their tails
in the air towards the ante-room, where the visiting lady was at once
disembarrassed of her silk cloak of a chess-board pattern, and she
appeared now in the reception-room, dressed in the latest fashion for
a morning visit. She wore a light-coloured muslin dress, also of a
fashionable colour and pattern.

Scarcely had the in every respect amiable lady heard of the arrival
of her intimate friend, the simply amiable lady, when she hurried out
of her bed-room to receive her. The ladies seized each other's bands,
kissed one another most affectionately, and exclaimed both at the same
time, like two young girls will do on meeting again after having left
the imperial institution, and when their dear mamma has not yet had an
opportunity to whisper to them, that the father of the one is poorer
and lower in rank than the other.

The friendly kiss was a loud one, because of the renewed harking of
the two dogs, who were frightened away with a shawl, and both ladies
proceeded at once into the boudoir, which was of course decorated
with sky-blue coloured paper-hangings, curtains and furniture, with
numerous rocking chairs and easy sofas, with an oval table inlaid
with mother-of-pearl, a rich mantel-piece, decorated with malachite
nick-nacks, relieved in bronze, while here and there stood a few
sky-blue screens; the ladies were followed by the woolly Adèle and the
proudly stepping legs.

"Here, here, my dear, in this snug little corner!" said the mistress of
the house, whilst seating her guest into the very corner of her elegant
sofa. "That is right! take this cushion to lean upon, and now I am sure
you will feel comfortable!"

Saying this, she placed a cushion, embroidered in wool behind her
friend's back; it represented a troubadour with a guitar slung around
his neck, such as are usually embroidered upon canvass: his nose
resembled a ladder, and as for his lips, they were regular squares.

"How very glad I am indeed to see that it is you. I heard a carriage
stopping before the door, but could not for a moment imagine whoever
could come so very early; my chambermaid thought it was the wife of our
Vice-Governor, and I said immediately: how provoking, she is such an
insipid woman; and I was on the point of giving orders to say that I
was not at home."

Her guest was just on the point of plunging at once _in medias res_,
and communicating to her friend the important news she had brought; but
the sudden exclamation of the in every respect amiable lady, gave at
once another direction to their conversation.

"What a gay-coloured muslin!" exclaimed the in every respect amiable
lady, as she cast a glance upon the dress of the simply amiable lady.

"Yes, a very lively-coloured one indeed. My cousin, Praskovia
Fedorovna, however, thinks, that it would have been prettier, if the
checks in it were smaller, and the little dots in them blue instead of
brown. By the bye, I sent the other day, a dress for my sister, which
was really so very charming, that it is quite impossible to describe
it in words; imagine only, my dear, small stripes, as small as human
imagination can possibly fancy them, on a blue ground, and across these
stripes, little eyes and paws--eyes and paws--eyes and paws. In a word,
charming! incomparable! I may really say that anything similar has not
yet been seen before."

"My darling love, that is too showy."

"Oh, no, my angel, it is far from being showy."

"I can assure you it is!"

We must observe here, that the in every respect amiable lady,
was in many other respects also a great materialist, inclined to
contradictions and doubts, and fond of questioning a great many other
things in this world.

As for the simply amiable lady, she simply explained to her friend,
that the dress she had sent to her sister, was far from being showy at
all, and continued: "by the bye, allow me to compliment you on a change
in fashion; _volants_ are to be worn no longer!"

"Good gracious! what do you say, out of fashion?"

"Yes, indeed, and instead of them we are to wear festoons."

"Surely, that cannot be pretty, festoons?

"Festoons, all and nothing but festoons; the mantles are worn with
festoons, the sleeves have festoons, the epaulettes are made of
festoons, below festoons, everywhere festoons."

"Oh, I'm sure it won't be nice, my dear Sophia Ivanovna, if all and
everything is to be worn with festoons."

"It is really charming, my own Anna Grigorievna, incredibly charming;
they are sewn in two rows: and above--oh, really, you would be amazed
if I was to describe to you all the particulars. Now then, listen to
me and be astonished: imagine only, the waist is worn still longer,
the body very full over the chest, and as for the corset and the
whale-bones in it, it is really passing belief; the skirt is made very
ample all around, as they used to wear _phisms_ in former days, a
little wadding is discreetly introduced behind so as to make of you a
perfectly _belle femme_."

"I must confess, this is rather too much!" said the in every respect
amiable lady, with a dignified movement of the head.

"I say as much; it is really going too far!" replied the simply amiable
lady.

"Please yourself as to adopting this novelty; for my own part, I am
determined not to submit to this ridiculous innovation."

"I thought of doing as much. Really, when you come to consider it,
to what absurdities fashion may lead you; it is perfectly ridiculous
to think of it I I asked my sister to send me the pattern from St.
Petersburg just to look and smile at it; Mélanie, my dressmaker,
however, insisted upon making me a dress like it."

"Have you really got the pattern of it, my dearest?" asked quickly the
in every respect amiable lady, not without visible emotion.

"Indeed, I have, since my sister sent it me the other day."

"My darling pet, pray give it to me, I entreat you by all that is
sacred."

"Alas, I have promised it already to my cousin, Paskovia Fedorovna.
Would you like to have it afterwards?"

"Surely, you don't expect me to accept of it after Paskovia Fedorovna
has had it? Really, that would be rather strange behaviour on your
part, were you to give the preference to others but me."

"But my dear Anna Grigorievna, you seem to forget that she is my
cousin."

"Heaven knows what cousin she is to you! on your husband's side
perhaps. No, Sophia Ivanovna, I will not even listen, this is exceeding
all bounds. You wish to slight me; it seems you are tired of me, you
wish to break up our acquaintance and friendship."

Poor Sophia Ivanovna was completely at a loss what to do. She felt
acutely, between what burning fires she had placed herself. How silly
it was of her to have boasted of her pattern! She was now ready to
prick her indiscreet tongue with a needle. Fortunately, however, the
conversation was suddenly changed to an even more interesting topic,
and she was relieved from her painful position.



CHAPTER XVIII.

"And pray, why have you seen or heard of our darling stranger?"
meanwhile inquired the in every respect amiable lady.

"Good Heaven! why am I sitting here like a silly girl! it's really
absurd; but you don't know then, my dear Anna Grigorievna, what the
cause of my early morning visit is?"

Here the respiration of the fair visitor became oppressed, the words
threatened to burst forth in rapid succession like a hawk pursuing his
prey, and it was only possible for a person such as her intimate friend
was, to be so inhuman as to stop her overflowing heart.

"Whatever intention you may have of praising and exalting him," she
said, in an unusual passion, "I shall mention and even tell himself if
he likes, that he is but a frivolous man, and a very, very frivolous
one indeed."

"But listen only, my dear child, what I am going to confide to you--"

"They have spread the report that he was handsome, and he is nothing
of the kind, he is not handsome at all, and as for his nose--it is the
ugliest nose I ever beheld."

"Allow me, but allow me only to tell you, my angelic Anna Grigorievna,
suffer me to tell you all about him! It is a whole history, understand
me well: I came here to give you a biographical sketch of the man who
has created and still creates so great a sensation in Smolensk," her
guest spoke with an expression approaching despair, and in a decidedly
entreating, supplicating tone of voice.

"What do you know about him?"

"Oh, my darling Anna Grigorievna, if you could only know the awful
position in which I have been placed, ever since the dawn of this
eventful day; only imagine, this morning, very early indeed, the wife
of our Proto-pope, of our worthy Father Kyrilla, arrives at my house,
and would you ever have believed it--our much praised and gentlemanly
stranger--no, I'm sure you could not believe it!"

"What, has he been making love to the Proto-pope's wife?"

"Alas, Anna Grigorievna, it would have mattered little if he had been
only doing that; listen now attentively to what the wife of our worthy
Father Kyrilla has told me; she arrived early this morning at my
house--as I told you before--she looked frightened and pale as death;
she at last could open her lips and begin to speak; good Heavens, and
how she spoke! Listen, dear, it is a perfect romance; suddenly, in the
midst of a dark night, when all were fast asleep, a knock is heard at
the gate, such a frightful knock, as it is only possible to imagine;
some one shouts from outside; 'open the gates, open them, or else we
shall break them down!' how do you like the beginning? And especially,
how do you like after this, our _fêted_ stranger?"

"Well, no doubt the pope's wife is young and handsome!"

"Not at all, she is an old woman!"

"Ha, ha, ha, delightful! It is then with old women that he is flirting.
After this, I may compliment our ladies in their choice, they have at
last found some one to fall in love with!"

"But my dearest Anna Grigorievna, it is not at all what you fancy.
Represent him to yourself as armed from head to foot in the style of
Fra Diavolo, demanding; 'Sell me all your souls (serfs) that are dead!'
Lady Korobotchka answered very reasonably, indeed, by saying: 'I cannot
sell them, because they are dead.' 'No,' says he again, 'they are not
dead, it is my business to know whether they are dead or not; they
are not dead, they are not dead!' he shouts in a passion; in a word,
he has created the greatest scandal imaginable. The whole village was
in an uproar, the children crying, all others shouting, nobody could
understand anybody, really, it was horror! horror! horror! But you
would scarcely believe it, my dear Anna Grigorievna, how all this has
upset me, when I came to hear it.

"'Dear lady,' says my chambermaid to me, 'pray look into the
looking-glass, you' are quite pale and discomfited.'

"'Never mind the looking-glass now, Maschinka,' I said to her, 'I
must now hasten and tell all to my dear Anna Grigorievna.' At the same
time I immediately ordered my carriage; my coachman, Karpuschka, asks
me where he is to drive me to, and I felt so very much overwhelmed
that I could not articulate a word, I stared him in the face quite
foolishly; I think the man believed me mad at the time. Ah, my dear
Anna Grigorievna, if you could only but imagine how much frightened and
distracted I feel even now."

"This is rather strange," said the in every respect amiable lady.
"What can these dead souls mean? I must confess, I cannot imagine or
understand anything in this really strange affair. This is already
the second time that I have heard about these dead serfs; my husband
assures me that Nosdrieff told another of his falsehoods; however,
there must be something at the bottom of it."

"But, dearest Anna Grigorievna, can you imagine for a moment my
position when I heard of all this. Listen farther!

"And now," continued Lady Korobotchka, 'I really do not know what am
I to do. He obliged me,' says she, 'to sign my name to an apparently
forged document, threw fifteen roubles in bank notes before me, on the
table, and I,' she says, 'inexperienced and unprotected woman, took
them.' This is the whole of the dreadful occurrence! But if you could
but I feel, even now!

"Whatever you may say or think about it, I assert that there are no
dead serfs in question; but there is something else hidden."

"I agree with you," replied the simply amiable lady, not without some
surprise, and felt immediately an unconquerable desire to know what
might be hidden under this strange affair. She pronounced the following
words in a slow and measured tone of voice: "And what do you really
think is hidden under the pretence of purchasing dead serfs?"

"Pray, tell me first what you think of it?"

"Oh, what I think of it--I--I really must confess, I feel still quite
bewildered from the news."

"Nevertheless, I should have very much liked to know what your opinion
upon the subject is?"

However, the simply amiable lady could find no opinion to express. She
only knew how to be full of anxiety; but to imagine a complicated
supposition was an impossibility to her, and for that reason, more than
any other woman, she was obliged to have resource to tender friendship
and suggestions.

"Well, listen then to me, and I will tell you what these dead
souls mean," said the in every respect amiable lady, and her guest
concentrated all her attention upon hearing; her little ears became, if
possible, longer, she rose slightly from her seat, nearly not sitting
nor leaning on the sofa, and regardless of her slight _embonpoint_, she
became suddenly lighter, similar to a feather ready to fly away at the
least breath.

"These dead souls are--" pronounced the in every respect amiable lady.

"What, what?" interrupted her guest, full of emotion.

"The dead serfs!"

"Oh, speak! for Heaven's sake speak."

"They are simply a pretext, but the real truth is the following;
he intends to run away with the daughter of the Lord-Lieutenant of
Smolensk."

This conclusion was perfectly sudden and unexpected, and in every
respect very extraordinary.

Scarcely had the simply amiable lady heard the conclusion her friend
had arrived at, when she stood there like a statue, grew pale, pale
as death, and this time really and seriously seemed to be distracted
and bewildered. "Oh, good Heavens!" she exclaimed in a faint voice,
"nothing in the world could ever have suggested such an idea to me!"

"As for my part," said the in every respect amiable lady, "I must
inform you, that, scarcely had you opened your lips on the subject,
when I already guessed the whole affair."

"And pray, dear Anna Grigorievna, what are we to think of her Majesty's
institution? This young girl has been represented as innocence
personified."

"What innocence! I heard her utter such language, as, I must confess, I
would never have had courage to allow to pass my lips, even if I could
have pronounced the words."

"Believe me, dear Anna Gregorievna, it is really heart-rending to
behold to what a degree immorality has extended."

"The men seem mad about the girl. As for me, I must acknowledge, I can
find nothing attractive in her--she is unbearably conceited."

"She is a perfect statue, my dearest Anna Grigorievna, and there is not
the least expression in her face."

"Oh, she is awfully conceited! Oh, how affected! Good gracious, what
affectation! I don't know who her instructor was, but I don't recollect
having ever seen a young woman so full of affectation as she is!"

"My own heart, Anna Grigorievna! she is nothing but a living statue,
and pale as death."

"Pray don't say that, my dearest Sophia Ivanovna; she uses rouge in an
unchristian-like manner."

"No, no, my charming Anna Grigorievna, you are mistaken, she is as
white as chalk, chalk of the purest white."

"My dearest, let me tell you, that I sat close to her; I saw rouge,
finger thick on her face, ready to fall off like plaster from a wall."

"It is her mother who has taught her, she is a flirt herself; but as
for her daughter, I'm sure she will surpass her."

"Pray let me tell you, listen: I am ready to invoke any saint, or
forfeit immediately my children, my husband, my whole fortune, but I
must say, that there was not a particle, not a shadow of rouge on that
young girl's face at the last ball!"

"Oh, how can you say so, Sophia Ivanovna," exclaimed the in every
respect amiable lady, as she clapped her hands together.

"Oh, how very strange you are, my dearest Anna Grigorievna! I cannot
help looking with surprise at you!" said the simply amiable lady,
clapping her hands together.

It will not appear strange to our reader, that there was a difference
of opinion between the two ladies on the same subject, and which
they had both seen at the same time. There are really many things in
this world, which have such a peculiarity; if they are looked at by
one lady, they will appear as perfectly white as snow, and again,
if examined by another, they will seem red, as red as even Russian
cranberries.

"By the bye, I can give you another proof, that she has been using
_blanc_ instead of _rouge,"_ continued the simply amiable lady; "now
I recollect distinctly the circumstance, that made me mention my
assertion. I was sitting next to Mr. Maniloff, and said to him, 'Only
see, Sir, how pale she looks!' really, one must be as crazy as our men
are to find anything attractive in her. But how about our gay deceiver,
the stranger. Oh, you have no idea how much he has displeased me!
You cannot imagine, my dear Anna Grigorievna, to what degree he has
displeased me."

"However, it would seem, that there are ladies to whom he has not been
indifferent."

"To me, Anna Grigorievna! I'm sure, you could never say that of me.
Never, never!"

"No, my dearest, I do not speak of you, but there are also other
ladies."

"Never, never, Anna Grigorievna! Allow me to assure you, that I know
myself very well indeed; had it perhaps been the case with one of our
ladies who presume to play the _rôle_ of unapproachables?"

"I beg your pardon, Sophia Ivanovna! And I beg leave also to tell you,
that such calumnies have never been expressed to me before. He has
perhaps been flirting with some one else, but not with me, certainly
not with me, allow me to assure you of that."

"But, my dearest, why do you seem offended? you seem to forget that
there were many other ladies besides ourselves, and even such ladies,
who were the first to seize upon a chair near the door, for the purpose
of sitting near him."

After such an exchange of opinions, and especially after the last
remarks of the simply amiable lady, it seemed evident, that a storm
would follow; however, to our utmost surprise, both ladies remained
perfectly silent, and absolutely nothing followed as a consequence. The
in every respect amiable lady seemed to remember, that the pattern of
the new dress to be worn with festoons was not yet in her possession;
and as for the simply amiable lady, she also seemed to recollect, that
she had not yet obtained from her intimate friend any distinct comments
upon the discovery about the stranger, which she had revealed to her,
and for these excellent reasons and reflections peace soon again
returned between them.

However, it is impossible to say that there was any natural disposition
in the two ladies to create ill-feeling of any kind, and in general
there was nothing in their character that could be really called
maliciousness; nevertheless, and yet accidentally, slight differences
would arise between them in the course of conversation, and inspire
them with the innocent wish to pique one another slightly; it
therefore did happen occasionally that the one or the other would
profit by an opportunity, and gratify herself by launching an
insinuation or observation against the other. The cravings of the human
heart are as numerous as incomprehensible in the heart of man, as well
as in the heart of a woman.

"However, I cannot understand it at all," said the simply amiable
lady to her friend, "how Tchichikoff, being a stranger here and a
traveller, could venture to enter upon such an expedition alone. It is
impossible--I cannot believe it: he must have some accomplices."

"And did you really think he had none?"

"Whom do you suspect? Who could assist him?"

"And why should it not be Nosdrieff himself?"

"Now really, could it be Nosdrieff?"

"Why not? He is just the man for such an undertaking. Don't you know
that he wanted to sell his own father, or, better still, gamble for him
at cards?"

"Goodness gracious! what interesting news I am going to hear from you!
I could never have imagined that Nosdrieff could have been compromised
in this affair or conspiracy."

"And I imagined it from the very beginning." "When you come to think of
it, it is really wonderful what happens in this world. Whoever could
have anticipated it, especially when you recollect that Tchichikoff,
since his arrival in Smolensk has had scarcely sufficient time to
look about him, and here he is on the eve of creating a sensation in
our town unequalled in the annals of the Russian Empire since Ivan
Vasilievitch the Terrible. Ah, my dear Anna Grigorievna, if you could
only imagine how terribly frightened and perplexed I feel now, and
certainly, without your sympathy and friendship I should have been on
the very brink of my grave--should indeed. Maschinka, my chambermaid,
made the remark that I was as pale as death. 'Darling ladyship,' says
she to me, 'you are as pale as death. 'Maschinka,' was my reply, 'that
must not now be a matter of preoccupation with me.' Such then is the
fact. Even Nosdrieff is implicated. Well, I'm sure, I never could have
believed it."



CHAPTER XIX.


The simply amiable lady felt an irrepressible desire to ascertain if
possible all the details of Tchichikoff's conspiracy, that is to say
the particular day and hour, in fact, she wished to know a very great
deal indeed. The in every respect amiable lady simply declared that
she knew nothing positive on the subject. She did not know how to
invent a falsehood; to anticipate something was another question with
her, and then it was only advanced when her suppositions were based
upon intimate conviction. When, therefore, she felt inwardly convinced
in her opinion, it was that she knew how to defend her argument, and
daring indeed would have been the man or learned advocate who would
have tried to dissuade her from her opinion once fixed, whatever
cleverness or learnedness a lawyer might be possessed of; and though he
be able to boast that he could defeat the opinions of any adversary, he
would have stood no chance with our in every respect amiable lady, such
would have been the proofs of intimate conviction which she could have
exhibited to him.

Both ladies at last perfectly agreed upon the point, that that which
they had at first laid down as a supposition had still remained a
presupposition; and in that there is indeed nothing surprising. Men
of our profession, for example, learned men, at least such we believe
ourselves to be, and nearly on the same principle as these two amiable
ladies; and as a proof of it we may only allude to our learned critics.
In the beginning, such a learned gentleman starts with his task like
a sneaking flatterer; he begins timidly, with moderation, in fact he
begins with the most innocent question: is this not a quotation? or, is
this not a copy from such and such a page? or, does this document not
belong to such and such an age? or, are we not to trace these people
as the descendants of such and such a nation?

And now they begin to refer and quote, the authority of numerous
ancient authors; but scarcely have they discovered a point to rest
upon, if ever so unimportant, when he already feels spirited and
courageous, begins to converse freely with the ancient genius, and
even addresses questions to him, which, of course, he thinks proper
to answer himself immediately, forgetting altogether that he begun
with a timid presupposition; it now seems to him that he sees all,
that every particular is clear to him; and his review is concluded
with the words--it was thus then that it happened, these people are
the descendants of such and such a nation; and it is, therefore, upon
this particular point that we must base our judgment, and look upon
the subject. It is thus that a novelty is proclaimed, as if from the
pulpit, and the new truth ushered into the world, where it is sure to
find numerous followers and advocates.

At the time when the two ladies had so happily and sagaciously decided
this very complication, the Imperial Procurator, with his always
impassible countenance, heavy eyebrows, and winking eyes, entered the
reception-room, and was immediately ushered into the presence of the
two intimate friends. Both ladies, as if for a wager, endeavoured to
explain to him, at the same time, all the particulars of Tchichikoff's
conspiracy; they spoke to him of the sale and purchase of dead serfs,
of the projected elopement with the Lord-Lieutenant's daughter, so that
they completely confused his judgment; he stood there as if riveted to
the spot, winking his left eye more than his right, and passing his
pocket-handkerchief across his face and nose, wiping off the snuff; but
he could understand absolutely nothing.

The two ladies left the Imperial Procurator thus standing, and went
to carry the news, and create a revolution in the ancient town of
Smolensk. This enterprise they succeeded in carrying out in no less
than half-an-hour. The town was soon in a perfect uproar; every one was
soon revolutionised, but nobody could understand anything about the
cause. The two ladies spread such a mist over the eyes of all, that
all, especially the civilians, became, as it were, petrified for some
time.

Their position, in the first moments, was similar to that of a sleepy
schoolboy, whose comrades, taking advantage of his somnolence, had
risen earlier, and placed an hussar in his nose, namely, a small paper
cornet, containing snuff. Whilst fast asleep, he inhales all the snuff
through his nostrils with the ease of a snorer; he awakens suddenly,
jumps from his bed, looks about like a fool, rubs his eyes repeatedly,
and cannot make out where he is, and what has happened to him; he
then only perceives that it is late, and that the rays of the sun are
shining brightly on the wall of his room; he hears the laughter of his
school-fellows, hiding themselves in the corners, the daylight entering
his window, shining over the dark forest in the distance--hears the
thousand voices of birds gaily humming in the garden--sees the silvery
stream beneath, with its pleasant footpaths, planted on either side
with their tall poplars--beholds numerous other little children playing
about, and ready to plunge into the water for a bath; and then only,
and at last, he feels convinced that he has had a hussar placed in his
nose.

Such was exactly, at first, the position of all the inhabitants of any
note in the town of Smolensk on that eventful morning. Every one of
them stopped suddenly short like sheep, and opened their eyes widely.
Dead serfs, the Lord-Lieutenant's daughter, and Tchichikoff were
continually buzzing round them, and confusing their heads in a most
extraordinary manner; and, later only, after the first stupefaction was
over, they seemed to distinguish and separate the one from the other.
They began to question themselves and feel angry, because they saw that
they could not explain the affair to themselves any way.

"What does this parable really mean? what parable are these dead serfs?
there is no logic in dead serfs, how could any one think of buying dead
serfs? where could such a fool be met with, and for what speculation
could he purchase them and thus invest his capital? and to what end
and for what purpose could dead serfs be made available? and why is
the Lord-Lieutenant's daughter mixed up in the affair? If he intended
eloping with his Excellency's daughter, why can he have bought these
dead serfs? and if he wanted only to purchase dead serfs, why should
he want to run away with his Excellency's daughter? surely, he did not
intend to present her with dead serfs at their nuptials! But what
is the nonsense they have now spread all over the town? what is the
meaning for all this? for scarcely has a person had time to turn and
look about, when they already concoct a whole history on his account;
well and good if there was any sense in it--however, they have spread
the news, and certainly there must be something at the bottom of it.
But what cause, what reason can there be for these dead serfs? I
really cannot see any reason or cause for them whatever. It is really
bewildering! maddening!"

In a word, there was a talk about it all over the town, a regular round
of talking, about the dead serfs and his Excellency's daughter, about
Tchichikoff and the dead serfs, about his Excellency's daughter and
Tchichikoff, and all was soon in a maze. It seemed that the hitherto
slumbering town rose like a buoyant whirlpool. All the old home-keeping
men and women, who had not divested themselves of their morning-gowns
nor had been in the streets, heaven knows for how long time, now
suddenly began to stir about and swear, the one at the tailor for
having made his coat too narrow, the other at the bootmaker for having
made his boots too tight, a third at the neglect and drunkenness of
his servants, and so forth.

All those who had long ceased to receive or go into company, and
were known only accidentally to each other, now suddenly made their
appearance again in the world, as if they had risen from the dead; in
fact, all those who could not even be enticed with turtle soup or a
sturgeon feast, or with any other dainties that melted in the mouth;
in a word, it was now proved beyond a doubt that the ancient town of
Smolensk was a large and well populated town. The streets were crowded
with old-fashioned droschkies of every description--in a word, the
porridge began to boil over.

At another time, and under different circumstances, similar reports
would not have attracted the least attention; but the town of Smolensk
had been, as it was for some time, deprived of any novelty. Three
months had passed away without the occurrence of anything like
_commérage_, which, as it is well-known, is to a town as necessary as
supplies to an army. In the circles of the gossips of Smolensk, there
arose suddenly two perfectly distinct opinions, and in consequence two
perfectly distinct parties were formed; the party of the men and the
party of the women.

The party of the men, the most foolish of the two, turned their
attention to the dead serfs. The party of the women again, busied
themselves exclusively with the elopement of the Lord-Lieutenant's
daughter. In the party formed by the women, we must observe to
the credit of the ladies, that there was considerably more order,
regularity, and perspicuity. They seem to have been born to be
excellent and careful managers. All soon assumed with them a lively and
orderly appearance, presented itself in distinct and visible forms,
explained itself, freed itself from every doubt; in a word, all seemed
as perfect as a picture.

It was proved that Tchichikoff had already been in love with the fair
girl for some time, and that they had met by appointment on several
occasions at night in the garden by moonlight, and that his Excellency
himself would have consented to their marriage, because Tchichikoff was
as rich as a Jewish banker, if it had not been for Tchichikoff's wife,
whom he had deserted (how they had managed to find out that our hero
was married, no one could tell), and that his wife, who was tormented
by an unreciprocated passion for him, had addressed the most entreating
letter to the Lord-Lieutenant, and that Tchichikoff, finding that the
father and mother would never consent to their union, determined upon
an elopement.

In some other circles, the same affair was commented upon with a few
slight deviations. It was said that Tchichikoff had no wife at all,
but that he, as a clever man of the world, and determined to carry his
object, undertook, with the object in view, of obtaining the hand of
the daughter, to make the beginning with the mother, and that there
existed between them a secret sentimental _liaison_, and after this
success with the mother, he had stepped forward to demand the hand
of the daughter; but the mother, fearing or alarmed lest an offence
against religious principles might be committed, and feeling within her
own heart the pangs of remorse, refused his demand peremptorily, and
that in consequence of this refusal, Tchichikoff had determined upon an
elopement. To all this, were added many explanations and improvements
as the reports spread by degrees, until at last they were known and
commented upon, even in the narrowest streets of Smolensk.

The lower classes of society, in Russia at least, are very fond of
talking of the affairs of the more elevated classes, and for that
reason, the same subject was even discussed in such houses where the
inhabitants had never heard, or seen anything of Tchichikoff before,
and of course they made new additions and improvements. The subject
became every moment more and more embellished, and every new day added
considerably to the perfections of its forms, until at last it was
transmitted with all its perfections to the ears of her Excellency, the
wife of the Lord-Lieutenant of Smolensk.

Her Excellency, as a mother of a family, as the first lady in the
town, ultimately as a lady who never suspected or anticipated anything
similar, felt perfectly insulted by these rumours, and legitimately
flew into a passion.

The unhappy _blondine_ had to submit to a very unpleasant
_tête-à-tête_, indeed such a one as perhaps a young girl of sixteen
years of age, never underwent before. Streams of questions rapidly
flowed from the lips of the angry mother, followed in succession by
strict examination, reproaches, threats and exhortations, so that the
poor young girl began to cry bitterly without being able to understand
a word of the real causes of her mother's anger and indignation.

The porter at the lodge also received positive instructions never
to admit for the future, under any circumstances or pretences, the
gentleman calling himself Tchichikoff.



CHAPTER XX.


Having, as it were, finished their affair with her Excellency, the
ladies felt inclined to join the party of the gentlemen, with the view
of bringing them round to their own opinion, and they continued to
affirm that the alleged purchase of dead serfs was nothing else but
a scheme to divert attention from his real intentions, and thus more
successfully to accomplish the projected elopement.

Many of the gentlemen were even gained over, and persuaded to join the
female party, notwithstanding the bitter reproaches that were addressed
to them by their own party and comrades, who called them old women and
petticoat worshippers, which allegations, as is well known, are very
offensive to any gentleman.

But, however strong and obstinate the remaining coalition of the men
was, their party was far from being so well organised as that of the
ladies. With them all was somehow irregular, rough, loose, not well at
all; their heads were full of confusion, partiality, contradiction;
their thoughts tormented by doubts and suspicions--in a word, the,
in every respect, empty nature of the men appeared to be in the
greatest disorder, a _naturel_, at the same time rough and heavy,
unfit for household matters, nor for the more tender impressions of
the heart, suspicious, indolent, full of continual doubts and eternal
apprehensions.

They maintained most obstinately that all was stuff and nonsense, that
the elopement with his Excellency's daughter was more likely to be
undertaken by a dashing hussar, but not by a peaceable civilian; and
that Tchichikoff was not the man to carry out such a plan, so full of
madness; that the women were all silly, and had got up a false alarm;
that the real object upon which they had to turn their exclusive
attention were the dead serfs themselves, for it was with them that
the secret lay buried; but what this secret was, the devil alone knew,
at any rate in their opinion, it was something awful. Why it was so
dreadful, so awful, in' the opinion of the gentlemen, we shall know at
once.

By a decree of his Majesty the Emperor Nicholas I, another
Lord-Lieutenant, or Governor had been appointed for the province
of Smolensk, and the present one recalled to St. Petersburgh; such
an ukase causes in Russia a thorough change of administration and
appointments, and for this reason it had the most alarming effect
upon the nervous and moral system of the Imperial _employés_; Courts
of Inquiries would be held in all branches of administration, many of
them had the prospect before them of being dismissed, whilst others ran
the risk of seeing themselves utterly stripped of their little profits
under the new head of administration.

And really, some of them thought, "if the new Governor was to know
all our little trespasses, it would be quite sufficient to effect
our complete disgrace, and perhaps even banishment would be the
consequence." The Superintendent of the Imperial Hospitals grew
suddenly pale; heaven knows what thoughts flashed across his mind;
did these dead serfs mean, perhaps, that all those people who died
lately in great numbers from cholera and various fevers in the Imperial
Hospitals and other places, for want of proper and careful sanitary
measures, and was Tchichikoff, by chance, an Imperial Attorney, or
Commissioner sent by the Governor-General to hold a secret Court of
Inquiry.

He communicated this opinion to the President of the Council. The
President answered that this supposition was absurd, and then
immediately grew pale himself as he put to himself the following
question:

"But if these serfs whom Tchichikoff has been purchasing were really
dead, he has caused us all to legalise the transaction, and has
obliged me to sign the contract of sale as Pluschkin's agent, and if
the whole transaction is reported with all its particulars to the
Governor-General, how then? And if the Governor-General lays all the
particulars of this transaction before His Majesty the Emperor? I
shudder at the thought."

He communicated these apprehensions to the one and to the other, and
immediately after, the one and the other grew pale as death. Fear is
like a contagious disorder; it communicates itself in an instant.
All the Imperial _employés_ suddenly discovered in themselves such
transgressions as did not even exist in reality. The words "dead
serfs" spread fear and terror all around, which were instantaneously
communicated to all who were even in the slightest degree compromised
in the transaction; they began also to suspect that it might be an
allusion to some recent occurrences in which a few peasants died
suddenly, and were buried hurriedly without an inquest being held on
their bodies.

The first occurrence was an encounter between some tradesmen from
Great Novgorod and some men of the same calling from Little or
Nishni-Novogorod, who had come to visit the fair held at that time
in Smolensk. After having done a good business in town, the Great
Novogorodians gave a regular Russian feast to their friends the
little Novogorodians, seasoned with all the foreign improvements of
kitchen and cellar. The feast, however, ended in a regular fight The
petty jealousies existing between these two very important towns
determined the Little Novogorodians to resent an old quarrel which
had been brought again on the _tapis_ as regarded the pre-eminence
of the two towns, in a commercial sense. They rushed upon the Great
Novogorodians, determined to have their lives; but the result was, that
they got fearfully ill-used by the Great Novogorodians, who disfigured
their heads, faces and sides in a most merciless manner, and proved
that the fists of some of the defunct Great Novogorodians were of an
extraordinary size and hardness.

One of the defeated combatants had fared very badly indeed, and
narrowly escaped losing his life; however, he had got off only after
having had his nose flattened like a crumpet, so much so indeed that
there remained but a vestige of a nose on his face. The merchants
confessed to the authorities that they had been only jesting; but it
was rumoured about that in this serious conflict, four of the Imperial
peacemongers had lost their lives. However, the real loss of life
was kept in the dark, and the inquiries that were held by the proper
authorities went to show that the deceased Novogorodians had died from
the effects of suffocation and they were at once buried as suffocated
people.

The other occurrence, which happened nearly at the same time, was
the following: Some crown serfs (property of the Emperor) of the not
unimportant village of Vladomirsk, had joined their brethren and
neighbours in the adjoining village of Volkonsk, for the purpose of
taking revenge upon an imperial steward, who resided between the two
villages, and who not only ill-treated them in the most barbarous
manner, but even seduced by threats and intimidation, their wives and
daughters. This same imperial steward, Drobriaschkin by name, had
been observed to pay too frequent visits in both villages, and at
unusual hours, which was thought highly improper by the peasants for an
imperial manager, and head of the country police. It, therefore, seemed
to them that their magistrate had too many weaknesses for their wives
and daughters.

However, nothing positive could be proved against him, although the
imperial serfs had stated in their depositions, that they had seen
their magistrate roaming about in the neighbourhood like a cat, and
that they had more than once given him fair warning, and that on one
occasion they had even beaten and driven him out of the hut of one of
their worthiest elders, where he had stealthily entered, Heaven knows
for what purpose. The magistrate merited, of course, chastisement for
the weaknesses of his heart, and ought not to have imagined, that
because he was an imperial manager, he could presume to trample upon
the affections of imperial serfs; on the other hand again, the peasants
of the imperial villages of Vladomirsk and Volkonsk, could also not
have been justified in murdering their magistrate for his weaknesses of
the heart, provided the charge could have been proved against one or
all of them.

However, this occurrence also remained in the dark, because all matters
in which the police and people of high rank are interested, remain
in Russia usually enveloped in darkness; nevertheless, the country
magistrate, the imperial manager, was found murdered on the high road,
his official coat was torn into rags, and as for his face and body, it
was perfectly impossible to identify them as having once harboured the
haughty and tyrannical soul of a Dobriaschkin.

The whole occurrence, with all its particulars, was thrown into the
proper courts of justice, and ultimately transmitted to Smolensk, where
the high justices of the Crown came to the following conclusion:

"Whereas it cannot be proved who of the imperial serfs are the actual
murderers of the dead man, and as there are many peasants com promised
in the crime, and whereas Dobriaschkin was now a dead man, there could
arise not the least advantage to him, in having judgement given in his
favour.

"And, whereas all the peasants compromised in the deed were still
alive, it was of the greatest importance to them, that judgment should
be given in their favour; it was therefore decided that the following
judgment or verdict should be returned;

"That the imperial manager and magistrate, Dobriaschkin, was himself
the cause of his death, in making unjustifiable pretensions upon the
imperial serfs of the villages of Vladomirsk and Volkonsk, and that he
died suddenly from an apoplectic stroke, whilst returning home in his
sledge."

The imperial men who had thus settled these and similar occurrences,
thought at the time that their decisions were just and right, but
now, and it is incomprehensible why, they thought that the present
dead souls had some reference to these past occurrences. To these
past events which seemed to them now more serious than ever before,
additional difficulties could arise, for, if it was to happen, that
just at this time when all the _employés_ of the Crown seemed so
seriously embarrassed, the new Governor-General was to receive at once
two more informations in the shape of the following documents.

The first, containing a report of investigations and proofs that a
manufacturer of false bank-notes was residing in Smolensk, hiding
himself under different assumed names, and that a strict investigation
should be made at once to bring the culprit to light; the greatest
discredit would be thrown at once upon the _employés_ whose duty it
would have been to prevent the occurrence.

The other document, again might contain the following communication
from the Governor-General of the adjoining province; whereas a
murderer has escaped the hands of justice, and taken refuge in the
Government of Smolensk, It devolves upon the Imperial _employés_ of
the Province of Smolensk to take at once the necessary steps for his
immediate apprehension, and stop all such persons who cannot legitimate
themselves with the necessary documents and passports.

These two imaginary, or perhaps, true documents, completely bewildered
all. Their former apprehensions were completely lost sight of. Of
course, it was perfectly impossible for them to suspect for a moment
that these documents could have any reference, whatever, to their
friend Tchichikoff, however, as they at last began to reason a little
each for himself, it struck them at last that they could not positively
tell, who and what Tchichikoff really was, and that he had given them
a very indistinct account of himself, though he had told them, that he
had suffered much for the just cause whilst in active service.

All this seemed to them now, not at all dear, or explicit at all, and
especially when they recollected that he had told them also, that
he had many enemies ready to feed on his very life's blood, it was
then that they became still more thoughtful and pre-occupied; it must
therefore be that his life was in danger, consequently he must have
been doing something to put himself into such a jeopardy--and now the
question arose among them, who was Tchichikoff really?

Of course, he could not be a manufacturer of false bank notes, nor
could he be a murderer, because his appearance was in every respect
that of a gentleman; nevertheless, who and what is he? And now only it
was that the imperial _employés_ of Smolensk addressed themselves the
question, which they ought to have asked immediately in the beginning
of their acquaintance with our hero. It was resolved upon, that some
more inquiries should be made about him, from those persons from whom
he had bought those dead serfs, thus to ascertain, if possible, what
the nearer particulars of these purchases were, and what they would
have to understand by the term of dead serfs, to know whether he had
not inadvertently perhaps allowed a few remarks, or hints to slip
from his tongue, of what his real intentions were, and if some of the
contracting parties did not know something more positive about him.

First of all they applied to Lady Korobotchka, but from her they did
not learn much; he had purchased her dead serfs for the paltry sum of
fifteen silver roubles, had promised to buy some feathers and honey
from her, and had stated that he was a contractor for the supply of
tallow and grease, and for that reason was no doubt an impostor, for
she had had already dealings with a man, who bought feathers and honey,
and contracted for the supply of tallow and grease, and that that man
had taken them in one and all, and cheated the wife of the proto-pope
of two hundred silver roubles. Whatever else she said on the subject,
was nothing but a repetition of her first statement, and the _employés_
came to the conclusion that Lady Korobotchka, was nothing but a stupid,
gossiping old woman.

Maniloff declared, that for his friend, Pavel Ivanovitch, he was ready
to be as responsible as for himself, that he would sacrifice all
his property if he could but possess the hundredth part of the good
qualities of his friend Pavel Ivanovitch, in fact, he spoke of him in
the most flattering terms, adding a few of his opinions on friendship
and intimacy; this he did of course while shutting gently his sweet
eyes. These expressions, of course, convinced the _employés_ of the
tenderness of Maniloff's heart, but were not at all calculated to
enlighten them on the subject in question.

Sobakevitch affirmed, that Tchichikoff was a honest man, and that the
serfs he had sold him were picked men, and in every respect perfectly
alive; but that he could not be held responsible for what might happen
in the course of time, that if they were to die in consequence of their
emigration, which would be fraught with difficulties and dangers, that
this would not be his fault, but the decrees of Providence; and as
for fever and other mortal diseases, they were prevalent all over the
world, and he knew of instances where such diseases had devastated a
whole village in three days.

The imperial gentlemen had recourse to one last resource, though, we
must confess, not a very gentlemanly act; though there are instances
when it is done through the medium of an acquaintance with the servants
of the persons interested; they, therefore, hit upon the idea of
questioning Tchichikoff's attendants, asking them indirectly what they
know of the former life, habits, and fortune, of their lord and master;
but even with them they found themselves disappointed.

Petruschka communicated to them only the peculiar perfume of his
bed-chamber; as for Selifan, he confided to them that his master had
been in the imperial service, and had done his duty in the excise; but
this is all they could learn from him. This latter class of people,
namely, servants, have very peculiar habits, and might, in some
degrees, stand a comparison with Irishmen. If you ask them a direct
question, they are sure to give an indirect answer--never recollect
anything--their mind is so much confused that they will simply answer,
'that they knows nothing about anything;' but if you happen to deviate
from your original question, and speak of something else, they are sure
to return to the original question; and, whether you like it or not,
they will give you all the desired particulars, even such as you do not
care to listen to.

All the researches and inquiries of the imperial men, proved in
the end, that they had no positive information about Tchichikoff;
nevertheless, they came to the conclusion that he must be something.
They decided, at last, upon talking the matter over once more, and
settle, definitely, how to act in this very complicated affair--what
measures they would have to take in order to ascertain, positively,
who Tchichikoff really was; whether he was a man who ought to be
apprehended at once as a malefactor, or whether he was a man who had
the power and authority to seize and apprehend them as malefactors.

For this purpose it was agreed upon, that they should assemble all the
next day at the house of the Commissioner of the Police, who, as is
well known to our readers, was the father and benefactor of all the
inhabitants of the town of Smolensk.



CHAPTER XXI.

The next day the _employés_ or officers of the crown, holding various
appointments in the public offices of Smolensk, mustered in great
numbers at the house of the Commissioner of Police, who was, as we have
said before, the father and benefactor of all the inhabitants of the
town. These gentlemen had now an opportunity of making the observation,
that they had considerably changed in appearance since the preceding
day, and that they looked pale and discomfited in consequence of their
mental exertions.

And really, the appointment of a new Governor-General, the two
documents containing such very serious information, coupled with the
present occurrence and the widely-spread reports about those dead
serfs, were sufficient in themselves to effect such changes in their
countenance and bodily appearance, for the coats of some of them fitted
them by far too comfortably.

All had given way: the President of the Council was changed, and the
Inspector of the Imperial and other hospitals seemed no longer the same
man, and the unflinching Procurator even had undergone an alteration,
nor could a certain Semen Ivanovitch, whose real family name never
transpired, be called the same man; he had the mania of showing off
most cleverly a large finger ring which he wore on his first finger,
both to ladies and gentlemen, but now he seemed not even to be aware of
its being still on the same finger.

Of course, there were some few, as there always will be, stout-hearted
men among them; but their number was very limited indeed. The
Postmaster-General seemed the only one who had not given way to the
prevalent panic, which was evident in the countenances of all the
others present. He alone had not undergone the least change in his
continually even character, and continued to behave as he was wont to
do on similar occasions, by repeating his customary phrases.

"We know you, know you well, and what you are, you new
Governor-General! Men of your description are changed and appointed
three and four times in the course of a few years, but as for me Sirs,
I have been sitting for these last thirty years in the same place."

To this and similar observations, the others invariably used to reply:

"'Tis all very fine for you to _sprechen sie deutsch_, Ivan Andreitch;
your duty is a posting one; to receive and dispatch letters is your
department, the only chance you have, is perhaps to close your office
an hour sooner than you have a right, and extract late postages from
our tradesmen, making them believe that you have a half-holiday, and
that if you forward their letters, it is a favour you show them, or
you send off a letter-bag which you ought to have kept back. Certainly
with such easy tasks anybody could be a saint. And besides, though you
are a married man, you have but one son and heir, but look upon me and
my Praskovia Fedorovna, Heaven has blessed us uncommonly, for with
every year our family increases, and it is either another Praskovia or
another Fedor, we have to welcome to this world. No, no, Procurator, if
you were in our position, you would sing another tune."

Thus the others spoke to the Postmaster-General.

In the council assembled, at the present moment, it was very remarkable
that there was a total absence of that indispensable requirement which
is usually called common sense and order. And here, in this instance
the author feels himself called upon to pass the observation, that
somehow or another, we Russians are not fit for public meetings, and
have no talent for public speaking. In all our public assemblies,
beginning from the peasants' peaceful gatherings, up to the most
scientific and learned committees, if there is not one leading head
among them to guide them all, it is sure to happen that confusion
occupies the chair. It is very difficult for us to say why it is thus;
no doubt, such is the character of the nation, and the only successful
assemblies which we know of, are those, which are called together for
the purposes of general enjoyment, such as eating, drinking, and
dancing, as is customary in club-houses, and Vauxhalls--a foreign
introduction.

But as for readiness and disposition, we are always ready, feel always
ready for anything that is new. We are always ready, and at the
first hint given, rush forward to establish benevolent institutions;
institutions for the promotion of industry, agriculture, and heaven
knows what description of institutions we are not ready to support.
The object in view seems sublime, but there is this evil, the object
remains in view, _en perspective_. It might perhaps be attributed to
our sanguine beginning which makes us fancy that the object in view is
accomplished by its beginning.

As an example we may here allude to a committee that was formed in the
very town of Smolensk for the speedy relief of the peasantry suffering
from famine. This committee had the laudable intention of affording
considerable and immediate relief to the poor sufferers, and for that
reason large subscriptions were made by the principal inhabitants.
The gentlemen who had promoted this laudable undertaking resolved at
once, that a grand dinner should be given to the subscribers, and in
honour of the promoters, including the high notables of the town; this
public dinner absorbed the half of the money subscribed for the poor
sufferers; for the remainder of the money, a splendidly furnished house
was hired for the exclusive use of the gentlemen forming the committee,
including fire and attendance for their lordships, and the result of
the munificent subscriptions showed that there were about five roubles
and a half to be divided among a few hundred hungry sufferers, and in
the division of this sum, there were a few of the gentlemen forming the
benevolent committee who could not agree, and every one gave his reason
why! The committee at presents assembled had met for quite a different
purpose; it was formed in consequence of unavoidable necessity. No
starving sufferers were here the object. The question concerned every
man present personally; the question was one threatening woe to all, it
was therefore indispensable that unanimity should reign predominant.

The result was far from being satisfactory. Saying nothing about
the difference of opinions, which is natural to any assembly; in
the opinion of the council thus assembled, there was an undefinable
inconsistency prevalent, and loudly expressed: the one said "that
Tchichikoff was the manufacturer of the false bank notes," and
then immediately added, "however, I might be mistaken;" another
insisted upon it "that Tchichikoff was the private secretary, and the
right-hand of the new Governor-General," and then concluded with the
observation--"however, I could not swear to it, for it is not stamped
on his forehead, that he is the man I take him to be."

As to the supposition that he might be the murderer in disguise, all
pronounced unanimously their disbelief; because they found, that
excepting his personal appearance, which bespoke him to be a well
disposed gentleman, there had been nothing in his manners or language
to justify them in suspecting him of being such a mean and criminal
offender.

Suddenly, the Postmaster-General, after having remained for several
minutes buried in his usual musings and reflexions, whether in
consequence of a sudden inspiration that seemed to overcome him, or
from any other cause, exclaimed quite unexpectedly--"do you know,
gentleman, who this man is?"

The voice in which he pronounced these words had something of a
terrifying tone, for it made all present startle, and shout at the same
time--"who is he?"

"Gentlemen, this man is--it is nobody else but Capitan Kopeikin
himself!"

And when all in one voice asked again--"but who is the Capitan
Kopeikin?" the Postmaster General said:

"So you do not know who the Capitan Kopeikin is?"

All answered at once "that they did not know who the Capitan Kopeikin
was, nor had they ever heard of him before."

"Capitan Kopeikin," continued the Postmaster General, as he opened
his snuff-box only half-way for fear, lest one or the other of his
neighbours should venture to put his fingers in it, the cleanliness of
which he very much suspected. "Capitan Kopeikin," said the Postmaster,
after having had already his pinch of snuff, "if I was to tell you who
he is, it would be long and interesting enough for a novel."

All present expressed a wish to know the history of the Capitan,
because they took it for granted it would be that of Tchichikoff
himself; and the Postmaster-General announced his readiness to comply
with their request, and began in the following terms;--

"Capitan Kopeikin was, at the time I am speaking of, one of the most
valiant officers in the Russian service. In his last campaign against
the Turks he stood, with his brave company, before the very gates of
Adrianople, where he lost an arm and a leg, swearing at the same time
that it was a shame on the part of the commanding generals to prevent
them entering Adrianople as conquerors, and proceeding at once to
Constantinople, which would have been a mere joke for them, and which
they would have eventually to do. However, peace was proclaimed at
Adrianople, and with one leg and one arm less he proceeded."....

"But pardon me, Ivan Andreitch," the Commissioner of Police,
interrupted him, "before you proceed any farther with the history of
your Capitan Kopeikin, allow me to observe to you that our stranger,
Tchichikoff, boasts of very strong and healthy-looking legs and arms,
and, according to your own words, Capitan Kopeikin, lost of each one,
before the very gates of Adrianople."....

Here the Postmaster-General shouted out, and struck himself a violent
blow at his forehead, calling himself in public, and in the presence of
all assembled, "a stupid old ass." He could not explain it to himself,
how a similar circumstance did not strike his attention at the very
beginning, and he confessed that the old proverb was perfectly true,
that a Russian was very strong in after-thoughts.

However, a few minutes later, he tried immediately to amend his
blunder, and if possible to get out of the scrape in which he had
placed himself, saying, that at the last Universal Exhibition in
England, where mechanism had been carried to the highest perfection,
a certain Mr. Brown had invented a pair of mechanical legs, which, if
touched in a particular place, where an invisible spring was fixed,
would carry a man, Heaven knows how far, so far indeed, that it would
be perfectly impossible to find him again anywhere.

However, this explanation was not sufficient to make them believe that
Capitan Kopeikin and Tchichikoff were the same person; and they agreed
that the Postmaster-General's explanations were too far fetched.

After this last suggestion it will not seem surprising at all that the
gentlemen assembled began to reflect more seriously on the subject;
however, after a little while they began to rally again, finding that
their imagination was at a loss for something more probable.

Thinking, and thinking again, and after mature reflections, they came
to the conclusion, that it would be advisable to question Nosdrieff
on the subject; as he had been the first to bring the dead serfs on
the tapis, and as he seemed to be in every respect on very intimate
terms with Tchichikoff, it was consequently clear to them, that he was
the most likely person to give them some more positive information
regarding Tchichikoff's past life; they therefore decided on seeing and
questioning Nosdrieff without any further delay.



CHAPTER XXII.


This resolution, the last they had come to, was a very strange one
indeed, because they knew perfectly well that Nosdrieff was a professed
story-teller, and it was impossible to believe a word of what he said,
and that he could in no way be depended upon even in the merest trifle;
nevertheless, and perhaps for that very reason, they rushed away to
have recourse to him. Humanity is strange indeed! Many a man doubts
Providence, but believes steadfastly that if the bridge of his nose
itches, he is sure to die soon; he will leave unnoticed the creation
of a genius, dear as noon-day, full of consistencies, perfect in its
simplicity and truth, to throw himself upon the humbug invented or
advanced by a charlatan, and believe and trust in it blindly, and
exclaim at the same time, "This is the real representative of the
secrets of the heart!" or, having never paid in his life a copek to a
physician, he will in the extremest case apply to an old woman-quack,
who cures with simples and incantations like a witch, or who boils down
some drugs, which, heaven knows why, he fancies to be the very remedy
for his complaint.

Of course, and in some degree the imperial _employés_ might in many
respects be excused, for they really were in one of the most unpleasant
and embarrassing positions, as regarded their character and reputation.
The drowning man, it is said, catches even at a straw, because at the
time of his danger he has not the faculty of judging that a fly only
could perhaps save its life on a straw, and that, as for himself, he
weighed at least his twelve to sixteen stone, if not more; however,
this reflection seems not to occur to the drowning man, and for that
reason he catches at a straw.

Thus it was also with our gentlemen assembled; they at last resolved
on catching at Nosdrieff. The Commissioner of Police dropped him
a line instantly, inviting him to pass the evening with them, and
his assistant courier in his long top-boots and rosy cheeks, rushed
immediately out into the street, to take the message to Nosdrieff.
Nosdrieff was engaged on very important business; for four consecutive
days he had not left his room; he permitted no one to quit the house,
and received his dinner through the window; in a word, he had grown
feeble and emaciated.

His business demanded the most persevering attention; it consisted in
the selection of from more than ten dozen packs of cards, of one select
pack, upon which he might be able to depend as upon his most intimate
friend. The work he had before him was sufficient to last him yet for
two weeks longer; for the course o this time, Porphir had received
instructions to take particular care of the young dog, and to wash him
three times a day with a peculiar brush and plenty of soap.

Nosdrieff was very angry indeed that any one should have come to
disturb his solitude; at first he refused to listen at all to the
Commissioner's messenger, but when he read the P.S. which informed
him, that it was more than likely that the evening party would be
attended by a novice, and that there would be a little gambling, he
dressed himself immediately, and left his solitude to comply with the
invitation.

The appearance, testimony, and suppositions of Nosdrieff presented
such contradictory evidence that the gentlemen of the council were
completely thrown out of their latest conclusion on the subject of
their important investigations. Nosdrieff was one of those men for
whom suppositions and doubts did not exist, and whatever extent of
indecision and timidity was perceptible in their conjectures, it was
met by him with as much perseverance and conviction, and he answered
every one of their inquiries without stammering even once, nor feeling
in the least embarrassed.

He affirmed that Tchichikoff had bought dead serfs for a considerable
amount, and that he himself had sold him some, because he could not see
any harm in doing so. Upon the question, whether he did not believe him
to be a spy sent from St. Petersburgh to collect secret information
regarding the administration of Smolensk, Nosdrieff answered, that he
was confident that his friend Tchichikoff was a spy in the pay of
the government, because, said he, when we were school-fellows we used
to call him the _fiscal_, but at the same time, he got many a sound
thrashing for it from us, and from myself in particular.

"I now remember a circumstance when we had so very much ill-used him
that he was obliged to go home, and have immediately two hundred and
forty leeches applied to his temples"--that is to say, he intended to
make it forty, but the two hundred additional slipped from his tongue
in spite of himself.

When he was asked whether he did not think that Tchichikoff was the
manufacturer of false bank notes, he answered in the affirmative, and
at the same time told them an anecdote of the great cleverness of
Tchichikoff, saying, that it once so happened that he, Tchichikoff,
being positively traced as the imitator of bank notes, and that he had
about two millions worth in his possession, his house was immediately
surrounded by a detachment of soldiers, each of the doors being sealed
and guarded by two men, but during the same night Tchichikoff managed
to change the two millions worth of spurious notes into genuine
imperial bank bills.

To the direct question, whether Tchichikoff had really the intention
of carrying out his elopement with the Governor-General's daughter,
and whether it was true that he had undertaken to assist them in
their flight, Nosdrieff replied, that he must confess, that he had
particularly helped and assisted him, and that without him, they would
not have had the least chance of success.

Here he perceived, but too late, that he had compromised himself by
this statement, without, however, being able to stop the fluency of
the tongue. However, it was also difficult to stop his talkativeness,
because the subject in itself was one that presented so many
interesting incidents, and he could not resist the temptation of
inventing them; he even gave the name of the particular village, where
the church stood on a hill surrounded by a small wood, through which
they had to pass in order to proceed to the nuptial ceremony, the name
of the pope who had to wed them before the altar, was father Sidor;
for his services and discretion he was to receive a hundred roubles,
but he at first declined to accede to their request, but that he,
Nosdrieff, reminded the holy father that he had married lately his
peasant Michael to his cousin, Katinka, and which was an act contrary
to the laws of the Greek church, and that if he refused to marry his
friend and his lovely bride, he would at once inform against him, that
he had put at their disposal his own carriage and horses, and that he
had gone on horseback, from station to station to provide re-lay horses
for the fugitives. He went even so far in his particulars as regarded
the elopement, that he begun to call out the names of every one of the
yamtschicks who drove the carriage.

The Imperial men remained now in a worse position than they were in
the beginning of their investigations, and the meeting was broken up,
after they had fully agreed upon the fact, it was impossible to them to
discover who Tchichikoff was.

All these reports, conjectures and gossips on account of Tchichikoff
had, for some incomprehensible reasons, had the most fatal effect upon
the constitution of the poor Imperial Procurator. They had acted upon
him to such a degree, that he, on his return home from the meeting,
from some cause or another fell down and was found to be dead. Whether
it was a paralytic stroke or any other that put a term to his
existence is difficult to say, but the fact is, that when he sat down
upon his chair, he had done so to rise no more.

But this is incredible, altogether inconsistent! it is impossible that
the Imperial _employés_ could so foolishly alarm themselves; imagine
all such nonsense, thus deviate from the truth, when even a child could
comprehend the matter. Thus will many of our readers think and reproach
us with having advanced an incredible occurrence, or call the imperial
_employés_ stupid fellows, because men are liberal in words like, fool
and ass, and are ready and willing to apply them even twenty times a
day, if their fellow creatures give them but a chance.

It is very easy for a reader to pass a judgment, considering that
he has the whole plot before him, and is seated in his snug corner,
occupying thus a perfectly independent position, from which he has the
whole horizon at a glance before him, and sees, as it were, what is
going on below him, where the creeping men see but that which is close
before them.



CHAPTER XXIII.


As for Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff, he had not the slightest idea
of the reports that were circulating on his account, and, as if
misfortunes never come alone, it so happened, that at this very time he
was suffering from a severe cold in his face, and an influenza in his
throat, both indispositions to which we are very subject in our larger
towns. In order to avoid any danger to his life by this indisposition,
from which Heaven preserve him! and the fear that he might perhaps die
in consequence without leaving any descendants behind him, he resolved
upon staying at home for a few days.

During the course of these days, he kept continually using ointments,
and rincing his throat with warm milk and figs in it, the latter
fruit he always used to eat when he had used the lotion, he also wore
a small pillow on his face, filled with herbs and camphor. Wishing to
occupy his leisure time as pleasantly as possible, he began to write
over again the various lists of the dead serfs he had been purchasing,
read a little of the "Wandering Jew," translated from the French,
which he happened to find in his portmanteau, he reviewed and glanced
over all the contents of his dressing-case, such as notes, visiting
cards and invitations to weddings and funerals, some of them he even
had the courage to read over twice, nevertheless, he soon got tired of
continually doing the same thing.

He could not at all account for the fact, how it happened that he did
not see a single visitor, when but a few days ago the droschkies and
carriages of the imperial _employés_ were continually standing and
waiting in a line before the inn, among his most frequent visitors
he was accustomed to see the carriage of the Postmaster General, the
Procurator's, or the President of the Council.

He shrugged his shoulders at the thought of it as he was walking up and
down his room, applying the poultice to his swollen cheek. At last,
however, he felt considerably better, and was rejoiced, Heaven knows
to what extent, when he saw a possibility before him of leaving the
house and walking out into the fresh air. Without any further delay,
he betook himself immediately to the process of dressing, opened his
toilette case, poured some hot water into a glass, took his shaving
brush and soap, and prepared to shave himself, for which process it had
been long ago the highest time; because, feeling his beard with his
hand, and then looking at it in the looking-glass before him, he could
not help exclaiming: "What a forest-like beard I have got in a few
days, to be sure." And really, though it could not have been called a
forest, yet his cheeks and chin were thickly covered with what might be
termed a neglected growth.

After having shaved carefully, he began to dress so quickly and lively,
so that he nearly jumped out of his trowsers again. At last, he was
perfectly dressed, he took up his _Eau de Cologne_, with which he
sprinkled himself all over, and after putting on a warmer over-coat,
and wrapping his cheek carefully in a silk handkerchief, he went out
into the street.

His first walk out was like that of every person recovering from an
indisposition; he felt cheerful and well-disposed. All that his sight
met, seemed gay and pleasant to look at, the houses, the passing
multitude, the carriages and horses and even the running dogs.

His first morning visit he intended to pay to his Excellency the
Governor-General of Smolensk. On his road to the house of the
Lord-Lieutenant, many a thought crossed his mind. The fair _blondine_
kept continually turning about in his head; his fancy for her even
began to roam, so much so that he could at last not help smiling at it
himself. In such a pleasant disposition he arrived at the house of the
Governor-General. He was on the point of taking off his over-coat in
the hall, when the porter surprised him with the following unexpected
information.

"I have orders not to receive you, Sir."

"What, how, surely you don't recognise me again. You had better look me
well in the face," said Tchichikoff to the man.

"How should I not know you again, Sir? It is not the first time I have
seen you in this house. But the instructions I have received are very
positive indeed; they refer to you alone; all other visitors are to be
admitted as before."

"You don't mean that! Why me alone? what for?"

"Such are my orders, and I dare say it must be all right," said the
porter, and added finally the words, "yes." After saying this, he
remained coolly standing before Tchichikoff, showing no signs of his
usual servility to hasten forward and help the guest of his master to
take off his over-coat. It seemed, as he looked upon the stranger, that
he thought, "Oho! if my master does not wish to receive you any more
under his roof, you must have behaved badly, and be an impostor."

"Incomprehensible!" thought Tchichikoff to himself, and went
immediately to wait upon his friend the President; but the President
became so confused at the sight of our hero, that he could not speak
two words intelligibly and uttered such nonsense that both felt at last
perfectly ashamed of one another.' As he left the house, Tchichikoff
tried to explain to himself, on his road, what the President's words
were meant to express, and especially a few insinuations that had
dropped in the course of their conversation, however he could explain
nothing.

He then went to pay his visits to a few more, to the Commissioner of
Police, to the Vice-Governor, to the Postmaster-General, but they
either did not receive him, or if they did, at least, all spoke in
such a strange manner, and in such incomprehensible terms, and seemed
in his opinion at such a loss for anything reasonable to say, that he
left them under the impression that they were wrong in their minds.
He called upon a few more on his road home, thinking that he would at
last be able to find out a real cause for their unwarrantable conduct;
however he could not discover any cause whatever.

Like a somnambulist he continued to wander about for some time in the
streets of the town, perfectly incapable of deciding, whether it was he
or the Imperial _employés_ who had lost their senses.

It was already late in the evening when he returned to his hotel, which
he had left in the early day, in such an excellent disposition, to
chase away the annoyance he felt, he immediately ordered some tea.
Engaged with melancholy reflections on his suddenly changed position
_vis-à-vis_ his acquaintance in town, he began to pour out his tea,
when the door of his room was suddenly opened, and he beheld Nosdrieff
standing unexpectedly before him.



CHAPTER XXIV.


"The proverb says, 'for a friend seven miles even are no distance,'"
said Nosdrieff as he entered the room and took off his hat. "I was just
passing the inn, saw a light in your room, thought to myself, I'll call
upon him, he is surely not in bed yet, and here I am. Ah, delightful!
you have yet your tea on the table; I shall have great pleasure to take
a cup with you. I have made a very indifferent dinner to-day, and feel
the consequences even now, lust give orders to your servant to bring me
a pipe. Where is your pipe?"

"I don't smoke," said Tchichikoff, dryly.

"Nonsense! as if I did not know that you are an inveterate smoker.
Halloa! what's that fellow's name? Halloa, Vachramei, where are you?"

"His name is not Vachramei, but Petruschka."

"How is this? but you used to have a servant of the name of Vachramei
formerly."

"I never had a servant of that name in my life."

"Just so, my friend Derebischkin has a Vachramei. By the bye, imagine
only what a lucky fellow that Derebischkin is. An aunt of his, having
quarrelled with her own son for marrying the daughter of one of her
serfs, has disinherited him, and left the whole of her property to
my friend Derebischkin. When I heard of it, I could not help wishing
for a couple of such aunts. But what is the matter with you, my dear
fellow, why have you become a stranger, and are no more seen among
us? Of course I know that you are sometimes engaged on scientific
subjects, and like to play the original, and read and study, (why
Nosdrieff came to the conclusion that our hero was fend of reading, and
studying scientific subjects, is impossible for us to tell, and still
less for Tchichikoff himself). "Ah, my dear fellow Tchichikoff, if you
could but have witnessed it--it would have been excellent food for
your satirical wit, (why Tchichikoff was possessed of satirical wit,
it was also impossible to say.) Imagine only, my dear fellow, we were
gambling a little the other evening at Lichatcheff's house, we had such
a lark there! My mend Perependeiff, who was with me, said what a pity
that our Tchichikoff is not with us, he would have heartily enjoyed
the fun--(meanwhile it must be observed that Tchichikoff never in his
whole life knew a man of the name of Perependeiff.) However, I hope, my
dear fellow, you will agree with me, that you acted very ungentlemanly
to me on the last occasion, when we played that game of draughts, in
which I was the winner. Yes, my dear fellow, I cannot help saying, you
regularly did me out of it. However, the devil knows I cannot get angry
on any account. It is but recently, that I and the President...."

"Halloa! and by the bye, I must tell you, my dear fellow, that the
whole town is against you, they are under the impression that you
are a manufacturer of spurious bank notes, they pressed hard upon
me, but I defended you like a brother, I made them believe we were
school-fellows, and that I knew your father; you may depend upon it, my
dear fellow, I made them swallow a regular blue pill."

"What do you say, I am suspected of making false bank notes?" exclaimed
Tchichikoff in a fit of amazement, as he rose from his chair.

"But what pleasure could you also find in frightening them nearly out
of their senses?" continued Nosdrieff. "I can assure you, my dear
fellow, they are nearly all mad from fear; they believe you also to
be a highwayman, and an imperial spy. As for the Procurator, the poor
fellow died in consequence of your reputation, and is to be buried
to-morrow. Will you attend the funeral? To speak the truth, they are
horribly alarmed at the new Governor-General, who has been appointed
by the Emperor. However, my dear fellow, I cannot help making the
observation; but you play a hazardous game."

"What hazardous game do you mean?" Tchichikoff again asked, rather
alarmed.

"Well, I mean your projected elopement with the present
Governor-General's daughter. For my part, I must confess, I expected
as much of you, by heavens I thought you would do it! The first time
I saw you both together at the ball, I thought to myself, I'm sure
Tchichikoff is not the fellow to take so much trouble for nothing.
However, allow me to tell you, that I do not exactly approve of your
choice, I cannot find anything particularly attractive in that fair
girl. I would have liked her cousin, Anastasia Bikousova better, she is
a charming little thing!"

"But stop, stop, what nonsense are you talking there? What did you
say--I was going to elope with the Lord Lieutenant's daughter?"
Tchichikoff stammered, opening his eyes widely.

"Well, my dear fellow, now don't you presume to be so very mysterious
about the matter. I must confess, I came here with an intention. I am
ready to assist you in the speculation. Be it so: I am willing to hold
the nuptial crown over your head, I am ready to place my carriage and
the relay horses at your disposal, but you must lend me a sum of five
thousand roubles. I want them, I want them desperately, my dear fellow!"

During the whole time the prattling of Nosdrieff lasted, Tchichikoff
continued to rub his eyes, wishing to convince himself whether he
was under the impression of a dream, or whether he was listening to
something in reality. Manufacturer of false bank notes, the elopement
with the Governor-General's daughter, the death of the Imperial
Procurator, which he was given to understand was caused by him, the
appointment and speedy arrival of a new Lord-Lieutenant, all this was
calculated to alarm him considerably. If matters have come to this
point, he thought to himself, I have no reason to tarry any longer
here, and it is the highest time for me to leave town immediately.

He tried to rid himself as soon as possible of Nosdrieff's company,
in which he at last succeeded, but not without some considerable
difficulty. He then called in his servant Selifan, and gave him
instructions to be ready by the break of day, in order that they should
have no impediments in leaving Smolensk by six o'clock in the morning,
everything should be packed and ready, the britchka well greased, the
horses cleaned, &c., &c.

Selifan answered: "very well, Pavel Ivanovitch," but remained
nevertheless for a few moments immoveable at the door. Tchichikoff
ordered Petruschka to draw forward from under the bed his portmanteau,
which was covered with a thick layer of dust, he began to assist his
servant in the packing of all his property indiscriminately into
it, such as stockings, shirts, and other clean and unwashed linen,
boot-jacks, an almanack--all these effects were placed into the
portmanteau as they happened to come under their hands; he intended to
have everything absolutely ready in the evening, so that nothing should
prevent or delay his departure in the morning.

Selifan who had, as we before said, remained silently standing at the
door, when he saw the preparation for his master's departure carried on
so vigorously, at last left the room in a hurry.

Hurriedly, as hurriedly as it is possible to imagine it, he descended
the staircase, imprinting the marks of his wet footsteps on the stairs,
on arriving below he stopped short, and began to scratch the back of
his head for a considerable rime.

What this scratching of his head meant, or what it in general was meant
for, is difficult to say, but it is a characteristic trait of persons
in his condition. Was it the disappointment, that he would not be able
to go the next evening once more with his brother servant across the
street to the cellar like imperial dram-shop, or had it, perhaps,
happened that he had already succeeded during their protracted sojourn
in Smolensk, in forming a tender attachment of the heart with some
neighbour's kitchen-maid, and that he would have to bid farewell to his
fair girl, and that there would be an end to their tender conversation
before the gate, where with his balalaika in his hand he used to give
her an evening song.

Or, again was he simply sorry to leave a place to which he had just
begun to accustom himself, and feel cozy and comfortable near the
kitchen fire wrapped in his greasy sheep-skin, eating porridge and
sour cabbage soup with fat meat-pies; leave all these comforts for the
purpose of travelling again in rain and storm, and be tossed about on
his master's britchka?

Heaven alone knows what it meant, but it has many and innumerable
meanings with the Russian people, when they begin to scratch the back
of their head.



CHAPTER XXV.


Nothing, however, of all that Tchichikoff had projected on the
preceding evening, so happened on the following morning. In the first
instance, he awoke considerably later than he wished; this was the
first annoyance. Scarcely had he risen from his couch, when he sent
immediately to inquire whether the horses were harnessed and before
the britchka, and whether all was ready for his departure, but he was
informed that neither the horses nor the britchka, nor anything was
ready for his immediate departure. This was the second annoyance.

He flew into a violent passion, and had first, the intention of
treating our friend Selifan to something in the Russian fashion, for
the disregard thus shown to his orders, however he preferred waiting
impatiently to hear first what excuse he would come to offer. Soon
after, Selifan made his appearance in the room, and his lord and master
had the gratification of listening to the same language which is
usually spoken by servants on similar occasions, when their masters are
in a hurry to start on their journey without delay.

"Your glory, I must inform you that the horses will require to be shod."

"Oh, you pig! you stupid blockhead! and why have you hot told me of
this before? Had you no time to do it?"

"As for time, I cannot complain of--But allow me also to tell you,
Pavel Ivanovitch, that one of the wheels wants a new tyre very
sadly indeed, the roads have become very bad during these last few
rainy days. And will your glory allow me also to observe, that the
driving-box of the britchka is altogether out of repair and shaky, so
much so that I fear it will not hold together for more than two or
three stations."

"You rascal, you!" shouted Tchichikoff, raising his arms, and clapping
his hands together, and approaching Selifan so closely, that he,
prompted by fear of receiving an unpleasant treat, stepped hastily
backwards, and remained at a respectful distance.

"Do you want to kill me? aye? do you wish to cut my throat? Have you
formed a conspiracy to slaughter me on the high road? you robber, you
infernal pig you, you marine monster, you! For three weeks and more
you have been sitting here at your ease, but the thought could never
come into your blockhead to think of this before? ah? but now at the
eleventh hour you put your nose at last upon it! how am I now to get
in and drive off? eh? such is always the case with you, you rascal,
and now you have let me again in a mess! ah? ah? But you ought to have
known all this before? didn't you know it? ah? eh? Answer me. Did you
know it? ah? eh?"

"I knew it, your glory," answered Selifan, bending down his head.

"And why didn't you tell me of it before? ah? eh?"

To this question Selifan gave no answer at all, but bending down
his head still lower, he seemed to say to himself: "Look here, how
strangely all this has happened, to be sure: I knew all about it but
said nothing!"

"And now, Sir, you go instantly, bring me a blacksmith, and mind that
everything requisite is done and attended to in two hours. Do you hear
and understand me? absolutely in two hours, and if you are not ready,
then you know what the result will be. I shall drive you into a bull's
horn, and tie you up with a knot." Our hero's anger had risen to a
considerable pitch.

Selifan turned round to the door, as if with the intention of leaving
the room, and executing his master's instructions; however, he stopped
short, and said:

"I have forgotten to mention to your glory, that it would be a good
plan to sell the tiger-spotted horse, because he is--I can assure you,
Pavel Ivanovitch, the greatest idler and rascal I ever had to do with,
he is such a horse, as I would pray Heaven to deliver me from."

"Well, I'm sure! you don't mean to say, Sir, that I am going to run to
the marketplace, and sell a horse to please you?"

"I invoke my patron saint as a witness, Pavel Ivanovitch, but that
horse has only the appearance of a good horse, but at work he is the
greatest rogue and idler. Such a horse--"

"Stupid donkey, I shall sell my horses when I choose. Do not presume
to argue with me, but mind what I am telling you now; if you don't go
instantly to fetch me a blacksmith, and if everything is not ready
within two hours, you may depend upon such a combing--such a combing
that you will have every difficulty in recognizing your own face again!
Leave me! be off!"

Selifan left the room.

Tchichikoff had now lost even the slightest vestige of good temper, and
kept thumping his old rusty sword on the ground, which travelled with
him wherever he went, for the purpose of inspiring with due respect
all those whom it concerned. He spent more than a quarter of an hour
with the blacksmith before he could agree as to the terms for his job,
because the blacksmith as is customary with them, was an impudent
fellow, who perceiving that the gentleman was in a hurry, demanded of
him six times his due.

It was of no use for Tchichikoff to reason with the man, to call him a
scoundrel, robber, preying upon the unwary traveller, notwithstanding
even his allusion to the day of judgment, he could produce no
impression upon the hardened blacksmith; he maintained his iron
character to the last; he not only insisted upon his own price, but
even continued to job about his work exactly five hours and a half,
instead of two hours.

During the whole of this time, Tchichikoff had the advantage of
experiencing all the pleasant sensations, so very familiar to every
traveller who has his portmanteaus ready packed, and useless papers
and strings lying strewn about in the room, when a man does not yet
deserve to be called a traveller, and when he also may not be called a
fixed resident; in such a position let us imagine him standing before
the window in his room, looking down into the street, where he beholds
a busy crowd passing along, talking of their grievances, and with a
meaningless curiosity lifting their eyes to look upon him, and then
again continuing their conversation, and passing on their way, which
still more annoys the disappointed, not yet journeying traveller.
Whatever it may be, and whatever he may see, whether a little shop
on the other side of the street, or the head of an old woman living
in the opposite house, as she approaches the window, ornamented with
old fashioned curtains, the sight of all this displeases and annoys
him considerably, but still, and for all that, he will not leave his
position. He continues to stand there fixedly, soon forgetting, then
again looking steadfastly at everything before him, whether animate or
inanimate; and out of pure vexation kills a poor fly, which had been
already for some time buzzing and beating against the window pane.

However, there is an end to everything, and the long wished for
moment has at last arrived; all was ready, the driving seat of the
britchka was repaired most carefully, a new iron tyre fixed around
the wheel, the horses led forward from their draining cup, and the
impudent blacksmith, after receiving his pay, and counting the silver
roubles, wished smilingly a pleasant journey to the traveller he had so
shamelessly provoked.

At last the britchka was ready to start, and two hot cakes just brought
were immediately placed into it by Petruschka, whilst Selifan stocked
the leather pockets of his seat with similar eatables, at last our
hero himself escorted, and received by the flourish of numerous caps,
and the ever attentive head waiter, in the same demi-cotton jacket and
napkin across his shoulder, made his appearance before his travelling
carriage, where he was greeted by a number of waiters, coachmen and
idlers, who like to be always present on similar occasions; the
gentleman traveller took possession of his high seat, and the britchka,
that particular travelling carriage, to which bachelors and retired
Stabz-capitäns give the preference, and which had been standing under a
shed for so long a time in the town of Smolensk; and whose inactivity
may have already begun to fatigue our reader, at last drove out through
the gates of the inn.

"I praise thee, O Lord!" said Tchichikoff to himself, while making
a devout sign of the cross, which is customary among the faithful
believers in the Greek church. Selifan made his whip crack, and used
it immediately upon all three horses in succession; Petruschka kept
running for awhile dose to the carriage, and then jumping cleverly
upon the wheel step, he took his seat next to his brother servant; and
our hero, seating himself still more comfortably upon his small Persian
carpet, and carefully placing a leather cushion behind his back,
unconsciously flattened the two hot cakes, and the light carriage began
to roll and shake again quickly over the wretched pavement, which had
the effect of tossing the occupant considerably about.



CHAPTER XXVI.


It was with an indefinable feeling that Tchichikoff now began to look
round him, at the houses, walls, gardens and streets, which on their
part seemed also to be tossing about, until at last they disappeared
before his sight, and which, Heaven knows he will perhaps never have
the chance of seeing again during his life. At the turning of one of
the streets, the britchka was suddenly obliged to stop, because of a
funeral procession, which was just slowly bending its way across the
street; it was headed as usual by a dozen mourners in deep black,
carrying burning torches in their hands, and followed by the bearers of
the military and civil orders, worn by the deceased, and then by the
funeral car and its followers.

Tchichikoff leaning forward ordered Petruschka to inquire who it was
whom they were thus leading to his grave, and he received the answer
that it was the right honorable the Imperial Procurator. Overwhelmed
with unpleasant sensations and recollections, he immediately lent back
into the farthest corner of his carriage, and covered himself with the
carriage apron, and drew down the leather curtains.

At the time when the britchka was thus stopped, Selifan and Petruschka
took their caps off with great fervour, and made the usual sign of the
cross, and began to gape about and see who were present, and how they
were following the mournful and exceedingly long procession, trying
to count the number of those that were walking, and those that were
driving in their own carriages behind the funeral car; their master,
after having cautioned them not to recognise nor salute any of the
servants with whom they might have made acquaintance, also begun to
look, or rather peep attentively through the small glass square fixed
in the leather curtains; he beheld nearly all the Imperial _employés_
of his acquaintance forming the majority of the chief mourners.
He began to feel alarmed lest they should accidentally recognise
his carriage, however this was but a false alarm, their minds were
differently pre-occupied.

They were even not occupied with any worldly talk, such as is usually
carried on between persons that follow a funeral. All their thoughts,
at that time, were principally concentrated upon themselves; they were
thinking and asking themselves the question--what kind of a man the
newly-appointed Governor-general would be, with what energy he would
undertake his duties, and how he would receive them.

Behind the Imperial _employés_, who followed all walking, came the
carriages from which ladies in mourning gowns were putting out their
heads to look about them. By the movements of their lips and hands,
it could easily be conjectured that they were engaged in lively
conversation; very likely they also spoke of the arrival of the new
Governor-general, and tried to imagine what kind of balls and routs
he would be likely to give on the occasion of his new appointment;
and they seemed very anxious about their new dresses with the recent
fashionable improvement of festoons and ornaments all over.

The private carriages were followed by a few empty droschkies, which
concluded the procession, and at last the road was free and open again
for our hero's britchka, which began to speed on to make up for lost
time.

Opening now freely again the leather curtains of his carriages,
Tchichikoff heaved a deep sigh, and pronounced, as if from the
innermost of his soul:

"There he went, the Imperial Procurator; he has lived and lived
until he has come to his death! and now they will advertise in the
newspapers, that his existence has terminated to the unspeakable regret
of his inferiors and superiors, as well as to humanity at large, a
respected citizen, a rare father, a beloved husband, and much more,
they will print in his memory; add perhaps, that he was followed to
his grave not only by his numerous friends, but also by many widows
and orphans of the town; but if we were to examine your virtues and
qualities more minutely and conscientiously, we would find perhaps
nothing more remarkable than your bushy and heavy eyebrows."

After having concluded this observation, our hero ordered Selifan to
speed on his horses, and meanwhile thought to himself--"however, it is
rather lucky that I have met with a funeral procession; it is said that
it prognosticates good fortune to meet with the dead."

Meanwhile, the britchka turned and passed through the more lonely and
distant streets; soon after Tchichikoff saw only the long and uniform
wooden walls of gardens and enclosed building grounds, which announced
the end of the town. And now there was an end to the wretched pavement;
and he had passed the last military frontier of the town of Smolensk,
which now remained behind him; and he was again on the free and high
wide road. And again, on either side of the britchka, were woods and
forests, and fields and plains, brooks and wells, military posts, and
grey villages, with chatting old women, and idle peasants, looking out
from their huge beards, like a bear from his den.

At first, the changing scenes around him did not make any particular
impression upon his mind; but by degrees, and as he continued to turn
round to convince himself, that the town of Smolensk was really behind
him, and nearly hidden from his sight, he began to pay a little more
attention to the high road, and to his own reflections, which begun so
fully to preoccupy his mind, that Smolensk was as much out of his mind
as out of his sight; and he really fancied that he had merely passed
through once in his early childhood. At last, even the high road ceased
to possess any attractions whatever for him, and he began slightly to
incline his head upon the leather pillow, and dose his eyes.

Our hero was suddenly aroused from his slumber by an approaching noise
on the high road, behind his britchka. The noise approached rapidly,
and seemed to be caused by the galloping of numerous horses.

"Hallo! what are you about?" said Tchichikoff, calling out to his
coachman, Selifan; "why don't you drive on?"

"Yes, your glory!" answered Selifan, in a slow voice, and with a sleepy
countenance, without being able to comply at once with the request, so
much was he benumbed by the chilly night-air.

"How are you driving, you stupid goose? Why don't you flog the horses?"

But before Selifan had the time to comply with his master's command,
the last which either he or Petruschka was to receive from him; the
horses galloping behind had rejoined the britchka, and in a few moments
later Tchichikoff beheld before him the Commissioner of Police from
Smolensk, and another gentleman on horseback, who was introduced to him
as an imperial messenger.

The imperial messenger transmitted to Tchichikoff a document, with
the imperial seal beneath; after the hasty perusal of this mysterious
document, our hero's countenance changed suddenly; his eyes became dim,
and his face as pale as death. The imperial messenger then pointed
silently to a sinister-looking carriage, called a Siberian kibitka,
into which our hero was assisted, without being able to utter a
syllable, and the next moment he was a dead man.

THE END.





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