Part 2 out of 8
coachman put away from him all ulterior reasoning, and, turning to the
right at the next cross-road, shouted, "Hi, my beauties!" and set off
at a gallop. Never for a moment did he stop to think whither the road
might lead him!
It was long before the clouds had discharged their burden, and,
meanwhile, the dust on the road became kneaded into mire, and the
horses' task of pulling the britchka heavier and heavier. Also,
Chichikov had taken alarm at his continued failure to catch sight of
Sobakevitch's country house. According to his calculations, it ought
to have been reached long ago. He gazed about him on every side, but
the darkness was too dense for the eye to pierce.
"Selifan!" he exclaimed, leaning forward in the britchka.
"What is it, barin?" replied the coachman.
"Can you see the country house anywhere?"
"No, barin." After which, with a flourish of the whip, the man broke
into a sort of endless, drawling song. In that song everything had a
place. By "everything" I mean both the various encouraging and
stimulating cries with which Russian folk urge on their horses, and a
random, unpremeditated selection of adjectives.
Meanwhile Chichikov began to notice that the britchka was swaying
violently, and dealing him occasional bumps. Consequently he suspected
that it had left the road and was being dragged over a ploughed field.
Upon Selifan's mind there appeared to have dawned a similar inkling,
for he had ceased to hold forth.
"You rascal, what road are you following?" inquired Chichikov.
"I don't know," retorted the coachman. "What can a man do at a time of
night when the darkness won't let him even see his whip?" And as
Selifan spoke the vehicle tilted to an angle which left Chichikov no
choice but to hang on with hands and teeth. At length he realised the
fact that Selifan was drunk.
"Stop, stop, or you will upset us!" he shouted to the fellow.
"No, no, barin," replied Selifan. "HOW could I upset you? To upset
people is wrong. I know that very well, and should never dream of such
Here he started to turn the vehicle round a little--and kept on doing
so until the britchka capsized on to its side, and Chichikov landed in
the mud on his hands and knees. Fortunately Selifan succeeded in
stopping the horses, although they would have stopped of themselves,
seeing that they were utterly worn out. This unforeseen catastrophe
evidently astonished their driver. Slipping from the box, he stood
resting his hands against the side of the britchka, while Chichikov
tumbled and floundered about in the mud, in a vain endeavour to
wriggle clear of the stuff.
"Ah, you!" said Selifan meditatively to the britchka. "To think of
upsetting us like this!"
"You are as drunk as a lord!" exclaimed Chichikov.
"No, no, barin. Drunk, indeed? Why, I know my manners too well. A word
or two with a friend--that is all that I have taken. Any one may talk
with a decent man when he meets him. There is nothing wrong in that.
Also, we had a snack together. There is nothing wrong in a
snack--especially a snack with a decent man."
"What did I say to you when last you got drunk?" asked Chichikov.
"Have you forgotten what I said then?"
"No, no, barin. HOW could I forget it? I know what is what, and know
that it is not right to get drunk. All that I have been having is a
word or two with a decent man, for the reason that--"
"Well, if I lay the whip about you, you'll know then how to talk to a
decent fellow, I'll warrant!"
"As you please, barin," replied the complacent Selifan. "Should you
whip me, you will whip me, and I shall have nothing to complain of.
Why should you not whip me if I deserve it? 'Tis for you to do as you
like. Whippings are necessary sometimes, for a peasant often plays the
fool, and discipline ought to be maintained. If I have deserved it,
beat me. Why should you not?"
This reasoning seemed, at the moment, irrefutable, and Chichikov said
nothing more. Fortunately fate had decided to take pity on the pair,
for from afar their ears caught the barking of a dog. Plucking up
courage, Chichikov gave orders for the britchka to be righted, and the
horses to be urged forward; and since a Russian driver has at least
this merit, that, owing to a keen sense of smell being able to take
the place of eyesight, he can, if necessary, drive at random and yet
reach a destination of some sort, Selifan succeeded, though powerless
to discern a single object, in directing his steeds to a country house
near by, and that with such a certainty of instinct that it was not
until the shafts had collided with a garden wall, and thereby made it
clear that to proceed another pace was impossible, that he stopped.
All that Chichikov could discern through the thick veil of pouring
rain was something which resembled a verandah. So he dispatched
Selifan to search for the entrance gates, and that process would have
lasted indefinitely had it not been shortened by the circumstance
that, in Russia, the place of a Swiss footman is frequently taken by
watchdogs; of which animals a number now proclaimed the travellers'
presence so loudly that Chichikov found himself forced to stop his
ears. Next, a light gleamed in one of the windows, and filtered in a
thin stream to the garden wall--thus revealing the whereabouts of the
entrance gates; whereupon Selifan fell to knocking at the gates until
the bolts of the house door were withdrawn and there issued therefrom
a figure clad in a rough cloak.
"Who is that knocking? What have you come for?" shouted the hoarse
voice of an elderly woman.
"We are travellers, good mother," said Chichikov. "Pray allow us to
spend the night here."
"Out upon you for a pair of gadabouts!" retorted the old woman. "A
fine time of night to be arriving! We don't keep an hotel, mind you.
This is a lady's residence."
"But what are we to do, mother? We have lost our way, and cannot spend
the night out of doors in such weather."
"No, we cannot. The night is dark and cold," added Selifan.
"Hold your tongue, you fool!" exclaimed Chichikov.
"Who ARE you, then?" inquired the old woman.
"A dvorianin, good mother."
 A member of the gentry class.
Somehow the word dvorianin seemed to give the old woman food for
"Wait a moment," she said, "and I will tell the mistress."
Two minutes later she returned with a lantern in her hand, the gates
were opened, and a light glimmered in a second window. Entering the
courtyard, the britchka halted before a moderate-sized mansion. The
darkness did not permit of very accurate observation being made, but,
apparently, the windows only of one-half of the building were
illuminated, while a quagmire in front of the door reflected the beams
from the same. Meanwhile the rain continued to beat sonorously down
upon the wooden roof, and could be heard trickling into a water butt;
nor for a single moment did the dogs cease to bark with all the
strength of their lungs. One of them, throwing up its head, kept
venting a howl of such energy and duration that the animal seemed to
be howling for a handsome wager; while another, cutting in between the
yelpings of the first animal, kept restlessly reiterating, like a
postman's bell, the notes of a very young puppy. Finally, an old hound
which appeared to be gifted with a peculiarly robust temperament kept
supplying the part of contrabasso, so that his growls resembled the
rumbling of a bass singer when a chorus is in full cry, and the tenors
are rising on tiptoe in their efforts to compass a particularly high
note, and the whole body of choristers are wagging their heads before
approaching a climax, and this contrabasso alone is tucking his
bearded chin into his collar, and sinking almost to a squatting
posture on the floor, in order to produce a note which shall cause the
windows to shiver and their panes to crack. Naturally, from a canine
chorus of such executants it might reasonably be inferred that the
establishment was one of the utmost respectability. To that, however,
our damp, cold hero gave not a thought, for all his mind was fixed
upon bed. Indeed, the britchka had hardly come to a standstill before
he leapt out upon the doorstep, missed his footing, and came within an
ace of falling. To meet him there issued a female younger than the
first, but very closely resembling her; and on his being conducted to
the parlour, a couple of glances showed him that the room was hung
with old striped curtains, and ornamented with pictures of birds and
small, antique mirrors--the latter set in dark frames which were
carved to resemble scrolls of foliage. Behind each mirror was stuck
either a letter or an old pack of cards or a stocking, while on the
wall hung a clock with a flowered dial. More, however, Chichikov could
not discern, for his eyelids were as heavy as though smeared with
treacle. Presently the lady of the house herself entered--an elderly
woman in a sort of nightcap (hastily put on) and a flannel neck wrap.
She belonged to that class of lady landowners who are for ever
lamenting failures of the harvest and their losses thereby; to the
class who, drooping their heads despondently, are all the while
stuffing money into striped purses, which they keep hoarded in the
drawers of cupboards. Into one purse they will stuff rouble pieces,
into another half roubles, and into a third tchetvertachki,
although from their mien you would suppose that the cupboard contained
only linen and nightshirts and skeins of wool and the piece of shabby
material which is destined--should the old gown become scorched during
the baking of holiday cakes and other dainties, or should it fall into
pieces of itself--to become converted into a new dress. But the gown
never does get burnt or wear out, for the reason that the lady is too
careful; wherefore the piece of shabby material reposes in its
unmade-up condition until the priest advises that it be given to the
niece of some widowed sister, together with a quantity of other such
 Pieces equal in value to twenty-five kopecks (a quarter of a
Chichikov apologised for having disturbed the household with his
"Not at all, not at all," replied the lady. "But in what dreadful
weather God has brought you hither! What wind and what rain! You could
not help losing your way. Pray excuse us for being unable to make
better preparations for you at this time of night."
Suddenly there broke in upon the hostess' words the sound of a strange
hissing, a sound so loud that the guest started in alarm, and the more
so seeing that it increased until the room seemed filled with adders.
On glancing upwards, however, he recovered his composure, for he
perceived the sound to be emanating from the clock, which appeared to
be in a mind to strike. To the hissing sound there succeeded a
wheezing one, until, putting forth its best efforts, the thing struck
two with as much clatter as though some one had been hitting an iron
pot with a cudgel. That done, the pendulum returned to its right-left,
Chichikov thanked his hostess kindly, and said that he needed nothing,
and she must not put herself about: only for rest was he
longing--though also he should like to know whither he had arrived,
and whether the distance to the country house of land-owner
Sobakevitch was anything very great. To this the lady replied that she
had never so much as heard the name, since no gentleman of the name
resided in the locality.
"But at least you are acquainted with landowner Manilov?" continued
"No. Who is he?"
"Another landed proprietor, madam."
"Well, neither have I heard of him. No such landowner lives
"Then who ARE your local landowners?"
"Bobrov, Svinin, Kanapatiev, Khapakin, Trepakin, and Plieshakov."
"Are they rich men?"
"No, none of them. One of them may own twenty souls, and another
thirty, but of gentry who own a hundred there are none."
Chichikov reflected that he had indeed fallen into an aristocratic
"At all events, is the town far away?" he inquired.
"About sixty versts. How sorry I am that I have nothing for you to
eat! Should you care to drink some tea?"
"I thank you, good mother, but I require nothing beyond a bed."
"Well, after such a journey you must indeed be needing rest, so you
shall lie upon this sofa. Fetinia, bring a quilt and some pillows and
sheets. What weather God has sent us! And what dreadful thunder! Ever
since sunset I have had a candle burning before the ikon in my
bedroom. My God! Why, your back and sides are as muddy as a boar's!
However have you managed to get into such a state?"
"That I am nothing worse than muddy is indeed fortunate, since, but
for the Almighty, I should have had my ribs broken."
"Dear, dear! To think of all that you must have been through. Had I
not better wipe your back?"
"I thank you, I thank you, but you need not trouble. Merely be so good
as to tell your maid to dry my clothes."
"Do you hear that, Fetinia?" said the hostess, turning to a woman who
was engaged in dragging in a feather bed and deluging the room with
feathers. "Take this coat and this vest, and, after drying them before
the fire--just as we used to do for your late master--give them a good
rub, and fold them up neatly."
"Very well, mistress," said Fetinia, spreading some sheets over the
bed, and arranging the pillows.
"Now your bed is ready for you," said the hostess to Chichikov.
"Good-night, dear sir. I wish you good-night. Is there anything else
that you require? Perhaps you would like to have your heels tickled
before retiring to rest? Never could my late husband get to sleep
without that having been done."
But the guest declined the proffered heel-tickling, and, on his
hostess taking her departure, hastened to divest himself of his
clothing, both upper and under, and to hand the garments to Fetinia.
She wished him good-night, and removed the wet trappings; after which
he found himself alone. Not without satisfaction did he eye his bed,
which reached almost to the ceiling. Clearly Fetinia was a past
mistress in the art of beating up such a couch, and, as the result, he
had no sooner mounted it with the aid of a chair than it sank
well-nigh to the floor, and the feathers, squeezed out of their proper
confines, flew hither and thither into every corner of the apartment.
Nevertheless he extinguished the candle, covered himself over with the
chintz quilt, snuggled down beneath it, and instantly fell asleep.
Next day it was late in the morning before he awoke. Through the
window the sun was shining into his eyes, and the flies which,
overnight, had been roosting quietly on the walls and ceiling now
turned their attention to the visitor. One settled on his lip, another
on his ear, a third hovered as though intending to lodge in his very
eye, and a fourth had the temerity to alight just under his nostrils.
In his drowsy condition he inhaled the latter insect, sneezed
violently, and so returned to consciousness. He glanced around the
room, and perceived that not all the pictures were representative of
birds, since among them hung also a portrait of Kutuzov and an oil
painting of an old man in a uniform with red facings such as were worn
in the days of the Emperor Paul. At this moment the clock uttered
its usual hissing sound, and struck ten, while a woman's face peered
in at the door, but at once withdrew, for the reason that, with the
object of sleeping as well as possible, Chichikov had removed every
stitch of his clothing. Somehow the face seemed to him familiar, and
he set himself to recall whose it could be. At length he recollected
that it was the face of his hostess. His clothes he found lying, clean
and dry, beside him; so he dressed and approached the mirror,
meanwhile sneezing again with such vehemence that a cock which
happened at the moment to be near the window (which was situated at no
great distance from the ground) chuckled a short, sharp phrase.
Probably it meant, in the bird's alien tongue, "Good morning to you!"
Chichikov retorted by calling the bird a fool, and then himself
approached the window to look at the view. It appeared to comprise a
poulterer's premises. At all events, the narrow yard in front of the
window was full of poultry and other domestic creatures--of game fowls
and barn door fowls, with, among them, a cock which strutted with
measured gait, and kept shaking its comb, and tilting its head as
though it were trying to listen to something. Also, a sow and her
family were helping to grace the scene. First, she rooted among a heap
of litter; then, in passing, she ate up a young pullet; lastly, she
proceeded carelessly to munch some pieces of melon rind. To this small
yard or poultry-run a length of planking served as a fence, while
beyond it lay a kitchen garden containing cabbages, onions, potatoes,
beetroots, and other household vegetables. Also, the garden contained
a few stray fruit trees that were covered with netting to protect them
from the magpies and sparrows; flocks of which were even then wheeling
and darting from one spot to another. For the same reason a number of
scarecrows with outstretched arms stood reared on long poles, with,
surmounting one of the figures, a cast-off cap of the hostess's.
Beyond the garden again there stood a number of peasants' huts. Though
scattered, instead of being arranged in regular rows, these appeared
to Chichikov's eye to comprise well-to-do inhabitants, since all
rotten planks in their roofing had been replaced with new ones, and
none of their doors were askew, and such of their tiltsheds as faced
him evinced evidence of a presence of a spare waggon--in some cases
almost a new one.
 A Russian general who, in 1812, stoutly opposed Napoleon at the
battle of Borodino.
 The late eighteenth century.
"This lady owns by no means a poor village," said Chichikov to
himself; wherefore he decided then and there to have a talk with his
hostess, and to cultivate her closer acquaintance. Accordingly he
peeped through the chink of the door whence her head had recently
protruded, and, on seeing her seated at a tea table, entered and
greeted her with a cheerful, kindly smile.
"Good morning, dear sir," she responded as she rose. "How have you
slept?" She was dressed in better style than she had been on the
previous evening. That is to say, she was now wearing a gown of some
dark colour, and lacked her nightcap, and had swathed her neck in
"I have slept exceedingly well," replied Chichikov, seating himself
upon a chair. "And how are YOU, good madam?"
"But poorly, my dear sir."
"And why so?"
"Because I cannot sleep. A pain has taken me in my middle, and my
legs, from the ankles upwards, are aching as though they were broken."
"That will pass, that will pass, good mother. You must pay no
attention to it."
"God grant that it MAY pass. However, I have been rubbing myself
with lard and turpentine. What sort of tea will you take? In this jar
I have some of the scented kind."
"Excellent, good mother! Then I will take that."
Probably the reader will have noticed that, for all his expressions of
solicitude, Chichikov's tone towards his hostess partook of a freer, a
more unceremonious, nature than that which he had adopted towards
Madam Manilov. And here I should like to assert that, howsoever much,
in certain respects, we Russians may be surpassed by foreigners, at
least we surpass them in adroitness of manner. In fact the various
shades and subtleties of our social intercourse defy enumeration. A
Frenchman or a German would be incapable of envisaging and
understanding all its peculiarities and differences, for his tone in
speaking to a millionaire differs but little from that which he
employs towards a small tobacconist--and that in spite of the
circumstance that he is accustomed to cringe before the former. With
us, however, things are different. In Russian society there exist
clever folk who can speak in one manner to a landowner possessed of
two hundred peasant souls, and in another to a landowner possessed of
three hundred, and in another to a landowner possessed of five
hundred. In short, up to the number of a million souls the Russian
will have ready for each landowner a suitable mode of address. For
example, suppose that somewhere there exists a government office, and
that in that office there exists a director. I would beg of you to
contemplate him as he sits among his myrmidons. Sheer nervousness will
prevent you from uttering a word in his presence, so great are the
pride and superiority depicted on his countenance. Also, were you to
sketch him, you would be sketching a veritable Prometheus, for his
glance is as that of an eagle, and he walks with measured, stately
stride. Yet no sooner will the eagle have left the room to seek the
study of his superior officer than he will go scurrying along (papers
held close to his nose) like any partridge. But in society, and at the
evening party (should the rest of those present be of lesser rank than
himself) the Prometheus will once more become Prometheus, and the man
who stands a step below him will treat him in a way never dreamt of by
Ovid, seeing that each fly is of lesser account than its superior fly,
and becomes, in the presence of the latter, even as a grain of sand.
"Surely that is not Ivan Petrovitch?" you will say of such and such a
man as you regard him. "Ivan Petrovitch is tall, whereas this man is
small and spare. Ivan Petrovitch has a loud, deep voice, and never
smiles, whereas this man (whoever he may be) is twittering like a
sparrow, and smiling all the time." Yet approach and take a good look
at the fellow and you will see that is IS Ivan Petrovitch. "Alack,
alack!" will be the only remark you can make.
Let us return to our characters in real life. We have seen that, on
this occasion, Chichikov decided to dispense with ceremony; wherefore,
taking up the teapot, he went on as follows:
"You have a nice little village here, madam. How many souls does it
"A little less than eighty, dear sir. But the times are hard, and I
have lost a great deal through last year's harvest having proved a
"But your peasants look fine, strong fellows. May I enquire your name?
Through arriving so late at night I have quite lost my wits."
"Korobotchka, the widow of a Collegiate Secretary."
"I humbly thank you. And your Christian name and patronymic?"
"Nastasia Petrovna! Those are excellent names. I have a maternal aunt
named like yourself."
"And YOUR name?" queried the lady. "May I take it that you are a
"No, madam," replied Chichikov with a smile. "I am not an Assessor,
but a traveller on private business."
"Then you must be a buyer of produce? How I regret that I have sold my
honey so cheaply to other buyers! Otherwise YOU might have bought
it, dear sir."
"I never buy honey."
"Then WHAT do you buy, pray? Hemp? I have a little of that by me,
but not more than half a pood or so."
 Forty Russian pounds.
"No, madam. It is in other wares that I deal. Tell me, have you, of
late years, lost many of your peasants by death?"
"Yes; no fewer than eighteen," responded the old lady with a sigh.
"Such a fine lot, too--all good workers! True, others have since grown
up, but of what use are THEY? Mere striplings. When the Assessor
last called upon me I could have wept; for, though those workmen of
mine are dead, I have to keep on paying for them as though they were
still alive! And only last week my blacksmith got burnt to death! Such
a clever hand at his trade he was!"
"What? A fire occurred at your place?"
"No, no, God preserve us all! It was not so bad as that. You must
understand that the blacksmith SET HIMSELF on fire--he got set on
fire in his bowels through overdrinking. Yes, all of a sudden there
burst from him a blue flame, and he smouldered and smouldered until he
had turned as black as a piece of charcoal! Yet what a clever
blacksmith he was! And now I have no horses to drive out with, for
there is no one to shoe them."
"In everything the will of God, madam," said Chichikov with a sigh.
"Against the divine wisdom it is not for us to rebel. Pray hand them
over to me, Nastasia Petrovna."
"Hand over whom?"
"The dead peasants."
"But how could I do that?"
"Quite simply. Sell them to me, and I will give you some money in
"But how am I to sell them to you? I scarcely understand what you
mean. Am I to dig them up again from the ground?"
Chichikov perceived that the old lady was altogether at sea, and that
he must explain the matter; wherefore in a few words he informed her
that the transfer or purchase of the souls in question would take
place merely on paper--that the said souls would be listed as still
"And what good would they be to you?" asked his hostess, staring at
him with her eyes distended.
"That is MY affair."
"But they are DEAD souls."
"Who said they were not? The mere fact of their being dead entails
upon you a loss as dead as the souls, for you have to continue paying
tax upon them, whereas MY plan is to relieve you both of the tax and
of the resultant trouble. NOW do you understand? And I will not only
do as I say, but also hand you over fifteen roubles per soul. Is that
"Yes--but I do not know," said his hostess diffidently. "You see,
never before have I sold dead souls."
"Quite so. It would be a surprising thing if you had. But surely you
do not think that these dead souls are in the least worth keeping?"
"Oh, no, indeed! Why should they be worth keeping? I am sure they are
not so. The only thing which troubles me is the fact that they are
"She seems a truly obstinate old woman!" was Chichikov's inward
comment. "Look here, madam," he added aloud. "You reason well, but you
are simply ruining yourself by continuing to pay the tax upon dead
souls as though they were still alive."
"Oh, good sir, do not speak of it!" the lady exclaimed. "Three weeks
ago I took a hundred and fifty roubles to that Assessor, and buttered
him up, and--"
"Then you see how it is, do you not? Remember that, according to my
plan, you will never again have to butter up the Assessor, seeing that
it will be I who will be paying for those peasants--_I_, not YOU,
for I shall have taken over the dues upon them, and have transferred
them to myself as so many bona fide serfs. Do you understand AT
However, the old lady still communed with herself. She could see that
the transaction would be to her advantage, yet it was one of such a
novel and unprecedented nature that she was beginning to fear lest
this purchaser of souls intended to cheat her. Certainly he had come
from God only knew where, and at the dead of night, too!
"But, sir, I have never in my life sold dead folk--only living ones.
Three years ago I transferred two wenches to Protopopov for a hundred
roubles apiece, and he thanked me kindly, for they turned out splendid
workers--able to make napkins or anything else.
"Yes, but with the living we have nothing to do, damn it! I am asking
you only about DEAD folk."
"Yes, yes, of course. But at first sight I felt afraid lest I should
be incurring a loss--lest you should be wishing to outwit me, good
sir. You see, the dead souls are worth rather more than you have
offered for them."
"See here, madam. (What a woman it is!) HOW could they be worth
more? Think for yourself. They are so much loss to you--so much loss,
do you understand? Take any worthless, rubbishy article you like--a
piece of old rag, for example. That rag will yet fetch its price, for
it can be bought for paper-making. But these dead souls are good for
NOTHING AT ALL. Can you name anything that they ARE good for?"
"True, true--they ARE good for nothing. But what troubles me is the
fact that they are dead."
"What a blockhead of a creature!" said Chichikov to himself, for he
was beginning to lose patience. "Bless her heart, I may as well be
going. She has thrown me into a perfect sweat, the cursed old shrew!"
He took a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped the perspiration
from his brow. Yet he need not have flown into such a passion. More
than one respected statesman reveals himself, when confronted with a
business matter, to be just such another as Madam Korobotchka, in
that, once he has got an idea into his head, there is no getting it
out of him--you may ply him with daylight-clear arguments, yet they
will rebound from his brain as an india-rubber ball rebounds from a
flagstone. Nevertheless, wiping away the perspiration, Chichikov
resolved to try whether he could not bring her back to the road by
"Madam," he said, "either you are declining to understand what I say
or you are talking for the mere sake of talking. If I hand you over
some money--fifteen roubles for each soul, do you understand?--it is
MONEY, not something which can be picked up haphazard on the street.
For instance, tell me how much you sold your honey for?"
"For twelve roubles per pood."
"Ah! Then by those words, madam, you have laid a trifling sin upon
your soul; for you did NOT sell the honey for twelve roubles."
"By the Lord God I did!"
"Well, well! Never mind. Honey is only honey. Now, you had collected
that stuff, it may be, for a year, and with infinite care and labour.
You had fussed after it, you had trotted to and fro, you had duly
frozen out the bees, and you had fed them in the cellar throughout the
winter. But these dead souls of which I speak are quite another
matter, for in this case you have put forth no exertions--it was
merely God's will that they should leave the world, and thus decrease
the personnel of your establishment. In the former case you received
(so you allege) twelve roubles per pood for your labour; but in this
case you will receive money for having done nothing at all. Nor will
you receive twelve roubles per item, but FIFTEEN--and roubles not in
silver, but roubles in good paper currency."
That these powerful inducements would certainly cause the old woman to
yield Chichikov had not a doubt.
"True," his hostess replied. "But how strangely business comes to me
as a widow! Perhaps I had better wait a little longer, seeing that
other buyers might come along, and I might be able to compare prices."
"For shame, madam! For shame! Think what you are saying. Who else, I
would ask, would care to buy those souls? What use could they be to
"If that is so, they might come in useful to ME," mused the old
woman aloud; after which she sat staring at Chichikov with her mouth
open and a face of nervous expectancy as to his possible rejoinder.
"Dead folk useful in a household!" he exclaimed. "Why, what could you
do with them? Set them up on poles to frighten away the sparrows from
"The Lord save us, but what things you say!" she ejaculated, crossing
"Well, WHAT could you do with them? By this time they are so much
bones and earth. That is all there is left of them. Their transfer to
myself would be ON PAPER only. Come, come! At least give me an
Again the old woman communed with herself.
"What are you thinking of, Nastasia Petrovna?" inquired Chichikov.
"I am thinking that I scarcely know what to do. Perhaps I had better
sell you some hemp?"
"What do I want with hemp? Pardon me, but just when I have made to you
a different proposal altogether you begin fussing about hemp! Hemp is
hemp, and though I may want some when I NEXT visit you, I should
like to know what you have to say to the suggestion under discussion."
"Well, I think it a very queer bargain. Never have I heard of such a
Upon this Chichikov lost all patience, upset his chair, and bid her go
to the devil; of which personage even the mere mention terrified her
"Do not speak of him, I beg of you!" she cried, turning pale. "May
God, rather, bless him! Last night was the third night that he has
appeared to me in a dream. You see, after saying my prayers, I
bethought me of telling my fortune by the cards; and God must have
sent him as a punishment. He looked so horrible, and had horns longer
than a bull's!"
"I wonder you don't see SCORES of devils in your dreams! Merely out
of Christian charity he had come to you to say, 'I perceive a poor
widow going to rack and ruin, and likely soon to stand in danger of
want.' Well, go to rack and ruin--yes, you and all your village
"The insults!" exclaimed the old woman, glancing at her visitor in
"I should think so!" continued Chichikov. "Indeed, I cannot find words
to describe you. To say no more about it, you are like a dog in a
manger. You don't want to eat the hay yourself, yet you won't let
anyone else touch it. All that I am seeking to do is to purchase
certain domestic products of yours, for the reason that I have certain
Government contracts to fulfil." This last he added in passing, and
without any ulterior motive, save that it came to him as a happy
thought. Nevertheless the mention of Government contracts exercised a
powerful influence upon Nastasia Petrovna, and she hastened to say in
a tone that was almost supplicatory:
"Why should you be so angry with me? Had I known that you were going
to lose your temper in this way, I should never have discussed the
"No wonder that I lose my temper! An egg too many is no great matter,
yet it may prove exceedingly annoying."
"Well, well, I will let you have the souls for fifteen roubles each.
Also, with regard to those contracts, do not forget me if at any time
you should find yourself in need of rye-meal or buckwheat or groats or
"No, I shall NEVER forget you, madam!" he said, wiping his forehead,
where three separate streams of perspiration were trickling down his
face. Then he asked her whether in the town she had any acquaintance
or agent whom she could empower to complete the transference of the
serfs, and to carry out whatsoever else might be necessary.
"Certainly," replied Madame Korobotchka. "The son of our archpriest,
Father Cyril, himself is a lawyer."
Upon that Chichikov begged her to accord the gentleman in question a
power of attorney, while, to save extra trouble, he himself would then
and there compose the requisite letter.
"It would be a fine thing if he were to buy up all my meal and stock
for the Government," thought Madame to herself. "I must encourage him
a little. There has been some dough standing ready since last night,
so I will go and tell Fetinia to try a few pancakes. Also, it might be
well to try him with an egg pie. We make then nicely here, and they do
not take long in the making."
So she departed to translate her thoughts into action, as well as to
supplement the pie with other products of the domestic cuisine; while,
for his part, Chichikov returned to the drawing-room where he had
spent the night, in order to procure from his dispatch-box the
necessary writing-paper. The room had now been set in order, the
sumptuous feather bed removed, and a table set before the sofa.
Depositing his dispatch-box upon the table, he heaved a gentle sigh on
becoming aware that he was so soaked with perspiration that he might
almost have been dipped in a river. Everything, from his shirt to his
socks, was dripping. "May she starve to death, the cursed old
harridan!" he ejaculated after a moment's rest. Then he opened his
dispatch-box. In passing, I may say that I feel certain that at least
SOME of my readers will be curious to know the contents and the
internal arrangements of that receptacle. Why should I not gratify
their curiosity? To begin with, the centre of the box contained a
soap-dish, with, disposed around it, six or seven compartments for
razors. Next came square partitions for a sand-box and an inkstand,
as well as (scooped out in their midst) a hollow of pens, sealing-wax,
and anything else that required more room. Lastly there were all sorts
of little divisions, both with and without lids, for articles of a
smaller nature, such as visiting cards, memorial cards, theatre
tickets, and things which Chichikov had laid by as souvenirs. This
portion of the box could be taken out, and below it were both a space
for manuscripts and a secret money-box--the latter made to draw out
from the side of the receptacle.
 To serve as blotting-paper.
Chichikov set to work to clean a pen, and then to write. Presently his
hostess entered the room.
"What a beautiful box you have got, my dear sir!" she exclaimed as she
took a seat beside him. "Probably you bought it in Moscow?"
"Yes--in Moscow," replied Chichikov without interrupting his writing.
"I thought so. One CAN get good things there. Three years ago my
sister brought me a few pairs of warm shoes for my sons, and they were
such excellent articles! To this day my boys wear them. And what nice
stamped paper you have!" (she had peered into the dispatch-box, where,
sure enough, there lay a further store of the paper in question).
"Would you mind letting me have a sheet of it? I am without any at
all, although I shall soon have to be presenting a plea to the land
court, and possess not a morsel of paper to write it on."
Upon this Chichikov explained that the paper was not the sort proper
for the purpose--that it was meant for serf-indenturing, and not for
the framing of pleas. Nevertheless, to quiet her, he gave her a sheet
stamped to the value of a rouble. Next, he handed her the letter to
sign, and requested, in return, a list of her peasants. Unfortunately,
such a list had never been compiled, let alone any copies of it, and
the only way in which she knew the peasants' names was by heart.
However, he told her to dictate them. Some of the names greatly
astonished our hero, so, still more, did the surnames. Indeed,
frequently, on hearing the latter, he had to pause before writing them
down. Especially did he halt before a certain "Peter Saveliev
Neuvazhai Korito." "What a string of titles!" involuntarily he
ejaculated. To the Christian name of another serf was appended "Korovi
Kirpitch," and to that of a third "Koleso Ivan." However, at length
the list was compiled, and he caught a deep breath; which latter
proceeding caused him to catch also the attractive odour of something
fried in fat.
"I beseech you to have a morsel," murmured his hostess. Chichikov
looked up, and saw that the table was spread with mushrooms, pies, and
"Try this freshly-made pie and an egg," continued Madame.
Chichikov did so, and having eaten more than half of what she offered
him, praised the pie highly. Indeed, it was a toothsome dish, and,
after his difficulties and exertions with his hostess, it tasted even
better than it might otherwise have done.
"And also a few pancakes?" suggested Madame.
For answer Chichikov folded three together, and, having dipped them in
melted butter, consigned the lot to his mouth, and then wiped his
mouth with a napkin. Twice more was the process repeated, and then he
requested his hostess to order the britchka to be got ready. In
dispatching Fetinia with the necessary instructions, she ordered her
to return with a second batch of hot pancakes.
"Your pancakes are indeed splendid," said Chichikov, applying himself
to the second consignment of fried dainties when they had arrived.
"Yes, we make them well here," replied Madame. "Yet how unfortunate it
is that the harvest should have proved so poor as to have prevented me
from earning anything on my-- But why should you be in such a hurry to
depart, good sir?" She broke off on seeing Chichikov reach for his
cap. "The britchka is not yet ready."
"Then it is being got so, madam, it is being got so, and I shall need
a moment or two to pack my things."
"As you please, dear sir; but do not forget me in connection with
those Government contracts."
"No, I have said that NEVER shall I forget you," replied Chichikov
as he hurried into the hall.
"And would you like to buy some lard?" continued his hostess, pursuing
"Lard? Oh certainly. Why not? Only, only--I will do so ANOTHER time."
"I shall have some ready at about Christmas."
"Quite so, madam. THEN I will buy anything and everything--the
"And perhaps you will be wanting also some feathers? I shall be having
some for sale about St. Philip's Day."
"Very well, very well, madam."
"There you see!" she remarked as they stepped out on to the verandah.
"The britchka is NOT yet ready."
"But it soon will be, it soon will be. Only direct me to the main
"How am I to do that?" said Madame. "'Twould puzzle a wise man to do
so, for in these parts there are so many turnings. However, I will
send a girl to guide you. You could find room for her on the box-seat,
could you not?"
"Yes, of course."
"Then I will send her. She knows the way thoroughly. Only do not carry
her off for good. Already some traders have deprived me of one of my
Chichikov reassured his hostess on the point, and Madame plucked up
courage enough to scan, first of all, the housekeeper, who happened to
be issuing from the storehouse with a bowl of honey, and, next, a
young peasant who happened to be standing at the gates; and, while
thus engaged, she became wholly absorbed in her domestic pursuits. But
why pay her so much attention? The Widow Korobotchka, Madame Manilov,
domestic life, non-domestic life--away with them all! How strangely
are things compounded! In a trice may joy turn to sorrow, should one
halt long enough over it: in a trice only God can say what ideas may
strike one. You may fall even to thinking: "After all, did Madame
Korobotchka stand so very low in the scale of human perfection? Was
there really such a very great gulf between her and Madame
Manilov--between her and the Madame Manilov whom we have seen
entrenched behind the walls of a genteel mansion in which there were a
fine staircase of wrought metal and a number of rich carpets; the
Madame Manilov who spent most of her time in yawning behind half-read
books, and in hoping for a visit from some socially distinguished
person in order that she might display her wit and carefully rehearsed
thoughts--thoughts which had been de rigeur in town for a week past,
yet which referred, not to what was going on in her household or on
her estate--both of which properties were at odds and ends, owing to
her ignorance of the art of managing them--but to the coming political
revolution in France and the direction in which fashionable
Catholicism was supposed to be moving? But away with such things! Why
need we speak of them? Yet how comes it that suddenly into the midst
of our careless, frivolous, unthinking moments there may enter
another, and a very different, tendency?--that the smile may not have
left a human face before its owner will have radically changed his or
her nature (though not his or her environment) with the result that
the face will suddenly become lit with a radiance never before seen
there? . . .
"Here is the britchka, here is the britchka!" exclaimed Chichikov on
perceiving that vehicle slowly advancing. "Ah, you blockhead!" he went
on to Selifan. "Why have you been loitering about? I suppose last
night's fumes have not yet left your brain?"
To this Selifan returned no reply.
"Good-bye, madam," added the speaker. "But where is the girl whom you
"Here, Pelagea!" called the hostess to a wench of about eleven who was
dressed in home-dyed garments and could boast of a pair of bare feet
which, from a distance, might almost have been mistaken for boots, so
encrusted were they with fresh mire. "Here, Pelagea! Come and show
this gentleman the way."
Selifan helped the girl to ascend to the box-seat. Placing one foot
upon the step by which the gentry mounted, she covered the said step
with mud, and then, ascending higher, attained the desired position
beside the coachman. Chichikov followed in her wake (causing the
britchka to heel over with his weight as he did so), and then settled
himself back into his place with an "All right! Good-bye, madam!" as
the horses moved away at a trot.
Selifan looked gloomy as he drove, but also very attentive to his
business. This was invariably his custom when he had committed the
fault of getting drunk. Also, the horses looked unusually
well-groomed. In particular, the collar on one of them had been neatly
mended, although hitherto its state of dilapidation had been such as
perennially to allow the stuffing to protrude through the leather. The
silence preserved was well-nigh complete. Merely flourishing his whip,
Selifan spoke to the team no word of instruction, although the
skewbald was as ready as usual to listen to conversation of a didactic
nature, seeing that at such times the reins hung loosely in the hands
of the loquacious driver, and the whip wandered merely as a matter of
form over the backs of the troika. This time, however, there could be
heard issuing from Selifan's sullen lips only the uniformly unpleasant
exclamation, "Now then, you brutes! Get on with you, get on with you!"
The bay and the Assessor too felt put out at not hearing themselves
called "my pets" or "good lads"; while, in addition, the skewbald came
in for some nasty cuts across his sleek and ample quarters. "What has
put master out like this?" thought the animal as it shook its head.
"Heaven knows where he does not keep beating me--across the back, and
even where I am tenderer still. Yes, he keeps catching the whip in my
ears, and lashing me under the belly."
"To the right, eh?" snapped Selifan to the girl beside him as he pointed
to a rain-soaked road which trended away through fresh green fields.
"No, no," she replied. "I will show you the road when the time comes."
"Which way, then?" he asked again when they had proceeded a little further.
"This way." And she pointed to the road just mentioned.
"Get along with you!" retorted the coachman. "That DOES go to the
right. You don't know your right hand from your left."
The weather was fine, but the ground so excessively sodden that the
wheels of the britchka collected mire until they had become caked as
with a layer of felt, a circumstance which greatly increased the
weight of the vehicle, and prevented it from clearing the neighbouring
parishes before the afternoon was arrived. Also, without the girl's
help the finding of the way would have been impossible, since roads
wiggled away in every direction, like crabs released from a net, and,
but for the assistance mentioned, Selifan would have found himself
left to his own devices. Presently she pointed to a building ahead,
with the words, "THERE is the main road."
"And what is the building?" asked Selifan.
"A tavern," she said.
"Then we can get along by ourselves," he observed. "Do you get down,
and be off home."
With that he stopped, and helped her to alight--muttering as he did
so: "Ah, you blackfooted creature!"
Chichikov added a copper groat, and she departed well pleased with her
ride in the gentleman's carriage.
On reaching the tavern, Chichikov called a halt. His reasons for this
were twofold--namely, that he wanted to rest the horses, and that he
himself desired some refreshment. In this connection the author feels
bound to confess that the appetite and the capacity of such men are
greatly to be envied. Of those well-to-do folk of St. Petersburg and
Moscow who spend their time in considering what they shall eat on the
morrow, and in composing a dinner for the day following, and who never
sit down to a meal without first of all injecting a pill and then
swallowing oysters and crabs and a quantity of other monsters, while
eternally departing for Karlsbad or the Caucasus, the author has but a
small opinion. Yes, THEY are not the persons to inspire envy.
Rather, it is the folk of the middle classes--folk who at one
posthouse call for bacon, and at another for a sucking pig, and at a
third for a steak of sturgeon or a baked pudding with onions, and who
can sit down to table at any hour, as though they had never had a meal
in their lives, and can devour fish of all sorts, and guzzle and chew
it with a view to provoking further appetite--these, I say, are the
folk who enjoy heaven's most favoured gift. To attain such a celestial
condition the great folk of whom I have spoken would sacrifice half
their serfs and half their mortgaged and non-mortgaged property, with
the foreign and domestic improvements thereon, if thereby they could
compass such a stomach as is possessed by the folk of the middle
class. But, unfortunately, neither money nor real estate, whether
improved or non-improved, can purchase such a stomach.
The little wooden tavern, with its narrow, but hospitable, curtain
suspended from a pair of rough-hewn doorposts like old church
candlesticks, seemed to invite Chichikov to enter. True, the
establishment was only a Russian hut of the ordinary type, but it was
a hut of larger dimensions than usual, and had around its windows and
gables carved and patterned cornices of bright-coloured wood which
threw into relief the darker hue of the walls, and consorted well with
the flowered pitchers painted on the shutters.
Ascending the narrow wooden staircase to the upper floor, and arriving
upon a broad landing, Chichikov found himself confronted with a
creaking door and a stout old woman in a striped print gown. "This
way, if you please," she said. Within the apartment designated
Chichikov encountered the old friends which one invariably finds in
such roadside hostelries--to wit, a heavy samovar, four smooth,
bescratched walls of white pine, a three-cornered press with cups and
teapots, egg-cups of gilded china standing in front of ikons suspended
by blue and red ribands, a cat lately delivered of a family, a mirror
which gives one four eyes instead of two and a pancake for a face,
and, beside the ikons, some bunches of herbs and carnations of such
faded dustiness that, should one attempt to smell them, one is bound
to burst out sneezing.
"Have you a sucking-pig?" Chichikov inquired of the landlady as she
stood expectantly before him.
"And some horse-radish and sour cream?"
"Then serve them."
The landlady departed for the purpose, and returned with a plate, a
napkin (the latter starched to the consistency of dried bark), a knife
with a bone handle beginning to turn yellow, a two-pronged fork as
thin as a wafer, and a salt-cellar incapable of being made to stand
Following the accepted custom, our hero entered into conversation with
the woman, and inquired whether she herself or a landlord kept the
tavern; how much income the tavern brought in; whether her sons lived
with her; whether the oldest was a bachelor or married; whom the
eldest had taken to wife; whether the dowry had been large; whether
the father-in-law had been satisfied, and whether the said
father-in-law had not complained of receiving too small a present at
the wedding. In short, Chichikov touched on every conceivable point.
Likewise (of course) he displayed some curiosity as to the landowners
of the neighbourhood. Their names, he ascertained, were Blochin,
Potchitaev, Minoi, Cheprakov, and Sobakevitch.
"Then you are acquainted with Sobakevitch?" he said; whereupon the old
woman informed him that she knew not only Sobakevitch, but also
Manilov, and that the latter was the more delicate eater of the two,
since, whereas Manilov always ordered a roast fowl and some veal and
mutton, and then tasted merely a morsel of each, Sobakevitch would
order one dish only, but consume the whole of it, and then demand more
at the same price.
Whilst Chichikov was thus conversing and partaking of the sucking pig
until only a fragment of it seemed likely to remain, the sound of an
approaching vehicle made itself heard. Peering through the window, he
saw draw up to the tavern door a light britchka drawn by three fine
horses. From it there descended two men--one flaxen-haired and tall,
and the other dark-haired and of slighter build. While the
flaxen-haired man was clad in a dark-blue coat, the other one was
wrapped in a coat of striped pattern. Behind the britchka stood a
second, but an empty, turn-out, drawn by four long-coated steeds in
ragged collars and rope harnesses. The flaxen-haired man lost no time
in ascending the staircase, while his darker friend remained below to
fumble at something in the britchka, talking, as he did so, to the
driver of the vehicle which stood hitched behind. Somehow, the
dark-haired man's voice struck Chichikov as familiar; and as he was
taking another look at him the flaxen-haired gentleman entered the
room. The newcomer was a man of lofty stature, with a small red
moustache and a lean, hard-bitten face whose redness made it evident
that its acquaintance, if not with the smoke of gunpowder, at all
events with that of tobacco, was intimate and extensive. Nevertheless
he greeted Chichikov civilly, and the latter returned his bow. Indeed,
the pair would have entered into conversation, and have made one
another's acquaintance (since a beginning was made with their
simultaneously expressing satisfaction at the circumstance that the
previous night's rain had laid the dust on the roads, and thereby
made driving cool and pleasant) when the gentleman's darker-favoured
friend also entered the room, and, throwing his cap upon the table,
pushed back a mass of dishevelled black locks from his brow. The
latest arrival was a man of medium height, but well put together, and
possessed of a pair of full red cheeks, a set of teeth as white as
snow, and coal-black whiskers. Indeed, so fresh was his complexion
that it seemed to have been compounded of blood and milk, while health
danced in his every feature.
"Ha, ha, ha!" he cried with a gesture of astonishment at the sight of
Chichikov. "What chance brings YOU here?"
Upon that Chichikov recognised Nozdrev--the man whom he had met at
dinner at the Public Prosecutor's, and who, within a minute or two of
the introduction, had become so intimate with his fellow guest as to
address him in the second person singular, in spite of the fact that
Chichikov had given him no opportunity for doing so.
"Where have you been to-day?" Nozdrev inquired, and, without waiting
for an answer, went on: "For myself, I am just from the fair, and
completely cleaned out. Actually, I have had to do the journey back
with stage horses! Look out of the window, and see them for yourself."
And he turned Chichikov's head so sharply in the desired direction
that he came very near to bumping it against the window frame. "Did
you ever see such a bag of tricks? The cursed things have only just
managed to get here. In fact, on the way I had to transfer myself to
this fellow's britchka." He indicated his companion with a finger. "By
the way, don't you know one another? He is Mizhuev, my brother-in-law.
He and I were talking of you only this morning. 'Just you see,' said I
to him, 'if we do not fall in with Chichikov before we have done.'
Heavens, how completely cleaned out I am! Not only have I lost four
good horses, but also my watch and chain." Chichikov perceived that in
very truth his interlocutor was minus the articles named, as well as
that one of Nozdrev's whiskers was less bushy in appearance than the
other one. "Had I had another twenty roubles in my pocket," went on
Nozdrev, "I should have won back all that I have lost, as well as have
pouched a further thirty thousand. Yes, I give you my word of honour
"But you were saying the same thing when last I met you," put in the
flaxen-haired man. "Yet, even though I lent you fifty roubles, you
lost them all."
"But I should not have lost them THIS time. Don't try to make me out
a fool. I should NOT have lost them, I tell you. Had I only played
the right card, I should have broken the bank."
"But you did NOT break the bank," remarked the flaxen-haired man.
"No. That was because I did not play my cards right. But what about
your precious major's play? Is THAT good?"
"Good or not, at least he beat you."
"Splendid of him! Nevertheless I will get my own back. Let him play me
at doubles, and we shall soon see what sort of a player he is! Friend
Chichikov, at first we had a glorious time, for the fair was a
tremendous success. Indeed, the tradesmen said that never yet had
there been such a gathering. I myself managed to sell everything from
my estate at a good price. In fact, we had a magnificent time. I can't
help thinking of it, devil take me! But what a pity YOU were not
there! Three versts from the town there is quartered a regiment of
dragoons, and you would scarcely believe what a lot of officers it
has. Forty at least there are, and they do a fine lot of knocking
about the town and drinking. In particular, Staff-Captain Potsieluev
is a SPLENDID fellow! You should just see his moustache! Why, he
calls good claret 'trash'! 'Bring me some of the usual trash,' is his
way of ordering it. And Lieutenant Kuvshinnikov, too! He is as
delightful as the other man. In fact, I may say that every one of the
lot is a rake. I spent my whole time with them, and you can imagine
that Ponomarev, the wine merchant, did a fine trade indeed! All the
same, he is a rascal, you know, and ought not to be dealt with, for he
puts all sorts of rubbish into his liquor--Indian wood and burnt cork
and elderberry juice, the villain! Nevertheless, get him to produce a
bottle from what he calls his 'special cellar,' and you will fancy
yourself in the seventh heaven of delight. And what quantities of
champagne we drank! Compared with it, provincial stuff is kvass.
Try to imagine not merely Clicquot, but a sort of blend of Clicquot
and Matradura--Clicquot of double strength. Also Ponomarev produced a
bottle of French stuff which he calls 'Bonbon.' Had it a bouquet, ask
you? Why, it had the bouquet of a rose garden, of anything else you
like. What times we had, to be sure! Just after we had left Pnomarev's
place, some prince or another arrived in the town, and sent out for
some champagne; but not a bottle was there left, for the officers had
drunk every one! Why, I myself got through seventeen bottles at a sitting."
 A liquor distilled from fermented bread crusts or sour fruit.
"Come, come! You CAN'T have got through seventeen," remarked the
"But I did, I give my word of honour," retorted Nozdrev.
"Imagine what you like, but you didn't drink even TEN bottles at a sitting."
"Will you bet that I did not?"
"No; for what would be the use of betting about it?"
"Then at least wager the gun which you have bought."
"No, I am not going to do anything of the kind."
"Just as an experiment?"
"It is as well for you that you don't, since, otherwise, you would
have found yourself minus both gun and cap. However, friend Chichikov,
it is a pity you were not there. Had you been there, I feel sure you
would have found yourself unable to part with Lieutenant Kuvshinnikov.
You and he would have hit it off splendidly. You know, he is quite a
different sort from the Public Prosecutor and our other provincial
skinflints--fellows who shiver in their shoes before they will spend a
single kopeck. HE will play faro, or anything else, and at any time.
Why did you not come with us, instead of wasting your time on cattle
breeding or something of the sort? But never mind. Embrace me. I like
you immensely. Mizhuev, see how curiously things have turned out.
Chichikov has nothing to do with me, or I with him, yet here is he
come from God knows where, and landed in the very spot where I happen
to be living! I may tell you that, no matter how many carriages I
possessed, I should gamble the lot away. Recently I went in for a turn
at billiards, and lost two jars of pomade, a china teapot, and a
guitar. Then I staked some more things, and, like a fool, lost them
all, and six roubles in addition. What a dog is that Kuvshinnikov! He
and I attended nearly every ball in the place. In particular, there
was a woman--decolletee, and such a swell! I merely thought to myself,
'The devil take her!' but Kuvshinnikov is such a wag that he sat down
beside her, and began paying her strings of compliments in French.
However, I did not neglect the damsels altogether--although HE calls
that sort of thing 'going in for strawberries.' By the way, I have a
splendid piece of fish and some caviare with me. 'Tis all I HAVE
brought back! In fact it is a lucky chance that I happened to buy the
stuff before my money was gone. Where are you for?"
"I am about to call on a friend."
"On what friend? Let him go to the devil, and come to my place
"I cannot, I cannot. I have business to do."
"Oh, business again! I thought so!"
"But I HAVE business to do--and pressing business at that."
"I wager that you're lying. If not, tell me whom you're going to call upon."
Instantly Nozdrev burst into a laugh compassable only by a healthy man
in whose head every tooth still remains as white as sugar. By this I
mean the laugh of quivering cheeks, the laugh which causes a neighbour
who is sleeping behind double doors three rooms away to leap from his
bed and exclaim with distended eyes, "Hullo! Something HAS upset him!"
"What is there to laugh at?" asked Chichikov, a trifle nettled; but
Nozdrev laughed more unrestrainedly than ever, ejaculating: "Oh, spare
us all! The thing is so amusing that I shall die of it!"
"I say that there is nothing to laugh at," repeated Chichikov. "It is
in fulfilment of a promise that I am on my way to Sobakevitch's."
"Then you will scarcely be glad to be alive when you've got there, for
he is the veriest miser in the countryside. Oh, _I_ know you. However,
if you think to find there either faro or a bottle of 'Bonbon' you are
mistaken. Look here, my good friend. Let Sobakevitch go to the
devil, and come to MY place, where at least I shall have a piece of
sturgeon to offer you for dinner. Ponomarev said to me on parting:
'This piece is just the thing for you. Even if you were to search the
whole market, you would never find a better one.' But of course he is
a terrible rogue. I said to him outright: 'You and the Collector of
Taxes are the two greatest skinflints in the town.' But he only
stroked his beard and smiled. Every day I used to breakfast with
Kuvshinnikov in his restaurant. Well, what I was nearly forgetting is
this: that, though I am aware that you can't forgo your engagement, I
am not going to give you up--no, not for ten thousand roubles of
money. I tell you that in advance."
Here he broke off to run to the window and shout to his servant (who
was holding a knife in one hand and a crust of bread and a piece of
sturgeon in the other--he had contrived to filch the latter while
fumbling in the britchka for something else):
"Hi, Porphyri! Bring here that puppy, you rascal! What a puppy it is!
Unfortunately that thief of a landlord has given it nothing to eat,
even though I have promised him the roan filly which, as you may
remember, I swopped from Khvostirev." As a matter of act, Chichikov
had never in his life seen either Khvostirev or the roan filly.
"Barin, do you wish for anything to eat?" inquired the landlady as she
"No, nothing at all. Ah, friend Chichikov, what times we had! Yes,
give me a glass of vodka, old woman. What sort to you keep?"
"Then bring me a glass of it," repeated Nozdrev.
"And one for me as well," added the flaxen-haired man.
"At the theatre," went on Nozdrev, "there was an actress who sang like
a canary. Kuvshinnikov, who happened to be sitting with me, said: 'My
boy, you had better go and gather that strawberry.' As for the booths
at the fair, they numbered, I should say, fifty." At this point he
broke off to take the glass of vodka from the landlady, who bowed low
in acknowledgement of his doing so. At the same moment Porphyri--a
fellow dressed like his master (that is to say, in a greasy, wadded
overcoat)--entered with the puppy.
"Put the brute down here," commanded Nozdrev, "and then fasten it up."
Porphyri deposited the animal upon the floor; whereupon it proceeded
to act after the manner of dogs.
"THERE'S a puppy for you!" cried Nozdrev, catching hold of it by the
back, and lifting it up. The puppy uttered a piteous yelp.
"I can see that you haven't done what I told you to do," he continued
to Porphyri after an inspection of the animal's belly. "You have quite
forgotten to brush him."
"I DID brush him," protested Porphyri.
"Then where did these fleas come from?"
"I cannot think. Perhaps they have leapt into his coat out of the
"You liar! As a matter of fact, you have forgotten to brush him.
Nevertheless, look at these ears, Chichikov. Just feel them."
"Why should I? Without doing that, I can see that he is well-bred."
"Nevertheless, catch hold of his ears and feel them."
To humour the fellow Chichikov did as he had requested, remarking:
"Yes, he seems likely to turn out well."
"And feel the coldness of his nose! Just take it in your hand."
Not wishing to offend his interlocutor, Chichikov felt the puppy's
nose, saying: "Some day he will have an excellent scent."
"Yes, will he not? 'Tis the right sort of muzzle for that. I must say
that I have long been wanting such a puppy. Porphyri, take him away
Porphyri lifted up the puppy, and bore it downstairs.
"Look here, Chichikov," resumed Nozdrev. "You MUST come to my place.
It lies only five versts away, and we can go there like the wind, and
you can visit Sobakevitch afterwards."
"Shall I, or shall I not, go to Nozdrev's?" reflected Chichikov. "Is
he likely to prove any more useful than the rest? Well, at least he is
as promising, even though he has lost so much at play. But he has a
head on his shoulders, and therefore I must go carefully if I am to
tackle him concerning my scheme."
With that he added aloud: "Very well, I WILL come with you, but do
not let us be long, for my time is very precious."
"That's right, that's right!" cried Nozdrev. "Splendid, splendid! Let
me embrace you!" And he fell upon Chichikov's neck. "All three of us
"No, no," put in the flaxen-haired man. "You must excuse me, for I
must be off home."
"Rubbish, rubbish! I am NOT going to excuse you."
"But my wife will be furious with me. You and Monsieur Chichikov must
change into the other britchka."
"Come, come! The thing is not to be thought of."
The flaxen-haired man was one of those people in whose character, at
first sight, there seems to lurk a certain grain of stubbornness--so
much so that, almost before one has begun to speak, they are ready to
dispute one's words, and to disagree with anything that may be opposed
to their peculiar form of opinion. For instance, they will decline to
have folly called wisdom, or any tune danced to but their own. Always,
however, will there become manifest in their character a soft spot,
and in the end they will accept what hitherto they have denied, and
call what is foolish sensible, and even dance--yes, better than any
one else will do--to a tune set by some one else. In short, they
generally begin well, but always end badly.
"Rubbish!" said Nozdrev in answer to a further objection on his
brother-in-law's part. And, sure enough, no sooner had Nozdrev clapped
his cap upon his head than the flaxen-haired man started to follow him
and his companion.
"But the gentleman has not paid for the vodka?" put in the old woman.
"All right, all right, good mother. Look here, brother-in-law. Pay
her, will you, for I have not a kopeck left."
"How much?" inquired the brother-in-law.
"What, sir? Eighty kopecks, if you please," replied the old woman.
"A lie! Give her half a rouble. That will be quite enough."
"No, it will NOT, barin," protested the old woman. However, she took
the money gratefully, and even ran to the door to open it for the
gentlemen. As a matter of fact, she had lost nothing by the
transaction, since she had demanded fully a quarter more than the
vodka was worth.
The travellers then took their seats, and since Chichikov's britchka
kept alongside the britchka wherein Nozdrev and his brother-in-law
were seated, it was possible for all three men to converse together as
they proceeded. Behind them came Nozdrev's smaller buggy, with its
team of lean stage horses and Porphyri and the puppy. But inasmuch as
the conversation which the travellers maintained was not of a kind
likely to interest the reader, I might do worse than say something
concerning Nozdrev himself, seeing that he is destined to play no
small role in our story.
Nozdrev's face will be familiar to the reader, seeing that every one
must have encountered many such. Fellows of the kind are known as "gay
young sparks," and, even in their boyhood and school days, earn a
reputation for being bons camarades (though with it all they come in
for some hard knocks) for the reason that their faces evince an
element of frankness, directness, and enterprise which enables them
soon to make friends, and, almost before you have had time to look
around, to start addressing you in the second person singular. Yet,
while cementing such friendships for all eternity, almost always they
begin quarrelling the same evening, since, throughout, they are a
loquacious, dissipated, high-spirited, over-showy tribe. Indeed, at
thirty-five Nozdrev was just what he had been an eighteen and
twenty--he was just such a lover of fast living. Nor had his marriage
in any way changed him, and the less so since his wife had soon
departed to another world, and left behind her two children, whom he
did not want, and who were therefore placed in the charge of a
good-looking nursemaid. Never at any time could he remain at home for
more than a single day, for his keen scent could range over scores and
scores of versts, and detect any fair which promised balls and crowds.
Consequently in a trice he would be there--quarrelling, and creating
disturbances over the gaming-table (like all men of his type, he had a
perfect passion for cards) yet playing neither a faultless nor an
over-clean game, since he was both a blunderer and able to indulge in
a large number of illicit cuts and other devices. The result was that
the game often ended in another kind of sport altogether. That is to
say, either he received a good kicking, or he had his thick and very
handsome whiskers pulled; with the result that on certain occasions he
returned home with one of those appendages looking decidedly ragged.
Yet his plump, healthy-looking cheeks were so robustly constituted,
and contained such an abundance of recreative vigour, that a new
whisker soon sprouted in place of the old one, and even surpassed its
predecessor. Again (and the following is a phenomenon peculiar to
Russia) a very short time would have elapsed before once more he would
be consorting with the very cronies who had recently cuffed him--and
consorting with them as though nothing whatsoever had happened--no
reference to the subject being made by him, and they too holding their
In short, Nozdrev was, as it were, a man of incident. Never was he
present at any gathering without some sort of a fracas occurring
thereat. Either he would require to be expelled from the room by
gendarmes, or his friends would have to kick him out into the street.
At all events, should neither of those occurrences take place, at
least he did something of a nature which would not otherwise have been
witnessed. That is to say, should he not play the fool in a buffet to
such an extent as to make very one smile, you may be sure that he was
engaged in lying to a degree which at times abashed even himself.
Moreover, the man lied without reason. For instance, he would begin
telling a story to the effect that he possessed a blue-coated or a
red-coated horse; until, in the end, his listeners would be forced to
leave him with the remark, "You are giving us some fine stuff, old
fellow!" Also, men like Nozdrev have a passion for insulting their
neighbours without the least excuse afforded. (For that matter, even a
man of good standing and of respectable exterior--a man with a star on
his breast--may unexpectedly press your hand one day, and begin
talking to you on subjects of a nature to give food for serious
thought. Yet just as unexpectedly may that man start abusing you to
your face--and do so in a manner worthy of a collegiate registrar
rather than of a man who wears a star on his breast and aspires to
converse on subjects which merit reflection. All that one can do in
such a case is to stand shrugging one's shoulders in amazement.) Well,
Nozdrev had just such a weakness. The more he became friendly with a
man, the sooner would he insult him, and be ready to spread calumnies
as to his reputation. Yet all the while he would consider himself the
insulted one's friend, and, should he meet him again, would greet him
in the most amicable style possible, and say, "You rascal, why have
you given up coming to see me." Thus, taken all round, Nozdrev was a
person of many aspects and numerous potentialities. In one and the
same breath would he propose to go with you whithersoever you might
choose (even to the very ends of the world should you so require) or
to enter upon any sort of an enterprise with you, or to exchange any
commodity for any other commodity which you might care to name. Guns,
horses, dogs, all were subjects for barter--though not for profit so
far as YOU were concerned. Such traits are mostly the outcome of a
boisterous temperament, as is additionally exemplified by the fact
that if at a fair he chanced to fall in with a simpleton and to fleece
him, he would then proceed to buy a quantity of the very first
articles which came to hand--horse-collars, cigar-lighters, dresses
for his nursemaid, foals, raisins, silver ewers, lengths of holland,
wheatmeal, tobacco, revolvers, dried herrings, pictures, whetstones,
crockery, boots, and so forth, until every atom of his money was
exhausted. Yet seldom were these articles conveyed home, since, as a
rule, the same day saw them lost to some more skilful gambler, in
addition to his pipe, his tobacco-pouch, his mouthpiece, his
four-horsed turn-out, and his coachman: with the result that, stripped
to his very shirt, he would be forced to beg the loan of a vehicle
from a friend.
Such was Nozdrev. Some may say that characters of his type have become
extinct, that Nozdrevs no longer exist. Alas! such as say this will be
wrong; for many a day must pass before the Nozdrevs will have
disappeared from our ken. Everywhere they are to be seen in our
midst--the only difference between the new and the old being a
difference of garments. Persons of superficial observation are apt to
consider that a man clad in a different coat is quite a different
person from what he used to be.
To continue. The three vehicles bowled up to the steps of Nozdrev's
house, and their occupants alighted. But no preparations whatsoever
had been made for the guest's reception, for on some wooden trestles
in the centre of the dining-room a couple of peasants were engaged in
whitewashing the ceiling and drawling out an endless song as they
splashed their stuff about the floor. Hastily bidding peasants and
trestles to be gone, Nozdrev departed to another room with further
instructions. Indeed, so audible was the sound of his voice as he
ordered dinner that Chichikov--who was beginning to feel hungry once
more--was enabled to gather that it would be at least five o'clock
before a meal of any kind would be available. On his return, Nozdrev
invited his companions to inspect his establishment--even though as
early as two o'clock he had to announce that nothing more was to be
The tour began with a view of the stables, where the party saw two
mares (the one a grey, and the other a roan) and a colt; which latter
animal, though far from showy, Nozdrev declared to have cost him ten
"You NEVER paid ten thousand roubles for the brute!" exclaimed the
brother-in-law. "He isn't worth even a thousand."
"By God, I DID pay ten thousand!" asserted Nozdrev.
"You can swear that as much as you like," retorted the other.
"Will you bet that I did not?" asked Nozdrev, but the brother-in-law
declined the offer.
Next, Nozdrev showed his guests some empty stalls where a number of
equally fine animals (so he alleged) had lately stood. Also there was
on view the goat which an old belief still considers to be an
indispensable adjunct to such places, even though its apparent use is
to pace up and down beneath the noses of the horses as though the
place belonged to it. Thereafter the host took his guests to look at a
young wolf which he had got tied to a chain. "He is fed on nothing but
raw meat," he explained, "for I want him to grow up as fierce as
possible." Then the party inspected a pond in which there were "fish
of such a size that it would take two men all their time to lift one
of them out."
This piece of information was received with renewed incredulity on the
part of the brother-in-law.
"Now, Chichikov," went on Nozdrev, "let me show you a truly
magnificent brace of dogs. The hardness of their muscles will surprise
you, and they have jowls as sharp as needles."
So saying, he led the way to a small, but neatly-built, shed
surrounded on every side with a fenced-in run. Entering this run, the
visitors beheld a number of dogs of all sorts and sizes and colours.
In their midst Nozdrev looked like a father lording it over his family
circle. Erecting their tails--their "stems," as dog fanciers call
those members--the animals came bounding to greet the party, and fully
a score of them laid their paws upon Chichikov's shoulders. Indeed,
one dog was moved with such friendliness that, standing on its hind
legs, it licked him on the lips, and so forced him to spit. That done,
the visitors duly inspected the couple already mentioned, and
expressed astonishment at their muscles. True enough, they were fine
animals. Next, the party looked at a Crimean bitch which, though blind
and fast nearing her end, had, two years ago, been a truly magnificent
dog. At all events, so said Nozdrev. Next came another bitch--also
blind; then an inspection of the water-mill, which lacked the
spindle-socket wherein the upper stone ought to have been
revolving--"fluttering," to use the Russian peasant's quaint
expression. "But never mind," said Nozdrev. "Let us proceed to the
blacksmith's shop." So to the blacksmith's shop the party proceeded,
and when the said shop had been viewed, Nozdrev said as he pointed to
"In this field I have seen such numbers of hares as to render the
ground quite invisible. Indeed, on one occasion I, with my own hands,
caught a hare by the hind legs."
"You never caught a hare by the hind legs with your hands!" remarked
"But I DID" reiterated Nozdrev. "However, let me show you the
boundary where my lands come to an end."
So saying, he started to conduct his guests across a field which
consisted mostly of moleheaps, and in which the party had to pick
their way between strips of ploughed land and of harrowed. Soon
Chichikov began to feel weary, for the terrain was so low-lying that
in many spots water could be heard squelching underfoot, and though
for a while the visitors watched their feet, and stepped carefully,
they soon perceived that such a course availed them nothing, and took
to following their noses, without either selecting or avoiding the
spots where the mire happened to be deeper or the reverse. At length,
when a considerable distance had been covered, they caught sight of a
boundary-post and a narrow ditch.
"That is the boundary," said Nozdrev. "Everything that you see on this
side of the post is mine, as well as the forest on the other side of
it, and what lies beyond the forest."
"WHEN did that forest become yours?" asked the brother-in-law. "It
cannot be long since you purchased it, for it never USED to be yours."
"Yes, it isn't long since I purchased it," said Nozdrev.
"How long? Why, I purchased it three days ago, and gave a pretty sum
for it, as the devil knows!"
"Indeed? Why, three days ago you were at the fair?"
"Wiseacre! Cannot one be at a fair and buy land at the same time? Yes,
I WAS at the fair, and my steward bought the land in my absence."
"Oh, your STEWARD bought it." The brother-in-law seemed doubtful,
and shook his head.
The guests returned by the same route as that by which they had come;
whereafter, on reaching the house, Nozdrev conducted them to his
study, which contained not a trace of the things usually to be found
in such apartments--such things as books and papers. On the contrary,
the only articles to be seen were a sword and a brace of guns--the one
"of them worth three hundred roubles," and the other "about eight
hundred." The brother-in-law inspected the articles in question, and
then shook his head as before. Next, the visitors were shown some
"real Turkish" daggers, of which one bore the inadvertent inscription,
"Saveli Sibiriakov, Master Cutler." Then came a barrel-organ, on
which Nozdrev started to play some tune or another. For a while the
sounds were not wholly unpleasing, but suddenly something seemed to go
wrong, for a mazurka started, to be followed by "Marlborough has gone
to the war," and to this, again, there succeeded an antiquated waltz.
Also, long after Nozdrev had ceased to turn the handle, one
particularly shrill-pitched pipe which had, throughout, refused to
harmonise with the rest kept up a protracted whistling on its own
account. Then followed an exhibition of tobacco pipes--pipes of clay,
of wood, of meerschaum, pipes smoked and non-smoked; pipes wrapped in
chamois leather and not so wrapped; an amber-mounted hookah (a stake
won at cards) and a tobacco pouch (worked, it was alleged, by some
countess who had fallen in love with Nozdrev at a posthouse, and whose
handiwork Nozdrev averred to constitute the "sublimity of
superfluity"--a term which, in the Nozdrevian vocabulary, purported to
signify the acme of perfection).
 That is to say, a distinctively Russian name.
Finally, after some hors-d'oeuvres of sturgeon's back, they sat down
to table--the time being then nearly five o'clock. But the meal did
not constitute by any means the best of which Chichikov had ever
partaken, seeing that some of the dishes were overcooked, and others
were scarcely cooked at all. Evidently their compounder had trusted
chiefly to inspiration--she had laid hold of the first thing which had
happened to come to hand. For instance, had pepper represented the
nearest article within reach, she had added pepper wholesale. Had a
cabbage chanced to be so encountered, she had pressed it also into the
service. And the same with milk, bacon, and peas. In short, her rule
seemed to have been "Make a hot dish of some sort, and some sort of
taste will result." For the rest, Nozdrev drew heavily upon the wine.
Even before the soup had been served, he had poured out for each guest
a bumper of port and another of "haut" sauterne. (Never in provincial
towns is ordinary, vulgar sauterne even procurable.) Next, he called
for a bottle of madeira--"as fine a tipple as ever a field-marshall
drank"; but the madeira only burnt the mouth, since the dealers,
familiar with the taste of our landed gentry (who love "good" madeira)
invariably doctor the stuff with copious dashes of rum and Imperial
vodka, in the hope that Russian stomachs will thus be enabled to carry
off the lot. After this bottle Nozdrev called for another and "a very
special" brand--a brand which he declared to consist of a blend of
burgundy and champagne, and of which he poured generous measures into
the glasses of Chichikov and the brother-in-law as they sat to right
and left of him. But since Chichikov noticed that, after doing so, he
added only a scanty modicum of the mixture to his own tumbler, our
hero determined to be cautious, and therefore took advantage of a
moment when Nozdrev had again plunged into conversation and was yet a
third time engaged in refilling his brother-in-law's glass, to
contrive to upset his (Chichikov's) glass over his plate. In time
there came also to table a tart of mountain-ashberries--berries which
the host declared to equal, in taste, ripe plums, but which, curiously
enough, smacked more of corn brandy. Next, the company consumed a sort
of pasty of which the precise name has escaped me, but which the host
rendered differently even on the second occasion of its being
mentioned. The meal over, and the whole tale of wines tried, the
guests still retained their seats--a circumstance which embarrassed
Chichikov, seeing that he had no mind to propound his pet scheme in
the presence of Nozdrev's brother-in-law, who was a complete stranger
to him. No, that subject called for amicable and PRIVATE conversation.
Nevertheless, the brother-in-law appeared to bode little danger,
seeing that he had taken on board a full cargo, and was now engaged
in doing nothing of a more menacing nature than picking his nose.
At length he himself noticed that he was not altogether in a
responsible condition; wherefore he rose and began to make excuses for
departing homewards, though in a tone so drowsy and lethargic that, to
quote the Russian proverb, he might almost have been "pulling a collar
on to a horse by the clasps."
"No, no!" cried Nozdrev. "I am NOT going to let you go."
"But I MUST go," replied the brother-in-law. "Don't dry to hinder
me. You are annoying me greatly."
"Rubbish! We are going to play a game of banker."
"No, no. You must play it without me, my friend. My wife is expecting
me at home, and I must go and tell her all about the fair. Yes, I
MUST go if I am to please her. Do not try to detain me."
"Your wife be--! But have you REALLY an important piece of business
"No, no, my friend. The real reason is that she is a good and trustful
woman, and that she does a great deal for me. The tears spring to my
eyes as I think of it. Do not detain me. As an honourable man I say
that I must go. Of that I do assure you in all sincerity."
"Oh, let him go," put in Chichikov under his breath. "What use will he
"Very well," said Nozdrev, "though, damn it, I do not like fellows who
lose their heads." Then he added to his brother-in-law: "All right,
Thetuk. Off you go to your wife and your woman's talk and may the
devil go with you!"
 A jeering appellation which owes its origin to the fact that
certain Russians cherish a prejudice against the initial character
of the word--namely, the Greek theta, or TH.
"Do not insult me with the term Thetuk," retorted the brother-in-law.
"To her I owe my life, and she is a dear, good woman, and has shown me
much affection. At the very thought of it I could weep. You see, she
will be asking me what I have seen at the fair, and tell her about it
I must, for she is such a dear, good woman."
"Then off you go to her with your pack of lies. Here is your cap."
"No, good friend, you are not to speak of her like that. By so doing
you offend me greatly--I say that she is a dear, good woman."
"Then run along home to her."
"Yes, I am just going. Excuse me for having been unable to stay.
Gladly would I have stayed, but really I cannot."
The brother-in-law repeated his excuses again and again without
noticing that he had entered the britchka, that it had passed through
the gates, and that he was now in the open country. Permissibly we may
suppose that his wife succeeded in gleaning from him few details of
"What a fool!" said Nozdrev as, standing by the window, he watched the
departing vehicle. "Yet his off-horse is not such a bad one. For a
long time past I have been wanting to get hold of it. A man like that
is simply impossible. Yes, he is a Thetuk, a regular Thetuk."
With that they repaired to the parlour, where, on Porphyri bringing
candles, Chichikov perceived that his host had produced a pack of
"I tell you what," said Nozdrev, pressing the sides of the pack
together, and then slightly bending them, so that the pack cracked and
a card flew out. "How would it be if, to pass the time, I were to make
a bank of three hundred?"
Chichikov pretended not to have heard him, but remarked with an air of
having just recollected a forgotten point:
"By the way, I had omitted to say that I have a request to make of
"First give me your word that you will grant it."
"What is the request, I say?"
"Then you give me your word, do you?"
"Your word of honour?"
"My word of honour."
"This, then, is my request. I presume that you have a large number of
dead serfs whose names have not yet been removed from the revision
"I have. But why do you ask?"
"Because I want you to make them over to me."
"Of what use would they be to you?"
"Never mind. I have a purpose in wanting them."
"A purpose which is strictly my own affair. In short, I need them."
"You seem to have hatched a very fine scheme. Out with it, now! What
is in the wind?"
"How could I have hatched such a scheme as you say? One could not very
well hatch a scheme out of such a trifle as this."
"Then for what purpose do you want the serfs?"
"Oh, the curiosity of the man! He wants to poke his fingers into and
smell over every detail!"
"Why do you decline to say what is in your mind? At all events, until
you DO say I shall not move in the matter."
"But how would it benefit you to know what my plans are? A whim has
seized me. That is all. Nor are you playing fair. You have given me
your word of honour, yet now you are trying to back out of it."
"No matter what you desire me to do, I decline to do it until you have
told me your purpose."
"What am I to say to the fellow?" thought Chichikov. He reflected for
a moment, and then explained that he wanted the dead souls in order to
acquire a better standing in society, since at present he possessed
little landed property, and only a handful of serfs.
"You are lying," said Nozdrev without even letting him finish. "Yes,
you are lying my good friend."
Chichikov himself perceived that his device had been a clumsy one, and
his pretext weak. "I must tell him straight out," he said to himself as
he pulled his wits together.
"Should I tell you the truth," he added aloud, "I must beg of you not
to repeat it. The truth is that I am thinking of getting married. But,
unfortunately, my betrothed's father and mother are very ambitious
people, and do not want me to marry her, since they desire the
bridegroom to own not less than three hundred souls, whereas I own but
a hundred and fifty, and that number is not sufficient."
"Again you are lying," said Nozdrev.
"Then look here; I have been lying only to this extent." And Chichikov
marked off upon his little finger a minute portion.
"Nevertheless I will bet my head that you have been lying throughout."
"Come, come! That is not very civil of you. Why should I have been
"Because I know you, and know that you are a regular skinflint. I say
that in all friendship. If I possessed any power over you I should
hang you to the nearest tree."
This remark hurt Chichikov, for at any time he disliked expressions
gross or offensive to decency, and never allowed any one--no, not even
persons of the highest rank--to behave towards him with an undue
measure of familiarity. Consequently his sense of umbrage on the
present occasion was unbounded.
"By God, I WOULD hang you!" repeated Nozdrev. "I say this frankly,
and not for the purpose of offending you, but simply to communicate to
you my friendly opinion."
"To everything there are limits," retorted Chichikov stiffly. "If you
want to indulge in speeches of that sort you had better return to the
However, after a pause he added:
"If you do not care to give me the serfs, why not SELL them?"
"SELL them? _I_ know you, you rascal! You wouldn't give me very much
for them, WOULD you?"
"A nice fellow! Look here. What are they to you? So many diamonds, eh?"
"I thought so! _I_ know you!"
"Pardon me, but I could wish that you were a member of the Jewish
persuasion. You would give them to me fast enough then."
"On the contrary, to show you that I am not a usurer, I will decline
to ask of you a single kopeck for the serfs. All that you need do is
to buy that colt of mine, and then I will throw in the serfs in
"But what should _I_ want with your colt?" said Chichikov, genuinely
astonished at the proposal.
"What should YOU want with him? Why, I have bought him for ten
thousand roubles, and am ready to let you have him for four."
"I ask you again: of what use could the colt possibly be to me? I am
not the keeper of a breeding establishment."
"Ah! I see that you fail to understand me. Let me suggest that you pay
down at once three thousand roubles of the purchase money, and leave
the other thousand until later."
"But I do not mean to buy the colt, damn him!"
"Then buy the roan mare."
"No, nor the roan mare."
"Then you shall have both the mare and the grey horse which you have
seen in my stables for two thousand roubles."
"I require no horses at all."
"But you would be able to sell them again. You would be able to get
thrice their purchase price at the very first fair that was held."
"Then sell them at that fair yourself, seeing that you are so certain
of making a triple profit."
"Oh, I should make it fast enough, only I want YOU to benefit
by the transaction."
Chichikov duly thanked his interlocutor, but continued to decline
either the grey horse or the roan mare.
"Then buy a few dogs," said Nozdrev. "I can sell you a couple of hides
a-quiver, ears well pricked, coats like quills, ribs barrel-shaped,
and paws so tucked up as scarcely to graze the ground when they run."
"Of what use would those dogs be to me? I am not a sportsman."
"But I WANT you to have the dogs. Listen. If you won't have the
dogs, then buy my barrel-organ. 'Tis a splendid instrument. As a man
of honour I can tell you that, when new, it cost me fifteen hundred
roubles. Well, you shall have it for nine hundred."
"Come, come! What should I want with a barrel-organ? I am not a
German, to go hauling it about the roads and begging for coppers."
"But this is quite a different kind of organ from the one which
Germans take about with them. You see, it is a REAL organ. Look at
it for yourself. It is made of the best wood. I will take you to have
another view of it."
And seizing Chichikov by the hand, Nozdrev drew him towards the other
room, where, in spite of the fact that Chichikov, with his feet
planted firmly on the floor, assured his host, again and again, that
he knew exactly what the organ was like, he was forced once more to
hear how Marlborough went to the war.
"Then, since you don't care to give me any money for it," persisted
Nozdrev, "listen to the following proposal. I will give you the
barrel-organ and all the dead souls which I possess, and in return you
shall give me your britchka, and another three hundred roubles into
"Listen to the man! In that case, what should I have left to drive
"Oh, I would stand you another britchka. Come to the coach-house, and
I will show you the one I mean. It only needs repainting to look a
perfectly splendid britchka."
"The ramping, incorrigible devil!" thought Chichikov to himself as at
all hazards he resolved to escape from britchkas, organs, and every
species of dog, however marvellously barrel-ribbed and tucked up of
"And in exchange, you shall have the britchka, the barrel-organ, and
the dead souls," repeated Nozdrev.
"I must decline the offer," said Chichikov.
"Because I don't WANT the things--I am full up already."
"I can see that you don't know how things should be done between good
friends and comrades. Plainly you are a man of two faces."
"What do you mean, you fool? Think for yourself. Why should I acquire
articles which I don't want?"
"Say no more about it, if you please. I have quite taken your measure.
But see here. Should you care to play a game of banker? I am ready to
stake both the dead souls and the barrel-organ at cards."
"No; to leave an issue to cards means to submit oneself to the
unknown," said Chichikov, covertly glancing at the pack which Nozdrev
had got in his hands. Somehow the way in which his companion had cut
that pack seemed to him suspicious.
"Why 'to the unknown'?" asked Nozdrev. "There is no such thing as 'the
unknown.' Should luck be on your side, you may win the devil knows
what a haul. Oh, luck, luck!" he went on, beginning to deal, in the
hope of raising a quarrel. "Here is the cursed nine upon which, the
other night, I lost everything. All along I knew that I should lose my
money. Said I to myself: 'The devil take you, you false, accursed
Just as Nozdrev uttered the words Porphyri entered with a fresh bottle
of liquor; but Chichikov declined either to play or to drink.
"Why do you refuse to play?" asked Nozdrev.
"Because I feel indisposed to do so. Moreover, I must confess that I
am no great hand at cards."
"WHY are you no great hand at them?"