Part 7 out of 8
the same Committee. Next, Chichikov and his escort rapped at the doors
of the Department of Estate Affairs; but that Department's quarters
happened to be in a state of repair, and no one could be made to
answer the summons save a drunken peasant from whom not a word of
sense was to be extracted. At length the escort felt himself removed
"There is a deal of foolishness going on here. Fellows like that
drunkard lead the barin by the nose, and everything is ruled by the
Committee of Management, which takes men from their proper work, and
sets them to do any other it likes. Indeed, only through the Committee
does ANYTHING get done."
By this time Chichikov felt that he had seen enough; wherefore he
returned to the Colonel, and informed him that the Office for the
Reception of Reports and Returns had ceased to exist. At once the
Colonel flamed to noble rage. Pressing Chichikov's hand in token of
gratitude for the information which the guest had furnished, he took
paper and pen, and noted eight searching questions under three
separate headings: (1) "Why has the Committee of Management presumed
to issue orders to officials not under its jurisdiction?" (2) "Why has
the Chief Manager permitted his predecessor, though still in retention
of his post, to follow him to another Department?" and (3) "Why has
the Committee of Estate Affairs suffered the Office for the Reception
of Reports and Returns to lapse?"
"Now for a row!" thought Chichikov to himself, and turned to depart;
but his host stopped him, saying:
"I cannot let you go, for, in addition to my honour having become
involved, it behoves me to show my people how the regular, the
organised, administration of an estate may be conducted. Herewith I
will hand over the conduct of your affair to a man who is worth all
the rest of the staff put together, and has had a university
education. Also, the better to lose no time, may I humbly beg you to
step into my library, where you will find notebooks, paper, pens, and
everything else that you may require. Of these articles pray make full
use, for you are a gentleman of letters, and it is your and my joint
duty to bring enlightenment to all."
So saying, he ushered his guest into a large room lined from floor to
ceiling with books and stuffed specimens. The books in question were
divided into sections--a section on forestry, a section on
cattle-breeding, a section on the raising of swine, and a section on
horticulture, together with special journals of the type circulated
merely for the purposes of reference, and not for general reading.
Perceiving that these works were scarcely of a kind calculated to
while away an idle hour, Chichikov turned to a second bookcase. But to
do so was to fall out of the frying-pan into the fire, for the
contents of the second bookcase proved to be works on philosophy,
while, in particular, six huge volumes confronted him under a label
inscribed "A Preparatory Course to the Province of Thought, with the
Theory of Community of Effort, Co-operation, and Subsistence, in its
Application to a Right Understanding of the Organic Principles of a
Mutual Division of Social Productivity." Indeed, wheresoever Chichikov
looked, every page presented to his vision some such words as
"phenomenon," "development," "abstract," "contents," and "synopsis."
"This is not the sort of thing for me," he murmured, and turned his
attention to a third bookcase, which contained books on the Arts.
Extracting a huge tome in which some by no means reticent mythological
illustrations were contained, he set himself to examine these
pictures. They were of the kind which pleases mostly middle-aged
bachelors and old men who are accustomed to seek in the ballet and
similar frivolities a further spur to their waning passions. Having
concluded his examination, Chichikov had just extracted another volume
of the same species when Colonel Koshkarev returned with a document of
some sort and a radiant countenance.
"Everything has been carried through in due form!" he cried. "The man
whom I mentioned is a genius indeed, and I intend not only to promote
him over the rest, but also to create for him a special Department.
Herewith shall you hear what a splendid intellect is his, and how in a
few minutes he has put the whole affair in order."
"May the Lord be thanked for that!" thought Chichikov. Then he settled
himself while the Colonel read aloud:
"'After giving full consideration to the Reference which your
Excellency has entrusted to me, I have the honour to report as
"'(1) In the Statement of Plea presented by one Paul Ivanovitch
Chichikov, Gentleman, Chevalier, and Collegiate Councillor, there
lurks an error, in that an oversight has led the Petitioner to apply
to Revisional Souls the term "Dead." Now, from the context it would
appear that by this term the Petitioner desires to signify Souls
Approaching Death rather than Souls Actually Deceased: wherefore the
term employed betrays such an empirical instruction in letters as
must, beyond doubt, have been confined to the Village School, seeing
that in truth the Soul is Deathless.'
"The rascal!" Koshkarev broke off to exclaim delightedly. "He has got
you there, Monsieur Chichikov. And you will admit that he has a
sufficiently incisive pen?
"'(2) On this Estate there exist no Unmortgaged Souls whatsoever,
whether Approaching Death or Otherwise; for the reason that all Souls
thereon have been pledged not only under a First Deed of Mortgage, but
also (for the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Roubles per Soul) under a
Second,--the village of Gurmailovka alone excepted, in that, in
consequence of a Suit having been brought against Landowner
Priadistchev, and of a caveat having been pronounced by the Land
Court, and of such caveat having been published in No. 42 of the
Gazette of Moscow, the said Village has come within the Jurisdiction
of the Court Above-Mentioned."
"Why did you not tell me all this before?" cried Chichikov furiously.
"Why you have kept me dancing about for nothing?"
"Because it was absolutely necessary that you should view the matter
through forms of documentary process. This is no jest on my part. The
inexperienced may see things subconsciously, yet is imperative that he
should also see them CONSCIOUSLY."
But to Chichikov's patience an end had come. Seizing his cap, and
casting all ceremony to the winds, he fled from the house, and rushed
through the courtyard. As it happened, the man who had driven him
thither had, warned by experience, not troubled even to take out the
horses, since he knew that such a proceeding would have entailed not
only the presentation of a Statement of Plea for fodder, but also a
delay of twenty-four hours until the Resolution granting the same
should have been passed. Nevertheless the Colonel pursued his guest to
the gates, and pressed his hand warmly as he thanked him for having
enabled him (the Colonel) thus to exhibit in operation the proper
management of an estate. Also, he begged to state that, under the
circumstances, it was absolutely necessary to keep things moving and
circulating, since, otherwise, slackness was apt to supervene, and the
working of the machine to grow rusty and feeble; but that, in spite of
all, the present occasion had inspired him with a happy idea--namely,
the idea of instituting a Committee which should be entitled "The
Committee of Supervision of the Committee of Management," and which
should have for its function the detection of backsliders among the
body first mentioned.
It was late when, tired and dissatisfied, Chichikov regained
Kostanzhoglo's mansion. Indeed, the candles had long been lit.
"What has delayed you?" asked the master of the house as Chichikov
entered the drawing-room.
"Yes, what has kept you and the Colonel so long in conversation
together?" added Platon.
"This--the fact that never in my life have I come across such an
imbecile," was Chichikov's reply.
"Never mind," said Kostanzhoglo. "Koshkarev is a most reassuring
phenomenon. He is necessary in that in him we see expressed in
caricature all the more crying follies of our intellectuals--of the
intellectuals who, without first troubling to make themselves
acquainted with their own country, borrow silliness from abroad. Yet
that is how certain of our landowners are now carrying on. They have
set up 'offices' and factories and schools and 'commissions,' and the
devil knows what else besides. A fine lot of wiseacres! After the
French War in 1812 they had to reconstruct their affairs: and see how
they have done it! Yet so much worse have they done it than a
Frenchman would have done that any fool of a Peter Petrovitch Pietukh
now ranks as a good landowner!"
"But he has mortgaged the whole of his estate?" remarked Chichikov.
"Yes, nowadays everything is being mortgaged, or is going to be." This
said, Kostanzhoglo's temper rose still further. "Out upon your
factories of hats and candles!" he cried. "Out upon procuring
candle-makers from London, and then turning landowners into hucksters!
To think of a Russian pomiestchik, a member of the noblest of
callings, conducting workshops and cotton mills! Why, it is for the
wenches of towns to handle looms for muslin and lace."
"But you yourself maintain workshops?" remarked Platon.
"I do; but who established them? They established themselves. For
instance, wool had accumulated, and since I had nowhere to store it, I
began to weave it into cloth--but, mark you, only into good, plain
cloth of which I can dispose at a cheap rate in the local markets, and
which is needed by peasants, including my own. Again, for six years on
end did the fish factories keep dumping their offal on my bank of the
river; wherefore, at last, as there was nothing to be done with it, I
took to boiling it into glue, and cleared forty thousand roubles by
"The devil!" thought Chichikov to himself as he stared at his host.
"What a fist this man has for making money!"
"Another reason why I started those factories," continued
Kostanzhoglo, "is that they might give employment to many peasants who
would otherwise have starved. You see, the year happened to have been
a lean one--thanks to those same industry-mongering landowners, in
that they had neglected to sow their crops; and now my factories keep
growing at the rate of a factory a year, owing to the circumstance
that such quantities of remnants and cuttings become so accumulated
that, if a man looks carefully to his management, he will find every
sort of rubbish to be capable of bringing in a return--yes, to the
point of his having to reject money on the plea that he has no need of
it. Yet I do not find that to do all this I require to build a mansion
with facades and pillars!"
"Marvellous!" exclaimed Chichikov. "Beyond all things does it surprise
me that refuse can be so utilised."
"Yes, and that is what can be done by SIMPLE methods. But nowadays
every one is a mechanic, and wants to open that money chest with an
instrument instead of simply. For that purpose he hies him to England.
Yes, THAT is the thing to do. What folly!" Kostanzhoglo spat and
added: "Yet when he returns from abroad he is a hundred times more
ignorant than when he went."
"Ah, Constantine," put in his wife anxiously, "you know how bad for
you it is to talk like this."
"Yes, but how am I to help losing my temper? The thing touches me too
closely, it vexes me too deeply to think that the Russian character
should be degenerating. For in that character there has dawned a sort
of Quixotism which never used to be there. Yes, no sooner does a man
get a little education into his head than he becomes a Don Quixote,
and establishes schools on his estate such as even a madman would
never have dreamed of. And from that school there issues a workman who
is good for nothing, whether in the country or in the town--a fellow
who drinks and is for ever standing on his dignity. Yet still our
landowners keep taking to philanthropy, to converting themselves into
philanthropic knights-errant, and spending millions upon senseless
hospitals and institutions, and so ruining themselves and turning
their families adrift. Yes, that is all that comes of philanthropy."
Chichikov's business had nothing to do with the spread of
enlightenment, he was but seeking an opportunity to inquire further
concerning the putting of refuse to lucrative uses; but Kostanzhoglo
would not let him get a word in edgeways, so irresistibly did the flow
of sarcastic comment pour from the speaker's lips.
"Yes," went on Kostanzhoglo, "folk are always scheming to educate the
peasant. But first make him well-off and a good farmer. THEN he will
educate himself fast enough. As things are now, the world has grown
stupid to a degree that passes belief. Look at the stuff our
present-day scribblers write! Let any sort of a book be published, and
at once you will see every one making a rush for it. Similarly will
you find folk saying: 'The peasant leads an over-simple life. He ought
to be familiarised with luxuries, and so led to yearn for things above
his station.' And the result of such luxuries will be that the peasant
will become a rag rather than a man, and suffer from the devil only
knows what diseases, until there will remain in the land not a boy of
eighteen who will not have experienced the whole gamut of them, and
found himself left with not a tooth in his jaws or a hair on his pate.
Yes, that is what will come of infecting the peasant with such
rubbish. But, thank God, there is still one healthy class left to
us--a class which has never taken up with the 'advantages' of which I
speak. For that we ought to be grateful. And since, even yet, the
Russian agriculturist remains the most respect-worthy man in the land,
why should he be touched? Would to God every one were an
"Then you believe agriculture to be the most profitable of
occupations?" said Chichikov.
"The best, at all events--if not the most profitable. 'In the sweat of
thy brow shalt thou till the land.' To quote that requires no great
wisdom, for the experience of ages has shown us that, in the
agricultural calling, man has ever remained more moral, more pure,
more noble than in any other. Of course I do not mean to imply that no
other calling ought to be practised: simply that the calling in
question lies at the root of all the rest. However much factories
may be established privately or by the law, there will still lie ready
to man's hand all that he needs--he will still require none of those
amenities which are sapping the vitality of our present-day folk, nor
any of those industrial establishments which make their profit, and
keep themselves going, by causing foolish measures to be adopted
which, in the end, are bound to deprave and corrupt our unfortunate
masses. I myself am determined never to establish any manufacture,
however profitable, which will give rise to a demand for 'higher
things,' such as sugar and tobacco--no not if I lose a million by my
refusing to do so. If corruption MUST overtake the MIR, it shall
not be through my hands. And I think that God will justify me in my
resolve. Twenty years have I lived among the common folk, and I know
what will inevitably come of such things."
"But what surprises me most," persisted Chichikov, "is that from
refuse it should be possible, with good management, to make such an
immensity of profit."
"And as for political economy," continued Kostanzhoglo, without
noticing him, and with his face charged with bilious sarcasm, "--as
for political economy, it is a fine thing indeed. Just one fool
sitting on another fool's back, and flogging him along, even though
the rider can see no further than his own nose! Yet into the saddle
will that fool climb--spectacles and all! Oh, the folly, the folly of
such things!" And the speaker spat derisively.
"That may be true," said his wife. "Yet you must not get angry about
it. Surely one can speak on such subjects without losing one's
"As I listen to you, most worthy Constantine Thedorovitch," Chichikov
hastened to remark, "it becomes plain to me that you have penetrated
into the meaning of life, and laid your finger upon the essential root
of the matter. Yet supposing, for a moment, we leave the affairs of
humanity in general, and turn our attention to a purely individual
affair, might I ask you how, in the case of a man becoming a
landowner, and having a mind to grow wealthy as quickly as possible
(in order that he may fulfil his bounden obligations as a citizen), he
can best set about it?"
"How he can best set about growing wealthy?" repeated Kostanzhoglo.
"Let us go to supper," interrupted the lady of the house, rising from
her chair, and moving towards the centre of the room, where she
wrapped her shivering young form in a shawl. Chichikov sprang up with
the alacrity of a military man, offered her his arm, and escorted her,
as on parade, to the dining-room, where awaiting them there was the
soup-toureen. From it the lid had just been removed, and the room was
redolent of the fragrant odour of early spring roots and herbs. The
company took their seats, and at once the servants placed the
remainder of the dishes (under covers) upon the table and withdrew,
for Kostanzhoglo hated to have servants listening to their employers'
conversation, and objected still more to their staring at him all the
while that he was eating.
When the soup had been consumed, and glasses of an excellent vintage
resembling Hungarian wine had been poured out, Chichikov said to his
"Most worthy sir, allow me once more to direct your attention to the
subject of which we were speaking at the point when the conversation
became interrupted. You will remember that I was asking you how best a
man can set about, proceed in, the matter of growing . . ."
[Here from the original two pages are missing.]
. . . "A property for which, had he asked forty thousand, I should
still have demanded a reduction."
"Hm!" thought Chichikov; then added aloud: "But why do you not
purchase it yourself?"
"Because to everything there must be assigned a limit. Already my
property keeps me sufficiently employed. Moreover, I should cause our
local dvoriane to begin crying out in chorus that I am exploiting
their extremities, their ruined position, for the purpose of acquiring
land for under its value. Of that I am weary."
"How readily folk speak evil!" exclaimed Chichikov.
"Yes, and the amount of evil-speaking in our province surpasses
belief. Never will you hear my name mentioned without my being called
also a miser and a usurer of the worst possible sort; whereas my
accusers justify themselves in everything, and say that, 'though we
have wasted our money, we have started a demand for the higher
amenities of life, and therefore encouraged industry with our
wastefulness, a far better way of doing things than that practised by
Kostanzhoglo, who lives like a pig.'"
"Would _I_ could live in your 'piggish' fashion!" ejaculated
"And so forth, and so forth. Yet what are the 'higher amenities of
life'? What good can they do to any one? Even if a landowner of the
day sets up a library, he never looks at a single book in it, but soon
relapses into card-playing--the usual pursuit. Yet folk call me names
simply because I do not waste my means upon the giving of dinners! One
reason why I do not give such dinners is that they weary me; and
another reason is that I am not used to them. But come you to my house
for the purpose of taking pot luck, and I shall be delighted to see
you. Also, folk foolishly say that I lend money on interest; whereas
the truth is that if you should come to me when you are really in
need, and should explain to me openly how you propose to employ my
money, and I should perceive that you are purposing to use that money
wisely, and that you are really likely to profit thereby--well, in
that case you would find me ready to lend you all that you might ask
without interest at all."
"That is a thing which it is well to know," reflected Chichikov.
"Yes," repeated Kostanzhoglo, "under those circumstances I should
never refuse you my assistance. But I do object to throwing my money
to the winds. Pardon me for expressing myself so plainly. To think of
lending money to a man who is merely devising a dinner for his
mistress, or planning to furnish his house like a lunatic, or thinking
of taking his paramour to a masked ball or a jubilee in honour of some
one who had better never have been born!"
And, spitting, he came near to venting some expression which would
scarcely have been becoming in the presence of his wife. Over his face
the dark shadow of hypochondria had cast a cloud, and furrows had
formed on his brow and temples, and his every gesture bespoke the
influence of a hot, nervous rancour.
"But allow me once more to direct your attention to the subject of our
recently interrupted conversation," persisted Chichikov as he sipped a
glass of excellent raspberry wine. "That is to say, supposing I were
to acquire the property which you have been good enough to bring to my
notice, how long would it take me to grow rich?"
"That would depend on yourself," replied Kostanzhoglo with grim
abruptness and evident ill-humour. "You might either grow rich quickly
or you might never grow rich at all. If you made up your mind to grow
rich, sooner or later you would find yourself a wealthy man."
"Indeed?" ejaculated Chichikov.
"Yes," replied Kostanzhoglo, as sharply as though he were angry with
Chichikov. "You would merely need to be fond of work: otherwise you
would effect nothing. The main thing is to like looking after your
property. Believe me, you would never grow weary of doing so. People
would have it that life in the country is dull; whereas, if I were to
spend a single day as it is spent by some folk, with their stupid
clubs and their restaurants and their theatres, I should die of ennui.
The fools, the idiots, the generations of blind dullards! But a
landowner never finds the days wearisome--he has not the time. In his
life not a moment remains unoccupied; it is full to the brim. And with
it all goes an endless variety of occupations. And what occupations!
Occupations which genuinely uplift the soul, seeing that the landowner
walks with nature and the seasons of the year, and takes part in, and
is intimate with, everything which is evolved by creation. For let us
look at the round of the year's labours. Even before spring has
arrived there will have begun a general watching and a waiting for it,
and a preparing for sowing, and an apportioning of crops, and a
measuring of seed grain by byres, and drying of seed, and a dividing
of the workers into teams. For everything needs to be examined
beforehand, and calculations must be made at the very start. And as
soon as ever the ice shall have melted, and the rivers be flowing, and
the land have dried sufficiently to be workable, the spade will begin
its task in kitchen and flower garden, and the plough and the harrow
their tasks in the field; until everywhere there will be tilling and
sowing and planting. And do you understand what the sum of that labour
will mean? It will mean that the harvest is being sown, that the
welfare of the world is being sown, that the food of millions is being
put into the earth. And thereafter will come summer, the season of
reaping, endless reaping; for suddenly the crops will have ripened,
and rye-sheaf will be lying heaped upon rye-sheaf, with, elsewhere,
stocks of barley, and of oats, and of wheat. And everything will be
teeming with life, and not a moment will there need to be lost, seeing
that, had you even twenty eyes, you would have need for them all. And
after the harvest festivities there will be grain to be carted to byre
or stacked in ricks, and stores to be prepared for the winter, and
storehouses and kilns and cattle-sheds to be cleaned for the same
purpose, and the women to be assigned their tasks, and the totals of
everything to be calculated, so that one may see the value of what has
been done. And lastly will come winter, when in every threshing-floor
the flail will be working, and the grain, when threshed, will need to
be carried from barn to binn, and the mills require to be seen to, and
the estate factories to be inspected, and the workmen's huts to be
visited for the purpose of ascertaining how the muzhik is faring (for,
given a carpenter who is clever with his tools, I, for one, am only
too glad to spend an hour or two in his company, so cheering to me is
labour). And if, in addition, one discerns the end to which everything
is moving, and the manner in which the things of earth are everywhere
multiplying and multiplying, and bringing forth more and more fruit to
one's profiting, I cannot adequately express what takes place in a
man's soul. And that, not because of the growth in his wealth--money
is money and no more--but because he will feel that everything is the
work of his own hands, and that he has been the cause of everything,
and its creator, and that from him, as from a magician, there has
flowed bounty and goodness for all. In what other calling will you
find such delights in prospect?" As he spoke, Kostanzhoglo raised his
face, and it became clear that the wrinkles had fled from it, and
that, like the Tsar on the solemn day of his crowning, Kostanzhoglo's
whole form was diffusing light, and his features had in them a gentle
radiance. "In all the world," he repeated, "you will find no joys like
these, for herein man imitates the God who projected creation as the
supreme happiness, and now demands of man that he, too, should act as
the creator of prosperity. Yet there are folk who call such functions
Kostanzhoglo's mellifluous periods fell upon Chichikov's ear like the
notes of a bird of paradise. From time to time he gulped, and his
softened eyes expressed the pleasure which it gave him to listen.
"Constantine, it is time to leave the table," said the lady of the
house, rising from her seat. Every one followed her example, and
Chichikov once again acted as his hostess's escort--although with less
dexterity of deportment than before, owing to the fact that this time
his thoughts were occupied with more essential matters of procedure.
"In spite of what you say," remarked Platon as he walked behind the
pair, "I, for my part, find these things wearisome."
But the master of the house paid no attention to his remark, for he
was reflecting that his guest was no fool, but a man of serious
thought and speech who did not take things lightly. And, with the
thought, Kostanzhoglo grew lighter in soul, as though he had warmed
himself with his own words, and were exulting in the fact that he had
found some one capable of listening to good advice.
When they had settled themselves in the cosy, candle-lighted
drawing-room, with its balcony and the glass door opening out into the
garden--a door through which the stars could be seen glittering amid
the slumbering tops of the trees--Chichikov felt more comfortable than
he had done for many a day past. It was as though, after long
journeying, his own roof-tree had received him once more--had received
him when his quest had been accomplished, when all that he wished for
had been gained, when his travelling-staff had been laid aside with
the words "It is finished." And of this seductive frame of mind the
true source had been the eloquent discourse of his hospitable host.
Yes, for every man there exist certain things which, instantly that
they are said, seem to touch him more closely, more intimately, than
anything has done before. Nor is it an uncommon occurrence that in the
most unexpected fashion, and in the most retired of retreats, one will
suddenly come face to face with a man whose burning periods will lead
one to forget oneself and the tracklessness of the route and the
discomfort of one's nightly halting-places, and the futility of crazes
and the falseness of tricks by which one human being deceives another.
And at once there will become engraven upon one's memory--vividly, and
for all time--the evening thus spent. And of that evening one's
remembrance will hold true, both as to who was present, and where each
such person sat, and what he or she was wearing, and what the walls
and the stove and other trifling features of the room looked like.
In the same way did Chichikov note each detail that evening--both the
appointments of the agreeable, but not luxuriously furnished, room,
and the good-humoured expression which reigned on the face of the
thoughtful host, and the design of the curtains, and the amber-mounted
pipe smoked by Platon, and the way in which he kept puffing smoke into
the fat jowl of the dog Yarb, and the sneeze which, on each such
occasion, Yarb vented, and the laughter of the pleasant-faced hostess
(though always followed by the words "Pray do not tease him any more")
and the cheerful candle-light, and the cricket chirping in a corner,
and the glass door, and the spring night which, laying its elbows upon
the tree-tops, and spangled with stars, and vocal with the
nightingales which were pouring forth warbled ditties from the
recesses of the foliage, kept glancing through the door, and regarding
the company within.
"How it delights me to hear your words, good Constantine
Thedorovitch!" said Chichikov. "Indeed, nowhere in Russia have I met
with a man of equal intellect."
Kostanzhoglo smiled, while realising that the compliment was scarcely
"If you want a man of GENUINE intellect," he said, "I can tell you
of one. He is a man whose boot soles are worth more than my whole body."
"Who may he be?" asked Chichikov in astonishment.
"Murazov, our local Commissioner of Taxes."
"Ah! I have heard of him before," remarked Chichikov.
"He is a man who, were he not the director of an estate, might well be
a director of the Empire. And were the Empire under my direction, I
should at once appoint him my Minister of Finance."
"I have heard tales beyond belief concerning him--for instance, that
he has acquired ten million roubles."
"Ten? More than forty. Soon half Russia will be in his hands."
"You don't say so?" cried Chichikov in amazement.
"Yes, certainly. The man who has only a hundred thousand roubles to
work with grows rich but slowly, whereas he who has millions at his
disposal can operate over a greater radius, and so back whatsoever he
undertakes with twice or thrice the money which can be brought against
him. Consequently his field becomes so spacious that he ends by having
no rivals. Yes, no one can compete with him, and, whatsoever price he
may fix for a given commodity, at that price it will have to remain,
nor will any man be able to outbid it."
"My God!" muttered Chichikov, crossing himself, and staring at
Kostanzhoglo with his breath catching in his throat. "The mind cannot
grasp it--it petrifies one's thoughts with awe. You see folk
marvelling at what Science has achieved in the matter of investigating
the habits of cowbugs, but to me it is a far more marvellous thing
that in the hands of a single mortal there can become accumulated such
gigantic sums of money. But may I ask whether the great fortune of
which you speak has been acquired through honest means?"
"Yes; through means of the most irreproachable kind--through the most
honourable of methods."
"Yet so improbable does it seem that I can scarcely believe it.
Thousands I could understand, but millions--!"
"On the contrary, to make thousands honestly is a far more difficult
matter than to make millions. Millions are easily come by, for a
millionaire has no need to resort to crooked ways; the way lies
straight before him, and he needs but to annex whatsoever he comes
across. No rival will spring up to oppose him, for no rival will be
sufficiently strong, and since the millionaire can operate over an
extensive radius, he can bring (as I have said) two or three roubles
to bear upon any one else's one. Consequently, what interest will he
derive from a thousand roubles? Why, ten or twenty per cent. at the
"And it is beyond measure marvellous that the whole should have
started from a single kopeck."
"Had it started otherwise, the thing could never have been done at
all. Such is the normal course. He who is born with thousands, and is
brought up to thousands, will never acquire a single kopeck more, for
he will have been set up with the amenities of life in advance, and
so never come to stand in need of anything. It is necessary to begin
from the beginning rather than from the middle; from a kopeck rather
than from a rouble; from the bottom rather than from the top. For only
thus will a man get to know the men and conditions among which his
career will have to be carved. That is to say, through encountering
the rough and the tumble of life, and through learning that every
kopeck has to be beaten out with a three-kopeck nail, and through
worsting knave after knave, he will acquire such a degree of
perspicuity and wariness that he will err in nothing which he may
tackle, and never come to ruin. Believe me, it is so. The beginning,
and not the middle, is the right starting point. No one who comes to
me and says, 'Give me a hundred thousand roubles, and I will grow rich
in no time,' do I believe, for he is likely to meet with failure
rather than with the success of which he is so assured. 'Tis with a
kopeck, and with a kopeck only, that a man must begin."
"If that is so, _I_ shall grow rich," said Chichikov, involuntarily
remembering the dead souls. "For of a surety _I_ began with nothing."
"Constantine, pray allow Paul Ivanovitch to retire to rest," put in
the lady of the house. "It is high time, and I am sure you have talked
"Yes, beyond a doubt you will grow rich," continued Kostanzhoglo,
without heeding his wife. "For towards you there will run rivers and
rivers of gold, until you will not know what to do with all your
As though spellbound, Chichikov sat in an aureate world of
ever-growing dreams and fantasies. All his thoughts were in a whirl,
and on a carpet of future wealth his tumultuous imagination was
weaving golden patterns, while ever in his ears were ringing the
words, "towards you there will run rivers and rivers of gold."
"Really, Constantine, DO allow Paul Ivanovitch to go to bed."
"What on earth is the matter?" retorted the master of the household
testily. "Pray go yourself if you wish to." Then he stopped short, for
the snoring of Platon was filling the whole room, and
also--outrivalling it--that of the dog Yarb. This caused Kostanzhoglo
to realise that bedtime really had arrived; wherefore, after he had
shaken Platon out of his slumbers, and bidden Chichikov good night,
all dispersed to their several chambers, and became plunged in sleep.
All, that is to say, except Chichikov, whose thoughts remained
wakeful, and who kept wondering and wondering how best he could become
the owner, not of a fictitious, but of a real, estate. The
conversation with his host had made everything clear, had made the
possibility of his acquiring riches manifest, had made the difficult
art of estate management at once easy and understandable; until it
would seem as though particularly was his nature adapted for mastering
the art in question. All that he would need to do would be to mortgage
the dead souls, and then to set up a genuine establishment. Already he
saw himself acting and administering as Kostanzhoglo had advised
him--energetically, and through personal oversight, and undertaking
nothing new until the old had been thoroughly learned, and viewing
everything with his own eyes, and making himself familiar with each
member of his peasantry, and abjuring all superfluities, and giving
himself up to hard work and husbandry. Yes, already could he taste the
pleasure which would be his when he had built up a complete industrial
organisation, and the springs of the industrial machine were in
vigorous working order, and each had become able to reinforce the
other. Labour should be kept in active operation, and, even as, in a
mill, flour comes flowing from grain, so should cash, and yet more
cash, come flowing from every atom of refuse and remnant. And all the
while he could see before him the landowner who was one of the leading
men in Russia, and for whom he had conceived such an unbounded
respect. Hitherto only for rank or for opulence had Chichikov
respected a man--never for mere intellectual power; but now he made a
first exception in favour of Kostanzhoglo, seeing that he felt that
nothing undertaken by his host could possibly come to naught. And
another project which was occupying Chichikov's mind was the project
of purchasing the estate of a certain landowner named Khlobuev.
Already Chichikov had at his disposal ten thousand roubles, and a
further fifteen thousand he would try and borrow of Kostanzhoglo
(seeing that the latter had himself said that he was prepared to help
any one who really desired to grow rich); while, as for the remainder,
he would either raise the sum by mortgaging the estate or force
Khlobuev to wait for it--just to tell him to resort to the courts if
such might be his pleasure.
Long did our hero ponder the scheme; until at length the slumber which
had, these four hours past, been holding the rest of the household in
its embraces enfolded also Chichikov, and he sank into oblivion.
Next day, with Platon and Constantine, Chichikov set forth to
interview Khlobuev, the owner whose estate Constantine had consented
to help Chichikov to purchase with a non-interest-bearing,
uncovenanted loan of ten thousand roubles. Naturally, our hero was in
the highest of spirits. For the first fifteen versts or so the road
led through forest land and tillage belonging to Platon and his
brother-in-law; but directly the limit of these domains was reached,
forest land began to be replaced with swamp, and tillage with waste.
Also, the village in Khlobuev's estate had about it a deserted air,
and as for the proprietor himself, he was discovered in a state of
drowsy dishevelment, having not long left his bed. A man of about
forty, he had his cravat crooked, his frockcoat adorned with a large
stain, and one of his boots worn through. Nevertheless he seemed
delighted to see his visitors.
"What?" he exclaimed. "Constantine Thedorovitch and Platon Mikhalitch?
Really I must rub my eyes! Never again in this world did I look to see
callers arriving. As a rule, folk avoid me like the devil, for they
cannot disabuse their minds of the idea that I am going to ask them
for a loan. Yes, it is my own fault, I know, but what would you? To
the end will swine cheat swine. Pray excuse my costume. You will
observe that my boots are in holes. But how can I afford to get them
"Never mind," said Constantine. "We have come on business only. May I
present to you a possible purchaser of your estate, in the person of
Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov?"
"I am indeed glad to meet you!" was Khlobuev's response. "Pray shake
hands with me, Paul Ivanovitch."
Chichikov offered one hand, but not both.
"I can show you a property worth your attention," went on the master
of the estate. "May I ask if you have yet dined?"
"Yes, we have," put in Constantine, desirous of escaping as soon as
possible. "To save you further trouble, let us go and view the estate
"Very well," replied Khlobuev. "Pray come and inspect my
irregularities and futilities. You have done well to dine beforehand,
for not so much as a fowl is left in the place, so dire are the
extremities to which you see me reduced."
Sighing deeply, he took Platon by the arm (it was clear that he did
not look for any sympathy from Constantine) and walked ahead, while
Constantine and Chichikov followed.
"Things are going hard with me, Platon Mikhalitch," continued
Khlobuev. "How hard you cannot imagine. No money have I, no food, no
boots. Were I still young and a bachelor, it would have come easy to
me to live on bread and cheese; but when a man is growing old, and has
got a wife and five children, such trials press heavily upon him, and,
in spite of himself, his spirits sink."
"But, should you succeed in selling the estate, that would help to put
you right, would it not?" said Platon.
"How could it do so?" replied Khlobuev with a despairing gesture.
"What I might get for the property would have to go towards
discharging my debts, and I should find myself left with less than a
thousand roubles besides."
"Then what do you intend to do?"
"But is there NOTHING to which you could set your hand in order to
clear yourself of your difficulties?"
"How could there be?"
"Well, you might accept a Government post."
"Become a provincial secretary, you mean? How could I obtain such a
post? They would not offer me one of the meanest possible kind. Even
supposing that they did, how could I live on a salary of five hundred
roubles--I who have a wife and five children?"
"Then try and obtain a bailiff's post."
"Who would entrust their property to a man who has squandered his own
"Nevertheless, when death and destitution threaten, a man must either
do something or starve. Shall I ask my brother to use his influence to
procure you a post?"
"No, no, Platon Mikhalitch," sighed Khlobuev, gripping the other's
hand. "I am no longer serviceable--I am grown old before my time, and
find that liver and rheumatism are paying me for the sins of my youth.
Why should the Government be put to a loss on my account?--not to
speak of the fact that for every salaried post there are countless
numbers of applicants. God forbid that, in order to provide me with a
livelihood further burdens should be imposed upon an impoverished
"Such are the results of improvident management!" thought Platon to
himself. "The disease is even worse than my slothfulness."
Meanwhile Kostanzhoglo, walking by Chichikov's side, was almost taking
leave of his senses.
"Look at it!" he cried with a wave of his hand. "See to what
wretchedness the peasant has become reduced! Should cattle disease
come, Khlobuev will have nothing to fall back upon, but will be forced
to sell his all--to leave the peasant without a horse, and therefore
without the means to labour, even though the loss of a single day's
work may take years of labour to rectify. Meanwhile it is plain that
the local peasant has become a mere dissolute, lazy drunkard. Give a
muzhik enough to live upon for twelve months without working, and you
will corrupt him for ever, so inured to rags and vagrancy will he
grow. And what is the good of that piece of pasture there--of that
piece on the further side of those huts? It is a mere flooded tract.
Were it mine, I should put it under flax, and clear five thousand
roubles, or else sow it with turnips, and clear, perhaps, four
thousand. And see how the rye is drooping, and nearly laid. As for
wheat, I am pretty sure that he has not sown any. Look, too, at those
ravines! Were they mine, they would be standing under timber which
even a rook could not top. To think of wasting such quantities of
land! Where land wouldn't bear corn, I should dig it up, and plant it
with vegetables. What ought to be done is that Khlobuev ought to take
a spade into his own hands, and to set his wife and children and
servants to do the same; and even if they died of the exertion, they
would at least die doing their duty, and not through guzzling at the
This said, Kostanzhoglo spat, and his brow flushed with grim
Presently they reached an elevation whence the distant flashing of a
river, with its flood waters and subsidiary streams, caught the eye,
while, further off, a portion of General Betristchev's homestead could
be discerned among the trees, and, over it, a blue, densely wooded
hill which Chichikov guessed to be the spot where Tientietnikov's
mansion was situated.
"This is where I should plant timber," said Chichikov. "And, regarded
as a site for a manor house, the situation could scarcely be beaten
for beauty of view."
"You seem to get great store upon views and beauty," remarked
Kostanzhoglo with reproof in his tone. "Should you pay too much
attention to those things, you might find yourself without crops or
view. Utility should be placed first, not beauty. Beauty will come of
itself. Take, for example, towns. The fairest and most beautiful towns
are those which have built themselves--those in which each man has
built to suit his own exclusive circumstances and needs; whereas towns
which men have constructed on regular, string-taut lines are no better
than collections of barracks. Put beauty aside, and look only to what
"Yes, but to me it would always be irksome to have to wait. All the
time that I was doing so I should be hungering to see in front of the
me the sort of prospect which I prefer."
"Come, come! Are you a man of twenty-five--you who have served as a
tchinovnik in St. Petersburg? Have patience, have patience. For six
years work, and work hard. Plant, sow, and dig the earth without
taking a moment's rest. It will be difficult, I know--yes, difficult
indeed; but at the end of that time, if you have thoroughly stirred
the soil, the land will begin to help you as nothing else can do. That
is to say, over and above your seventy or so pairs of hands, there
will begin to assist in the work seven hundred pairs of hands which
you cannot see. Thus everything will be multiplied tenfold. I myself
have ceased even to have to lift a finger, for whatsoever needs to be
done gets done of itself. Nature loves patience: always remember that.
It is a law given her of God Himself, who has blessed all those who
are strong to endure."
"To hear your words is to be both encouraged and strengthened," said
Chichikov. To this Kostanzhoglo made no reply, but presently went on:
"And see how that piece of land has been ploughed! To stay here longer
is more than I can do. For me, to have to look upon such want of
orderliness and foresight is death. Finish your business with Khlobuev
without me, and whatsoever you do, get this treasure out of that
fool's hands as quickly as possible, for he is dishonouring God's
And Kostanzhoglo, his face dark with the rage that was seething in his
excitable soul, left Chichikov, and caught up the owner of the
"What, Constantine Thedorovitch?" cried Khlobuev in astonishment.
"Just arrived, you are going already?"
"Yes; I cannot help it; urgent business requires me at home." And
entering his gig, Kostanzhoglo drove rapidly away. Somehow Khlobuev
seemed to divine the cause of his sudden departure.
"It was too much for him," he remarked. "An agriculturist of that kind
does not like to have to look upon the results of such feckless
management as mine. Would you believe it, Paul Ivanovitch, but this
year I have been unable to sow any wheat! Am I not a fine husbandman?
There was no seed for the purpose, nor yet anything with which to
prepare the ground. No, I am not like Constantine Thedorovitch, who, I
hear, is a perfect Napoleon in his particular line. Again and again
the thought occurs to me, 'Why has so much intellect been put into
that head, and only a drop or two into my own dull pate?' Take care of
that puddle, gentlemen. I have told my peasants to lay down planks for
the spring, but they have not done so. Nevertheless my heart aches for
the poor fellows, for they need a good example, and what sort of an
example am I? How am _I_ to give them orders? Pray take them under
your charge, Paul Ivanovitch, for I cannot teach them orderliness and
method when I myself lack both. As a matter of fact, I should have
given them their freedom long ago, had there been any use in my doing
so; for even I can see that peasants must first be afforded the means
of earning a livelihood before they can live. What they need is a
stern, yet just, master who shall live with them, day in, day out, and
set them an example of tireless energy. The present-day Russian--I
know of it myself--is helpless without a driver. Without one he falls
asleep, and the mould grows over him."
"Yet I cannot understand WHY he should fall asleep and grow mouldy
in that fashion," said Platon. "Why should he need continual
surveillance to keep him from degenerating into a drunkard and a
"The cause is lack of enlightenment," said Chichikov.
"Possibly--only God knows. Yet enlightenment has reached us right
enough. Do we not attend university lectures and everything else that
is befitting? Take my own education. I learnt not only the usual
things, but also the art of spending money upon the latest refinement,
the latest amenity--the art of familiarising oneself with whatsoever
money can buy. How, then, can it be said that I was educated
foolishly? And my comrades' education was the same. A few of them
succeeded in annexing the cream of things, for the reason that they
had the wit to do so, and the rest spent their time in doing their
best to ruin their health and squander their money. Often I think
there is no hope for the present-day Russian. While desiring to do
everything, he accomplishes nothing. One day he will scheme to begin a
new mode of existence, a new dietary; yet before evening he will have
so over-eaten himself as to be unable to speak or do aught but sit
staring like an owl. The same with every one."
"Quite so," agreed Chichikov with a smile. "'Tis everywhere the same
"To tell the truth, we are not born to common sense. I doubt whether
Russia has ever produced a really sensible man. For my own part, if I
see my neighbour living a regular life, and making money, and saving
it, I begin to distrust him, and to feel certain that in old age, if
not before, he too will be led astray by the devil--led astray in a
moment. Yes, whether or not we be educated, there is something we
lack. But what that something is passes my understanding."
On the return journey the prospect was the same as before. Everywhere
the same slovenliness, the same disorder, was displaying itself
unadorned: the only difference being that a fresh puddle had formed in
the middle of the village street. This want and neglect was noticeable
in the peasants' quarters equally with the quarters of the barin. In
the village a furious woman in greasy sackcloth was beating a poor
young wench within an ace of her life, and at the same time devoting
some third person to the care of all the devils in hell; further away
a couple of peasants were stoically contemplating the virago--one
scratching his rump as he did so, and the other yawning. The same yawn
was discernible in the buildings, for not a roof was there but had a
gaping hole in it. As he gazed at the scene Platon himself yawned.
Patch was superimposed upon patch, and, in place of a roof, one hut
had a piece of wooden fencing, while its crumbling window-frames were
stayed with sticks purloined from the barin's barn. Evidently the
system of upkeep in vogue was the system employed in the case of
Trishkin's coat--the system of cutting up the cuffs and the collar
into mendings for the elbows.
"No, I do not admire your way of doing things," was Chichikov's
unspoken comment when the inspection had been concluded and the party
had re-entered the house. Everywhere in the latter the visitors were
struck with the way in which poverty went with glittering, fashionable
profusion. On a writing-table lay a volume of Shakespeare, and, on an
occasional table, a carved ivory back-scratcher. The hostess, too, was
elegantly and fashionably attired, and devoted her whole conversation
to the town and the local theatre. Lastly, the children--bright, merry
little things--were well-dressed both as regards boys and girls. Yet
far better would it have been for them if they had been clad in plain
striped smocks, and running about the courtyard like peasant children.
Presently a visitor arrived in the shape of a chattering, gossiping
woman; whereupon the hostess carried her off to her own portion of the
house, and, the children following them, the men found themselves
"How much do you want for the property?" asked Chichikov of Khlobuev.
"I am afraid I must request you to name the lowest possible sum, since
I find the estate in a far worse condition than I had expected to do."
"Yes, it IS in a terrible state," agreed Khlobuev. "Nor is that the
whole of the story. That is to say, I will not conceal from you the
fact that, out of a hundred souls registered at the last revision,
only fifty survive, so terrible have been the ravages of cholera. And
of these, again, some have absconded; wherefore they too must be
reckoned as dead, seeing that, were one to enter process against them,
the costs would end in the property having to pass en bloc to the
legal authorities. For these reasons I am asking only thirty-five
thousand roubles for the estate."
Chichikov (it need hardly be said) started to haggle.
"Thirty-five thousand?" he cried. "Come, come! Surely you will accept
This was too much for Platon's conscience.
"Now, now, Paul Ivanovitch!" he exclaimed. "Take the property at the
price named, and have done with it. The estate is worth at least that
amount--so much so that, should you not be willing to give it, my
brother-in-law and I will club together to effect the purchase."
"That being so," said Chichikov, taken aback, "I beg to agree to the
price in question. At the same time, I must ask you to allow me to
defer payment of one-half of the purchase money until a year from
"No, no, Paul Ivanovitch. Under no circumstances could I do that. Pay
me half now, and the rest in . . . You see, I need the money for
the redemption of the mortgage."
 Here, in the original, a word is missing.
"That places me in a difficulty," remarked Chichikov. "Ten thousand
roubles is all that at the moment I have available." As a matter of
fact, this was not true, seeing that, counting also the money which he
had borrowed of Kostanzhoglo, he had at his disposal TWENTY thousand.
His real reason for hesitating was that he disliked the idea of making
so large a payment in a lump sum.
"I must repeat my request, Paul Ivanovitch," said Khlobuev, "--namely,
that you pay me at least fifteen thousand immediately."
"The odd five thousand _I_ will lend you," put in Platon to Chichikov.
"Indeed?" exclaimed Chichikov as he reflected: "So he also lends money!"
In the end Chichikov's dispatch-box was brought from the koliaska, and
Khlobuev received thence ten thousand roubles, together with a promise
that the remaining five thousand should be forthcoming on the morrow;
though the promise was given only after Chichikov had first proposed
that THREE thousand should be brought on the day named, and the rest
be left over for two or three days longer, if not for a still more
protracted period. The truth was that Paul Ivanovitch hated parting
with money. No matter how urgent a situation might have been, he would
still have preferred to pay a sum to-morrow rather than to-day. In
other words, he acted as we all do, for we all like keeping a
petitioner waiting. "Let him rub his back in the hall for a while," we
say. "Surely he can bide his time a little?" Yet of the fact that
every hour may be precious to the poor wretch, and that his business
may suffer from the delay, we take no account. "Good sir," we say,
"pray come again to-morrow. To-day I have no time to spare you."
"Where do you intend henceforth to live?" inquired Platon. "Have you
any other property to which you can retire?"
"No," replied Khlobuev. "I shall remove to the town, where I possess a
small villa. That would have been necessary, in any case, for the
children's sake. You see, they must have instruction in God's word,
and also lessons in music and dancing; and not for love or money can
these things be procured in the country.
"Nothing to eat, yet dancing lessons for his children!" reflected
"An extraordinary man!" was Platon's unspoken comment.
"However, we must contrive to wet our bargain somehow," continued
Khlobuev. "Hi, Kirushka! Bring that bottle of champagne."
"Nothing to eat, yet champagne to drink!" reflected Chichikov. As for
Platon, he did not know WHAT to think.
In Khlobuev's eyes it was de rigueur that he should provide a guest
with champagne; but, though he had sent to the town for some, he had
been met with a blank refusal to forward even a bottle of kvass on
credit. Only the discovery of a French dealer who had recently
transferred his business from St. Petersburg, and opened a connection
on a system of general credit, saved the situation by placing Khlobuev
under the obligation of patronising him.
The company drank three glassfuls apiece, and so grew more cheerful.
In particular did Khlobuev expand, and wax full of civility and
friendliness, and scatter witticisms and anecdotes to right and left.
What knowledge of men and the world did his utterances display! How
well and accurately could he divine things! With what appositeness did
he sketch the neighbouring landowners! How clearly he exposed their
faults and failings! How thoroughly he knew the story of certain
ruined gentry--the story of how, why, and through what cause they had
fallen upon evil days! With what comic originality could he describe
their little habits and customs!
In short, his guests found themselves charmed with his discourse, and
felt inclined to vote him a man of first-rate intellect.
"What most surprises me," said Chichikov, "is how, in view of your
ability, you come to be so destitute of means or resources."
"But I have plenty of both," said Khlobuev, and with that went on to
deliver himself of a perfect avalanche of projects. Yet those projects
proved to be so uncouth, so clumsy, so little the outcome of a
knowledge of men and things, that his hearers could only shrug their
shoulders and mentally exclaim: "Good Lord! What a difference between
worldly wisdom and the capacity to use it!" In every case the projects
in question were based upon the imperative necessity of at once
procuring from somewhere two hundred--or at least one
hundred--thousand roubles. That done (so Khlobuev averred), everything
would fall into its proper place, the holes in his pockets would
become stopped, his income would be quadrupled, and he would find
himself in a position to liquidate his debts in full. Nevertheless he
ended by saying: "What would you advise me to do? I fear that the
philanthropist who would lend me two hundred thousand roubles or even
a hundred thousand, does not exist. It is not God's will that he
"Good gracious!" inwardly ejaculated Chichikov. "To suppose that God
would send such a fool two hundred thousand roubles!"
"However," went on Khlobuev, "I possess an aunt worth three
millions--a pious old woman who gives freely to churches and
monasteries, but finds a difficulty in helping her neighbour. At the
same time, she is a lady of the old school, and worth having a peep
at. Her canaries alone number four hundred, and, in addition, there is
an army of pug-dogs, hangers-on, and servants. Even the youngest of
the servants is sixty, but she calls them all 'young fellows,' and if
a guest happens to offend her during dinner, she orders them to leave
him out when handing out the dishes. THERE'S a woman for you!"
"And what may her family name be?" asked Chichikov. "And where does
"She lives in the county town, and her name is Alexandra Ivanovna
"Then why do you not apply to her?" asked Platon earnestly. "It seems
to me that, once she realised the position of your family, she could
not possibly refuse you."
"Alas! nothing is to be looked for from that quarter," replied
Khlobuev. "My aunt is of a very stubborn disposition--a perfect stone
of a woman. Moreover, she has around her a sufficient band of
favourites already. In particular is there a fellow who is aiming for
a Governorship, and to that end has managed to insinuate himself into
the circle of her kinsfolk. By the way," the speaker added, turning to
Platon, "would you do me a favour? Next week I am giving a dinner to
the associated guilds of the town."
Platon stared. He had been unaware that both in our capitals and in
our provincial towns there exists a class of men whose lives are an
enigma--men who, though they will seem to have exhausted their
substance, and to have become enmeshed in debt, will suddenly be
reported as in funds, and on the point of giving a dinner! And though,
at this dinner, the guests will declare that the festival is bound to
be their host's last fling, and that for a certainty he will be haled
to prison on the morrow, ten years or more will elapse, and the rascal
will still be at liberty, even though, in the meanwhile, his debts
will have increased!
In the same way did the conduct of Khlobuev's menage afford a curious
phenomenon, for one day the house would be the scene of a solemn Te
Deum, performed by a priest in vestments, and the next of a stage play
performed by a troupe of French actors in theatrical costume. Again,
one day would see not a morsel of bread in the house, and the next day
a banquet and generous largesse given to a party of artists and
sculptors. During these seasons of scarcity (sufficiently severe to
have led any one but Khlobuev to seek suicide by hanging or shooting),
the master of the house would be preserved from rash action by his
strongly religious disposition, which, contriving in some curious way
to conform with his irregular mode of life, enabled him to fall back
upon reading the lives of saints, ascetics, and others of the type
which has risen superior to its misfortunes. And at such times his
spirit would become softened, his thoughts full of gentleness, and his
eyes wet with tears; he would fall to saying his prayers, and
invariably some strange coincidence would bring an answer thereto in
the shape of an unexpected measure of assistance. That is to say, some
former friend of his would remember him, and send him a trifle in the
way of money; or else some female visitor would be moved by his story
to let her impulsive, generous heart proffer him a handsome gift; or
else a suit whereof tidings had never even reached his ears would end
by being decided in his favour. And when that happened he would
reverently acknowledge the immensity of the mercy of Providence,
gratefully tender thanksgiving for the same, and betake himself again
to his irregular mode of existence.
"Somehow I feel sorry for the man," said Platon when he and Chichikov
had taken leave of their host, and left the house.
"Perhaps so, but he is a hopeless prodigal," replied the other.
"Personally I find it impossible to compassionate such fellows."
And with that the pair ceased to devote another thought to Khlobuev.
In the case of Platon, this was because he contemplated the fortunes
of his fellows with the lethargic, half-somnolent eye which he turned
upon all the rest of the world; for though the sight of distress of
others would cause his heart to contract and feel full of sympathy,
the impression thus produced never sank into the depths of his being.
Accordingly, before many minutes were over he had ceased to bestow a
single thought upon his late host. With Chichikov, however, things
were different. Whereas Platon had ceased to think of Khlobuev no more
than he had ceased to think of himself, Chichikov's mind had strayed
elsewhere, for the reason that it had become taken up with grave
meditation on the subject of the purchase just made. Suddenly finding
himself no longer a fictitious proprietor, but the owner of a real, an
actually existing, estate, he became contemplative, and his plans and
ideas assumed such a serious vein as imparted to his features an
unconsciously important air.
"Patience and hard work!" he muttered to himself. "The thing will not
be difficult, for with those two requisites I have been familiar from
the days of my swaddling clothes. Yes, no novelty will they be to me.
Yet, in middle age, shall I be able to compass the patience whereof I
was capable in my youth?"
However, no matter how he regarded the future, and no matter from what
point of view he considered his recent acquisition, he could see
nothing but advantage likely to accrue from the bargain. For one
thing, he might be able to proceed so that, first the whole of the
estate should be mortgaged, and then the better portions of land sold
outright. Or he might so contrive matters as to manage the property
for a while (and thus become a landowner like Kostanzhoglo, whose
advice, as his neighbour and his benefactor, he intended always to
follow), and then to dispose of the property by private treaty
(provided he did not wish to continue his ownership), and still to
retain in his hands the dead and abandoned souls. And another possible
coup occurred to his mind. That is to say, he might contrive to
withdraw from the district without having repaid Kostanzhoglo at all!
Truly a splendid idea! Yet it is only fair to say that the idea was
not one of Chichikov's own conception. Rather, it had presented
itself--mocking, laughing, and winking--unbidden. Yet the impudent,
the wanton thing! Who is the procreator of suddenly born ideas of the
kind? The thought that he was now a real, an actual, proprietor
instead of a fictitious--that he was now a proprietor of real land,
real rights of timber and pasture, and real serfs who existed not
only in the imagination, but also in veritable actuality--greatly
elated our hero. So he took to dancing up and down in his seat, to
rubbing his hands together, to winking at himself, to holding his
fist, trumpet-wise, to his mouth (while making believe to execute a
march), and even to uttering aloud such encouraging nicknames and
phrases as "bulldog" and "little fat capon." Then suddenly
recollecting that he was not alone, he hastened to moderate his
behaviour and endeavoured to stifle the endless flow of his good
spirits; with the result that when Platon, mistaking certain sounds
for utterances addressed to himself, inquired what his companion had
said, the latter retained the presence of mind to reply "Nothing."
Presently, as Chichikov gazed about him, he saw that for some time
past the koliaska had been skirting a beautiful wood, and that on
either side the road was bordered with an edging of birch trees, the
tenderly-green, recently-opened leaves of which caused their tall,
slender trunks to show up with the whiteness of a snowdrift. Likewise
nightingales were warbling from the recesses of the foliage, and some
wood tulips were glowing yellow in the grass. Next (and almost before
Chichikov had realised how he came to be in such a beautiful spot
when, but a moment before, there had been visible only open fields)
there glimmered among the trees the stony whiteness of a church, with,
on the further side of it, the intermittent, foliage-buried line of a
fence; while from the upper end of a village street there was
advancing to meet the vehicle a gentleman with a cap on his head, a
knotted cudgel in his hands, and a slender-limbed English dog by his
"This is my brother," said Platon. "Stop, coachman." And he descended
from the koliaska, while Chichikov followed his example. Yarb and the
strange dog saluted one another, and then the active, thin-legged,
slender-tongued Azor relinquished his licking of Yarb's blunt jowl,
licked Platon's hands instead, and, leaping upon Chichikov, slobbered
right into his ear.
The two brothers embraced.
"Really, Platon," said the gentleman (whose name was Vassili), "what
do you mean by treating me like this?"
"How so?" said Platon indifferently.
"What? For three days past I have seen and heard nothing of you! A
groom from Pietukh's brought your cob home, and told me you had
departed on an expedition with some barin. At least you might have
sent me word as to your destination and the probable length of your
absence. What made you act so? God knows what I have not been
"Does it matter?" rejoined Platon. "I forgot to send you word, and we
have been no further than Constantine's (who, with our sister, sends
you his greeting). By the way, may I introduce Paul Ivanovitch
The pair shook hands with one another. Then, doffing their caps, they
"What sort of man is this Chichikov?" thought Vassili. "As a rule my
brother Platon is not over-nice in his choice of acquaintances." And,
eyeing our hero as narrowly as civility permitted, he saw that his
appearance was that of a perfectly respectable individual.
Chichikov returned Vassili's scrutiny with a similar observance of the
dictates of civility, and perceived that he was shorter than Platon,
that his hair was of a darker shade, and that his features, though
less handsome, contained far more life, animation, and kindliness than
did his brother's. Clearly he indulged in less dreaming, though that
was an aspect which Chichikov little regarded.
"I have made up my mind to go touring our Holy Russia with Paul
Ivanovitch," said Platon. "Perhaps it will rid me of my melancholy."
"What has made you come to such a sudden decision?" asked the
perplexed Vassili (very nearly he added: "Fancy going travelling with
a man whose acquaintance you have just made, and who may turn out to
be a rascal or the devil knows what!" But, in spite of his distrust,
he contented himself with another covert scrutiny of Chichikov, and
this time came to the conclusion that there was no fault to be found
with his exterior).
The party turned to the right, and entered the gates of an ancient
courtyard attached to an old-fashioned house of a type no longer
built--the type which has huge gables supporting a high-pitched roof.
In the centre of the courtyard two great lime trees covered half the
surrounding space with shade, while beneath them were ranged a number
of wooden benches, and the whole was encircled with a ring of
blossoming lilacs and cherry trees which, like a beaded necklace,
reinforced the wooden fence, and almost buried it beneath their
clusters of leaves and flowers. The house, too, stood almost concealed
by this greenery, except that the front door and the windows peered
pleasantly through the foliage, and that here and there between the
stems of the trees there could be caught glimpses of the kitchen
regions, the storehouses, and the cellar. Lastly, around the whole
stood a grove, from the recesses of which came the echoing songs of
Involuntarily the place communicated to the soul a sort of quiet,
restful feeling, so eloquently did it speak of that care-free period
when every one lived on good terms with his neighbour, and all was
simple and unsophisticated. Vassili invited Chichikov to seat himself,
and the party approached, for that purpose, the benches under the lime
trees; after which a youth of about seventeen, and clad in a red
shirt, brought decanters containing various kinds of kvass (some of
them as thick as syrup, and others hissing like aerated lemonade),
deposited the same upon the table, and, taking up a spade which he had
left leaning against a tree, moved away towards the garden. The reason
of this was that in the brothers' household, as in that of
Kostanzhoglo, no servants were kept, since the whole staff were rated
as gardeners, and performed that duty in rotation--Vassili holding
that domestic service was not a specialised calling, but one to which
any one might contribute a hand, and therefore one which did not
require special menials to be kept for the purpose. Moreover, he held
that the average Russian peasant remains active and willing (rather
than lazy) only so long as he wears a shirt and a peasant's smock; but
that as soon as ever he finds himself put into a German tailcoat, he
becomes awkward, sluggish, indolent, disinclined to change his vest or
take a bath, fond of sleeping in his clothes, and certain to breed
fleas and bugs under the German apparel. And it may be that Vassili
was right. At all events, the brothers' peasantry were exceedingly
well clad--the women, in particular, having their head-dresses
spangled with gold, and the sleeves of their blouses embroidered after
the fashion of a Turkish shawl.
"You see here the species of kvass for which our house has long been
famous," said Vassili to Chichikov. The latter poured himself out a
glassful from the first decanter which he lighted upon, and found the
contents to be linden honey of a kind never tasted by him even in
Poland, seeing that it had a sparkle like that of champagne, and also
an effervescence which sent a pleasant spray from the mouth into the
"Nectar!" he proclaimed. Then he took some from a second decanter. It
proved to be even better than the first. "A beverage of beverages!" he
exclaimed. "At your respected brother-in-law's I tasted the finest
syrup which has ever come my way, but here I have tasted the very
"Yet the recipe for the syrup also came from here," said Vassili,
"seeing that my sister took it with her. By the way, to what part of
the country, and to what places, are you thinking of travelling?"
"To tell the truth," replied Chichikov, rocking himself to and fro on
the bench, and smoothing his knee with his hand, and gently inclining
his head, "I am travelling less on my own affairs than on the affairs
of others. That is to say, General Betristchev, an intimate friend,
and, I might add, a generous benefactor of mine, has charged me with
commissions to some of his relatives. Nevertheless, though relatives
are relatives, I may say that I am travelling on my own account as
well, in that, in addition to possible benefit to my health, I desire
to see the world and the whirligig of humanity, which constitute, to
so speak, a living book, a second course of education."
Vassili took thought. "The man speaks floridly," he reflected, "yet
his words contain a certain element of truth." After a moment's
silence he added to Platon: "I am beginning to think that the tour
might help you to bestir yourself. At present you are in a condition
of mental slumber. You have fallen asleep, not so much from weariness
or satiety, as through a lack of vivid perceptions and impressions.
For myself, I am your complete antithesis. I should be only too glad
if I could feel less acutely, if I could take things less to heart."
"Emotion has become a disease with you," said Platon. "You seek your
own troubles, and make your own anxieties."
"How can you say that when ready-made anxieties greet one at every
step?" exclaimed Vassili. "For example, have you heard of the trick
which Lienitsin has just played us--of his seizing the piece of vacant
land whither our peasants resort for their sports? That piece I would
not sell for all the money in the world. It has long been our
peasants' play-ground, and all the traditions of our village are bound
up with it. Moreover, for me, old custom is a sacred thing for which I
would gladly sacrifice everything else."
"Lienitsin cannot have known of this, or he would not have seized the
land," said Platon. "He is a newcomer, just arrived from St.
Petersburg. A few words of explanation ought to meet the case."
"But he DOES know of what I have stated; he DOES know of it.
Purposely I sent him word to that affect, yet he has returned me the
rudest of answers."
"Then go yourself and explain matters to him."
"No, I will not do that; he has tried to carry off things with too
high a hand. But YOU can go if you like."
"I would certainly go were it not that I scarcely like to interfere.
Also, I am a man whom he could easily hoodwink and outwit."
"Would it help you if _I_ were to go?" put in Chichikov. "Pray
enlighten me as to the matter."
Vassili glanced at the speaker, and thought to himself: "What a
passion the man has for travelling!"
"Yes, pray give me an idea of the kind of fellow," repeated Chichikov,
"and also outline to me the affair."
"I should be ashamed to trouble you with such an unpleasant
commission," replied Vassili. "He is a man whom I take to be an utter
rascal. Originally a member of a family of plain dvoriane in this
province, he entered the Civil Service in St. Petersburg, then married
some one's natural daughter in that city, and has returned to lord it
with a high hand. I cannot bear the tone he adopts. Our folk are by no
means fools. They do not look upon the current fashion as the Tsar's
ukaz any more than they look upon St. Petersburg as the Church."
"Naturally," said Chichikov. "But tell me more of the particulars of
"They are these. He needs additional land and, had he not acted as he
has done, I would have given him some land elsewhere for nothing; but,
as it is, the pestilent fellow has taken it into his head to--"
"I think I had better go and have a talk with him. That might settle
the affair. Several times have people charged me with similar
commissions, and never have they repented of it. General Betristchev
is an example."
"Nevertheless I am ashamed that you should be put to the annoyance of
having to converse with such a fellow."
[At this point there occurs a long hiatus.]
"And above all things, such a transaction would need to be carried
through in secret," said Chichikov. "True, the law does not forbid
such things, but there is always the risk of a scandal."
"Quite so, quite so," said Lienitsin with head bent down.
"Then we agree!" exclaimed Chichikov. "How charming! As I say, my
business is both legal and illegal. Though needing to effect a
mortgage, I desire to put no one to the risk of having to pay the two
roubles on each living soul; wherefore I have conceived the idea of
relieving landowners of that distasteful obligation by acquiring dead
and absconded souls who have failed to disappear from the revision
list. This enables me at once to perform an act of Christian charity
and to remove from the shoulders of our more impoverished proprietors
the burden of tax-payment upon souls of the kind specified. Should you
yourself care to do business with me, we will draw up a formal
purchase agreement as though the souls in question were still alive."
"But it would be such a curious arrangement," muttered Lienitsin,
moving his chair and himself a little further away. "It would be an
arrangement which, er--er--"
"Would involve you in no scandal whatever, seeing that the affair
would be carried through in secret. Moreover, between friends who are
well-disposed towards one another--"
Chichikov adopted a firmer and more decided tone. "I repeat that there
would be no scandal," he said. "The transaction would take place as
between good friends, and as between friends of mature age, and as
between friends of good status, and as between friends who know how to
keep their own counsel." And, so saying, he looked his interlocutor
frankly and generously in the eyes.
Nevertheless Lienitsin's resourcefulness and acumen in business
matters failed to relieve his mind of a certain perplexity--and the
less so since he had contrived to become caught in his own net. Yet,
in general, he possessed neither a love for nor a talent for underhand
dealings, and, had not fate and circumstances favoured Chichikov by
causing Lienitsin's wife to enter the room at that moment, things
might have turned out very differently from what they did. Madame was
a pale, thin, insignificant-looking young lady, but none the less a
lady who wore her clothes a la St. Petersburg, and cultivated the
society of persons who were unimpeachably comme il faut. Behind her,
borne in a nurse's arms, came the first fruits of the love of husband
and wife. Adopting his most telling method of approach (the method
accompanied with a sidelong inclination of the head and a sort of
hop), Chichikov hastened to greet the lady from the metropolis, and
then the baby. At first the latter started to bellow disapproval, but
the words "Agoo, agoo, my pet!" added to a little cracking of the
fingers and a sight of a beautiful seal on a watch chain, enabled
Chichikov to weedle the infant into his arms; after which he fell to
swinging it up and down until he had contrived to raise a smile on its
face--a circumstance which greatly delighted the parents, and finally
inclined the father in his visitor's favour. Suddenly,
however--whether from pleasure or from some other cause--the infant
"My God!" cried Madame. "He has gone and spoilt your frockcoat!"
True enough, on glancing downwards, Chichikov saw that the sleeve of
his brand-new garment had indeed suffered a hurt. "If I could catch
you alone, you little devil," he muttered to himself, "I'd shoot you!"
Host, hostess and nurse all ran for eau-de-Cologne, and from three
sides set themselves to rub the spot affected.
"Never mind, never mind; it is nothing," said Chichikov as he strove
to communicate to his features as cheerful an expression as possible.
"What does it matter what a child may spoil during the golden age of
To himself he remarked: "The little brute! Would it could be devoured
by wolves. It has made only too good a shot, the cussed young
How, after this--after the guest had shown such innocent affection for
the little one, and magnanimously paid for his so doing with a
brand-new suit--could the father remain obdurate? Nevertheless, to
avoid setting a bad example to the countryside, he and Chichikov
agreed to carry through the transaction PRIVATELY, lest, otherwise,
a scandal should arise.
"In return," said Chichikov, "would you mind doing me the following
favour? I desire to mediate in the matter of your difference with the
Brothers Platonov. I believe that you wish to acquire some additional
land? Is not that so?"
[Here there occurs a hiatus in the original.]
Everything in life fulfils its function, and Chichikov's tour in
search of a fortune was carried out so successfully that not a little
money passed into his pockets. The system employed was a good one: he
did not steal, he merely used. And every one of us at times does the
same: one man with regard to Government timber, and another with
regard to a sum belonging to his employer, while a third defrauds his
children for the sake of an actress, and a fourth robs his peasantry
for the sake of smart furniture or a carriage. What can one do when
one is surrounded on every side with roguery, and everywhere there are
insanely expensive restaurants, masked balls, and dances to the music
of gipsy bands? To abstain when every one else is indulging in these
things, and fashion commands, is difficult indeed!
Chichikov was for setting forth again, but the roads had now got into
a bad state, and, in addition, there was in preparation a second
fair--one for the dvoriane only. The former fair had been held for the
sale of horses, cattle, cheese, and other peasant produce, and the
buyers had been merely cattle-jobbers and kulaks; but this time the
function was to be one for the sale of manorial produce which had been
bought up by wholesale dealers at Nizhni Novgorod, and then
transferred hither. To the fair, of course, came those ravishers of
the Russian purse who, in the shape of Frenchmen with pomades and
Frenchwomen with hats, make away with money earned by blood and hard
work, and, like the locusts of Egypt (to use Kostanzhoglo's term) not
only devour their prey, but also dig holes in the ground and leave
behind their eggs.
Although, unfortunately, the occurrence of a bad harvest retained many
landowners at their country houses, the local tchinovniks (whom the
failure of the harvest did NOT touch) proceeded to let themselves
go--as also, to their undoing, did their wives. The reading of books
of the type diffused, in these modern days, for the inoculation of
humanity with a craving for new and superior amenities of life had
caused every one to conceive a passion for experimenting with the
latest luxury; and to meet this want the French wine merchant opened a
new establishment in the shape of a restaurant as had never before
been heard of in the province--a restaurant where supper could be
procured on credit as regarded one-half, and for an unprecedentedly
low sum as regarded the other. This exactly suited both heads of
boards and clerks who were living in hope of being able some day to
resume their bribes-taking from suitors. There also developed a
tendency to compete in the matter of horses and liveried flunkeys;
with the result that despite the damp and snowy weather exceedingly
elegant turnouts took to parading backwards and forwards. Whence these
equipages had come God only knows, but at least they would not have
disgraced St. Petersburg. From within them merchants and attorneys
doffed their caps to ladies, and inquired after their health, and
likewise it became a rare sight to see a bearded man in a rough fur
cap, since every one now went about clean-shaven and with dirty teeth,
after the European fashion.
"Sir, I beg of you to inspect my goods," said a tradesman as Chichikov
was passing his establishment. "Within my doors you will find a large
variety of clothing."
"Have you a cloth of bilberry-coloured check?" inquired the person
"I have cloths of the finest kind," replied the tradesman, raising his
cap with one hand, and pointing to his shop with the other. Chichikov
entered, and in a trice the proprietor had dived beneath the counter,
and appeared on the other side of it, with his back to his wares and
his face towards the customer. Leaning forward on the tips of his
fingers, and indicating his merchandise with just the suspicion of a
nod, he requested the gentleman to specify exactly the species of
cloth which he required.
"A cloth with an olive-coloured or a bottle-tinted spot in its
pattern--anything in the nature of bilberry," explained Chichikov.
"That being so, sir, I may say that I am about to show you clothes of
a quality which even our illustrious capitals could not surpass. Hi,
boy! Reach down that roll up there--number 34. No, NOT that one,
fool! Such fellows as you are always too good for your job.
There--hand it to me. This is indeed a nice pattern!"
Unfolding the garment, the tradesman thrust it close to Chichikov's
nose in order that he might not only handle, but also smell it.
"Excellent, but not what I want," pronounced Chichikov. "Formerly I
was in the Custom's Department, and therefore wear none but cloth of
the latest make. What I want is of a ruddier pattern than this--not
exactly a bottle-tinted pattern, but something approaching bilberry."
"I understand, sir. Of course you require only the very newest thing.
A cloth of that kind I DO possess, sir, and though excessive in
price, it is of a quality to match."
Carrying the roll of stuff to the light--even stepping into the street
for the purpose--the shopman unfolded his prize with the words, "A
truly beautiful shade! A cloth of smoked grey, shot with flame colour!"
The material met with the customer's approval, a price was agreed
upon, and with incredible celerity the vendor made up the purchase
into a brown-paper parcel, and stowed it away in Chichikov's koliaska.
At this moment a voice asked to be shown a black frockcoat.
"The devil take me if it isn't Khlobuev!" muttered our hero, turning
his back upon the newcomer. Unfortunately the other had seen him.
"Come, come, Paul Ivanovitch!" he expostulated. "Surely you do not
intend to overlook me? I have been searching for you everywhere, for I
have something important to say to you."
"My dear sir, my very dear sir," said Chichikov as he pressed
Khlobuev's hand, "I can assure you that, had I the necessary leisure,
I should at all times be charmed to converse with you." And mentally
he added: "Would that the Evil One would fly away with you!"
Almost at the same time Murazov, the great landowner, entered the
shop. As he did so our hero hastened to exclaim: "Why, it is Athanasi
Vassilievitch! How ARE you, my very dear sir?"
"Well enough," replied Murazov, removing his cap (Khlobuev and the
shopman had already done the same). "How, may I ask, are YOU?"
"But poorly," replied Chichikov, "for of late I have been troubled
with indigestion, and my sleep is bad. I do not get sufficient
However, instead of probing deeper into the subject of Chichikov's
ailments, Murazov turned to Khlobuev.
"I saw you enter the shop," he said, "and therefore followed you, for
I have something important for your ear. Could you spare me a minute
"Certainly, certainly," said Khlobuev, and the pair left the shop
"I wonder what is afoot between them," said Chichikov to himself.
"A wise and noble gentleman, Athanasi Vassilievitch!" remarked the
tradesman. Chichikov made no reply save a gesture.
"Paul Ivanovitch, I have been looking for you everywhere," Lienitsin's
voice said from behind him, while again the tradesman hastened to
remove his cap. "Pray come home with me, for I have something to say
Chichikov scanned the speaker's face, but could make nothing of it.
Paying the tradesman for the cloth, he left the shop.
Meanwhile Murazov had conveyed Khlobuev to his rooms.
"Tell me," he said to his guest, "exactly how your affairs stand. I
take it that, after all, your aunt left you something?"
"It would be difficult to say whether or not my affairs are improved,"
replied Khlobuev. "True, fifty souls and thirty thousand roubles came
to me from Madame Khanasarova, but I had to pay them away to satisfy
my debts. Consequently I am once more destitute. But the important
point is that there was trickery connected with the legacy, and
shameful trickery at that. Yes, though it may surprise you, it is a
fact that that fellow Chichikov--"
"Yes, Semen Semenovitch, but, before you go on to speak of Chichikov,
pray tell me something about yourself, and how much, in your opinion,
would be sufficient to clear you of your difficulties?"
"My difficulties are grievous," replied Khlobuev. "To rid myself of
them, and also to have enough to go on with, I should need to acquire
at least a hundred thousand roubles, if not more. In short, things are
becoming impossible for me."
"And, had you the money, what should you do with it?"
"I should rent a tenement, and devote myself to the education of my
children. Not a thought should I give to myself, for my career is
over, seeing that it is impossible for me to re-enter the Civil
Service and I am good for nothing else."
"Nevertheless, when a man is leading an idle life he is apt to incur
temptations which shun his better-employed brother."
"Yes, but beyond question I am good for nothing, so broken is my
health, and such a martyr I am to dyspepsia."
"But how to you propose to live without working? How can a man like
you exist without a post or a position of any kind? Look around you at
the works of God. Everything has its proper function, and pursues its
proper course. Even a stone can be used for one purpose or another.
How, then, can it be right for a man who is a thinking being to remain
"But I should not be a drone, for I should employ myself with the
education of my children."
"No, Semen Semenovitch--no: THAT you would find the hardest task of
all. For how can a man educate his children who has never even
educated himself? Instruction can be imparted to children only through
the medium of example; and would a life like yours furnish them with a
profitable example--a life which has been spent in idleness and the
playing of cards? No, Semen Semenovitch. You had far better hand your
children over to me. Otherwise they will be ruined. Do not think that
I am jesting. Idleness has wrecked your life, and you must flee from
it. Can a man live with nothing to keep him in place? Even a
journeyman labourer who earns the barest pittance may take an interest
in his occupation."
"Athanasi Vassilievitch, I have tried to overcome myself, but what
further resource lies open to me? Can I who am old and incapable
re-enter the Civil Service and spend year after year at a desk with
youths who are just starting their careers? Moreover, I have lost the
trick of taking bribes; I should only hinder both myself and others;
while, as you know, it is a department which has an established caste
of its own. Therefore, though I have considered, and even attempted to
obtain, every conceivable post, I find myself incompetent for them
all. Only in a monastery should I--"
"Nay, nay. Monasteries, again, are only for those who have worked. To
those who have spent their youth in dissipation such havens say what
the ant said to the dragonfly--namely, 'Go you away, and return to
your dancing.' Yes, even in a monastery do folk toil and toil--they do
not sit playing whist." Murazov looked at Khlobuev, and added: "Semen
Semenovitch, you are deceiving both yourself and me."
Poor Khlobuev could not utter a word in reply, and Murazov began to
feel sorry for him.
"Listen, Semen Semenovitch," he went on. "I know that you say your
prayers, and that you go to church, and that you observe both Matins
and Vespers, and that, though averse to early rising, you leave your
bed at four o'clock in the morning before the household fires have
"Ah, Athanasi Vassilievitch," said Khlobuev, "that is another matter
altogether. That I do, not for man's sake, but for the sake of Him who
has ordered all things here on earth. Yes, I believe that He at least
can feel compassion for me, that He at least, though I be foul and
lowly, will pardon me and receive me when all men have cast me out,
and my best friend has betrayed me and boasted that he has done it for
a good end."
Khlobuev's face was glowing with emotion, and from the older man's
eyes also a tear had started.
"You will do well to hearken unto Him who is merciful," he said. "But
remember also that, in the eyes of the All-Merciful, honest toil is of
equal merit with a prayer. Therefore take unto yourself whatsoever
task you may, and do it as though you were doing it, not unto man, but
unto God. Even though to your lot there should fall but the cleaning
of a floor, clean that floor as though it were being cleaned for Him
alone. And thence at least this good you will reap: that there will
remain to you no time for what is evil--for card playing, for
feasting, for all the life of this gay world. Are you acquainted with
"Yes, not only am I acquainted with him, but I also greatly respect
"Time was when Ivan Potapitch was a merchant worth half a million
roubles. In everything did he look but for gain, and his affairs
prospered exceedingly, so much so that he was able to send his son to
be educated in France, and to marry his daughter to a General. And
whether in his office or at the Exchange, he would stop any friend
whom he encountered and carry him off to a tavern to drink, and spend
whole days thus employed. But at last he became bankrupt, and God sent
him other misfortunes also. His son! Ah, well! Ivan Potapitch is now
my steward, for he had to begin life over again. Yet once more his
affairs are in order, and, had it been his wish, he could have
restarted in business with a capital of half a million roubles. 'But
no,' he said. 'A steward am I, and a steward will I remain to the end;
for, from being full-stomached and heavy with dropsy, I have become
strong and well.' Not a drop of liquor passes his lips, but only
cabbage soup and gruel. And he prays as none of the rest of us pray,
and he helps the poor as none of the rest of us help them; and to this
he would add yet further charity if his means permitted him to do so."
Poor Khlobuev remained silent, as before.
The elder man took his two hands in his.
"Semen Semenovitch," he said, "you cannot think how much I pity you,
or how much I have had you in my thoughts. Listen to me. In the
monastery there is a recluse who never looks upon a human face. Of all
men whom I know he has the broadest mind, and he breaks not his
silence save to give advice. To him I went and said that I had a
friend (though I did not actually mention your name) who was in great
trouble of soul. Suddenly the recluse interrupted me with the words:
'God's work first, and our own last. There is need for a church to be
built, but no money wherewith to build it. Money must be collected to
that end.' Then he shut to the wicket. I wondered to myself what this
could mean, and concluded that the recluse had been unwilling to
accord me his counsel. Next I repaired to the Archimandrite, and had
scarce reached his door when he inquired of me whether I could commend
to him a man meet to be entrusted with the collection of alms for a
church--a man who should belong to the dvoriane or to the more
lettered merchants, but who would guard the trust as he would guard
the salvation of his soul. On the instant thought I to myself: 'Why
should not the Holy Father appoint my friend Semen Semenovitch? For
the way of suffering would benefit him greatly; and as he passed with
his ledger from landowner to peasant, and from peasant to townsman, he
would learn where folk dwell, and who stands in need of aught, and
thus would become better acquainted with the countryside than folk who
dwell in cities. And, thus become, he would find that his services
were always in demand.' Only of late did the Governor-General say to
me that, could he but be furnished with the name of a secretary who
should know his work not only by the book but also by experience, he
would give him a great sum, since nothing is to be learned by the
former means, and, through it, much confusion arises."
"You confound me, you overwhelm me!" said Khlobuev, staring at his
companion in open-eyed astonishment. "I can scarcely believe that your
words are true, seeing that for such a trust an active, indefatigable
man would be necessary. Moreover, how could I leave my wife and
children unprovided for?"
"Have no fear," said Murazov, "I myself will take them under my care,
as well as procure for the children a tutor. Far better and nobler
were it for you to be travelling with a wallet, and asking alms on
behalf of God, then to be remaining here and asking alms for yourself
alone. Likewise, I will furnish you with a tilt-waggon, so that you
may be saved some of the hardships of the journey, and thus be
preserved in good health. Also, I will give you some money for the
journey, in order that, as you pass on your way, you may give to those
who stand in greater need than their fellows. Thus, if, before giving,
you assure yourself that the recipient of the alms is worthy of the
same, you will do much good; and as you travel you will become
acquainted with all men and sundry, and they will treat you, not as a
tchinovnik to be feared, but as one to whom, as a petitioner on behalf
of the Church, they may unloose their tongues without peril."
"I feel that the scheme is a splendid one, and would gladly bear my
part in it were it not likely to exceed my strength."
"What is there that does NOT exceed your strength?" said Murazov.
"Nothing is wholly proportionate to it--everything surpasses it. Help
from above is necessary: otherwise we are all powerless. Strength
comes of prayer, and of prayer alone. When a man crosses himself, and
cries, 'Lord, have mercy upon me!' he soon stems the current and wins
to the shore. Nor need you take any prolonged thought concerning this
matter. All that you need do is to accept it as a commission sent of
God. The tilt-waggon can be prepared for you immediately; and then, as
soon as you have been to the Archimandrite for your book of accounts
and his blessing, you will be free to start on your journey."
"I submit myself to you, and accept the commission as a divine trust."
And even as Khlobuev spoke he felt renewed vigour and confidence arise
in his soul, and his mind begin to awake to a sense of hopefulness of
eventually being able to put to flight his troubles. And even as it
was, the world seemed to be growing dim to his eyes. . . .
Meanwhile, plea after plea had been presented to the legal
authorities, and daily were relatives whom no one had before heard of
putting in an appearance. Yes, like vultures to a corpse did these
good folk come flocking to the immense property which Madam Khanasarov
had left behind her. Everywhere were heard rumours against Chichikov,
rumours with regard to the validity of the second will, rumours with
regard to will number one, and rumours of larceny and concealment of
funds. Also, there came to hand information with regard both to
Chichikov's purchase of dead souls and to his conniving at contraband
goods during his service in the Customs Department. In short, every
possible item of evidence was exhumed, and the whole of his previous
history investigated. How the authorities had come to suspect and to
ascertain all this God only knows, but the fact remains that there had
fallen into the hands of those authorities information concerning
matters of which Chichikov had believed only himself and the four
walls to be aware. True, for a time these matters remained within the
cognisance of none but the functionaries concerned, and failed to
reach Chichikov's ears; but at length a letter from a confidential
friend gave him reason to think that the fat was about to fall into
the fire. Said the letter briefly: "Dear sir, I beg to advise you that
possibly legal trouble is pending, but that you have no cause for
uneasiness, seeing that everything will be attended to by yours very
truly." Yet, in spite of its tenor, the epistle reassured its
recipient. "What a genius the fellow is!" thought Chichikov to
himself. Next, to complete his satisfaction, his tailor arrived with
the new suit which he had ordered. Not without a certain sense of
pride did our hero inspect the frockcoat of smoked grey shot with
flame colour and look at it from every point of view, and then try on
the breeches--the latter fitting him like a picture, and quite
concealing any deficiencies in the matter of his thighs and calves
(though, when buckled behind, they left his stomach projecting like a
drum). True, the customer remarked that there appeared to be a slight
tightness under the right armpit, but the smiling tailor only rejoined
that that would cause the waist to fit all the better. "Sir," he said
triumphantly, "you may rest assured that the work has been executed
exactly as it ought to have been executed. No one, except in St.
Petersburg, could have done it better." As a matter of fact, the
tailor himself hailed from St. Petersburg, but called himself on his
signboard "Foreign Costumier from London and Paris"--the truth being
that by the use of a double-barrelled flourish of cities superior to
mere "Karlsruhe" and "Copenhagen" he designed to acquire business and
cut out his local rivals.
Chichikov graciously settled the man's account, and, as soon as he had
gone, paraded at leisure, and con amore, and after the manner of an
artist of aesthetic taste, before the mirror. Somehow he seemed to
look better than ever in the suit, for his cheeks had now taken on a
still more interesting air, and his chin an added seductiveness, while
his white collar lent tone to his neck, the blue satin tie heightened
the effect of the collar, the fashionable dickey set off the tie, the
rich satin waistcoat emphasised the dickey, and the
smoked-grey-shot-with-flame-colour frockcoat, shining like silk,
splendidly rounded off the whole. When he turned to the right he
looked well: when he turned to the left he looked even better. In
short, it was a costume worthy of a Lord Chamberlain or the species of
dandy who shrinks from swearing in the Russian language, but amply
relieves his feelings in the language of France. Next, inclining his
head slightly to one side, our hero endeavoured to pose as though he
were addressing a middle-aged lady of exquisite refinement; and the
result of these efforts was a picture which any artist might have
yearned to portray. Next, his delight led him gracefully to execute a
hop in ballet fashion, so that the wardrobe trembled and a bottle of
eau-de-Cologne came crashing to the floor. Yet even this contretemps
did not upset him; he merely called the offending bottle a fool, and
then debated whom first he should visit in his attractive guise.
Suddenly there resounded through the hall a clatter of spurred heels,
and then the voice of a gendarme saying: "You are commanded to present
yourself before the Governor-General!" Turning round, Chichikov stared
in horror at the spectacle presented; for in the doorway there was
standing an apparition wearing a huge moustache, a helmet surmounted
with a horsehair plume, a pair of crossed shoulder-belts, and a
gigantic sword! A whole army might have been combined into a single
individual! And when Chichikov opened his mouth to speak the
apparition repeated, "You are commanded to present yourself before the
Governor-General," and at the same moment our hero caught sight both
of a second apparition outside the door and of a coach waiting beneath
the window. What was to be done? Nothing whatever was possible. Just
as he stood--in his smoked-grey-shot-with-flame-colour suit--he had
then and there to enter the vehicle, and, shaking in every limb, and
with a gendarme seated by his side, to start for the residence of the
And even in the hall of that establishment no time was given him to
pull himself together, for at once an aide-de-camp said: "Go inside
immediately, for the Prince is awaiting you." And as in a dream did
our hero see a vestibule where couriers were being handed dispatches,
and then a salon which he crossed with the thought, "I suppose I am
not to be allowed a trial, but shall be sent straight to Siberia!" And
at the thought his heart started beating in a manner which the most
jealous of lovers could not have rivalled. At length there opened a
door, and before him he saw a study full of portfolios, ledgers, and
dispatch-boxes, with, standing behind them, the gravely menacing
figure of the Prince.
"There stands my executioner," thought Chichikov to himself. "He is
about to tear me to pieces as a wolf tears a lamb."
Indeed, the Prince's lips were simply quivering with rage.
"Once before did I spare you," he said, "and allow you to remain in
the town when you ought to have been in prison: yet your only return
for my clemency has been to revert to a career of fraud--and of fraud
as dishonourable as ever a man engaged in."
"To what dishonourable fraud do you refer, your Highness?" asked
Chichikov, trembling from head to foot.
The Prince approached, and looked him straight in the eyes.
"Let me tell you," he said, "that the woman whom you induced to
witness a certain will has been arrested, and that you will be
confronted with her."
The world seemed suddenly to grow dim before Chichikov's sight.
"Your Highness," he gasped, "I will tell you the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth. I am guilty--yes, I am guilty; but I am not so
guilty as you think, for I was led away by rascals."