Part 8 out of 8
"That any one can have led you away is impossible," retorted the
Prince. "Recorded against your name there stand more felonies than
even the most hardened liar could have invented. I believe that never
in your life have you done a deed not innately dishonourable--that not
a kopeck have you ever obtained by aught but shameful methods of
trickery and theft, the penalty for which is Siberia and the knut. But
enough of this! From this room you will be conveyed to prison, where,
with other rogues and thieves, you will be confined until your trial
may come on. And this is lenient treatment on my part, for you are
worse, far worse, than the felons who will be your companions. THEY
are but poor men in smocks and sheepskins, whereas YOU--" Without
concluding his words, the Prince shot a glance at Chichikov's
Then he touched a bell.
"Your Highness," cried Chichikov, "have mercy upon me! You are the
father of a family! Spare me for the sake of my aged mother!"
"Rubbish!" exclaimed the Prince. "Even as before you besought me for
the sake of a wife and children whom you did not even possess, so now
you would speak to me of an aged mother!"
"Your Highness," protested Chichikov, "though I am a wretch and the
lowest of rascals, and though it is true that I lied when I told you
that I possessed a wife and children, I swear that, as God is my
witness, it has always been my DESIRE to possess a wife, and to
fulfil all the duties of a man and a citizen, and to earn the respect
of my fellows and the authorities. But what could be done against the
force of circumstances? By hook or by crook I have ever been forced to
win a living, though confronted at every step by wiles and temptations
and traitorous enemies and despoilers. So much has this been so that
my life has, throughout, resembled a barque tossed by tempestuous
waves, a barque driven at the mercy of the winds. Ah, I am only a man,
And in a moment the tears had gushed in torrents from his eyes, and he
had fallen forward at the Prince's feet--fallen forward just as he
was, in his smoked-grey-shot-with-flame-colour frockcoat, his velvet
waistcoat, his satin tie, and his exquisitely fitting breeches, while
from his neatly brushed pate, as again and again he struck his hand
against his forehead, there came an odorous whiff of best-quality
"Away with him!" exclaimed the Prince to the gendarme who had just
entered. "Summon the escort to remove him."
"Your Highness!" Chichikov cried again as he clasped the Prince's
knees; but, shuddering all over, and struggling to free himself, the
Prince repeated his order for the prisoner's removal.
"Your Highness, I say that I will not leave this room until you have
accorded me mercy!" cried Chichikov as he clung to the Prince's leg
with such tenacity that, frockcoat and all, he began to be dragged
along the floor.
"Away with him, I say!" once more the Prince exclaimed with the sort
of indefinable aversion which one feels at the sight of a repulsive
insect which he cannot summon up the courage to crush with his boot.
So convulsively did the Prince shudder that Chichikov, clinging to his
leg, received a kick on the nose. Yet still the prisoner retained his
hold; until at length a couple of burly gendarmes tore him away and,
grasping his arms, hurried him--pale, dishevelled, and in that
strange, half-conscious condition into which a man sinks when he sees
before him only the dark, terrible figure of death, the phantom which
is so abhorrent to all our natures--from the building. But on the
threshold the party came face to face with Murazov, and in Chichikov's
heart the circumstance revived a ray of hope. Wresting himself with
almost supernatural strength from the grasp of the escorting
gendarmes, he threw himself at the feet of the horror-stricken old
"Paul Ivanovitch," Murazov exclaimed, "what has happened to you?"
"Save me!" gasped Chichikov. "They are taking me away to prison and
Yet almost as he spoke the gendarmes seized him again, and hurried him
away so swiftly that Murazov's reply escaped his ears.
A damp, mouldy cell which reeked of soldiers' boots and leggings, an
unvarnished table, two sorry chairs, a window closed with a grating, a
crazy stove which, while letting the smoke emerge through its cracks,
gave out no heat--such was the den to which the man who had just begun
to taste the sweets of life, and to attract the attention of his
fellows with his new suit of smoked-grey-shot-with-flame-colour, now
found himself consigned. Not even necessaries had he been allowed to
bring away with him, nor his dispatch-box which contained all his
booty. No, with the indenture deeds of the dead souls, it was lodged
in the hands of a tchinovnik; and as he thought of these things
Chichikov rolled about the floor, and felt the cankerous worm of
remorse seize upon and gnaw at his heart, and bite its way ever
further and further into that heart so defenceless against its
ravages, until he made up his mind that, should he have to suffer
another twenty-four hours of this misery, there would no longer be a
Chichikov in the world. Yet over him, as over every one, there hung
poised the All-Saving Hand; and, an hour after his arrival at the
prison, the doors of the gaol opened to admit Murazov.
Compared with poor Chichikov's sense of relief when the old man
entered his cell, even the pleasure experienced by a thirsty, dusty
traveller when he is given a drink of clear spring water to cool his
dry, parched throat fades into insignificance.
"Ah, my deliverer!" he cried as he rose from the floor, where he had
been grovelling in heartrending paroxysms of grief. Seizing the old
man's hand, he kissed it and pressed it to his bosom. Then, bursting
into tears, he added: "God Himself will reward you for having come to
visit an unfortunate wretch!"
Murazov looked at him sorrowfully, and said no more than "Ah, Paul
Ivanovitch, Paul Ivanovitch! What has happened?"
"What has happened?" cried Chichikov. "I have been ruined by an
accursed woman. That was because I could not do things in
moderation--I was powerless to stop myself in time, Satan tempted me,
and drove me from my senses, and bereft me of human prudence. Yes,
truly I have sinned, I have sinned! Yet how came I so to sin? To think
that a dvorianin--yes, a dvorianin--should be thrown into prison
without process or trial! I repeat, a dvorianin! Why was I not given
time to go home and collect my effects? Whereas now they are left with
no one to look after them! My dispatch-box, my dispatch-box! It
contained my whole property, all that my heart's blood and years of
toil and want have been needed to acquire. And now everything will be
stolen, Athanasi Vassilievitch--everything will be taken from me! My
And, unable to stand against the torrent of grief which came rushing
over his heart once more, he sobbed aloud in tones which penetrated
even the thickness of the prison walls, and made dull echoes awake
behind them. Then, tearing off his satin tie, and seizing by the
collar, the smoked-grey-shot-with-flame-colour frockcoat, he stripped
the latter from his shoulders.
"Ah, Paul Ivanovitch," said the old man, "how even now the property
which you have acquired is blinding your eyes, and causing you to fail
to realise your terrible position!"
"Yes, my good friend and benefactor," wailed poor Chichikov
despairingly, and clasping Murazov by the knees. "Yet save me if you
can! The Prince is fond of you, and would do anything for your sake."
"No, Paul Ivanovitch; however much I might wish to save you, and
however much I might try to do so, I could not help you as you desire;
for it is to the power of an inexorable law, and not to the authority
of any one man, that you have rendered yourself subject."
"Satan tempted me, and has ended by making of me an outcast from the
human race!" Chichikov beat his head against the wall and struck the
table with his fist until the blood spurted from his hand. Yet neither
his head nor his hand seemed to be conscious of the least pain.
"Calm yourself, Paul Ivanovitch," said Murazov. "Calm yourself, and
consider how best you can make your peace with God. Think of your
miserable soul, and not of the judgment of man."
"I will, Athanasi Vassilievitch, I will. But what a fate is mine! Did
ever such a fate befall a man? To think of all the patience with which
I have gathered my kopecks, of all the toil and trouble which I have
endured! Yet what I have done has not been done with the intention of
robbing any one, nor of cheating the Treasury. Why, then, did I gather
those kopecks? I gathered them to the end that one day I might be able
to live in plenty, and also to have something to leave to the wife and
children whom, for the benefit and welfare of my country, I hoped
eventually to win and maintain. That was why I gathered those kopecks.
True, I worked by devious methods--that I fully admit; but what else
could I do? And even devious methods I employed only when I saw that
the straight road would not serve my purpose so well as a crooked.
Moreover, as I toiled, the appetite for those methods grew upon me.
Yet what I took I took only from the rich; whereas villains exist who,
while drawing thousands a year from the Treasury, despoil the poor,
and take from the man with nothing even that which he has. Is it not
the cruelty of fate, therefore, that, just when I was beginning to
reap the harvest of my toil--to touch it, so to speak, with the tip of
one finger--there should have arisen a sudden storm which has sent my
barque to pieces on a rock? My capital had nearly reached the sum of
three hundred thousand roubles, and a three-storied house was as good
as mine, and twice over I could have bought a country estate. Why,
then, should such a tempest have burst upon me? Why should I have
sustained such a blow? Was not my life already like a barque tossed to
and fro by the billows? Where is Heaven's justice--where is the reward
for all my patience, for my boundless perseverance? Three times did I
have to begin life afresh, and each time that I lost my all I began
with a single kopeck at a moment when other men would have given
themselves up to despair and drink. How much did I not have to
overcome. How much did I not have to bear! Every kopeck which I gained
I had to make with my whole strength; for though, to others, wealth
may come easily, every coin of mine had to be 'forged with a nail
worth three kopecks' as the proverb has it. With such a nail--with the
nail of an iron, unwearying perseverance--did _I_ forge my kopecks."
Convulsively sobbing with a grief which he could not repress,
Chichikov sank upon a chair, tore from his shoulders the last ragged,
trailing remnants of his frockcoat, and hurled them from him. Then,
thrusting his fingers into the hair which he had once been so careful
to preserve, he pulled it out by handfuls at a time, as though he
hoped through physical pain to deaden the mental agony which he was
Meanwhile Murazov sat gazing in silence at the unwonted spectacle of a
man who had lately been mincing with the gait of a worldling or a
military fop now writhing in dishevelment and despair as he poured out
upon the hostile forces by which human ingenuity so often finds itself
outwitted a flood of invective.
"Paul Ivanovitch, Paul Ivanovitch," at length said Murazov, "what
could not each of us rise to be did we but devote to good ends the
same measure of energy and of patience which we bestow upon unworthy
objects! How much good would not you yourself have effected! Yet I do
not grieve so much for the fact that you have sinned against your
fellow as I grieve for the fact that you have sinned against yourself
and the rich store of gifts and opportunities which has been committed
to your care. Though originally destined to rise, you have wandered
from the path and fallen."
"Ah, Athanasi Vassilievitch," cried poor Chichikov, clasping his
friends hands, "I swear to you that, if you would but restore me my
freedom, and recover for me my lost property, I would lead a different
life from this time forth. Save me, you who alone can work my
deliverance! Save me!"
"How can I do that? So to do I should need to procure the setting
aside of a law. Again, even if I were to make the attempt, the Prince
is a strict administrator, and would refuse on any consideration to
"Yes, but for you all things are possible. It is not the law that
troubles me: with that I could find a means to deal. It is the fact
that for no offence at all I have been cast into prison, and treated
like a dog, and deprived of my papers and dispatch-box and all my
property. Save me if you can."
Again clasping the old man's knees, he bedewed them with his tears.
"Paul Ivanovitch," said Murazov, shaking his head, "how that property
of yours still seals your eyes and ears, so that you cannot so much as
listen to the promptings of your own soul!"
"Ah, I will think of my soul, too, if only you will save me."
"Paul Ivanovitch," the old man began again, and then stopped. For a
little while there was a pause.
"Paul Ivanovitch," at length he went on," to save you does not lie
within my power. Surely you yourself see that? But, so far as I can, I
will endeavour to, at all events, lighten your lot and procure your
eventual release. Whether or not I shall succeed I do not know; but I
will make the attempt. And should I, contrary to my expectations,
prove successful, I beg of you, in return for these my efforts, to
renounce all thought of benefit from the property which you have
acquired. Sincerely do I assure you that, were I myself to be deprived
of my property (and my property greatly exceeds yours in magnitude), I
should not shed a single tear. It is not the property of which men can
deprive us that matters, but the property of which no one on earth can
deprive or despoil us. You are a man who has seen something of
life--to use your own words, you have been a barque tossed hither and
thither by tempestuous waves: yet still will there be left to you a
remnant of substance on which to live, and therefore I beseech you to
settle down in some quiet nook where there is a church, and where none
but plain, good-hearted folk abide. Or, should you feel a yearning to
leave behind you posterity, take in marriage a good woman who shall
bring you, not money, but an aptitude for simple, modest domestic
life. But this life--the life of turmoil, with its longings and its
temptations--forget, and let it forget YOU; for there is no peace in
it. See for yourself how, at every step, it brings one but hatred and
treachery and deceit."
"Indeed, yes!" agreed the repentant Chichikov. "Gladly will I do as
you wish, since for many a day past have I been longing to amend my
life, and to engage in husbandry, and to reorder my affairs. A demon,
the tempter Satan himself, has beguiled me and led me from the right
Suddenly there had recurred to Chichikov long-unknown, long-unfamiliar
feelings. Something seemed to be striving to come to life again in
him--something dim and remote, something which had been crushed out of
his boyhood by the dreary, deadening education of his youthful days,
by his desolate home, by his subsequent lack of family ties, by the
poverty and niggardliness of his early impressions, by the grim eye of
fate--an eye which had always seemed to be regarding him as through a
misty, mournful, frost-encrusted window-pane, and to be mocking at his
struggles for freedom. And as these feelings came back to the penitent
a groan burst from his lips, and, covering his face with his hands, he
moaned: "It is all true, it is all true!"
"Of little avail are knowledge of the world and experience of men
unless based upon a secure foundation," observed Murazov. "Though you
have fallen, Paul Ivanovitch, awake to better things, for as yet there
"No, no!" groaned Chichikov in a voice which made Murazov's heart
bleed. "It is too late, too late. More and more is the conviction
gaining upon me that I am powerless, that I have strayed too far ever
to be able to do as you bid me. The fact that I have become what I am
is due to my early schooling; for, though my father taught me moral
lessons, and beat me, and set me to copy maxims into a book, he
himself stole land from his neighbours, and forced me to help him. I
have even known him to bring an unjust suit, and defraud the orphan
whose guardian he was! Consequently I know and feel that, though my
life has been different from his, I do not hate roguery as I ought to
hate it, and that my nature is coarse, and that in me there is no real
love for what is good, no real spark of that beautiful instinct for
well-doing which becomes a second nature, a settled habit. Also, never
do I yearn to strive for what is right as I yearn to acquire property.
This is no more than the truth. What else could I do but confess it?"
The old man sighed.
"Paul Ivanovitch," he said, "I know that you possess will-power, and
that you possess also perseverance. A medicine may be bitter, yet the
patient will gladly take it when assured that only by its means can he
recover. Therefore, if it really be that you have no genuine love for
doing good, do good by FORCING yourself to do so. Thus you will
benefit yourself even more than you will benefit him for whose sake
the act is performed. Only force yourself to do good just once and
again, and, behold, you will suddenly conceive the TRUE love for
well-doing. That is so, believe me. 'A kingdom is to be won only by
striving,' says the proverb. That is to say, things are to be attained
only by putting forth one's whole strength, since nothing short of
one's whole strength will bring one to the desired goal. Paul
Ivanovitch, within you there is a source of strength denied to many
another man. I refer to the strength of an iron perseverance. Cannot
THAT help you to overcome? Most men are weak and lack will-power,
whereas I believe that you possess the power to act a hero's part."
Sinking deep into Chichikov's heart, these words would seem to have
aroused in it a faint stirring of ambition, so much so that, if it was
not fortitude which shone in his eyes, at all events it was something
virile, and of much the same nature.
"Athanasi Vassilievitch," he said firmly, "if you will but petition
for my release, as well as for permission for me to leave here with a
portion of my property, I swear to you on my word of honour that I
will begin a new life, and buy a country estate, and become the head
of a household, and save money, nor for myself, but for others, and do
good everywhere, and to the best of my ability, and forget alike
myself and the feasting and debauchery of town life, and lead,
instead, a plain, sober existence."
"In that resolve may God strengthen you!" cried the old man with
unbounded joy. "And I, for my part, will do my utmost to procure your
release. And though God alone knows whether my efforts will be
successful, at all events I hope to bring about a mitigation of your
sentence. Come, let me embrace you! How you have filled my heart with
gladness! With God's help, I will now go to the Prince."
And the next moment Chichikov found himself alone. His whole nature
felt shaken and softened, even as, when the bellows have fanned the
furnace to a sufficient heat, a plate compounded even of the hardest
and most fire-resisting metal dissolves, glows, and turns to the
"I myself can feel but little," he reflected, "but I intend to use my
every faculty to help others to feel. I myself am but bad and
worthless, but I intend to do my utmost to set others on the right
road. I myself am but an indifferent Christian, but I intend to strive
never to yield to temptation, but to work hard, and to till my land
with the sweat of my brow, and to engage only in honourable pursuits,
and to influence my fellows in the same direction. For, after all, am
I so very useless? At least I could maintain a household, for I am
frugal and active and intelligent and steadfast. The only thing is to
make up my mind to it."
Thus Chichikov pondered; and as he did so his half-awakened energies
of soul touched upon something. That is to say, dimly his instinct
divined that every man has a duty to perform, and that that duty may
be performed here, there, and everywhere, and no matter what the
circumstances and the emotions and the difficulties which compass a
man about. And with such clearness did Chichikov mentally picture to
himself the life of grateful toil which lies removed from the bustle
of towns and the temptations which man, forgetful of the obligation of
labour, has invented to beguile an hour of idleness that almost our
hero forgot his unpleasant position, and even felt ready to thank
Providence for the calamity which had befallen him, provided that it
should end in his being released, and in his receiving back a portion
of his property.
Presently the massive door of the cell opened to admit a tchinovnik
named Samosvitov, a robust, sensual individual who was reputed by his
comrades to be something of a rake. Had he served in the army, he
would have done wonders, for he would have stormed any point, however
dangerous and inaccessible, and captured cannon under the very noses
of the foe; but, as it was, the lack of a more warlike field for his
energies caused him to devote the latter principally to dissipation.
Nevertheless he enjoyed great popularity, for he was loyal to the
point that, once his word had been given, nothing would ever make him
break it. At the same time, some reason or another led him to regard
his superiors in the light of a hostile battery which, come what
might, he must breach at any weak or unguarded spot or gap which might
be capable of being utilised for the purpose.
"We have all heard of your plight," he began as soon as the door had
been safely closed behind him. "Yes, every one has heard of it. But
never mind. Things will yet come right. We will do our very best for
you, and act as your humble servants in everything. Thirty thousand
roubles is our price--no more."
"Indeed?" said Chichikov. "And, for that, shall I be completely
"Yes, completely, and also given some compensation for your loss of
"And how much am I to pay in return, you say?"
"Thirty thousand roubles, to be divided among ourselves, the
Governor-General's staff, and the Governor-General's secretary."
"But how is even that to be managed, for all my effects, including my
dispatch-box, will have been sealed up and taken away for
"In an hour's time they will be within your hands again," said
Samosvitov. "Shall we shake hands over the bargain?"
Chichikov did so with a beating heart, for he could scarcely believe
"For the present, then, farewell," concluded Samosvitov. "I have
instructed a certain mutual friend that the important points are
silence and presence of mind."
"Hm!" thought Chichikov. "It is to my lawyer that he is referring."
Even when Samosvitov had departed the prisoner found it difficult to
credit all that had been said. Yet not an hour had elapsed before a
messenger arrived with his dispatch-box and the papers and money
therein practically undisturbed and intact! Later it came out that
Samosvitov had assumed complete authority in the matter. First, he had
rebuked the gendarmes guarding Chichikov's effects for lack of
vigilance, and then sent word to the Superintendent that additional
men were required for the purpose; after which he had taken the
dispatch-box into his own charge, removed from it every paper which
could possibly compromise Chichikov, sealed up the rest in a packet,
and ordered a gendarme to convey the whole to their owner on the
pretence of forwarding him sundry garments necessary for the night. In
the result Chichikov received not only his papers, but also some warm
clothing for his hypersensitive limbs. Such a swift recovery of his
treasures delighted him beyond expression, and, gathering new hope, he
began once more to dream of such allurements as theatre-going and the
ballet girl after whom he had for some time past been dangling.
Gradually did the country estate and the simple life begin to recede
into the distance: gradually did the town house and the life of gaiety
begin to loom larger and larger in the foreground. Oh, life, life!
Meanwhile in Government offices and chancellories there had been set
on foot a boundless volume of work. Clerical pens slaved, and brains
skilled in legal casus toiled; for each official had the artist's
liking for the curved line in preference to the straight. And all the
while, like a hidden magician, Chichikov's lawyer imparted driving
power to that machine which caught up a man into its mechanism before
he could even look round. And the complexity of it increased and
increased, for Samosvitov surpassed himself in importance and daring.
On learning of the place of confinement of the woman who had been
arrested, he presented himself at the doors, and passed so well for a
smart young officer of gendarmery that the sentry saluted and sprang
"Have you been on duty long?" asked Samosvitov.
"Since this morning, your Excellency."
"And shall you soon be relieved?"
"In three hours from now, your Excellency."
"Presently I shall want you, so I will instruct your officer to have
you relieved at once."
"Very good, your Excellency."
Hastening home, thereafter, at top speed, and donning the uniform of a
gendarme, with a false moustache and a pair of false whiskers--an
ensemble in which the devil himself would not have known him,
Samosvitov then made for the gaol where Chichikov was confined, and,
en route, impressed into the service the first street woman whom he
encountered, and handed her over to the care of two young fellows of
like sort with himself. The next step was to hurry back to the prison
where the original woman had been interned, and there to intimate to
the sentry that he, Samosvitov (with whiskers and rifle complete), had
been sent to relieve the said sentry at his post--a proceeding which,
of course, enabled the newly-arrived relief to ensure, while
performing his self-assumed turn of duty, that for the woman lying
under arrest there should be substituted the woman recently recruited
to the plot, and that the former should then be conveyed to a place of
concealment where she was highly unlikely to be discovered.
Meanwhile, Samosvitov's feats in the military sphere were being
rivalled by the wonders worked by Chichikov's lawyer in the civilian
field of action. As a first step, the lawyer caused it to be intimated
to the local Governor that the Public Prosecutor was engaged in
drawing up a report to his, the local Governor's, detriment;
whereafter the lawyer caused it to be intimated also to the Chief of
Gendarmery that a certain confidential official was engaged in doing
the same by HIM; whereafter, again, the lawyer confided to the
confidential official in question that, owing to the documentary
exertions of an official of a still more confidential nature than the
first, he (the confidential official first-mentioned) was in a fair
way to find himself in the same boat as both the local Governor and
the Chief of Gendarmery: with the result that the whole trio were
reduced to a frame of mind in which they were only too glad to turn to
him (Samosvitov) for advice. The ultimate and farcical upshot was that
report came crowding upon report, and that such alleged doings were
brought to light as the sun had never before beheld. In fact, the
documents in question employed anything and everything as material,
even to announcing that such and such an individual had an
illegitimate son, that such and such another kept a paid mistress, and
that such and such a third was troubled with a gadabout wife; whereby
there became interwoven with and welded into Chichikov's past history
and the story of the dead souls such a crop of scandals and innuendoes
that by no manner of means could any mortal decide to which of these
rubbishy romances to award the palm, since all them presented an equal
claim to that honour. Naturally, when, at length, the dossier reached
the Governor-General himself it simply flabbergasted the poor man; and
even the exceptionally clever and energetic secretary to whom he
deputed the making of an abstract of the same very nearly lost his
reason with the strain of attempting to lay hold of the tangled end of
the skein. It happened that just at that time the Prince had several
other important affairs on hand, and affairs of a very unpleasant
nature. That is to say, famine had made its appearance in one portion
of the province, and the tchinovniks sent to distribute food to the
people had done their work badly; in another portion of the province
certain Raskolniki were in a state of ferment, owing to the
spreading of a report than an Antichrist had arisen who would not even
let the dead rest, but was purchasing them wholesale--wherefore the
said Raskolniki were summoning folk to prayer and repentance, and,
under cover of capturing the Antichrist in question, were bludgeoning
non-Antichrists in batches; lastly, the peasants of a third portion of
the province had risen against the local landowners and
superintendents of police, for the reason that certain rascals had
started a rumour that the time was come when the peasants themselves
were to become landowners, and to wear frockcoats, while the
landowners in being were about to revert to the peasant state, and to
take their own wares to market; wherefore one of the local volosts,
oblivious of the fact that an order of things of that kind would lead
to a superfluity alike of landowners and of superintendents of police,
had refused to pay its taxes, and necessitated recourse to forcible
measures. Hence it was in a mood of the greatest possible despondency
that the poor Prince was sitting plunged when word was brought to him
that the old man who had gone bail for Chichikov was waiting to see
 Dissenters or Old Believers: i.e. members of the sect which
refused to accept the revised version of the Church Service Books
promulgated by the Patriarch Nikon in 1665.
 Fiscal districts.
"Show him in," said the Prince; and the old man entered.
"A fine fellow your Chichikov!" began the Prince angrily. "You
defended him, and went bail for him, even though he had been up to
business which even the lowest thief would not have touched!"
"Pardon me, your Highness; I do not understand to what you are
"I am referring to the matter of the fraudulent will. The fellow ought
to have been given a public flogging for it."
"Although to exculpate Chichikov is not my intention, might I ask you
whether you do not think the case is non-proven? At all events,
sufficient evidence against him is still lacking."
"What? We have as chief witness the woman who personated the deceased,
and I will have her interrogated in your presence."
Touching a bell, the Prince ordered her to be sent for.
"It is a most disgraceful affair," he went on; "and, ashamed though I
am to have to say it, some of our leading tchinovniks, including the
local Governor himself, have become implicated in the matter. Yet you
tell me that this Chichikov ought not to be confined among thieves and
rascals!" Clearly the Governor-General's wrath was very great indeed.
"Your Highness," said Murazov, "the Governor of the town is one of the
heirs under the will: wherefore he has a certain right to intervene.
Also, the fact that extraneous persons have meddled in the matter is
only what is to be expected from human nature. A rich woman dies, and
no exact, regular disposition of her property is made. Hence there
comes flocking from every side a cloud of fortune hunters. What else
could one expect? Such is human nature."
"Yes, but why should such persons go and commit fraud?" asked the
Prince irritably. "I feel as though not a single honest tchinovnik
were available--as though every one of them were a rogue."
"Your Highness, which of us is altogether beyond reproach? The
tchinovniks of our town are human beings, and no more. Some of them
are men of worth, and nearly all of them men skilled in
business--though also, unfortunately, largely inter-related."
"Now, tell me this, Athanasi Vassilievitch," said the Prince, "for you
are about the only honest man of my acquaintance. What has inspired in
you such a penchant for defending rascals?"
"This," replied Murazov. "Take any man you like of the persons whom
you thus term rascals. That man none the less remains a human being.
That being so, how can one refuse to defend him when all the time one
knows that half his errors have been committed through ignorance and
stupidity? Each of us commits faults with every step that we take;
each of us entails unhappiness upon others with every breath that we
draw--and that although we may have no evil intention whatever in our
minds. Your Highness himself has, before now, committed an injustice
of the gravest nature."
"_I_ have?" cried the Prince, taken aback by this unexpected turn
given to the conversation.
Murazov remained silent for a moment, as though he were debating
something in his thoughts. Then he said:
"Nevertheless it is as I say. You committed the injustice in the case
of the lad Dierpiennikov."
"What, Athanasi Vassilievitch? The fellow had infringed one of the
Fundamental Laws! He had been found guilty of treason!"
"I am not seeking to justify him; I am only asking you whether you
think it right that an inexperienced youth who had been tempted and
led away by others should have received the same sentence as the man
who had taken the chief part in the affair. That is to say, although
Dierpiennikov and the man Voron-Drianni received an equal measure of
punishment, their CRIMINALITY was not equal."
"If," exclaimed the Prince excitedly, "you know anything further
concerning the case, for God's sake tell it me at once. Only the other
day did I forward a recommendation that St. Petersburg should remit a
portion of the sentence."
"Your Highness," replied Murazov, "I do not mean that I know of
anything which does not lie also within your own cognisance, though
one circumstance there was which might have told in the lad's favour
had he not refused to admit it, lest another should suffer injury. All
that I have in my mind is this. On that occasion were you not a little
over-hasty in coming to a conclusion? You will understand, of course,
that I am judging only according to my own poor lights, and for the
reason that on more than one occasion you have urged me to be frank.
In the days when I myself acted as a chief of gendarmery I came in
contact with a great number of accused--some of them bad, some of them
good; and in each case I found it well also to consider a man's past
career, for the reason that, unless one views things calmly, instead
of at once decrying a man, he is apt to take alarm, and to make it
impossible thereafter to get any real confession from him. If, on the
other hand, you question a man as friend might question friend, the
result will be that straightway he will tell you everything, nor ask
for mitigation of his penalty, nor bear you the least malice, in that
he will understand that it is not you who have punished him, but the
The Prince relapsed into thought; until presently there entered a
young tchinovnik. Portfolio in hand, this official stood waiting
respectfully. Care and hard work had already imprinted their insignia
upon his fresh young face; for evidently he had not been in the
Service for nothing. As a matter of fact, his greatest joy was to
labour at a tangled case, and successfully to unravel it.
[At this point a long hiatus occurs in the original.]
"I will send corn to the localities where famine is worst," said
Murazov, "for I understand that sort of work better than do the
tchinovniks, and will personally see to the needs of each person.
Also, if you will allow me, your Highness, I will go and have a talk
with the Raskolniki. They are more likely to listen to a plain man
than to an official. God knows whether I shall succeed in calming
them, but at least no tchinovnik could do so, for officials of the
kind merely draw up reports and lose their way among their own
documents--with the result that nothing comes of it. Nor will I accept
from you any money for these purposes, since I am ashamed to devote as
much as a thought to my own pocket at a time when men are dying of
hunger. I have a large stock of grain lying in my granaries; in
addition to which, I have sent orders to Siberia that a new
consignment shall be forwarded me before the coming summer."
"Of a surety will God reward you for your services, Athanasi
Vassilievitch! Not another word will I say to you on the subject, for
you yourself feel that any words from me would be inadequate. Yet tell
me one thing: I refer to the case of which you know. Have I the right
to pass over the case? Also, would it be just and honourable on my
part to let the offending tchinovniks go unpunished?"
"Your Highness, it is impossible to return a definite answer to those
two questions: and the more so because many rascals are at heart men
of rectitude. Human problems are difficult things to solve. Sometimes
a man may be drawn into a vicious circle, so that, having once entered
it, he ceases to be himself."
"But what would the tchinovniks say if I allowed the case to be passed
over? Would not some of them turn up their noses at me, and declare
that they have effected my intimidation? Surely they would be the last
persons in the world to respect me for my action?"
"Your Highness, I think this: that your best course would be to call
them together, and to inform them that you know everything, and to
explain to them your personal attitude (exactly as you have explained
it to me), and to end by at once requesting their advice and asking
them what each of them would have done had he been placed in similar
"What? You think that those tchinovniks would be so accessible to
lofty motives that they would cease thereafter to be venal and
meticulous? I should be laughed at for my pains."
"I think not, your Highness. Even the baser section of humanity
possesses a certain sense of equity. Your wisest plan, your Highness,
would be to conceal nothing and to speak to them as you have just
spoken to me. If, at present, they imagine you to be ambitious and
proud and unapproachable and self-assured, your action would afford
them an opportunity of seeing how the case really stands. Why should
you hesitate? You would but be exercising your undoubted right. Speak
to them as though delivering not a message of your own, but a message
"I will think it over," the Prince said musingly, "and meanwhile I
thank you from my heart for your good advice."
"Also, I should order Chichikov to leave the town," suggested Murazov.
"Yes, I will do so. Tell him from me that he is to depart hence as
quickly as possible, and that the further he should remove himself,
the better it will be for him. Also, tell him that it is only owing to
your efforts that he has received a pardon at my hands."
Murazov bowed, and proceeded from the Prince's presence to that of
Chichikov. He found the prisoner cheerfully enjoying a hearty dinner
which, under hot covers, had been brought him from an exceedingly
excellent kitchen. But almost the first words which he uttered showed
Murazov that the prisoner had been having dealings with the army of
bribe-takers; as also that in those transactions his lawyer had played
the principal part.
"Listen, Paul Ivanovitch," the old man said. "I bring you your
freedom, but only on this condition--that you depart out of the town
forthwith. Therefore gather together your effects, and waste not a
moment, lest worse befall you. Also, of all that a certain person has
contrived to do on your behalf I am aware; wherefore let me tell you,
as between ourselves, that should the conspiracy come to light,
nothing on earth can save him, and in his fall he will involve others
rather then be left unaccompanied in the lurch, and not see the guilt
shared. How is it that when I left you recently you were in a better
frame of mind than you are now? I beg of you not to trifle with the
matter. Ah me! what boots that wealth for which men dispute and cut
one another's throats? Do they think that it is possible to prosper in
this world without thinking of the world to come? Believe me when I
say that, until a man shall have renounced all that leads humanity to
contend without giving a thought to the ordering of spiritual wealth,
he will never set his temporal goods either upon a satisfactory
foundation. Yes, even as times of want and scarcity may come upon
nations, so may they come upon individuals. No matter what may be said
to the contrary, the body can never dispense with the soul. Why, then,
will you not try to walk in the right way, and, by thinking no longer
of dead souls, but only of your only living one, regain, with God's
help, the better road? I too am leaving the town to-morrow. Hasten,
therefore, lest, bereft of my assistance, you meet with some dire
And the old man departed, leaving Chichikov plunged in thought. Once
more had the gravity of life begun to loom large before him.
"Yes, Murazov was right," he said to himself. "It is time that I were
Leaving the prison--a warder carrying his effects in his wake--he
found Selifan and Petrushka overjoyed at seeing their master once more
"Well, good fellows?" he said kindly. "And now we must pack and be
"True, true, Paul Ivanovitch," agreed Selifan. "And by this time the
roads will have become firmer, for much snow has fallen. Yes, high
time is it that we were clear of the town. So weary of it am I that
the sight of it hurts my eyes."
"Go to the coachbuilder's," commanded Chichikov, "and have
sledge-runners fitted to the koliaska."
Chichikov then made his way into the town--though not with the object
of paying farewell visits (in view of recent events, that might have
given rise to some awkwardness), but for the purpose of paying an
unobtrusive call at the shop where he had obtained the cloth for his
latest suit. There he now purchased four more arshins of the same
smoked-grey-shot-with-flame-colour material as he had had before, with
the intention of having it made up by the tailor who had fashioned the
previous costume; and by promising double remuneration he induced the
tailor in question so to hasten the cutting out of the garments that,
through sitting up all night over the work, the man might have the
whole ready by break of day. True, the goods were delivered a trifle
after the appointed hour, yet the following morning saw the coat and
breeches completed; and while the horses were being put to, Chichikov
tried on the clothes, and found them equal to the previous creation,
even though during the process he caught sight of a bald patch on his
head, and was led mournfully to reflect: "Alas! Why did I give way to
such despair? Surely I need not have torn my hair out so freely?"
Then, when the tailor had been paid, our hero left the town. But no
longer was he the old Chichikov--he was only a ruin of what he had
been, and his frame of mind might have been compared to a building
recently pulled down to make room for a new one, while the new one had
not yet been erected owing to the non-receipt of the plans from the
architect. Murazov, too, had departed, but at an earlier hour, and in
a tilt-waggon with Ivan Potapitch.
An hour later the Governor-General issued to all and sundry officials
a notice that, on the occasion of his departure for St. Petersburg, he
would be glad to see the corps of tchinovniks at a private meeting.
Accordingly all ranks and grades of officialdom repaired to his
residence, and there awaited--not without a certain measure of
trepidation and of searching of heart--the Governor-General's entry.
When that took place he looked neither clear nor dull. Yet his bearing
was proud, and his step assured. The tchinovniks bowed--some of them
to the waist, and he answered their salutations with a slight
inclination of the head. Then he spoke as follows:
"Since I am about to pay a visit to St. Petersburg, I have thought it
right to meet you, and to explain to you privately my reasons for
doing so. An affair of a most scandalous character has taken place in
our midst. To what affair I am referring I think most of those present
will guess. Now, an automatic process has led to that affair bringing
about the discovery of other matters. Those matters are no less
dishonourable than the primary one; and to that I regret to have to
add that there stand involved in them certain persons whom I had
hitherto believed to be honourable. Of the object aimed at by those
who have complicated matters to the point of making their resolution
almost impossible by ordinary methods I am aware; as also I am aware
of the identity of the ringleader, despite the skill with which he has
sought to conceal his share in the scandal. But the principal point
is, that I propose to decide these matters, not by formal documentary
process, but by the more summary process of court-martial, and that I
hope, when the circumstances have been laid before his Imperial
Majesty, to receive from him authority to adopt the course which I
have mentioned. For I conceive that when it has become impossible to
resolve a case by civil means, and some of the necessary documents
have been burnt, and attempts have been made (both through the
adduction of an excess of false and extraneous evidence and through
the framing of fictitious reports) to cloud an already sufficiently
obscure investigation with an added measure of complexity,--when all
these circumstances have arisen, I conceive that the only possible
tribunal to deal with them is a military tribunal. But on that point I
should like your opinion."
The Prince paused for a moment or two, as though awaiting a reply; but
none came, seeing that every man had his eyes bent upon the floor, and
many of the audience had turned white in the face.
"Then," he went on, "I may say that I am aware also of a matter which
those who have carried it through believe to lie only within the
cognisance of themselves. The particulars of that matter will not be
set forth in documentary form, but only through process of myself
acting as plaintiff and petitioner, and producing none but ocular
Among the throng of tchinovniks some one gave a start, and thereby
caused others of the more apprehensive sort to fall to trembling in
"Without saying does it go that the prime conspirators ought to
undergo deprivation of rank and property, and that the remainder ought
to be dismissed from their posts; for though that course would cause a
certain proportion of the innocent to suffer with the guilty, there
would seem to be no other course available, seeing that the affair is
one of the most disgraceful nature, and calls aloud for justice.
Therefore, although I know that to some my action will fail to serve
as a lesson, since it will lead to their succeeding to the posts of
dismissed officials, as well as that others hitherto considered
honourable will lose their reputation, and others entrusted with new
responsibilities will continue to cheat and betray their
trust,--although all this is known to me, I still have no choice but
to satisfy the claims of justice by proceeding to take stern measures.
I am also aware that I shall be accused of undue severity; but,
lastly, I am aware that it is my duty to put aside all personal
feeling, and to act as the unconscious instrument of that retribution
which justice demands."
Over ever face there passed a shudder. Yet the Prince had spoken
calmly, and not a trace of anger or any other kind of emotion had been
visible on his features.
"Nevertheless," he went on, "the very man in whose hands the fate of
so many now lies, the very man whom no prayer for mercy could ever
have influenced, himself desires to make a request of you. Should you
grant that request, all will be forgotten and blotted out and
pardoned, for I myself will intercede with the Throne on your behalf.
That request is this. I know that by no manner of means, by no
preventive measures, and by no penalties will dishonesty ever be
completely extirpated from our midst, for the reason that its roots
have struck too deep, and that the dishonourable traffic in bribes has
become a necessity to, even the mainstay of, some whose nature is not
innately venal. Also, I know that, to many men, it is an impossibility
to swim against the stream. Yet now, at this solemn and critical
juncture, when the country is calling aloud for saviours, and it is
the duty of every citizen to contribute and to sacrifice his all, I
feel that I cannot but issue an appeal to every man in whom a Russian
heart and a spark of what we understand by the word 'nobility' exist.
For, after all, which of us is more guilty than his fellow? It may be
to ME the greatest culpability should be assigned, in that at first
I may have adopted towards you too reserved an attitude, that I may
have been over-hasty in repelling those who desired but to serve me,
even though of their services I did not actually stand in need. Yet,
had they really loved justice and the good of their country, I think
that they would have been less prone to take offence at the coldness
of my attitude, but would have sacrificed their feelings and their
personality to their superior convictions. For hardly can it be that I
failed to note their overtures and the loftiness of their motives, or
that I would not have accepted any wise and useful advice proffered.
At the same time, it is for a subordinate to adapt himself to the tone
of his superior, rather than for a superior to adapt himself to the
tone of his subordinate. Such a course is at once more regular and
more smooth of working, since a corps of subordinates has but one
director, whereas a director may have a hundred subordinates. But let
us put aside the question of comparative culpability. The important
point is, that before us all lies the duty of rescuing our fatherland.
Our fatherland is suffering, not from the incursion of a score of
alien tongues, but from our own acts, in that, in addition to the
lawful administration, there has grown up a second administration
possessed of infinitely greater powers than the system established by
law. And that second administration has established its conditions,
fixed its tariff of prices, and published that tariff abroad; nor
could any ruler, even though the wisest of legislators and
administrators, do more to correct the evil than limit it in the
conduct of his more venal tchinovniks by setting over them, as their
supervisors, men of superior rectitude. No, until each of us shall
come to feel that, just as arms were taken up during the period of the
upheaval of nations, so now each of us must make a stand against
dishonesty, all remedies will end in failure. As a Russian,
therefore--as one bound to you by consanguinity and identity of
blood--I make to you my appeal. I make it to those of you who
understand wherein lies nobility of thought. I invite those men to
remember the duty which confronts us, whatsoever our respective
stations; I invite them to observe more closely their duty, and to
keep more constantly in mind their obligations of holding true to
their country, in that before us the future looms dark, and that we
can scarcely. . . ."
[Here the manuscript of the original comes abruptly to an end.]