Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol
Part 6 out of 8
in the same way, the Service would find itself without a single
individual. Reconsider your conduct--forego your pride and conceit,
and make Lienitsin amends."
"But, dear Uncle," the nephew replied, "that is not the point. The
point is, not that I should find an apology difficult to offer, seeing
that, since Lienitsin is my superior, and I ought not to have
addressed him as I did, I am clearly in the wrong. Rather, the point
is the following. To my charge there has been committed the
performance of another kind of service. That is to say, I am the owner
of three hundred peasant souls, a badly administered estate, and a
fool of a bailiff. That being so, whereas the State will lose little
by having to fill my stool with another copyist, it will lose very
much by causing three hundred peasant souls to fail in the payment of
their taxes. As I say (how am I to put it?), I am a landowner who has
preferred to enter the Public Service. Now, should I employ myself
henceforth in conserving, restoring, and improving the fortunes of the
souls whom God has entrusted to my care, and thereby provide the State
with three hundred law-abiding, sober, hard-working taxpayers, how
will that service of mine rank as inferior to the service of a
department-directing fool like Lienitsin?"
On hearing this speech, the State Councillor could only gape, for he
had not expected Tientietnikov's torrent of words. He reflected a few
moments, and then murmured:
"Yes, but, but--but how can a man like you retire to rustication in
the country? What society will you get there? Here one meets at least
a general or a prince sometimes; indeed, no matter whom you pass in
the street, that person represents gas lamps and European
civilisation; but in the country, no matter what part of it you are
in, not a soul is to be encountered save muzhiks and their women. Why
should you go and condemn yourself to a state of vegetation like
Nevertheless the uncle's expostulations fell upon deaf ears, for
already the nephew was beginning to think of his estate as a retreat
of a type more likely to nourish the intellectual faculties and afford
the only profitable field of activity. After unearthing one or two
modern works on agriculture, therefore, he, two weeks later, found
himself in the neighbourhood of the home where his boyhood had been
spent, and approaching the spot which never failed to enthral the
visitor or guest. And in the young man's breast there was beginning to
palpitate a new feeling--in the young man's soul there were
reawakening old, long-concealed impressions; with the result that many
a spot which had long been faded from his memory now filled him with
interest, and the beautiful views on the estate found him gazing at
them like a newcomer, and with a beating heart. Yes, as the road wound
through a narrow ravine, and became engulfed in a forest where, both
above and below, he saw three-centuries-old oaks which three men could
not have spanned, and where Siberian firs and elms overtopped even the
poplars, and as he asked the peasants to tell him to whom the forest
belonged, and they replied, "To Tientietnikov," and he issued from the
forest, and proceeded on his way through meadows, and past spinneys of
elder, and of old and young willows, and arrived in sight of the
distant range of hills, and, crossing by two different bridges the
winding river (which he left successively to right and to left of him
as he did so), he again questioned some peasants concerning the
ownership of the meadows and the flooded lands, and was again informed
that they all belonged to Tientietnikov, and then, ascending a rise,
reached a tableland where, on one side, lay ungarnered fields of wheat
and rye and barley, and, on the other, the country already traversed
(but which now showed in shortened perspective), and then plunged
into the shade of some forked, umbrageous trees which stood scattered
over turf and extended to the manor-house itself, and caught glimpses
of the carved huts of the peasants, and of the red roofs of the stone
manorial outbuildings, and of the glittering pinnacles of the church,
and felt his heart beating, and knew, without being told by any one,
whither he had at length arrived--well, then the feeling which had
been growing within his soul burst forth, and he cried in ecstasy:
"Why have I been a fool so long? Why, seeing that fate has appointed
me to be ruler of an earthly paradise, did I prefer to bind myself in
servitude as a scribe of lifeless documents? To think that, after I
had been nurtured and schooled and stored with all the knowledge
necessary for the diffusion of good among those under me, and for the
improvement of my domain, and for the fulfilment of the manifold
duties of a landowner who is at once judge, administrator, and
constable of his people, I should have entrusted my estate to an
ignorant bailiff, and sought to maintain an absentee guardianship over
the affairs of serfs whom I have never met, and of whose capabilities
and characters I am yet ignorant! To think that I should have deemed
true estate-management inferior to a documentary, fantastical
management of provinces which lie a thousand versts away, and which my
foot has never trod, and where I could never have effected aught but
blunders and irregularities!"
Meanwhile another spectacle was being prepared for him. On learning
that the barin was approaching the mansion, the muzhiks collected on
the verandah in very variety of picturesque dress and tonsure; and
when these good folk surrounded him, and there arose a resounding
shout of "Here is our Foster Father! He has remembered us!" and, in
spite of themselves, some of the older men and women began weeping as
they recalled his grandfather and great-grandfather, he himself could
not restrain his tears, but reflected: "How much affection! And in
return for what? In return for my never having come to see them--in
return for my never having taken the least interest in their affairs!"
And then and there he registered a mental vow to share their every
task and occupation.
So he applied himself to supervising and administering. He reduced the
amount of the barstchina, he decreased the number of working-days
for the owner, and he augmented the sum of the peasants' leisure-time.
He also dismissed the fool of a bailiff, and took to bearing a
personal hand in everything--to being present in the fields, at the
threshing-floor, at the kilns, at the wharf, at the freighting of
barges and rafts, and at their conveyance down the river: wherefore
even the lazy hands began to look to themselves. But this did not last
long. The peasant is an observant individual, and Tientietnikov's
muzhiks soon scented the fact that, though energetic and desirous of
doing much, the barin had no notion how to do it, nor even how to set
about it--that, in short, he spoke by the book rather than out of his
personal knowledge. Consequently things resulted, not in master and
men failing to understand one another, but in their not singing
together, in their not producing the very same note.
 In the days of serfdom, the rate of forced labour--so many hours
or so many days per week--which the serf had to perform for his
That is to say, it was not long before Tientietnikov noticed that on
the manorial lands, nothing prospered to the extent that it did on the
peasants'. The manorial crops were sown in good time, and came up
well, and every one appeared to work his best, so much so that
Tientietnikov, who supervised the whole, frequently ordered mugs of
vodka to be served out as a reward for the excellence of the labour
performed. Yet the rye on the peasants' land had formed into ear, and
the oats had begun to shoot their grain, and the millet had filled
before, on the manorial lands, the corn had so much as grown to stalk,
or the ears had sprouted in embryo. In short, gradually the barin
realised that, in spite of favours conferred, the peasants were
playing the rogue with him. Next he resorted to remonstrance, but was
met with the reply, "How could we not do our best for our barin? You
yourself saw how well we laboured at the ploughing and the sowing, for
you gave us mugs of vodka for our pains."
"Then why have things turned out so badly?" the barin persisted.
"Who can say? It must be that a grub has eaten the crop from below.
Besides, what a summer has it been--never a drop of rain!"
Nevertheless, the barin noted that no grub had eaten the PEASANTS'
crops, as well as that the rain had fallen in the most curious
fashion--namely, in patches. It had obliged the muzhiks, but had shed
a mere sprinkling for the barin.
Still more difficult did he find it to deal with the peasant women.
Ever and anon they would beg to be excused from work, or start making
complaints of the severity of the barstchina. Indeed, they were
terrible folk! However, Tientietnikov abolished the majority of the
tithes of linen, hedge fruit, mushrooms, and nuts, and also reduced by
one-half other tasks proper to the women, in the hope that they would
devote their spare time to their own domestic concerns--namely, to
sewing and mending, and to making clothes for their husbands, and to
increasing the area of their kitchen gardens. Yet no such result came
about. On the contrary, such a pitch did the idleness, the
quarrelsomeness, and the intriguing and caballing of the fair sex
attain that their helpmeets were for ever coming to the barin with a
request that he would rid one or another of his wife, since she had
become a nuisance, and to live with her was impossible.
Next, hardening his heart, the barin attempted severity. But of what
avail was severity? The peasant woman remained always the peasant
woman, and would come and whine that she was sick and ailing, and keep
pitifully hugging to herself the mean and filthy rags which she had
donned for the occasion. And when poor Tientietnikov found himself
unable to say more to her than just, "Get out of my sight, and may the
Lord go with you!" the next item in the comedy would be that he would
see her, even as she was leaving his gates, fall to contending with a
neighbour for, say, the possession of a turnip, and dealing out slaps
in the face such as even a strong, healthy man could scarcely have
Again, amongst other things, Tientietnikov conceived the idea of
establishing a school for his people; but the scheme resulted in a
farce which left him in sackcloth and ashes. In the same way he found
that, when it came to a question of dispensing justice and of
adjusting disputes, the host of juridical subtleties with which the
professors had provided him proved absolutely useless. That is to say,
the one party lied, and the other party lied, and only the devil could
have decided between them. Consequently he himself perceived that a
knowledge of mankind would have availed him more than all the legal
refinements and philosophical maxims in the world could do. He lacked
something; and though he could not divine what it was, the situation
brought about was the common one of the barin failing to understand
the peasant, and the peasant failing to understand the barin, and both
becoming disaffected. In the end, these difficulties so chilled
Tientietnikov's enthusiasm that he took to supervising the labours of
the field with greatly diminished attention. That is to say, no matter
whether the scythes were softly swishing through the grass, or ricks
were being built, or rafts were being loaded, he would allow his eyes
to wander from his men, and to fall to gazing at, say, a red-billed,
red-legged heron which, after strutting along the bank of a stream,
would have caught a fish in its beak, and be holding it awhile, as
though in doubt whether to swallow it. Next he would glance towards
the spot where a similar bird, but one not yet in possession of a
fish, was engaged in watching the doings of its mate. Lastly, with
eyebrows knitted, and face turned to scan the zenith, he would drink
in the smell of the fields, and fall to listening to the winged
population of the air as from earth and sky alike the manifold music
of winged creatures combined in a single harmonious chorus. In the rye
the quail would be calling, and, in the grass, the corncrake, and over
them would be wheeling flocks of twittering linnets. Also, the
jacksnipe would be uttering its croak, and the lark executing its
roulades where it had become lost in the sunshine, and cranes sending
forth their trumpet-like challenge as they deployed towards the zenith
in triangle-shaped flocks. In fact, the neighbourhood would seem to
have become converted into one great concert of melody. O Creator, how
fair is Thy world where, in remote, rural seclusion, it lies apart
from cities and from highways!
But soon even this began to pall upon Tientietnikov, and he ceased
altogether to visit his fields, or to do aught but shut himself up in
his rooms, where he refused to receive even the bailiff when that
functionary called with his reports. Again, although, until now, he
had to a certain extent associated with a retired colonel of
hussars--a man saturated with tobacco smoke--and also with a student
of pronounced, but immature, opinions who culled the bulk of his
wisdom from contemporary newspapers and pamphlets, he found, as time
went on, that these companions proved as tedious as the rest, and came
to think their conversation superficial, and their European method of
comporting themselves--that is to say, the method of conversing with
much slapping of knees and a great deal of bowing and
gesticulation--too direct and unadorned. So these and every one else
he decided to "drop," and carried this resolution into effect with a
certain amount of rudeness. On the next occasion that Varvar
Nikolaievitch Vishnepokromov called to indulge in a free-and-easy
symposium on politics, philosophy, literature, morals, and the state
of financial affairs in England (he was, in all matters which admit of
superficial discussion, the pleasantest fellow alive, seeing that he
was a typical representative both of the retired fire-eater and of the
school of thought which is now becoming the rage)--when, I say, this
next happened, Tientietnikov merely sent out to say that he was not at
home, and then carefully showed himself at the window. Host and guest
exchanged glances, and, while the one muttered through his teeth "The
cur!" the other relieved his feelings with a remark or two on swine.
Thus the acquaintance came to an abrupt end, and from that time forth
no visitor called at the mansion.
Tientietnikov in no way regretted this, for he could now devote
himself wholly to the projection of a great work on Russia. Of the
scale on which this composition was conceived the reader is already
aware. The reader also knows how strange, how unsystematic, was the
system employed in it. Yet to say that Tientietnikov never awoke from
his lethargy would not be altogether true. On the contrary, when the
post brought him newspapers and reviews, and he saw in their printed
pages, perhaps, the well-known name of some former comrade who had
succeeded in the great field of Public Service, or had conferred upon
science and the world's work some notable contribution, he would
succumb to secret and suppressed grief, and involuntarily there would
burst from his soul an expression of aching, voiceless regret that he
himself had done so little. And at these times his existence would
seem to him odious and repellent; at these times there would uprise
before him the memory of his school days, and the figure of Alexander
Petrovitch, as vivid as in life. And, slowly welling, the tears would
course over Tientietnikov's cheeks.
What meant these repinings? Was there not disclosed in them the secret
of his galling spiritual pain--the fact that he had failed to order
his life aright, to confirm the lofty aims with which he had started
his course; the fact that, always poorly equipped with experience, he
had failed to attain the better and the higher state, and there to
strengthen himself for the overcoming of hindrances and obstacles; the
fact that, dissolving like overheated metal, his bounteous store of
superior instincts had failed to take the final tempering; the fact
that the tutor of his boyhood, a man in a thousand, had prematurely
died, and left to Tientietnikov no one who could restore to him the
moral strength shattered by vacillation and the will power weakened by
want of virility--no one, in short, who could cry hearteningly to his
soul "Forward!"--the word for which the Russian of every degree, of
every class, of every occupation, of every school of thought, is for
Indeed, WHERE is the man who can cry aloud for any of us, in the
Russian tongue dear to our soul, the all-compelling command
"Forward!"? Who is there who, knowing the strength and the nature and
the inmost depths of the Russian genius, can by a single magic
incantation divert our ideals to the higher life? Were there such a
man, with what tears, with what affection, would not the grateful sons
of Russia repay him! Yet age succeeds to age, and our callow youth
still lies wrapped in shameful sloth, or strives and struggles to no
purpose. God has not yet given us the man able to sound the call.
One circumstance which almost aroused Tientietnikov, which almost
brought about a revolution in his character, was the fact that he came
very near to falling in love. Yet even this resulted in nothing. Ten
versts away there lived the general whom we have heard expressing
himself in highly uncomplimentary terms concerning Tientietnikov. He
maintained a General-like establishment, dispensed hospitality (that
is to say, was glad when his neighbours came to pay him their
respects, though he himself never went out), spoke always in a hoarse
voice, read a certain number of books, and had a daughter--a curious,
unfamiliar type, but full of life as life itself. This maiden's name
was Ulinka, and she had been strangely brought up, for, losing her
mother in early childhood, she had subsequently received instruction
at the hands of an English governess who knew not a single word of
Russian. Moreover her father, though excessively fond of her, treated
her always as a toy; with the result that, as she grew to years of
discretion, she became wholly wayward and spoilt. Indeed, had any one
seen the sudden rage which would gather on her beautiful young
forehead when she was engaged in a heated dispute with her father, he
would have thought her one of the most capricious beings in the world.
Yet that rage gathered only when she had heard of injustice or harsh
treatment, and never because she desired to argue on her own behalf,
or to attempt to justify her own conduct. Also, that anger would
disappear as soon as ever she saw any one whom she had formerly
disliked fall upon evil times, and, at his first request for alms
would, without consideration or subsequent regret, hand him her purse
and its whole contents. Yes, her every act was strenuous, and when she
spoke her whole personality seemed to be following hot-foot upon her
thought--both her expression of face and her diction and the movements
of her hands. Nay, the very folds of her frock had a similar
appearance of striving; until one would have thought that all her self
were flying in pursuit of her words. Nor did she know reticence:
before any one she would disclose her mind, and no force could compel
her to maintain silence when she desired to speak. Also, her
enchanting, peculiar gait--a gait which belonged to her alone--was so
absolutely free and unfettered that every one involuntarily gave her
way. Lastly, in her presence churls seemed to become confused and fall
to silence, and even the roughest and most outspoken would lose their
heads, and have not a word to say; whereas the shy man would find
himself able to converse as never in his life before, and would feel,
from the first, as though he had seen her and known her at some
previous period--during the days of some unremembered childhood, when
he was at home, and spending a merry evening among a crowd of romping
children. And for long afterwards he would feel as though his man's
intellect and estate were a burden.
This was what now befell Tientietnikov; and as it did so a new feeling
entered into his soul, and his dreamy life lightened for a moment.
At first the General used to receive him with hospitable civility, but
permanent concord between them proved impossible; their conversation
always merged into dissension and soreness, seeing that, while the
General could not bear to be contradicted or worsted in an argument,
Tientietnikov was a man of extreme sensitiveness. True, for the
daughter's sake, the father was for a while deferred to, and thus
peace was maintained; but this lasted only until the time when there
arrived, on a visit to the General, two kinswomen of his--the Countess
Bordirev and the Princess Uziakin, retired Court dames, but ladies who
still kept up a certain connection with Court circles, and therefore
were much fawned upon by their host. No sooner had they appeared on
the scene than (so it seemed to Tientietnikov) the General's attitude
towards the young man became colder--either he ceased to notice him at
all or he spoke to him familiarly, and as to a person having no
standing in society. This offended Tientietnikov deeply, and though,
when at length he spoke out on the subject, he retained sufficient
presence of mind to compress his lips, and to preserve a gentle and
courteous tone, his face flushed and his inner man was boiling.
"General," he said, "I thank you for your condescension. By addressing
me in the second person singular, you have admitted me to the circle
of your most intimate friends. Indeed, were it not that a difference
of years forbids any familiarity on my part, I should answer you in
The General sat aghast. At length, rallying his tongue and his
faculties, he replied that, though he had spoken with a lack of
ceremony, he had used the term "thou" merely as an elderly man
naturally employs it towards a junior (he made no reference to
difference of rank).
Nevertheless, the acquaintance broke off here, and with it any
possibility of love-making. The light which had shed a momentary gleam
before Tientietnikov's eyes had become extinguished for ever, and upon
it there followed a darkness denser than before. Henceforth everything
conduced to evolve the regime which the reader has noted--that regime
of sloth and inaction which converted Tientietnikov's residence into a
place of dirt and neglect. For days at a time would a broom and a heap
of dust be left lying in the middle of a room, and trousers tossing
about the salon, and pairs of worn-out braces adorning the what-not
near the sofa. In short, so mean and untidy did Tientietnikov's mode
of life become, that not only his servants, but even his very poultry
ceased to treat him with respect. Taking up a pen, he would spend
hours in idly sketching houses, huts, waggons, troikas, and flourishes
on a piece of paper; while at other times, when he had sunk into a
reverie, the pen would, all unknowingly, sketch a small head which had
delicate features, a pair of quick, penetrating eyes, and a raised
coiffure. Then suddenly the dreamer would perceive, to his surprise,
that the pen had executed the portrait of a maiden whose picture no
artist could adequately have painted; and therewith his despondency
would become greater than ever, and, believing that happiness did not
exist on earth, he would relapse into increased ennui, increased
neglect of his responsibilities.
But one morning he noticed, on moving to the window after breakfast,
that not a word was proceeding either from the butler or the
housekeeper, but that, on the contrary, the courtyard seemed to smack
of a certain bustle and excitement. This was because through the
entrance gates (which the kitchen maid and the scullion had run to
open) there were appearing the noses of three horses--one to the
right, one in the middle, and one to the left, after the fashion of
triumphal groups of statuary. Above them, on the box seat, were seated
a coachman and a valet, while behind, again, there could be discerned
a gentleman in a scarf and a fur cap. Only when the equipage had
entered the courtyard did it stand revealed as a light spring
britchka. And as it came to a halt, there leapt on to the verandah of
the mansion an individual of respectable exterior, and possessed of
the art of moving with the neatness and alertness of a military man.
Upon this Tientietnikov's heart stood still. He was unused to
receiving visitors, and for the moment conceived the new arrival to be
a Government official, sent to question him concerning an abortive
society to which he had formerly belonged. (Here the author may
interpolate the fact that, in Tientietnikov's early days, the young
man had become mixed up in a very absurd affair. That is to say, a
couple of philosophers belonging to a regiment of hussars had,
together with an aesthete who had not yet completed his student's
course and a gambler who had squandered his all, formed a secret
society of philanthropic aims under the presidency of a certain old
rascal of a freemason and the ruined gambler aforesaid. The scope of
the society's work was to be extensive: it was to bring lasting
happiness to humanity at large, from the banks of the Thames to the
shores of Kamtchatka. But for this much money was needed: wherefore
from the noble-minded members of the society generous contributions
were demanded, and then forwarded to a destination known only to the
supreme authorities of the concern. As for Tientietnikov's adhesion,
it was brought about by the two friends already alluded to as
"embittered"--good-hearted souls whom the wear and tear of their
efforts on behalf of science, civilisation, and the future
emancipation of mankind had ended by converting into confirmed
drunkards. Perhaps it need hardly be said that Tientietnikov soon
discovered how things stood, and withdrew from the association; but,
meanwhile, the latter had had the misfortune so to have engaged in
dealings not wholly creditable to gentlemen of noble origin as
likewise to have become entangled in dealings with the police.
Consequently, it is not to be wondered at that, though Tientietnikov
had long severed his connection with the society and its policy, he
still remained uneasy in his mind as to what might even yet be the
However, his fears vanished the instant that the guest saluted him
with marked politeness and explained, with many deferential poises of
the head, and in terms at once civil and concise, that for some time
past he (the newcomer) had been touring the Russian Empire on business
and in the pursuit of knowledge, that the Empire abounded in objects
of interest--not to mention a plenitude of manufactures and a great
diversity of soil, and that, in spite of the fact that he was greatly
struck with the amenities of his host's domain, he would certainly not
have presumed to intrude at such an inconvenient hour but for the
circumstance that the inclement spring weather, added to the state of
the roads, had necessitated sundry repairs to his carriage at the
hands of wheelwrights and blacksmiths. Finally he declared that, even
if this last had NOT happened, he would still have felt unable to
deny himself the pleasure of offering to his host that meed of homage
which was the latter's due.
This speech--a speech of fascinating bonhomie--delivered, the guest
executed a sort of shuffle with a half-boot of patent leather studded
with buttons of mother-of-pearl, and followed that up by (in spite of
his pronounced rotundity of figure) stepping backwards with all the
elan of an india-rubber ball.
From this the somewhat reassured Tientietnikov concluded that his
visitor must be a literary, knowledge-seeking professor who was
engaged in roaming the country in search of botanical specimens and
fossils; wherefore he hastened to express both his readiness to
further the visitor's objects (whatever they might be) and his
personal willingness to provide him with the requisite wheelwrights
and blacksmiths. Meanwhile he begged his guest to consider himself at
home, and, after seating him in an armchair, made preparations to
listen to the newcomer's discourse on natural history.
But the newcomer applied himself, rather, to phenomena of the internal
world, saying that his life might be likened to a barque tossed on the
crests of perfidious billows, that in his time he had been fated to
play many parts, and that on more than one occasion his life had stood
in danger at the hands of foes. At the same time, these tidings were
communicated in a manner calculated to show that the speaker was also
a man of PRACTICAL capabilities. In conclusion, the visitor took out
a cambric pocket-handkerchief, and sneezed into it with a vehemence
wholly new to Tientietnikov's experience. In fact, the sneeze rather
resembled the note which, at times, the trombone of an orchestra
appears to utter not so much from its proper place on the platform as
from the immediate neighbourhood of the listener's ear. And as the
echoes of the drowsy mansion resounded to the report of the explosion
there followed upon the same a wave of perfume, skilfully wafted
abroad with a flourish of the eau-de-Cologne-scented handkerchief.
By this time the reader will have guessed that the visitor was none
other than our old and respected friend Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov.
Naturally, time had not spared him his share of anxieties and alarms;
wherefore his exterior had come to look a trifle more elderly, his
frockcoat had taken on a suggestion of shabbiness, and britchka,
coachman, valet, horses, and harness alike had about them a sort of
second-hand, worse-for-wear effect. Evidently the Chichikovian
finances were not in the most flourishing of conditions. Nevertheless,
the old expression of face, the old air of breeding and refinement,
remained unimpaired, and our hero had even improved in the art of
walking and turning with grace, and of dexterously crossing one leg
over the other when taking a seat. Also, his mildness of diction, his
discreet moderation of word and phrase, survived in, if anything,
increased measure, and he bore himself with a skill which caused his
tactfulness to surpass itself in sureness of aplomb. And all these
accomplishments had their effect further heightened by a snowy
immaculateness of collar and dickey, and an absence of dust from his
frockcoat, as complete as though he had just arrived to attend a
nameday festival. Lastly, his cheeks and chin were of such neat
clean-shavenness that no one but a blind man could have failed to
admire their rounded contours.
From that moment onwards great changes took place in Tientietnikov's
establishment, and certain of its rooms assumed an unwonted air of
cleanliness and order. The rooms in question were those assigned to
Chichikov, while one other apartment--a little front chamber opening
into the hall--became permeated with Petrushka's own peculiar smell.
But this lasted only for a little while, for presently Petrushka was
transferred to the servants' quarters, a course which ought to have
been adopted in the first instance.
During the initial days of Chichikov's sojourn, Tientietnikov feared
rather to lose his independence, inasmuch as he thought that his guest
might hamper his movements, and bring about alterations in the
established routine of the place. But these fears proved groundless,
for Paul Ivanovitch displayed an extraordinary aptitude for
accommodating himself to his new position. To begin with, he
encouraged his host in his philosophical inertia by saying that the
latter would help Tientietnikov to become a centenarian. Next, in the
matter of a life of isolation, he hit things off exactly by remarking
that such a life bred in a man a capacity for high thinking. Lastly,
as he inspected the library and dilated on books in general, he
contrived an opportunity to observe that literature safeguarded a man
from a tendency to waste his time. In short, the few words of which he
delivered himself were brief, but invariably to the point. And this
discretion of speech was outdone by his discretion of conduct. That is
to say, whether entering or leaving the room, he never wearied his
host with a question if Tientietnikov had the air of being disinclined
to talk; and with equal satisfaction the guest could either play chess
or hold his tongue. Consequently Tientietnikov said to himself:
"For the first time in my life I have met with a man with whom it is
possible to live. In general, not many of the type exist in Russia,
and, though clever, good-humoured, well-educated men abound, one would
be hard put to it to find an individual of equable temperament with
whom one could share a roof for centuries without a quarrel arising.
Anyway, Chichikov is the first of his sort that I have met."
For his part, Chichikov was only too delighted to reside with a person
so quiet and agreeable as his host. Of a wandering life he was
temporarily weary, and to rest, even for a month, in such a beautiful
spot, and in sight of green fields and the slow flowering of spring,
was likely to benefit him also from the hygienic point of view. And,
indeed, a more delightful retreat in which to recuperate could not
possibly have been found. The spring, long retarded by previous cold,
had now begun in all its comeliness, and life was rampant. Already,
over the first emerald of the grass, the dandelion was showing yellow,
and the red-pink anemone was hanging its tender head; while the
surface of every pond was a swarm of dancing gnats and midges, and the
water-spider was being joined in their pursuit by birds which gathered
from every quarter to the vantage-ground of the dry reeds. Every
species of creature also seemed to be assembling in concourse, and
taking stock of one another. Suddenly the earth became populous, the
forest had opened its eyes, and the meadows were lifting up their
voice in song. In the same way had choral dances begun to be weaved in
the village, and everywhere that the eye turned there was merriment.
What brightness in the green of nature, what freshness in the air,
what singing of birds in the gardens of the mansion, what general joy
and rapture and exaltation! Particularly in the village might the
shouting and singing have been in honour of a wedding!
Chichikov walked hither, thither, and everywhere--a pursuit for which
there was ample choice and facility. At one time he would direct his
steps along the edge of the flat tableland, and contemplate the depths
below, where still there lay sheets of water left by the floods of
winter, and where the island-like patches of forest showed leafless
boughs; while at another time he would plunge into the thicket and
ravine country, where nests of birds weighted branches almost to the
ground, and the sky was darkened with the criss-cross flight of cawing
rooks. Again, the drier portions of the meadows could be crossed to
the river wharves, whence the first barges were just beginning to set
forth with pea-meal and barley and wheat, while at the same time one's
ear would be caught with the sound of some mill resuming its functions
as once more the water turned the wheel. Chichikov would also walk
afield to watch the early tillage operations of the season, and
observe how the blackness of a new furrow would make its way across
the expanse of green, and how the sower, rhythmically striking his
hand against the pannier slung across his breast, would scatter his
fistfuls of seed with equal distribution, apportioning not a grain too
much to one side or to the other.
In fact, Chichikov went everywhere. He chatted and talked, now with
the bailiff, now with a peasant, now with a miller, and inquired into
the manner and nature of everything, and sought information as to how
an estate was managed, and at what price corn was selling, and what
species of grain was best for spring and autumn grinding, and what was
the name of each peasant, and who were his kinsfolk, and where he had
bought his cow, and what he fed his pigs on. Chichikov also made
inquiry concerning the number of peasants who had lately died: but of
these there appeared to be few. And suddenly his quick eye discerned
that Tientietnikov's estate was not being worked as it might have
been--that much neglect and listlessness and pilfering and drunkenness
was abroad; and on perceiving this, he thought to himself: "What a
fool is that Tientietnikov! To think of letting a property like this
decay when he might be drawing from it an income of fifty thousand
roubles a year!"
Also, more than once, while taking these walks, our hero pondered the
idea of himself becoming a landowner--not now, of course, but later,
when his chief aim should have been achieved, and he had got into his
hands the necessary means for living the quiet life of the proprietor
of an estate. Yes, and at these times there would include itself in
his castle-building the figure of a young, fresh, fair-faced maiden of
the mercantile or other rich grade of society, a woman who could both
play and sing. He also dreamed of little descendants who should
perpetuate the name of Chichikov; perhaps a frolicsome little boy and
a fair young daughter, or possibly, two boys and quite two or three
daughters; so that all should know that he had really lived and had
his being, that he had not merely roamed the world like a spectre or a
shadow; so that for him and his the country should never be put to
shame. And from that he would go on to fancy that a title appended to
his rank would not be a bad thing--the title of State Councillor, for
instance, which was deserving of all honour and respect. Ah, it is a
common thing for a man who is taking a solitary walk so to detach
himself from the irksome realities of the present that he is able to
stir and to excite and to provoke his imagination to the conception of
things he knows can never really come to pass!
Chichikov's servants also found the mansion to their taste, and, like
their master, speedily made themselves at home in it. In particular
did Petrushka make friends with Grigory the butler, although at first
the pair showed a tendency to outbrag one another--Petrushka beginning
by throwing dust in Grigory's eyes on the score of his (Petrushka's)
travels, and Grigory taking him down a peg or two by referring to St.
Petersburg (a city which Petrushka had never visited), and Petrushka
seeking to recover lost ground by dilating on towns which he HAD
visited, and Grigory capping this by naming some town which is not to
be found on any map in existence, and then estimating the journey
thither as at least thirty thousand versts--a statement which would so
completely flabbergast the henchman of Chichikov's suite that he would
be left staring open-mouthed, amid the general laughter of the
domestic staff. However, as I say, the pair ended by swearing eternal
friendship with one another, and making a practice of resorting to the
village tavern in company.
For Selifan, however, the place had a charm of a different kind. That
is to say, each evening there would take place in the village a
singing of songs and a weaving of country dances; and so shapely and
buxom were the maidens--maidens of a type hard to find in our
present-day villages on large estates--that he would stand for hours
wondering which of them was the best. White-necked and white-bosomed,
all had great roving eyes, the gait of peacocks, and hair reaching to
the waist. And as, with his hands clasping theirs, he glided hither
and thither in the dance, or retired backwards towards a wall with a
row of other young fellows, and then, with them, returned to meet the
damsels--all singing in chorus (and laughing as they sang it),
"Boyars, show me my bridegroom!" and dusk was falling gently, and from
the other side of the river there kept coming far, faint, plaintive
echoes of the melody--well, then our Selifan hardly knew whether he
were standing upon his head or his heels. Later, when sleeping and
when waking, both at noon and at twilight, he would seem still to be
holding a pair of white hands, and moving in the dance.
Chichikov's horses also found nothing of which to disapprove. Yes,
both the bay, the Assessor, and the skewbald accounted residence at
Tientietnikov's a most comfortable affair, and voted the oats
excellent, and the arrangement of the stables beyond all cavil. True,
on this occasion each horse had a stall to himself; yet, by looking
over the intervening partition, it was possible always to see one's
fellows, and, should a neighbour take it into his head to utter a
neigh, to answer it at once.
As for the errand which had hitherto led Chichikov to travel about
Russia, he had now decided to move very cautiously and secretly in the
matter. In fact, on noticing that Tientietnikov went in absorbedly for
reading and for talking philosophy, the visitor said to himself,
"No--I had better begin at the other end," and proceeded first to feel
his way among the servants of the establishment. From them he learnt
several things, and, in particular, that the barin had been wont to go
and call upon a certain General in the neighbourhood, and that the
General possessed a daughter, and that she and Tientietnikov had had
an affair of some sort, but that the pair had subsequently parted, and
gone their several ways. For that matter, Chichikov himself had
noticed that Tientietnikov was in the habit of drawing heads of which
each representation exactly resembled the rest.
Once, as he sat tapping his silver snuff-box after luncheon, Chichikov
"One thing you lack, and only one, Andrei Ivanovitch."
"What is that?" asked his host.
"A female friend or two," replied Chichikov.
Tientietnikov made no rejoinder, and the conversation came temporarily
to an end.
But Chichikov was not to be discouraged; wherefore, while waiting for
supper and talking on different subjects, he seized an opportunity to
"Do you know, it would do you no harm to marry."
As before, Tientietnikov did not reply, and the renewed mention of the
subject seemed to have annoyed him.
For the third time--it was after supper--Chichikov returned to the
charge by remarking:
"To-day, as I was walking round your property, I could not help
thinking that marriage would do you a great deal of good. Otherwise
you will develop into a hypochondriac."
Whether Chichikov's words now voiced sufficiently the note of
persuasion, or whether Tientietnikov happened, at the moment, to be
unusually disposed to frankness, at all events the young landowner
sighed, and then responded as he expelled a puff of tobacco smoke:
"To attain anything, Paul Ivanovitch, one needs to have been born
under a lucky star."
And he related to his guest the whole history of his acquaintanceship
and subsequent rupture with the General.
As Chichikov listened to the recital, and gradually realised that the
affair had arisen merely out of a chance word on the General's part,
he was astounded beyond measure, and gazed at Tientietnikov without
knowing what to make of him.
"Andrei Ivanovitch," he said at length, "what was there to take
"Nothing, as regards the actual words spoken," replied the other. "The
offence lay, rather, in the insult conveyed in the General's tone."
Tientietnikov was a kindly and peaceable man, yet his eyes flashed as
he said this, and his voice vibrated with wounded feeling.
"Yet, even then, need you have taken it so much amiss?"
"What? Could I have gone on visiting him as before?"
"Certainly. No great harm had been done?"
"I disagree with you. Had he been an old man in a humble station of
life, instead of a proud and swaggering officer, I should not have
minded so much. But, as it was, I could not, and would not, brook his
"A curious fellow, this Tientietnikov!" thought Chichikov to himself.
"A curious fellow, this Chichikov!" was Tientietnikov's inward
"I tell you what," resumed Chichikov. "To-morrow I myself will go and
see the General."
"To what purpose?" asked Tientietnikov, with astonishment and distrust
in his eyes.
"To offer him an assurance of my personal respect."
"A strange fellow, this Chichikov!" reflected Tientietnikov.
"A strange fellow, this Tientietnikov!" thought Chichikov, and then
added aloud: "Yes, I will go and see him at ten o'clock to-morrow; but
since my britchka is not yet altogether in travelling order, would you
be so good as to lend me your koliaska for the purpose?"
Tientietnikov's good horses covered the ten versts to the General's
house in a little over half an hour. Descending from the koliaska with
features attuned to deference, Chichikov inquired for the master of
the house, and was at once ushered into his presence. Bowing with head
held respectfully on one side and hands extended like those of a
waiter carrying a trayful of teacups, the visitor inclined his whole
body forward, and said:
"I have deemed it my duty to present myself to your Excellency. I have
deemed it my duty because in my heart I cherish a most profound
respect for the valiant men who, on the field of battle, have proved
the saviours of their country."
That this preliminary attack did not wholly displease the General was
proved by the fact that, responding with a gracious inclination of the
head, he replied:
"I am glad to make your acquaintance. Pray be so good as to take a
seat. In what capacity or capacities have you yourself seen service?"
"Of my service," said Chichikov, depositing his form, not exactly in
the centre of the chair, but rather on one side of it, and resting a
hand upon one of its arms, "--of my service the scene was laid, in the
first instance, in the Treasury; while its further course bore me
successively into the employ of the Public Buildings Commission, of
the Customs Board, and of other Government Offices. But, throughout,
my life has resembled a barque tossed on the crests of perfidious
billows. In suffering I have been swathed and wrapped until I have
come to be, as it were, suffering personified; while of the extent to
which my life has been sought by foes, no words, no colouring, no (if
I may so express it?) painter's brush could ever convey to you an
adequate idea. And now, at length, in my declining years, I am seeking
a corner in which to eke out the remainder of my miserable existence,
while at the present moment I am enjoying the hospitality of a
neighbour of your acquaintance."
"And who is that?"
"Your neighbour Tientietnikov, your Excellency."
Upon that the General frowned.
"Led me add," put in Chichikov hastily, "that he greatly regrets that
on a former occasion he should have failed to show a proper respect
"For what?" asked the General.
"For the services to the public which your Excellency has rendered.
Indeed, he cannot find words to express his sorrow, but keeps
repeating to himself: 'Would that I had valued at their true worth the
men who have saved our fatherland!'"
"And why should he say that?" asked the mollified General. "I bear him
no grudge. In fact, I have never cherished aught but a sincere liking
for him, a sincere esteem, and do not doubt but that, in time, he may
become a useful member of society."
"In the words which you have been good enough to utter," said
Chichikov with a bow, "there is embodied much justice. Yes,
Tientietnikov is in very truth a man of worth. Not only does he
possess the gift of eloquence, but also he is a master of the pen."
"Ah, yes; he DOES write rubbish of some sort, doesn't he? Verses, or
something of the kind?"
"Not rubbish, your Excellency, but practical stuff. In short, he is
inditing a history."
"A HISTORY? But a history of what?"
"A history of, of--" For a moment or two Chichikov hesitated. Then,
whether because it was a General that was seated in front of him, or
because he desired to impart greater importance to the subject which
he was about to invent, he concluded: "A history of Generals, your
"Of Generals? Of WHAT Generals?"
"Of Generals generally--of Generals at large. That is to say, and to
be more precise, a history of the Generals of our fatherland."
By this time Chichikov was floundering badly. Mentally he spat upon
himself and reflected: "Gracious heavens! What rubbish I am talking!"
"Pardon me," went on his interlocutor, "but I do not quite understand
you. Is Tientietnikov producing a history of a given period, or only a
history made up of a series of biographies? Also, is he including
ALL our Generals, or only those who took part in the campaign of 1812?"
"The latter, your Excellency--only the Generals of 1812," replied
Chichikov. Then he added beneath his breath: "Were I to be killed for
it, I could not say what that may be supposed to mean."
"Then why should he not come and see me in person?" went on his host.
"Possibly I might be able to furnish him with much interesting
"He is afraid to come, your Excellency."
"Nonsense! Just because of a hasty word or two! I am not that sort of
man at all. In fact, I should be very happy to call upon HIM."
"Never would he permit that, your Excellency. He would greatly prefer
to be the first to make advances." And Chichikov added to himself:
"What a stroke of luck those Generals were! Otherwise, the Lord knows
where my tongue might have landed me!"
At this moment the door into the adjoining room opened, and there
appeared in the doorway a girl as fair as a ray of the sun--so fair,
indeed, that Chichikov stared at her in amazement. Apparently she had
come to speak to her father for a moment, but had stopped short on
perceiving that there was some one with him. The only fault to be
found in her appearance was the fact that she was too thin and
"May I introduce you to my little pet?" said the General to Chichikov.
"To tell you the truth, I do not know your name."
"That you should be unacquainted with the name of one who has never
distinguished himself in the manner of which you yourself can boast is
scarcely to be wondered at." And Chichikov executed one of his
sidelong, deferential bows.
"Well, I should be delighted to know it."
"It is Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov, your Excellency." With that went the
easy bow of a military man and the agile backward movement of an
"Ulinka, this is Paul Ivanovitch," said the General, turning to his
daughter. "He has just told me some interesting news--namely, that our
neighbour Tientietnikov is not altogether the fool we had at first
thought him. On the contrary, he is engaged upon a very important
work--upon a history of the Russian Generals of 1812."
"But who ever supposed him to be a fool?" asked the girl quickly.
"What happened was that you took Vishnepokromov's word--the word of a
man who is himself both a fool and a good-for-nothing."
"Well, well," said the father after further good-natured dispute on
the subject of Vishnepokromov. "Do you now run away, for I wish to
dress for luncheon. And you, sir," he added to Chichikov, "will you
not join us at table?"
Chichikov bowed so low and so long that, by the time that his eyes had
ceased to see nothing but his own boots, the General's daughter had
disappeared, and in her place was standing a bewhiskered butler, armed
with a silver soap-dish and a hand-basin.
"Do you mind if I wash in your presence?" asked the host.
"By no means," replied Chichikov. "Pray do whatsoever you please in
Upon that the General fell to scrubbing himself--incidentally, to
sending soapsuds flying in every direction. Meanwhile he seemed so
favourably disposed that Chichikov decided to sound him then and
there, more especially since the butler had left the room.
"May I put to you a problem?" he asked.
"Certainly," replied the General. "What is it?"
"It is this, your Excellency. I have a decrepit old uncle who owns
three hundred souls and two thousand roubles-worth of other property.
Also, except for myself, he possesses not a single heir. Now, although
his infirm state of health will not permit of his managing his
property in person, he will not allow me either to manage it. And the
reason for his conduct--his very strange conduct--he states as
follows: 'I do not know my nephew, and very likely he is a
spendthrift. If he wishes to show me that he is good for anything, let
him go and acquire as many souls as _I_ have acquired; and when he has
done that I will transfer to him my three hundred souls as well."
"The man must be an absolute fool," commented the General.
"Possibly. And were that all, things would not be as bad as they are.
But, unfortunately, my uncle has gone and taken up with his
housekeeper, and has had children by her. Consequently, everything
will now pass to THEM."
"The old man must have taken leave of his senses," remarked the
General. "Yet how _I_ can help you I fail to see."
"Well, I have thought of a plan. If you will hand me over all the dead
souls on your estate--hand them over to me exactly as though they were
still alive, and were purchasable property--I will offer them to the
old man, and then he will leave me his fortune."
At this point the General burst into a roar of laughter such as few
can ever have heard. Half-dressed, he subsided into a chair, threw
back his head, and guffawed until he came near to choking. In fact,
the house shook with his merriment, so much so that the butler and his
daughter came running into the room in alarm.
It was long before he could produce a single articulate word; and even
when he did so (to reassure his daughter and the butler) he kept
momentarily relapsing into spluttering chuckles which made the house
ring and ring again.
Chichikov was greatly taken aback.
"Oh, that uncle!" bellowed the General in paroxysms of mirth. "Oh,
that blessed uncle! WHAT a fool he'll look! Ha, ha, ha! Dead souls
offered him instead of live ones! Oh, my goodness!"
"I suppose I've put my foot in it again," ruefully reflected
Chichikov. "But, good Lord, what a man the fellow is to laugh! Heaven
send that he doesn't burst of it!"
"Ha, ha, ha!" broke out the General afresh. "WHAT a donkey the old
man must be! To think of his saying to you: 'You go and fit yourself
out with three hundred souls, and I'll cap them with my own lot'! My
word! What a jackass!"
"A jackass, your Excellency?"
"Yes, indeed! And to think of the jest of putting him off with dead
souls! Ha, ha, ha! WHAT wouldn't I give to see you handing him the
title deeds? Who is he? What is he like? Is he very old?"
"He is eighty, your Excellency."
"But still brisk and able to move about, eh? Surely he must be pretty
strong to go on living with his housekeeper like that?"
"Yes. But what does such strength mean? Sand runs away, your
"The old fool! But is he really such a fool?"
"Yes, your Excellency."
"And does he go out at all? Does he see company? Can he still hold
"Yes, but with great difficulty."
"And has he any teeth left?"
"No more than two at the most."
"The old jackass! Don't be angry with me, but I must say that, though
your uncle, he is also a jackass."
"Quite so, your Excellency. And though it grieves ME to have to
confess that he is my uncle, what am I to do with him?"
Yet this was not altogether the truth. What would have been a far
harder thing for Chichikov to have confessed was the fact that he
possessed no uncles at all.
"I beg of you, your Excellency," he went on, "to hand me over those,
"Those dead souls, eh? Why, in return for the jest I will give you
some land as well. Yes, you can take the whole graveyard if you like.
Ha, ha, ha! The old man! Ha, ha, ha! WHAT a fool he'll look! Ha, ha,
And once more the General's guffaws went ringing through the house.
[At this point there is a long hiatus in the original.]
"If Colonel Koshkarev should turn out to be as mad as the last one it
is a bad look-out," said Chichikov to himself on opening his eyes amid
fields and open country--everything else having disappeared save the
vault of heaven and a couple of low-lying clouds.
"Selifan," he went on, "did you ask how to get to Colonel
"Yes, Paul Ivanovitch. At least, there was such a clatter around the
koliaska that I could not; but Petrushka asked the coachman."
"You fool! How often have I told you not to rely on Petrushka?
Petrushka is a blockhead, an idiot. Besides, at the present moment I
believe him to be drunk."
"No, you are wrong, barin," put in the person referred to, turning his
head with a sidelong glance. "After we get down the next hill we shall
need but to keep bending round it. That is all."
"Yes, and I suppose you'll tell me that sivnkha is the only thing that
has passed your lips? Well, the view at least is beautiful. In fact,
when one has seen this place one may say that one has seen one of the
beauty spots of Europe." This said, Chichikov added to himself,
smoothing his chin: "What a difference between the features of a
civilised man of the world and those of a common lacquey!"
Meanwhile the koliaska quickened its pace, and Chichikov once more
caught sight of Tientietnikov's aspen-studded meadows. Undulating
gently on elastic springs, the vehicle cautiously descended the steep
incline, and then proceeded past water-mills, rumbled over a bridge or
two, and jolted easily along the rough-set road which traversed the
flats. Not a molehill, not a mound jarred the spine. The vehicle was
Swiftly there flew by clumps of osiers, slender elder trees, and
silver-leaved poplars, their branches brushing against Selifan and
Petrushka, and at intervals depriving the valet of his cap. Each time
that this happened, the sullen-faced servitor fell to cursing both the
tree responsible for the occurrence and the landowner responsible for
the tree being in existence; yet nothing would induce him thereafter
either to tie on the cap or to steady it with his hand, so complete
was his assurance that the accident would never be repeated. Soon to
the foregoing trees there became added an occasional birch or spruce
fir, while in the dense undergrowth around their roots could be seen
the blue iris and the yellow wood-tulip. Gradually the forest grew
darker, as though eventually the obscurity would become complete. Then
through the trunks and the boughs there began to gleam points of light
like glittering mirrors, and as the number of trees lessened, these
points grew larger, until the travellers debouched upon the shore of a
lake four versts or so in circumference, and having on its further
margin the grey, scattered log huts of a peasant village. In the water
a great commotion was in progress. In the first place, some twenty
men, immersed to the knee, to the breast, or to the neck, were
dragging a large fishing-net inshore, while, in the second place,
there was entangled in the same, in addition to some fish, a stout man
shaped precisely like a melon or a hogshead. Greatly excited, he was
shouting at the top of his voice: "Let Kosma manage it, you lout of a
Denis! Kosma, take the end of the rope from Denis! Don't bear so hard
on it, Thoma Bolshoy! Go where Thoma Menshov is! Damn it, bring
the net to land, will you!" From this it became clear that it was not
on his own account that the stout man was worrying. Indeed, he had no
need to do so, since his fat would in any case have prevented him from
sinking. Yes, even if he had turned head over heels in an effort to
dive, the water would persistently have borne him up; and the same if,
say, a couple of men had jumped on his back--the only result would
have been that he would have become a trifle deeper submerged, and
forced to draw breath by spouting bubbles through his nose. No, the
cause of his agitation was lest the net should break, and the fish
escape: wherefore he was urging some additional peasants who were
standing on the bank to lay hold of and to pull at, an extra rope or
 The Elder.
 The Younger.
"That must be the barin--Colonel Koshkarev," said Selifan.
"Why?" asked Chichikov.
"Because, if you please, his skin is whiter than the rest, and he has
the respectable paunch of a gentleman."
Meanwhile good progress was being made with the hauling in of the
barin; until, feeling the ground with his feet, he rose to an upright
position, and at the same moment caught sight of the koliaska, with
Chichikov seated therein, descending the declivity.
"Have you dined yet?" shouted the barin as, still entangled in the
net, he approached the shore with a huge fish on his back. With one
hand shading his eyes from the sun, and the other thrown backwards, he
looked, in point of pose, like the Medici Venus emerging from her
"No," replied Chichikov, raising his cap, and executing a series of
"Then thank God for that," rejoined the gentleman.
"Why?" asked Chichikov with no little curiosity, and still holding his
cap over his head.
"Because of THIS. Cast off the net, Thoma Menshov, and pick up that
sturgeon for the gentleman to see. Go and help him, Telepen Kuzma."
With that the peasants indicated picked up by the head what was a
veritable monster of a fish.
"Isn't it a beauty--a sturgeon fresh run from the river?" exclaimed
the stout barin. "And now let us be off home. Coachman, you can take
the lower road through the kitchen garden. Run, you lout of a Thoma
Bolshoy, and open the gate for him. He will guide you to the house,
and I myself shall be along presently."
Thereupon the barelegged Thoma Bolshoy, clad in nothing but a shirt,
ran ahead of the koliaska through the village, every hut of which had
hanging in front of it a variety of nets, for the reason that every
inhabitant of the place was a fisherman. Next, he opened a gate into a
large vegetable enclosure, and thence the koliaska emerged into a
square near a wooden church, with, showing beyond the latter, the
roofs of the manorial homestead.
"A queer fellow, that Koshkarev!" said Chichikov to himself.
"Well, whatever I may be, at least I'm here," said a voice by his
side. Chichikov looked round, and perceived that, in the meanwhile,
the barin had dressed himself and overtaken the carriage. With a pair
of yellow trousers he was wearing a grass-green jacket, and his neck
was as guiltless of a collar as Cupid's. Also, as he sat sideways in
his drozhki, his bulk was such that he completely filled the vehicle.
Chichikov was about to make some remark or another when the stout
gentleman disappeared; and presently his drozhki re-emerged into view
at the spot where the fish had been drawn to land, and his voice could
be heard reiterating exhortations to his serfs. Yet when Chichikov
reached the verandah of the house he found, to his intense surprise,
the stout gentleman waiting to welcome the visitor. How he had
contrived to convey himself thither passed Chichikov's comprehension.
Host and guest embraced three times, according to a bygone custom of
Russia. Evidently the barin was one of the old school.
"I bring you," said Chichikov, "a greeting from his Excellency."
"From your relative General Alexander Dmitrievitch."
"Who is Alexander Dmitrievitch?"
"What? You do not know General Alexander Dmitrievitch Betrishev?"
exclaimed Chichikov with a touch of surprise.
"No, I do not," replied the gentleman.
Chichikov's surprise grew to absolute astonishment.
"How comes that about?" he ejaculated. "I hope that I have the honour
of addressing Colonel Koshkarev?"
"Your hopes are vain. It is to my house, not to his, that you have
come; and I am Peter Petrovitch Pietukh--yes, Peter Petrovitch
Chichikov, dumbfounded, turned to Selifan and Petrushka.
"What do you mean?" he exclaimed. "I told you to drive to the house of
Colonel Koshkarev, whereas you have brought me to that of Peter
"All the same, your fellows have done quite right," put in the
gentleman referred to. "Do you" (this to Selifan and Petrushka) "go to
the kitchen, where they will give you a glassful of vodka apiece. Then
put up the horses, and be off to the servants' quarters."
"I regret the mistake extremely," said Chichikov.
"But it is not a mistake. When you have tried the dinner which I have
in store for you, just see whether you think IT a mistake. Enter, I
beg of you." And, taking Chichikov by the arm, the host conducted him
within, where they were met by a couple of youths.
"Let me introduce my two sons, home for their holidays from the
Gymnasium," said Pietukh. "Nikolasha, come and entertain our good
visitor, while you, Aleksasha, follow me." And with that the host
 Secondary School.
Chichikov turned to Nikolasha, whom he found to be a budding man about
town, since at first he opened a conversation by stating that, as no
good was to be derived from studying at a provincial institution, he
and his brother desired to remove, rather, to St. Petersburg, the
provinces not being worth living in.
"I quite understand," Chichikov thought to himself. "The end of the
chapter will be confectioners' assistants and the boulevards."
"Tell me," he added aloud, "how does your father's property at present
"It is all mortgaged," put in the father himself as he re-entered the
room. "Yes, it is all mortgaged, every bit of it."
"What a pity!" thought Chichikov. "At this rate it will not be long
before this man has no property at all left. I must hurry my
departure." Aloud he said with an air of sympathy: "That you have
mortgaged the estate seems to me a matter of regret."
"No, not at all," replied Pietukh. "In fact, they tell me that it is a
good thing to do, and that every one else is doing it. Why should I
act differently from my neighbours? Moreover, I have had enough of
living here, and should like to try Moscow--more especially since my
sons are always begging me to give them a metropolitan education."
"Oh, the fool, the fool!" reflected Chichikov. "He is for throwing up
everything and making spendthrifts of his sons. Yet this is a nice
property, and it is clear that the local peasants are doing well, and
that the family, too, is comfortably off. On the other hand, as soon
as ever these lads begin their education in restaurants and theatres,
the devil will away with every stick of their substance. For my own
part, I could desire nothing better than this quiet life in the
"Let me guess what is in your mind," said Pietukh.
"What, then?" asked Chichikov, rather taken aback.
"You are thinking to yourself: 'That fool of a Pietukh has asked me to
dinner, yet not a bite of dinner do I see.' But wait a little. It will
be ready presently, for it is being cooked as fast as a maiden who has
had her hair cut off plaits herself a new set of tresses."
"Here comes Platon Mikhalitch, father!" exclaimed Aleksasha, who had
been peeping out of the window.
"Yes, and on a grey horse," added his brother.
"Who is Platon Mikhalitch?" inquired Chichikov.
"A neighbour of ours, and an excellent fellow."
The next moment Platon Mikhalitch himself entered the room,
accompanied by a sporting dog named Yarb. He was a tall, handsome man,
with extremely red hair. As for his companion, it was of the
keen-muzzled species used for shooting.
"Have you dined yet?" asked the host.
"Yes," replied Platon.
"Indeed? What do you mean by coming here to laugh at us all? Do I ever
go to YOUR place after dinner?"
The newcomer smiled. "Well, if it can bring you any comfort," he said,
"let me tell you that I ate nothing at the meal, for I had no
"But you should see what I have caught--what sort of a sturgeon fate
has brought my way! Yes, and what crucians and carp!"
"Really it tires one to hear you. How come you always to be so cheerful?"
"And how come YOU always to be so gloomy?" retorted the host.
"How, you ask? Simply because I am so."
"The truth is you don't eat enough. Try the plan of making a good
dinner. Weariness of everything is a modern invention. Once upon a
time one never heard of it."
"Well, boast away, but have you yourself never been tired of things?"
"Never in my life. I do not so much as know whether I should find time
to be tired. In the morning, when one awakes, the cook is waiting, and
the dinner has to be ordered. Then one drinks one's morning tea, and
then the bailiff arrives for HIS orders, and then there is fishing
to be done, and then one's dinner has to be eaten. Next, before one
has even had a chance to utter a snore, there enters once again the
cook, and one has to order supper; and when she has departed, behold,
back she comes with a request for the following day's dinner! What
time does THAT leave one to be weary of things?"
Throughout this conversation, Chichikov had been taking stock of the
newcomer, who astonished him with his good looks, his upright,
picturesque figure, his appearance of fresh, unwasted youthfulness,
and the boyish purity, innocence, and clarity of his features. Neither
passion nor care nor aught of the nature of agitation or anxiety of
mind had ventured to touch his unsullied face, or to lay a single
wrinkle thereon. Yet the touch of life which those emotions might have
imparted was wanting. The face was, as it were, dreaming, even though
from time to time an ironical smile disturbed it.
"I, too, cannot understand," remarked Chichikov, "how a man of your
appearance can find things wearisome. Of course, if a man is hard
pressed for money, or if he has enemies who are lying in wait for his
life (as have certain folk of whom I know), well, then--"
"Believe me when I say," interrupted the handsome guest, "that, for
the sake of a diversion, I should be glad of ANY sort of an anxiety.
Would that some enemy would conceive a grudge against me! But no one
does so. Everything remains eternally dull."
"But perhaps you lack a sufficiency of land or souls?"
"Not at all. I and my brother own ten thousand desiatins of land,
and over a thousand souls."
 The desiatin = 2.86 English acres.
"Curious! I do not understand it. But perhaps the harvest has failed,
or you have sickness about, and many of your male peasants have died
"On the contrary, everything is in splendid order, for my brother is
the best of managers."
"Then to find things wearisome!" exclaimed Chichikov. "It passes my
comprehension." And he shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, we will soon put weariness to flight," interrupted the host.
"Aleksasha, do you run helter-skelter to the kitchen, and there tell
the cook to serve the fish pasties. Yes, and where have that gawk of
an Emelian and that thief of an Antoshka got to? Why have they not
handed round the zakuski?"
At this moment the door opened, and the "gawk" and the "thief" in
question made their appearance with napkins and a tray--the latter
bearing six decanters of variously-coloured beverages. These they
placed upon the table, and then ringed them about with glasses and
platefuls of every conceivable kind of appetiser. That done, the
servants applied themselves to bringing in various comestibles under
covers, through which could be heard the hissing of hot roast viands.
In particular did the "gawk" and the "thief" work hard at their tasks.
As a matter of fact, their appellations had been given them merely to
spur them to greater activity, for, in general, the barin was no lover
of abuse, but, rather, a kind-hearted man who, like most Russians,
could not get on without a sharp word or two. That is to say, he
needed them for his tongue as he need a glass of vodka for his
digestion. What else could you expect? It was his nature to care for
To the zakuski succeeded the meal itself, and the host became a
perfect glutton on his guests' behalf. Should he notice that a guest
had taken but a single piece of a comestible, he added thereto another
one, saying: "Without a mate, neither man nor bird can live in this
world." Should any one take two pieces, he added thereto a third,
saying: "What is the good of the number 2? God loves a trinity."
Should any one take three pieces, he would say: "Where do you see a
waggon with three wheels? Who builds a three-cornered hut?" Lastly,
should any one take four pieces, he would cap them with a fifth, and
add thereto the punning quip, "Na piat opiat". After devouring at
least twelve steaks of sturgeon, Chichikov ventured to think to
himself, "My host cannot possibly add to THEM," but found that he
was mistaken, for, without a word, Pietukh heaped upon his plate an
enormous portion of spit-roasted veal, and also some kidneys. And what
veal it was!
 "One more makes five."
"That calf was fed two years on milk," he explained. "I cared for it
like my own son."
"Nevertheless I can eat no more," said Chichikov.
"Do you try the veal before you say that you can eat no more."
"But I could not get it down my throat. There is no room left."
"If there be no room in a church for a newcomer, the beadle is sent
for, and room is very soon made--yes, even though before there was
such a crush that an apple couldn't have been dropped between the
people. Do you try the veal, I say. That piece is the titbit of all."
So Chichikov made the attempt; and in very truth the veal was beyond
all praise, and room was found for it, even though one would have
supposed the feat impossible.
"Fancy this good fellow removing to St. Petersburg or Moscow!" said
the guest to himself. "Why, with a scale of living like this, he would
be ruined in three years." For that matter, Pietukh might well have
been ruined already, for hospitality can dissipate a fortune in three
months as easily as it can in three years.
The host also dispensed the wine with a lavish hand, and what the
guests did not drink he gave to his sons, who thus swallowed glass
after glass. Indeed, even before coming to table, it was possible to
discern to what department of human accomplishment their bent was
turned. When the meal was over, however, the guests had no mind for
further drinking. Indeed, it was all that they could do to drag
themselves on to the balcony, and there to relapse into easy chairs.
Indeed, the moment that the host subsided into his seat--it was large
enough for four--he fell asleep, and his portly presence, converting
itself into a sort of blacksmith's bellows, started to vent, through
open mouth and distended nostrils, such sounds as can have greeted
the reader's ear but seldom--sounds as of a drum being beaten in
combination with the whistling of a flute and the strident howling of
"Listen to him!" said Platon.
"Naturally, on such dinners as that," continued the other, "our host
does NOT find the time dull. And as soon as dinner is ended there
can ensue sleep."
"Yes, but, pardon me, I still fail to understand why you should find
life wearisome. There are so many resources against ennui!"
"As for instance?"
"For a young man, dancing, the playing of one or another musical
instrument, and--well, yes, marriage."
"Marriage to whom?"
"To some maiden who is both charming and rich. Are there none in these
"Then, were I you, I should travel, and seek a maiden elsewhere." And
a brilliant idea therewith entered Chichikov's head. "This last
resource," he added, "is the best of all resources against ennui."
"What resource are you speaking of?"
"Well, should it so please you, you might join me as my companion."
This said, the speaker added to himself as he eyed Platon: "Yes, that
would suit me exactly, for then I should have half my expenses paid,
and could charge him also with the cost of mending the koliaska."
"And whither should we go?"
"In that respect I am not wholly my own master, as I have business to
do for others as well as for myself. For instance, General
Betristchev--an intimate friend and, I might add, a generous
benefactor of mine--has charged me with commissions to certain of his
relatives. However, though relatives are relatives, I am travelling
likewise on my own account, since I wish to see the world and the
whirligig of humanity--which, in spite of what people may say, is as
good as a living book or a second education." As a matter of fact,
Chichikov was reflecting, "Yes, the plan is an excellent one. I might
even contrive that he should have to bear the whole of our expenses,
and that his horses should be used while my own should be put out to
graze on his farm."
"Well, why should I not adopt the suggestion?" was Platon's thought.
"There is nothing for me to do at home, since the management of the
estate is in my brother's hands, and my going would cause him no
inconvenience. Yes, why should I not do as Chichikov has suggested?"
Then he added aloud:
"Would you come and stay with my brother for a couple of days?
Otherwise he might refuse me his consent."
"With great pleasure," said Chichikov. "Or even for three days."
"Then here is my hand on it. Let us be off at once." Platon seemed
suddenly to have come to life again.
"Where are you off to?" put in their host unexpectedly as he roused
himself and stared in astonishment at the pair. "No, no, my good sirs.
I have had the wheels removed from your koliaska, Monsieur Chichikov,
and have sent your horse, Platon Mikhalitch, to a grazing ground
fifteen versts away. Consequently you must spend the night here, and
depart to-morrow morning after breakfast."
What could be done with a man like Pietukh? There was no help for it
but to remain. In return, the guests were rewarded with a beautiful
spring evening, for, to spend the time, the host organised a boating
expedition on the river, and a dozen rowers, with a dozen pairs of
oars, conveyed the party (to the accompaniment of song) across the
smooth surface of the lake and up a great river with towering banks.
From time to time the boat would pass under ropes, stretched across
for purposes of fishing, and at each turn of the rippling current new
vistas unfolded themselves as tier upon tier of woodland delighted the
eye with a diversity of timber and foliage. In unison did the rowers
ply their sculls, yet it was though of itself that the skiff shot
forward, bird-like, over the glassy surface of the water; while at
intervals the broad-shouldered young oarsman who was seated third from
the bow would raise, as from a nightingale's throat, the opening
staves of a boat song, and then be joined by five or six more, until
the melody had come to pour forth in a volume as free and boundless as
Russia herself. And Pietukh, too, would give himself a shake, and help
lustily to support the chorus; and even Chichikov felt acutely
conscious of the fact that he was a Russian. Only Platon reflected:
"What is there so splendid in these melancholy songs? They do but
increase one's depression of spirits."
The journey homeward was made in the gathering dusk. Rhythmically the
oars smote a surface which no longer reflected the sky, and darkness
had fallen when they reached the shore, along which lights were
twinkling where the fisherfolk were boiling live eels for soup.
Everything had now wended its way homeward for the night; the cattle
and poultry had been housed, and the herdsmen, standing at the gates
of the village cattle-pens, amid the trailing dust lately raised by
their charges, were awaiting the milk-pails and a summons to partake
of the eel-broth. Through the dusk came the hum of humankind, and the
barking of dogs in other and more distant villages; while, over all,
the moon was rising, and the darkened countryside was beginning to
glimmer to light again under her beams. What a glorious picture! Yet
no one thought of admiring it. Instead of galloping over the
countryside on frisky cobs, Nikolasha and Aleksasha were engaged in
dreaming of Moscow, with its confectioners' shops and the theatres of
which a cadet, newly arrived on a visit from the capital, had just
been telling them; while their father had his mind full of how best to
stuff his guests with yet more food, and Platon was given up to
yawning. Only in Chichikov was a spice of animation visible. "Yes," he
reflected, "some day I, too, will become lord of such a country
place." And before his mind's eye there arose also a helpmeet and some
By the time that supper was finished the party had again over-eaten
themselves, and when Chichikov entered the room allotted him for the
night, he lay down upon the bed, and prodded his stomach. "It is as
tight as a drum," he said to himself. "Not another titbit of veal
could now get into it." Also, circumstances had so brought it about
that next door to him there was situated his host's apartment; and
since the intervening wall was thin, Chichikov could hear every word
that was said there. At the present moment the master of the house was
engaged in giving the cook orders for what, under the guise of an
early breakfast, promised to constitute a veritable dinner. You should
have heard Pietukh's behests! They would have excited the appetite of
"Yes," he said, sucking his lips, and drawing a deep breath, "in the
first place, make a pasty in four divisions. Into one of the divisions
put the sturgeon's cheeks and some viaziga, and into another
division some buckwheat porridge, young mushrooms and onions, sweet
milk, calves' brains, and anything else that you may find
suitable--anything else that you may have got handy. Also, bake the
pastry to a nice brown on one side, and but lightly on the other. Yes,
and, as to the under side, bake it so that it will be all juicy and
flaky, so that it shall not crumble into bits, but melt in the mouth
like the softest snow that ever you heard of." And as he said this
Pietukh fairly smacked his lips.
 Dried spinal marrow of the sturgeon.
"The devil take him!" muttered Chichikov, thrusting his head beneath
the bedclothes to avoid hearing more. "The fellow won't give one a
chance to sleep."
Nevertheless he heard through the blankets:
"And garnish the sturgeon with beetroot, smelts, peppered mushrooms,
young radishes, carrots, beans, and anything else you like, so as to
have plenty of trimmings. Yes, and put a lump of ice into the pig's
bladder, so as to swell it up."
Many other dishes did Pietukh order, and nothing was to be heard but
his talk of boiling, roasting, and stewing. Finally, just as mention
was being made of a turkey cock, Chichikov fell asleep.
Next morning the guest's state of repletion had reached the point of
Platon being unable to mount his horse; wherefore the latter was
dispatched homeward with one of Pietukh's grooms, and the two guests
entered Chichikov's koliaska. Even the dog trotted lazily in the rear;
for he, too, had over-eaten himself.
"It has been rather too much of a good thing," remarked Chichikov as
the vehicle issued from the courtyard.
"Yes, and it vexes me to see the fellow never tire of it," replied
"Ah," thought Chichikov to himself, "if _I_ had an income of seventy
thousand roubles, as you have, I'd very soon give tiredness one in the
eye! Take Murazov, the tax-farmer--he, again, must be worth ten
millions. What a fortune!"
"Do you mind where we drive?" asked Platon. "I should like first to go
and take leave of my sister and my brother-in-law."
"With pleasure," said Chichikov.
"My brother-in-law is the leading landowner hereabouts. At the present
moment he is drawing an income of two hundred thousand roubles from a
property which, eight years ago, was producing a bare twenty
"Truly a man worthy of the utmost respect! I shall be most interested
to make his acquaintance. To think of it! And what may his family name
"And his Christian name and patronymic?"
"Constantine Thedorovitch Kostanzhoglo. Yes, it will be a most
interesting event to make his acquaintance. To know such a man must be
a whole education."
Here Platon set himself to give Selifan some directions as to the way,
a necessary proceeding in view of the fact that Selifan could hardly
maintain his seat on the box. Twice Petrushka, too, had fallen
headlong, and this necessitated being tied to his perch with a piece
of rope. "What a clown!" had been Chichikov's only comment.
"This is where my brother-in-law's land begins," said Platon.
"They give one a change of view."
And, indeed, from this point the countryside became planted with
timber; the rows of trees running as straight as pistol-shots, and
having beyond them, and on higher ground, a second expanse of forest,
newly planted like the first; while beyond it, again, loomed a third
plantation of older trees. Next there succeeded a flat piece of the
"All this timber," said Platon, "has grown up within eight or ten
years at the most; whereas on another man's land it would have taken
twenty to attain the same growth."
"And how has your brother-in-law effected this?"
"You must ask him yourself. He is so excellent a husbandman that
nothing ever fails with him. You see, he knows the soil, and also
knows what ought to be planted beside what, and what kinds of timber
are the best neighbourhood for grain. Again, everything on his estate
is made to perform at least three or four different functions. For
instance, he makes his timber not only serve as timber, but also serve
as a provider of moisture and shade to a given stretch of land, and
then as a fertiliser with its fallen leaves. Consequently, when
everywhere else there is drought, he still has water, and when
everywhere else there has been a failure of the harvest, on his lands
it will have proved a success. But it is a pity that I know so little
about it all as to be unable to explain to you his many expedients.
Folk call him a wizard, for he produces so much. Nevertheless,
personally I find what he does uninteresting."
"Truly an astonishing fellow!" reflected Chichikov with a glance at
his companion. "It is sad indeed to see a man so superficial as to be
unable to explain matters of this kind."
At length the manor appeared in sight--an establishment looking almost
like a town, so numerous were the huts where they stood arranged in
three tiers, crowned with three churches, and surrounded with huge
ricks and barns. "Yes," thought Chichikov to himself, "one can see
what a jewel of a landowner lives here." The huts in question were
stoutly built and the intervening alleys well laid-out; while,
wherever a waggon was visible, it looked serviceable and more or less
new. Also, the local peasants bore an intelligent look on their faces,
the cattle were of the best possible breed, and even the peasants'
pigs belonged to the porcine aristocracy. Clearly there dwelt here
peasants who, to quote the song, were accustomed to "pick up silver by
the shovelful." Nor were Englishified gardens and parterres and other
conceits in evidence, but, on the contrary, there ran an open view
from the manor house to the farm buildings and the workmen's cots, so
that, after the old Russian fashion, the barin should be able to keep
an eye upon all that was going on around him. For the same purpose,
the mansion was topped with a tall lantern and a superstructure--a
device designed, not for ornament, nor for a vantage-spot for the
contemplation of the view, but for supervision of the labourers
engaged in distant fields. Lastly, the brisk, active servants who
received the visitors on the verandah were very different menials from
the drunken Petrushka, even though they did not wear swallow-tailed
coats, but only Cossack tchekmenu of blue homespun cloth.
 Long, belted Tartar blouses.
The lady of the house also issued on to the verandah. With her face of
the freshness of "blood and milk" and the brightness of God's
daylight, she as nearly resembled Platon as one pea resembles another,
save that, whereas he was languid, she was cheerful and full of talk.
"Good day, brother!" she cried. "How glad I am to see you! Constantine
is not at home, but will be back presently."
"Where is he?"
"Doing business in the village with a party of factors," replied the
lady as she conducted her guests to the drawing-room.
With no little curiosity did Chichikov gaze at the interior of the
mansion inhabited by the man who received an annual income of two
hundred thousand roubles; for he thought to discern therefrom the
nature of its proprietor, even as from a shell one may deduce the
species of oyster or snail which has been its tenant, and has left
therein its impression. But no such conclusions were to be drawn. The
rooms were simple, and even bare. Not a fresco nor a picture nor a
bronze nor a flower nor a china what-not nor a book was there to be
seen. In short, everything appeared to show that the proprietor of
this abode spent the greater part of his time, not between four walls,
but in the field, and that he thought out his plans, not in sybaritic
fashion by the fireside, nor in an easy chair beside the stove, but on
the spot where work was actually in progress--that, in a word, where
those plans were conceived, there they were put into execution. Nor in
these rooms could Chichikov detect the least trace of a feminine hand,
beyond the fact that certain tables and chairs bore drying-boards
whereon were arranged some sprinklings of flower petals.
"What is all this rubbish for?" asked Platon.
"It is not rubbish," replied the lady of the house. "On the contrary,
it is the best possible remedy for fever. Last year we cured every one
of our sick peasants with it. Some of the petals I am going to make
into an ointment, and some into an infusion. You may laugh as much as
you like at my potting and preserving, yet you yourself will be glad
of things of the kind when you set out on your travels."
Platon moved to the piano, and began to pick out a note or two.
"Good Lord, what an ancient instrument!" he exclaimed. "Are you not
ashamed of it, sister?"
"Well, the truth is that I get no time to practice my music. You see,"
she added to Chichikov, "I have an eight-year-old daughter to educate;
and to hand her over to a foreign governess in order that I may have
leisure for my own piano-playing--well, that is a thing which I could
never bring myself to do."
"You have become a wearisome sort of person," commented Platon, and
walked away to the window. "Ah, here comes Constantine," presently he
Chichikov also glanced out of the window, and saw approaching the
verandah a brisk, swarthy-complexioned man of about forty, a man clad
in a rough cloth jacket and a velveteen cap. Evidently he was one of
those who care little for the niceties of dress. With him, bareheaded,
there came a couple of men of a somewhat lower station in life, and
all three were engaged in an animated discussion. One of the barin's
two companions was a plain peasant, and the other (clad in a blue
Siberian smock) a travelling factor. The fact that the party halted
awhile by the entrance steps made it possible to overhear a portion of
their conversation from within.
"This is what you peasants had better do," the barin was saying.
"Purchase your release from your present master. I will lend you the
necessary money, and afterwards you can work for me."
"No, Constantine Thedorovitch," replied the peasant. "Why should we do
that? Remove us just as we are. You will know how to arrange it, for a
cleverer gentleman than you is nowhere to be found. The misfortune of
us muzhiks is that we cannot protect ourselves properly. The
tavern-keepers sell us such liquor that, before a man knows where he
is, a glassful of it has eaten a hole through his stomach, and made
him feel as though he could drink a pail of water. Yes, it knocks a
man over before he can look around. Everywhere temptation lies in wait
for the peasant, and he needs to be cunning if he is to get through
the world at all. In fact, things seem to be contrived for nothing but
to make us peasants lose our wits, even to the tobacco which they sell
us. What are folk like ourselves to do, Constantine Thedorovitch? I
tell you it is terribly difficult for a muzhik to look after himself."
"Listen to me. This is how things are done here. When I take on a
serf, I fit him out with a cow and a horse. On the other hand, I
demand of him thereafter more than is demanded of a peasant anywhere
else. That is to say, first and foremost I make him work. Whether a
peasant be working for himself or for me, never do I let him waste
time. I myself toil like a bullock, and I force my peasants to do the
same, for experience has taught me that that is the only way to get
through life. All the mischief in the world comes through lack of
employment. Now, do you go and consider the matter, and talk it over
with your mir."
 Village commune.
"We have done that already, Constantine Thedorovitch, and our elders'
opinion is: 'There is no need for further talk. Every peasant
belonging to Constantine Thedorovitch is well off, and hasn't to work
for nothing. The priests of his village, too, are men of good heart,
whereas ours have been taken away, and there is no one to bury us.'"
"Nevertheless, do you go and talk the matter over again."
"We will, barin."
Here the factor who had been walking on the barin's other side put in
"Constantine Thedorovitch," he said, "I beg of you to do as I have
"I have told you before," replied the barin, "that I do not care to
play the huckster. I am not one of those landowners whom fellows of
your sort visit on the very day that the interest on a mortgage is
due. Ah, I know your fraternity thoroughly, and know that you keep
lists of all who have mortgages to repay. But what is there so clever
about that? Any man, if you pinch him sufficiently, will surrender you
a mortgage at half-price,--any man, that is to say, except myself, who
care nothing for your money. Were a loan of mine to remain out three
years, I should never demand a kopeck of interest on it."
"Quite so, Constantine Thedorovitch," replied the factor. "But I am
asking this of you more for the purpose of establishing us on a
business footing than because I desire to win your favour. Prey,
therefore, accept this earnest money of three thousand roubles." And
the man drew from his breast pocket a dirty roll of bank-notes, which,
carelessly receiving, Kostanzhoglo thrust, uncounted, into the back
pocket of his overcoat.
"Hm!" thought Chichikov. "For all he cares, the notes might have been
When Kostanzhoglo appeared at closer quarters--that is to say, in the
doorway of the drawing-room--he struck Chichikov more than ever with
the swarthiness of his complexion, the dishevelment of his black,
slightly grizzled locks, the alertness of his eye, and the impression
of fiery southern origin which his whole personality diffused. For he
was not wholly a Russian, nor could he himself say precisely who his
forefathers had been. Yet, inasmuch as he accounted genealogical
research no part of the science of estate-management, but a mere
superfluity, he looked upon himself as, to all intents and purposes, a
native of Russia, and the more so since the Russian language was the
only tongue he knew.
Platon presented Chichikov, and the pair exchanged greetings.
"To get rid of my depression, Constantine," continued Platon, "I am
thinking of accompanying our guest on a tour through a few of the
"An excellent idea," said Kostanzhoglo. "But precisely whither?" he
added, turning hospitably to Chichikov.
"To tell you the truth," replied that personage with an affable
inclination of the head as he smoothed the arm of his chair with his
hand, "I am travelling less on my own affairs than on the affairs of
others. That is to say, General Betristchev, an intimate friend, and,
I might add, a generous benefactor, of mine, has charged me with
commissions to some of his relatives. Nevertheless, though relatives
are relatives, I may say that I am travelling on my own account as
well, in that, in addition to possible benefit to my health, I desire
to see the world and the whirligig of humanity, which constitute, so
to speak, a living book, a second course of education."
"Yes, there is no harm in looking at other corners of the world
besides one's own."
"You speak truly. There IS no harm in such a proceeding. Thereby one
may see things which one has not before encountered, one may meet men
with whom one has not before come in contact. And with some men of
that kind a conversation is as precious a benefit as has been
conferred upon me by the present occasion. I come to you, most worthy
Constantine Thedorovitch, for instruction, and again for instruction,
and beg of you to assuage my thirst with an exposition of the truth as
it is. I hunger for the favour of your words as for manna."
"But how so? What can _I_ teach you?" exclaimed Kostanzhoglo in
confusion. "I myself was given but the plainest of educations."
"Nay, most worthy sir, you possess wisdom, and again wisdom. Wisdom
only can direct the management of a great estate, that can derive a
sound income from the same, that can acquire wealth of a real, not a
fictitious, order while also fulfilling the duties of a citizen and
thereby earning the respect of the Russian public. All this I pray you
to teach me."
"I tell you what," said Kostanzhoglo, looking meditatively at his
guest. "You had better stay with me for a few days, and during that
time I can show you how things are managed here, and explain to you
everything. Then you will see for yourself that no great wisdom is
required for the purpose."
"Yes, certainly you must stay here," put in the lady of the house.
Then, turning to her brother, she added: "And you too must stay. Why
should you be in such a hurry?"
"Very well," he replied. "But what say YOU, Paul Ivanovitch?"
"I say the same as you, and with much pleasure," replied Chichikov.
"But also I ought to tell you this: that there is a relative of
General Betristchev's, a certain Colonel Koshkarev--"
"Yes, we know him; but he is quite mad."
"As you say, he is mad, and I should not have been intending to visit
him, were it not that General Betristchev is an intimate friend of
mine, as well as, I might add, my most generous benefactor."
"Then," said Kostanzhoglo, "do you go and see Colonel Koshkarev NOW.
He lives less than ten versts from here, and I have a gig already
harnessed. Go to him at once, and return here for tea."
"An excellent idea!" cried Chichikov, and with that he seized his cap.
Half an hour's drive sufficed to bring him to the Colonel's
establishment. The village attached to the manor was in a state of
utter confusion, since in every direction building and repairing
operations were in progress, and the alleys were choked with heaps of
lime, bricks, and beams of wood. Also, some of the huts were arranged
to resemble offices, and superscribed in gilt letters "Depot for
Agricultural Implements," "Chief Office of Accounts," "Estate Works
Committee," "Normal School for the Education of Colonists," and so
Chichikov found the Colonel posted behind a desk and holding a pen
between his teeth. Without an instant's delay the master of the
establishment--who seemed a kindly, approachable man, and accorded to
his visitor a very civil welcome--plunged into a recital of the labour
which it had cost him to bring the property to its present condition
of affluence. Then he went on to lament the fact that he could not
make his peasantry understand the incentives to labour which the
riches of science and art provide; for instance, he had failed to
induce his female serfs to wear corsets, whereas in Germany, where he
had resided for fourteen years, every humble miller's daughter could
play the piano. None the less, he said, he meant to peg away until
every peasant on the estate should, as he walked behind the plough,
indulge in a regular course of reading Franklin's Notes on
Electricity, Virgil's Georgics, or some work on the chemical
properties of soil.
"Good gracious!" mentally exclaimed Chichikov. "Why, I myself have not
had time to finish that book by the Duchesse de la Valliere!"
Much else the Colonel said. In particular did he aver that, provided
the Russian peasant could be induced to array himself in German
costume, science would progress, trade increase, and the Golden Age
dawn in Russia.
For a while Chichikov listened with distended eyes. Then he felt
constrained to intimate that with all that he had nothing to do,
seeing that his business was merely to acquire a few souls, and
thereafter to have their purchase confirmed.
"If I understand you aright," said the Colonel, "you wish to present a
Statement of Plea?"
"Yes, that is so."
"Then kindly put it into writing, and it shall be forwarded to the
Office for the Reception of Reports and Returns. Thereafter that
Office will consider it, and return it to me, who will, in turn,
dispatch it to the Estate Works Committee, who will, in turn, revise
it, and present it to the Administrator, who, jointly with the
"Pardon me," expostulated Chichikov, "but that procedure will take up
a great deal of time. Why need I put the matter into writing at all?
It is simply this. I want a few souls which are--well, which are, so
to speak, dead."
"Very good," commented the Colonel. "Do you write down in your
Statement of Plea that the souls which you desire are, 'so to speak,
"But what would be the use of my doing so? Though the souls are dead,
my purpose requires that they should be represented as alive."
"Very good," again commented the Colonel. "Do you write down in your
Statement that 'it is necessary' (or, should you prefer an alternative
phrase, 'it is requested,' or 'it is desiderated,' or 'it is prayed,')
'that the souls be represented as alive.' At all events, WITHOUT
documentary process of that kind, the matter cannot possibly be
carried through. Also, I will appoint a Commissioner to guide you
round the various Offices."
And he sounded a bell; whereupon there presented himself a man whom,
addressing as "Secretary," the Colonel instructed to summon the
"Commissioner." The latter, on appearing, was seen to have the air,
half of a peasant, half of an official.
"This man," the Colonel said to Chichikov, "will act as your escort."
What could be done with a lunatic like Koshkarev? In the end,
curiosity moved Chichikov to accompany the Commissioner. The Committee
for the Reception of Reports and Returns was discovered to have put up
its shutters, and to have locked its doors, for the reason that the
Director of the Committee had been transferred to the newly-formed
Committee of Estate Management, and his successor had been annexed by
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