The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dead Souls, by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
Title: Dead Souls
Author: Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol
Commentator: John Cournos
Translator: D. J. Hogarth
Release Date: July 26, 2008 [EBook #1081]
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DEAD SOULS ***
Produced by John Bickers, and David Widger
By Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol
Translated by D. J. Hogarth
Introduction By John Cournos
Introduction By John Cournos
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, born at Sorochintsky, Russia, on 31st
March 1809. Obtained government post at St. Petersburg and later an
appointment at the university. Lived in Rome from 1836 to 1848.
Died on 21st February 1852.
The book this was typed from contains a complete Part I, and a
partial Part II, as it seems only part of Part II survived the
adventures described in the introduction. Where the text notes that
pages are missing from the "original", this refers to the Russian
original, not the translation.
All the foreign words were italicised in the original, a style
not preserved here. Accents and diphthongs have also been left
Dead Souls, first published in 1842, is the great prose classic
of Russia. That amazing institution, "the Russian novel," not only
began its career with this unfinished masterpiece by Nikolai
Vasil'evich Gogol, but practically all the Russian masterpieces
that have come since have grown out of it, like the limbs of a
single tree. Dostoieffsky goes so far as to bestow this tribute
upon an earlier work by the same author, a short story entitled The
Cloak; this idea has been wittily expressed by another compatriot,
who says: "We have all issued out of Gogol's Cloak."
Dead Souls, which bears the word "Poem" upon the title page of
the original, has been generally compared to Don Quixote and to the
Pickwick Papers, while E. M. Vogue places its author somewhere
between Cervantes and Le Sage. However considerable the influences
of Cervantes and Dickens may have been—the first in the matter of
structure, the other in background, humour, and detail of
characterisation—the predominating and distinguishing quality of
the work is undeniably something foreign to both and quite peculiar
to itself; something which, for want of a better term, might be
called the quality of the Russian soul. The English reader familiar
with the works of Dostoieffsky, Turgenev, and Tolstoi, need hardly
be told what this implies; it might be defined in the words of the
French critic just named as "a tendency to pity." One might indeed
go further and say that it implies a certain tolerance of one's
characters even though they be, in the conventional sense, knaves,
products, as the case might be, of conditions or circumstance,
which after all is the thing to be criticised and not the man. But
pity and tolerance are rare in satire, even in clash with it,
producing in the result a deep sense of tragic humour. It is this
that makes of Dead Souls a unique work, peculiarly Gogolian,
peculiarly Russian, and distinct from its author's Spanish and
Still more profound are the contradictions to be seen in the
author's personal character; and unfortunately they prevented him
from completing his work. The trouble is that he made his art out
of life, and when in his final years he carried his struggle, as
Tolstoi did later, back into life, he repented of all he had
written, and in the frenzy of a wakeful night burned all his
manuscripts, including the second part of Dead Souls, only
fragments of which were saved. There was yet a third part to be
written. Indeed, the second part had been written and burned twice.
Accounts differ as to why he had burned it finally. Religious
remorse, fury at adverse criticism, and despair at not reaching
ideal perfection are among the reasons given. Again it is said that
he had destroyed the manuscript with the others inadvertently.
The poet Pushkin, who said of Gogol that "behind his laughter
you feel the unseen tears," was his chief friend and inspirer. It
was he who suggested the plot of Dead Souls as well as the plot of
the earlier work The Revisor, which is almost the only comedy in
Russian. The importance of both is their introduction of the social
element in Russian literature, as Prince Kropotkin points out. Both
hold up the mirror to Russian officialdom and the effects it has
produced on the national character. The plot of Dead Souls is
simple enough, and is said to have been suggested by an actual
It was the day of serfdom in Russia, and a man's standing was
often judged by the numbers of "souls" he possessed. There was a
periodical census of serfs, say once every ten or twenty years.
This being the case, an owner had to pay a tax on every "soul"
registered at the last census, though some of the serfs might have
died in the meantime. Nevertheless, the system had its material
advantages, inasmuch as an owner might borrow money from a bank on
the "dead souls" no less than on the living ones. The plan of
Chichikov, Gogol's hero-villain, was therefore to make a journey
through Russia and buy up the "dead souls," at reduced rates of
course, saving their owners the government tax, and acquiring for
himself a list of fictitious serfs, which he meant to mortgage to a
bank for a considerable sum. With this money he would buy an estate
and some real life serfs, and make the beginning of a fortune.
Obviously, this plot, which is really no plot at all but merely
a ruse to enable Chichikov to go across Russia in a troika, with
Selifan the coachman as a sort of Russian Sancho Panza, gives Gogol
a magnificent opportunity to reveal his genius as a painter of
Russian panorama, peopled with characteristic native types
commonplace enough but drawn in comic relief. "The comic,"
explained the author yet at the beginning of his career, "is hidden
everywhere, only living in the midst of it we are not conscious of
it; but if the artist brings it into his art, on the stage say, we
shall roll about with laughter and only wonder we did not notice it
before." But the comic in Dead Souls is merely external. Let us see
how Pushkin, who loved to laugh, regarded the work. As Gogol read
it aloud to him from the manuscript the poet grew more and more
gloomy and at last cried out: "God! What a sad country Russia is!"
And later he said of it: "Gogol invents nothing; it is the simple
truth, the terrible truth."
The work on one hand was received as nothing less than an
exposure of all Russia—what would foreigners think of it? The
liberal elements, however, the critical Belinsky among them,
welcomed it as a revelation, as an omen of a freer future. Gogol,
who had meant to do a service to Russia and not to heap ridicule
upon her, took the criticisms of the Slavophiles to heart; and he
palliated his critics by promising to bring about in the succeeding
parts of his novel the redemption of Chichikov and the other
"knaves and blockheads." But the "Westerner" Belinsky and others of
the liberal camp were mistrustful. It was about this time (1847)
that Gogol published his Correspondence with Friends, and aroused a
literary controversy that is alive to this day. Tolstoi is to be
found among his apologists.
Opinions as to the actual significance of Gogol's masterpiece
differ. Some consider the author a realist who has drawn with
meticulous detail a picture of Russia; others, Merejkovsky among
them, see in him a great symbolist; the very title Dead Souls is
taken to describe the living of Russia as well as its dead.
Chichikov himself is now generally regarded as a universal
character. We find an American professor, William Lyon Phelps
1, of Yale,
holding the opinion that "no one can travel far in America without
meeting scores of Chichikovs; indeed, he is an accurate portrait of
the American promoter, of the successful commercial traveller whose
success depends entirely not on the real value and usefulness of
his stock-in-trade, but on his knowledge of human nature and of the
persuasive power of his tongue." This is also the opinion held by
Prince Kropotkin 2, who says: "Chichikov may buy dead
souls, or railway shares, or he may collect funds for some
charitable institution, or look for a position in a bank, but he is
an immortal international type; we meet him everywhere; he is of
all lands and of all times; he but takes different forms to suit
the requirements of nationality and time."
Again, the work bears an interesting relation to Gogol himself.
A romantic, writing of realities, he was appalled at the
commonplaces of life, at finding no outlet for his love of colour
derived from his Cossack ancestry. He realised that he had drawn a
host of "heroes," "one more commonplace than another, that there
was not a single palliating circumstance, that there was not a
single place where the reader might find pause to rest and to
console himself, and that when he had finished the book it was as
though he had walked out of an oppressive cellar into the open
air." He felt perhaps inward need to redeem Chichikov; in
Merejkovsky's opinion he really wanted to save his own soul, but
had succeeded only in losing it. His last years were spent
morbidly; he suffered torments and ran from place to place like one
hunted; but really always running from himself. Rome was his
favourite refuge, and he returned to it again and again. In 1848,
he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but he could find no peace
for his soul. Something of this mood had reflected itself even much
earlier in the Memoirs of a Madman: "Oh, little mother, save your
poor son! Look how they are tormenting him.... There's no place for
him on earth! He's being driven!... Oh, little mother, take pity on
thy poor child."
All the contradictions of Gogol's character are not to be
disposed of in a brief essay. Such a strange combination of the
tragic and the comic was truly seldom seen in one man. He, for one,
realised that "it is dangerous to jest with laughter." "Everything
that I laughed at became sad." "And terrible," adds Merejkovsky.
But earlier his humour was lighter, less tinged with the tragic; in
those days Pushkin never failed to be amused by what Gogol had
brought to read to him. Even Revizor (1835), with its tragic
undercurrent, was a trifle compared to Dead Souls, so that one is
not astonished to hear that not only did the Tsar, Nicholas I, give
permission to have it acted, in spite of its being a criticism of
official rottenness, but laughed uproariously, and led the
applause. Moreover, he gave Gogol a grant of money, and asked that
its source should not be revealed to the author lest "he might feel
obliged to write from the official point of view."
Gogol was born at Sorotchinetz, Little Russia, in March 1809. He
left college at nineteen and went to St. Petersburg, where he
secured a position as copying clerk in a government department. He
did not keep his position long, yet long enough to store away in
his mind a number of bureaucratic types which proved useful later.
He quite suddenly started for America with money given to him by
his mother for another purpose, but when he got as far as Lubeck he
turned back. He then wanted to become an actor, but his voice
proved not strong enough. Later he wrote a poem which was unkindly
received. As the copies remained unsold, he gathered them all up at
the various shops and burned them in his room.
His next effort, Evenings at the Farm of Dikanka (1831) was more
successful. It was a series of gay and colourful pictures of
Ukraine, the land he knew and loved, and if he is occasionally a
little over romantic here and there, he also achieves some
beautifully lyrical passages. Then came another even finer series
called Mirgorod, which won the admiration of Pushkin. Next he
planned a "History of Little Russia" and a "History of the Middle
Ages," this last work to be in eight or nine volumes. The result of
all this study was a beautiful and short Homeric epic in prose,
called Taras Bulba. His appointment to a professorship in history
was a ridiculous episode in his life. After a brilliant first
lecture, in which he had evidently said all he had to say, he
settled to a life of boredom for himself and his pupils. When he
resigned he said joyously: "I am once more a free Cossack." Between
1834 and 1835 he produced a new series of stories, including his
famous Cloak, which may be regarded as the legitimate beginning of
the Russian novel.
Gogol knew little about women, who played an equally minor role
in his life and in his books. This may be partly because his
personal appearance was not prepossessing. He is described by a
contemporary as "a little man with legs too short for his body. He
walked crookedly; he was clumsy, ill-dressed, and rather
ridiculous-looking, with his long lock of hair flapping on his
forehead, and his large prominent nose."
From 1835 Gogol spent almost his entire time abroad; some
strange unrest—possibly his Cossack blood—possessed him like a
demon, and he never stopped anywhere very long. After his
pilgrimage in 1848 to Jerusalem, he returned to Moscow, his entire
possessions in a little bag; these consisted of pamphlets,
critiques, and newspaper articles mostly inimical to himself. He
wandered about with these from house to house. Everything he had of
value he gave away to the poor. He ceased work entirely. According
to all accounts he spent his last days in praying and fasting.
Visions came to him. His death, which came in 1852, was extremely
fantastic. His last words, uttered in a loud frenzy, were: "A
ladder! Quick, a ladder!" This call for a ladder—"a spiritual
ladder," in the words of Merejkovsky—had been made on an earlier
occasion by a certain Russian saint, who used almost the same
language. "I shall laugh my bitter laugh" 3 was the inscription placed on
Evenings on the Farm near the Dikanka, 1829-31; Mirgorod,
1831-33; Taras Bulba, 1834; Arabesques (includes tales, The
Portrait and A Madman's Diary), 1831-35; The Cloak, 1835; The
Revizor (The Inspector-General), 1836; Dead Souls, 1842;
Correspondence with Friends, 1847.
ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS: Cossack Tales (The Night of Christmas Eve,
Tarass Boolba), trans. by G. Tolstoy, 1860; St. John's Eve and
Other Stories, trans. by Isabel F. Hapgood, New York, Crowell,
1886; Taras Bulba: Also St. John's Eve and Other Stories, London,
Vizetelly, 1887; Taras Bulba, trans. by B. C. Baskerville, London,
Scott, 1907; The Inspector: a Comedy, Calcutta, 1890; The
Inspector-General, trans. by A. A. Sykes, London, Scott, 1892;
Revizor, trans. for the Yale Dramatic Association by Max S.
Mandell, New Haven, Conn., 1908; Home Life in Russia (adaptation of
Dead Souls), London, Hurst, 1854; Tchitchikoff's Journey's; or Dead
Souls, trans. by Isabel F. Hapgood, New York, Crowell, 1886; Dead
Souls, London, Vizetelly, 1887; Dead Souls, London, Maxwell 1887;
Meditations on the Divine Liturgy, trans. by L. Alexeieff, London,
A. R. Mowbray and Co., 1913.
LIVES, etc.: (Russian) Kotlyarevsky (N. A.), 1903; Shenrok (V.
I.), Materials for a Biography, 1892; (French) Leger (L.), Nicholas
AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE FIRST PORTION OF THIS WORK
Second Edition published in 1846
From the Author to the Reader
Reader, whosoever or wheresoever you be, and whatsoever be your
station—whether that of a member of the higher ranks of society or
that of a member of the plainer walks of life—I beg of you, if God
shall have given you any skill in letters, and my book shall fall
into your hands, to extend to me your assistance.
For in the book which lies before you, and which, probably, you
have read in its first edition, there is portrayed a man who is a
type taken from our Russian Empire. This man travels about the
Russian land and meets with folk of every condition—from the
nobly-born to the humble toiler. Him I have taken as a type to show
forth the vices and the failings, rather than the merits and the
virtues, of the commonplace Russian individual; and the characters
which revolve around him have also been selected for the purpose of
demonstrating our national weaknesses and shortcomings. As for men
and women of the better sort, I propose to portray them in
subsequent volumes. Probably much of what I have described is
improbable and does not happen as things customarily happen in
Russia; and the reason for that is that for me to learn all that I
have wished to do has been impossible, in that human life is not
sufficiently long to become acquainted with even a hundredth part
of what takes place within the borders of the Russian Empire. Also,
carelessness, inexperience, and lack of time have led to my
perpetrating numerous errors and inaccuracies of detail; with the
result that in every line of the book there is something which
calls for correction. For these reasons I beg of you, my reader, to
act also as my corrector. Do not despise the task, for, however
superior be your education, and however lofty your station, and
however insignificant, in your eyes, my book, and however trifling
the apparent labour of correcting and commenting upon that book, I
implore you to do as I have said. And you too, O reader of lowly
education and simple status, I beseech you not to look upon
yourself as too ignorant to be able in some fashion, however small,
to help me. Every man who has lived in the world and mixed with his
fellow men will have remarked something which has remained hidden
from the eyes of others; and therefore I beg of you not to deprive
me of your comments, seeing that it cannot be that, should you read
my book with attention, you will have NOTHING to say at some point
For example, how excellent it would be if some reader who is
sufficiently rich in experience and the knowledge of life to be
acquainted with the sort of characters which I have described
herein would annotate in detail the book, without missing a single
page, and undertake to read it precisely as though, laying pen and
paper before him, he were first to peruse a few pages of the work,
and then to recall his own life, and the lives of folk with whom he
has come in contact, and everything which he has seen with his own
eyes or has heard of from others, and to proceed to annotate, in so
far as may tally with his own experience or otherwise, what is set
forth in the book, and to jot down the whole exactly as it stands
pictured to his memory, and, lastly, to send me the jottings as
they may issue from his pen, and to continue doing so until he has
covered the entire work! Yes, he would indeed do me a vital
service! Of style or beauty of expression he would need to take no
account, for the value of a book lies in its truth and its
actuality rather than in its wording. Nor would he need to consider
my feelings if at any point he should feel minded to blame or to
upbraid me, or to demonstrate the harm rather than the good which
has been done through any lack of thought or verisimilitude of
which I have been guilty. In short, for anything and for everything
in the way of criticism I should be thankful.
Also, it would be an excellent thing if some reader in the
higher walks of life, some person who stands remote, both by life
and by education, from the circle of folk which I have pictured in
my book, but who knows the life of the circle in which he himself
revolves, would undertake to read my work in similar fashion, and
methodically to recall to his mind any members of superior social
classes whom he has met, and carefully to observe whether there
exists any resemblance between one such class and another, and
whether, at times, there may not be repeated in a higher sphere
what is done in a lower, and likewise to note any additional fact
in the same connection which may occur to him (that is to say, any
fact pertaining to the higher ranks of society which would seem to
confirm or to disprove his conclusions), and, lastly, to record
that fact as it may have occurred within his own experience, while
giving full details of persons (of individual manners, tendencies,
and customs) and also of inanimate surroundings (of dress,
furniture, fittings of houses, and so forth). For I need knowledge
of the classes in question, which are the flower of our people. In
fact, this very reason—the reason that I do not yet know Russian
life in all its aspects, and in the degree to which it is necessary
for me to know it in order to become a successful author—is what
has, until now, prevented me from publishing any subsequent volumes
of this story.
Again, it would be an excellent thing if some one who is endowed
with the faculty of imagining and vividly picturing to himself the
various situations wherein a character may be placed, and of
mentally following up a character's career in one field and
another—by this I mean some one who possesses the power of entering
into and developing the ideas of the author whose work he may be
reading—would scan each character herein portrayed, and tell me how
each character ought to have acted at a given juncture, and what,
to judge from the beginnings of each character, ought to have
become of that character later, and what new circumstances might be
devised in connection therewith, and what new details might
advantageously be added to those already described. Honestly can I
say that to consider these points against the time when a new
edition of my book may be published in a different and a better
form would give me the greatest possible pleasure.
One thing in particular would I ask of any reader who may be
willing to give me the benefit of his advice. That is to say, I
would beg of him to suppose, while recording his remarks, that it
is for the benefit of a man in no way his equal in education, or
similar to him in tastes and ideas, or capable of apprehending
criticisms without full explanation appended, that he is doing so.
Rather would I ask such a reader to suppose that before him there
stands a man of incomparably inferior enlightenment and schooling—a
rude country bumpkin whose life, throughout, has been passed in
retirement—a bumpkin to whom it is necessary to explain each
circumstance in detail, while never forgetting to be as simple of
speech as though he were a child, and at every step there were a
danger of employing terms beyond his understanding. Should these
precautions be kept constantly in view by any reader undertaking to
annotate my book, that reader's remarks will exceed in weight and
interest even his own expectations, and will bring me very real
Thus, provided that my earnest request be heeded by my readers,
and that among them there be found a few kind spirits to do as I
desire, the following is the manner in which I would request them
to transmit their notes for my consideration. Inscribing the
package with my name, let them then enclose that package in a
second one addressed either to the Rector of the University of St.
Petersburg or to Professor Shevirev of the University of Moscow,
according as the one or the other of those two cities may be the
nearer to the sender.
Lastly, while thanking all journalists and litterateurs for
their previously published criticisms of my book—criticisms which,
in spite of a spice of that intemperance and prejudice which is
common to all humanity, have proved of the greatest use both to my
head and to my heart—I beg of such writers again to favour me with
their reviews. For in all sincerity I can assure them that
whatsoever they may be pleased to say for my improvement and my
instruction will be received by me with naught but gratitude.
To the door of an inn in the provincial town of N. there drew up
a smart britchka—a light spring-carriage of the sort affected by
bachelors, retired lieutenant-colonels, staff-captains, land-owners
possessed of about a hundred souls, and, in short, all persons who
rank as gentlemen of the intermediate category. In the britchka was
seated such a gentleman—a man who, though not handsome, was not
ill-favoured, not over-fat, and not over-thin. Also, though not
over-elderly, he was not over-young. His arrival produced no stir
in the town, and was accompanied by no particular incident, beyond
that a couple of peasants who happened to be standing at the door
of a dramshop exchanged a few comments with reference to the
equipage rather than to the individual who was seated in it. "Look
at that carriage," one of them said to the other. "Think you it
will be going as far as Moscow?" "I think it will," replied his
companion. "But not as far as Kazan, eh?" "No, not as far as
Kazan." With that the conversation ended. Presently, as the
britchka was approaching the inn, it was met by a young man in a
pair of very short, very tight breeches of white dimity, a
quasi-fashionable frockcoat, and a dickey fastened with a
pistol-shaped bronze tie-pin. The young man turned his head as he
passed the britchka and eyed it attentively; after which he clapped
his hand to his cap (which was in danger of being removed by the
wind) and resumed his way. On the vehicle reaching the inn door,
its occupant found standing there to welcome him the polevoi, or
waiter, of the establishment—an individual of such nimble and brisk
movement that even to distinguish the character of his face was
impossible. Running out with a napkin in one hand and his lanky
form clad in a tailcoat, reaching almost to the nape of his neck,
he tossed back his locks, and escorted the gentleman upstairs,
along a wooden gallery, and so to the bedchamber which God had
prepared for the gentleman's reception. The said bedchamber was of
quite ordinary appearance, since the inn belonged to the species to
be found in all provincial towns—the species wherein, for two
roubles a day, travellers may obtain a room swarming with
black-beetles, and communicating by a doorway with the apartment
adjoining. True, the doorway may be blocked up with a wardrobe; yet
behind it, in all probability, there will be standing a silent,
motionless neighbour whose ears are burning to learn every possible
detail concerning the latest arrival. The inn's exterior
corresponded with its interior. Long, and consisting only of two
storeys, the building had its lower half destitute of stucco; with
the result that the dark-red bricks, originally more or less dingy,
had grown yet dingier under the influence of atmospheric changes.
As for the upper half of the building, it was, of course, painted
the usual tint of unfading yellow. Within, on the ground floor,
there stood a number of benches heaped with horse-collars, rope,
and sheepskins; while the window-seat accommodated a sbitentshik
4, cheek by
jowl with a samovar 5—the latter so closely resembling
the former in appearance that, but for the fact of the samovar
possessing a pitch-black lip, the samovar and the sbitentshik might
have been two of a pair.
During the traveller's inspection of his room his luggage was
brought into the apartment. First came a portmanteau of white
leather whose raggedness indicated that the receptacle had made
several previous journeys. The bearers of the same were the
gentleman's coachman, Selifan (a little man in a large overcoat),
and the gentleman's valet, Petrushka—the latter a fellow of about
thirty, clad in a worn, over-ample jacket which formerly had graced
his master's shoulders, and possessed of a nose and a pair of lips
whose coarseness communicated to his face rather a sullen
expression. Behind the portmanteau came a small dispatch-box of
redwood, lined with birch bark, a boot-case, and (wrapped in blue
paper) a roast fowl; all of which having been deposited, the
coachman departed to look after his horses, and the valet to
establish himself in the little dark anteroom or kennel where
already he had stored a cloak, a bagful of livery, and his own
peculiar smell. Pressing the narrow bedstead back against the wall,
he covered it with the tiny remnant of mattress—a remnant as thin
and flat (perhaps also as greasy) as a pancake—which he had managed
to beg of the landlord of the establishment.
While the attendants had been thus setting things straight the
gentleman had repaired to the common parlour. The appearance of
common parlours of the kind is known to every one who travels.
Always they have varnished walls which, grown black in their upper
portions with tobacco smoke, are, in their lower, grown shiny with
the friction of customers' backs—more especially with that of the
backs of such local tradesmen as, on market-days, make it their
regular practice to resort to the local hostelry for a glass of
tea. Also, parlours of this kind invariably contain smutty
ceilings, an equally smutty chandelier, a number of pendent shades
which jump and rattle whenever the waiter scurries across the
shabby oilcloth with a trayful of glasses (the glasses looking like
a flock of birds roosting by the seashore), and a selection of oil
paintings. In short, there are certain objects which one sees in
every inn. In the present case the only outstanding feature of the
room was the fact that in one of the paintings a nymph was
portrayed as possessing breasts of a size such as the reader can
never in his life have beheld. A similar caricaturing of nature is
to be noted in the historical pictures (of unknown origin, period,
and creation) which reach us—sometimes through the instrumentality
of Russian magnates who profess to be connoisseurs of art—from
Italy; owing to the said magnates having made such purchases solely
on the advice of the couriers who have escorted them.
To resume, however—our traveller removed his cap, and divested
his neck of a parti-coloured woollen scarf of the kind which a wife
makes for her husband with her own hands, while accompanying the
gift with interminable injunctions as to how best such a garment
ought to be folded. True, bachelors also wear similar gauds, but,
in their case, God alone knows who may have manufactured the
articles! For my part, I cannot endure them. Having unfolded the
scarf, the gentleman ordered dinner, and whilst the various dishes
were being got ready—cabbage soup, a pie several weeks old, a dish
of marrow and peas, a dish of sausages and cabbage, a roast fowl,
some salted cucumber, and the sweet tart which stands perpetually
ready for use in such establishments; whilst, I say, these things
were either being warmed up or brought in cold, the gentleman
induced the waiter to retail certain fragments of tittle-tattle
concerning the late landlord of the hostelry, the amount of income
which the hostelry produced, and the character of its present
proprietor. To the last-mentioned inquiry the waiter returned the
answer invariably given in such cases—namely, "My master is a
terribly hard man, sir." Curious that in enlightened Russia so many
people cannot even take a meal at an inn without chattering to the
attendant and making free with him! Nevertheless not ALL the
questions which the gentleman asked were aimless ones, for he
inquired who was Governor of the town, who President of the Local
Council, and who Public Prosecutor. In short, he omitted no single
official of note, while asking also (though with an air of
detachment) the most exact particulars concerning the landowners of
the neighbourhood. Which of them, he inquired, possessed serfs, and
how many of them? How far from the town did those landowners
reside? What was the character of each landowner, and was he in the
habit of paying frequent visits to the town? The gentleman also
made searching inquiries concerning the hygienic condition of the
countryside. Was there, he asked, much sickness about—whether
sporadic fever, fatal forms of ague, smallpox, or what not? Yet,
though his solicitude concerning these matters showed more than
ordinary curiosity, his bearing retained its gravity unimpaired,
and from time to time he blew his nose with portentous fervour.
Indeed, the manner in which he accomplished this latter feat was
marvellous in the extreme, for, though that member emitted sounds
equal to those of a trumpet in intensity, he could yet, with his
accompanying air of guileless dignity, evoke the waiter's undivided
respect—so much so that, whenever the sounds of the nose reached
that menial's ears, he would shake back his locks, straighten
himself into a posture of marked solicitude, and inquire afresh,
with head slightly inclined, whether the gentleman happened to
require anything further. After dinner the guest consumed a cup of
coffee, and then, seating himself upon the sofa, with, behind him,
one of those wool-covered cushions which, in Russian taverns,
resemble nothing so much as a cobblestone or a brick, fell to
snoring; whereafter, returning with a start to consciousness, he
ordered himself to be conducted to his room, flung himself at full
length upon the bed, and once more slept soundly for a couple of
hours. Aroused, eventually, by the waiter, he, at the latter's
request, inscribed a fragment of paper with his name, his surname,
and his rank (for communication, in accordance with the law, to the
police): and on that paper the waiter, leaning forward from the
corridor, read, syllable by syllable: "Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov,
Collegiate Councillor—Landowner—Travelling on Private Affairs." The
waiter had just time to accomplish this feat before Paul Ivanovitch
Chichikov set forth to inspect the town. Apparently the place
succeeded in satisfying him, and, to tell the truth, it was at
least up to the usual standard of our provincial capitals. Where
the staring yellow of stone edifices did not greet his eye he found
himself confronted with the more modest grey of wooden ones; which,
consisting, for the most part, of one or two storeys (added to the
range of attics which provincial architects love so well), looked
almost lost amid the expanses of street and intervening medleys of
broken or half-finished partition-walls. At other points evidence
of more life and movement was to be seen, and here the houses stood
crowded together and displayed dilapidated, rain-blurred signboards
whereon boots of cakes or pairs of blue breeches inscribed
"Arshavski, Tailor," and so forth, were depicted. Over a shop
containing hats and caps was written "Vassili Thedorov, Foreigner";
while, at another spot, a signboard portrayed a billiard table and
two players—the latter clad in frockcoats of the kind usually
affected by actors whose part it is to enter the stage during the
closing act of a piece, even though, with arms sharply crooked and
legs slightly bent, the said billiard players were taking the most
careful aim, but succeeding only in making abortive strokes in the
air. Each emporium of the sort had written over it: "This is the
best establishment of its kind in the town." Also, al fresco in the
streets there stood tables heaped with nuts, soap, and gingerbread
(the latter but little distinguishable from the soap), and at an
eating-house there was displayed the sign of a plump fish
transfixed with a gaff. But the sign most frequently to be
discerned was the insignia of the State, the double-headed eagle
(now replaced, in this connection, with the laconic inscription
"Dramshop"). As for the paving of the town, it was uniformly
The gentleman peered also into the municipal gardens, which
contained only a few sorry trees that were poorly selected,
requiring to be propped with oil-painted, triangular green
supports, and able to boast of a height no greater than that of an
ordinary walking-stick. Yet recently the local paper had said
(apropos of a gala) that, "Thanks to the efforts of our Civil
Governor, the town has become enriched with a pleasaunce full of
umbrageous, spaciously-branching trees. Even on the most sultry day
they afford agreeable shade, and indeed gratifying was it to see
the hearts of our citizens panting with an impulse of gratitude as
their eyes shed tears in recognition of all that their Governor has
done for them!"
Next, after inquiring of a gendarme as to the best ways and
means of finding the local council, the local law-courts, and the
local Governor, should he (Chichikov) have need of them, the
gentleman went on to inspect the river which ran through the town.
En route he tore off a notice affixed to a post, in order that he
might the more conveniently read it after his return to the inn.
Also, he bestowed upon a lady of pleasant exterior who, escorted by
a footman laden with a bundle, happened to be passing along a
wooden sidewalk a prolonged stare. Lastly, he threw around him a
comprehensive glance (as though to fix in his mind the general
topography of the place) and betook himself home. There, gently
aided by the waiter, he ascended the stairs to his bedroom, drank a
glass of tea, and, seating himself at the table, called for a
candle; which having been brought him, he produced from his pocket
the notice, held it close to the flame, and conned its
tenour—slightly contracting his right eye as he did so. Yet there
was little in the notice to call for remark. All that it said was
that shortly one of Kotzebue's 6 plays would be given, and that one
of the parts in the play was to be taken by a certain Monsieur
Poplevin, and another by a certain Mademoiselle Ziablova, while the
remaining parts were to be filled by a number of less important
personages. Nevertheless the gentleman perused the notice with
careful attention, and even jotted down the prices to be asked for
seats for the performance. Also, he remarked that the bill had been
printed in the press of the Provincial Government. Next, he turned
over the paper, in order to see if anything further was to be read
on the reverse side; but, finding nothing there, he refolded the
document, placed it in the box which served him as a receptacle for
odds and ends, and brought the day to a close with a portion of
cold veal, a bottle of pickles, and a sound sleep.
The following day he devoted to paying calls upon the various
municipal officials—a first, and a very respectful, visit being
paid to the Governor. This personage turned out to resemble
Chichikov himself in that he was neither fat nor thin. Also, he
wore the riband of the order of Saint Anna about his neck, and was
reported to have been recommended also for the star. For the rest,
he was large and good-natured, and had a habit of amusing himself
with occasional spells of knitting. Next, Chichikov repaired to the
Vice-Governor's, and thence to the house of the Public Prosecutor,
to that of the President of the Local Council, to that of the Chief
of Police, to that of the Commissioner of Taxes, and to that of the
local Director of State Factories. True, the task of remembering
every big-wig in this world of ours is not a very easy one; but at
least our visitor displayed the greatest activity in his work of
paying calls, seeing that he went so far as to pay his respects
also to the Inspector of the Municipal Department of Medicine and
to the City Architect. Thereafter he sat thoughtfully in his
britchka—plunged in meditation on the subject of whom else it might
be well to visit. However, not a single magnate had been neglected,
and in conversation with his hosts he had contrived to flatter each
separate one. For instance to the Governor he had hinted that a
stranger, on arriving in his, the Governor's province, would
conceive that he had reached Paradise, so velvety were the roads.
"Governors who appoint capable subordinates," had said Chichikov,
"are deserving of the most ample meed of praise." Again, to the
Chief of Police our hero had passed a most gratifying remark on the
subject of the local gendarmery; while in his conversation with the
Vice-Governor and the President of the Local Council (neither of
whom had, as yet, risen above the rank of State Councillor) he had
twice been guilty of the gaucherie of addressing his interlocutors
with the title of "Your Excellency"—a blunder which had not failed
to delight them. In the result the Governor had invited him to a
reception the same evening, and certain other officials had
followed suit by inviting him, one of them to dinner, a second to a
tea-party, and so forth, and so forth.
Of himself, however, the traveller had spoken little; or, if he
had spoken at any length, he had done so in a general sort of way
and with marked modesty. Indeed, at moments of the kind his
discourse had assumed something of a literary vein, in that
invariably he had stated that, being a worm of no account in the
world, he was deserving of no consideration at the hands of his
fellows; that in his time he had undergone many strange
experiences; that subsequently he had suffered much in the cause of
Truth; that he had many enemies seeking his life; and that, being
desirous of rest, he was now engaged in searching for a spot
wherein to dwell—wherefore, having stumbled upon the town in which
he now found himself, he had considered it his bounden duty to
evince his respect for the chief authorities of the place. This,
and no more, was all that, for the moment, the town succeeded in
learning about the new arrival. Naturally he lost no time in
presenting himself at the Governor's evening party. First, however,
his preparations for that function occupied a space of over two
hours, and necessitated an attention to his toilet of a kind not
commonly seen. That is to say, after a brief post-grandial nap he
called for soap and water, and spent a considerable period in the
task of scrubbing his cheeks (which, for the purpose, he supported
from within with his tongue) and then of drying his full, round
face, from the ears downwards, with a towel which he took from the
waiter's shoulder. Twice he snorted into the waiter's countenance
as he did this, and then he posted himself in front of the mirror,
donned a false shirt-front, plucked out a couple of hairs which
were protruding from his nose, and appeared vested in a frockcoat
of bilberry-coloured check. Thereafter driving through broad
streets sparsely lighted with lanterns, he arrived at the
Governor's residence to find it illuminated as for a ball.
Barouches with gleaming lamps, a couple of gendarmes posted before
the doors, a babel of postillions' cries—nothing of a kind likely
to be impressive was wanting; and, on reaching the salon, the
visitor actually found himself obliged to close his eyes for a
moment, so strong was the mingled sheen of lamps, candles, and
feminine apparel. Everything seemed suffused with light, and
everywhere, flitting and flashing, were to be seen black coats—even
as on a hot summer's day flies revolve around a sugar loaf while
the old housekeeper is cutting it into cubes before the open
window, and the children of the house crowd around her to watch the
movements of her rugged hands as those members ply the smoking
pestle; and airy squadrons of flies, borne on the breeze, enter
boldly, as though free of the house, and, taking advantage of the
fact that the glare of the sunshine is troubling the old lady's
sight, disperse themselves over broken and unbroken fragments
alike, even though the lethargy induced by the opulence of summer
and the rich shower of dainties to be encountered at every step has
induced them to enter less for the purpose of eating than for that
of showing themselves in public, of parading up and down the sugar
loaf, of rubbing both their hindquarters and their fore against one
another, of cleaning their bodies under the wings, of extending
their forelegs over their heads and grooming themselves, and of
flying out of the window again to return with other predatory
squadrons. Indeed, so dazed was Chichikov that scarcely did he
realise that the Governor was taking him by the arm and presenting
him to his (the Governor's) lady. Yet the newly-arrived guest kept
his head sufficiently to contrive to murmur some such compliment as
might fittingly come from a middle-aged individual of a rank
neither excessively high nor excessively low. Next, when couples
had been formed for dancing and the remainder of the company found
itself pressed back against the walls, Chichikov folded his arms,
and carefully scrutinised the dancers. Some of the ladies were
dressed well and in the fashion, while the remainder were clad in
such garments as God usually bestows upon a provincial town. Also
here, as elsewhere, the men belonged to two separate and distinct
categories; one of which comprised slender individuals who,
flitting around the ladies, were scarcely to be distinguished from
denizens of the metropolis, so carefully, so artistically, groomed
were their whiskers, so presentable their oval, clean-shaven faces,
so easy the manner of their dancing attendance upon their
womenfolk, so glib their French conversation as they quizzed their
female companions. As for the other category, it comprised
individuals who, stout, or of the same build as Chichikov (that is
to say, neither very portly nor very lean), backed and sidled away
from the ladies, and kept peering hither and thither to see whether
the Governor's footmen had set out green tables for whist. Their
features were full and plump, some of them had beards, and in no
case was their hair curled or waved or arranged in what the French
call "the devil-may-care" style. On the contrary, their heads were
either close-cropped or brushed very smooth, and their faces were
round and firm. This category represented the more respectable
officials of the town. In passing, I may say that in business
matters fat men always prove superior to their leaner brethren;
which is probably the reason why the latter are mostly to be found
in the Political Police, or acting as mere ciphers whose existence
is a purely hopeless, airy, trivial one. Again, stout individuals
never take a back seat, but always a front one, and, wheresoever it
be, they sit firmly, and with confidence, and decline to budge even
though the seat crack and bend with their weight. For comeliness of
exterior they care not a rap, and therefore a dress coat sits less
easily on their figures than is the case with figures of leaner
individuals. Yet invariably fat men amass the greater wealth. In
three years' time a thin man will not have a single serf whom he
has left unpledged; whereas—well, pray look at a fat man's
fortunes, and what will you see? First of all a suburban villa, and
then a larger suburban villa, and then a villa close to a town, and
lastly a country estate which comprises every amenity! That is to
say, having served both God and the State, the stout individual has
won universal respect, and will end by retiring from business,
reordering his mode of life, and becoming a Russian landowner—in
other words, a fine gentleman who dispenses hospitality, lives in
comfort and luxury, and is destined to leave his property to heirs
who are purposing to squander the same on foreign travel.
That the foregoing represents pretty much the gist of
Chichikov's reflections as he stood watching the company I will not
attempt to deny. And of those reflections the upshot was that he
decided to join himself to the stouter section of the guests, among
whom he had already recognised several familiar faces—namely, those
of the Public Prosecutor (a man with beetling brows over eyes which
seemed to be saying with a wink, "Come into the next room, my
friend, for I have something to say to you"—though, in the main,
their owner was a man of grave and taciturn habit), of the
Postmaster (an insignificant-looking individual, yet a would-be wit
and a philosopher), and of the President of the Local Council (a
man of much amiability and good sense). These three personages
greeted Chichikov as an old acquaintance, and to their salutations
he responded with a sidelong, yet a sufficiently civil, bow. Also,
he became acquainted with an extremely unctuous and approachable
landowner named Manilov, and with a landowner of more uncouth
exterior named Sobakevitch—the latter of whom began the
acquaintance by treading heavily upon Chichikov's toes, and then
begging his pardon. Next, Chichikov received an offer of a "cut in"
at whist, and accepted the same with his usual courteous
inclination of the head. Seating themselves at a green table, the
party did not rise therefrom till supper time; and during that
period all conversation between the players became hushed, as is
the custom when men have given themselves up to a really serious
pursuit. Even the Postmaster—a talkative man by nature—had no
sooner taken the cards into his hands than he assumed an expression
of profound thought, pursed his lips, and retained this attitude
unchanged throughout the game. Only when playing a court card was
it his custom to strike the table with his fist, and to exclaim (if
the card happened to be a queen), "Now, old popadia 7!" and (if the card
happened to be a king), "Now, peasant of Tambov!" To which
ejaculations invariably the President of the Local Council
retorted, "Ah, I have him by the ears, I have him by the ears!" And
from the neighbourhood of the table other strong ejaculations
relative to the play would arise, interposed with one or another of
those nicknames which participants in a game are apt to apply to
members of the various suits. I need hardly add that, the game
over, the players fell to quarrelling, and that in the dispute our
friend joined, though so artfully as to let every one see that, in
spite of the fact that he was wrangling, he was doing so only in
the most amicable fashion possible. Never did he say outright, "You
played the wrong card at such and such a point." No, he always
employed some such phrase as, "You permitted yourself to make a
slip, and thus afforded me the honour of covering your deuce."
Indeed, the better to keep in accord with his antagonists, he kept
offering them his silver-enamelled snuff-box (at the bottom of
which lay a couple of violets, placed there for the sake of their
scent). In particular did the newcomer pay attention to landowners
Manilov and Sobakevitch; so much so that his haste to arrive on
good terms with them led to his leaving the President and the
Postmaster rather in the shade. At the same time, certain questions
which he put to those two landowners evinced not only curiosity,
but also a certain amount of sound intelligence; for he began by
asking how many peasant souls each of them possessed, and how their
affairs happened at present to be situated, and then proceeded to
enlighten himself also as their standing and their families.
Indeed, it was not long before he had succeeded in fairly
enchanting his new friends. In particular did Manilov—a man still
in his prime, and possessed of a pair of eyes which, sweet as
sugar, blinked whenever he laughed—find himself unable to make
enough of his enchanter. Clasping Chichikov long and fervently by
the hand, he besought him to do him, Manilov, the honour of
visiting his country house (which he declared to lie at a distance
of not more than fifteen versts from the boundaries of the town);
and in return Chichikov averred (with an exceedingly affable bow
and a most sincere handshake) that he was prepared not only to
fulfil his friend's behest, but also to look upon the fulfilling of
it as a sacred duty. In the same way Sobakevitch said to him
laconically: "And do you pay ME a visit," and then proceeded to
shuffle a pair of boots of such dimensions that to find a pair to
correspond with them would have been indeed difficult—more
especially at the present day, when the race of epic heroes is
beginning to die out in Russia.
Next day Chichikov dined and spent the evening at the house of
the Chief of Police—a residence where, three hours after dinner,
every one sat down to whist, and remained so seated until two
o'clock in the morning. On this occasion Chichikov made the
acquaintance of, among others, a landowner named Nozdrev—a
dissipated little fellow of thirty who had no sooner exchanged
three or four words with his new acquaintance than he began to
address him in the second person singular. Yet although he did the
same to the Chief of Police and the Public Prosecutor, the company
had no sooner seated themselves at the card-table than both the one
and the other of these functionaries started to keep a careful eye
upon Nozdrev's tricks, and to watch practically every card which he
played. The following evening Chichikov spent with the President of
the Local Council, who received his guests—even though the latter
included two ladies—in a greasy dressing-gown. Upon that followed
an evening at the Vice-Governor's, a large dinner party at the
house of the Commissioner of Taxes, a smaller dinner-party at the
house of the Public Prosecutor (a very wealthy man), and a
subsequent reception given by the Mayor. In short, not an hour of
the day did Chichikov find himself forced to spend at home, and his
return to the inn became necessary only for the purposes of
sleeping. Somehow or other he had landed on his feet, and
everywhere he figured as an experienced man of the world. No matter
what the conversation chanced to be about, he always contrived to
maintain his part in the same. Did the discourse turn upon
horse-breeding, upon horse-breeding he happened to be peculiarly
well-qualified to speak. Did the company fall to discussing
well-bred dogs, at once he had remarks of the most pertinent kind
possible to offer. Did the company touch upon a prosecution which
had recently been carried out by the Excise Department, instantly
he showed that he too was not wholly unacquainted with legal
affairs. Did an opinion chance to be expressed concerning
billiards, on that subject too he was at least able to avoid
committing a blunder. Did a reference occur to virtue, concerning
virtue he hastened to deliver himself in a way which brought tears
to every eye. Did the subject in hand happen to be the distilling
of brandy—well, that was a matter concerning which he had the
soundest of knowledge. Did any one happen to mention Customs
officials and inspectors, from that moment he expatiated as though
he too had been both a minor functionary and a major. Yet a
remarkable fact was the circumstance that he always contrived to
temper his omniscience with a certain readiness to give way, a
certain ability so to keep a rein upon himself that never did his
utterances become too loud or too soft, or transcend what was
perfectly befitting. In a word, he was always a gentleman of
excellent manners, and every official in the place felt pleased
when he saw him enter the door. Thus the Governor gave it as his
opinion that Chichikov was a man of excellent intentions; the
Public Prosecutor, that he was a good man of business; the Chief of
Gendarmery, that he was a man of education; the President of the
Local Council, that he was a man of breeding and refinement; and
the wife of the Chief of Gendarmery, that his politeness of
behaviour was equalled only by his affability of bearing. Nay, even
Sobakevitch—who as a rule never spoke well of ANY ONE—said to his
lanky wife when, on returning late from the town, he undressed and
betook himself to bed by her side: "My dear, this evening, after
dining with the Chief of Police, I went on to the Governor's, and
met there, among others, a certain Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov, who
is a Collegiate Councillor and a very pleasant fellow." To this his
spouse replied "Hm!" and then dealt him a hearty kick in the
Such were the flattering opinions earned by the newcomer to the
town; and these opinions he retained until the time when a certain
speciality of his, a certain scheme of his (the reader will learn
presently what it was), plunged the majority of the townsfolk into
a sea of perplexity.
For more than two weeks the visitor lived amid a round of
evening parties and dinners; wherefore he spent (as the saying
goes) a very pleasant time. Finally he decided to extend his visits
beyond the urban boundaries by going and calling upon landowners
Manilov and Sobakevitch, seeing that he had promised on his honour
to do so. Yet what really incited him to this may have been a more
essential cause, a matter of greater gravity, a purpose which stood
nearer to his heart, than the motive which I have just given; and
of that purpose the reader will learn if only he will have the
patience to read this prefatory narrative (which, lengthy though it
be, may yet develop and expand in proportion as we approach the
denouement with which the present work is destined to be
One evening, therefore, Selifan the coachman received orders to
have the horses harnessed in good time next morning; while
Petrushka received orders to remain behind, for the purpose of
looking after the portmanteau and the room. In passing, the reader
may care to become more fully acquainted with the two serving-men
of whom I have spoken. Naturally, they were not persons of much
note, but merely what folk call characters of secondary, or even of
tertiary, importance. Yet, despite the fact that the springs and
the thread of this romance will not DEPEND upon them, but only
touch upon them, and occasionally include them, the author has a
passion for circumstantiality, and, like the average Russian, such
a desire for accuracy as even a German could not rival. To what the
reader already knows concerning the personages in hand it is
therefore necessary to add that Petrushka usually wore a cast-off
brown jacket of a size too large for him, as also that he had
(according to the custom of individuals of his calling) a pair of
thick lips and a very prominent nose. In temperament he was
taciturn rather than loquacious, and he cherished a yearning for
self-education. That is to say, he loved to read books, even though
their contents came alike to him whether they were books of heroic
adventure or mere grammars or liturgical compendia. As I say, he
perused every book with an equal amount of attention, and, had he
been offered a work on chemistry, would have accepted that also.
Not the words which he read, but the mere solace derived from the
act of reading, was what especially pleased his mind; even though
at any moment there might launch itself from the page some
devil-sent word whereof he could make neither head nor tail. For
the most part, his task of reading was performed in a recumbent
position in the anteroom; which circumstance ended by causing his
mattress to become as ragged and as thin as a wafer. In addition to
his love of poring over books, he could boast of two habits which
constituted two other essential features of his character—namely, a
habit of retiring to rest in his clothes (that is to say, in the
brown jacket above-mentioned) and a habit of everywhere bearing
with him his own peculiar atmosphere, his own peculiar smell—a
smell which filled any lodging with such subtlety that he needed
but to make up his bed anywhere, even in a room hitherto
untenanted, and to drag thither his greatcoat and other
impedimenta, for that room at once to assume an air of having been
lived in during the past ten years. Nevertheless, though a
fastidious, and even an irritable, man, Chichikov would merely
frown when his nose caught this smell amid the freshness of the
morning, and exclaim with a toss of his head: "The devil only knows
what is up with you! Surely you sweat a good deal, do you not? The
best thing you can do is to go and take a bath." To this Petrushka
would make no reply, but, approaching, brush in hand, the spot
where his master's coat would be pendent, or starting to arrange
one and another article in order, would strive to seem wholly
immersed in his work. Yet of what was he thinking as he remained
thus silent? Perhaps he was saying to himself: "My master is a good
fellow, but for him to keep on saying the same thing forty times
over is a little wearisome." Only God knows and sees all things;
wherefore for a mere human being to know what is in the mind of a
servant while his master is scolding him is wholly impossible.
However, no more need be said about Petrushka. On the other hand,
But here let me remark that I do not like engaging the reader's
attention in connection with persons of a lower class than himself;
for experience has taught me that we do not willingly familiarise
ourselves with the lower orders—that it is the custom of the
average Russian to yearn exclusively for information concerning
persons on the higher rungs of the social ladder. In fact, even a
bowing acquaintance with a prince or a lord counts, in his eyes,
for more than do the most intimate of relations with ordinary folk.
For the same reason the author feels apprehensive on his hero's
account, seeing that he has made that hero a mere Collegiate
Councillor—a mere person with whom Aulic Councillors might consort,
but upon whom persons of the grade of full General 8 would probably bestow
one of those glances proper to a man who is cringing at their
august feet. Worse still, such persons of the grade of General are
likely to treat Chichikov with studied negligence—and to an author
studied negligence spells death.
However, in spite of the distressfulness of the foregoing
possibilities, it is time that I returned to my hero. After
issuing, overnight, the necessary orders, he awoke early, washed
himself, rubbed himself from head to foot with a wet sponge (a
performance executed only on Sundays—and the day in question
happened to be a Sunday), shaved his face with such care that his
cheeks issued of absolutely satin-like smoothness and polish,
donned first his bilberry-coloured, spotted frockcoat, and then his
bearskin overcoat, descended the staircase (attended, throughout,
by the waiter) and entered his britchka. With a loud rattle the
vehicle left the inn-yard, and issued into the street. A passing
priest doffed his cap, and a few urchins in grimy shirts shouted,
"Gentleman, please give a poor orphan a trifle!" Presently the
driver noticed that a sturdy young rascal was on the point of
climbing onto the splashboard; wherefore he cracked his whip and
the britchka leapt forward with increased speed over the
cobblestones. At last, with a feeling of relief, the travellers
caught sight of macadam ahead, which promised an end both to the
cobblestones and to sundry other annoyances. And, sure enough,
after his head had been bumped a few more times against the boot of
the conveyance, Chichikov found himself bowling over softer ground.
On the town receding into the distance, the sides of the road began
to be varied with the usual hillocks, fir trees, clumps of young
pine, trees with old, scarred trunks, bushes of wild juniper, and
so forth, Presently there came into view also strings of country
villas which, with their carved supports and grey roofs (the latter
looking like pendent, embroidered tablecloths), resembled, rather,
bundles of old faggots. Likewise the customary peasants, dressed in
sheepskin jackets, could be seen yawning on benches before their
huts, while their womenfolk, fat of feature and swathed of bosom,
gazed out of upper windows, and the windows below displayed, here a
peering calf, and there the unsightly jaws of a pig. In short, the
view was one of the familiar type. After passing the fifteenth
verst-stone Chichikov suddenly recollected that, according to
Manilov, fifteen versts was the exact distance between his country
house and the town; but the sixteenth verst stone flew by, and the
said country house was still nowhere to be seen. In fact, but for
the circumstance that the travellers happened to encounter a couple
of peasants, they would have come on their errand in vain. To a
query as to whether the country house known as Zamanilovka was
anywhere in the neighbourhood the peasants replied by doffing their
caps; after which one of them who seemed to boast of a little more
intelligence than his companion, and who wore a wedge-shaped beard,
"Perhaps you mean Manilovka—not ZAmanilovka?"
"Manilovka, eh? Well, you must continue for another verst, and
then you will see it straight before you, on the right."
"On the right?" re-echoed the coachman.
"Yes, on the right," affirmed the peasant. "You are on the
proper road for Manilovka, but ZAmanilovka—well, there is no such
place. The house you mean is called Manilovka because Manilovka is
its name; but no house at all is called ZAmanilovka. The house you
mean stands there, on that hill, and is a stone house in which a
gentleman lives, and its name is Manilovka; but ZAmanilovka does
not stand hereabouts, nor ever has stood."
So the travellers proceeded in search of Manilovka, and, after
driving an additional two versts, arrived at a spot whence there
branched off a by-road. Yet two, three, or four versts of the
by-road had been covered before they saw the least sign of a
two-storied stone mansion. Then it was that Chichikov suddenly
recollected that, when a friend has invited one to visit his
country house, and has said that the distance thereto is fifteen
versts, the distance is sure to turn out to be at least thirty.
Not many people would have admired the situation of Manilov's
abode, for it stood on an isolated rise and was open to every wind
that blew. On the slope of the rise lay closely-mown turf, while,
disposed here and there, after the English fashion, were
flower-beds containing clumps of lilac and yellow acacia. Also,
there were a few insignificant groups of slender-leaved,
pointed-tipped birch trees, with, under two of the latter, an
arbour having a shabby green cupola, some blue-painted wooden
supports, and the inscription "This is the Temple of Solitary
Thought." Lower down the slope lay a green-coated pond—green-coated
ponds constitute a frequent spectacle in the gardens of Russian
landowners; and, lastly, from the foot of the declivity there
stretched a line of mouldy, log-built huts which, for some obscure
reason or another, our hero set himself to count. Up to two hundred
or more did he count, but nowhere could he perceive a single leaf
of vegetation or a single stick of timber. The only thing to greet
the eye was the logs of which the huts were constructed.
Nevertheless the scene was to a certain extent enlivened by the
spectacle of two peasant women who, with clothes picturesquely
tucked up, were wading knee-deep in the pond and dragging behind
them, with wooden handles, a ragged fishing-net, in the meshes of
which two crawfish and a roach with glistening scales were
entangled. The women appeared to have cause of dispute between
themselves—to be rating one another about something. In the
background, and to one side of the house, showed a faint, dusky
blur of pinewood, and even the weather was in keeping with the
surroundings, since the day was neither clear nor dull, but of the
grey tint which may be noted in uniforms of garrison soldiers which
have seen long service. To complete the picture, a cock, the
recognised harbinger of atmospheric mutations, was present; and, in
spite of the fact that a certain connection with affairs of
gallantry had led to his having had his head pecked bare by other
cocks, he flapped a pair of wings—appendages as bare as two pieces
of bast—and crowed loudly.
As Chichikov approached the courtyard of the mansion he caught
sight of his host (clad in a green frock coat) standing on the
verandah and pressing one hand to his eyes to shield them from the
sun and so get a better view of the approaching carriage. In
proportion as the britchka drew nearer and nearer to the verandah,
the host's eyes assumed a more and more delighted expression, and
his smile a broader and broader sweep.
"Paul Ivanovitch!" he exclaimed when at length Chichikov leapt
from the vehicle. "Never should I have believed that you would have
The two friends exchanged hearty embraces, and Manilov then
conducted his guest to the drawing-room. During the brief time that
they are traversing the hall, the anteroom, and the dining-room,
let me try to say something concerning the master of the house. But
such an undertaking bristles with difficulties—it promises to be a
far less easy task than the depicting of some outstanding
personality which calls but for a wholesale dashing of colours upon
the canvas—the colours of a pair of dark, burning eyes, a pair of
dark, beetling brows, a forehead seamed with wrinkles, a black, or
a fiery-red, cloak thrown backwards over the shoulder, and so
forth, and so forth. Yet, so numerous are Russian serf owners that,
though careful scrutiny reveals to one's sight a quantity of outre
peculiarities, they are, as a class, exceedingly difficult to
portray, and one needs to strain one's faculties to the utmost
before it becomes possible to pick out their variously subtle,
their almost invisible, features. In short, one needs, before doing
this, to carry out a prolonged probing with the aid of an insight
sharpened in the acute school of research.
Only God can say what Manilov's real character was. A class of
men exists whom the proverb has described as "men unto themselves,
neither this nor that—neither Bogdan of the city nor Selifan of the
village." And to that class we had better assign also Manilov.
Outwardly he was presentable enough, for his features were not
wanting in amiability, but that amiability was a quality into which
there entered too much of the sugary element, so that his every
gesture, his every attitude, seemed to connote an excess of
eagerness to curry favour and cultivate a closer acquaintance. On
first speaking to the man, his ingratiating smile, his flaxen hair,
and his blue eyes would lead one to say, "What a pleasant,
good-tempered fellow he seems!" yet during the next moment or two
one would feel inclined to say nothing at all, and, during the
third moment, only to say, "The devil alone knows what he is!" And
should, thereafter, one not hasten to depart, one would inevitably
become overpowered with the deadly sense of ennui which comes of
the intuition that nothing in the least interesting is to be looked
for, but only a series of wearisome utterances of the kind which
are apt to fall from the lips of a man whose hobby has once been
touched upon. For every man HAS his hobby. One man's may be
sporting dogs; another man's may be that of believing himself to be
a lover of music, and able to sound the art to its inmost depths;
another's may be that of posing as a connoisseur of recherche
cookery; another's may be that of aspiring to play roles of a kind
higher than nature has assigned him; another's (though this is a
more limited ambition) may be that of getting drunk, and of
dreaming that he is edifying both his friends, his acquaintances,
and people with whom he has no connection at all by walking
arm-in-arm with an Imperial aide-de-camp; another's may be that of
possessing a hand able to chip corners off aces and deuces of
diamonds; another's may be that of yearning to set things
straight—in other words, to approximate his personality to that of
a stationmaster or a director of posts. In short, almost every man
has his hobby or his leaning; yet Manilov had none such, for at
home he spoke little, and spent the greater part of his time in
meditation—though God only knows what that meditation comprised!
Nor can it be said that he took much interest in the management of
his estate, for he never rode into the country, and the estate
practically managed itself. Whenever the bailiff said to him, "It
might be well to have such-and-such a thing done," he would reply,
"Yes, that is not a bad idea," and then go on smoking his pipe—a
habit which he had acquired during his service in the army, where
he had been looked upon as an officer of modesty, delicacy, and
refinement. "Yes, it is NOT a bad idea," he would repeat. Again,
whenever a peasant approached him and, rubbing the back of his
neck, said "Barin, may I have leave to go and work for myself, in
order that I may earn my obrok 9?" he would snap out, with pipe in
mouth as usual, "Yes, go!" and never trouble his head as to whether
the peasant's real object might not be to go and get drunk. True,
at intervals he would say, while gazing from the verandah to the
courtyard, and from the courtyard to the pond, that it would be
indeed splendid if a carriage drive could suddenly materialise, and
the pond as suddenly become spanned with a stone bridge, and little
shops as suddenly arise whence pedlars could dispense the petty
merchandise of the kind which peasantry most need. And at such
moments his eyes would grow winning, and his features assume an
expression of intense satisfaction. Yet never did these projects
pass beyond the stage of debate. Likewise there lay in his study a
book with the fourteenth page permanently turned down. It was a
book which he had been reading for the past two years! In general,
something seemed to be wanting in the establishment. For instance,
although the drawing-room was filled with beautiful furniture, and
upholstered in some fine silken material which clearly had cost no
inconsiderable sum, two of the chairs lacked any covering but bast,
and for some years past the master had been accustomed to warn his
guests with the words, "Do not sit upon these chairs; they are not
yet ready for use." Another room contained no furniture at all,
although, a few days after the marriage, it had been said: "My
dear, to-morrow let us set about procuring at least some TEMPORARY
furniture for this room." Also, every evening would see placed upon
the drawing-room table a fine bronze candelabrum, a statuette
representative of the Three Graces, a tray inlaid with
mother-of-pearl, and a rickety, lop-sided copper invalide. Yet of
the fact that all four articles were thickly coated with grease
neither the master of the house nor the mistress nor the servants
seemed to entertain the least suspicion. At the same time, Manilov
and his wife were quite satisfied with each other. More than eight
years had elapsed since their marriage, yet one of them was for
ever offering his or her partner a piece of apple or a bonbon or a
nut, while murmuring some tender something which voiced a
whole-hearted affection. "Open your mouth, dearest"—thus ran the
formula—"and let me pop into it this titbit." You may be sure that
on such occasions the "dearest mouth" parted its lips most
graciously! For their mutual birthdays the pair always contrived
some "surprise present" in the shape of a glass receptacle for
tooth-powder, or what not; and as they sat together on the sofa he
would suddenly, and for some unknown reason, lay aside his pipe,
and she her work (if at the moment she happened to be holding it in
her hands) and husband and wife would imprint upon one another's
cheeks such a prolonged and languishing kiss that during its
continuance you could have smoked a small cigar. In short, they
were what is known as "a very happy couple." Yet it may be remarked
that a household requires other pursuits to be engaged in than
lengthy embracings and the preparing of cunning "surprises." Yes,
many a function calls for fulfilment. For instance, why should it
be thought foolish or low to superintend the kitchen? Why should
care not be taken that the storeroom never lacks supplies? Why
should a housekeeper be allowed to thieve? Why should slovenly and
drunken servants exist? Why should a domestic staff be suffered in
indulge in bouts of unconscionable debauchery during its leisure
time? Yet none of these things were thought worthy of consideration
by Manilov's wife, for she had been gently brought up, and gentle
nurture, as we all know, is to be acquired only in boarding
schools, and boarding schools, as we know, hold the three principal
subjects which constitute the basis of human virtue to be the
French language (a thing indispensable to the happiness of married
life), piano-playing (a thing wherewith to beguile a husband's
leisure moments), and that particular department of housewifery
which is comprised in the knitting of purses and other "surprises."
Nevertheless changes and improvements have begun to take place,
since things now are governed more by the personal inclinations and
idiosyncracies of the keepers of such establishments. For instance,
in some seminaries the regimen places piano-playing first, and the
French language second, and then the above department of
housewifery; while in other seminaries the knitting of "surprises"
heads the list, and then the French language, and then the playing
of pianos—so diverse are the systems in force! None the less, I may
remark that Madame Manilov—
But let me confess that I always shrink from saying too much
about ladies. Moreover, it is time that we returned to our heroes,
who, during the past few minutes, have been standing in front of
the drawing-room door, and engaged in urging one another to enter
"Pray be so good as not to inconvenience yourself on my
account," said Chichikov. "I will follow YOU."
"No, Paul Ivanovitch—no! You are my guest." And Manilov pointed
towards the doorway.
"Make no difficulty about it, I pray," urged Chichikov. "I beg
of you to make no difficulty about it, but to pass into the
"Pardon me, I will not. Never could I allow so distinguished and
so welcome a guest as yourself to take second place."
"Why call me 'distinguished,' my dear sir? I beg of you to
"Nay; be YOU pleased to do so."
"For the reason which I have stated." And Manilov smiled his
very pleasantest smile.
Finally the pair entered simultaneously and sideways; with the
result that they jostled one another not a little in the
"Allow me to present to you my wife," continued Manilov. "My
Upon that Chichikov caught sight of a lady whom hitherto he had
overlooked, but who, with Manilov, was now bowing to him in the
doorway. Not wholly of unpleasing exterior, she was dressed in a
well-fitting, high-necked morning dress of pale-coloured silk; and
as the visitor entered the room her small white hands threw
something upon the table and clutched her embroidered skirt before
rising from the sofa where she had been seated. Not without a sense
of pleasure did Chichikov take her hand as, lisping a little, she
declared that she and her husband were equally gratified by his
coming, and that, of late, not a day had passed without her husband
recalling him to mind.
"Yes," affirmed Manilov; "and every day SHE has said to ME: 'Why
does not your friend put in an appearance?' 'Wait a little
dearest,' I have always replied. ''Twill not be long now before he
comes.' And you HAVE come, you HAVE honoured us with a visit, you
HAVE bestowed upon us a treat—a treat destined to convert this day
into a gala day, a true birthday of the heart."
The intimation that matters had reached the point of the
occasion being destined to constitute a "true birthday of the
heart" caused Chichikov to become a little confused; wherefore he
made modest reply that, as a matter of fact, he was neither of
distinguished origin nor distinguished rank.
"Ah, you ARE so," interrupted Manilov with his fixed and
engaging smile. "You are all that, and more."
"How like you our town?" queried Madame. "Have you spent an
agreeable time in it?"
"Very," replied Chichikov. "The town is an exceedingly nice one,
and I have greatly enjoyed its hospitable society."
"And what do you think of our Governor?"
"Yes; IS he not a most engaging and dignified personage?" added
"He is all that," assented Chichikov. "Indeed, he is a man
worthy of the greatest respect. And how thoroughly he performs his
duty according to his lights! Would that we had more like him!"
"And the tactfulness with which he greets every one!" added
Manilov, smiling, and half-closing his eyes, like a cat which is
being tickled behind the ears.
"Quite so," assented Chichikov. "He is a man of the most eminent
civility and approachableness. And what an artist! Never should I
have thought he could have worked the marvellous household samplers
which he has done! Some specimens of his needlework which he showed
me could not well have been surpassed by any lady in the land!"
"And the Vice-Governor, too—he is a nice man, is he not?"
inquired Manilov with renewed blinkings of the eyes.
"Who? The Vice-Governor? Yes, a most worthy fellow!" replied
"And what of the Chief of Police? Is it not a fact that he too
is in the highest degree agreeable?"
"Very agreeable indeed. And what a clever, well-read individual!
With him and the Public Prosecutor and the President of the Local
Council I played whist until the cocks uttered their last morning
crow. He is a most excellent fellow."
"And what of his wife?" queried Madame Manilov. "Is she not a
most gracious personality?"
"One of the best among my limited acquaintance," agreed
Nor were the President of the Local Council and the Postmaster
overlooked; until the company had run through the whole list of
urban officials. And in every case those officials appeared to be
persons of the highest possible merit.
"Do you devote your time entirely to your estate?" asked
Chichikov, in his turn.
"Well, most of it," replied Manilov; "though also we pay
occasional visits to the town, in order that we may mingle with a
little well-bred society. One grows a trifle rusty if one lives for
ever in retirement."
"Quite so," agreed Chichikov.
"Yes, quite so," capped Manilov. "At the same time, it would be
a different matter if the neighbourhood were a GOOD one—if, for
example, one had a friend with whom one could discuss manners and
polite deportment, or engage in some branch of science, and so
stimulate one's wits. For that sort of thing gives one's intellect
an airing. It, it—" At a loss for further words, he ended by
remarking that his feelings were apt to carry him away; after which
he continued with a gesture: "What I mean is that, were that sort
of thing possible, I, for one, could find the country and an
isolated life possessed of great attractions. But, as matters
stand, such a thing is NOT possible. All that I can manage to do
is, occasionally, to read a little of A Son of the Fatherland."
With these sentiments Chichikov expressed entire agreement:
adding that nothing could be more delightful than to lead a
solitary life in which there should be comprised only the sweet
contemplation of nature and the intermittent perusal of a book.
"Nay, but even THAT were worth nothing had not one a friend with
whom to share one's life," remarked Manilov.
"True, true," agreed Chichikov. "Without a friend, what are all
the treasures in the world? 'Possess not money,' a wise man has
said, 'but rather good friends to whom to turn in case of
"Yes, Paul Ivanovitch," said Manilov with a glance not merely
sweet, but positively luscious—a glance akin to the mixture which
even clever physicians have to render palatable before they can
induce a hesitant patient to take it. "Consequently you may imagine
what happiness—what PERFECT happiness, so to speak—the present
occasion has brought me, seeing that I am permitted to converse
with you and to enjoy your conversation."
"But WHAT of my conversation?" replied Chichikov. "I am an
insignificant individual, and, beyond that, nothing."
"Oh, Paul Ivanovitch!" cried the other. "Permit me to be frank,
and to say that I would give half my property to possess even a
PORTION of the talents which you possess."
"On the contrary, I should consider it the highest honour in the
The lengths to which this mutual outpouring of soul would have
proceeded had not a servant entered to announce luncheon must
remain a mystery.
"I humbly invite you to join us at table," said Manilov. "Also,
you will pardon us for the fact that we cannot provide a banquet
such as is to be obtained in our metropolitan cities? We partake of
simple fare, according to Russian custom—we confine ourselves to
but we do so with a single heart. Come, I humbly beg of you."
After another contest for the honour of yielding precedence,
Chichikov succeeded in making his way (in zigzag fashion) to the
dining-room, where they found awaiting them a couple of youngsters.
These were Manilov's sons, and boys of the age which admits of
their presence at table, but necessitates the continued use of high
chairs. Beside them was their tutor, who bowed politely and smiled;
after which the hostess took her seat before her soup plate, and
the guest of honour found himself esconsed between her and the
master of the house, while the servant tied up the boys' necks in
"What charming children!" said Chichikov as he gazed at the
pair. "And how old are they?"
"The eldest is eight," replied Manilov, "and the younger one
attained the age of six yesterday."
"Themistocleus," went on the father, turning to his first-born,
who was engaged in striving to free his chin from the bib with
which the footman had encircled it. On hearing this distinctly
Greek name (to which, for some unknown reason, Manilov always
appended the termination "eus"), Chichikov raised his eyebrows a
little, but hastened, the next moment, to restore his face to a
more befitting expression.
"Themistocleus," repeated the father, "tell me which is the
finest city in France."
Upon this the tutor concentrated his attention upon
Themistocleus, and appeared to be trying hard to catch his eye.
Only when Themistocleus had muttered "Paris" did the preceptor grow
calmer, and nod his head.
"And which is the finest city in Russia?" continued Manilov.
Again the tutor's attitude became wholly one of
"St. Petersburg," replied Themistocleus.
"And what other city?"
"Moscow," responded the boy.
"Clever little dear!" burst out Chichikov, turning with an air
of surprise to the father. "Indeed, I feel bound to say that the
child evinces the greatest possible potentialities."
"You do not know him fully," replied the delighted Manilov. "The
amount of sharpness which he possesses is extraordinary. Our
younger one, Alkid, is not so quick; whereas his brother—well, no
matter what he may happen upon (whether upon a cowbug or upon a
water-beetle or upon anything else), his little eyes begin jumping
out of his head, and he runs to catch the thing, and to inspect it.
For HIM I am reserving a diplomatic post. Themistocleus," added the
father, again turning to his son, "do you wish to become an
"Yes, I do," replied Themistocleus, chewing a piece of bread and
wagging his head from side to side.
At this moment the lacquey who had been standing behind the
future ambassador wiped the latter's nose; and well it was that he
did so, since otherwise an inelegant and superfluous drop would
have been added to the soup. After that the conversation turned
upon the joys of a quiet life—though occasionally it was
interrupted by remarks from the hostess on the subject of acting
and actors. Meanwhile the tutor kept his eyes fixed upon the
speakers' faces; and whenever he noticed that they were on the
point of laughing he at once opened his mouth, and laughed with
enthusiasm. Probably he was a man of grateful heart who wished to
repay his employers for the good treatment which he had received.
Once, however, his features assumed a look of grimness as, fixing
his eyes upon his vis-a-vis, the boys, he tapped sternly upon the
table. This happened at a juncture when Themistocleus had bitten
Alkid on the ear, and the said Alkid, with frowning eyes and open
mouth, was preparing himself to sob in piteous fashion; until,
recognising that for such a proceeding he might possibly be
deprived of his plate, he hastened to restore his mouth to its
original expression, and fell tearfully to gnawing a mutton
bone—the grease from which had soon covered his cheeks.
Every now and again the hostess would turn to Chichikov with the
words, "You are eating nothing—you have indeed taken little;" but
invariably her guest replied: "Thank you, I have had more than
enough. A pleasant conversation is worth all the dishes in the
At length the company rose from table. Manilov was in high
spirits, and, laying his hand upon his guest's shoulder, was on the
point of conducting him to the drawing-room, when suddenly
Chichikov intimated to him, with a meaning look, that he wished to
speak to him on a very important matter.
"That being so," said Manilov, "allow me to invite you into my
study." And he led the way to a small room which faced the blue of
the forest. "This is my sanctum," he added.
"What a pleasant apartment!" remarked Chichikov as he eyed it
carefully. And, indeed, the room did not lack a certain
attractiveness. The walls were painted a sort of blueish-grey
colour, and the furniture consisted of four chairs, a settee, and a
table—the latter of which bore a few sheets of writing-paper and
the book of which I have before had occasion to speak. But the most
prominent feature of the room was tobacco, which appeared in many
different guises—in packets, in a tobacco jar, and in a loose heap
strewn about the table. Likewise, both window sills were studded
with little heaps of ash, arranged, not without artifice, in rows
of more or less tidiness. Clearly smoking afforded the master of
the house a frequent means of passing the time.
"Permit me to offer you a seat on this settee," said Manilov.
"Here you will be quieter than you would be in the
"But I should prefer to sit upon this chair."
"I cannot allow that," objected the smiling Manilov. "The settee
is specially reserved for my guests. Whether you choose or no, upon
it you MUST sit."
Accordingly Chichikov obeyed.
"And also let me hand you a pipe."
"No, I never smoke," answered Chichikov civilly, and with an
assumed air of regret.
"And why?" inquired Manilov—equally civilly, but with a regret
that was wholly genuine.
"Because I fear that I have never quite formed the habit, owing
to my having heard that a pipe exercises a desiccating effect upon
"Then allow me to tell you that that is mere prejudice. Nay, I
would even go so far as to say that to smoke a pipe is a healthier
practice than to take snuff. Among its members our regiment
numbered a lieutenant—a most excellent, well-educated fellow—who
was simply INCAPABLE of removing his pipe from his mouth, whether
at table or (pardon me) in other places. He is now forty, yet no
man could enjoy better health than he has always done."
Chichikov replied that such cases were common, since nature
comprised many things which even the finest intellect could not
"But allow me to put to you a question," he went on in a tone in
which there was a strange—or, at all events, RATHER a strange—note.
For some unknown reason, also, he glanced over his shoulder. For
some equally unknown reason, Manilov glanced over HIS.
"How long is it," inquired the guest, "since you last rendered a
"Oh, a long, long time. In fact, I cannot remember when it
"And since then have many of your serfs died?"
"I do not know. To ascertain that I should need to ask my
bailiff. Footman, go and call the bailiff. I think he will be at
Before long the bailiff made his appearance. He was a man of
under forty, clean-shaven, clad in a smock, and evidently used to a
quiet life, seeing that his face was of that puffy fullness, and
the skin encircling his slit-like eyes was of that sallow tint,
which shows that the owner of those features is well acquainted
with a feather bed. In a trice it could be seen that he had played
his part in life as all such bailiffs do—that, originally a young
serf of elementary education, he had married some Agashka of a
housekeeper or a mistress's favourite, and then himself become
housekeeper, and, subsequently, bailiff; after which he had
proceeded according to the rules of his tribe—that is to say, he
had consorted with and stood in with the more well-to-do serfs on
the estate, and added the poorer ones to the list of forced payers
of obrok, while himself leaving his bed at nine o'clock in the
morning, and, when the samovar had been brought, drinking his tea
"Look here, my good man," said Manilov. "How many of our serfs
have died since the last census revision?"
"How many of them have died? Why, a great many." The bailiff
hiccoughed, and slapped his mouth lightly after doing so.
"Yes, I imagined that to be the case," corroborated Manilov. "In
fact, a VERY great many serfs have died." He turned to Chichikov
and repeated the words.
"How many, for instance?" asked Chichikov.
"Yes; how many?" re-echoed Manilov.
"HOW many?" re-echoed the bailiff. "Well, no one knows the exact
number, for no one has kept any account."
"Quite so," remarked Manilov. "I supposed the death-rate to have
been high, but was ignorant of its precise extent."
"Then would you be so good as to have it computed for me?" said
Chichikov. "And also to have a detailed list of the deaths made
"Yes, I will—a detailed list," agreed Manilov.
The bailiff departed.
"For what purpose do you want it?" inquired Manilov when the
bailiff had gone.
The question seemed to embarrass the guest, for in Chichikov's
face there dawned a sort of tense expression, and it reddened as
though its owner were striving to express something not easy to put
into words. True enough, Manilov was now destined to hear such
strange and unexpected things as never before had greeted human
"You ask me," said Chichikov, "for what purpose I want the list.
Well, my purpose in wanting it is this—that I desire to purchase a
few peasants." And he broke off in a gulp.
"But may I ask HOW you desire to purchase those peasants?" asked
Manilov. "With land, or merely as souls for transferment—that is to
say, by themselves, and without any land?"
"I want the peasants themselves only," replied Chichikov. "And I
want dead ones at that."
"What?—Excuse me, but I am a trifle deaf. Really, your words
sound most strange!"
"All that I am proposing to do," replied Chichikov, "is to
purchase the dead peasants who, at the last census, were returned
by you as alive."
Manilov dropped his pipe on the floor, and sat gaping. Yes, the
two friends who had just been discussing the joys of camaraderie
sat staring at one another like the portraits which, of old, used
to hang on opposite sides of a mirror. At length Manilov picked up
his pipe, and, while doing so, glanced covertly at Chichikov to see
whether there was any trace of a smile to be detected on his
lips—whether, in short, he was joking. But nothing of the sort
could be discerned. On the contrary, Chichikov's face looked graver
than usual. Next, Manilov wondered whether, for some unknown
reason, his guest had lost his wits; wherefore he spent some time
in gazing at him with anxious intentness. But the guest's eyes
seemed clear—they contained no spark of the wild, restless fire
which is apt to wander in the eyes of madmen. All was as it should
be. Consequently, in spite of Manilov's cogitations, he could think
of nothing better to do than to sit letting a stream of tobacco
smoke escape from his mouth.
"So," continued Chichikov, "what I desire to know is whether you
are willing to hand over to me—to resign—these actually non-living,
but legally living, peasants; or whether you have any better
proposal to make?"
Manilov felt too confused and confounded to do aught but
continue staring at his interlocutor.
"I think that you are disturbing yourself unnecessarily," was
Chichikov's next remark.
"I? Oh no! Not at all!" stammered Manilov. "Only—pardon me—I do
not quite comprehend you. You see, never has it fallen to my lot to
acquire the brilliant polish which is, so to speak, manifest in
your every movement. Nor have I ever been able to attain the art of
expressing myself well. Consequently, although there is a
possibility that in the—er—utterances which have just fallen from
your lips there may lie something else concealed, it may equally be
that—er—you have been pleased so to express yourself for the sake
of the beauty of the terms wherein that expression found
"Oh, no," asserted Chichikov. "I mean what I say and no more. My
reference to such of your pleasant souls as are dead was intended
to be taken literally."
Manilov still felt at a loss—though he was conscious that he
MUST do something, he MUST propound some question. But what
question? The devil alone knew! In the end he merely expelled some
more tobacco smoke—this time from his nostrils as well as from his
"So," went on Chichikov, "if no obstacle stands in the way, we
might as well proceed to the completion of the purchase."
"What? Of the purchase of the dead souls?"
"Of the 'dead' souls? Oh dear no! Let us write them down as
LIVING ones, seeing that that is how they figure in the census
returns. Never do I permit myself to step outside the civil law,
great though has been the harm which that rule has wrought me in my
career. In my eyes an obligation is a sacred thing. In the presence
of the law I am dumb."
These last words reassured Manilov not a little: yet still the
meaning of the affair remained to him a mystery. By way of answer,
he fell to sucking at his pipe with such vehemence that at length
the pipe began to gurgle like a bassoon. It was as though he had
been seeking of it inspiration in the present unheard-of juncture.
But the pipe only gurgled, et praeterea nihil.
"Perhaps you feel doubtful about the proposal?" said
"Not at all," replied Manilov. "But you will, I know, excuse me
if I say (and I say it out of no spirit of prejudice, nor yet as
criticising yourself in any way)—you will, I know, excuse me if I
say that possibly this—er—this, er, SCHEME of yours,
this—er—TRANSACTION of yours, may fail altogether to accord with
the Civil Statutes and Provisions of the Realm?"
And Manilov, with a slight gesture of the head, looked meaningly
into Chichikov's face, while displaying in his every feature,
including his closely-compressed lips, such an expression of
profundity as never before was seen on any human countenance—unless
on that of some particularly sapient Minister of State who is
debating some particularly abstruse problem.
Nevertheless Chichikov rejoined that the kind of scheme or
transaction which he had adumbrated in no way clashed with the
Civil Statutes and Provisions of Russia; to which he added that the
Treasury would even BENEFIT by the enterprise, seeing it would draw
therefrom the usual legal percentage.
"What, then, do you propose?" asked Manilov.
"I propose only what is above-board, and nothing else."
"Then, that being so, it is another matter, and I have nothing
to urge against it," said Manilov, apparently reassured to the
"Very well," remarked Chichikov. "Then we need only to agree as
to the price."
"As to the price?" began Manilov, and then stopped. Presently he
went on: "Surely you cannot suppose me capable of taking money for
souls which, in one sense at least, have completed their existence?
Seeing that this fantastic whim of yours (if I may so call it?) has
seized upon you to the extent that it has, I, on my side, shall be
ready to surrender to you those souls UNCONDITIONALLY, and to
charge myself with the whole expenses of the sale."
I should be greatly to blame if I were to omit that, as soon as
Manilov had pronounced these words, the face of his guest became
replete with satisfaction. Indeed, grave and prudent a man though
Chichikov was, he had much ado to refrain from executing a leap
that would have done credit to a goat (an animal which, as we all
know, finds itself moved to such exertions only during moments of
the most ecstatic joy). Nevertheless the guest did at least execute
such a convulsive shuffle that the material with which the cushions
of the chair were covered came apart, and Manilov gazed at him with
some misgiving. Finally Chichikov's gratitude led him to plunge
into a stream of acknowledgement of a vehemence which caused his
host to grow confused, to blush, to shake his head in deprecation,
and to end by declaring that the concession was nothing, and that,
his one desire being to manifest the dictates of his heart and the
psychic magnetism which his friend exercised, he, in short, looked
upon the dead souls as so much worthless rubbish.
"Not at all," replied Chichikov, pressing his hand; after which
he heaved a profound sigh. Indeed, he seemed in the right mood for
outpourings of the heart, for he continued—not without a ring of
emotion in his tone: "If you but knew the service which you have
rendered to an apparently insignificant individual who is devoid
both of family and kindred! For what have I not suffered in my
time—I, a drifting barque amid the tempestuous billows of life?
What harryings, what persecutions, have I not known? Of what grief
have I not tasted? And why? Simply because I have ever kept the
truth in view, because ever I have preserved inviolate an unsullied
conscience, because ever I have stretched out a helping hand to the
defenceless widow and the hapless orphan!" After which outpouring
Chichikov pulled out his handkerchief, and wiped away a brimming
Manilov's heart was moved to the core. Again and again did the
two friends press one another's hands in silence as they gazed into
one another's tear-filled eyes. Indeed, Manilov COULD not let go
our hero's hand, but clasped it with such warmth that the hero in
question began to feel himself at a loss how best to wrench it
free: until, quietly withdrawing it, he observed that to have the
purchase completed as speedily as possible would not be a bad
thing; wherefore he himself would at once return to the town to
arrange matters. Taking up his hat, therefore, he rose to make his
"What? Are you departing already?" said Manilov, suddenly
recovering himself, and experiencing a sense of misgiving. At that
moment his wife sailed into the room.
"Is Paul Ivanovitch leaving us so soon, dearest Lizanka?" she
said with an air of regret.
"Yes. Surely it must be that we have wearied him?" her spouse
"By no means," asserted Chichikov, pressing his hand to his
heart. "In this breast, madam, will abide for ever the pleasant
memory of the time which I have spent with you. Believe me, I could
conceive of no greater blessing than to reside, if not under the
same roof as yourselves, at all events in your immediate
"Indeed?" exclaimed Manilov, greatly pleased with the idea. "How
splendid it would be if you DID come to reside under our roof, so
that we could recline under an elm tree together, and talk
philosophy, and delve to the very root of things!"
"Yes, it WOULD be a paradisaical existence!" agreed Chichikov
with a sigh. Nevertheless he shook hands with Madame. "Farewell,
sudarina," he said. "And farewell to YOU, my esteemed host. Do not
forget what I have requested you to do."
"Rest assured that I will not," responded Manilov. "Only for a
couple of days will you and I be parted from one another."
With that the party moved into the drawing-room.
"Farewell, dearest children," Chichikov went on as he caught
sight of Alkid and Themistocleus, who were playing with a wooden
hussar which lacked both a nose and one arm. "Farewell, dearest
pets. Pardon me for having brought you no presents, but, to tell
you the truth, I was not, until my visit, aware of your existence.
However, now that I shall be coming again, I will not fail to bring
you gifts. Themistocleus, to you I will bring a sword. You would
like that, would you not?"
"I should," replied Themistocleus.
"And to you, Alkid, I will bring a drum. That would suit you,
would it not?" And he bowed in Alkid's direction.
"Zeth—a drum," lisped the boy, hanging his head.
"Good! Then a drum it shall be—SUCH a beautiful drum! What a
tur-r-r-ru-ing and a tra-ta-ta-ta-ing you will be able to kick up!
Farewell, my darling." And, kissing the boy's head, he turned to
Manilov and Madame with the slight smile which one assumes before
assuring parents of the guileless merits of their offspring.
"But you had better stay, Paul Ivanovitch," said the father as
the trio stepped out on to the verandah. "See how the clouds are
"They are only small ones," replied Chichikov.
"And you know your way to Sobakevitch's?"
"No, I do not, and should be glad if you would direct me."
"If you like I will tell your coachman." And in very civil
fashion Manilov did so, even going so far as to address the man in
the second person plural. On hearing that he was to pass two
turnings, and then to take a third, Selifan remarked, "We shall get
there all right, sir," and Chichikov departed amid a profound salvo
of salutations and wavings of handkerchiefs on the part of his host
and hostess, who raised themselves on tiptoe in their
For a long while Manilov stood following the departing britchka
with his eyes. In fact, he continued to smoke his pipe and gaze
after the vehicle even when it had become lost to view. Then he
re-entered the drawing-room, seated himself upon a chair, and
surrendered his mind to the thought that he had shown his guest
most excellent entertainment. Next, his mind passed imperceptibly
to other matters, until at last it lost itself God only knows
where. He thought of the amenities of a life, of friendship, and of
how nice it would be to live with a comrade on, say, the bank of
some river, and to span the river with a bridge of his own, and to
build an enormous mansion with a facade lofty enough even to afford
a view to Moscow. On that facade he and his wife and friend would
drink afternoon tea in the open air, and discuss interesting
subjects; after which, in a fine carriage, they would drive to some
reunion or other, where with their pleasant manners they would so
charm the company that the Imperial Government, on learning of
their merits, would raise the pair to the grade of General or God
knows what—that is to say, to heights whereof even Manilov himself
could form no idea. Then suddenly Chichikov's extraordinary request
interrupted the dreamer's reflections, and he found his brain
powerless to digest it, seeing that, turn and turn the matter about
as he might, he could not properly explain its bearing. Smoking his
pipe, he sat where he was until supper time.
Meanwhile, Chichikov, seated in his britchka and bowling along
the turnpike, was feeling greatly pleased with himself. From the
preceding chapter the reader will have gathered the principal
subject of his bent and inclinations: wherefore it is no matter for
wonder that his body and his soul had ended by becoming wholly
immersed therein. To all appearances the thoughts, the
calculations, and the projects which were now reflected in his face
partook of a pleasant nature, since momentarily they kept leaving
behind them a satisfied smile. Indeed, so engrossed was he that he
never noticed that his coachman, elated with the hospitality of
Manilov's domestics, was making remarks of a didactic nature to the
off horse of the troika 11, a skewbald. This skewbald was a
knowing animal, and made only a show of pulling; whereas its
comrades, the middle horse (a bay, and known as the Assessor, owing
to his having been acquired from a gentleman of that rank) and the
near horse (a roan), would do their work gallantly, and even evince
in their eyes the pleasure which they derived from their
"Ah, you rascal, you rascal! I'll get the better of you!"
ejaculated Selifan as he sat up and gave the lazy one a cut with
his whip. "YOU know your business all right, you German pantaloon!
The bay is a good fellow, and does his duty, and I will give him a
bit over his feed, for he is a horse to be respected; and the
Assessor too is a good horse. But what are YOU shaking your ears
for? You are a fool, so just mind when you're spoken to. 'Tis good
advice I'm giving you, you blockhead. Ah! You CAN travel when you
like." And he gave the animal another cut, and then shouted to the
trio, "Gee up, my beauties!" and drew his whip gently across the
backs of the skewbald's comrades—not as a punishment, but as a sign
of his approval. That done, he addressed himself to the skewbald
"Do you think," he cried, "that I don't see what you are doing?
You can behave quite decently when you like, and make a man respect
With that he fell to recalling certain reminiscences.
"They were NICE folk, those folk at the gentleman's yonder," he
mused. "I DO love a chat with a man when he is a good sort. With a
man of that kind I am always hail-fellow-well-met, and glad to
drink a glass of tea with him, or to eat a biscuit. One CAN'T help
respecting a decent fellow. For instance, this gentleman of
mine—why, every one looks up to him, for he has been in the
Government's service, and is a Collegiate Councillor."
Thus soliloquising, he passed to more remote abstractions;
until, had Chichikov been listening, he would have learnt a number
of interesting details concerning himself. However, his thoughts
were wholly occupied with his own subject, so much so that not
until a loud clap of thunder awoke him from his reverie did he
glance around him. The sky was completely covered with clouds, and
the dusty turnpike beginning to be sprinkled with drops of rain. At
length a second and a nearer and a louder peal resounded, and the
rain descended as from a bucket. Falling slantwise, it beat upon
one side of the basketwork of the tilt until the splashings began
to spurt into his face, and he found himself forced to draw the
curtains (fitted with circular openings through which to obtain a
glimpse of the wayside view), and to shout to Selifan to quicken
his pace. Upon that the coachman, interrupted in the middle of his
harangue, bethought him that no time was to be lost; wherefore,
extracting from under the box-seat a piece of old blanket, he
covered over his sleeves, resumed the reins, and cheered on his
threefold team (which, it may be said, had so completely succumbed
to the influence of the pleasant lassitude induced by Selifan's
discourse that it had taken to scarcely placing one leg before the
other). Unfortunately, Selifan could not clearly remember whether
two turnings had been passed or three. Indeed, on collecting his
faculties, and dimly recalling the lie of the road, he became
filled with a shrewd suspicion that A VERY LARGE NUMBER of turnings
had been passed. But since, at moments which call for a hasty
decision, a Russian is quick to discover what may conceivably be
the best course to take, our coachman put away from him all
ulterior reasoning, and, turning to the right at the next
cross-road, shouted, "Hi, my beauties!" and set off at a gallop.
Never for a moment did he stop to think whither the road might lead
It was long before the clouds had discharged their burden, and,
meanwhile, the dust on the road became kneaded into mire, and the
horses' task of pulling the britchka heavier and heavier. Also,
Chichikov had taken alarm at his continued failure to catch sight
of Sobakevitch's country house. According to his calculations, it
ought to have been reached long ago. He gazed about him on every
side, but the darkness was too dense for the eye to pierce.
"Selifan!" he exclaimed, leaning forward in the britchka.
"What is it, barin?" replied the coachman.
"Can you see the country house anywhere?"
"No, barin." After which, with a flourish of the whip, the man
broke into a sort of endless, drawling song. In that song
everything had a place. By "everything" I mean both the various
encouraging and stimulating cries with which Russian folk urge on
their horses, and a random, unpremeditated selection of
Meanwhile Chichikov began to notice that the britchka was
swaying violently, and dealing him occasional bumps. Consequently
he suspected that it had left the road and was being dragged over a
ploughed field. Upon Selifan's mind there appeared to have dawned a
similar inkling, for he had ceased to hold forth.
"You rascal, what road are you following?" inquired
"I don't know," retorted the coachman. "What can a man do at a
time of night when the darkness won't let him even see his whip?"
And as Selifan spoke the vehicle tilted to an angle which left
Chichikov no choice but to hang on with hands and teeth. At length
he realised the fact that Selifan was drunk.
"Stop, stop, or you will upset us!" he shouted to the
"No, no, barin," replied Selifan. "HOW could I upset you? To
upset people is wrong. I know that very well, and should never
dream of such conduct."
Here he started to turn the vehicle round a little—and kept on
doing so until the britchka capsized on to its side, and Chichikov
landed in the mud on his hands and knees. Fortunately Selifan
succeeded in stopping the horses, although they would have stopped
of themselves, seeing that they were utterly worn out. This
unforeseen catastrophe evidently astonished their driver. Slipping
from the box, he stood resting his hands against the side of the
britchka, while Chichikov tumbled and floundered about in the mud,
in a vain endeavour to wriggle clear of the stuff.
"Ah, you!" said Selifan meditatively to the britchka. "To think
of upsetting us like this!"
"You are as drunk as a lord!" exclaimed Chichikov.
"No, no, barin. Drunk, indeed? Why, I know my manners too well.
A word or two with a friend—that is all that I have taken. Any one
may talk with a decent man when he meets him. There is nothing
wrong in that. Also, we had a snack together. There is nothing
wrong in a snack—especially a snack with a decent man."
"What did I say to you when last you got drunk?" asked
Chichikov. "Have you forgotten what I said then?"
"No, no, barin. HOW could I forget it? I know what is what, and
know that it is not right to get drunk. All that I have been having
is a word or two with a decent man, for the reason that—"
"Well, if I lay the whip about you, you'll know then how to talk
to a decent fellow, I'll warrant!"
"As you please, barin," replied the complacent Selifan. "Should
you whip me, you will whip me, and I shall have nothing to complain
of. Why should you not whip me if I deserve it? 'Tis for you to do
as you like. Whippings are necessary sometimes, for a peasant often
plays the fool, and discipline ought to be maintained. If I have
deserved it, beat me. Why should you not?"
This reasoning seemed, at the moment, irrefutable, and Chichikov
said nothing more. Fortunately fate had decided to take pity on the
pair, for from afar their ears caught the barking of a dog.
Plucking up courage, Chichikov gave orders for the britchka to be
righted, and the horses to be urged forward; and since a Russian
driver has at least this merit, that, owing to a keen sense of
smell being able to take the place of eyesight, he can, if
necessary, drive at random and yet reach a destination of some
sort, Selifan succeeded, though powerless to discern a single
object, in directing his steeds to a country house near by, and
that with such a certainty of instinct that it was not until the
shafts had collided with a garden wall, and thereby made it clear
that to proceed another pace was impossible, that he stopped. All
that Chichikov could discern through the thick veil of pouring rain
was something which resembled a verandah. So he dispatched Selifan
to search for the entrance gates, and that process would have
lasted indefinitely had it not been shortened by the circumstance
that, in Russia, the place of a Swiss footman is frequently taken
by watchdogs; of which animals a number now proclaimed the
travellers' presence so loudly that Chichikov found himself forced
to stop his ears. Next, a light gleamed in one of the windows, and
filtered in a thin stream to the garden wall—thus revealing the
whereabouts of the entrance gates; whereupon Selifan fell to
knocking at the gates until the bolts of the house door were
withdrawn and there issued therefrom a figure clad in a rough
"Who is that knocking? What have you come for?" shouted the
hoarse voice of an elderly woman.
"We are travellers, good mother," said Chichikov. "Pray allow us
to spend the night here."
"Out upon you for a pair of gadabouts!" retorted the old woman.
"A fine time of night to be arriving! We don't keep an hotel, mind
you. This is a lady's residence."
"But what are we to do, mother? We have lost our way, and cannot
spend the night out of doors in such weather."
"No, we cannot. The night is dark and cold," added Selifan.
"Hold your tongue, you fool!" exclaimed Chichikov.
"Who ARE you, then?" inquired the old woman.
"A dvorianin 12, good mother."
Somehow the word dvorianin seemed to give the old woman food for
"Wait a moment," she said, "and I will tell the mistress."
Two minutes later she returned with a lantern in her hand, the
gates were opened, and a light glimmered in a second window.
Entering the courtyard, the britchka halted before a moderate-sized
mansion. The darkness did not permit of very accurate observation
being made, but, apparently, the windows only of one-half of the
building were illuminated, while a quagmire in front of the door
reflected the beams from the same. Meanwhile the rain continued to
beat sonorously down upon the wooden roof, and could be heard
trickling into a water butt; nor for a single moment did the dogs
cease to bark with all the strength of their lungs. One of them,
throwing up its head, kept venting a howl of such energy and
duration that the animal seemed to be howling for a handsome wager;
while another, cutting in between the yelpings of the first animal,
kept restlessly reiterating, like a postman's bell, the notes of a
very young puppy. Finally, an old hound which appeared to be gifted
with a peculiarly robust temperament kept supplying the part of
contrabasso, so that his growls resembled the rumbling of a bass
singer when a chorus is in full cry, and the tenors are rising on
tiptoe in their efforts to compass a particularly high note, and
the whole body of choristers are wagging their heads before
approaching a climax, and this contrabasso alone is tucking his
bearded chin into his collar, and sinking almost to a squatting
posture on the floor, in order to produce a note which shall cause
the windows to shiver and their panes to crack. Naturally, from a
canine chorus of such executants it might reasonably be inferred
that the establishment was one of the utmost respectability. To
that, however, our damp, cold hero gave not a thought, for all his
mind was fixed upon bed. Indeed, the britchka had hardly come to a
standstill before he leapt out upon the doorstep, missed his
footing, and came within an ace of falling. To meet him there
issued a female younger than the first, but very closely resembling
her; and on his being conducted to the parlour, a couple of glances
showed him that the room was hung with old striped curtains, and
ornamented with pictures of birds and small, antique mirrors—the
latter set in dark frames which were carved to resemble scrolls of
foliage. Behind each mirror was stuck either a letter or an old
pack of cards or a stocking, while on the wall hung a clock with a
flowered dial. More, however, Chichikov could not discern, for his
eyelids were as heavy as though smeared with treacle. Presently the
lady of the house herself entered—an elderly woman in a sort of
nightcap (hastily put on) and a flannel neck wrap. She belonged to
that class of lady landowners who are for ever lamenting failures
of the harvest and their losses thereby; to the class who, drooping
their heads despondently, are all the while stuffing money into
striped purses, which they keep hoarded in the drawers of
cupboards. Into one purse they will stuff rouble pieces, into
another half roubles, and into a third tchetvertachki 13, although from
their mien you would suppose that the cupboard contained only linen
and nightshirts and skeins of wool and the piece of shabby material
which is destined—should the old gown become scorched during the
baking of holiday cakes and other dainties, or should it fall into
pieces of itself—to become converted into a new dress. But the gown
never does get burnt or wear out, for the reason that the lady is
too careful; wherefore the piece of shabby material reposes in its
unmade-up condition until the priest advises that it be given to
the niece of some widowed sister, together with a quantity of other
Chichikov apologised for having disturbed the household with his
"Not at all, not at all," replied the lady. "But in what
dreadful weather God has brought you hither! What wind and what
rain! You could not help losing your way. Pray excuse us for being
unable to make better preparations for you at this time of
Suddenly there broke in upon the hostess' words the sound of a
strange hissing, a sound so loud that the guest started in alarm,
and the more so seeing that it increased until the room seemed
filled with adders. On glancing upwards, however, he recovered his
composure, for he perceived the sound to be emanating from the
clock, which appeared to be in a mind to strike. To the hissing
sound there succeeded a wheezing one, until, putting forth its best
efforts, the thing struck two with as much clatter as though some
one had been hitting an iron pot with a cudgel. That done, the
pendulum returned to its right-left, right-left oscillation.
Chichikov thanked his hostess kindly, and said that he needed
nothing, and she must not put herself about: only for rest was he
longing—though also he should like to know whither he had arrived,
and whether the distance to the country house of land-owner
Sobakevitch was anything very great. To this the lady replied that
she had never so much as heard the name, since no gentleman of the
name resided in the locality.
"But at least you are acquainted with landowner Manilov?"
"No. Who is he?"
"Another landed proprietor, madam."
"Well, neither have I heard of him. No such landowner lives
"Then who ARE your local landowners?"
"Bobrov, Svinin, Kanapatiev, Khapakin, Trepakin, and
"Are they rich men?"
"No, none of them. One of them may own twenty souls, and another
thirty, but of gentry who own a hundred there are none."
Chichikov reflected that he had indeed fallen into an
"At all events, is the town far away?" he inquired.
"About sixty versts. How sorry I am that I have nothing for you
to eat! Should you care to drink some tea?"
"I thank you, good mother, but I require nothing beyond a
"Well, after such a journey you must indeed be needing rest, so
you shall lie upon this sofa. Fetinia, bring a quilt and some
pillows and sheets. What weather God has sent us! And what dreadful
thunder! Ever since sunset I have had a candle burning before the
ikon in my bedroom. My God! Why, your back and sides are as muddy
as a boar's! However have you managed to get into such a
"That I am nothing worse than muddy is indeed fortunate, since,
but for the Almighty, I should have had my ribs broken."
"Dear, dear! To think of all that you must have been through.
Had I not better wipe your back?"
"I thank you, I thank you, but you need not trouble. Merely be
so good as to tell your maid to dry my clothes."
"Do you hear that, Fetinia?" said the hostess, turning to a
woman who was engaged in dragging in a feather bed and deluging the
room with feathers. "Take this coat and this vest, and, after
drying them before the fire—just as we used to do for your late
master—give them a good rub, and fold them up neatly."
"Very well, mistress," said Fetinia, spreading some sheets over
the bed, and arranging the pillows.
"Now your bed is ready for you," said the hostess to Chichikov.
"Good-night, dear sir. I wish you good-night. Is there anything
else that you require? Perhaps you would like to have your heels
tickled before retiring to rest? Never could my late husband get to
sleep without that having been done."
But the guest declined the proffered heel-tickling, and, on his
hostess taking her departure, hastened to divest himself of his
clothing, both upper and under, and to hand the garments to
Fetinia. She wished him good-night, and removed the wet trappings;
after which he found himself alone. Not without satisfaction did he
eye his bed, which reached almost to the ceiling. Clearly Fetinia
was a past mistress in the art of beating up such a couch, and, as
the result, he had no sooner mounted it with the aid of a chair
than it sank well-nigh to the floor, and the feathers, squeezed out
of their proper confines, flew hither and thither into every corner
of the apartment. Nevertheless he extinguished the candle, covered
himself over with the chintz quilt, snuggled down beneath it, and
instantly fell asleep. Next day it was late in the morning before
he awoke. Through the window the sun was shining into his eyes, and
the flies which, overnight, had been roosting quietly on the walls
and ceiling now turned their attention to the visitor. One settled
on his lip, another on his ear, a third hovered as though intending
to lodge in his very eye, and a fourth had the temerity to alight
just under his nostrils. In his drowsy condition he inhaled the
latter insect, sneezed violently, and so returned to consciousness.
He glanced around the room, and perceived that not all the pictures
were representative of birds, since among them hung also a portrait
of Kutuzov 14
and an oil painting of an old man in a uniform with red facings
such as were worn in the days of the Emperor Paul 15. At this moment
the clock uttered its usual hissing sound, and struck ten, while a
woman's face peered in at the door, but at once withdrew, for the
reason that, with the object of sleeping as well as possible,
Chichikov had removed every stitch of his clothing. Somehow the
face seemed to him familiar, and he set himself to recall whose it
could be. At length he recollected that it was the face of his
hostess. His clothes he found lying, clean and dry, beside him; so
he dressed and approached the mirror, meanwhile sneezing again with
such vehemence that a cock which happened at the moment to be near
the window (which was situated at no great distance from the
ground) chuckled a short, sharp phrase. Probably it meant, in the
bird's alien tongue, "Good morning to you!" Chichikov retorted by
calling the bird a fool, and then himself approached the window to
look at the view. It appeared to comprise a poulterer's premises.
At all events, the narrow yard in front of the window was full of
poultry and other domestic creatures—of game fowls and barn door
fowls, with, among them, a cock which strutted with measured gait,
and kept shaking its comb, and tilting its head as though it were
trying to listen to something. Also, a sow and her family were
helping to grace the scene. First, she rooted among a heap of
litter; then, in passing, she ate up a young pullet; lastly, she
proceeded carelessly to munch some pieces of melon rind. To this
small yard or poultry-run a length of planking served as a fence,
while beyond it lay a kitchen garden containing cabbages, onions,
potatoes, beetroots, and other household vegetables. Also, the
garden contained a few stray fruit trees that were covered with
netting to protect them from the magpies and sparrows; flocks of
which were even then wheeling and darting from one spot to another.
For the same reason a number of scarecrows with outstretched arms
stood reared on long poles, with, surmounting one of the figures, a
cast-off cap of the hostess's. Beyond the garden again there stood
a number of peasants' huts. Though scattered, instead of being
arranged in regular rows, these appeared to Chichikov's eye to
comprise well-to-do inhabitants, since all rotten planks in their
roofing had been replaced with new ones, and none of their doors
were askew, and such of their tiltsheds as faced him evinced
evidence of a presence of a spare waggon—in some cases almost a new
"This lady owns by no means a poor village," said Chichikov to
himself; wherefore he decided then and there to have a talk with
his hostess, and to cultivate her closer acquaintance. Accordingly
he peeped through the chink of the door whence her head had
recently protruded, and, on seeing her seated at a tea table,
entered and greeted her with a cheerful, kindly smile.
"Good morning, dear sir," she responded as she rose. "How have
you slept?" She was dressed in better style than she had been on
the previous evening. That is to say, she was now wearing a gown of
some dark colour, and lacked her nightcap, and had swathed her neck
in something stiff.
"I have slept exceedingly well," replied Chichikov, seating
himself upon a chair. "And how are YOU, good madam?"
"But poorly, my dear sir."
"And why so?"
"Because I cannot sleep. A pain has taken me in my middle, and
my legs, from the ankles upwards, are aching as though they were
"That will pass, that will pass, good mother. You must pay no
attention to it."
"God grant that it MAY pass. However, I have been rubbing myself
with lard and turpentine. What sort of tea will you take? In this
jar I have some of the scented kind."
"Excellent, good mother! Then I will take that."
Probably the reader will have noticed that, for all his
expressions of solicitude, Chichikov's tone towards his hostess
partook of a freer, a more unceremonious, nature than that which he
had adopted towards Madam Manilov. And here I should like to assert
that, howsoever much, in certain respects, we Russians may be
surpassed by foreigners, at least we surpass them in adroitness of
manner. In fact the various shades and subtleties of our social
intercourse defy enumeration. A Frenchman or a German would be
incapable of envisaging and understanding all its peculiarities and
differences, for his tone in speaking to a millionaire differs but
little from that which he employs towards a small tobacconist—and
that in spite of the circumstance that he is accustomed to cringe
before the former. With us, however, things are different. In
Russian society there exist clever folk who can speak in one manner
to a landowner possessed of two hundred peasant souls, and in
another to a landowner possessed of three hundred, and in another
to a landowner possessed of five hundred. In short, up to the
number of a million souls the Russian will have ready for each
landowner a suitable mode of address. For example, suppose that
somewhere there exists a government office, and that in that office
there exists a director. I would beg of you to contemplate him as
he sits among his myrmidons. Sheer nervousness will prevent you
from uttering a word in his presence, so great are the pride and
superiority depicted on his countenance. Also, were you to sketch
him, you would be sketching a veritable Prometheus, for his glance
is as that of an eagle, and he walks with measured, stately stride.
Yet no sooner will the eagle have left the room to seek the study
of his superior officer than he will go scurrying along (papers
held close to his nose) like any partridge. But in society, and at
the evening party (should the rest of those present be of lesser
rank than himself) the Prometheus will once more become Prometheus,
and the man who stands a step below him will treat him in a way
never dreamt of by Ovid, seeing that each fly is of lesser account
than its superior fly, and becomes, in the presence of the latter,
even as a grain of sand. "Surely that is not Ivan Petrovitch?" you
will say of such and such a man as you regard him. "Ivan Petrovitch
is tall, whereas this man is small and spare. Ivan Petrovitch has a
loud, deep voice, and never smiles, whereas this man (whoever he
may be) is twittering like a sparrow, and smiling all the time."
Yet approach and take a good look at the fellow and you will see
that is IS Ivan Petrovitch. "Alack, alack!" will be the only remark
you can make.
Let us return to our characters in real life. We have seen that,
on this occasion, Chichikov decided to dispense with ceremony;
wherefore, taking up the teapot, he went on as follows:
"You have a nice little village here, madam. How many souls does
"A little less than eighty, dear sir. But the times are hard,
and I have lost a great deal through last year's harvest having
proved a failure."
"But your peasants look fine, strong fellows. May I enquire your
name? Through arriving so late at night I have quite lost my
"Korobotchka, the widow of a Collegiate Secretary."
"I humbly thank you. And your Christian name and
"Nastasia Petrovna! Those are excellent names. I have a maternal
aunt named like yourself."
"And YOUR name?" queried the lady. "May I take it that you are a
"No, madam," replied Chichikov with a smile. "I am not an
Assessor, but a traveller on private business."
"Then you must be a buyer of produce? How I regret that I have
sold my honey so cheaply to other buyers! Otherwise YOU might have
bought it, dear sir."
"I never buy honey."
"Then WHAT do you buy, pray? Hemp? I have a little of that by
me, but not more than half a pood 16 or so."
"No, madam. It is in other wares that I deal. Tell me, have you,
of late years, lost many of your peasants by death?"
"Yes; no fewer than eighteen," responded the old lady with a
sigh. "Such a fine lot, too—all good workers! True, others have
since grown up, but of what use are THEY? Mere striplings. When the
Assessor last called upon me I could have wept; for, though those
workmen of mine are dead, I have to keep on paying for them as
though they were still alive! And only last week my blacksmith got
burnt to death! Such a clever hand at his trade he was!"
"What? A fire occurred at your place?"
"No, no, God preserve us all! It was not so bad as that. You
must understand that the blacksmith SET HIMSELF on fire—he got set
on fire in his bowels through overdrinking. Yes, all of a sudden
there burst from him a blue flame, and he smouldered and smouldered
until he had turned as black as a piece of charcoal! Yet what a
clever blacksmith he was! And now I have no horses to drive out
with, for there is no one to shoe them."
"In everything the will of God, madam," said Chichikov with a
sigh. "Against the divine wisdom it is not for us to rebel. Pray
hand them over to me, Nastasia Petrovna."
"Hand over whom?"
"The dead peasants."
"But how could I do that?"
"Quite simply. Sell them to me, and I will give you some money
"But how am I to sell them to you? I scarcely understand what
you mean. Am I to dig them up again from the ground?"
Chichikov perceived that the old lady was altogether at sea, and
that he must explain the matter; wherefore in a few words he
informed her that the transfer or purchase of the souls in question
would take place merely on paper—that the said souls would be
listed as still alive.
"And what good would they be to you?" asked his hostess, staring
at him with her eyes distended.
"That is MY affair."
"But they are DEAD souls."
"Who said they were not? The mere fact of their being dead
entails upon you a loss as dead as the souls, for you have to
continue paying tax upon them, whereas MY plan is to relieve you
both of the tax and of the resultant trouble. NOW do you
understand? And I will not only do as I say, but also hand you over
fifteen roubles per soul. Is that clear enough?"
"Yes—but I do not know," said his hostess diffidently. "You see,
never before have I sold dead souls."
"Quite so. It would be a surprising thing if you had. But surely
you do not think that these dead souls are in the least worth
"Oh, no, indeed! Why should they be worth keeping? I am sure
they are not so. The only thing which troubles me is the fact that
they are DEAD."
"She seems a truly obstinate old woman!" was Chichikov's inward
comment. "Look here, madam," he added aloud. "You reason well, but
you are simply ruining yourself by continuing to pay the tax upon
dead souls as though they were still alive."
"Oh, good sir, do not speak of it!" the lady exclaimed. "Three
weeks ago I took a hundred and fifty roubles to that Assessor, and
buttered him up, and—"
"Then you see how it is, do you not? Remember that, according to
my plan, you will never again have to butter up the Assessor,
seeing that it will be I who will be paying for those
peasants—I, not YOU, for I shall have taken over the dues
upon them, and have transferred them to myself as so many bona fide
serfs. Do you understand AT LAST?"
However, the old lady still communed with herself. She could see
that the transaction would be to her advantage, yet it was one of
such a novel and unprecedented nature that she was beginning to
fear lest this purchaser of souls intended to cheat her. Certainly
he had come from God only knew where, and at the dead of night,
"But, sir, I have never in my life sold dead folk—only living
ones. Three years ago I transferred two wenches to Protopopov for a
hundred roubles apiece, and he thanked me kindly, for they turned
out splendid workers—able to make napkins or anything else.
"Yes, but with the living we have nothing to do, damn it! I am
asking you only about DEAD folk."
"Yes, yes, of course. But at first sight I felt afraid lest I
should be incurring a loss—lest you should be wishing to outwit me,
good sir. You see, the dead souls are worth rather more than you
have offered for them."
"See here, madam. (What a woman it is!) HOW could they be worth
more? Think for yourself. They are so much loss to you—so much
loss, do you understand? Take any worthless, rubbishy article you
like—a piece of old rag, for example. That rag will yet fetch its
price, for it can be bought for paper-making. But these dead souls
are good for NOTHING AT ALL. Can you name anything that they ARE
"True, true—they ARE good for nothing. But what troubles me is
the fact that they are dead."
"What a blockhead of a creature!" said Chichikov to himself, for
he was beginning to lose patience. "Bless her heart, I may as well
be going. She has thrown me into a perfect sweat, the cursed old
He took a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped the
perspiration from his brow. Yet he need not have flown into such a
passion. More than one respected statesman reveals himself, when
confronted with a business matter, to be just such another as Madam
Korobotchka, in that, once he has got an idea into his head, there
is no getting it out of him—you may ply him with daylight-clear
arguments, yet they will rebound from his brain as an india-rubber
ball rebounds from a flagstone. Nevertheless, wiping away the
perspiration, Chichikov resolved to try whether he could not bring
her back to the road by another path.
"Madam," he said, "either you are declining to understand what I
say or you are talking for the mere sake of talking. If I hand you
over some money—fifteen roubles for each soul, do you
understand?—it is MONEY, not something which can be picked up
haphazard on the street. For instance, tell me how much you sold
your honey for?"
"For twelve roubles per pood."
"Ah! Then by those words, madam, you have laid a trifling sin
upon your soul; for you did NOT sell the honey for twelve
"By the Lord God I did!"
"Well, well! Never mind. Honey is only honey. Now, you had
collected that stuff, it may be, for a year, and with infinite care
and labour. You had fussed after it, you had trotted to and fro,
you had duly frozen out the bees, and you had fed them in the
cellar throughout the winter. But these dead souls of which I speak
are quite another matter, for in this case you have put forth no
exertions—it was merely God's will that they should leave the
world, and thus decrease the personnel of your establishment. In
the former case you received (so you allege) twelve roubles per
pood for your labour; but in this case you will receive money for
having done nothing at all. Nor will you receive twelve roubles per
item, but FIFTEEN—and roubles not in silver, but roubles in good
That these powerful inducements would certainly cause the old
woman to yield Chichikov had not a doubt.
"True," his hostess replied. "But how strangely business comes
to me as a widow! Perhaps I had better wait a little longer, seeing
that other buyers might come along, and I might be able to compare
"For shame, madam! For shame! Think what you are saying. Who
else, I would ask, would care to buy those souls? What use could
they be to any one?"
"If that is so, they might come in useful to ME," mused the old
woman aloud; after which she sat staring at Chichikov with her
mouth open and a face of nervous expectancy as to his possible
"Dead folk useful in a household!" he exclaimed. "Why, what
could you do with them? Set them up on poles to frighten away the
sparrows from your garden?"
"The Lord save us, but what things you say!" she ejaculated,
"Well, WHAT could you do with them? By this time they are so
much bones and earth. That is all there is left of them. Their
transfer to myself would be ON PAPER only. Come, come! At least
give me an answer."
Again the old woman communed with herself.
"What are you thinking of, Nastasia Petrovna?" inquired
"I am thinking that I scarcely know what to do. Perhaps I had
better sell you some hemp?"
"What do I want with hemp? Pardon me, but just when I have made
to you a different proposal altogether you begin fussing about
hemp! Hemp is hemp, and though I may want some when I NEXT visit
you, I should like to know what you have to say to the suggestion
"Well, I think it a very queer bargain. Never have I heard of
such a thing."
Upon this Chichikov lost all patience, upset his chair, and bid
her go to the devil; of which personage even the mere mention
terrified her extremely.
"Do not speak of him, I beg of you!" she cried, turning pale.
"May God, rather, bless him! Last night was the third night that he
has appeared to me in a dream. You see, after saying my prayers, I
bethought me of telling my fortune by the cards; and God must have
sent him as a punishment. He looked so horrible, and had horns
longer than a bull's!"
"I wonder you don't see SCORES of devils in your dreams! Merely
out of Christian charity he had come to you to say, 'I perceive a
poor widow going to rack and ruin, and likely soon to stand in
danger of want.' Well, go to rack and ruin—yes, you and all your
"The insults!" exclaimed the old woman, glancing at her visitor
"I should think so!" continued Chichikov. "Indeed, I cannot find
words to describe you. To say no more about it, you are like a dog
in a manger. You don't want to eat the hay yourself, yet you won't
let anyone else touch it. All that I am seeking to do is to
purchase certain domestic products of yours, for the reason that I
have certain Government contracts to fulfil." This last he added in
passing, and without any ulterior motive, save that it came to him
as a happy thought. Nevertheless the mention of Government
contracts exercised a powerful influence upon Nastasia Petrovna,
and she hastened to say in a tone that was almost supplicatory:
"Why should you be so angry with me? Had I known that you were
going to lose your temper in this way, I should never have
discussed the matter."
"No wonder that I lose my temper! An egg too many is no great
matter, yet it may prove exceedingly annoying."
"Well, well, I will let you have the souls for fifteen roubles
each. Also, with regard to those contracts, do not forget me if at
any time you should find yourself in need of rye-meal or buckwheat
or groats or dead meat."
"No, I shall NEVER forget you, madam!" he said, wiping his
forehead, where three separate streams of perspiration were
trickling down his face. Then he asked her whether in the town she
had any acquaintance or agent whom she could empower to complete
the transference of the serfs, and to carry out whatsoever else
might be necessary.
"Certainly," replied Madame Korobotchka. "The son of our
archpriest, Father Cyril, himself is a lawyer."
Upon that Chichikov begged her to accord the gentleman in
question a power of attorney, while, to save extra trouble, he
himself would then and there compose the requisite letter.
"It would be a fine thing if he were to buy up all my meal and
stock for the Government," thought Madame to herself. "I must
encourage him a little. There has been some dough standing ready
since last night, so I will go and tell Fetinia to try a few
pancakes. Also, it might be well to try him with an egg pie. We
make then nicely here, and they do not take long in the
So she departed to translate her thoughts into action, as well
as to supplement the pie with other products of the domestic
cuisine; while, for his part, Chichikov returned to the
drawing-room where he had spent the night, in order to procure from
his dispatch-box the necessary writing-paper. The room had now been
set in order, the sumptuous feather bed removed, and a table set
before the sofa. Depositing his dispatch-box upon the table, he
heaved a gentle sigh on becoming aware that he was so soaked with
perspiration that he might almost have been dipped in a river.
Everything, from his shirt to his socks, was dripping. "May she
starve to death, the cursed old harridan!" he ejaculated after a
moment's rest. Then he opened his dispatch-box. In passing, I may
say that I feel certain that at least SOME of my readers will be
curious to know the contents and the internal arrangements of that
receptacle. Why should I not gratify their curiosity? To begin
with, the centre of the box contained a soap-dish, with, disposed
around it, six or seven compartments for razors. Next came square
partitions for a sand-box 17 and an inkstand, as well as
(scooped out in their midst) a hollow of pens, sealing-wax, and
anything else that required more room. Lastly there were all sorts
of little divisions, both with and without lids, for articles of a
smaller nature, such as visiting cards, memorial cards, theatre
tickets, and things which Chichikov had laid by as souvenirs. This
portion of the box could be taken out, and below it were both a
space for manuscripts and a secret money-box—the latter made to
draw out from the side of the receptacle.
Chichikov set to work to clean a pen, and then to write.
Presently his hostess entered the room.
"What a beautiful box you have got, my dear sir!" she exclaimed
as she took a seat beside him. "Probably you bought it in
"Yes—in Moscow," replied Chichikov without interrupting his
"I thought so. One CAN get good things there. Three years ago my
sister brought me a few pairs of warm shoes for my sons, and they
were such excellent articles! To this day my boys wear them. And
what nice stamped paper you have!" (she had peered into the
dispatch-box, where, sure enough, there lay a further store of the
paper in question). "Would you mind letting me have a sheet of it?
I am without any at all, although I shall soon have to be
presenting a plea to the land court, and possess not a morsel of
paper to write it on."
Upon this Chichikov explained that the paper was not the sort
proper for the purpose—that it was meant for serf-indenturing, and
not for the framing of pleas. Nevertheless, to quiet her, he gave
her a sheet stamped to the value of a rouble. Next, he handed her
the letter to sign, and requested, in return, a list of her
peasants. Unfortunately, such a list had never been compiled, let
alone any copies of it, and the only way in which she knew the
peasants' names was by heart. However, he told her to dictate them.
Some of the names greatly astonished our hero, so, still more, did
the surnames. Indeed, frequently, on hearing the latter, he had to
pause before writing them down. Especially did he halt before a
certain "Peter Saveliev Neuvazhai Korito." "What a string of
titles!" involuntarily he ejaculated. To the Christian name of
another serf was appended "Korovi Kirpitch," and to that of a third
"Koleso Ivan." However, at length the list was compiled, and he
caught a deep breath; which latter proceeding caused him to catch
also the attractive odour of something fried in fat.
"I beseech you to have a morsel," murmured his hostess.
Chichikov looked up, and saw that the table was spread with
mushrooms, pies, and other viands.
"Try this freshly-made pie and an egg," continued Madame.
Chichikov did so, and having eaten more than half of what she
offered him, praised the pie highly. Indeed, it was a toothsome
dish, and, after his difficulties and exertions with his hostess,
it tasted even better than it might otherwise have done.
"And also a few pancakes?" suggested Madame.
For answer Chichikov folded three together, and, having dipped
them in melted butter, consigned the lot to his mouth, and then
wiped his mouth with a napkin. Twice more was the process repeated,
and then he requested his hostess to order the britchka to be got
ready. In dispatching Fetinia with the necessary instructions, she
ordered her to return with a second batch of hot pancakes.
"Your pancakes are indeed splendid," said Chichikov, applying
himself to the second consignment of fried dainties when they had
"Yes, we make them well here," replied Madame. "Yet how
unfortunate it is that the harvest should have proved so poor as to
have prevented me from earning anything on my—But why should you be
in such a hurry to depart, good sir?" She broke off on seeing
Chichikov reach for his cap. "The britchka is not yet ready."
"Then it is being got so, madam, it is being got so, and I shall
need a moment or two to pack my things."
"As you please, dear sir; but do not forget me in connection
with those Government contracts."
"No, I have said that NEVER shall I forget you," replied
Chichikov as he hurried into the hall.
"And would you like to buy some lard?" continued his hostess,
"Lard? Oh certainly. Why not? Only, only—I will do so ANOTHER
"I shall have some ready at about Christmas."
"Quite so, madam. THEN I will buy anything and everything—the
"And perhaps you will be wanting also some feathers? I shall be
having some for sale about St. Philip's Day."
"Very well, very well, madam."
"There you see!" she remarked as they stepped out on to the
verandah. "The britchka is NOT yet ready."
"But it soon will be, it soon will be. Only direct me to the
"How am I to do that?" said Madame. "'Twould puzzle a wise man
to do so, for in these parts there are so many turnings. However, I
will send a girl to guide you. You could find room for her on the
box-seat, could you not?"
"Yes, of course."
"Then I will send her. She knows the way thoroughly. Only do not
carry her off for good. Already some traders have deprived me of
one of my girls."
Chichikov reassured his hostess on the point, and Madame plucked
up courage enough to scan, first of all, the housekeeper, who
happened to be issuing from the storehouse with a bowl of honey,
and, next, a young peasant who happened to be standing at the
gates; and, while thus engaged, she became wholly absorbed in her
domestic pursuits. But why pay her so much attention? The Widow
Korobotchka, Madame Manilov, domestic life, non-domestic life—away
with them all! How strangely are things compounded! In a trice may
joy turn to sorrow, should one halt long enough over it: in a trice
only God can say what ideas may strike one. You may fall even to
thinking: "After all, did Madame Korobotchka stand so very low in
the scale of human perfection? Was there really such a very great
gulf between her and Madame Manilov—between her and the Madame
Manilov whom we have seen entrenched behind the walls of a genteel
mansion in which there were a fine staircase of wrought metal and a
number of rich carpets; the Madame Manilov who spent most of her
time in yawning behind half-read books, and in hoping for a visit
from some socially distinguished person in order that she might
display her wit and carefully rehearsed thoughts—thoughts which had
been de rigeur in town for a week past, yet which referred, not to
what was going on in her household or on her estate—both of which
properties were at odds and ends, owing to her ignorance of the art
of managing them—but to the coming political revolution in France
and the direction in which fashionable Catholicism was supposed to
be moving? But away with such things! Why need we speak of them?
Yet how comes it that suddenly into the midst of our careless,
frivolous, unthinking moments there may enter another, and a very
different, tendency?—that the smile may not have left a human face
before its owner will have radically changed his or her nature
(though not his or her environment) with the result that the face
will suddenly become lit with a radiance never before seen
"Here is the britchka, here is the britchka!" exclaimed
Chichikov on perceiving that vehicle slowly advancing. "Ah, you
blockhead!" he went on to Selifan. "Why have you been loitering
about? I suppose last night's fumes have not yet left your
To this Selifan returned no reply.
"Good-bye, madam," added the speaker. "But where is the girl
whom you promised me?"
"Here, Pelagea!" called the hostess to a wench of about eleven
who was dressed in home-dyed garments and could boast of a pair of
bare feet which, from a distance, might almost have been mistaken
for boots, so encrusted were they with fresh mire. "Here, Pelagea!
Come and show this gentleman the way."
Selifan helped the girl to ascend to the box-seat. Placing one
foot upon the step by which the gentry mounted, she covered the
said step with mud, and then, ascending higher, attained the
desired position beside the coachman. Chichikov followed in her
wake (causing the britchka to heel over with his weight as he did
so), and then settled himself back into his place with an "All
right! Good-bye, madam!" as the horses moved away at a trot.
Selifan looked gloomy as he drove, but also very attentive to
his business. This was invariably his custom when he had committed
the fault of getting drunk. Also, the horses looked unusually
well-groomed. In particular, the collar on one of them had been
neatly mended, although hitherto its state of dilapidation had been
such as perennially to allow the stuffing to protrude through the
leather. The silence preserved was well-nigh complete. Merely
flourishing his whip, Selifan spoke to the team no word of
instruction, although the skewbald was as ready as usual to listen
to conversation of a didactic nature, seeing that at such times the
reins hung loosely in the hands of the loquacious driver, and the
whip wandered merely as a matter of form over the backs of the
troika. This time, however, there could be heard issuing from
Selifan's sullen lips only the uniformly unpleasant exclamation,
"Now then, you brutes! Get on with you, get on with you!" The bay
and the Assessor too felt put out at not hearing themselves called
"my pets" or "good lads"; while, in addition, the skewbald came in
for some nasty cuts across his sleek and ample quarters. "What has
put master out like this?" thought the animal as it shook its head.
"Heaven knows where he does not keep beating me—across the back,
and even where I am tenderer still. Yes, he keeps catching the whip
in my ears, and lashing me under the belly."
"To the right, eh?" snapped Selifan to the girl beside him as he
pointed to a rain-soaked road which trended away through fresh
"No, no," she replied. "I will show you the road when the time
"Which way, then?" he asked again when they had proceeded a
"This way." And she pointed to the road just mentioned.
"Get along with you!" retorted the coachman. "That DOES go to
the right. You don't know your right hand from your left."
The weather was fine, but the ground so excessively sodden that
the wheels of the britchka collected mire until they had become
caked as with a layer of felt, a circumstance which greatly
increased the weight of the vehicle, and prevented it from clearing
the neighbouring parishes before the afternoon was arrived. Also,
without the girl's help the finding of the way would have been
impossible, since roads wiggled away in every direction, like crabs
released from a net, and, but for the assistance mentioned, Selifan
would have found himself left to his own devices. Presently she
pointed to a building ahead, with the words, "THERE is the main
"And what is the building?" asked Selifan.
"A tavern," she said.
"Then we can get along by ourselves," he observed. "Do you get
down, and be off home."
With that he stopped, and helped her to alight—muttering as he
did so: "Ah, you blackfooted creature!"
Chichikov added a copper groat, and she departed well pleased
with her ride in the gentleman's carriage.