Chapter Four

The next day everything was arranged in the best possible way. Kostanzhoglo gladly gave him the ten thousand without interest, without security—simply with a receipt. So ready he was to assist anyone on the path to acquisition. Not only that: he himself undertook to accompany Chichikov to Khlobuev’s, so as to look the estate over. After a substantial breakfast, they all set out, having climbed all three into Pavel Ivanovich’s carriage; the host’s droshky followed empty behind. Yarb ran ahead, chasing birds off the road. In a little over an hour and a half, they covered ten miles and saw a small estate with two houses. One of them, big and new, was unfinished and had remained in that rough state for several years; the other was small and old. They found the owner disheveled, sleepy, just awakened; there was a patch on his frock coat and a hole in his boot.

He was God knows how glad of the visitors’ arrival. As if he were seeing brothers from whom he had been parted for a long time.

“Konstantin Fyodorovich! Platon Mikhailovich!” he cried out. “Dear friends! I’m much obliged! Let me rub my eyes! I really thought no one would ever come to see me. Everyone flees me like the plague: they think I’ll ask them to lend me money. Oh, it’s hard, hard, Konstantin Fyodorovich! I see that it’s all my fault! What can I do? I live like a swinish pig. Excuse me, gentlemen, for receiving you in such attire: my boots, as you see, have holes in them. And what may I offer you, tell me?”

“Please, no beating around the bush. We’ve come to see you on business,” said Kostanzhoglo. “Here’s a purchaser for you—Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov.”

“I’m heartily pleased to meet you. Let me press your hand.”

Chichikov gave him both.

“I should very much like, my most esteemed Pavel Ivanovich, to show you an estate worthy of attention . . . But, gentlemen, allow me to ask, have you had dinner?”

“We have, we have,” said Kostanzhoglo, wishing to get out of it. “Let’s not tarry but go right now.”

“In that case, let’s go.”

Khlobuev picked up his peaked cap. The visitors put their caps on their heads, and they all set out on foot to look over the estate.

“Let’s go and look at my disorder and dissipation,” Khlobuev said. “Of course, you did well to have your dinner. Would you believe it, Konstantin Fyodorovich, there isn’t a chicken in the house—that’s what I’ve come to. I behave like a swine, just like a swine!”

He sighed deeply and, as if sensing there would be little sympathy on Konstantin Fyodorovich’s part and that his heart was on the callous side, he took Platonov under the arm and went ahead with him, pressing him close to his breast. Kostanzhoglo and Chichikov remained behind and, taking each other’s arm, followed them at a distance.

“It’s hard, Platon Mikhalych, hard!” Khlobuev was saying to Platonov. “You can’t imagine how hard! Moneylessness, breadlessness, bootlessness! It all wouldn’t matter a straw to me if I were young and alone. But when all these adversities start breaking over you as you’re approaching old age, and there’s a wife at your side, and five children—one feels sad, willy-nilly, one feels sad …”

Platonov was moved to pity.

“Well, and if you sell the estate, will that set you to rights?” he asked.

“To rights, hah!” said Khlobuev, waving his hand. “It will all go to pay the most necessary debts, and then I won’t have even a thousand left for myself.”

“Then what are you going to do?”

“God knows,” Khlobuev said, shrugging.

Platonov was surprised.

“How is it you don’t undertake anything to extricate yourself from such circumstances?”

“What should I undertake?”

“Are there no ways?”

“None.”

“Well, look for a position, take some post?”

“But I’m a provincial secretary. They can’t give me any lucrative post. The salary would be tiny, and I have a wife and five children.”

“Well, some private position, then. Go and become a steward.”

“But who would entrust an estate to me! I’ve squandered my own.”

“Well, if you’re threatened with starvation and death, you really must undertake something. I’ll ask my brother whether he can solicit some position in town through someone.”

“No, Platon Mikhailovich,” said Khlobuev, sighing and squeezing his hand hard, “I’m not good for anything now. I became decrepit before my old age, and there’s lower-back pain on account of my former sins, and rheumatism in my shoulder. I’m not up to it! Why squander government money! Even without that there are many who serve for the sake of lucrative posts. God forbid that because of me, because my salary must be paid, the taxes on poorer folk should be raised: it’s hard for them as it is with this host of bloodsuckers. No, Platon Mikhailovich, forget it.”

“What a fix!” thought Platonov. “This is worse than my hibernation.”

Meanwhile, Kostanzhoglo and Chichikov, walking a good distance behind them, were speaking thus with each other:

“Look how he’s let everything go!” Kostanzhoglo said, pointing a finger. “Drove his muzhiks into such poverty! If there’s cattle plague, it’s no time to look after your own goods. Go and sell what you have, and supply the muzhiks with cattle, so that they don’t go even for one day without the means of doing their work. But now it would take years to set things right: the muzhiks have all grown lazy, drunk, and rowdy.”

“So that means it’s not at all profitable to buy such an estate now?” asked Chichikov.

Here Kostanzhoglo looked at him as if he wanted to say: “What an ignoramus you are! Must I start you at the primer level?”

“Unprofitable! but in three years I’d be getting twenty thousand a year from this estate. That’s how unprofitable it is! Ten miles away. A trifle! And what land! just look at the land! It’s all water meadows. No, I’d plant flax and produce some five thousand worth of flax alone; I’d plant turnips, and make some four thousand on turnips. And look over there—rye is growing on the hillside; it all just seeded itself. He didn’t sow rye, I know that. No, this estate’s worth a hundred and fifty thousand, not forty.”

Chichikov began to fear lest Khlobuev overhear them, and so he dropped still farther behind.

“Look how much land he’s left waste!” Kostanzhoglo was saying, beginning to get angry. “At least he should have sent word beforehand, some volunteers would have trudged over here. Well, if you’ve got nothing to plough with, then dig a kitchen garden. You’d have a kitchen garden anyway. He forced his muzhiks to go without working for four years. A trifle! But that alone is enough to corrupt and ruin them forever! They’ve already grown used to being ragamuffins and vagabonds! It’s already become their way of life.” And, having said that, Kostanzhoglo spat, a bilious disposition overshadowed his brow with a dark cloud . . .

“I cannot stay here any longer: it kills me to look at this disorder and desolation! You can finish it with him on your own now. Quickly take the treasure away from this fool. He only dishonors the divine gift!”

And, having said this, Kostanzhoglo bade farewell to Chichikov, and, catching up with the host, began saying good-bye to him, too.

“Good gracious, Konstantin Fyodorovich,” the surprised host said, “you’ve just come—and home!”

“I can’t. It’s necessary for me to be at home,” Kostanzhoglo said, took his leave, got into his droshky, and drove off.

Khlobuev seemed to understand the cause of his departure.

“Konstantin Fyodorovich couldn’t stand it,” he said. “I feel that it’s not very cheery for such a proprietor as he to look at such wayward management. Believe me, I cannot, I cannot, Pavel Ivanovich … I sowed almost no grain this year! On my honor. I had no seed, not to mention nothing to plough with. Your brother, Platon Mikhailovich, is said to be an extraordinary man; and of Konstantin Fyodorovich it goes without saying—he’s a Napoleon of sorts. I often think, in fact: ‘Now, why is so much intelligence given to one head? Now, if only one little drop of it could get into my foolish pate, if only so that I could keep my house! I don’t know how to do anything, I can’t do anything!’ Ah, Pavel Ivanovich, take it into your care! Most of all I pity the poor muzhiks. I feel that I was never able to be . . . [One word is illegible in the manuscript.—Trans.] what do you want me to do, I can’t be exacting and strict. And how could I get them accustomed to order if I myself am disorderly! I’d set them free right now, but the Russian man is somehow so arranged, he somehow can’t do without being prodded . . . He’ll just fall asleep, he’ll just get moldy.”

“That is indeed strange,” said Platonov. “Why is it that with us, unless you keep a close eye on the simple man, he turns into a drunkard and a scoundrel?”

“Lack of education,” observed Chichikov.

“Well, God knows about that. We were educated, and how do we live? I went to the university and listened to lectures in all fields, yet not only did I not learn the art and order of living, but it seems I learned best the art of spending more money on various new refinements and comforts, and became better acquainted with the objects for which one needs money. Is it because there was no sense in my studies? Not really: it’s the same with my other comrades. Maybe two or three of them derived something truly useful for themselves from it, and maybe that was because they were intelligent to begin with, but the rest only tried to learn what’s bad for one’s health and fritters away one’s money. By God!

We went and studied only so as to applaud the professors, to hand them out awards, and not to receive anything from them. And so we choose from education that which, after all, is on the mean side; we snatch the surface, but the thing itself we don’t take. No, Pavel Ivanovich, it’s because of something else that we don’t know how to live, but what it is, by God, I don’t know.”

“There must be reasons,” said Chichikov.

Poor Khlobuev sighed deeply and spoke thus:

“Sometimes, really, it seems to me that the Russian is somehow a hopeless man. There’s no willpower in him, no courage for constancy. You want to do everything—and can do nothing. You keep thinking—starting tomorrow you’ll begin a new life, starting tomorrow you’ll begin doing everything as you ought to, starting tomorrow you’ll go on a diet—not a bit of it: by the evening of that same day you overeat so much that you just blink your eyes and can’t move your tongue, you sit like an owl staring at everybody—and it’s the same with everything.”

“One needs a supply of reasonableness,” said Chichikov, “one must consult one’s reasonableness every moment, conduct a friendly conversation with it.”

“Come, now!” said Khlobuev. “Really, it seems to me that we’re not born for reasonableness at all. I don’t believe any of us is reasonable. If I see that someone is even living decently, collecting money and putting it aside—I still don’t believe it. When he’s old, the devil will have his way with him—he’ll blow it all at once! We’re all the same: noblemen and muzhiks, educated and uneducated. There was one clever muzhik: made a hundred thousand out of nothing, and, once he’d made the hundred thousand, he got the crazy idea of taking a bath in champagne, so he took a bath in champagne. But I think we’ve looked it all over. There isn’t any more. Unless you want to glance at the mill? It has no wheel, however, and the building is good for nothing.”

“Then why look at it!” said Chichikov.

“In that case, let’s go home.” And they all turned their steps towards the house.

The views were all the same on the way back. Untidy disorder kept showing its ugly appearance everywhere. Everything was unmended and untended. Only a new puddle had got itself added to the middle of the street. An angry woman in greasy sackcloth was beating a poor girl half to death and cursing all devils up and down. Two muzhiks stood at a distance, gazing with stoic indifference at the drunken wench’s wrath. One was scratching his behind, the other was yawning. Yawning was evident in the buildings as well. The roofs were also yawning. Platonov, looking at them, yawned. “My future property—my muzhiks,” thought Chichikov, “hole upon hole, and patch upon patch!” And, indeed, on one of the cottages a whole gate had been put in place of the roof; the fallen-in windows were propped with laths filched from the master’s barn. In short, it seemed that the system of Trishka’s caftan[1] has been introduced into the management: the cuffs and skirts were cut off to patch the elbows.

They went into the house. Chichikov was rather struck by the mixture of destitution with some glittering knickknacks of the latest luxury. Amid tattered utensils and furnishings—new bronze. Some Shakespeare was sitting on an inkstand; a fashionable ivory hand for scratching one’s own back lay on the table. Khlobuev introduced the mistress of the house, his wife. She was topnotch. Even in Moscow she would have shown herself well. She was dressed fashionably, with taste. She preferred talking about the town and the theater that was being started there. Everything made it obvious that she liked the country even less than did her husband, and that she yawned more than Platonov when she was left alone. Soon the room was full of children, girls and boys. There were five of them. A sixth was carried in. They were all beautiful. The boys and girls were a joy to behold. They were dressed prettily and with taste, were cheerful and frisky. And that made it all the sadder to look at them. It would have been better if they had been dressed poorly, in skirts and shorts of simple ticking, running around in the yard, no different in any way from peasant children! A visitor came to call on the mistress. The ladies went to their half of the house. The children ran after them. The men were left by themselves.

Chichikov began the purchase. As is customary with all purchasers, he started by running down the estate he was purchasing. And, having run it down on all sides, he said:

“What, then, will your price be?”

“Do you know?” said Khlobuev. “I’m not going to ask a high price from you, I don’t like that: it would also be unscrupulous on my part. Nor will I conceal from you that of the hundred souls registered on the census lists of my estate, not even fifty are actually there: the rest either died of epidemics or absented themselves without passports, so you ought to count them as dead. And therefore I ask you for only thirty thousand in all.”

“Come, now—thirty thousand! The estate is neglected, people have died, and you want thirty thousand! Take twenty-five.”

“Pavel Ivanovich! I could mortgage it for twenty-five thousand, you see? Then I’d get the twenty-five thousand and the estate would stay mine. I’m selling only because I need money quickly, and mortgaging means red tape, I’d have to pay the clerks, and I have nothing to pay them.”

“Well, take the twenty-five thousand anyway.”

Platonov felt ashamed for Chichikov.

“Buy it, Pavel Ivanovich,” he said. “Any estate is worth that price. If you won’t give thirty thousand for it, my brother and I will get together and buy it.”

Chichikov got frightened . . .

“All right!” he said. “I’ll pay you thirty thousand. Here, I’ll give you two thousand now as a deposit, eight thousand in a week, and the remaining twenty thousand in a month.”

“No, Pavel Ivanovich, only on condition that I get the money as soon as possible. Give me at least fifteen thousand now, and the rest no later than two weeks from now.”

“But I don’t have fifteen thousand! I have only ten thousand now. Let me get it together.”

In other words, Chichikov was lying: he had twenty thousand.

“No, Pavel Ivanovich, if you please! I tell you that I must have fifteen thousand.”

“But, really, I’m short five thousand. I don’t know where to get it myself.”

“I’ll lend it to you,” Platonov picked up.

“Perhaps, then!” said Chichikov, and he thought to himself: “Quite opportune, however, that he should lend it to me: in that case I can bring it tomorrow.” The chest was brought in from the carriage, and ten thousand were taken from it for Khlobuev; the remaining five were promised for the next day: promised, yes; but the intention was to bring three; and the rest later, in two or three days, and, if possible, to delay a bit longer still. Pavel Ivanovich somehow especially disliked letting money leave his hands. And if there was an extreme necessity, still it seemed better to him to hand over the money tomorrow and not today. That is, he acted as we all do! We enjoy showing the petitioner the door. Let him cool his heels in the anteroom! As if he couldn’t wait! What do we care that every hour, perhaps, is dear to him, and his affairs are suffering for it! “Come tomorrow, brother, today I somehow have no time.”

“And where are you going to live afterwards?” Platonov asked Khlobuev. “Have you got another little estate?”

“No little estate, but I’ll move to town. That had to be done in any case, not for ourselves but for the children. They’ll need teachers of catechism, music, dance. One can’t get that in the country.”

“Not a crust of bread, and he wants to teach his children to dance!” thought Chichikov.

“Strange!” thought Platonov.

“Well, we must drink to the deal,” said Khlobuev. “Hey, Kiryushka, bring us a bottle of champagne, brother.”

“Not a crust of bread, yet he’s got champagne!” thought Chichikov.

Platonov did not know what to think.

The champagne was brought. They drank three glasses each and got quite merry. Khlobuev relaxed and became intelligent and charming. Witticisms and anecdotes poured ceaselessly from him. There turned out to be much knowledge of life and the world in his talk! He saw many things so well and so correctly, he sketched his neighboring landowners in a few words, so aptly and so cleverly, saw so clearly everyone’s defects and mistakes, knew so well the story of the ruined gentry—why, and how, and for what reason they had been ruined—was able to convey so originally and aptly their smallest habits, that the two men were totally enchanted by his talk and were ready to acknowledge him a most intelligent man.

“Listen,” said Platonov, seizing his hand, “how is it that with such intelligence, experience, and knowledge of life, you cannot find ways of getting out of your difficult position?”

“Oh, there are ways!” said Khlobuev, and forthwith unloaded on them a whole heap of projects. They were all so absurd, so strange, so little consequent upon a knowledge of people and the world, that it remained only to shrug one’s shoulders and say: “Good lord! what an infinite distance there is between knowledge of the world andthe ability to use that knowledge!” Almost all the projects were based on the need for suddenly procuring a hundred or two hundred thousand somewhere. Then, it seemed to him, everything could be arranged properly, and the management would get under way, and all the holes would be patched, and the income would be quadrupled, and it would be possible for him to repay all his debts. And he would end with the words: “But what do you want me to do? There simply is no such benefactor as would decide to lend me two hundred or at least one hundred thousand! Clearly, God is against it.”

“What else,” thought Chichikov. “As if God would send such a fool two hundred thousand!”

“There is this aunt of mine who’s good for three million,” said Khlobuev, “a pious little old lady: she gives to churches and monasteries, but she’s a bit tight about helping her neighbor. And she’s a very remarkable little old lady. An aunt from olden times, worth having a look at. She has some four hundred canaries alone. Lapdogs, and lady companions, and servants such as don’t exist nowadays. The youngest of her servants is about sixty, though she shouts ‘Hey, boy!’ to him. If a guest behaves improperly somehow, she orders him bypassed one course at dinner. And they actually do it.”

Platonov laughed.

“And what is her last name, and where does she live?” asked Chichikov.

“She lives here in town—Alexandra Ivanovna Khanasarova.”

“Why don’t you turn to her?” Platonov said sympathetically.

“It seems to me, if she just entered a little more into the situation of your family, she’d be unable to refuse you, however tight she is.”

“Ah, no, quite able! My aunt has a hard character. This little old lady is a rock, Platon Mikhalych! And there are already enough toadies hanging around her without me. There’s one there who is after a governorship, foisted himself off as her relative . . . God help him! maybe he’ll succeed! God help them all! I never knew how to fawn, and now less than ever: my back doesn’t bend anymore.”

“Fool!” thought Chichikov. “I’d look after such an aunt like a nanny looking after a child!”

“Well, now, such talk makes one dry,” said Khlobuev. “Hey, Kiryushka! bring us another bottle of champagne.”

“No, no, I won’t drink any more,” said Platonov.

“Nor I,” said Chichikov. And they both declined resolutely.

“Then at least give me your word that you’ll visit me in town: on the eighth of June I’m giving a dinner for our town dignitaries.”

“For pity’s sake!” exclaimed Platonov. “In this situation, completely ruined—and still giving dinners?”

“What can I do? I must. It’s my duty,” said Khlobuev. “They’ve also invited me.”

“What’s to be done with him?” thought Platonov. He still did not know that in Russia, in Moscow and other cities, there are such wizards to be found, whose life is an inexplicable riddle. He seems to have spent everything, is up to his ears in debt, has no resources anywhere, and the dinner that is being given promises to be the last; and the diners think that by the next day the host will be dragged off to prison. Ten years pass after that—the wizard is still holding out in the world, is up to his ears in debt more than ever, and still gives a dinner in the same way, and everybody thinks it will be the last, and everybody is sure that the next day the host will be dragged off to prison. Khlobuev was such a wizard. Only in Russia can one exist in such a way. Having nothing, he welcomed visitors, gave parties, and even patronized and encouraged all sorts of actors passing through town, boarded them and lodged them in his house. If someone were to peek into the house he had in town, he would never know who the owner was. One day a priest in vestments served a molieben [2]there, the next day French actors were having a rehearsal. Once someone unknown to nearly everyone in the house installed himself in the drawing room with his papers and set up an office there, without embarrassing or troubling anyone in the house, as if it were an ordinary thing. Sometimes there was not a crumb in the house for whole days, and sometimes such dinners were given as would satisfy the taste of the most refined gastronome. The host would appear festive, gay, with the bearing of a wealthy gentleman, with the step of a man whose life is spent amid ease and plenty. At times, on the other hand, there were such hard moments that someone else in his place would have hanged or shot himself. But he was saved by a religious sense, which was strangely combined in him with his wayward life. In these hard, bitter moments he would open a book and read the lives of those toilers and sufferers who trained their spirit to rise above sufferings and misfortunes. His soul softened at such times, his spirit became tender, and his eyes filled with tears. And—strange thing!—at such moments unexpected help would always come to him from somewhere. Either one of his old friends would remember him and send him money; or some unknown lady traveler, chancing to hear his story, would, with the impetuous magnanimity of a woman’s heart, send him a generous donation; or some lawsuit, of which he had never heard, would be won in his favor. With reverence, with gratitude, he would then acknowledge the boundless mercy of Providence, have a molieben of thanksgiving served, and— again begin his wayward life.

“I’m sorry for him, really, I am!” Platonov said to Chichikov, when, after saying good-bye, they left him.

“A prodigal son!” said Chichikov. “There’s no point in being sorry for such people.”

And soon they both stopped thinking about him. Platonov, because he looked upon people’s situations lazily and half-sleepily, just as upon everything else in the world. His heart commiserated and was wrung at the sight of others’ suffering, but the impressions somehow did not get deeply impressed on his soul. He did not think about Khlobuev because he also did not think about himself. Chichikov did not think about Khlobuev because all his thoughts were taken up with the acquired property. He counted, calculated, and figured out all the profits of the purchased estate. And however he considered it, whichever side of the deal he looked at, he saw that the purchase was in any case profitable. He might do it in such a way that the estate got mortgaged. He might do it in such a way that only the dead and the runaways got mortgaged. He could also do it so that all the best parts were sold off first, and only then mortgage it. He could also arrange it so that he himself managed the estate and became a landowner after the fashion of Kostanzhoglo, drawing on his advice as a neighbor and benefactor. He could even do it in such a way that the estate was resold into private hands (if he did not feel like managing it himself, of course), and keep the runaway and dead ones for himself. Then another profit presented itself: he could slip away from those parts altogether without paying this Kostanzhoglo the borrowed money. In short, whichever way he turned the deal, he saw that in any case the purchase was profitable. He felt pleasure—pleasure at having now become a landowner, not a fantastic landowner, but a real one, a landowner who already had land, and forests, and people—not dream people, who dwell in imagination, but existing ones. And gradually he began hopping up and down, and rubbing his hands, and humming, and mumbling, and he trumpeted out some march on his fist, putting it to his lips like a trumpet, and even uttered several encouraging words and appellations for himself, in the genre of snookums and sweetie pie. But then, remembering that he was not alone, he suddenly quieted down, and tried to stifle somehow this immoderate fit of inspiration, and when Platonov, taking some of these sounds for speech addressed to him, asked him: “What?”—he replied: “Nothing.”

Only here, looking around him, did he notice that they were driving through a beautiful grove; a comely fence of birches stretched to right and left of them. Between the trees flashed a white stone church. At the end of the street a gentleman appeared, coming to meet them, in a peaked cap, with a knobby stick in his hand. A sleek English hound was running on long legs in front of him.

“Stop!” Platonov said to the coachman, and jumped out of the carriage.

Chichikov also got out of the carriage behind him. They went on foot to meet the gentleman. Yarb had already managed to exchange kisses with the English hound, with whom he had obviously been long acquainted, because he offered his fat muzzle indifferently to receive a lively kiss from Azor (so the English hound was called). The frisky hound named Azor, having kissed Yarb, ran up to Platonov, licked his hands with his frisky tongue, leaped up at Chichikov’s chest intending to lick his lips, did not make it, and, having been pushed away, ran again to Platonov, to try at least to lick him on the ear.

Platon and the gentleman who was coming to meet them came together at that moment and embraced each other.

“For pity’s sake, brother Platon! what are you doing to me?” the gentleman asked animatedly.

“What do you mean?” Platon replied indifferently.

“What, indeed! For three days not a word, not a peep from you! The stableboy brought your horse from Petukh. ‘He went off with some gentleman,’ he said. Well, send word at least: where, why, and how long? For pity’s sake, brother, how could you do such a thing? God knows what I’ve been thinking all these days!”

“Well, what can I do? I forgot,” said Platonov. “We stopped at Konstantin Fyodorovich’s . . . He sends his respects to you, and sister does, too. Allow me to introduce Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov. Pavel Ivanovich—my brother Vassily. I beg you to love him as you do me.”

Brother Vassily and Chichikov took off their caps and kissed each other.

“Who might this Chichikov be?” thought brother Vassily. “Brother Platon isn’t fastidious about his acquaintances, he certainly did not find out what sort of man he is.” And he looked Chichikov over as far as decency allowed, and saw that he was standing with his head slightly inclined, and had an agreeable look on his face.

For his part, Chichikov also looked brother Vassily over as far as decency allowed. He was shorter than Platon, his hair was darker, and his face far less handsome; but in the features of his face there was much life and animation. One could see that he did not dwell in drowsiness and hibernation.

“You know what I’ve decided, Vassily?” brother Platon said.

“What?” asked Vassily.

“To take a trip around holy Russia with Pavel Ivanovich here: it may just loosen and limber up my spleen.”

“How did you decide so suddenly … ?” Vassily started to say, seriously perplexed by such a decision, and he almost added: “And, what’s more, think of going with a man you’ve never seen before, who may be trash or devil knows what!” And, filled with mistrust, he began studying Chichikov out of the corner of his eye, and saw that he behaved with extraordinary decency, keeping his head agreeably inclined a bit to one side, and with the same respectfully cordial expression on his face, so that there was no way of knowing what sort of man Chichikov was.

Silently the three of them walked down the road, to the left of which there was a white stone church flashing among the trees, and to the right the buildings of the master’s house, which were also beginning to appear among the trees. At last the gates appeared. They entered the courtyard, where stood the old manor house under its high roof. Two enormous lindens growing in the middle of the courtyard covered almost half of it with their shade. Through their low-hanging, bushy branches the walls of the house barely flickered from behind. Under the lindens stood several long benches. Brother Vassily invited Chichikov to be seated. Chichikov sat down, and Platonov sat down. The whole courtyard was filled with the fragrance of flowering lilacs and bird cherry, which, hanging from the garden into the yard on all sides over the very pretty birch fence that surrounded it, looked like a flowering chain or a bead necklace crowning it.

An adroit and deft lad of about seventeen, in a handsome pink cotton shirt, brought and set down before them carafes of water and a variety of many-colored kvasses that fizzed like lemonade. Having set the carafes down before them, he went over to a tree and, taking the hoe that was leaning against it, went to the garden. All the household serfs of the Platonov brothers worked in the garden, all the servants were gardeners, or, better, there were no servants, but the gardeners sometimes performed their duties. Brother Vassily always maintained that one could do without servants. Anyone can bring anything, and it was not worth having a special class of people for that; the Russian man is good, efficient, handsome, nimble, and hardworking only as long as he goes about in a shirt and homespun jacket, but as soon as he gets into a German frock coat, he becomes awkward, uncomely, inefficient, and lazy. He maintained that he keeps himself clean only so long as he wears a shirt and homespun jacket, but as soon as he gets into a German frock coat, he stops changing his shirt, does not go to the bathhouse, sleeps in the frock coat, and under it breeds bedbugs, fleas, and devil knows what. In this he may even have been right. The people on their estate dressed somehow especially neatly and nattily, and one would have had to go far to find such handsome shirts and jackets.

“Would you care for some refreshment?” brother Vassily said to Chichikov, pointing to the carafes. “These are kvasses of our own making; our house has long been famous for them.”

Chichikov poured a glass from the first carafe—just like the linden mead he used to drink in Poland: bubbly as champagne, and it went in a pleasant fizz right up his nose.

“Nectar!” said Chichikov. He drank a glass from another carafe—even better.

“In what direction and to what places are you thinking mainly of going?” brother Vassily asked.

“I’m going,” said Chichikov, rubbing his knee with his hand to accompany the slight rocking of his whole body and inclining his head to one side, “not so much on my own necessity as on another man’s. General Betrishchev, a close friend and, one might say, benefactor, has asked me to visit his relatives. Relatives, of course, are relatives, but it is partly, so to speak, for my own sake as well, for—to say nothing of the benefit in the hemorrhoidal respect—to see the world and the circulation of people—is already in itself, so to speak, a living book and a second education.”

Brother Vassily lapsed into thought. “The man speaks somewhat ornately, but there’s truth in his words,” he thought. “My brother Platon lacks knowledge of people, the world, and life.” After a short silence, he spoke aloud thus:

“I am beginning to think, Platon, that a journey may indeed stir you up. Your mind is hibernating. You’ve simply fallen asleep, and you’ve fallen asleep not from satiety or fatigue, but from a lack of living impressions and sensations. I, for instance, am quite the contrary. I’d very much like not to feel so keenly and not to take so closely to heart all that happens.”

“Who makes you take it all so closely to heart?” said Platon. “You seek out worries and invent anxieties for yourself.”

“Why invent, if there are troubles at every step even without that?” said Vassily “Have you heard what trick Lenitsyn has played on us? He’s appropriated the waste land where our people celebrate Krasnaya Gorka.”[3]

“He doesn’t know, so he seized it,” said Platon. “The man’s new here, just come from Petersburg. He must be told, and have it explained to him.”

“He knows, he knows very well. I sent to tell him, but he responded with rudeness.”

“You must go yourself and explain it. Have a personal talk with him.”

“Ah, no. He puts on too many airs. I won’t go to him. You can go if you like.”

“I’d go, but I don’t want to mix in it. He may deceive me and swindle me.”

“I’ll go, if you like,” said Chichikov.

Vassily glanced at him and thought: “He loves going places, this one!”

“Just give me an idea of what sort of man he is,” said Chichikov, “and what it’s about.”

“I’m ashamed to charge you with such an unpleasant mission, because merely to talk with such a man is already an unpleasant mission for me. I must tell you that he is from simple, petty-landowning nobility of our province, got his rank serving in Petersburg, set himself up somehow by marrying someone’s illegitimate daughter, and puts on airs. He sets the tone here. But, thank God, in our province people aren’t so stupid: for us fashion is no order, and Petersburg is no church.”

“Of course,” said Chichikov, “and what is it about?”

“It’s nonsense, in fact. He hasn’t got enough land, so he appropriated our waste land—that is, he reckoned that it wasn’t needed and that the owners had forgotten about it, but it so happens that from time immemorial our peasants have gathered there to celebrate Krasnaya Gorka. For that reason, I’m better prepared to sacrifice other, better land than to give up this piece. Custom is sacred to me.”

“So you’re prepared to let him have other land?”

“I would have been, if he hadn’t acted this way with me; but he wants, as I can see, to do it through the courts. Very well, we’ll see who wins. Though it’s not so clear on the map, there are still witnesses—old people who are living and who remember.”

“Hm!” thought Chichikov. “I see they’re both a bit off.” And he said aloud:

“But it seems to me that the business can be handled peaceably. Everything depends on the mediator. In writ…” [Two pages are missing from the manuscript.—Trans.]

“. . . that for you yourself it would also be very profitable to transfer, to my name, for instance, all the dead souls registered on your estates in the last census lists, so that I pay the tax on them. And to avoid causing any offense, you can perform the transfer through a deed of purchase, as if the souls were alive.”

“Well, now!” Lenitsyn thought. “This is something most strange.” And he even pushed his chair back, so entirely puzzled he was.

“I have no doubts that you will agree entirely to this,” Chichikov said, “because this is entirely the same sort of thing we’ve just been talking about. It’ll be completed between solid people, in private, and there’ll be no offense to anyone.”

What to do here? Lenitsyn found himself in a difficult position. He could never have foreseen that an opinion he had just formulated would be so quickly brought to realization. The offer was highly unexpected. Of course, there could be no harm for anyone in this action: the landowners would mortgage these souls anyway, the same as living ones, so there could be no loss for the treasury; the difference was that they would all be in one hand rather than in several. But all the same he was at a loss. He knew the law and was a businessman—a businessman in a good sense: he would not decide a case unjustly for any bribe. But here he hesitated, not knowing what name to give to this action—was it right or wrong? If someone else had addressed him with such an offer, he would have said: “This is nonsense! trifles! I have no wish to fool around or play with dolls.” But he liked his guest so much, they agreed on so many things with regard to the success of education and learning—how could he refuse? Lenitsyn found himself in a most difficult position.

But at that moment, just as if to help him in his woe, the young, pug-nosed mistress, Lenitsyn’s wife, came into the room, pale, thin, small, and dressed tastefully, like all Petersburg ladies. Following her came a nurse carrying a baby in her arms, the firstborn fruit of the tender love of the recently married couple. Chichikov naturally approached the lady at once and, to say nothing of the proper greeting, simply by the agreeable inclining of his head to one side, disposed her greatly in his favor. Then he ran over to the baby. The baby burst into howls; nevertheless, by means of the words: “Goo, goo, darling!” and by flicking his fingers and the carnelian seal on his watch chain, Chichikov managed to lure him into his arms. Taking him into his arms, he started tossing him up, thereby provoking the baby’s pleasant smile, which made both parents very happy.

Whether from pleasure or from something else, the baby suddenly misbehaved. Lenitsyn’s wife cried out:

“Ah, my God! he’s spoiled your whole tailcoat.”

Chichikov looked: the sleeve of the brand new tailcoat was all spoiled. “Blast it, the cursed little devil!” he muttered vexedly to himself.

The host, the hostess, and the nurse all ran to fetch some eau de cologne; they began wiping him on all sides.

“It’s nothing, nothing at all,” Chichikov was saying. “What can an innocent baby do?” At the same time thinking to himself: “And so well aimed, the cursed little canaille!” “A golden age!” he said when he was well wiped off and the agreeable expression had returned to his face again.

“And indeed,” the host said, addressing Chichikov, also with an agreeable smile, “what can be more enviable than the age of infancy: no cares, no thoughts of the future …”

“A state one would immediately exchange for one’s own,” said Chichikov.

“At a glance,” said Lenitsyn.

But it seems they were both lying: had they been offered such an exchange, they would straightaway have backed out of it. And what fun is it, indeed, sitting in a nurse’s arms and spoiling tailcoats!

The young mistress and the firstborn withdrew with the nurse, because something on him had to be put right: having rewarded Chichikov, he had not forgotten himself either.

This apparently insignificant circumstance won the host over completely to satisfying Chichikov. How, indeed, refuse a guest who has been so tender to his little one and paid for it magnanimously with his own tailcoat? Lenitsyn reflected thus: “Why, indeed, not fulfill his request, if such is his wish?” [The rest of the chapter is missing from the manuscript.—Trans.]

 

[1] Krylov’s fable Trishkas Caftan, describing the patching process that Gogol uses metaphorically here, became proverbial in Russia.

[2] A molieben (pronounced “molYEHben”) is an Orthodox prayer service for any occasion, from the blessing of a new beehive to petitioning for a sick person’s recovery.

[3] There is a Russian custom of commemorating the dead on the Tuesday after St. Thomas’s Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter).

The celebration is called Krasnaya Gorka (“Pretty Hill”), probably because the graves (little hills) are prettily decorated for the occasion. The accompanying festivities required more space than a village cemetery would afford.

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