At the very moment when Chichikov, in a new Persian dressing gown of gold satin, sprawling on the sofa, was bargaining with an itinerant smuggler-merchant of Jewish extraction and German enunciation, and before them already lay a purchased piece of the foremost Holland shirt linen and two pasteboard boxes with excellent soap of first-rate quality (this was precisely the soap he used to acquire at the Radziwill customs; it indeed had the property of imparting an amazing tenderness and whiteness to the cheeks)—at the moment when he, as a connoisseur, was buying these products necessary for a cultivated man, there came the rumble of a carriage driving up, echoed by a slight reverberation of the windows and walls, and in walked His Excellency Alexei Ivanovich Lenitsyn.
“I lay it before Your Excellency’s judgment: what linen, what soap, and how about this little thing I bought yesterday!” At which Chichikov put on his head a skullcap embroidered with gold and beads, and acquired the look of a Persian shah, filled with dignity and majesty.
But His Excellency, without answering the question, said with a worried look:
“I must talk with you about an important matter.”
One could see by his face that he was upset. The worthy merchant of German enunciation was sent out at once, and they were left alone.
“Do you know what trouble is brewing? They’ve found another will of the old woman’s, made five years ago. Half of the estate goes to the monastery, and the other half is divided equally between the two wards, and nothing to anyone else.”
Chichikov was dumbfounded.
“Well, that will is nonsense. It means nothing, it is annulled by the second one.”
“But it’s not stated in the second will that it annuls the first.”
“It goes without saying: the second annuls the first. The first will is totally worthless. I know the will of the deceased woman very well. I was with her. Who signed it? Who were the witnesses?”
“It was certified in the proper manner, in court. The witnesses were the former probate judge Burmilov and Khavanov.”
“That’s bad,” thought Chichikov, “they say Khavanov’s an honest man; Burmilov is an old hypocrite, reads the epistle in church on feast days.”
“Nonsense, nonsense,” he said aloud, and at once felt himself prepared for any trick. “I know better: I shared the deceased woman’s last minutes. I’m informed better than anyone. I’m ready to testify personally under oath.”
These words and his resoluteness set Lenitsyn at ease for the moment. He was very worried and had already begun to suspect the possibility of some fabrication on Chichikov’s part with regard to the will. Now he reproached himself for his suspicions. The readiness to testify under oath was clear proof that Chichikov was innocent. We do not know whether Pavel Ivanovich would have had the courage to swear on the Bible, but he did have the courage to say it.
“Rest assured, I’ll discuss the matter with several lawyers. There’s nothing here that needs doing on your part; you must stay out of it entirely. And I can now live in town as long as I like.”
Chichikov straightaway ordered the carriage readied and went to see a lawyer. This lawyer was a man of extraordinary experience. For fifteen years he had been on trial himself, but he had managed so that it was quite impossible to remove him from his post. Everyone knew him, and knew that he ought to have been sent into exile six times over for his deeds. There were suspicions of him all around and on every side, yet it was impossible to present any clear and proven evidence. Here there was indeed something mysterious, and he might have been boldly recognized as a sorcerer if the story we are telling belonged to the times of ignorance.
The lawyer struck him with the coldness of his looks and the greasiness of his dressing gown, in complete contrast to the good mahogany furniture, the golden clock under its glass case, the chandelier visible through the muslin cover protecting it, and generally to everything around him, which bore the vivid stamp of brilliant European cultivation.
Not hindered, however, by the lawyer’s skeptical appearance, Chichikov explained the difficult points of the matter and depicted in alluring perspective the gratitude necessarily consequent upon good counsel and concern.
To this the lawyer responded by depicting the uncertainty of all earthly things, and artfully alluded to the fact that two birds in the bush meant nothing, and what was needed was one in the hand.
There was no help for it: he had to give him the bird in the hand. The philosophers skeptical coldness suddenly vanished. He turned out to be a most good-natured man, most talkative, and most agreeable in his talk, not inferior to Chichikov himself in the adroitness of his manners.
“If I may, instead of starting a long case, you probably did not examine the will very well: there’s probably some sort of little addition. Take it home for a while. Though, of course, it’s prohibited to take such things home, still, if you ask certain officials nicely … I, for my part, will exercise my concern.”
“I see,” thought Chichikov, and he said: “In fact, I really don’t remember very well whether there was a little addition or not”— as if he had not written the will himself.
“You’d best look into that. However, in any case,” he continued good-naturedly, “always be calm and don’t be put out by anything, even if something worse happens. Don’t despair of anything ever: there are no incorrigible cases. Look at me: I’m always calm. Whatever mishaps are imputed to me, my calm is imperturbable.”
The face of the lawyer-philosopher indeed preserved an extraordinary calm, so that Chichikov was greatly . . . [The sentence is unfinished in the manuscript.—Trans.]
“Of course, that’s the first thing,” he said. “Admit, however, that there may be such cases and matters, such matters and such calumnies on the part of one’s enemies, and such difficult situations, that all calm flies away.”
“Believe me, that is pusillanimity,” the philosopher-jurist replied very calmly and good-naturedly. “Only make sure that the case is all based on documents, that nothing is merely verbal. And as soon as you see that the case is reaching a denouement and can conveniently be resolved, make sure—not really to justify and defend yourself—no, but simply to confuse things by introducing new and even unrelated issues.”
“You mean, so as …”
“To confuse, to confuse—nothing more,” the philosopher replied, “to introduce into the case some other, unrelated circumstances that will entangle other people in it, to make it complicated—nothing more. And then let some Petersburg official come and sort it out. Let him sort it out, just let him!” he repeated, looking into Chichikov’s eyes with extraordinary pleasure, the way a teacher looks into his pupil’s eyes while explaining some fascinating point in Russian grammar.
“Yes, good, if one picks circumstances capable of blowing smoke in people’s eyes,” said Chichikov, also looking with pleasure into the philosopher’s eyes, like a pupil who has understood the fascinating point explained by his teacher.
“They’ll get picked, the circumstances will get picked! Believe me: frequent exercise makes the head resourceful. Above all remember that you’re going to be helped. In a complicated case there’s gain for many: more officials are needed, and more pay for them … In short, more people must be drawn into the case. Never mind that some of them will get into it for no reason: it’s easier for them to justify themselves, they have to respond to the documents, to pay themselves off. . . So there’s bread in it. . . Believe me, as soon as circumstances get critical, the first thing to do is confuse. One can get it so confused, so entangled, that no one can understand anything. Why am I calm? Because I know: if my affairs get worse, I’ll entangle them all in it—the governor, the vice-governor, the police chief, and the magiatrate—I’ll get them all entangled. I know all their circumstances: who’s angry with whom, and who’s pouting at whom, and who wants to lock up whom. Let them disentangle themselves later, but while they do, others will have time to make their own gains. The crayfish thrives in troubled waters. Everyone’s waiting to entangle everything.” Here the jurist-philosopher looked into Chichikov’s eyes again with that delight with which the teacher explains to the pupil a still more fascinating point in Russian grammar.
“No, the man is indeed a wizard,” Chichikov thought to himself, and he parted from the lawyer in a most excellent and most agreeable state of mind.
Having been completely reassured and reinforced, he threw himself back on the springy cushions of the carriage with careless adroitness, ordered Selifan to take the top down (as he went to the lawyer, he had the top up and even the apron buttoned), and settled exactly like a retired colonel of the hussars, or Vishnepokromov himself—adroitly tucking one leg under the other, turning his face agreeably towards passersby, beaming from under the new silk hat cocked slightly over one ear. Selifan was ordered to proceed in the direction of the shopping arcade. Merchants, both itinerant and aboriginal, standing at the doors of their shops, reverently took their hats off, and Chichikov, not without dignity, raised his own in response. Many of them were already known to him; others, though itinerant, being charmed by the adroit air of this gentleman who knew how to bear himself, greeted him like an acquaintance. The fair in the town of Phooeyslavl was never-ending. After the horse fair and the agricultural fair were over, there came the fair of luxury goods for gentlefolk of high cultivation. The merchants who came on wheels planned to go home not otherwise than on sleds.
“Welcome, sir, welcome!” a German frock coat made in Moscow kept saying, outside a fabric shop, posing courteously, his head uncovered, his hat in his outstretched hand, just barely holding two fingers to his round, glabrous chin and with an expression of cultivated finesse on his face.
Chichikov went into the shop.
“Show me your little fabrics, my most gentle sir.”
The propitious merchant at once lifted the removable board in the counter and, having thereby made a passage for himself, wound up inside the shop, his back to his goods, his face to the buyer.
Standing back to his goods and face to the buyer, the merchant of the bare head and the outstretched hat greeted Chichikov once again. Then he put his hat on and, leaning forward agreeably, his two arms resting on the counter, spoke thus:
“What sort of cloth, sir? Of English manufacture, or do you prefer domestic?”
“Domestic,” said Chichikov, “only precisely of that best sort known as English cloth.”
“What colors would you prefer?” inquired the merchant, still swaying agreeably with his two arms resting on the counter.
“Dark colors, olive or bottle green, with flecks tending, so to speak, towards cranberry,” said Chichikov.
“I may say that you will get the foremost sort, of which there is none better in either capital,” the merchant said as he hoisted himself to the upper shelf to get the bolt; he flung it down adroitly onto the counter, unrolled it from the other end, and held it to the light. “What play, sir! The most fashionable, the latest taste!”
The cloth gleamed like silk. The merchant could smell that there stood before him a connoisseur of fabrics, and he did not wish to begin with the ten-rouble sort.
“Decent enough,” said Chichikov, stroking it lightly. “But I tell you what, my worthy man, show me at once the one you save for last, and there should be more of that color . . . those flecks, those red flecks.”
“I understand, sir: you truly want the color that is now becoming fashionable in Petersburg. I have cloth of the most excellent properties. I warn you that the price is high, but so is the quality.”
“Let’s have it.”
Not a word about the price.
The bolt fell from above. The merchant unrolled it with still greater art, grasping the other end and unrolling it like silk, offered it to Chichikov so that he would have the opportunity not only of examining it, but even of smelling it, and merely said:
“Here’s the fabric, sir! the colors of the smoke and flame of Navarino!”
The price was agreed upon. The iron yardstick, like a magician’s wand, meted out enough for Chichikov’s tailcoat and trousers. Having snipped it a little with his scissors, the merchant performed with both hands the deft tearing of the fabric across its whole width, and on finishing bowed to Chichikov with the most seductive agreeableness. The fabric was straightaway folded and deftly wrapped in paper; the package twirled under the light string. Chichikov was just going to his pocket when he felt his waist being pleasantly encircled by someone’s very delicate arm, and his ears heard:
“What are you buying here, my most respected friend?”
“Ah, what a pleasantly unexpected meeting!” said Chichikov.
“A pleasant encounter,” said the voice of the same man who had encircled his waist. It was Vishnepokromov. “I was prepared to pass by the shop without paying any attention, when suddenly I saw a familiar face—how can one deny oneself an agreeable pleasure! There’s no denying the fabrics are incomparably better this year. It’s a shame and a disgrace! I simply couldn’t find . . . Thirty roubles, forty roubles I’m prepared to . . . ask even fifty, but give me something good. I say either one has something that is really of the most excellent quality, or it’s better not to have it at all. Right?”
“Absolutely right!” said Chichikov. “Why work, if it’s not so as to have something really good?”
“Show me some moderate-priced fabrics,” a voice came from behind that seemed familiar to Chichikov. He turned around: it was Khlobuev. By all tokens he was buying fabric not merely on a whim, for his wretched frock coat was quite worn out.
“Ah, Pavel Ivanovich! allow me to speak with you at last. One can’t find you anymore. I came by several times—you’re always out.
“My esteemed friend, I’ve been so busy that, by God, I’ve had no time.” He looked around, hoping to elude explanations, and saw Murazov coming into the shop. “Afanasy Vassilyevich! Ah, my God!” said Chichikov. “What a pleasant encounter!”
And Vishnepokromov repeated after him:
And Khlobuev repeated:
And, lastly, the well-bred merchant, having carried his hat as far away from his head as his arm permitted, and, all of him thrust forward, pronounced:
“To Afanasy Vassilyevich—our humblest respects!”
Their faces were stamped with that doglike servility that is rendered unto millionaires by the doglike race of men.
The old man exchanged bows with them all and turned directly to Khlobuev:
“Excuse me: I saw you from far off going into the shop, and decided to trouble you. If you’re free afterwards and my house is not out of your way, kindly stop by for a short while. I must have a talk with you.”
“Very well, Afanasy Vassilyevich.”
“What wonderful weather we’re having, Afanasy Vassilyevich,” said Chichikov.
“Isn’t that so, Afanasy Vassilyevich,” Vishnepokromov picked up, “it’s extraordinary.”
“Yes, sir, thank God, it’s not bad. But we need a bit of rain for the crops.”
“We do, very much,” said Vishnepokromov, “it would even be good for the hunting.”
“Yes, a bit of rain wouldn’t hurt,” said Chichikov, who did not need any rain, but felt it so pleasant to agree with a man who had a million.
And the old man, having bowed to them all again, walked out.
“My head simply spins,” said Chichikov, “when I think that this man has ten million. It’s simply impossible.”
“It’s not a rightful thing, though,” said Vishnepokromov, “capital shouldn’t be in one man’s hands. That’s even the subject of treatises now all over Europe. You have money—so, share it with others: treat people, give balls, produce beneficent luxury, which gives bread to the artisans, the master craftsmen.”
“This I am unable to understand,” said Chichikov. “Ten million—and he lives like a simple muzhik! With ten million one could do devil knows what. It could be so arranged that you wouldn’t have any other company than generals and princes.”
“Yes, sir,” the merchant added, “with all his respectable qualities, there’s much uncultivatedness in Afanasy Vassilyevich. If a merchant is respectable, he’s no longer a merchant, he’s already in a certain way a negotiant. I’ve got to take a box in the theater, then, and I’ll never marry my daughter to a mere colonel—no, sir, I won’t marry her to anything but a general. What’s a colonel to me? My dinner’s got to be provided by a confectioner, not just any cook …”
“What’s there to talk about! for pity’s sake,” said Vishnepokromov, “what can one not do with ten million? Give me ten million—you’ll see what I’ll do!”
“No,” thought Chichikov, “you won’t do much that’s sensible with ten million. But if I were to have ten million, I’d really do something.”
“No, if I were to have ten million now, after this dreadful experience!” thought Khlobuev. “Eh, it would be different now: one comes to know the value of every kopeck by experience.” And then, having thought for a moment, he asked himself inwardly: “Would I really handle it more intelligently?” And, waving his hand, he added: “What the devil! I suppose I’d squander it just as I did before,” and he walked out of the shop, burning with desire to know what Murazov would say to him.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Pyotr Petrovich!” said Murazov, when he saw Khlobuev enter. “Please come to my little room.”
And he led Khlobuev into the little room already familiar to the reader, and so unpretentious that an official with a salary of seven hundred roubles a year would not have one more so.
“Tell me, now, I suppose your circumstances have improved? You did get something from your aunt?”
“How shall I tell you, Afanasy Vassilyevich? I don’t know whether my circumstances have improved. I got only fifty peasant souls and thirty thousand roubles, which I had to pay out to cover part of my debts—and I again have exactly nothing. And the main thing is that this thing about the will is most shady. Such swindling has been going on here, Afanasy Vassilyevich! I’ll tell you right now, and you’ll marvel at such goings-on. This Chichikov …”
“Excuse me, Pyotr Petrovich: before we talk about this Chichikov, allow me to talk about you yourself. Tell me: how much, in your estimation, would be satisfactory and sufficient for you to extricate yourself completely from these circumstances?”
“My circumstances are difficult,” said Khlobuev. “And in order to extricate myself, pay everything off, and have the possibility of living in the most moderate fashion, I would need at least a hundred thousand, if not more. In short, it’s impossible for me.”
“Well, and if you had it, how would you lead your life then?”
“Well, I would then rent a little apartment and occupy myself with my children’s upbringing, because I’m not going to enter the service: I’m no longer good for anything.”
“And why are you no longer good for anything?”
“But where shall I go, judge for yourself! I can’t start as an office clerk. You forget that I have a family. I’m forty, I have lower-back pains, I’ve grown lazy; they won’t give me a more important post; I’m not in good repute. I confess to you: I personally would not take a lucrative post. I may be a worthless man, a gambler, anything you like, but I won’t take bribes. I wouldn’t get along with Krasnonosov and Samosvistov.”
“But still, excuse me, sir, I can’t understand how one can be without any path; how can you walk if not down a path; how can you drive if there’s no ground under you; how can you float if the bark isn’t in the water? And life is a journey. Forgive me, Pyotr Petrovich, those gentlemen of whom you are speaking are, after all, on some sort of path, they do work, after all. Well, let’s say they turned off somehow, as happens with every sinner; yet there’s hope they’ll find their way back. Whoever walks can’t fail to arrive; there’s hope he’ll find his way back. But how will one who sits idle get to any path? The path won’t come to me.”
“Believe me, Afanasy Vassilyevich, I feel you’re absolutely right, but I tell you that all activity has decidedly perished and died in me; I don’t see that I can be of any use to anyone in the world. I
feel that I’m decidedly a useless log. Before, when I was younger, it seemed to me that it was all a matter of money, that if I had hundreds of thousands in my hands, I’d make many people happy: I’d help poor artists, I’d set up libraries, useful institutions, assemble collections. I’m a man not without taste, and I know that in many respects I could manage better than those rich men among us who do it all senselessly. And now I see that this, too, is vanity and there’s not much sense in it. No, Afanasy Vassilyevich, I’m good for nothing, precisely nothing, I tell you. I’m not capable of the least thing.”
“Listen, Pyotr Petrovich! But you do pray, you go to church, you don’t miss any matins or vespers, I know. Though you don’t like getting up early, you do get up and go—you go at four o’clock in the morning, when no one’s up yet.”
“That is a different matter, Afanasy Vassilyevich. I do it for the salvation of my soul, because I’m convinced that I will thereby make up at least somewhat for my idle life, that, bad as I am, prayers still mean something to God. I tell you that I pray, that even without faith, I still pray. One feels only that there is a master on whom everything depends, as a horse or a beast of burden smells the one who harnesses him.”
“So you pray in order to please the one you pray to, in order to save your soul, and this gives you strength and makes you get up early from your bed. Believe me, if you were to undertake your work in the same fashion, as if in the certainty that you are serving the one you pray to, you would become active and no man among us would be able to cool you down.”
“Afanasy Vassilyevich! I tell you again that this is something different. In the first case I see that anyway I’m doing something. I tell you that I’m ready to go to the monastery, and I’ll do whatever labors and deeds they impose on me there, even the heaviest. I’m sure that it’s not my business to reason about what will be asked of those who make me do it; there I obey and know that I’m obeying God.”
“And why don’t you reason that way in worldly matters as well? In the world we must also serve God and no one else. Even if we serve another, we do it only while being convinced that God tells us to do so, and without that we would not serve. What else are all our abilities and gifts, which vary from one person to another? They are tools for our prayer: the one is in words, and the other is in deeds. You cannot go to a monastery: you’re tied to the world, you have a family.”
Here Murazov fell silent. Khlobuev also fell silent.
“So you suppose that if you had, for instance, two hundred thousand, you would be able to shore up your life and live more economically therafter?”
“That is, at least I would occupy myself with what I would be able to do—my children’s upbringing; it would be possible for me to provide them with good teachers.”
“And shall I tell you this, Pyotr Petrovich, that in two years you’d again be over your head in debt, as in a net?”
Khlobuev was silent for a while, and then began measuredly:
“Not really, though, after such experience …”
“What’s experience?” said Murazov. “You see, I know you. You’re a man with a good heart: a friend will come to borrow money from you—you’ll give it to him; you’ll see a poor man and want to help; a nice guest will come—you’ll want to receive him better, and you’ll obey that first good impulse and forget your accounting. And allow me finally to tell you in all sincerity that you are unable to bring up your own children. Children can be brought up only by a father who has already done his own duty. And your wife . . . she, too, is good-hearted . . . she wasn’t brought up at all so as to be able to bring up children. I even think—forgive me, Pyotr Petrovich—mightn’t it even be harmful for the children to be with you?”
Khlobuev thought a little: he began to examine himself mentally on all sides and finally felt that Murazov was partly right.
“You know what, Pyotr Petrovich? hand it all over to me— your children, your affairs; leave your family, and the children: I’ll take care of them. Your circumstances are such that you are in my hands; you’re heading for starvation. Here you must be prepared to do anything. Do you know Ivan Potapych?”
“And respect him greatly, even though he goes around in a sibirka.”
“Ivan Potapych was a millionaire, got his daughters married to officials, lived like a tsar; but once he was bankrupt—what to do?
He went and became a shop clerk. It was no fun for him going from a silver platter to a simple bowl: it seemed he couldn’t set a hand to anything. Now Ivan Potapych could gobble from a silver platter, but he no longer wants to. He could save it all up again, but he says: ‘No, Afanasy Ivanovich, [Thus in the manuscript; it should be Vassilyevich.— Trans.] now I do not serve myself or for myself, but because God has judged so. I don’t wish to do anything of my own will. I listen to you, because I wish to obey God and not people, and because God speaks only through the mouths of the best people. You are more intelligent than I am, and therefore it is not I who answer, but you.’ That is what Ivan Potapych says; and he, if the truth be told, is many times more intelligent than I am.”
“Afanasy Vassilyevich! I, too, am ready to acknowledge your power over me, I am your servant and whatever you want: I give myself to you. But don’t give me work beyond my strength: I’m no Potapych, and I tell you that I’m not fit for anything good.”
“It is not I, Pyotr Petrovich, who will impose it on you, but since you wish to serve, as you yourself say, sir, here is a God-pleasing deed for you. There is a church being built in a certain place on voluntary donations from pious people. There’s not enough money, a collection must be taken. Put on a simple sibirka. . . you see, you’re a simple man now, a ruined nobleman, the same as a beggar: why pretend? With ledger in hand, in a simple cart, go around to the towns and villages. You’ll get a blessing and a loose-leaf ledger from the bishop, and go with God.”
Pyotr Petrovich was amazed by this completely new duty. He, a nobleman, after all, of a once ancient family, was to set out with a ledger in his hand, to beg donations for a church, and go bouncing along in a cart to boot! And yet it was impossible to wriggle out of it or avoid it: it was a God-pleasing thing.
“Thinking it over?” said Murazov. “You’ll be performing two services here: one for God, and the other—for me.”
“What for you?”
“Here’s what. Since you’ll be going to places where I’ve never been, you’ll find out everything on the spot, sir: how the muzhiks live there, where the richer ones are, where the needy, and what condition it’s all in. I must tell you that I love the muzhiks, perhaps because I myself come from muzhiks. But the thing is that all sorts of vileness is going on among them. Old Believers and various vagabonds confuse them, sir, get them to rebel against the authorities, yes, against the authorities and the regulations, and if a man is oppressed, he rebels easily. Why, as if it’s hard to stir up a man who is truly suffering! But the thing is that reprisals ought not to start from below. It’s bad when it comes to fists: there’ll be no sense to it, only the thieves will gain. You’re an intelligent man, you’ll examine things, you’ll find out where a man indeed suffers from others, and where from his own restless character, and then you’ll tell me about it all. I’ll give you a small sum of money just in case, to give to those who truly suffer innocently. For your part, it will also be helpful to comfort them with your word, and to explain to them as best you can that God tells us to endure without murmuring, and to pray in times of misfortune, and not to be violent and take justice into our own hands. In short, speak to them, not rousing anyone against anyone else, but reconciling them all. If you see hatred in anyone against whomever it may be, apply all your efforts.”
“Afanasy Vassilyevich! the task you are entrusting to me,” said Khlobuev, “is a holy task; but remember whom you are entrusting it to. You might entrust it to a man who is of almost holy life and already knows how to forgive others.”
“But I’m not saying you should accomplish it all, only as much as possible, whatever you can. The thing is that you will come back from those parts with some knowledge in any case, and will have an idea of the situation in that area. An official will never meet anyone personally, and a muzhik will not be frank with him. While you, collecting for the church, will call on all sorts of people—tradesmen, merchants—and will have the chance to question them all. I’m telling you this, sir, because the Governor-general now has special need of such people; and you, bypassing all official promotions, will get a position in which your life will not be useless.”
“I’ll try, I’ll apply my efforts, as far as my strength allows,” said Khlobuev. And reassurance could be noted in his voice, his back straightened, and his head lifted, as with a man upon whom hope shines. “I see that God has granted you understanding, and you know certain things better than we nearsighted people.”
“Now allow me to ask you,” said Murazov, “what Chichikov is and what sort of affair it is?”
“I can tell you unheard-of things about Chichikov. He pulls such deals . . . Do you know, Afanasy Vassilyevich, that the will is false? The real one has been found, in which the whole estate goes to the wards.”
“What are you saying? But who, then, concocted the false will?”
“That’s just the thing, it’s a most vile affair! They say it was Chichikov, and that the will was signed after death: they dressed up some woman in place of the deceased, and it was she who signed it. In short, a most tempting affair. They say thousands of petitions have come from all sides. Marya Yeremeevna is now besieged by wooers; two functionaries are already fighting over her. That’s what sort of affair it is, Afanasy Vassilyevich!”
“I’ve heard nothing about it, but the affair is indeed not quite sinless. I confess, I find Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov a most mysterious person,” said Murazov.
“I, too, sent in a petition for myself, as a reminder that there exists a nearest heir…”
“They can fight it out among themselves for all of me,” Khlobuev thought on his way out. “Afanasy Vassilyevich is no fool. He must have given me this charge after thinking it over. Just let me accomplish it—that’s all.” He began thinking about the road, at the same time as Murazov was still repeating to himself: “A most mysterious man to me, this Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov! If only such will and perseverance were put to good use!”
And meanwhile, indeed, petition after petition kept coming to the courts. Relatives turned up of whom no one had ever heard. As birds come flying to carrion, so everything came flying down upon the incalculable wealth left by the old woman. Denunciations of Chichikov, of the spuriousness of the last will, denunciations of the spuriousness of the first will also, evidence of theft -and of the concealment of certain sums. Evidence turned up against Chichikov of his buying dead souls, of smuggling goods while he was still in customs. Everything was unearthed, the whole story of his past was found out. God knows how they got wind of it all and learned it. Yet there was evidence even of such things as Chichikov thought no one knew of except for himself and his four walls. So far it was all still a court secret and had not yet reached his ears, though a trustworthy note he had recently received from his lawyer gave him some idea that trouble was brewing. The content of the note was brief: “I hasten to inform you that there will be some fuss around the case; but remember that you ought by no means to worry. The main thing is to be calm. Everything will be taken care of.” This note set him completely at ease. “The man is indeed a genius,” said Chichikov.
To crown all blessings, the tailor brought his suit at that moment. Chichikov felt a strong desire to look at himself in the new tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino. He pulled on the trousers, which hugged him marvelously on all sides, an artist’s ideal. The hips were so nicely fitted, the calves, too; the cloth hugged all the details, imparting to them a still greater resilience. Once he had tightened the clasp behind him, his stomach became like a drum. He beat on it with a brush, adding: “Such a fool, but, overall, what a picture he makes!” The tailcoat, it seemed, was even better tailored than the trousers: not one wrinkle, tight all around his sides, curving at the overlap, showing his full curvature. It was a little too tight under the right arm, but that made it fit still better at the waist. The tailor, standing there in complete triumph, merely said: “Rest assured, outside Petersburg there’s no such tailoring anywhere.” The tailor was from Petersburg himself, and had put on his shingle: “A foreigner from London and Paris.” He was not given to joking, and wanted with these two cities to stop up the maws of all the other tailors at once, so that in the future no one could come out with such cities, and they would have to content themselves with writing some “Karlsroo” or “Copenhar.”
Chichikov magnanimously paid the tailor and, left alone, began to examine himself at leisure in the mirror, like an artist, with aesthetic feeling and con amore. It turned out that everything was somehow even better than before: the little cheeks were more interesting, the chin more alluring, the white collar imparted its color to the cheek, the blue satin tie imparted its hue to the collar; the shirtfront, pleated in the latest fashion, imparted its hue to the tie, the rich velvet waistcoat imparted its hue to the shirt-front, and the tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino, gleaming like silk, imparted its hue to everything! He turned to the right—good! He turned to the left—even better! The curve of the waist was like a courtier’s or such a gentleman’s as jabbers away in French so that next to him a Frenchman himself is nothing, one who, even when angry, does not disgrace himself indecently with a Russian word, who cannot even swear in Russian, but will give you a good scolding in French dialect. Such delicacy! He tried, inclining his head slightly to one side, to assume a pose as if he were addressing a middle-aged lady of the latest cultivation: it was a picture to see. Painter, take up your brush and paint! In his pleasure, he straightaway performed a light leap, like an entrechat. The chest of drawers shook and a flask of eau de cologne fell to the ground; but this caused no hindrance. He quite properly called the stupid flask a fool, and thought: “Whom shall I visit first of all? The best…”
When suddenly in the front hall—something like the clank of spurred boots and a gendarme in full armor, as if he were a whole army in one person. “You are ordered to appear at once before the Governor-general!” Chichikov was simply stunned. Before him stuck up a fright with a mustache, a horsetail on his head, a baldric over one shoulder, a baldric over the other, an enormous broadsword hanging at his side. He fancied there was also a gun hanging from the other side, and devil knows what else: a whole army just in one man! He tried to protest, but the fright uttered rudely: “To appear at once!” Through the door to the front hall he saw another fright flit by; he looked out the window—there was a carriage as well. What to do? Just as he was, in his tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino, he had to get in and, trembling all over, drive to the Governor-general’s, the policeman along with him.
In the anteroom he was not even allowed to come to his senses. “Go in! The prince is waiting for you,” said the official on duty. Before him as through a mist flashed the anteroom with messengers receiving packages, then a hall through which he passed, thinking only: “He’ll just up and seize me, and with no trial, no anything—straight to Siberia!” His heart began to pound harder than the heart of the most jealous lover. The door finally opened: before him was the office, with portfolios, shelves, books, and the prince as wrathful as wrath itself.
“Destroyer, destroyer,” said Chichikov. “He’ll destroy my soul, slaughter me, like a wolf a lamb!”
“I spared you, I allowed you to remain in town, when you ought to have been put in jail; and again you’ve besmirched yourself with the most dishonest swindling a man has yet besmirched himself with.”
The prince’s lips were trembling with wrath.
“What is this most dishonest action and swindling, Your Excellency?” asked Chichikov, trembling all over.
“The woman,” said the prince, stepping closer and looking straight into Chichikov’s eyes, “the woman who signed the will at your dictation, has been seized and will confront you.”
Chichikov turned pale as a sheet.
“Your Excellency! I’ll tell you the whole truth of the matter. I am guilty, indeed, guilty; but not so guilty. I’ve been maligned by my enemies.”
“No one can malign you, because there is many times more vileness in you than the worst liar could invent. In all your life, I suppose, you’ve never done anything that was not dishonest. Every kopeck you earned was earned dishonestly, and is a theft and a dishonest thing deserving of the knout and Siberia. No, it’s enough now! This very minute you will be taken to jail, and there, together with the worst scoundrels and robbers, you must wait for your fate to be decided. And this is still merciful, because you are many times worse than they are: they dress in wool jerkins and sheepkins, while you …”
He glanced at the tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino and, taking hold of the bellpull, rang.
“Your Excellency,” Chichikov cried out, “be merciful! You are the father of a family. Don’t spare me—but spare my old mother!”
“You’re lying!” the prince cried wrathfully. “You pleaded with me the same way before, by your children and family, which you never had, and now—your mother!”
“Your Excellency, I am a scoundrel and an utter blackguard,” said Chichikov, in a voice . . . [The phrase is unfinished in the manuscript.—Trans.] “I was indeed lying, I have no children or family; but, as God is my witness, I always wanted to have a wife, to fulfill the duty of a man and a citizen, so as later to earn indeed the respect of citizens and authorities . . . But what calamitous coincidences! With my blood, Your Excellency, with my blood I had to procure my daily sustenance. Temptations and seductions at every step . . . enemies, and destroyers, and thieves. My whole life has been like a violent storm or a ship amidst the waves at the will of the winds. I am a man, Your Excellency!”
Tears suddenly poured in streams from his eyes. He collapsed at the prince’s feet just as he was, in his tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino, in his velvet waistcoat and satin tie, new trousers and hairdo exuding the clean scent of eau de cologne.
“Get away from me! Call the guards to take him away!” the prince said to those who came in.
“Your Excellency!” Chichikov cried, seizing the prince’s boot with both hands.
A shuddering sensation ran through the prince’s every fiber.
“Get away, I tell you!” he said, trying to tear his foot from Chichikov’s embrace.
“Your Excellency! I will not move from this spot before I obtain mercy!” Chichikov said, not letting go of the prince’s boot and sliding, together with his foot, across the floor in his tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino.
“Away, I tell you!” he said, with that inexplicable feeling of disgust that a man feels at the sight of an extremely ugly insect that he does not have the courage to crush underfoot. He gave such a shake that Chichikov felt the boot strike his nose, lips, and nicely rounded chin, but he would not let go of the boot and held the leg still harder in his embrace. Two hefty policemen pulled him away by force, and, holding him under his arms, led him through all the rooms. He was pale, crushed, in the insensibly frightful state of a man who sees black, inescapable death before him, that fright which is contrary to our nature . . .
Just at the doorway to the stairs they ran into Murazov. A ray of hope suddenly flickered. Instantly, with unnatural force, he tore from the grip of the two policemen and threw himself at the feet of the amazed old man.
“Pavel Ivanovich, my dear fellow, what’s happened?”
“Save me! they’re taking me to jail, to death …”
The policemen seized him and led him away without allowing him to be heard.
A dank, chill closet with the smell of the boots and leg wrappings of garrison soldiers, an unpainted table, two vile chairs, a window with an iron grate, a decrepit woodstove, through the cracks of which smoke came without giving any warmth—this was the dwelling in which they placed our hero, who had just begun to taste the sweetness of life and attract the attention of his compatriots in his fine new tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino. He was not even given time to arrange to take the necessary things with him, to take the chest with the money in it. His papers, the deeds of purchase for the dead souls—the officials now had it all! He collapsed on the ground, and the carnivorous worm of terrible, hopeless sorrow wrapped itself around his heart. With increasing speed it began to gnaw at his heart, all unprotected as it was. Another day like that, another day of such sorrow, and there would be no Chichikov in this world at all. But someone’s all-saving hand did not slumber even over Chichikov. An hour later the door of the jail opened: old Murazov came in.
If someone tormented by parching thirst were to have a stream of spring water poured down his dry throat, he would not revive as poor Chichikov did.
“My savior!” said Chichikov, and, suddenly seizing his hand, he quickly kissed it and pressed it to his breast. “May God reward you for visiting an unfortunate man!”
He dissolved in tears.
The old man looked at him with mournfully pained eyes and said only:
“Ah, Pavel Ivanovich! Pavel Ivanovich, what have you done?”
“I am a scoundrel. . . Guilty … I transgressed . . . But consider, consider, can they treat me like this? I am a nobleman. Without a trial, without an investigation, to throw me into jail, to take away everything—my things, my chest. . . there’s money in it, all my property, all my property is in it, Afanasy Vassilyevich—property I acquired by sweating blood …”
And, unable to restrain the impulse of sorrow again overwhelming his heart, he sobbed loudly, in a voice that pierced the thick walls of the jail and echoed dully in the distance, tore off his satin tie, and, clutching at his collar with his hand, tore his tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino.
“Pavel Ivanovich, it makes no difference: you must bid farewell to your property and to all there is in the world. You have fallen under the implacable law, not under the power of some man.”
“I have been my own ruin, I know it—I did not know how to stop in time. But why such a terrible punishment, Afanasy Vassilyevich? Am I a robber? Has anyone suffered from me? Have I made anyone unhappy? By toil and sweat, by sweating blood, I procured my kopeck. Why did I procure this kopeck? In order to live out the rest of my days in comfort, to leave something to my children, whom I intended to acquire for the good, for the service of the fatherland. I erred, I don’t deny it, I erred . . . what to do? But I erred because I saw that I’d get nowhere on the straight path, and that to go crookedly was straighten But I toiled, I strained. And these scoundrels who sit in the courts taking thousands from the treasury or robbing people who aren’t rich, filching the last kopeck from those who have nothing. . . Afanasy Vassilyevich! I did not fornicate, I did not drink. And so much work, so much iron patience! Yes, it could be said that every kopeck I procured was redeemed with sufferings, sufferings! Let one of them suffer as I did! What has my whole life been: a bitter struggle, a ship amidst the waves. And, Afanasy Vassilyevich, I have lost what was acquired with such struggle …”
He did not finish and sobbed loudly from unendurable heartache, collapsed on the chair, ripped off the torn, hanging skirt of his tailcoat and flung it away from him, and, putting both hands to his hair, which before he had zealously tried to strengthen, he tore it mercilessly, delighting in the pain with which he hoped to stifle his unquenchable heartache.
“Ah, Pavel Ivanovich, Pavel Ivanovich!” Murazov was saying, looking at him mournfully and shaking his head. “I keep thinking what a man you’d be if, in the same way, with energy and patience, you had embarked on good work and for a better purpose! If only any one of those who love the good would apply as much effort to it as you did to procuring your kopeck! . . . and knew how to sacrifice to that good their own self-love and ambition, without sparing themselves, as you did not spare yourself in procuring your kopeck! …”
“Afanasy Vassilyevich!” said poor Chichikov, seizing both of his hands in his own. “Oh, if I could manage to be set free, to get back my property! I swear to you, I would henceforth lead a completely different life! Save me, benefactor, save me!”
“But what can I do? I would have to fight with the law. Even supposing I ventured to do it, the prince is a just man, he will never back down.”
“Benefactor! you can do anything. I’m not afraid of the law—I can find ways to deal with the law—but the fact that I’ve been thrown into jail innocently, that I will perish here like a dog, and that my property, my papers, my chest. . . save me!”
He embraced the old man’s legs and wetted them with his tears.
“Ah, Pavel Ivanovich, Pavel Ivanovich!” old Murazov kept saying, shaking his head. “How blinded you are by this property! Because of it, you don’t even hear your own poor soul!”
“I’ll think about my soul, too, only save me!”
“Pavel Ivanovich!” old Murazov said and stopped. “To save you is not in my power—you can see that yourself. But I’ll try to do all I can to alleviate your lot and set you free. I don’t know whether I’ll succeed, but I’ll try. And if perchance I do succeed, Pavel Ivanovich, then I’ll ask a reward from you for my labors: drop all these attempts at these acquisitions. I tell you in all honesty that even if I lost all my property—and I have much more than you do—I wouldn’t weep. By God, the point of the thing is not in this property, which can be confiscated, but in that which no one can steal and carry off! You have already lived enough in the world. You yourself call your life a ship amidst the waves. You have enough already to live on for the rest of your days. Settle yourself in some quiet corner, near a church and simple, good people; or, if you’re burning with desire to leave posterity behind you, marry a good girl, not rich, accustomed to moderation and simple household life. Forget this noisy world and all its seductive fancies; let it forget you, too. There is no peace in it. You see: everything in it is either an enemy, a tempter, or a traitor.”
Chichikov fell to thinking. Something strange, some hitherto unknown feelings, inexplicable to himself, came to him: as if something wanted to awaken in him, something suppressed since childhood by stern, dead precepts, by the inimicalness of a dull childhood, the desolateness of his family home, by familyless solitude, abjectness, and a poverty of first impressions, by the stern glance of fate, which looked dully at him through some clouded window buried under a wintry blizzard.
“Only save me, Afanasy Vassilyevich,” he cried out. “I’ll lead a different life, I’ll follow your advice! Here’s my word on it!”
“Watch out now, Pavel Ivanovich, don’t go back on your word,” Murazov said, holding his hand.
“I might go back on it, if it weren’t for such a terrible lesson,” poor Chichikov said with a sigh, and added: “But the lesson is a harsh one; a harsh, harsh lesson, Afanasy Vassilyevich!”
“It’s good that it’s harsh. Thank God for that, pray to Him. I’ll go and do what I can for you.”
With these words the old man left.
Chichikov no longer wept or tore his tailcoat and his hair: he calmed down.
“No, enough!” he said finally, “a different, different life. It’s really time to become a decent man. Oh, if only I could somehow extricate myself and still be left with at least a little capital, I’d settle far away from . . . And the deeds? …” He thought: “What, then? why abandon this business, acquired with such labor? … I won’t buy any more, but I must mortgage those. The acquisition cost me labor! I’ll mortgage them, I will, in order to buy an estate. I’ll become a landowner, because here one can do much good.” And in his mind there awakened those feelings which had come over him when he was at Kostanzhoglo’s, listening to his host’s nice, intelligent conversation, in the warm evening light, about how fruitful and useful estate management is. The country suddenly appeared so beautiful to him, as if he were able to feel all the charms of country life.
“We’re all stupid, chasing after vanity!” he said finally. “Really, it comes from idleness! Everything’s near, everything’s close at hand, yet we run to some far-off kingdom. Is it not life, if one is occupied, be it even in a remote corner? The pleasure indeed consists in labor. And nothing’s sweeter than the fruit of one’s own labors . . . No, I’ll occupy myself with labor, I’ll settle in the country and occupy myself honestly, so as to have a good influence on others as well. What, am I really such a good-for-nothing? I have abilities for management; I possess the qualities of thrift, efficiency, reasonableness, and even constancy. Once I make up my mind, I feel I have them. Only now do I feel truly and clearly that there exists a certain duty that man must fulfill on earth, without tearing himself away from the place and corner he has been put in.”
And a life of labor, far removed from the noise of the cities and those seductions invented in his idleness by the man who has forgotten labor, began to picture itself to him so vividly that he almost forgot the whole unpleasantness of his situation, and was, perhaps, even ready to give thanks to Providence for this harsh lesson, if only he were let go and at least part of his money were returned to him. But. . . the single-leafed door of his unclean closet opened and in walked an official person—Samosvistov, an epicure, a daredevil, an excellent friend, a carouser, and a cunning beast, as his own friends called him. In time of war this man might have done wonders: if he had been sent to sneak through some impassable, dangerous places, to steal a cannon right out from under the enemy’s nose—it would have been just the thing for him. But, for lack of a military career in which he might have been an honest man, he did dirty and mucked things up. Inconceivably, he was good with his friends, never sold anyone, and, once he gave his word, he kept it; but his own superiors he regarded as something like an enemy battery which one had to make one’s way through, taking advantage of every weak spot, breach, or negligence . . .
“We know all about your situation, we’ve heard everything!” he said, once he saw that the door was tightly shut behind him. “Never mind, never mind! Don’t lose heart: it will all be fixed up. Everything will work out for you and—your humble servants! Thirty thousand for us all—and nothing more.”
“Really?” Chichikov cried out. “And I’ll be completely vindicated?”
“Roundly! and get a nice reward for your losses.”
“And for your efforts?…”
“Thirty thousand. It goes to everyone—our boys, and the Governor-general’s, and the secretary.”
“But, excuse me, how can I? All my things . . . my chest. . . it’s all sealed now, under surveillance …”
“You’ll have it all within the hour. It’s a deal, then?”
Chichikov gave him his hand. His heart was pounding, and he had no trust that it was possible . . .
“Good-bye for now! Our mutual friend asked me to tell you that the main thing is—calm and presence of mind.”
“Hm!” thought Chichikov, “I understand: the lawyer!”
Samosvistov disappeared. Chichikov, left alone, still did not trust his words, when, less than an hour after this conversation, the chest was brought: papers, money, and all in the best order. Samosvistov had come as an administrator: reprimanded the guards for lack of vigilance, ordered more soldiers set to strengthen the watch, not only took the chest, but even selected all the papers that could in any way compromise Chichikov; tied it all together, sealed it, and told a soldier to take it immediately to Chichikov himself in the guise of things necessary for the night and for sleeping, so that along with the papers, Chichikov also even received all the warm things needed to cover his mortal body. This speedy delivery delighted him unutterably. He acquired great hope, and again was already imagining all sorts of attractions: theater in the evening, a dancer he was dangling after. The country and its quiet paled; town and noise again grew more vivid, clear . . . Oh, life!
And meanwhile a case of boundless proportions was developing in the courts and chambers. The pens of scriveners worked away and, taking sniffs of tobacco, the quibbling heads labored, admiring, like artists, each scrawly line. The lawyer, like a hidden magician, invisibly controlled the whole mechanism; he entangled decidedly everyone, before anyone had time to look around. The tangle increased. Samosvistov surpassed himself in his unheard-of courage and boldness. Having found out where the seized woman was being kept, he went straight there and entered with the air of such a dashing fellow and superior that the sentinel saluted him and stood at attention.
“Have you been here long?”
“Since morning, sir!”
“How soon will you be relieved?”
“Three hours, sir!”
“I shall need you. I’ll tell the officer to detail someone else instead.”
And, going home, without delaying a moment, to avoid mixing with anyone and to have all ends buried, he dressed himself up as a gendarme, tricked out in mustache and side-whiskers— the devil himself could not have recognized him. Going to the house where Chichikov was, he seized the first wench he found there, handed her over to two daredevil officials, also in the know, and himself went straight to the sentinels, with mustache and rifle all in order:
“Go, the officer sent me to replace you.” He exchanged places with the sentinel and stood there with his rifle.
This was just what was needed. Instead of the former woman, another was found there who knew and understood nothing. The former one was tucked away somewhere, so that afterwards nobody knew what had become of her. Meanwhile, as Samosvistov was pursuing his role as warrior, the lawyer was working wonders in the civilian area: he informed the governor indirectly that the prosecutor was writing a denunciation of him; he informed the police official that another official, living under cover, was writing denunciations of him; he assured the official living under cover that there was a still more undercover official who was informing on him—and drove them all into a situation where they had to turn to him for advice. A muddle of the following sort occurred: denunciation rode upon denunciation, and such things began to be discovered as the sun had never looked upon, and such as even did not exist at all. Everything was employed and made use of: who was an illegitimate son, and who had a mistress of what family and origin, and whose wife was dangling after whom. Scandals, temptations, and it all got so mixed up and intertwined with the story of Chichikov and the dead souls that it was quite impossible to grasp which of these affairs was the chief nonsense: both seemed of equal worth. When the documents finally began to reach the Governor-general, the poor prince could not understand a thing. The rather intelligent and efficient clerk who was charged with making an abstract almost lost his mind: it was quite impossible to grasp the threads of the affair. The prince was at that time preoccupied with a number of other matters, one more unpleasant than another. In one part of the province there was famine. The officials who were sent to distribute grain managed it somehow improperly. In another part of the province, the Old Believers were astir. Someone had spread it among them that an Antichrist had been born who would not leave even the dead alone and was buying up dead souls. People repented and sinned and, under the pretext of catching the Antichrist, bumped off some non-Antichrists. In another place, the muzhiks had rebelled against the landowners and police captains. Some tramps had spread rumors among them that a time was coming when peasants must be landowners and dress themselves up in tailcoats, and landowners must dress in simple caftans and be muzhiks—and the whole region, without considering that there would then be too many landowners and police captains, had refused to pay any taxes. There was need to resort to strong measures. The poor prince was in a very upset state of mind. At this moment it was announced to him that the tax farmer had come.
“Show him in,” said the prince.
The old man came in . . .
“Here’s your Chichikov! You stood up for him and defended him. Now he’s been caught in such an affair as the worst thief wouldn’t venture upon.”
“Allow me to tell you, Your Excellency, that I do not quite understand this affair.”
“A forged will, and such a one! . . . It’s public flogging for a thing like that!”
“Your Excellency, I say this not to defend Chichikov. But the affair has not yet been proved: there has been no investigation.”
“There is evidence: the woman who was dressed up in place of the deceased has been seized. I want to question her purposely in your presence.” The prince rang and ordered the woman brought.
Murazov fell silent.
“A most dishonest affair! And, to their disgrace, the foremost officials of the town are mixed up in it, the governor himself. He ought not to turn up together with thieves and wastrels!” the prince said hotly.
“But the governor is one of the heirs, he has the right to make a claim; and if others are latching on to it from all sides, well, Your Excellency, that is a human thing. A rich woman died, sir, without making intelligent and just arrangements; so those eager to profit by it flew down from all sides—it’s a human thing …”
“But why such abominations? . . . The scoundrels!” the prince said with a feeling of indignation. “I don’t have one good official: they are all scoundrels!”
“Your Excellency! who among us is as good as he ought to be? The officials of our town are all human, they have merits and many are quite knowledgeable, and no one is far removed from sin.”
“Listen, Afanasy Vassilyevich, tell me, I know that you alone are an honest man, what is this passion of yours for defending all sorts of scoundrels?”
“Your Excellency,” said Murazov, “whoever the man may be whom you call a scoundrel, he is still a human being. How not defend a man if you know that he does half his evil out of coarseness and ignorance? For we do unjust things at every step, and at every moment are the cause of another’s misfortune, and not even with any bad intention. You, Your Excellency, have also committed a great injustice.”
“What!” the prince exclaimed in amazement, completely struck by such an unexpected turn in the talk.
Murazov paused, fell silent, as if pondering something, and finally said:
“Well, let’s say for instance in the Derpennikov [That is, Tentetnikov, called Derpennikov in Gogol’s early drafts.—Trans.] case.”
“Afanasy Vassilyevich! A crime against the fundamental laws of the state, tantamount to the betrayal of one’s country!”
“I am not justifying him. But is it fair when a youth who in his inexperience was seduced and lured by others is judged on a par with someone who was one of the instigators? The same lot fell to Derpennikov as to some Voronoy-Dryannoy; but their crimes are not the same.”
“For God’s sake …” the prince said with visible agitation, “tell me, do you know anything about it? I just recently wrote directly to Petersburg about alleviating his lot.”
“No, Your Excellency, I’m not saying it because I know something that you don’t know. Though there is indeed one circumstance that might serve in his favor, he himself would not consent because another man would suffer by it. But what I think is only that you were perhaps pleased to be in too great a hurry then. Forgive me, Your Excellency, I am judging according to my weak understanding. You have ordered me several times to speak frankly. When I was still a superior, sir, I had many workers, both bad and good . . . One also has to take a man’s earlier life into account, because if you don’t consider everything with equanimity, but start by yelling at him—you’ll merely frighten him, and never obtain a real confession: but if you question him sympathetically, as brother to brother—he himself will speak it all out and won’t even ask for leniency, and there won’t be any bitterness against anyone, because he will see clearly that it is not I who am punishing him, but the law.”
The prince lapsed into thought. At that moment a young official came in and stood deferentially, a portfolio in his hand. Care and travail showed on his young and still fresh face. One could see it was not for nothing that he served as a special agent. He belonged to the number of those few who do their clerical work con amove. Burning neither with ambition, nor with the desire for gain, nor with the imitation of others, he worked only because he was convinced that he had to be there and nowhere else, that life had been given him for that. To pursue, to analyze, and, having grasped all the threads of the most complicated case, to explain it—this was the thing for him. The labors, the efforts, the sleepless nights were abundantly rewarded if the case finally began to clarify itself before him, and the hidden causes revealed themselves, so that he felt he could convey the whole of it in a few words, clearly and distinctly, in such fashion that it would be obvious and understandable to anyone. It could be said that a student does not rejoice so much when some very difficult phrase and the true meaning of a great writer’s thought are revealed to him, as he rejoiced when a very tangled case untangled itself before him. And yet. . . [Part of the manuscript is missing. The text continues on a new page, in midsentence.—Trans.]
“… by grain in those places where there is famine; I know these things better than the officials do: I’ll look personally into who needs what. And, with Your Excellency’s permission, I’ll also talk a bit with the Old Believers. They’ll be more willing to speak with their own kind, with simple folk. So, God knows, maybe I can help settle things peaceably with them. And I won’t take any money from you, by God, it’s shameful to think of one’s own gain at a time like this, when people are dying of hunger. I have supplies of ready grain; I’ve just sent to Siberia, and by next summer they’ll deliver more.”
“God alone can reward you for such service, Afanasy Vassilyevich. And I will not say a single word, because—as you can feel yourself—no word is adequate here. But let me say one thing about your request. Tell me yourself: do I have the right to overlook this affair, and will it be just, will it be honest on my part to forgive the scoundrels?”
“Your Excellency, by God, you can’t call them that, the less so as there are some quite worthy people among them. Man’s circumstances are very difficult, Your Excellency, very, very difficult. It may so happen that a man seems thoroughly guilty; but once you go into it—it wasn’t him at all.”
“But what will they themselves say if I overlook it? Some of them will turn up their noses still more, and even say that they scared me. They’ll be the first not to respect…”
“Your Excellency, allow me to give you my opinion: gather them all together, let them know that you are informed of everything and present to them your own position exactly as you have just now been pleased to present it to me, and ask their advice: what would each of them do in your place?”
“Do you really think they will understand the noblest impulses better than chicanery and opportunism? Believe me, they’ll laugh at me.”
“I don’t think so, Your Excellency. The Russian man, even one who is worse than others, still has a sense of justice. Unless he’s some sort of Jew, and not a Russian. No, Your Excellency, you have nothing to hide. Tell them exactly as you told me. For they denounce you as an ambitious and proud man who won’t even listen to anything, so self-confident you are—so let them see it all as it is. What do you care? Your cause is right. Tell it to them as if you were bringing your confession not to them, but to God Himself.”
“Afanasy Vassilyevich,” the prince said, reflecting, “I’ll think about it, and meanwhile I thank you very much for your advice.”
“And order Chichikov’s release, Your Excellency.”
“Tell this Chichikov to take himself away from here as soon as possible, and the further the better. Him I can never forgive.”
Murazov bowed and went straight from the prince to Chichikov. He found Chichikov already in good spirits, quite calmly occupied with a rather decent dinner that had been brought to him in covered dishes from some quite decent kitchen. From the first phrases of their conversation, the old man understood at once that Chichikov had already managed to talk with one or two of the pettifogging officials. He even understood that the invisible participation of the expert lawyer had interfered here.
“Listen, Pavel Ivanovich, sir,” he said, “I am bringing you freedom, on condition that you leave town at once. Get all your belongings ready—and go with God, don’t put it off for a moment, because things are worse than you think. I know, sir, that there’s a man here who is inciting you; I tell you in secret that yet another case is developing here, and that no powers will save him. He is glad, of course, to drag others down, so as not to be bored, but things are getting sorted out. I left you in a good state of mind— better than you’re in now. My advice is not offered lightly. By God, the point is not in this property, on account of which people argue and stab each other, as if one could have well-being in this life without thinking about the next. Believe me, Pavel Ivanovich, sir, until people abandon all that they wrangle over and eat each other for on earth, and think about the well-being of their spiritual property, there won’t be any well-being of earthly property. There will be times of hunger and poverty, as much for all the people as for each one separately . . . That is clear, sir. Whatever you say, the body does depend on the soul. How then can you want things to go properly? Think not about dead souls, but about your living soul, and God help you on a different path! I, too, am leaving tomorrow. Hurry! or without me there will be trouble.”
Having said this, the old man left. Chichikov fell to thinking. The meaning of life again seemed of no small importance. “Murazov is right,” he said, “it’s time for a different path!” Having said this, he left the prison. One sentry lugged the chest, another the suitcase with linen. Selifan and Petrushka were as glad of their master’s deliverance as of God knows what.
“Well, my gentles,” said Chichikov, addressing them benignly, “we must pack up and go.”
“We’ll get rolling, Pavel Ivanovich,” said Selifan. “The road must have settled: there’s been enough snow. It’s time, truly, that we quit this town. I’m so sick of it I don’t even want to look at it.”
“Go to the carriage maker and have the carriage put on runners,” said Chichikov, and he himself went to town, though he had no wish to pay farewell calls on anyone. It was awkward after all these happenings—the more so as there were many highly unfavorable stories about him going around town. He avoided meeting anyone and only stopped on the quiet to see that merchant from whom he had bought the cloth of the color of the flames and smoke of Navarino, bought another three yards for a tailcoat and trousers, and went to the same tailor. For double the price, the master undertook to increase his zeal, and kept the whole sewing populace sitting up all night working by candlelight with needles, irons, and teeth, so that the tailcoat was ready the next day, albeit a little late. The horses were all harnessed.
Chichikov did try the tailcoat on, however. It was fine, the same as the previous one. But, alas! he noticed some smooth patches showing pale on his head and remarked ruefully: “Why did I give myself over to such contrition? And, what’s more, tear my hair out!” Having paid the tailor, he finally drove out of town in some strange disposition. This was not the old Chichikov. This was some wreckage of the old Chichikov. The inner state of his soul might be compared to a demolished building, which has been demolished so that from it a new one could be built; but the new one has not been started yet, because the definitive plan has not yet come from the architect and the workers are left in perplexity. An hour before him, old Murazov set out in a burlap kibitka with Potapych, and an hour after Chichikov’s departure an order was issued that the prince, on the occasion of his departure for Petersburg, wished to see all his officials to a man.
In the great hall of the Governor-general’s house, all the official ranks of the town assembled, from governor down to titular councillor: the heads of offices and departments, councillors, assessors, Kisloyedov, Krasnonosov, Samosvistov, those who took bribes, those who did not take bribes, those who were false, those who were half false, and those who were not false at all— all waited with a certain not entirely calm expectancy for the Governor-general to appear. The prince came out neither gloomy nor bright: his look was firm, as was his step . . . The whole official assembly bowed—many quite low. Responding with a slight bow, the prince began:
“As I am leaving for Petersburg, I considered it proper to meet with all of you and even partly to explain the reason to you. A very tempting affair sprang up among us. I suppose that many of those present know to what I am referring. This affair led to the uncovering of other no less dishonest affairs, which finally involved such people as I had hitherto considered honest. I am also informed of a hidden aim to get everything so tangled that it would prove utterly impossible to resolve it with any formal propriety. I even know who is the mainspring and through whose hidden … [The phrase is unfinished in the manuscript.—Trans.] though he concealed his participation very skillfully.
But the point is that I intend to deal with it not through a formal investigation of documents, but through a speedy court-martial, as in time of war, and I hope that the soverign will give me this right, once I have explained the affair to him. On those occasions when it is not possible to conduct a case in civil fashion, when whole shelves of documents get burned, and when, finally, by a superfluity of false and unrelated evidence, and false denunciations, people try to obscure a case that is obscure to begin with— I consider court-martial the sole method, and I should like to know your opinion.”
The prince paused, as if awaiting a response. All stood staring at the ground. Many were pale.
“Still another affair is known to me, though those who did it are quite sure that it cannot be known to anyone. Its investigation will not proceed on paper, because I myself shall be plaintiff and petitioner and bring forth self-evident proofs.”
Some one among the officials gave a start; certain of the more timorous ones were also disconcerted.
“It goes without saying that the main instigators will be stripped of rank and property; the rest will be removed from their posts. Naturally, many innocent people will suffer among this number. It cannot be helped. The affair is too dishonest and cries out for justice. I know that it will not even be a lesson to others, because to replace those who are thrown out, others will come, and the very people who hitherto were honest will become dishonest, and the very ones who are found worthy of trust will deceive and sell out—but in spite of all that, I must deal cruelly, for justice cries out. I know I shall be accused of harsh cruelty, but I know that those will also . . . [The edge of the page is torn in the manuscript.—Trans.] the same ones will accuse me . . . [The edge of the page is torn in the manuscript.—Trans.] I must now turn myself into a mere instrument of justice, an axe that must fall upon heads.”
A shudder involuntarily passed over all faces.
The prince was calm. His face expressed neither wrath nor inner turmoil.
“Now the same man in whose hands the fate of so many lies, and whom no entreaties can sway, this same man now throws himself at your feet, he pleads with you all. Everything will be forgotten, smoothed over, forgiven; I myself will intercede for you, if you fulfill my request. And my request is this. I know that no methods, no fears, no punishments can eradicate falsity: it is too deeply rooted. The dishonest practice of accepting bribes has become a need and a necessity even for people who were not born to dishonesty. I know that for many it is even no longer possible to go against the general current. But now, as at a decisive and sacred moment, when there is need to save the fatherland, when every citizen brings everything and sacrifices everything—I must call out at least to those in whose breast there beats a Russian heart, and to whom the word ‘nobility’ still means something. Why talk about which of us is more to blame! I am perhaps more to blame than anyone; perhaps I received you too sternly in the beginning; perhaps, by excessive suspiciousness, I repulsed those of you who sincerely wished to be of use to me, though I, for my part, could also reproach them. If they indeed loved justice and the good of their country, they ought not to have been offended by the haughtiness of my treatment, they ought to have suppressed their own ambition and sacrificed themselves. It cannot be that I would have failed to notice their selflessness and lofty love of the good and not finally have accepted their useful and intelligent advice. After all, the subordinate ought rather to adjust to the character of his superior, than the superior to the character of his subordinate. That is at least more rightful, and easier, since the subordinates have one superior, while the superior has hundreds of subordinates. But let us leave aside who is the more to blame. The point is that it is time for us to save our country; that our country is perishing, not now from an invasion of twenty foreign nations, but from ourselves; that beyond the rightful administration, another administration has been formed, much stronger than the rightful one. They have set their own conditions; everything has been evaluated, and the prices have even become common knowledge. And no ruler, be he wiser even than all other lawgivers and rulers, has enough power to correct the evil, however much he may restrict the actions of bad officials by appointing other officials to watch over them. Nothing will be successful until each one of us feels that, just as in the epoch when people took arms and rose up against the enemy, so he must rise up against falsity. As a Russian, as one bound to you by ties of blood, of one and the same blood, I now address you. I address those of you who have at least some notion of what nobility of mind is. I invite you to remember the duty each man faces in any place. I invite you to consider your duty more closely, and the obligation of your earthly service, because we all have only a dim idea of it now, and we hardly . . . [Here the manuscript breaks off.—Trans.]
ABOUT THE TRANSLATORS
Richard Pevear has published translations of Alain, Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Savinio, Pavel Florensky, and Henri Volohonsky, as well as two books of poetry. He has received fellowships or grants for translation from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the French Ministry of Culture. Larissa Volokhonsky was born in Leningrad. She has translated works by the prominent Orthodox theologians Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff into Russian. Together, Pevear and Volokhonsky have translated The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, and Demons, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. They were awarded the PEN Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for their version of The Brothers Karamazov, and more recently Demons was one of three nominees for the same prize. They are married and live in France.
The end of the chapter is missing. In the first edition of the second volume of Dead Souls (1855), there was a note: “Here omitted is the reconciliation of Betrishchev and Tentetnikov; the dinner at the general’s and their conversation about the year ‘twelve; the betrothal of Ulinka and Tentetnikov; her prayer and lament on her mother’s grave; the conversation of the betrothed couple in the garden. Chichikov sets out, at General Betrishchev’s request, to call on his relatives and to inform them of his daughter’s betrothal, and he goes to see one of these relations—Colonel Koshkarev.”—Trans.
Two pages are missing from the manuscript. In them the subject of Khlobuev’s estate, mentioned in what follows, was introduced.—Trans.
 Navarino, or Pylos, is a Greek port in the southwest Peloponnesus on the Ionian Sea where, in 1827, the joint naval forces of Russia, England, and France destroyed the Turkish fleet.
 The Old Believers, called Raskolniki (“schismatics”) in Russian, split off from the Orthodox Church in the mid-seventeenth century, in disagreement with reforms carried out by the patriarch Nikon. Some sects of the Old Believers refused obedience to the civil authorities, claiming that they, like the Church, were under the sway of the Antichrist.
 Voronoy-Dryannoy is a highly implausible last name combining “raven-black” and “trashy.”