Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol

Chapter VI

Chichikov’s amusement at the peasant’s outburst prevented him from noticing that he had reached the centre of a large and populous village; but, presently, a violent jolt aroused him to the fact that he was driving over wooden pavements of a kind compared with which the cobblestones of the town had been as nothing. Like the keys of a piano, the planks kept rising and falling, and unguarded passage over them entailed either a bump on the back of the neck or a bruise on the forehead or a bite on the tip of one’s tongue. At the same time Chichikov noticed a look of decay about the buildings of the village. The beams of the huts had grown dark with age, many of their roofs were riddled with holes, others had but a tile of the roof remaining, and yet others were reduced to the rib-like framework of the same. It would seem as though the inhabitants themselves had removed the laths and traverses, on the very natural plea that the huts were no protection against the rain, and therefore, since the latter entered in bucketfuls, there was no particular object to be gained by sitting in such huts when all the time there was the tavern and the highroad and other places to resort to.

Suddenly a woman appeared from an outbuilding — apparently the housekeeper of the mansion, but so roughly and dirtily dressed as almost to seem indistinguishable from a man. Chichikov inquired for the master of the place.

“He is not at home,” she replied, almost before her interlocutor had had time to finish. Then she added: “What do you want with him?”

“I have some business to do,” said Chichikov.

“Then pray walk into the house,” the woman advised. Then she turned upon him a back that was smeared with flour and had a long slit in the lower portion of its covering. Entering a large, dark hall which reeked like a tomb, he passed into an equally dark parlour that was lighted only by such rays as contrived to filter through a crack under the door. When Chichikov opened the door in question, the spectacle of the untidiness within struck him almost with amazement. It would seem that the floor was never washed, and that the room was used as a receptacle for every conceivable kind of furniture. On a table stood a ragged chair, with, beside it, a clock minus a pendulum and covered all over with cobwebs. Against a wall leant a cupboard, full of old silver, glassware, and china. On a writing table, inlaid with mother-of-pearl which, in places, had broken away and left behind it a number of yellow grooves (stuffed with putty), lay a pile of finely written manuscript, an overturned marble press (turning green), an ancient book in a leather cover with red edges, a lemon dried and shrunken to the dimensions of a hazelnut, the broken arm of a chair, a tumbler containing the dregs of some liquid and three flies (the whole covered over with a sheet of notepaper), a pile of rags, two ink-encrusted pens, and a yellow toothpick with which the master of the house had picked his teeth (apparently) at least before the coming of the French to Moscow. As for the walls, they were hung with a medley of pictures. Among the latter was a long engraving of a battle scene, wherein soldiers in three-cornered hats were brandishing huge drums and slender lances. It lacked a glass, and was set in a frame ornamented with bronze fretwork and bronze corner rings. Beside it hung a huge, grimy oil painting representative of some flowers and fruit, half a water melon, a boar’s head, and the pendent form of a dead wild duck. Attached to the ceiling there was a chandelier in a holland covering — the covering so dusty as closely to resemble a huge cocoon enclosing a caterpillar. Lastly, in one corner of the room lay a pile of articles which had evidently been adjudged unworthy of a place on the table. Yet what the pile consisted of it would have been difficult to say, seeing that the dust on the same was so thick that any hand which touched it would have at once resembled a glove. Prominently protruding from the pile was the shaft of a wooden spade and the antiquated sole of a shoe. Never would one have supposed that a living creature had tenanted the room, were it not that the presence of such a creature was betrayed by the spectacle of an old nightcap resting on the table.

Whilst Chichikov was gazing at this extraordinary mess, a side door opened and there entered the housekeeper who had met him near the outbuildings. But now Chichikov perceived this person to be a man rather than a woman, since a female housekeeper would have had no beard to shave, whereas the chin of the newcomer, with the lower portion of his cheeks, strongly resembled the curry-comb which is used for grooming horses. Chichikov assumed a questioning air, and waited to hear what the housekeeper might have to say. The housekeeper did the same. At length, surprised at the misunderstanding, Chichikov decided to ask the first question.

“Is the master at home?” he inquired.

“Yes,” replied the person addressed.

“Then were is he?” continued Chichikov.

“Are you blind, my good sir?” retorted the other. “I am the master.”

Involuntarily our hero started and stared. During his travels it had befallen him to meet various types of men — some of them, it may be, types which you and I have never encountered; but even to Chichikov this particular species was new. In the old man’s face there was nothing very special — it was much like the wizened face of many another dotard, save that the chin was so greatly projected that whenever he spoke he was forced to wipe it with a handkerchief to avoid dribbling, and that his small eyes were not yet grown dull, but twinkled under their overhanging brows like the eyes of mice when, with attentive ears and sensitive whiskers, they snuff the air and peer forth from their holes to see whether a cat or a boy may not be in the vicinity. No, the most noticeable feature about the man was his clothes. In no way could it have been guessed of what his coat was made, for both its sleeves and its skirts were so ragged and filthy as to defy description, while instead of two posterior tails, there dangled four of those appendages, with, projecting from them, a torn newspaper. Also, around his neck there was wrapped something which might have been a stocking, a garter, or a stomacher, but was certainly not a tie. In short, had Chichikov chanced to encounter him at a church door, he would have bestowed upon him a copper or two (for, to do our hero justice, he had a sympathetic heart and never refrained from presenting a beggar with alms), but in the present case there was standing before him, not a mendicant, but a landowner — and a landowner possessed of fully a thousand serfs, the superior of all his neighbours in wealth of flour and grain, and the owner of storehouses, and so forth, that were crammed with homespun cloth and linen, tanned and undressed sheepskins, dried fish, and every conceivable species of produce. Nevertheless, such a phenomenon is rare in Russia, where the tendency is rather to prodigality than to parsimony.

For several minutes Plushkin stood mute, while Chichikov remained so dazed with the appearance of the host and everything else in the room, that he too, could not begin a conversation, but stood wondering how best to find words in which to explain the object of his visit. For a while he thought of expressing himself to the effect that, having heard so much of his host’s benevolence and other rare qualities of spirit, he had considered it his duty to come and pay a tribute of respect; but presently even HE came to the conclusion that this would be overdoing the thing, and, after another glance round the room, decided that the phrase “benevolence and other rare qualities of spirit” might to advantage give place to “economy and genius for method.” Accordingly, the speech mentally composed, he said aloud that, having heard of Plushkin’s talents for thrifty and systematic management, he had considered himself bound to make the acquaintance of his host, and to present him with his personal compliments (I need hardly say that Chichikov could easily have alleged a better reason, had any better one happened, at the moment, to have come into his head).

With toothless gums Plushkin murmured something in reply, but nothing is known as to its precise terms beyond that it included a statement that the devil was at liberty to fly away with Chichikov’s sentiments. However, the laws of Russian hospitality do not permit even of a miser infringing their rules; wherefore Plushkin added to the foregoing a more civil invitation to be seated.

“It is long since I last received a visitor,” he went on. “Also, I feel bound to say that I can see little good in their coming. Once introduce the abominable custom of folk paying calls, and forthwith there will ensue such ruin to the management of estates that landowners will be forced to feed their horses on hay. Not for a long, long time have I eaten a meal away from home — although my own kitchen is a poor one, and has its chimney in such a state that, were it to become overheated, it would instantly catch fire.”

“What a brute!” thought Chichikov. “I am lucky to have got through so much pastry and stuffed shoulder of mutton at Sobakevitch’s!”

“Also,” went on Plushkin, “I am ashamed to say that hardly a wisp of fodder does the place contain. But how can I get fodder? My lands are small, and the peasantry lazy fellows who hate work and think of nothing but the tavern. In the end, therefore, I shall be forced to go and spend my old age in roaming about the world.”

“But I have been told that you possess over a thousand serfs?” said Chichikov.

“Who told you that? No matter who it was, you would have been justified in giving him the lie. He must have been a jester who wanted to make a fool of you. A thousand souls, indeed! Why, just reckon the taxes on them, and see what there would be left! For these three years that accursed fever has been killing off my serfs wholesale.”

“Wholesale, you say?” echoed Chichikov, greatly interested.

“Yes, wholesale,” replied the old man.

“Then might I ask you the exact number?”

“Fully eighty.”

“Surely not?”

“But it is so.”

“Then might I also ask whether it is from the date of the last census revision that you are reckoning these souls?”

“Yes, damn it! And since that date I have been bled for taxes upon a hundred and twenty souls in all.”

“Indeed? Upon a hundred and twenty souls in all!” And Chichikov’s surprise and elation were such that, this said, he remained sitting open-mouthed.

“Yes, good sir,” replied Plushkin. “I am too old to tell you lies, for I have passed my seventieth year.”

Somehow he seemed to have taken offence at Chichikov’s almost joyous exclamation; wherefore the guest hastened to heave a profound sigh, and to observe that he sympathised to the full with his host’s misfortunes.

“But sympathy does not put anything into one’s pocket,” retorted Plushkin. “For instance, I have a kinsman who is constantly plaguing me. He is a captain in the army, damn him, and all day he does nothing but call me ‘dear uncle,’ and kiss my hand, and express sympathy until I am forced to stop my ears. You see, he has squandered all his money upon his brother-officers, as well as made a fool of himself with an actress; so now he spends his time in telling me that he has a sympathetic heart!”

Chichikov hastened to explain that HIS sympathy had nothing in common with the captain’s, since he dealt, not in empty words alone, but in actual deeds; in proof of which he was ready then and there (for the purpose of cutting the matter short, and of dispensing with circumlocution) to transfer to himself the obligation of paying the taxes due upon such serfs as Plushkin’s as had, in the unfortunate manner just described, departed this world. The proposal seemed to astonish Plushkin, for he sat staring open-eyed. At length he inquired:

“My dear sir, have you seen military service?”

“No,” replied the other warily, “but I have been a member of the CIVIL Service.”

“Oh! Of the CIVIL Service?” And Plushkin sat moving his lips as though he were chewing something. “Well, what of your proposal?” he added presently. “Are you prepared to lose by it?”

“Yes, certainly, if thereby I can please you.”

“My dear sir! My good benefactor!” In his delight Plushkin lost sight of the fact that his nose was caked with snuff of the consistency of thick coffee, and that his coat had parted in front and was disclosing some very unseemly underclothing. “What comfort you have brought to an old man! Yes, as God is my witness!”

For the moment he could say no more. Yet barely a minute had elapsed before this instantaneously aroused emotion had, as instantaneously, disappeared from his wooden features. Once more they assumed a careworn expression, and he even wiped his face with his handkerchief, then rolled it into a ball, and rubbed it to and fro against his upper lip.

“If it will not annoy you again to state the proposal,” he went on, “what you undertake to do is to pay the annual tax upon these souls, and to remit the money either to me or to the Treasury?”

“Yes, that is how it shall be done. We will draw up a deed of purchase as though the souls were still alive and you had sold them to myself.”

“Quite so — a deed of purchase,” echoed Plushkin, once more relapsing into thought and the chewing motion of the lips. “But a deed of such a kind will entail certain expenses, and lawyers are so devoid of conscience! In fact, so extortionate is their avarice that they will charge one half a rouble, and then a sack of flour, and then a whole waggon-load of meal. I wonder that no one has yet called attention to the system.”

Upon that Chichikov intimated that, out of respect for his host, he himself would bear the cost of the transfer of souls. This led Plushkin to conclude that his guest must be the kind of unconscionable fool who, while pretending to have been a member of the Civil Service, has in reality served in the army and run after actresses; wherefore the old man no longer disguised his delight, but called down blessings alike upon Chichikov’s head and upon those of his children (he had never even inquired whether Chichikov possessed a family). Next, he shuffled to the window, and, tapping one of its panes, shouted the name of “Proshka.” Immediately some one ran quickly into the hall, and, after much stamping of feet, burst into the room. This was Proshka — a thirteen-year-old youngster who was shod with boots of such dimensions as almost to engulf his legs as he walked. The reason why he had entered thus shod was that Plushkin only kept one pair of boots for the whole of his domestic staff. This universal pair was stationed in the hall of the mansion, so that any servant who was summoned to the house might don the said boots after wading barefooted through the mud of the courtyard, and enter the parlour dry-shod — subsequently leaving the boots where he had found them, and departing in his former barefooted condition. Indeed, had any one, on a slushy winter’s morning, glanced from a window into the said courtyard, he would have seen Plushkin’s servitors performing saltatory feats worthy of the most vigorous of stage-dancers.

“Look at that boy’s face!” said Plushkin to Chichikov as he pointed to Proshka. “It is stupid enough, yet, lay anything aside, and in a trice he will have stolen it. Well, my lad, what do you want?”

He paused a moment or two, but Proshka made no reply.

“Come, come!” went on the old man. “Set out the samovar, and then give Mavra the key of the store-room — here it is — and tell her to get out some loaf sugar for tea. Here! Wait another moment, fool! Is the devil in your legs that they itch so to be off? Listen to what more I have to tell you. Tell Mavra that the sugar on the outside of the loaf has gone bad, so that she must scrape it off with a knife, and NOT throw away the scrapings, but give them to the poultry. Also, see that you yourself don’t go into the storeroom, or I will give you a birching that you won’t care for. Your appetite is good enough already, but a better one won’t hurt you. Don’t even TRY to go into the storeroom, for I shall be watching you from this window.”

“You see,” the old man added to Chichikov, “one can never trust these fellows.” Presently, when Proshka and the boots had departed, he fell to gazing at his guest with an equally distrustful air, since certain features in Chichikov’s benevolence now struck him as a little open to question, and he had begin to think to himself: “After all, the devil only knows who he is — whether a braggart, like most of these spendthrifts, or a fellow who is lying merely in order to get some tea out of me.” Finally, his circumspection, combined with a desire to test his guest, led him to remark that it might be well to complete the transaction IMMEDIATELY, since he had not overmuch confidence in humanity, seeing that a man might be alive to-day and dead to-morrow.

To this Chichikov assented readily enough — merely adding that he should like first of all to be furnished with a list of the dead souls. This reassured Plushkin as to his guest’s intention of doing business, so he got out his keys, approached a cupboard, and, having pulled back the door, rummaged among the cups and glasses with which it was filled. At length he said:

“I cannot find it now, but I used to possess a splendid bottle of liquor. Probably the servants have drunk it all, for they are such thieves. Oh no: perhaps this is it!”

Looking up, Chichikov saw that Plushkin had extracted a decanter coated with dust.

“My late wife made the stuff,” went on the old man, “but that rascal of a housekeeper went and threw away a lot of it, and never even replaced the stopper. Consequently bugs and other nasty creatures got into the decanter, but I cleaned it out, and now beg to offer you a glassful.”

The idea of a drink from such a receptacle was too much for Chichikov, so he excused himself on the ground that he had just had luncheon.

“You have just had luncheon?” re-echoed Plushkin. “Now, THAT shows how invariably one can tell a man of good society, wheresoever one may be. A man of that kind never eats anything — he always says that he has had enough. Very different that from the ways of a rogue, whom one can never satisfy, however much one may give him. For instance, that captain of mine is constantly begging me to let him have a meal — though he is about as much my nephew as I am his grandfather. As it happens, there is never a bite of anything in the house, so he has to go away empty. But about the list of those good-for-nothing souls — I happen to possess such a list, since I have drawn one up in readiness for the next revision.”

With that Plushkin donned his spectacles, and once more started to rummage in the cupboard, and to smother his guest with dust as he untied successive packages of papers — so much so that his victim burst out sneezing. Finally he extracted a much-scribbled document in which the names of the deceased peasants lay as close-packed as a cloud of midges, for there were a hundred and twenty of them in all. Chichikov grinned with joy at the sight of the multitude. Stuffing the list into his pocket, he remarked that, to complete the transaction, it would be necessary to return to the town.

“To the town?” repeated Plushkin. “But why? Moreover, how could I leave the house, seeing that every one of my servants is either a thief or a rogue? Day by day they pilfer things, until soon I shall have not a single coat to hang on my back.”

“Then you possess acquaintances in the town?”

“Acquaintances? No. Every acquaintance whom I ever possessed has either left me or is dead. But stop a moment. I DO know the President of the Council. Even in my old age he has once or twice come to visit me, for he and I used to be schoolfellows, and to go climbing walls together. Yes, him I do know. Shall I write him a letter?”

“By all means.”

“Yes, him I know well, for we were friends together at school.”

Over Plushkin’s wooden features there had gleamed a ray of warmth — a ray which expressed, if not feeling, at all events feeling’s pale reflection. Just such a phenomenon may be witnessed when, for a brief moment, a drowning man makes a last re-appearance on the surface of a river, and there rises from the crowd lining the banks a cry of hope that even yet the exhausted hands may clutch the rope which has been thrown him — may clutch it before the surface of the unstable element shall have resumed for ever its calm, dread vacuity. But the hope is short-lived, and the hands disappear. Even so did Plushkin’s face, after its momentary manifestation of feeling, become meaner and more insensible than ever.

“There used to be a sheet of clean writing paper lying on the table,” he went on. “But where it is now I cannot think. That comes of my servants being such rascals.”

Whit that he fell to looking also under the table, as well as to hurrying about with cries of “Mavra, Mavra!” At length the call was answered by a woman with a plateful of the sugar of which mention has been made; whereupon there ensued the following conversation.

“What have you done with my piece of writing paper, you pilferer?”

“I swear that I have seen no paper except the bit with which you covered the glass.”

“Your very face tells me that you have made off with it.”

“Why should I make off with it? ‘Twould be of no use to me, for I can neither read nor write.”

“You lie! You have taken it away for the sexton to scribble upon.”

“Well, if the sexton wanted paper he could get some for himself. Neither he nor I have set eyes upon your piece.”

“Ah! Wait a bit, for on the Judgment Day you will be roasted by devils on iron spits. Just see if you are not!”

“But why should I be roasted when I have never even TOUCHED the paper? You might accuse me of any other fault than theft.”

“Nay, devils shall roast you, sure enough. They will say to you, ‘Bad woman, we are doing this because you robbed your master,’ and then stoke up the fire still hotter.”

“Nevertheless I shall continue to say, ‘You are roasting me for nothing, for I never stole anything at all.’ Why, THERE it is, lying on the table! You have been accusing me for no reason whatever!”

And, sure enough, the sheet of paper was lying before Plushkin’s very eyes. For a moment or two he chewed silently. Then he went on:

“Well, and what are you making such a noise about? If one says a single word to you, you answer back with ten. Go and fetch me a candle to seal a letter with. And mind you bring a TALLOW candle, for it will not cost so much as the other sort. And bring me a match too.”

Mavra departed, and Plushkin, seating himself, and taking up a pen, sat turning the sheet of paper over and over, as though in doubt whether to tear from it yet another morsel. At length he came to the conclusion that it was impossible to do so, and therefore, dipping the pen into the mixture of mouldy fluid and dead flies which the ink bottle contained, started to indite the letter in characters as bold as the notes of a music score, while momentarily checking the speed of his hand, lest it should meander too much over the paper, and crawling from line to line as though he regretted that there was so little vacant space left on the sheet.

“And do you happen to know any one to whom a few runaway serfs would be of use?” he asked as subsequently he folded the letter.

“What? You have some runaways as well?” exclaimed Chichikov, again greatly interested.

“Certainly I have. My son-in-law has laid the necessary information against them, but says that their tracks have grown cold. However, he is only a military man — that is to say, good at clinking a pair of spurs, but of no use for laying a plea before a court.”

“And how many runaways have you?”

“About seventy.”

“Surely not?”

“Alas, yes. Never does a year pass without a certain number of them making off. Yet so gluttonous and idle are my serfs that they are simply bursting with food, whereas I scarcely get enough to eat. I will take any price for them that you may care to offer. Tell your friends about it, and, should they find even a score of the runaways, it will repay them handsomely, seeing that a living serf on the census list is at present worth five hundred roubles.”

“Perhaps so, but I am not going to let any one but myself have a finger in this,” thought Chichikov to himself; after which he explained to Plushkin that a friend of the kind mentioned would be impossible to discover, since the legal expenses of the enterprise would lead to the said friend having to cut the very tail from his coat before he would get clear of the lawyers.

“Nevertheless,” added Chichikov, “seeing that you are so hard pressed for money, and that I am so interested in the matter, I feel moved to advance you — well, to advance you such a trifle as would scarcely be worth mentioning.”

“But how much is it?” asked Plushkin eagerly, and with his hands trembling like quicksilver.

“Twenty-five kopecks per soul.”

“What? In ready money?”

“Yes — in money down.”

“Nevertheless, consider my poverty, dear friend, and make it FORTY kopecks per soul.”

“Venerable sir, would that I could pay you not merely forty kopecks, but five hundred roubles. I should be only too delighted if that were possible, since I perceive that you, an aged and respected gentleman, are suffering for your own goodness of heart.”

“By God, that is true, that is true.” Plushkin hung his head, and wagged it feebly from side to side. “Yes, all that I have done I have done purely out of kindness.”

“See how instantaneously I have divined your nature! By now it will have become clear to you why it is impossible for me to pay you five hundred roubles per runaway soul: for by now you will have gathered the fact that I am not sufficiently rich. Nevertheless, I am ready to add another five kopecks, and so to make it that each runaway serf shall cost me, in all, thirty kopecks.”

“As you please, dear sir. Yet stretch another point, and throw in another two kopecks.”

“Pardon me, but I cannot. How many runaway serfs did you say that you possess? Seventy?”

“No; seventy-eight.”

“Seventy-eight souls at thirty kopecks each will amount to — to —” only for a moment did our hero halt, since he was strong in his arithmetic, “— will amount to twenty-four roubles, ninety-six kopecks.”28

28 Nevertheless Chichikov would appear to have erred, since most people would make the sum amount to twenty-three roubles, forty kopecks. If so, Chichikov cheated himself of one rouble, fifty-six kopecks.

With that he requested Plushkin to make out the receipt, and then handed him the money. Plushkin took it in both hands, bore it to a bureau with as much caution as though he were carrying a liquid which might at any moment splash him in the face, and, arrived at the bureau, and glancing round once more, carefully packed the cash in one of his money bags, where, doubtless, it was destined to lie buried until, to the intense joy of his daughters and his son-in-law (and, perhaps, of the captain who claimed kinship with him), he should himself receive burial at the hands of Fathers Carp and Polycarp, the two priests attached to his village. Lastly, the money concealed, Plushkin re-seated himself in the armchair, and seemed at a loss for further material for conversation.

“Are you thinking of starting?” at length he inquired, on seeing Chichikov making a trifling movement, though the movement was only to extract from his pocket a handkerchief. Nevertheless the question reminded Chichikov that there was no further excuse for lingering.

“Yes, I must be going,” he said as he took his hat.

“Then what about the tea?”

“Thank you, I will have some on my next visit.”

“What? Even though I have just ordered the samovar to be got ready? Well, well! I myself do not greatly care for tea, for I think it an expensive beverage. Moreover, the price of sugar has risen terribly.”

“Proshka!” he then shouted. “The samovar will not be needed. Return the sugar to Mavra, and tell her to put it back again. But no. Bring the sugar here, and I will put it back.”

“Good-bye, dear sir,” finally he added to Chichikov. “May the Lord bless you! Hand that letter to the President of the Council, and let him read it. Yes, he is an old friend of mine. We knew one another as schoolfellows.”

With that this strange phenomenon, this withered old man, escorted his guest to the gates of the courtyard, and, after the guest had departed, ordered the gates to be closed, made the round of the outbuildings for the purpose of ascertaining whether the numerous watchmen were at their posts, peered into the kitchen (where, under the pretence of seeing whether his servants were being properly fed, he made a light meal of cabbage soup and gruel), rated the said servants soundly for their thievishness and general bad behaviour, and then returned to his room. Meditating in solitude, he fell to thinking how best he could contrive to recompense his guest for the latter’s measureless benevolence. “I will present him,” he thought to himself, “with a watch. It is a good silver article — not one of those cheap metal affairs; and though it has suffered some damage, he can easily get that put right. A young man always needs to give a watch to his betrothed.”

“No,” he added after further thought. “I will leave him the watch in my will, as a keepsake.”

Meanwhile our hero was bowling along in high spirit. Such an unexpected acquisition both of dead souls and of runaway serfs had come as a windfall. Even before reaching Plushkin’s village he had had a presentiment that he would do successful business there, but not business of such pre-eminent profitableness as had actually resulted. As he proceeded he whistled, hummed with hand placed trumpetwise to his mouth, and ended by bursting into a burst of melody so striking that Selifan, after listening for a while, nodded his head and exclaimed, “My word, but the master CAN sing!”

By the time they reached the town darkness had fallen, and changed the character of the scene. The britchka bounded over the cobblestones, and at length turned into the hostelry’s courtyard, where the travellers were met by Petrushka. With one hand holding back the tails of his coat (which he never liked to see fly apart), the valet assisted his master to alight. The waiter ran out with candle in hand and napkin on shoulder. Whether or not Petrushka was glad to see the barin return it is impossible to say, but at all events he exchanged a wink with Selifan, and his ordinarily morose exterior seemed momentarily to brighten.

“Then you have been travelling far, sir?” said the waiter, as he lit the way upstarts.

“Yes,” said Chichikov. “What has happened here in the meanwhile?”

“Nothing, sir,” replied the waiter, bowing, “except that last night there arrived a military lieutenant. He has got room number sixteen.”

“A lieutenant?”

“Yes. He came from Riazan, driving three grey horses.”

On entering his room, Chichikov clapped his hand to his nose, and asked his valet why he had never had the windows opened.

“But I did have them opened,” replied Petrushka. Nevertheless this was a lie, as Chichikov well knew, though he was too tired to contest the point. After ordering and consuming a light supper of sucking pig, he undressed, plunged beneath the bedclothes, and sank into the profound slumber which comes only to such fortunate folk as are troubled neither with mosquitoes nor fleas nor excessive activity of brain.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37