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Chapter 10

  • On assembling at the residence indicated, the tchinovniks had occasion t_emark that, owing to all these cares and excitements, every one of thei_umber had grown thinner. Yes, the appointment of a new Governor-General, coupled with the rumours described and the reception of the two seriou_ocuments above-mentioned, had left manifest traces upon the features of ever_ne present. More than one frockcoat had come to look too large for it_earer, and more than one frame had fallen away, including the frames of th_resident of the Council, the Director of the Medical Department, and th_ublic Prosecutor. Even a certain Semen Ivanovitch, who, for some reason o_nother, was never alluded to by his family name, but who wore on his inde_inger a ring with which he was accustomed to dazzle his lady friends, ha_iminished in bulk. Yet, as always happens at such junctures, there were als_resent a score of brazen individuals who had succeeded in NOT losing thei_resence of mind, even though they constituted a mere sprinkling. Of them th_ostmaster formed one, since he was a man of equable temperament who coul_lways say: "WE know you, Governor-Generals! We have seen three or four of yo_ome and go, whereas WE have been sitting on the same stools these thirt_ears." Nevertheless a prominent feature of the gathering was the tota_bsence of what is vulgarly known as "common sense." In general, we Russian_o not make a good show at representative assemblies, for the reason that, unless there be in authority a leading spirit to control the rest, the affai_lways develops into confusion. Why this should be so one could hardly say, but at all events a success is scored only by such gatherings as have fo_heir object dining and festivity—to wit, gatherings at clubs or in German-ru_estaurants. However, on the present occasion, the meeting was NOT one of thi_ind; it was a meeting convoked of necessity, and likely in view of th_hreatened calamity to affect every tchinovnik in the place. Also, in additio_o the great divergency of views expressed thereat, there was visible in al_he speakers an invincible tendency to indecision which led them at one momen_o make assertions, and at the next to contradict the same. But on at leas_ne point all seemed to agree—namely, that Chichikov's appearance an_onversation were too respectable for him to be a forger or a disguise_rigand. That is to say, all SEEMED to agree on the point; until a sudde_hout arose from the direction of the Postmaster, who for some time past ha_een sitting plunged in thought.
  • "_I_ can tell you," he cried, "who Chichikov is!"
  • "Who, then?" replied the crowd in great excitement.
  • "He is none other than Captain Kopeikin."
  • "And who may Captain Kopeikin be?"
  • Taking a pinch of snuff (which he did with the lid of his snuff-box half-open, lest some extraneous person should contrive to insert a not over-clean finge_nto the stuff), the Postmaster related the following story[1].
  • "After fighting in the campaign of 1812, there was sent home, wounded, _ertain Captain Kopeikin—a headstrong, lively blade who, whether on duty o_nder arrest, made things lively for everybody. Now, since at Krasni or a_eipzig (it matters not which) he had lost an arm and a leg, and in those day_o provision was made for wounded soldiers, and he could not work with hi_eft arm alone, he set out to see his father. Unfortunately his father coul_nly just support himself, and was forced to tell his son so; wherefore th_aptain decided to go and apply for help in St. Petersburg, seeing that he ha_isked his life for his country, and had lost much blood in its service. Yo_an imagine him arriving in the capital on a baggage waggon—in the capita_hich is like no other city in the world! Before him there lay spread out th_hole field of life, like a sort of Arabian Nights—a picture made up of th_evski Prospect, Gorokhovaia Street, countless tapering spires, and a numbe_f bridges apparently supported on nothing—in fact, a regular second Nineveh.
  • Well, he made shift to hire a lodging, but found everything so wonderfull_urnished with blinds and Persian carpets and so forth that he saw it woul_ean throwing away a lot of money. True, as one walks the streets of St.
  • Petersburg one seems to smell money by the thousand roubles, but our frien_opeikin's bank was limited to a few score coppers and a little silver—no_nough to buy a village with! At length, at the price of a rouble a day, h_btained a lodging in the sort of tavern where the daily ration is a bowl o_abbage soup and a crust of bread; and as he felt that he could not manage t_ive very long on fare of that kind he asked folk what he had better do. 'Wha_ou had better do?' they said. 'Well the Government is not here—it is i_aris, and the troops have not yet returned from the war; but there is _EMPORARY Commission sitting, and you had better go and see what IT can do fo_ou.' 'All right!' he said. 'I will go and tell the Commission that I hav_hed my blood, and sacrificed my life, for my country.' And he got up earl_ne morning, and shaved himself with his left hand (since the expense of _arber was not worth while), and set out, wooden leg and all, to see th_resident of the Commission. But first he asked where the President lived, an_as told that his house was in Naberezhnaia Street. And you may be sure tha_t was no peasant's hut, with its glazed windows and great mirrors and statue_nd lacqueys and brass door handles! Rather, it was the sort of place whic_ou would enter only after you had bought a cheap cake of soap and indulged i_ two hours' wash. Also, at the entrance there was posted a grand Swis_ootman with a baton and an embroidered collar—a fellow looking like a fat, over-fed pug dog. However, friend Kopeikin managed to get himself and hi_ooden leg into the reception room, and there squeezed himself away into _orner, for fear lest he should knock down the gilded china with his elbow.
  • And he stood waiting in great satisfaction at having arrived before th_resident had so much as left his bed and been served with his silver wash- basin. Nevertheless, it was only when Kopeikin had been waiting four hour_hat a breakfast waiter entered to say, 'The President will soon be here.' B_ow the room was as full of people as a plate is of beans, and when th_resident left the breakfast-room he brought with him, oh, such dignity an_efinement, and such an air of the metropolis! First he walked up to on_erson, and then up to another, saying: 'What do YOU want? And what do YO_ant? What can I do for YOU? What is YOUR business?' And at length he stoppe_efore Kopeikin, and Kopeikin said to him: 'I have shed my blood, and los_oth an arm and a leg, for my country, and am unable to work. Might _herefore dare to ask you for a little help, if the regulations should permi_f it, or for a gratuity, or for a pension, or something of the kind?' The_he President looked at him, and saw that one of his legs was indeed a woode_ne, and that an empty right sleeve was pinned to his uniform. 'Very well,' h_aid. 'Come to me again in a few days' time.' Upon this friend Kopeikin fel_elighted. 'NOW I have done my job!' he thought to himself; and you ma_magine how gaily he trotted along the pavement, and how he dropped into _avern for a glass of vodka, and how he ordered a cutlet and some caper sauc_nd some other things for luncheon, and how he called for a bottle of wine, and how he went to the theatre in the evening! In short, he did himsel_horoughly well. Next, he saw in the street a young English lady, as gracefu_s a swan, and set off after her on his wooden leg. 'But no,' he thought t_imself. 'To the devil with that sort of thing just now! I will wait until _ave drawn my pension. For the present I have spent enough.' (And I may tel_ou that by now he had got through fully half his money.) Two or three day_ater he went to see the President of the Commission again. 'I should be gla_o know,' he said, 'whether by now you can do anything for me in return for m_aving shed my blood and suffered sickness and wounds on military service.'
  • 'First of all,' said the President, 'I must tell you that nothing can b_ecided in your case without the authority of the Supreme Government. Withou_hat sanction we cannot move in the matter. Surely you see how things stan_ntil the army shall have returned from the war? All that I can advise you t_o is wait for the Minister to return, and, in the meanwhile, to hav_atience. Rest assured that then you will not be overlooked. And if for th_oment you have nothing to live upon, this is the best that I can do for you.'
  • With that he handed Kopeikin a trifle until his case should have been decided.
  • However, that was not what Kopeikin wanted. He had supposed that he would b_iven a gratuity of a thousand roubles straight away; whereas, instead of
  • 'Drink and be merry,' it was 'Wait, for the time is not yet.' Thus, though hi_ead had been full of soup plates and cutlets and English girls, he no_escended the steps with his ears and his tail down—looking, in fact, like _oodle over which the cook has poured a bucketful of water. You see, St.
  • Petersburg life had changed him not a little since first he had got a taste o_t, and, now that the devil only knew how he was going to live, it came al_he harder to him that he should have no more sweets to look forward to.
  • Remember that a man in the prime of years has an appetite like a wolf; and a_e passed a restaurant he could see a round-faced, holland-shirted, snow-whit_proned fellow of a French chef preparing a dish delicious enough to make i_urn to and eat itself; while, again, as he passed a fruit shop he could se_elicacies looking out of a window for fools to come and buy them at a hundre_oubles apiece. Imagine, therefore, his position! On the one hand, so t_peak, were salmon and water-melons, while on the other hand was the bitte_are which passed at a tavern for luncheon. 'Well,' he thought to himself,
  • 'let them do what they like with me at the Commission, but I intend to go an_aise the whole place, and to tell every blessed functionary there that I hav_ mind to do as I choose.' And in truth this bold impertinence of a man di_ave the hardihood to return to the Commission. 'What do you want?' said th_resident. 'Why are you here for the third time? You have had your order_iven you.' 'I daresay I have,' he retorted, 'but I am not going to be put of_ith THEM. I want some cutlets to eat, and a bottle of French wine, and _hance to go and amuse myself at the theatre.' 'Pardon me,' said th_resident. 'What you really need (if I may venture to mention it) is a littl_atience. You have been given something for food until the Military Committe_hall have met, and then, doubtless, you will receive your proper reward, seeing that it would not be seemly that a man who has served his countr_hould be left destitute. On the other hand, if, in the meanwhile, you desir_o indulge in cutlets and theatre-going, please understand that we cannot hel_ou, but you must make your own resources, and try as best you can to hel_ourself.' You can imagine that this went in at one of Kopeikin's ears, an_ut at the other; that it was like shooting peas at a stone wall. Accordingl_e raised a turmoil which sent the staff flying. One by one, he gave the mo_f secretaries and clerks a real good hammering. 'You, and you, and you,' h_aid, 'do not even know your duties. You are law-breakers.' Yes, he trod ever_an of them under foot. At length the General himself arrived from anothe_ffice, and sounded the alarm. What was to be done with a fellow lik_opeikin? The President saw that strong measures were imperative. 'Very well,'
  • he said. 'Since you decline to rest satisfied with what has been given you, and quietly to await the decision of your case in St. Petersburg, I must fin_ou a lodging. Here, constable, remove the man to gaol.' Then a constable wh_ad been called to the door—a constable three ells in height, and armed with _arbine—a man well fitted to guard a bank—placed our friend in a polic_aggon. 'Well,' reflected Kopeikin, 'at least I shan't have to pay my fare fo_HIS ride. That's one comfort.' Again, after he had ridden a little way, h_aid to himself: 'they told me at the Commission to go and make my own mean_f enjoying myself. Very good. I'll do so.' However, what became of Kopeikin, and whither he went, is known to no one. He sank, to use the poet'_xpression, into the waters of Lethe, and his doings now lie buried i_blivion. But allow me, gentlemen, to piece together the further threads o_he story. Not two months later there appeared in the forests of Riazan a ban_f robbers: and of that band the chieftain was none other than—"
  • "Allow me," put in the Head of the Police Department. "You have said tha_opeikin had lost an arm and a leg; whereas Chichikov—"
  • To say anything more was unnecessary. The Postmaster clapped his hand to hi_orehead, and publicly called himself a fool, though, later, he tried t_xcuse his mistake by saying that in England the science of mechanics ha_eached such a pitch that wooden legs were manufactured which would enable th_earer, on touching a spring, to vanish instantaneously from sight.
  • Various other theories were then propounded, among them a theory tha_hichikov was Napoleon, escaped from St. Helena and travelling about the worl_n disguise. And if it should be supposed that no such notion could possibl_ave been broached, let the reader remember that these events took place no_any years after the French had been driven out of Russia, and that variou_rophets had since declared that Napoleon was Antichrist, and would one da_scape from his island prison to exercise universal sway on earth. Nay, som_ood folk had even declared the letters of Napoleon's name to constitute th_pocalyptic cipher!
  • As a last resort, the tchinovniks decided to question Nozdrev, since not onl_ad the latter been the first to mention the dead souls, but also he wa_upposed to stand on terms of intimacy with Chichikov. Accordingly the Chie_f Police dispatched a note by the hand of a commissionaire. At the tim_ozdrev was engaged on some very important business—so much so that he had no_eft his room for four days, and was receiving his meals through the window, and no visitors at all. The business referred to consisted of the marking o_everal dozen selected cards in such a way as to permit of his relying upo_hem as upon his bosom friend. Naturally he did not like having his retiremen_nvaded, and at first consigned the commissionaire to the devil; but as soo_s he learnt from the note that, since a novice at cards was to be the gues_f the Chief of Police that evening, a call at the latter's house might prov_ot wholly unprofitable he relented, unlocked the door of his room, threw o_he first garments that came to hand, and set forth. To every question put t_im by the tchinovniks he answered firmly and with assurance. Chichikov, h_verred, had indeed purchased dead souls, and to the tune of several thousan_oubles. In fact, he (Nozdrev) had himself sold him some, and still saw n_eason why he should not have done so. Next, to the question of whether or no_e considered Chichikov to be a spy, he replied in the affirmative, and adde_hat, as long ago as his and Chichikov's joint schooldays, the said Chichiko_ad been known as "The Informer," and repeatedly been thrashed by hi_ompanions on that account. Again, to the question of whether or not Chichiko_as a forger of currency notes the deponent, as before, responded in th_ffirmative, and appended thereto an anecdote illustrative of Chichikov'_xtraordinary dexterity of hand—namely, an anecdote to that effect that, onc_pon a time, on learning that two million roubles worth of counterfeit note_ere lying in Chichikov's house, the authorities had placed seals upon th_uilding, and had surrounded it on every side with an armed guard; whereupo_hichikov had, during the night, changed each of these seals for a new one, and also so arranged matters that, when the house was searched, the forge_otes were found to be genuine ones!
  • Again, to the question of whether or not Chichikov had schemed to abduct th_overnor's daughter, and also whether it was true that he, Nozdrev, ha_ndertaken to aid and abet him in the act, the witness replied that, had h_ot undertaken to do so, the affair would never have come off. At this poin_he witness pulled himself up, on realising that he had told a lie which migh_et him into trouble; but his tongue was not to be denied—the detail_rembling on its tip were too alluring, and he even went on to cite the nam_f the village church where the pair had arranged to be married, that of th_riest who had performed the ceremony, the amount of the fees paid for th_ame (seventy-five roubles), and statements (1) that the priest had refused t_olemnise the wedding until Chichikov had frightened him by threatening t_xpose the fact that he (the priest) had married Mikhail, a local corn dealer, to his paramour, and (2) that Chichikov had ordered both a koliaska for th_ouple's conveyance and relays of horses from the post-houses on the road.
  • Nay, the narrative, as detailed by Nozdrev, even reached the point of hi_entioning certain of the postillions by name! Next, the tchinovniks sounde_im on the question of Chichikov's possible identity with Napoleon; but befor_ong they had reason to regret the step, for Nozdrev responded with a ramblin_igmarole such as bore no resemblance to anything possibly conceivable.
  • Finally, the majority of the audience left the room, and only the Chief o_olice remained to listen (in the hope of gathering something more); but a_ast even he found himself forced to disclaim the speaker with a gesture whic_aid: "The devil only knows what the fellow is talking about!" and so voice_he general opinion that it was no use trying to gather figs of thistles.
  • Meanwhile Chichikov knew nothing of these events; for, having contracted _light chill, coupled with a sore throat, he had decided to keep his room fo_hree days; during which time he gargled his throat with milk and fig juice, consumed the fruit from which the juice had been extracted, and wore aroun_is neck a poultice of camomile and camphor. Also, to while away the hours, h_ade new and more detailed lists of the souls which he had bought, perused _ork by the Duchesse de la Valliere[2], rummaged in his portmanteau, looke_hrough various articles and papers which he discovered in his dispatch-box, and found every one of these occupations tedious. Nor could he understand wh_one of his official friends had come to see him and inquire after his health, seeing that, not long since, there had been standing in front of the inn th_rozhkis both of the Postmaster, the Public Prosecutor, and the President o_he Council. He wondered and wondered, and then, with a shrug of hi_houlders, fell to pacing the room. At length he felt better, and his spirit_ose at the prospect of once more going out into the fresh air; wherefore, having shaved a plentiful growth of hair from his face, he dressed with suc_lacrity as almost to cause a split in his trousers, sprinkled himself wit_au-de-Cologne, and wrapping himself in warm clothes, and turning up th_ollar of his coat, sallied forth into the street. His first destination wa_ntended to be the Governor's mansion, and, as he walked along, certai_houghts concerning the Governor's daughter would keep whirling through hi_ead, so that almost he forgot where he was, and took to smiling and crackin_okes to himself.
  • Arrived at the Governor's entrance, he was about to divest himself of hi_carf when a Swiss footman greeted him with the words, "I am forbidden t_dmit you."
  • "What?" he exclaimed. "You do not know me? Look at me again, and see if you d_ot recognise me."
  • "Of course I recognise you," the footman replied. "I have seen you before, bu_ave been ordered to admit any one else rather than Monsieur Chichikov."
  • "Indeed? And why so?"
  • "Those are my orders, and they must be obeyed," said the footman, confrontin_hichikov with none of that politeness with which, on former occasions, he ha_astened to divest our hero of his wrappings. Evidently he was of opinio_hat, since the gentry declined to receive the visitor, the latter mus_ertainly be a rogue.
  • "I cannot understand it," said Chichikov to himself. Then he departed, an_ade his way to the house of the President of the Council. But so put abou_as that official by Chichikov's entry that he could not utter two consecutiv_ords—he could only murmur some rubbish which left both his visitor an_imself out of countenance. Chichikov wondered, as he left the house, what th_resident's muttered words could have meant, but failed to make head or tai_f them. Next, he visited, in turn, the Chief of Police, the Vice-Governor, the Postmaster, and others; but in each case he either failed to be accorde_dmittance or was received so strangely, and with such a measure of constrain_nd conversational awkwardness and absence of mind and embarrassment, that h_egan to fear for the sanity of his hosts. Again and again did he strive t_ivine the cause, but could not do so; so he went wandering aimlessly abou_he town, without succeeding in making up his mind whether he or the official_ad gone crazy. At length, in a state bordering upon bewilderment, he returne_o the inn—to the establishment whence, that every afternoon, he had set fort_n such exuberance of spirits. Feeling the need of something to do, he ordere_ea, and, still marvelling at the strangeness of his position, was about t_our out the beverage when the door opened and Nozdrev made his appearance.
  • "What says the proverb?" he began. "'To see a friend, seven versts is not to_ong a round to make.' I happened to be passing the house, saw a light in you_indow, and thought to myself: 'Now, suppose I were to run up and pay him _isit? It is unlikely that he will be asleep.' Ah, ha! I see tea on you_able! Good! Then I will drink a cup with you, for I had wretched stuff fo_inner, and it is beginning to lie heavy on my stomach. Also, tell your man t_ill me a pipe. Where is your own pipe?"
  • "I never smoke," rejoined Chichikov drily.
  • "Rubbish! As if I did not know what a chimney-pot you are! What is your man'_ame? Hi, Vakhramei! Come here!"
  • "Petrushka is his name, not Vakhramei."
  • "Indeed? But you USED to have a man called Vakhramei, didn't you?"
  • "No, never."
  • "Oh, well. Then it must be Derebin's man I am thinking of. What a lucky fello_hat Derebin is! An aunt of his has gone and quarrelled with her son fo_arrying a serf woman, and has left all her property to HIM, to Derebin. Woul_hat _I_ had an aunt of that kind to provide against future contingencies! Bu_hy have you been hiding yourself away? I suppose the reason has been that yo_o in for abstruse subjects and are fond of reading" (why Nozdrev should hav_rawn these conclusions no one could possibly have said—least of all Chichiko_imself). "By the way, I can tell you of something that would have found yo_cope for your satirical vein" (the conclusion as to Chichikov's "satirica_ein" was, as before, altogether unwarranted on Nozdrev's part). "That is t_ay, you would have seen merchant Likhachev losing a pile of money at play. M_ord, you would have laughed! A fellow with me named Perependev said: 'Woul_hat Chichikov had been here! It would have been the very thing for him!'" (A_ matter of fact, never since the day of his birth had Nozdrev met any one o_he name of Perependev.) "However, my friend, you must admit that you treate_e rather badly the day that we played that game of chess; but, as I won th_ame, I bear you no malice. A propos, I am just from the President's, an_ught to tell you that the feeling against you in the town is very strong, fo_very one believes you to be a forger of currency notes. I myself was sent fo_nd questioned about you, but I stuck up for you through thick and thin, an_old the tchinovniks that I had been at school with you, and had known you_ather. In fact, I gave the fellows a knock or two for themselves."
  • "You say that I am believed to be a forger?" said Chichikov, starting from hi_eat.
  • "Yes," said Nozdrev. "Why have you gone and frightened everybody as you hav_one? Some of our folk are almost out of their minds about it, and declare yo_o be either a brigand in disguise or a spy. Yesterday the Public Prosecuto_ven died of it, and is to be buried to-morrow" (this was true in so far a_hat, on the previous day, the official in question had had a fata_troke—probably induced by the excitement of the public meeting). "Of course, _I_ don't suppose you to be anything of the kind, but, you see, these fellow_re in a blue funk about the new Governor-General, for they think he will mak_rouble for them over your affair. A propos, he is believed to be a man wh_uts on airs, and turns up his nose at everything; and if so, he will get o_adly with the dvoriane, seeing that fellows of that sort need to be humoure_ bit. Yes, my word! Should the new Governor-General shut himself up in hi_tudy, and give no balls, there will be the very devil to pay! By the way, Chichikov, that is a risky scheme of yours."
  • "What scheme to you mean?" Chichikov asked uneasily.
  • "Why, that scheme of carrying off the Governor's daughter. However, to tel_he truth, I was expecting something of the kind. No sooner did I see you an_er together at the ball than I said to myself: 'Ah, ha! Chichikov is not her_or nothing!' For my own part, I think you have made a poor choice, for I ca_ee nothing in her at all. On the other hand, the niece of a friend of min_amed Bikusov—she IS a girl, and no mistake! A regular what you might call
  • 'miracle in muslin!'"
  • "What on earth are you talking about?" asked Chichikov with his eye_istended. "HOW could I carry off the Governor's daughter? What on earth d_ou mean?"
  • "Come, come! What a secretive fellow you are! My only object in having come t_ee you is to lend you a helping hand in the matter. Look here. On conditio_hat you will lend me three thousand roubles, I will stand you the cost of th_edding, the koliaska, and the relays of horses. I must have the money even i_ die for it."
  • Throughout Nozdrev's maunderings Chichikov had been rubbing his eyes t_scertain whether or not he was dreaming. What with the charge of being _orger, the accusation of having schemed an abduction, the death of the Publi_rosecutor (whatever might have been its cause), and the advent of a ne_overnor-General, he felt utterly dismayed.
  • "Things having come to their present pass," he reflected, "I had better no_inger here—I had better be off at once."
  • Getting rid of Nozdrev as soon as he could, he sent for Selifan, and ordere_im to be up at daybreak, in order to clean the britchka and to hav_verything ready for a start at six o'clock. Yet, though Selifan replied,
  • "Very well, Paul Ivanovitch," he hesitated awhile by the door. Next, Chichiko_id Petrushka get out the dusty portmanteau from under the bed, and then se_o work to cram into it, pell-mell, socks, shirts, collars (both clean an_irty), boot trees, a calendar, and a variety of other articles. Everythin_ent into the receptacle just as it came to hand, since his one object was t_bviate any possible delay in the morning's departure. Meanwhile the reluctan_elifan slowly, very slowly, left the room, as slowly descended the staircase (on each separate step of which he left a muddy foot-print), and, finally, halted to scratch his head. What that scratching may have meant no one coul_ay; for, with the Russian populace, such a scratching may mean any one of _undred things.