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Chapter 2

  • For more than two weeks the visitor lived amid a round of evening parties an_inners; wherefore he spent (as the saying goes) a very pleasant time. Finall_e decided to extend his visits beyond the urban boundaries by going an_alling upon landowners Manilov and Sobakevitch, seeing that he had promise_n his honour to do so. Yet what really incited him to this may have been _ore essential cause, a matter of greater gravity, a purpose which stoo_earer to his heart, than the motive which I have just given; and of tha_urpose the reader will learn if only he will have the patience to read thi_refatory narrative (which, lengthy though it be, may yet develop and expan_n proportion as we approach the denouement with which the present work i_estined to be crowned).
  • One evening, therefore, Selifan the coachman received orders to have th_orses harnessed in good time next morning; while Petrushka received orders t_emain behind, for the purpose of looking after the portmanteau and the room.
  • In passing, the reader may care to become more fully acquainted with the tw_erving-men of whom I have spoken. Naturally, they were not persons of muc_ote, but merely what folk call characters of secondary, or even of tertiary, importance. Yet, despite the fact that the springs and the thread of thi_omance will not DEPEND upon them, but only touch upon them, and occasionall_nclude them, the author has a passion for circumstantiality, and, like th_verage Russian, such a desire for accuracy as even a German could not rival.
  • To what the reader already knows concerning the personages in hand it i_herefore necessary to add that Petrushka usually wore a cast-off brown jacke_f a size too large for him, as also that he had (according to the custom o_ndividuals of his calling) a pair of thick lips and a very prominent nose. I_emperament he was taciturn rather than loquacious, and he cherished _earning for self-education. That is to say, he loved to read books, eve_hough their contents came alike to him whether they were books of heroi_dventure or mere grammars or liturgical compendia. As I say, he perused ever_ook with an equal amount of attention, and, had he been offered a work o_hemistry, would have accepted that also. Not the words which he read, but th_ere solace derived from the act of reading, was what especially pleased hi_ind; even though at any moment there might launch itself from the page som_evil-sent word whereof he could make neither head nor tail. For the mos_art, his task of reading was performed in a recumbent position in th_nteroom; which circumstance ended by causing his mattress to become as ragge_nd as thin as a wafer. In addition to his love of poring over books, he coul_oast of two habits which constituted two other essential features of hi_haracter—namely, a habit of retiring to rest in his clothes (that is to say, in the brown jacket above-mentioned) and a habit of everywhere bearing wit_im his own peculiar atmosphere, his own peculiar smell—a smell which fille_ny lodging with such subtlety that he needed but to make up his bed anywhere, even in a room hitherto untenanted, and to drag thither his greatcoat an_ther impedimenta, for that room at once to assume an air of having been live_n during the past ten years. Nevertheless, though a fastidious, and even a_rritable, man, Chichikov would merely frown when his nose caught this smel_mid the freshness of the morning, and exclaim with a toss of his head: "Th_evil only knows what is up with you! Surely you sweat a good deal, do yo_ot? The best thing you can do is to go and take a bath." To this Petrushk_ould make no reply, but, approaching, brush in hand, the spot where hi_aster's coat would be pendent, or starting to arrange one and another articl_n order, would strive to seem wholly immersed in his work. Yet of what was h_hinking as he remained thus silent? Perhaps he was saying to himself: "M_aster is a good fellow, but for him to keep on saying the same thing fort_imes over is a little wearisome." Only God knows and sees all things; wherefore for a mere human being to know what is in the mind of a servan_hile his master is scolding him is wholly impossible. However, no more nee_e said about Petrushka. On the other hand, Coachman Selifan—
  • But here let me remark that I do not like engaging the reader's attention i_onnection with persons of a lower class than himself; for experience ha_aught me that we do not willingly familiarise ourselves with the lowe_rders—that it is the custom of the average Russian to yearn exclusively fo_nformation concerning persons on the higher rungs of the social ladder. I_act, even a bowing acquaintance with a prince or a lord counts, in his eyes, for more than do the most intimate of relations with ordinary folk. For th_ame reason the author feels apprehensive on his hero's account, seeing tha_e has made that hero a mere Collegiate Councillor—a mere person with who_ulic Councillors might consort, but upon whom persons of the grade of ful_eneral[1] would probably bestow one of those glances proper to a man who i_ringing at their august feet. Worse still, such persons of the grade o_eneral are likely to treat Chichikov with studied negligence—and to an autho_tudied negligence spells death.
  • However, in spite of the distressfulness of the foregoing possibilities, it i_ime that I returned to my hero. After issuing,
  • overnight, the necessary orders, he awoke early, washed himself, rubbe_imself from head to foot with a wet sponge (a performance executed only o_undays—and the day in question happened to be a Sunday), shaved his face wit_uch care that his cheeks issued of absolutely satin-like smoothness an_olish, donned first his bilberry-coloured, spotted frockcoat, and then hi_earskin overcoat, descended the staircase (attended, throughout, by th_aiter) and entered his britchka. With a loud rattle the vehicle left the inn- yard, and issued into the street. A passing priest doffed his cap, and a fe_rchins in grimy shirts shouted, "Gentleman, please give a poor orphan _rifle!" Presently the driver noticed that a sturdy young rascal was on th_oint of climbing onto the splashboard; wherefore he cracked his whip and th_ritchka leapt forward with increased speed over the cobblestones. At last, with a feeling of relief, the travellers caught sight of macadam ahead, whic_romised an end both to the cobblestones and to sundry other annoyances. And, sure enough, after his head had been bumped a few more times against the boo_f the conveyance, Chichikov found himself bowling over softer ground. On th_own receding into the distance, the sides of the road began to be varied wit_he usual hillocks, fir trees, clumps of young pine, trees with old, scarre_runks, bushes of wild juniper, and so forth, Presently there came into vie_lso strings of country villas which, with their carved supports and gre_oofs (the latter looking like pendent, embroidered tablecloths), resembled, rather, bundles of old faggots. Likewise the customary peasants, dressed i_heepskin jackets, could be seen yawning on benches before their huts, whil_heir womenfolk, fat of feature and swathed of bosom, gazed out of uppe_indows, and the windows below displayed, here a peering calf, and there th_nsightly jaws of a pig. In short, the view was one of the familiar type.
  • After passing the fifteenth verst-stone Chichikov suddenly recollected that, according to Manilov, fifteen versts was the exact distance between hi_ountry house and the town; but the sixteenth verst stone flew by, and th_aid country house was still nowhere to be seen. In fact, but for th_ircumstance that the travellers happened to encounter a couple of peasants, they would have come on their errand in vain. To a query as to whether th_ountry house known as Zamanilovka was anywhere in the neighbourhood th_easants replied by doffing their caps; after which one of them who seemed t_oast of a little more intelligence than his companion, and who wore a wedge- shaped beard, made answer:
  • "Perhaps you mean Manilovka—not ZAmanilovka?"
  • "Yes, yes—Manilovka."
  • "Manilovka, eh? Well, you must continue for another verst, and then you wil_ee it straight before you, on the right."
  • "On the right?" re-echoed the coachman.
  • "Yes, on the right," affirmed the peasant. "You are on the proper road fo_anilovka, but ZAmanilovka—well, there is no such place. The house you mean i_alled Manilovka because Manilovka is its name; but no house at all is calle_Amanilovka. The house you mean stands there, on that hill, and is a ston_ouse in which a gentleman lives, and its name is Manilovka; but ZAmanilovk_oes not stand hereabouts, nor ever has stood."
  • So the travellers proceeded in search of Manilovka, and, after driving a_dditional two versts, arrived at a spot whence there branched off a by-road.
  • Yet two, three, or four versts of the by-road had been covered before they sa_he least sign of a two-storied stone mansion. Then it was that Chichiko_uddenly recollected that, when a friend has invited one to visit his countr_ouse, and has said that the distance thereto is fifteen versts, the distanc_s sure to turn out to be at least thirty.
  • Not many people would have admired the situation of Manilov's abode, for i_tood on an isolated rise and was open to every wind that blew. On the slop_f the rise lay closely-mown turf, while, disposed here and there, after th_nglish fashion, were flower-beds containing clumps of lilac and yello_cacia. Also, there were a few insignificant groups of slender-leaved, pointed-tipped birch trees, with, under two of the latter, an arbour having _habby green cupola, some blue-painted wooden supports, and the inscription
  • "This is the Temple of Solitary Thought." Lower down the slope lay a green- coated pond—green-coated ponds constitute a frequent spectacle in the garden_f Russian landowners; and, lastly, from the foot of the declivity ther_tretched a line of mouldy, log-built huts which, for some obscure reason o_nother, our hero set himself to count. Up to two hundred or more did h_ount, but nowhere could he perceive a single leaf of vegetation or a singl_tick of timber. The only thing to greet the eye was the logs of which th_uts were constructed. Nevertheless the scene was to a certain exten_nlivened by the spectacle of two peasant women who, with clothe_icturesquely tucked up, were wading knee-deep in the pond and dragging behin_hem, with wooden handles, a ragged fishing-net, in the meshes of which tw_rawfish and a roach with glistening scales were entangled. The women appeare_o have cause of dispute between themselves—to be rating one another abou_omething. In the background, and to one side of the house, showed a faint, dusky blur of pinewood, and even the weather was in keeping with th_urroundings, since the day was neither clear nor dull, but of the grey tin_hich may be noted in uniforms of garrison soldiers which have seen lon_ervice. To complete the picture, a cock, the recognised harbinger o_tmospheric mutations, was present; and, in spite of the fact that a certai_onnection with affairs of gallantry had led to his having had his head pecke_are by other cocks, he flapped a pair of wings—appendages as bare as tw_ieces of bast—and crowed loudly.
  • As Chichikov approached the courtyard of the mansion he caught sight of hi_ost (clad in a green frock coat) standing on the verandah and pressing on_and to his eyes to shield them from the sun and so get a better view of th_pproaching carriage. In proportion as the britchka drew nearer and nearer t_he verandah, the host's eyes assumed a more and more delighted expression, and his smile a broader and broader sweep.
  • "Paul Ivanovitch!" he exclaimed when at length Chichikov leapt from th_ehicle. "Never should I have believed that you would have remembered us!"
  • The two friends exchanged hearty embraces, and Manilov then conducted hi_uest to the drawing-room. During the brief time that they are traversing th_all, the anteroom, and the dining-room, let me try to say somethin_oncerning the master of the house. But such an undertaking bristles wit_ifficulties—it promises to be a far less easy task than the depicting of som_utstanding personality which calls but for a wholesale dashing of colour_pon the canvas—the colours of a pair of dark, burning eyes, a pair of dark, beetling brows, a forehead seamed with wrinkles, a black, or a fiery-red, cloak thrown backwards over the shoulder, and so forth, and so forth. Yet, s_umerous are Russian serf owners that, though careful scrutiny reveals t_ne's sight a quantity of outre peculiarities, they are, as a class, exceedingly difficult to portray, and one needs to strain one's faculties t_he utmost before it becomes possible to pick out their variously subtle, their almost invisible, features. In short, one needs, before doing this, t_arry out a prolonged probing with the aid of an insight sharpened in th_cute school of research.
  • Only God can say what Manilov's real character was. A class of men exists who_he proverb has described as "men unto themselves, neither this no_hat—neither Bogdan of the city nor Selifan of the village." And to that clas_e had better assign also Manilov. Outwardly he was presentable enough, fo_is features were not wanting in amiability, but that amiability was a qualit_nto which there entered too much of the sugary element, so that his ever_esture, his every attitude, seemed to connote an excess of eagerness to curr_avour and cultivate a closer acquaintance. On first speaking to the man, hi_ngratiating smile, his flaxen hair, and his blue eyes would lead one to say,
  • "What a pleasant, good-tempered fellow he seems!" yet during the next momen_r two one would feel inclined to say nothing at all, and, during the thir_oment, only to say, "The devil alone knows what he is!" And should, thereafter, one not hasten to depart, one would inevitably become overpowere_ith the deadly sense of ennui which comes of the intuition that nothing i_he least interesting is to be looked for, but only a series of wearisom_tterances of the kind which are apt to fall from the lips of a man whos_obby has once been touched upon. For every man HAS his hobby. One man's ma_e sporting dogs; another man's may be that of believing himself to be a love_f music, and able to sound the art to its inmost depths; another's may b_hat of posing as a connoisseur of recherche cookery; another's may be that o_spiring to play roles of a kind higher than nature has assigned him; another's (though this is a more limited ambition) may be that of gettin_runk, and of dreaming that he is edifying both his friends, hi_cquaintances, and people with whom he has no connection at all by walkin_rm-in-arm with an Imperial aide-de-camp; another's may be that of possessin_ hand able to chip corners off aces and deuces of diamonds; another's may b_hat of yearning to set things straight—in other words, to approximate hi_ersonality to that of a stationmaster or a director of posts. In short, almost every man has his hobby or his leaning; yet Manilov had none such, fo_t home he spoke little, and spent the greater part of his time i_editation—though God only knows what that meditation comprised! Nor can it b_aid that he took much interest in the management of his estate, for he neve_ode into the country, and the estate practically managed itself. Whenever th_ailiff said to him, "It might be well to have such-and-such a thing done," h_ould reply, "Yes, that is not a bad idea," and then go on smoking his pipe—_abit which he had acquired during his service in the army, where he had bee_ooked upon as an officer of modesty, delicacy, and refinement. "Yes, it i_OT a bad idea," he would repeat. Again, whenever a peasant approached hi_nd, rubbing the back of his neck, said "Barin, may I have leave to go an_ork for myself, in order that I may earn my obrok[2]?" he would snap out, with pipe in mouth as usual, "Yes, go!" and never trouble his head as t_hether the peasant's real object might not be to go and get drunk. True, a_ntervals he would say, while gazing from the verandah to the courtyard, an_rom the courtyard to the pond, that it would be indeed splendid if a carriag_rive could suddenly materialise, and the pond as suddenly become spanned wit_ stone bridge, and little shops as suddenly arise whence pedlars coul_ispense the petty merchandise of the kind which peasantry most need. And a_uch moments his eyes would grow winning, and his features assume a_xpression of intense satisfaction. Yet never did these projects pass beyon_he stage of debate. Likewise there lay in his study a book with th_ourteenth page permanently turned down. It was a book which he had bee_eading for the past two years! In general, something seemed to be wanting i_he establishment. For instance, although the drawing-room was filled wit_eautiful furniture, and upholstered in some fine silken material whic_learly had cost no inconsiderable sum, two of the chairs lacked any coverin_ut bast, and for some years past the master had been accustomed to warn hi_uests with the words, "Do not sit upon these chairs; they are not yet read_or use." Another room contained no furniture at all, although, a few day_fter the marriage, it had been said: "My dear, to-morrow let us set abou_rocuring at least some TEMPORARY furniture for this room." Also, ever_vening would see placed upon the drawing-room table a fine bronz_andelabrum, a statuette representative of the Three Graces, a tray inlai_ith mother-of-pearl, and a rickety, lop-sided copper invalide. Yet of th_act that all four articles were thickly coated with grease neither the maste_f the house nor the mistress nor the servants seemed to entertain the leas_uspicion. At the same time, Manilov and his wife were quite satisfied wit_ach other. More than eight years had elapsed since their marriage, yet one o_hem was for ever offering his or her partner a piece of apple or a bonbon o_ nut, while murmuring some tender something which voiced a whole-hearte_ffection. "Open your mouth, dearest"—thus ran the formula—"and let me po_nto it this titbit." You may be sure that on such occasions the "deares_outh" parted its lips most graciously! For their mutual birthdays the pai_lways contrived some "surprise present" in the shape of a glass receptacl_or tooth-powder, or what not; and as they sat together on the sofa he woul_uddenly, and for some unknown reason, lay aside his pipe, and she her work (if at the moment she happened to be holding it in her hands) and husband an_ife would imprint upon one another's cheeks such a prolonged and languishin_iss that during its continuance you could have smoked a small cigar. I_hort, they were what is known as "a very happy couple." Yet it may b_emarked that a household requires other pursuits to be engaged in tha_engthy embracings and the preparing of cunning "surprises." Yes, many _unction calls for fulfilment. For instance, why should it be thought foolis_r low to superintend the kitchen? Why should care not be taken that th_toreroom never lacks supplies? Why should a housekeeper be allowed to thieve?
  • Why should slovenly and drunken servants exist? Why should a domestic staff b_uffered in indulge in bouts of unconscionable debauchery during its leisur_ime? Yet none of these things were thought worthy of consideration b_anilov's wife, for she had been gently brought up, and gentle nurture, as w_ll know, is to be acquired only in boarding schools, and boarding schools, a_e know, hold the three principal subjects which constitute the basis of huma_irtue to be the French language (a thing indispensable to the happiness o_arried life), piano-playing (a thing wherewith to beguile a husband's leisur_oments), and that particular department of housewifery which is comprised i_he knitting of purses and other "surprises." Nevertheless changes an_mprovements have begun to take place, since things now are governed more b_he personal inclinations and idiosyncracies of the keepers of suc_stablishments. For instance, in some seminaries the regimen places piano- playing first, and the French language second, and then the above departmen_f housewifery; while in other seminaries the knitting of "surprises" head_he list, and then the French language, and then the playing of pianos—s_iverse are the systems in force! None the less, I may remark that Madam_anilov—
  • But let me confess that I always shrink from saying too much about ladies.
  • Moreover, it is time that we returned to our heroes, who, during the past fe_inutes, have been standing in front of the drawing-room door, and engaged i_rging one another to enter first.
  • "Pray be so good as not to inconvenience yourself on my account," sai_hichikov. "_I_ will follow YOU."
  • "No, Paul Ivanovitch—no! You are my guest." And Manilov pointed towards th_oorway.
  • "Make no difficulty about it, I pray," urged Chichikov. "I beg of you to mak_o difficulty about it, but to pass into the room."
  • "Pardon me, I will not. Never could I allow so distinguished and so welcome _uest as yourself to take second place."
  • "Why call me 'distinguished,' my dear sir? I beg of you to proceed."
  • "Nay; be YOU pleased to do so."
  • "And why?"
  • "For the reason which I have stated." And Manilov smiled his very pleasantes_mile.
  • Finally the pair entered simultaneously and sideways; with the result tha_hey jostled one another not a little in the process.
  • "Allow me to present to you my wife," continued Manilov. "My dear—Pau_vanovitch."
  • Upon that Chichikov caught sight of a lady whom hitherto he had overlooked, but who, with Manilov, was now bowing to him in the doorway. Not wholly o_npleasing exterior, she was dressed in a well-fitting, high-necked mornin_ress of pale-coloured silk; and as the visitor entered the room her smal_hite hands threw something upon the table and clutched her embroidered skir_efore rising from the sofa where she had been seated. Not without a sense o_leasure did Chichikov take her hand as, lisping a little, she declared tha_he and her husband were equally gratified by his coming, and that, of late, not a day had passed without her husband recalling him to mind.
  • "Yes," affirmed Manilov; "and every day SHE has said to ME: 'Why does not you_riend put in an appearance?' 'Wait a little dearest,' I have always replied.
  • Twill not be long now before he comes.' And you HAVE come, you HAVE honoure_s with a visit, you HAVE bestowed upon us a treat—a treat destined to conver_his day into a gala day, a true birthday of the heart."
  • The intimation that matters had reached the point of the occasion bein_estined to constitute a "true birthday of the heart" caused Chichikov t_ecome a little confused; wherefore he made modest reply that, as a matter o_act, he was neither of distinguished origin nor distinguished rank.
  • "Ah, you ARE so," interrupted Manilov with his fixed and engaging smile. "Yo_re all that, and more."
  • "How like you our town?" queried Madame. "Have you spent an agreeable time i_t?"
  • "Very," replied Chichikov. "The town is an exceedingly nice one, and I hav_reatly enjoyed its hospitable society."
  • "And what do you think of our Governor?"
  • "Yes; IS he not a most engaging and dignified personage?" added Manilov.
  • "He is all that," assented Chichikov. "Indeed, he is a man worthy of th_reatest respect. And how thoroughly he performs his duty according to hi_ights! Would that we had more like him!"
  • "And the tactfulness with which he greets every one!" added Manilov, smiling, and half-closing his eyes, like a cat which is being tickled behind the ears.
  • "Quite so," assented Chichikov. "He is a man of the most eminent civility an_pproachableness. And what an artist! Never should I have thought he coul_ave worked the marvellous household samplers which he has done! Som_pecimens of his needlework which he showed me could not well have bee_urpassed by any lady in the land!"
  • "And the Vice-Governor, too—he is a nice man, is he not?" inquired Manilo_ith renewed blinkings of the eyes.
  • "Who? The Vice-Governor? Yes, a most worthy fellow!" replied Chichikov.
  • "And what of the Chief of Police? Is it not a fact that he too is in th_ighest degree agreeable?"
  • "Very agreeable indeed. And what a clever, well-read individual! With him an_he Public Prosecutor and the President of the Local Council I played whis_ntil the cocks uttered their last morning crow. He is a most excellen_ellow."
  • "And what of his wife?" queried Madame Manilov. "Is she not a most graciou_ersonality?"
  • "One of the best among my limited acquaintance," agreed Chichikov.
  • Nor were the President of the Local Council and the Postmaster overlooked; until the company had run through the whole list of urban officials. And i_very case those officials appeared to be persons of the highest possibl_erit.
  • "Do you devote your time entirely to your estate?" asked Chichikov, in hi_urn.
  • "Well, most of it," replied Manilov; "though also we pay occasional visits t_he town, in order that we may mingle with a little well-bred society. On_rows a trifle rusty if one lives for ever in retirement."
  • "Quite so," agreed Chichikov.
  • "Yes, quite so," capped Manilov. "At the same time, it would be a differen_atter if the neighbourhood were a GOOD one—if, for example, one had a frien_ith whom one could discuss manners and polite deportment, or engage in som_ranch of science, and so stimulate one's wits. For that sort of thing give_ne's intellect an airing. It, it—" At a loss for further words, he ended b_emarking that his feelings were apt to carry him away; after which h_ontinued with a gesture: "What I mean is that, were that sort of thin_ossible, I, for one, could find the country and an isolated life possessed o_reat attractions. But, as matters stand, such a thing is NOT possible. Al_hat I can manage to do is, occasionally, to read a little of A Son of th_atherland."
  • With these sentiments Chichikov expressed entire agreement: adding tha_othing could be more delightful than to lead a solitary life in which ther_hould be comprised only the sweet contemplation of nature and th_ntermittent perusal of a book.
  • "Nay, but even THAT were worth nothing had not one a friend with whom to shar_ne's life," remarked Manilov.
  • "True, true," agreed Chichikov. "Without a friend, what are all the treasure_n the world? 'Possess not money,' a wise man has said, 'but rather goo_riends to whom to turn in case of need.'"
  • "Yes, Paul Ivanovitch," said Manilov with a glance not merely sweet, bu_ositively luscious—a glance akin to the mixture which even clever physician_ave to render palatable before they can induce a hesitant patient to take it.
  • "Consequently you may imagine what happiness—what PERFECT happiness, so t_peak—the present occasion has brought me, seeing that I am permitted t_onverse with you and to enjoy your conversation."
  • "But WHAT of my conversation?" replied Chichikov. "I am an insignifican_ndividual, and, beyond that, nothing."
  • "Oh, Paul Ivanovitch!" cried the other. "Permit me to be frank, and to sa_hat I would give half my property to possess even a PORTION of the talent_hich you possess."
  • "On the contrary, I should consider it the highest honour in the world if—"
  • The lengths to which this mutual outpouring of soul would have proceeded ha_ot a servant entered to announce luncheon must remain a mystery.
  • "I humbly invite you to join us at table," said Manilov. "Also, you wil_ardon us for the fact that we cannot provide a banquet such as is to b_btained in our metropolitan cities? We partake of simple fare, according t_ussian custom—we confine ourselves to shtchi[3], but we do so with a singl_eart. Come, I humbly beg of you." After another contest for the honour o_ielding precedence, Chichikov succeeded in making his way (in zigzag fashion) to the dining-room, where they found awaiting them a couple of youngsters.
  • These were Manilov's sons, and boys of the age which admits of their presenc_t table, but necessitates the continued use of high chairs. Beside them wa_heir tutor, who bowed politely and smiled; after which the hostess took he_eat before her soup plate, and the guest of honour found himself esconse_etween her and the master of the house, while the servant tied up the boys'
  • necks in bibs.
  • "What charming children!" said Chichikov as he gazed at the pair. "And how ol_re they?"
  • "The eldest is eight," replied Manilov, "and the younger one attained the ag_f six yesterday."
  • "Themistocleus," went on the father, turning to his first-born, who wa_ngaged in striving to free his chin from the bib with which the footman ha_ncircled it. On hearing this distinctly Greek name (to which, for som_nknown reason, Manilov always appended the termination "eus"), Chichiko_aised his eyebrows a little, but hastened, the next moment, to restore hi_ace to a more befitting expression.
  • "Themistocleus," repeated the father, "tell me which is the finest city i_rance."
  • Upon this the tutor concentrated his attention upon Themistocleus, an_ppeared to be trying hard to catch his eye. Only when Themistocleus ha_uttered "Paris" did the preceptor grow calmer, and nod his head.
  • "And which is the finest city in Russia?" continued Manilov.
  • Again the tutor's attitude became wholly one of concentration.
  • "St. Petersburg," replied Themistocleus.
  • "And what other city?"
  • "Moscow," responded the boy.
  • "Clever little dear!" burst out Chichikov, turning with an air of surprise t_he father. "Indeed, I feel bound to say that the child evinces the greates_ossible potentialities."
  • "You do not know him fully," replied the delighted Manilov. "The amount o_harpness which he possesses is extraordinary. Our younger one, Alkid, is no_o quick; whereas his brother—well, no matter what he may happen upon (whethe_pon a cowbug or upon a water-beetle or upon anything else), his little eye_egin jumping out of his head, and he runs to catch the thing, and to inspec_t. For HIM I am reserving a diplomatic post. Themistocleus," added th_ather, again turning to his son, "do you wish to become an ambassador?"
  • "Yes, I do," replied Themistocleus, chewing a piece of bread and wagging hi_ead from side to side.
  • At this moment the lacquey who had been standing behind the future ambassado_iped the latter's nose; and well it was that he did so, since otherwise a_nelegant and superfluous drop would have been added to the soup. After tha_he conversation turned upon the joys of a quiet life—though occasionally i_as interrupted by remarks from the hostess on the subject of acting an_ctors. Meanwhile the tutor kept his eyes fixed upon the speakers' faces; an_henever he noticed that they were on the point of laughing he at once opene_is mouth, and laughed with enthusiasm. Probably he was a man of gratefu_eart who wished to repay his employers for the good treatment which he ha_eceived. Once, however, his features assumed a look of grimness as, fixin_is eyes upon his vis-a-vis, the boys, he tapped sternly upon the table. Thi_appened at a juncture when Themistocleus had bitten Alkid on the ear, and th_aid Alkid, with frowning eyes and open mouth, was preparing himself to sob i_iteous fashion; until, recognising that for such a proceeding he migh_ossibly be deprived of his plate, he hastened to restore his mouth to it_riginal expression, and fell tearfully to gnawing a mutton bone—the greas_rom which had soon covered his cheeks.
  • Every now and again the hostess would turn to Chichikov with the words, "Yo_re eating nothing—you have indeed taken little;" but invariably her gues_eplied: "Thank you, I have had more than enough. A pleasant conversation i_orth all the dishes in the world."
  • At length the company rose from table. Manilov was in high spirits, and, laying his hand upon his guest's shoulder, was on the point of conducting hi_o the drawing-room, when suddenly Chichikov intimated to him, with a meanin_ook, that he wished to speak to him on a very important matter.
  • "That being so," said Manilov, "allow me to invite you into my study." And h_ed the way to a small room which faced the blue of the forest. "This is m_anctum," he added.
  • "What a pleasant apartment!" remarked Chichikov as he eyed it carefully. And, indeed, the room did not lack a certain attractiveness. The walls were painte_ sort of blueish-grey colour, and the furniture consisted of four chairs, _ettee, and a table—the latter of which bore a few sheets of writing-paper an_he book of which I have before had occasion to speak. But the most prominen_eature of the room was tobacco, which appeared in many different guises—i_ackets, in a tobacco jar, and in a loose heap strewn about the table.
  • Likewise, both window sills were studded with little heaps of ash, arranged, not without artifice, in rows of more or less tidiness. Clearly smokin_fforded the master of the house a frequent means of passing the time.
  • "Permit me to offer you a seat on this settee," said Manilov. "Here you wil_e quieter than you would be in the drawing-room."
  • "But I should prefer to sit upon this chair."
  • "I cannot allow that," objected the smiling Manilov. "The settee is speciall_eserved for my guests. Whether you choose or no, upon it you MUST sit."
  • Accordingly Chichikov obeyed.
  • "And also let me hand you a pipe."
  • "No, I never smoke," answered Chichikov civilly, and with an assumed air o_egret.
  • "And why?" inquired Manilov—equally civilly, but with a regret that was wholl_enuine.
  • "Because I fear that I have never quite formed the habit, owing to my havin_eard that a pipe exercises a desiccating effect upon the system."
  • "Then allow me to tell you that that is mere prejudice. Nay, I would even g_o far as to say that to smoke a pipe is a healthier practice than to tak_nuff. Among its members our regiment numbered a lieutenant—a most excellent, well-educated fellow—who was simply INCAPABLE of removing his pipe from hi_outh, whether at table or (pardon me) in other places. He is now forty, ye_o man could enjoy better health than he has always done."
  • Chichikov replied that such cases were common, since nature comprised man_hings which even the finest intellect could not compass.
  • "But allow me to put to you a question," he went on in a tone in which ther_as a strange—or, at all events, RATHER a strange—note. For some unknow_eason, also, he glanced over his shoulder. For some equally unknown reason, Manilov glanced over HIS.
  • "How long is it," inquired the guest, "since you last rendered a censu_eturn?"
  • "Oh, a long, long time. In fact, I cannot remember when it was."
  • "And since then have many of your serfs died?"
  • "I do not know. To ascertain that I should need to ask my bailiff. Footman, g_nd call the bailiff. I think he will be at home to-day."
  • Before long the bailiff made his appearance. He was a man of under forty, clean-shaven, clad in a smock, and evidently used to a quiet life, seeing tha_is face was of that puffy fullness, and the skin encircling his slit-lik_yes was of that sallow tint, which shows that the owner of those features i_ell acquainted with a feather bed. In a trice it could be seen that he ha_layed his part in life as all such bailiffs do—that, originally a young ser_f elementary education, he had married some Agashka of a housekeeper or _istress's favourite, and then himself become housekeeper, and, subsequently, bailiff; after which he had proceeded according to the rules of his tribe—tha_s to say, he had consorted with and stood in with the more well-to-do serf_n the estate, and added the poorer ones to the list of forced payers o_brok, while himself leaving his bed at nine o'clock in the morning, and, whe_he samovar had been brought, drinking his tea at leisure.
  • "Look here, my good man," said Manilov. "How many of our serfs have died sinc_he last census revision?"
  • "How many of them have died? Why, a great many." The bailiff hiccoughed, an_lapped his mouth lightly after doing so.
  • "Yes, I imagined that to be the case," corroborated Manilov. "In fact, a VER_reat many serfs have died." He turned to Chichikov and repeated the words.
  • "How many, for instance?" asked Chichikov.
  • "Yes; how many?" re-echoed Manilov.
  • "HOW many?" re-echoed the bailiff. "Well, no one knows the exact number, fo_o one has kept any account."
  • "Quite so," remarked Manilov. "I supposed the death-rate to have been high, but was ignorant of its precise extent."
  • "Then would you be so good as to have it computed for me?" said Chichikov.
  • "And also to have a detailed list of the deaths made out?"
  • "Yes, I will—a detailed list," agreed Manilov.
  • "Very well."
  • The bailiff departed.
  • "For what purpose do you want it?" inquired Manilov when the bailiff had gone.
  • The question seemed to embarrass the guest, for in Chichikov's face ther_awned a sort of tense expression, and it reddened as though its owner wer_triving to express something not easy to put into words. True enough, Manilo_as now destined to hear such strange and unexpected things as never befor_ad greeted human ears.
  • "You ask me," said Chichikov, "for what purpose I want the list. Well, m_urpose in wanting it is this—that I desire to purchase a few peasants." An_e broke off in a gulp.
  • "But may I ask HOW you desire to purchase those peasants?" asked Manilov.
  • "With land, or merely as souls for transferment—that is to say, by themselves, and without any land?"
  • "I want the peasants themselves only," replied Chichikov. "And I want dea_nes at that."
  • "What?—Excuse me, but I am a trifle deaf. Really, your words sound mos_trange!"
  • "All that I am proposing to do," replied Chichikov, "is to purchase the dea_easants who, at the last census, were returned by you as alive."
  • Manilov dropped his pipe on the floor, and sat gaping. Yes, the two friend_ho had just been discussing the joys of camaraderie sat staring at on_nother like the portraits which, of old, used to hang on opposite sides of _irror. At length Manilov picked up his pipe, and, while doing so, glance_overtly at Chichikov to see whether there was any trace of a smile to b_etected on his lips—whether, in short, he was joking. But nothing of the sor_ould be discerned. On the contrary, Chichikov's face looked graver tha_sual. Next, Manilov wondered whether, for some unknown reason, his guest ha_ost his wits; wherefore he spent some time in gazing at him with anxiou_ntentness. But the guest's eyes seemed clear—they contained no spark of th_ild, restless fire which is apt to wander in the eyes of madmen. All was a_t should be. Consequently, in spite of Manilov's cogitations, he could thin_f nothing better to do than to sit letting a stream of tobacco smoke escap_rom his mouth.
  • "So," continued Chichikov, "what I desire to know is whether you are willin_o hand over to me—to resign—these actually non-living, but legally living, peasants; or whether you have any better proposal to make?"
  • Manilov felt too confused and confounded to do aught but continue staring a_is interlocutor.
  • "I think that you are disturbing yourself unnecessarily," was Chichikov's nex_emark.
  • "I? Oh no! Not at all!" stammered Manilov. "Only—pardon me—I do not quit_omprehend you. You see, never has it fallen to my lot to acquire th_rilliant polish which is, so to speak, manifest in your every movement. No_ave I ever been able to attain the art of expressing myself well.
  • Consequently, although there is a possibility that in the—er—utterances whic_ave just fallen from your lips there may lie something else concealed, it ma_qually be that—er—you have been pleased so to express yourself for the sak_f the beauty of the terms wherein that expression found shape?"
  • "Oh, no," asserted Chichikov. "I mean what I say and no more. My reference t_uch of your pleasant souls as are dead was intended to be taken literally."
  • Manilov still felt at a loss—though he was conscious that he MUST d_omething, he MUST propound some question. But what question? The devil alon_new! In the end he merely expelled some more tobacco smoke—this time from hi_ostrils as well as from his mouth.
  • "So," went on Chichikov, "if no obstacle stands in the way, we might as wel_roceed to the completion of the purchase."
  • "What? Of the purchase of the dead souls?"
  • "Of the 'dead' souls? Oh dear no! Let us write them down as LIVING ones, seeing that that is how they figure in the census returns. Never do I permi_yself to step outside the civil law, great though has been the harm whic_hat rule has wrought me in my career. In my eyes an obligation is a sacre_hing. In the presence of the law I am dumb."
  • These last words reassured Manilov not a little: yet still the meaning of th_ffair remained to him a mystery. By way of answer, he fell to sucking at hi_ipe with such vehemence that at length the pipe began to gurgle like _assoon. It was as though he had been seeking of it inspiration in the presen_nheard-of juncture. But the pipe only gurgled, et praeterea nihil.
  • "Perhaps you feel doubtful about the proposal?" said Chichikov.
  • "Not at all," replied Manilov. "But you will, I know, excuse me if I say (an_ say it out of no spirit of prejudice, nor yet as criticising yourself in an_ay)—you will, I know, excuse me if I say that possibly this—er—this, er, SCHEME of yours, this—er—TRANSACTION of yours, may fail altogether to accor_ith the Civil Statutes and Provisions of the Realm?"
  • And Manilov, with a slight gesture of the head, looked meaningly int_hichikov's face, while displaying in his every feature, including hi_losely-compressed lips, such an expression of profundity as never before wa_een on any human countenance—unless on that of some particularly sapien_inister of State who is debating some particularly abstruse problem.
  • Nevertheless Chichikov rejoined that the kind of scheme or transaction
  • which he had adumbrated in no way clashed with the Civil Statutes an_rovisions of Russia; to which he added that the Treasury would even BENEFI_y the enterprise, seeing it would draw therefrom the usual legal percentage.
  • "What, then, do you propose?" asked Manilov.
  • "I propose only what is above-board, and nothing else."
  • "Then, that being so, it is another matter, and I have nothing to urge agains_t," said Manilov, apparently reassured to the full.
  • "Very well," remarked Chichikov. "Then we need only to agree as to the price."
  • "As to the price?" began Manilov, and then stopped. Presently he went on:
  • "Surely you cannot suppose me capable of taking money for souls which, in on_ense at least, have completed their existence? Seeing that this fantasti_him of yours (if I may so call it?) has seized upon you to the extent that i_as, I, on my side, shall be ready to surrender to you those soul_NCONDITIONALLY, and to charge myself with the whole expenses of the sale."
  • I should be greatly to blame if I were to omit that, as soon as Manilov ha_ronounced these words, the face of his guest became replete wit_atisfaction. Indeed, grave and prudent a man though Chichikov was, he ha_uch ado to refrain from executing a leap that would have done credit to _oat (an animal which, as we all know, finds itself moved to such exertion_nly during moments of the most ecstatic joy). Nevertheless the guest did a_east execute such a convulsive shuffle that the material with which th_ushions of the chair were covered came apart, and Manilov gazed at him wit_ome misgiving. Finally Chichikov's gratitude led him to plunge into a strea_f acknowledgement of a vehemence which caused his host to grow confused, t_lush, to shake his head in deprecation, and to end by declaring that th_oncession was nothing, and that, his one desire being to manifest th_ictates of his heart and the psychic magnetism which his friend exercised, he, in short, looked upon the dead souls as so much worthless rubbish.
  • "Not at all," replied Chichikov, pressing his hand; after which he heaved _rofound sigh. Indeed, he seemed in the right mood for outpourings of th_eart, for he continued—not without a ring of emotion in his tone: "If you bu_new the service which you have rendered to an apparently insignifican_ndividual who is devoid both of family and kindred! For what have I no_uffered in my time—I, a drifting barque amid the tempestuous billows of life?
  • What harryings, what persecutions, have I not known? Of what grief have I no_asted? And why? Simply because I have ever kept the truth in view, becaus_ver I have preserved inviolate an unsullied conscience, because ever I hav_tretched out a helping hand to the defenceless widow and the hapless orphan!"
  • After which outpouring Chichikov pulled out his handkerchief, and wiped away _rimming tear.
  • Manilov's heart was moved to the core. Again and again did the two friend_ress one another's hands in silence as they gazed into one another's tear- filled eyes. Indeed, Manilov COULD not let go our hero's hand, but clasped i_ith such warmth that the hero in question began to feel himself at a loss ho_est to wrench it free: until, quietly withdrawing it, he observed that t_ave the purchase completed as speedily as possible would not be a bad thing; wherefore he himself would at once return to the town to arrange matters.
  • Taking up his hat, therefore, he rose to make his adieus.
  • "What? Are you departing already?" said Manilov, suddenly recovering himself, and experiencing a sense of misgiving. At that moment his wife sailed into th_oom.
  • "Is Paul Ivanovitch leaving us so soon, dearest Lizanka?" she said with an ai_f regret.
  • "Yes. Surely it must be that we have wearied him?" her spouse replied.
  • "By no means," asserted Chichikov, pressing his hand to his heart. "In thi_reast, madam, will abide for ever the pleasant memory of the time which _ave spent with you. Believe me, I could conceive of no greater blessing tha_o reside, if not under the same roof as yourselves, at all events in you_mmediate neighbourhood."
  • "Indeed?" exclaimed Manilov, greatly pleased with the idea. "How splendid i_ould be if you DID come to reside under our roof, so that we could reclin_nder an elm tree together, and talk philosophy, and delve to the very root o_hings!"
  • "Yes, it WOULD be a paradisaical existence!" agreed Chichikov with a sigh.
  • Nevertheless he shook hands with Madame. "Farewell, sudarina," he said. "An_arewell to YOU, my esteemed host. Do not forget what I have requested you t_o."
  • "Rest assured that I will not," responded Manilov. "Only for a couple of day_ill you and I be parted from one another."
  • With that the party moved into the drawing-room.
  • "Farewell, dearest children," Chichikov went on as he caught sight of Alki_nd Themistocleus, who were playing with a wooden hussar which lacked both _ose and one arm. "Farewell, dearest pets. Pardon me for having brought you n_resents, but, to tell you the truth, I was not, until my visit, aware of you_xistence. However, now that I shall be coming again, I will not fail to brin_ou gifts. Themistocleus, to you I will bring a sword. You would like that, would you not?"
  • "I should," replied Themistocleus.
  • "And to you, Alkid, I will bring a drum. That would suit you, would it not?"
  • And he bowed in Alkid's direction.
  • "Zeth—a drum," lisped the boy, hanging his head.
  • "Good! Then a drum it shall be—SUCH a beautiful drum! What a tur-r-r-ru-in_nd a tra-ta-ta-ta-ing you will be able to kick up! Farewell, my darling."
  • And, kissing the boy's head, he turned to Manilov and Madame with the sligh_mile which one assumes before assuring parents of the guileless merits o_heir offspring.
  • "But you had better stay, Paul Ivanovitch," said the father as the tri_tepped out on to the verandah. "See how the clouds are gathering!"
  • "They are only small ones," replied Chichikov.
  • "And you know your way to Sobakevitch's?"
  • "No, I do not, and should be glad if you would direct me."
  • "If you like I will tell your coachman." And in very civil fashion Manilov di_o, even going so far as to address the man in the second person plural. O_earing that he was to pass two turnings, and then to take a third, Selifa_emarked, "We shall get there all right, sir," and Chichikov departed amid _rofound salvo of salutations and wavings of handkerchiefs on the part of hi_ost and hostess, who raised themselves on tiptoe in their enthusiasm.
  • For a long while Manilov stood following the departing britchka with his eyes.
  • In fact, he continued to smoke his pipe and gaze after the vehicle even whe_t had become lost to view. Then he re-entered the drawing-room, seate_imself upon a chair, and surrendered his mind to the thought that he ha_hown his guest most excellent entertainment. Next, his mind passe_mperceptibly to other matters, until at last it lost itself God only know_here. He thought of the amenities of a life, of friendship, and of how nic_t would be to live with a comrade on, say, the bank of some river, and t_pan the river with a bridge of his own, and to build an enormous mansion wit_ facade lofty enough even to afford a view to Moscow. On that facade he an_is wife and friend would drink afternoon tea in the open air, and discus_nteresting subjects; after which, in a fine carriage, they would drive t_ome reunion or other, where with their pleasant manners they would so char_he company that the Imperial Government, on learning of their merits, woul_aise the pair to the grade of General or God knows what—that is to say, t_eights whereof even Manilov himself could form no idea. Then suddenl_hichikov's extraordinary request interrupted the dreamer's reflections, an_e found his brain powerless to digest it, seeing that, turn and turn th_atter about as he might, he could not properly explain its bearing. Smokin_is pipe, he sat where he was until supper time.