Dead Souls—A Poem/Book One/Chapter IV
As they approached the tavern, Tchitchikov told Selifan to stop for two reasons, that the horses might rest and also that he might himself have a little refreshment. The author must admit that he greatly envies the appetite and digestion of such people. He has no great opinion of all the grand gentlemen living in Petersburg and Moscow who spend their time in deliberating what to eat to-morrow and what to have for dinner the day after, and who invariably put pills into their mouths before beginning on the dinner, then swallow oysters, lobsters, and other strange things and afterwards go for a cure to Carlsbad or the Caucasus. No, those gentlemen have never excited his envy. But the gentlemen of the middling sort who ask for ham at one station and sucking-pig at the next, a slice of sturgeon or some fried sausage and onion at the third, and then, as though nothing had happened, sit down to table at any time you please, and with a hissing, gurgling sound gulp down a sturgeon-soup full of eel-pouts and soft roes to the accompaniment of a turnover or a fish patty, so that it makes other people hungry to look at them. Yes, these gentlemen certainly do enjoy a blessing that may well be envied! More than one grand gentleman would any minute sacrifice half his peasants and half his estates, mortgaged and unmortgaged, with all the improvements in foreign and Russian style, only to possess a digestion such as that of a middle-class gentleman. But the worst of it is that no money, nor even estates with or without improvements, can procure a digestion like that of a middle-class gentleman.
The wooden tavern, blackened by age, received Tchitchikov under its narrow hospitable porch which stood on carved wooden posts like old-fashioned church candlesticks. The tavern was something in the style of a Russian peasant's hut but on a rather larger scale. The cornices of new wood carved in patterns round the windows and under the roof stood out vividly against the dark walls; pots of flowers were painted on the shutters.
Going up the narrow wooden steps into the wide outer room, Tchitchikov met a door, that opened with a creak, and a fat woman in a bright chintz gown, who said: 'Please come this way!' In the inner room he found the usual old friends that are always to be seen in all the little wooden taverns of which not a few are built by the roadside; that is, a begrimed samovar, smoothly planed deal walls, a three-cornered cupboard containing cups and teapots in the corner, gilt china eggs hanging on red and blue ribbons in front of the ikons, a cat who had recently had kittens, a looking-glass that reflected four eyes instead of two, and transformed the human countenance into a sort of bun, bunches of scented herbs and pinks stuck before the ikons, so dry that any one who tried to sniff them would be sure to sneeze.
'Have you any sucking-pig?' was the question Tchitchikov addressed to the woman.
'Yes, we have.'
'With horse-radish and sour cream?'
'Yes, with horse-radish and sour cream.'
'Let me have some!'
The old woman went off to rummage and brought a plate and a table napkin, starched till it was as stiff as a dried crust and would not lie flat, then a knife with a bone handle yellow with age, and a blade as thin as a penknife, a two-pronged fork and a salt-cellar, which would not stand straight on the table.
Our hero, as his habit was, instantly entered into conversation with her, and inquired whether she kept the tavern herself or whether there was a master, and what income the tavern yielded and whether their sons were living at home with them and whether the eldest son was a married man or a bachelor and whether he had married a wife with a big dowry or not, and whether the bride's father was satisfied or had been vexed at not getting presents enough at the wedding; in fact, he went into everything. I need hardly say that he was anxious to find out what landowners there were in the neighbourhood and learned that there were landowners of all sorts: Blohin, Potchitaev, Mylnoy, Tcheprakov, the Colonel, and Sobakevitch.
'Ah! you know Sobakevitch!' he said, and at once heard that the old woman knew not only Sobakevitch, but also Manilov, and that Manilov was more refined than Sobakevitch: he would order a fowl to be boiled at once, and would ask for veal too; if they had sheep's liver he would ask for that too, and would take no more than a taste of everything, while Sobakevitch would only ask for one dish, but then he would eat up every morsel and would even expect a second helping for the same price.
While he was talking in this way and eating the sucking-pig, of which only the last slice by now remained, he heard the rumbling wheels of an approaching carriage. Looking out of window he saw a light chaise drawn by three good horses pull up at the tavern. Two men got out of the chaise: one tall and fair-haired, the other somewhat shorter and dark. The fair-haired man was wearing a dark-blue braided jacket, the black-haired man simply a striped jerkin. Another wretched-looking carriage was crawling up in the distance, empty and drawn by four shaggy horses with torn collars and harness made of cord. The fair man at once went upstairs while the dark fellow stayed behind, fumbling for something in the chaise while he talked to his servant and at the same time waved to the carriage that was following. His voice struck Tchitchikov as somehow familiar. While he was looking more closely at him, the fair man had felt his way to the door and opened it. He was a tall man, with a thin or what is called worn face and a red moustache. From his tanned face it might be gathered that he was familiar with tobacco smoke anyway, if not with that of gunpowder. He gave Tchitchikov a polite bow, to which the latter responded with equal politeness. Within a few minutes they would have probably been talking freely and making acquaintance, for the ice had already been broken and they were both almost at the same moment expressing their satisfaction that the dust on the road had been completely laid by the rain of the previous day, and that now it was cool and pleasant for driving, when his dark-haired companion walked in, flinging his cap down on the table, and jauntily ruffling up his thick black hair with his fingers. He was a fine, very well made young fellow of medium height, with full ruddy cheeks, snow-white teeth, and pitch-black whiskers. He was as fresh as milk and roses, his face looked simply bursting with health.
'Bah, bah, bah!' he exclaimed, flinging wide his hands at the sight of Tchitchikov. 'How did you come here?'
Tchitchikov recognised Nozdryov, the young man with whom he had dined at the public prosecutor's and who had within a few minutes become very intimate in his manner and taken up a familiar tone, though our hero had given him no encouragement.
'Where are you going to?' said Nozdryov, and without waiting for an answer he went on: 'I have just come from the fair, old man. Congratulate me, I've been cleaned out! Would you believe it, I have never been so thoroughly cleaned out in my life. Why, I have driven here with hired horses! Do just take a look at them!'
Hereupon he bent Tchitchikov's head down so that the latter almost knocked it against the window frame.
'Do you see what wretched hacks they are? They could scarcely crawl here, the damned brutes; I had to get into his chaise.'
Saying this Nozdryov pointed to his companion.
'You are acquainted, are you? My brother-in-law, Mizhuev! We have been talking about you all the morning. "You see now," I said, "if we don't meet Tchitchikov." Well, old man, if only you knew how I have been fleeced! Would you believe it, I have not only dropped my four fast trotters, I have got rid of every mortal thing. Why, I have no watch or chain left.'
Tchitchikov glanced at him, and saw that he was in fact wearing neither watch nor chain. He even fancied that one of his whiskers was shorter and not so thick as the other.
'But if I had only twenty roubles in my pocket,' Nozdryov went on, 'no more than twenty roubles, I would win it all back, and I'd not only win it all back, on my honour, I'd put thirty thousand in my pocket-book at once.'
'You said the same thing then, though,' retorted the fair man, 'but when I gave you fifty roubles, you lost them on the spot.'
'I should not have lost them, upon my soul, I shouldn't! If I hadn't done a silly thing, I shouldn't! If I hadn't laid two to one on that damned seven after the stakes had been doubled, I might have broken the whole bank.'
'You didn't break it, though,' observed the fair man.
'I didn't break it because I laid two to one on the seven at the wrong minute. But do you suppose your major is a good player?'
'Whether he is good or bad, he beat you.'
'As though that mattered,' said Nozdryov; 'I shall beat him all the same. Just let him try playing doubles, then I shall see; I shall see then how much of a player he is. But what a roaring time we had the first days, friend Tchitchikov. The fair really was a first-rate one. The very dealers said there had never been such a crowd. Everything I had brought from the village was sold at tip-top prices. Ah, my boy, didn't we have a time! Even now when one thinks of it … dash it all! What a pity you weren't there! Only fancy, there was a regiment of dragoons stationed only two miles from the town. Would you believe it, all the officers, forty of them, were in the town, every man-jack of them. … When we began to drink, my boy … the staff-captain Potsyeluev … such a jolly fellow … such fine moustaches, my boy! He calls Bordeaux simply "bordashka." "Bring us some bordashka, waiter!" he would say. Lieutenant Kuvshinnikov … ah, my boy, what a charming man! One might say he is a regular dog! He and I were together all the time. What wine Ponomarev brought out for us! You must know he is a regular cheat; you shouldn't buy anything in his shop; he puts all sorts of rubbish into his wine, sandalwood, burnt cork, and even colours it with elderberries, the rogue: but if he brings out from some remote place they call the special room, some choice little bottle, well then, old boy, you will find yourself in the empyrean. We had champagne … what was the governor's compared with it?—no better than cider. Just fancy, not Cliquot but a special Cliquot-Matradura which means double Cliquot. And he got us a bottle of French wine too, called Bon-bon, with a fragrance!—of roses and anything you like! Didn't we have a roaring time! A prince who came after us sent to the shop for champagne, there wasn't a bottle to be had in the town: the officers had drunk it all. Would you believe it, I drank seventeen bottles of champagne myself at dinner!'
'Come, you can't drink seventeen bottles,' observed the fair man.
'As a man of honour I tell you I did,' answered Nozdryov.
'You can tell yourself what you like, but I tell you that you can't drink ten.'
'Well, would you like to bet I can't?'
'Bet for what?'
'Well, bet me the gun that you bought in the town.'
'Oh, do bet it, try!'
'I don't want to try.'
'Yes, you would lose your gun if you did, as you lost your cap. Oh, friend Tchitchikov, how sorry I was you weren't there! I know that you would never have parted from Lieutenant Kuvshinnikov. How he and you would have got on together! He is very different from the public prosecutor and all the old niggards in our town who tremble over every farthing. He's ready to play any game you like. Oh, Tchitchikov, you might just as well have come! You really were a pig not to, you cattle-breeder! Kiss me, my dear soul, I like you awfully! Just fancy, Mizhuev, here fate has brought us together! Why, what was he to me or I to him? He has come here God knows where from and I, too, am living here. … And what lots of carriages there were, old boy, and it was all en gros. I tried my luck and won two pots of pomatum, a china cup and a guitar; and then I staked once more and lost more than six roubles, damn it all. And what a flirt that Kuvshinnikov is if you only knew! We went with him to almost all the balls. There was one girl dressed up to the nines, all frills and flounces, and the deuce knows what. I thought to myself: "Dash it all!" But Kuvshinnikov, he is a devil of a fellow, sat down beside her and let off such compliments in French. … Would you believe it, he wouldn't let the peasant women alone either. That's what he calls "gathering roses while ye may." There were wonderful fish and dried sturgeon for sale; I did bring one away with me, it's a good thing I thought to buy it while I had the money left. Where are you off to now?'
'I am going to see somebody,' said Tchitchikov.
'Come, what does somebody matter? Chuck him, come home with me!'
'I can't, I can't, I have business.'
'There now, it's business! What next. Oh you. Opodeldoc Ivanitch!'
'I really have business and very urgent business too.'
'I bet you are lying. Come tell me, who is it you are going to see?'
At this point Nozdryov burst into a loud resounding guffaw, laughing as only a man in the best of health laughs when every one of his teeth white as sugar are displayed and his cheeks tremble and quiver, and his fellow-lodger three rooms away leaps up from his sleep and, with his eyes starting out of his head, cries: 'Well, he is going it!'
'What is there funny about it?' asked Tchitchikov, somewhat disconcerted by this laughter.
But Nozdryov went on roaring with laughter as he ejaculated: 'Oh spare me, I shall split with laughing!'
'There is nothing funny in it; I promised him to go,' said Tchitchikov.
'But you know you won't enjoy yourself staying with him: he's a regular skinflint! I know your character: you are cruelly mistaken if you think you will find a game of cards and a good bottle of Bon-bon there. I say, old boy: hang Sobakevitch! Come home with me! What a sturgeon I'll set before you! Ponomarev kept bowing away, the beast, and saying: "I got it expressly for you, you might look all through the fair," he said, "and you wouldn't find one like it." He is an awful rogue, though. I told him so to his face. "Our government contractor and you are the two greatest cheats going!" I said. He laughed and stroked his beard, the brute. Kuvshinnikov and I had lunch every day in his shop. Oh, my boy, there's something I forgot to tell you about; I know you'll never leave off about it, but for ten thousand roubles I won't let you have it, so I give you fair warning. Hey, Porfiry!' going to the window, he shouted to his servant, who in one hand was holding a knife and in the other a crust of bread and a slice of sturgeon, which he had succeeded in cutting for himself while getting something out of the chaise. 'Hey, Porfiry, bring the pup here! Such a pup,' he went on, addressing Tchitchikov. 'Stolen it must be, the owner would never have parted with it of his own accord. I offered my chestnut mare for it, the one you remember Hvostyrev swopped me.'
Tchitchikov however had never in his life seen the chestnut mare or Hvostyrev.
'Won't you have something to eat, sir?' said the old woman, going up to him at that moment.
'No, nothing. Ah, my boy, what a roaring time we had! Give me a glass of vodka, though. What sort have you got?'
'Flavoured with aniseed,' answered the old woman.
'Give me a glass, too,' said the fair man.
'At the theatre there was an actress who sang like a canary, the hussy! Kuvshinnikov who was sitting by me, "I say, my boy," says he, "there's a rose that wants gathering." There must have been quite fifty booths, I believe. Fenardi turned somersaults for four hours.' At this point he took the glass out of the hands of the old woman, who made him a low bow for doing so.
'Ah, give him here,' he shouted, seeing Porfiry come in with the puppy. Porfiry was dressed like his master in a sort of jerkin, wadded and somewhat greasy, however.
'Bring him here, put him down on the floor!'
Porfiry set down the puppy which, stretching out all its four legs, sniffed at the floor.
'Here's the pup!' said Nozdryov, picking it up by its back and holding it up in the air. The puppy gave a rather plaintive howl.
'But you haven't done what I told you,' said Nozdryov, addressing Porfiry, and carefully scrutinising the puppy's belly; 'and didn't you think to comb him?'
'Yes, I did comb him.'
'Well, why has he got fleas then?'
'I can't tell. They may have got on to him from the chaise.'
'You are lying, you are lying, you never thought of combing him; and I expect, you fool, you let him catch yours too. Just look here, Tchitchikov, look what ears; here, feel them.'
'But why? I can see without that: it's a good breed,' answered Tchitchikov.
'No, take him, feel his ears.'
To gratify him Tchitchikov felt the dog's ears, saying as he did so: 'Yes, he will make a good dog.'
'And feel how cold his nose is. Take hold of it.'
Not wishing to offend him Tchitchikov touched the dog's nose too, and said: 'He'll have a good scent.'
'He's a real bull-dog,' Nozdryov went on. 'I must own I've been keen to get a bull-dog for ever so long. Here, Porfiry, take him away.'
Porfiry, putting his arm round the puppy, carried him off to the chaise.
'I say, Tchitchikov, you absolutely must come back with me now; it's only three miles, we shall whisk there like the wind, and then, if you like, you can go on to Sobakevitch.'
'Well,' thought Tchitchikov to himself, 'why shouldn't I really go to Nozdryov's. Isn't he as good as any one else and he has just lost money too. He is ready for anything, as one can see. So one might get him to give one something for nothing. Very well, let us go,' he said, 'but on condition you don't keep me; my time's precious.'
'Well, you darling, that's right! That's capital! Stay! I must give you a kiss for that.'
Hereupon Nozdryov and Tchitchikov kissed each other.
'First-rate; we will set off, the three of us!'
'No, let me off, please,' said the fair man, 'I must get home.'
'Nonsense, nonsense, old man: I won't let you go.'
'My wife will be cross, really; now you can get into the gentleman's chaise.'
'No, no, no! Don't you think it.'
The fair man was one of those people in whose character a certain obstinacy is at first sight apparent. Before you have time to open your lips they are ready to begin arguing, and it seems as though they will never agree to what is openly opposed to their way of thinking, that they will never call what is foolish sensible, and above all will never dance to another man's piping. But it always ends in their displaying a weakness of will, in their agreeing to what they have denied, calling what is foolish sensible and dancing in fine style to another man's piping—in fact they begin well and end badly.
'Nonsense,' said Nozdryov in reply to some protest on the part of the fair man; then he put the latter's cap on his head and—the fair man followed them.
'For the drop of vodka, sir, you have not paid,' said the old woman.
'Oh, all right, all right, my good woman. I say, dear boy! pay it for me, please, I haven't a farthing in my pocket.'
'How much do you want?' asked his brother-in-law.
'Why, twenty kopecks, sir,' said the old woman.
'Nonsense, nonsense, give her half. It's quite enough for her.'
'That's very little, sir,' said the old woman. She took the money with gratitude, however, and ran with alacrity to open the door. She was not a loser by the transaction, for she had asked four times the cost of the vodka.
The travellers took their seats. Tchitchikov's chaise drove by the side of the one in which Nozdryov and his brother-in-law were seated, and so they could all talk freely together on the way. Nozdryov's wretched little carriage drawn by the lean hired horses followed behind, continually halting. Porfiry was in it with the puppy.
As the conversation which the travellers kept up was of no great interest to the reader, we shall do better if we say something about Nozdryov himself, since he is perhaps destined to play not the least important part in our poem.
The personality of Nozdryov is certainly to some extent familiar to the reader already. Every one must have met more than a few like him. They are called dashing fellows and are known even in childhood and at school as good companions, though they are apt to get a good many hard knocks for all that. There is always something open, direct, and reckless in their faces. They are quick to make friends, and you can hardly look round before they have begun addressing you as though they had known you all their lives. One would think they were friends for life; but it almost always happens that their new friend quarrels with them the very evening when they are celebrating their friendship. They are always great talkers, rakes, and dare-devils, and are always to the fore in everything. At thirty-five, Nozdryov was exactly the same as he had been at eighteen and twenty: given up to the pursuit of pleasure. His marriage did not change him in the least, especially as his wife departed to a better world soon after it, leaving him with two small children who were not at all what he wanted. The children, however, were looked after by an engaging little nurse. He could never stay at home for more than a day at a time. He never failed to get wind of any fairs, assemblies, or balls for miles around; in a twinkling of an eye he was there, squabbling and getting up a row at the green table, for like all men of his kind he had a great passion for cards.
As we have seen in the first chapter, his play was not quite above suspicion, he was up to all sorts of tricks and dodges, and so the game often ended in sport of a different kind: either he got a good drubbing or had his fine thick whiskers pulled out, so that he often returned home with only one whisker and that somewhat attenuated. But his full healthy cheeks were so happily constituted and capable of such luxuriant growth, that his whiskers soon sprouted and were finer than ever. And what is strangest of all and only possible in Russia, within a short time he would meet again the very friends who had given him such a dressing, and meet them as though nothing had happened: he, as the saying is, did not turn a hair and they did not turn a hair.
Nozdryov was in a certain sense an historical character. No gathering at which he was present went off without some 'history.' Some sort of scandal invariably occurred: either he was conducted out of the ballroom by the police, or his friends were forced to eject him themselves. If that did not occur, something would be sure to happen that never would happen to any one else: either he would get so drunk at the refreshment bar that he did nothing but laugh, or he would tell such fantastic lies that at last he felt ashamed of himself. And he would lie without any provocation: he would suddenly assert that he had a horse whose coat was a light blue or pink colour, and nonsense of that sort, so that at last his listeners would walk away from him, saying: 'Well, my lad, it seems you are drawing the longbow.' There are people who have a passion for playing nasty tricks on their neighbours, sometimes without the slightest provocation. Even a man of good position and gentlemanly appearance, with a decoration on his breast will, for instance, shake hands, and converse with you on intellectual subjects that call for deep reflection, and in another minute before your very eyes he is playing you a nasty trick like the humblest little copying clerk and not at all like a man with a decoration on his breast conversing on subjects that call for deep reflection, so that you simply stand amazed and can do nothing but shrug your shoulders. Nozdryov had this strange passion too. The more intimate any one was with him, the readier he was to do him a bad turn; he would spread the most incredible tales which would have been hard to beat for silliness, upset a wedding or a business transaction, and all the while would be far from regarding himself as your enemy; on the contrary, if chance threw you with him again, he would behave in the most friendly way again and would even say: 'You are a wretch, you never come to see me.' In a certain sense Nozdryov was a many-sided man, that is, a man who could turn his hand to anything. In the same breath he would offer to go with you to the furthest ends of the earth, to undertake any enterprise you might choose, to swop anything in the world for anything you like. Guns, dogs, horses, anything would do for a swop, not with the slightest idea of gain; it all sprang from an irresistible impetuosity and recklessness of character. If he had the luck to hit upon a simpleton at a fair and rook him, he bought masses of things because they caught his eye in the shops: horse collars, fumigating candles, kerchiefs for the nurse, a stallion, raisins, a silver washing-basin, holland linen, fine wheaten flour, tobacco, pistols, herrings, pictures, a lathe, pots, boots, china—as long as his money lasted. However, it rarely happened that all this wealth was carried home; almost the same day it would pass into the hands of some luckier gambler, sometimes even with the addition of a peculiar pipe with a tobacco pouch and a mouthpiece, and another time with all his four horses, carriage, and coachman, so that their former owner had to set to work in a short jacket or a jerkin to look out for a friend to give him a lift in his carriage. Such was Nozdryov! Perhaps he will be called a hackneyed character, and it will be said that there are no Nozdryovs now. Alas! those who say so are wrong. It will be many long years before the Nozdryovs are extinct. They are everywhere among us, and the only difference perhaps is that they are wearing a different cut of coat; but people are carelessly unobservant and a man in a different coat seems to them a different man.
Meanwhile the three carriages rolled up to the steps of Nozdryov's house. There was no sort of preparation for their reception within. There were wooden trestles in the middle of the dining-room, and two peasants standing on them were whitewashing the walls, carolling some endless song; the floor was all splashed with whitewash. Nozdryov ordered the peasants and the trestles out of the room on the spot and ran out into the next room to give instructions. The guests heard him giving the cook directions about dinner; Tchitchikov, who was already beginning to be aware of an appetite, saw clearly that they would not sit down to table within five hours. On his return Nozdryov conducted his visitors to see everything he had in the village, and in the course of a little more than two hours showed them absolutely everything, so that there was nothing else to be shown. First of all, they went to inspect the stable where they saw two more mares, one a dappled grey, the other a chestnut, then a bay stallion, not very handsome to look at, though Nozdryov swore that he had paid ten thousand for it.
'You didn't give ten thousand for him,' said his brother-in-law. 'He's not worth one.'
'Upon my soul, I did give ten thousand for him,' said Nozdryov.
'You can swear as much as you like,' answered his brother-in-law.
'Well, will you take a bet on it?' said Nozdryov.
His brother-in-law did not care to bet on it.
Then Nozdryov showed them the empty stalls in which there had once been other good horses. In the same stables they saw a goat, which in accordance with the old superstition they considered it essential to keep with the horses, and which seemed to be on the best of terms with them and walked about under their bellies as though it were at home there. Then Nozdryov led them to view a wolf-cub which was kept tied up. 'Here's the wolf-cub!' he said. 'I feed him on raw meat on purpose. I want him to be quite fierce.' They went to look at the pond, in which according to Nozdryov there were fish of such size that two men could with difficulty pull one out. His brother-in-law did not fail to express his doubts of the fact.
'I am going to show you, Tchitchikov, a couple of first-rate dogs: the strength of their black flesh is simply amazing, their hair is like needles'; and he led them into a very picturesquely built little house, surrounded by a large yard, fenced in on all sides. When they went into the yard they saw dogs of all kinds, borzoys of several breeds of all shades and colours, dark brown, black and tan, black and white, brown and white, red and white, with black ears and with grey ears. … They had all sorts of names, often in the imperative mood: Shoot-away, Growl-away, Dash-away, Fire, Cross-eye, Pointer, Bakewell, Scorcher, Swallow, Hasty, Treasure, Caretaker. With them Nozdryov was just like a father among his children: they all flew to meet and welcome the visitors with their tails in the air in accordance with the rules of canine etiquette. A dozen of them put their paws on Nozdryov's shoulders. Growl-away displayed great affection for Tchitchikov and, getting on his hind-legs, licked him right on the lips, so that our friend turned aside and spat at once. They inspected the dogs the strength of whose 'black flesh' was so amazing—they were fine dogs. Then they went to look at a Crimean bitch who was blind and in Nozdryov's words would soon be dead, but had two years ago been a very good bitch. They looked at the bitch, she certainly was blind. Then they went to look at a water-mill; it had lost the iron ring on which the upper stone rests as it turns rapidly on the axle—whisks round, to use the delightful expression of the Russian peasant. 'And the smithy is close by,' said Nozdryov; and going on a little further they saw the smithy, and that too they inspected.
'Look, in that field,' said Nozdryov, pointing to it, 'there are such masses of hares that you can't see the ground; I caught one by the hind-legs with my own hands.'
'Come, you can't catch a hare with your hands,' observed his brother-in-law.
'But I say I did catch one, I caught one on purpose!' answered Nozdryov. 'Now,' he said, addressing Tchitchikov, 'I am going to take you to see the boundaries of my property.'
Nozdryov led his visitors across fields which in many places were covered with hillocks. The guests had to make their way between rough fallow land and ploughed fields. Tchitchikov began to feel tired. In many places the water squelched up under their feet, it was such low-lying ground. At first they were careful and picked their way, but afterwards, seeing that it was of no use, walked straight on without looking out for the mud. After walking a considerable distance they did indeed see the boundary, which consisted of a wooden post and a narrow ditch.
'This is the boundary,' said Nozdryov, 'all that you see on this side is mine and even on the other side of it, all that forest which you see in the blue distance over there and all that beyond the forest is mine too.'
'But when did that forest become your property?' asked the brother-in-law. 'Surely you haven't bought it lately? It used not to be yours, you know.'
'Yes, I bought it lately,' answered Nozdryov.
'When did you manage to buy it so quickly?'
'Oh, I bought it the day before yesterday and paid a lot for it too, dash it all!'
'Why, but you were at the fair then.'
'Ough, you duffer! Can't one be at a fair and yet buy land? I was at the fair and while I was away my steward bought it for me.'
'But how could the steward?' said his brother-in-law; but at that moment he looked dubious and shook his head.
The visitors returned to the house by the same disgusting road. Nozdryov led them to his study, in which however there was nothing commonly seen in studies, such as books or papers; on the walls there hung swords and two guns, one that had cost three hundred and the other eight hundred roubles. The brother-in-law after examining them merely shook his head. Then they were shown some Turkish daggers, on one of which there had been engraved by mistake: Made by Savely Sibiryakov. Then the friends were shown a barrel-organ. Nozdryov immediately turned the handle. The barrel-organ played not unpleasantly, but something seemed to go wrong with it in the middle, for the mazurka ended up with the song, 'Marlbrook s'en va-t-en guerre,' and Marlbrook wound up unexpectedly with an old familiar waltz. Nozdryov had left off turning, but there was one pipe in the organ that was very irrepressible and, unwilling to be silenced, went on for a long time fluting by itself.
Then they were shown pipes made of wood, of clay, or of meerschaum, smoked and unsmoked, wrapped up in chamois leather and not wrapped up, a chibouk with an amber mouthpiece lately won at cards, a tobacco pouch embroidered by a countess who had fallen head over ears in love with him somewhere at a posting station, and whose hands were in his words, subtilement superflues, words that apparently to him suggested the acme of perfection. After a preliminary snack of salt sturgeon they sat down to dinner about five o'clock. Dinner evidently was not the chief interest in Nozdryov's life; the dishes did not make a very fine show, some were burnt, others quite uncooked. It was evident the cook was guided by inspiration and put in the first ingredient he laid his hand on: if the pepper happened to stand by him he put in pepper, if cabbage turned up, in it went, he flung in milk, ham, peas—in short he pitched in everything pell-mell so long as it was hot, thinking it would be sure to have some sort of taste. On the other hand Nozdryov was strong on wines: even before the soup was handed round he had already poured out for each of his guests a big glass of port and another of Haut Sauterne, for in provincial towns there is no such thing as simple Sauterne. Then Nozdryov sent for a bottle of Madeira, 'no field-marshal ever drank better,' he said. The Madeira certainly did burn their mouths, for the wine merchants know the tastes of country gentlemen who are fond of good Madeira, and doctor it mercilessly with rum and sometimes put plain vodka in it, confidently relying on the fortitude of the Russian stomach. Then Nozdryov ordered a special bottle to be fetched of a wine which, according to him, was a mixture of Burgundy and champagne. He poured it very freely into the glasses of both—to right and to left, to his brother-in-law and Tchitchikov. Tchitchikov noticed, however, out of the corner of his eye that his host took very little for himself. This put him on his guard, and as soon as Nozdryov's attention was distracted by talking or pouring out wine for his brother-in-law he upset his wine-glass into his plate. After a brief interval a liqueur made from rowan berries was put on the table and described by Nozdryov as tasting exactly like cream, though to their surprise it tasted strongly of corn-brandy. Then they drank some sort of balsam which had a name difficult to remember, and, indeed, the master of the house called it by a different name later on. The dinner had long ago been finished and all the wines tasted, but the guests still sat at the table. Tchitchikov was not at all anxious to broach the great subject to Nozdryov before the brother-in-law: the latter was in any case a third person and the subject called for privacy and friendly talk. At the same time the brother-in-law could hardly be a man to be afraid of, for he was apparently quite tipsy and was nodding in his chair. Perceiving himself that he was in a somewhat unstable condition, he began to talk of going home, but in a voice as languid and listless as though, to use the Russian expression, he were putting on a horse's collar with a pair of pincers.
'No, no, I won't let you go,' said Nozdryov.
'No, don't worry me, my dear boy, I am going really,' said the brother-in-law, 'you treat me very badly.'
'Nonsense, nonsense! We will have a game of bank in a minute.'
'No, you play yourself, my boy, but I can't: my wife will be dreadfully upset, I must tell her all about the fair. I must, my boy, I really must do that to please her. No, don't keep me!'
'Oh, your wife can go to …! Very important business that is! …'
'No, my boy! She is such a good wife. She is really exemplary, so faithful and estimable. She does so much for me … you wouldn't believe it, it brings tears into my eyes. No, don't keep me, as I am an honest man I am going. On my word of honour, I assure you.'
'Let him go; what's the use of keeping him?' said Tchitchikov to Nozdryov.
'Ah, you are right there,' said Nozdryov. 'I simply hate such wet blankets'; and he added aloud: 'Well, confound you, you can go and spoon with your wife, you muff.'
'No, my boy, don't call me names,' answered his brother-in-law, 'I am indebted to her, to my wife. She is so kind and good really, she is so sweet to me, she touches me to tears. She will ask me what I saw at the fair, I must tell her all about it … she is so sweet really.'
'Well, be off then. … Tell her a lot of tosh! Here is your cap.'
'No, you oughtn't to talk like that about her, my boy; you are insulting me, I may say, when you do it, she is so sweet.'
'Well, then, you make haste and take yourself off to her.'
'Yes, my boy, I'm going, you must excuse me but I really can't stay. I should love to, but I can't.' The brother-in-law went on a long while repeating his apologies without observing that he had for some time past been sitting in his chaise, had driven out beyond the gates and was facing nothing but the empty fields. It may be assumed that his wife heard but little of the incidents of the fair.
'What a paltry fellow!' said Nozdryov, standing before the window and looking at the carriage as it drove away. 'Look how it rolls along. The trace-horse isn't bad, I have long wanted to hook it. But there is no getting round him. He is a muff, a regular muff!'
Thereupon they went into another room. Porfiry brought candles, and Tchitchikov noticed in his host's hands a pack of cards that seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
'Well, my boy,' said Nozdryov, pressing the side of the pack with his fingers and slightly bending it so that the paper round it split and flew off, 'to pass the time I'll put three hundred roubles in the bank.'
But Tchitchikov made as though he had not heard what was said, and observed as though suddenly recollecting: 'Oh, while I think of it: I have something I want to ask you.'
'What is it?'
'Promise first that you will do it.'
'But what is it?'
'Come, promise first.'
'On your honour?'
'On my honour.'
'This is what it is; I expect you have a great many dead serfs whose names have not been struck off the census list?'
'Yes, I have, what of it?'
'Transfer them to me, to my name.'
'What do you want them for?'
'Oh well, I want them.'
'Oh well, I want them … that's my business, in fact I need them.'
'Well, I suppose you have some scheme in your head. Own up now, what is it?'
'Why, what scheme? There is nothing one could plan over such rubbish.'
'But what do you want them for?'
'Oh, how inquisitive he is! He wants to have his finger in every petty business and to poke his nose into it too!'
'And why won't you tell me?'
'What good will it do you to know? Oh well, it is just a fancy of mine.'
'Oh, all right, then: unless you tell me I won't do it.'
'Come, now, you see that's not honourable on your part: you have given your word—and now you are going back on it.'
'Well, that is just as you please, but I won't do it till you tell me.'
'What am I to say to him?' thought Tchitchikov, and after a minute's reflection he informed him he needed the dead souls to obtain a position in society, that at present he had not big estates, so that until he had, he would be glad of souls of any sort.
'That's a lie, that's a lie!' said Nozdryov, not allowing him to finish. 'That's a lie, old man!'
Tchitchikov himself realised that his fiction was not very plausible and that the pretext was rather a feeble one.
'Oh, very well, then I will tell you straight out,' he said, to set himself right, 'only please don't speak of it to any one. I am going to get married, but I must tell you that the father and mother of my betrothed are very ambitious people. It's a regular nuisance. I regret the engagement: they are set on their daughter's husband having at least three hundred souls, and as I am quite a hundred and fifty souls short of that …'
'Come, that's a lie, that's a lie,' cried Nozdryov again.
'I assure you,' said Tchitchikov, 'I haven't lied this little bit,' and he pointed with his thumb to the top of his little finger.
'I bet my head you are lying!'
'This is really insulting. What do you take me for? Why are you so sure that I am lying?'
'Why, I know you, you see; you are a great rascal—let me tell you in a friendly way! If I were your chief, I'd hang you on the nearest tree.'
Tchitchikov was offended by this observation. Any expression in the least coarse or derogatory to his dignity was distasteful to him. He even disliked any sort of familiarity, except on the part of some personage of very high rank. And so on this occasion he was greatly offended.
'Upon my soul, I would hang you,' repeated Nozdryov. 'I tell you so openly not to insult you, I only speak as a friend.'
'There is a limit to everything,' said Tchitchikov with an air of dignity. 'If you want to display your wit in this way, you had better go to the barracks'; and then he added, 'If you don't care to give them to me, you might sell them.'
'Sell them! But you see I know you, you are a rascal, I know you won't give much for them.'
'Ugh! you are a nice one, really! Think, what use are they to you, are they diamonds or what?'
'Well, there you are! I knew you'd say that.'
'Upon my word, my dear fellow, what Jewish propensities you have! You ought simply to give them to me.'
'Well, listen then; to show you that I am not a shark, I won't take anything for them. Buy my stallion and I will throw them in as a makeweight.'
'Upon my soul, what do I want with a stallion?' said Tchitchikov, genuinely astounded at such a proposition.
'What do you want with one? But you know I gave ten thousand for him, and I will sell him to you for four.'
'But what do I want with a stallion? I don't keep a stud farm.'
'But listen, you don't understand; why, I will let you have him for three thousand and the other thousand you can pay me later.'
'But I don't want the stallion, God bless him!'
'Well, buy the chestnut mare then.'
'I don't want the mare either.'
'I will let you have the mare and the grey horse you saw in the stable for two thousand.'
'But I don't want the horses.'
'You can sell them, they will give you three times as much for them at the first fair.'
'Well, you had better sell them yourself then, if you are sure you will get three times as much.'
'I know it would pay me better, but I want you to make something out of it.'
Tchitchikov thanked him for his kind intention, and refused point-blank both the grey horse and the chestnut mare.
'All right, then, buy some dogs. I'll sell you a couple—that will simply make your hair stand on end! Such whiskers; their coat stands up like a brush; and the barrel-shape of their ribs is beyond all conception, and their paws are so soft and supple—they don't leave a mark on the ground.'
'But what do I want with dogs? I am not a sportsman.'
'But I should like you to have dogs. Well, I say, if you don't want dogs, buy my barrel-organ. It's a wonderful organ. As I am an honest man, it cost me fifteen hundred roubles. I'll let you have it for nine hundred.'
'But what do I want with a hurdy-gurdy? I am not a German to go trudging about the roads with it, begging.'
'But this isn't the sort of barrel-organ Germans go about with, you know. It's an organ; take a good look at it; it's all mahogany. I'll show it to you again!' At this point Nozdryov seizing Tchitchikov by the arm dragged him into the adjoining room and, though he held his ground firmly and declared that he knew what the barrel-organ was like, he had to hear how Marlborough went to war once more.
'If you don't want to buy it, I tell you, I'll give you the barrel-organ and all the dead souls I have got, and you give me your chaise and three hundred roubles thrown in.'
'What next! What should I do for a carriage?'
'I'd give you another chaise. Come along to the coach-house, I'll show it you! You have only to give it a coat of paint and it will be a capital chaise.'
'Ough, the devil is egging him on!' Tchitchikov thought to himself, and he made up his mind that, come what might, he would refuse all chaises, barrel-organs, and any conceivable dog in spite of ribs, barrel-shaped beyond all conception, and paws so soft and supple.
'But, you see, you'll have the chaise, the barrel-organ, and the dead souls all together.'
'I don't want them!' Tchitchikov said once more.
'Why don't you want them?'
'Because I simply don't want them, and that's all about it.'
'Well, you are a fellow! I see there is no doing business with you as between good friends and comrades. … You really are … one can see at once that you are a double-faced man!'
'Why, do you take me for a fool or what? Judge for yourself: why should I take a thing absolutely of no use to me?'
'Oh, it is no use your talking. I understand you very well now. You are really such a cad. But I tell you what. If you like we'll have out the cards. I'll stake all my dead souls on a card, the barrel-organ too.'
'Well, staking it on a card means leaving it in uncertainty,' said Tchitchikov, while he glanced askance at the cards that were in Nozdryov's hands. Both the packs looked to him as though they had been tampered with and the very spots on the back looked suspicious.
'Why uncertainty?' said Nozdryov. 'There is no uncertainty. If only the luck's on your side, you'll win a devilish lot. There it is! What luck!' he said, beginning to lay out the cards to tempt him to play. 'What luck, what luck; take everything.'
'There's that damned nine that I lost everything on! I felt that it would sell me and, half shutting my eyes, I thought to myself: damnation take you, you may sell me, you brute!'
While Nozdryov was saying this, Porfiry brought in a bottle. But Tchitchikov absolutely refused either to drink or to play.
'Why won't you play?' said Nozdryov.
'Oh, because I don't feel inclined. And, indeed, I must own that I am not particularly fond of cards at any time.'
'Why aren't you?'
Tchitchikov shrugged his shoulders and added: 'Because I am not.'
'You are a paltry fellow!'
'What's to be done? I am as God made me.'
'You are a regular muff! I did think at first that you were more or less of a gentleman, but you don't know how to behave at all. One can't speak to you as one would to a friend. … There is no straightforwardness, no sincerity. You are a regular Sobakevitch, just such a scoundrel!'
'What are you swearing at me for? Am I to blame for not playing? Sell me the souls alone, since you are so made that you worry about such trifles.'
'Devil a one of them you shall have! I was meaning to let you have them for nothing, but now you shan't have them! I wouldn't give them for the riches of the world. You are a pickpocket, a nasty sweep. I won't have anything to do with you from this time forth. Porfiry, go and tell the stable-boy not to give his horses any oats; don't let them have anything but hay.'
Tchitchikov had not in the least expected this conclusion.
'I wish I had never set eyes on you,' said Nozdryov.
In spite of this little misunderstanding, however, the two gentlemen had supper together, though on this occasion there were no wines with fanciful names on the table. There was only one bottle containing Cypress wine, which was as sour as sour can be. After supper Nozdryov said to Tchitchikov, taking him into a room where a bed had been made up for him: 'Here's your bed. I don't want to say good-night to you.'
On Nozdryov's departure Tchitchikov was left in a most unpleasant frame of mind. He was inwardly annoyed with himself and swore at himself for coming here and wasting his time. But he blamed himself still more for having spoken to Nozdryov of business; he had behaved as recklessly as a child, as a fool, for his business was not of the sort that could safely be confided to Nozdryov … Nozdryov was a worthless fellow. Nozdryov might tell lies, exaggerate, spread abroad God knows what stories, and it might lead to all sorts of scandal … it was bad, it was bad. 'I am simply a fool,' he said to himself. He slept very badly. Some small and very lively insects bit him mercilessly, so much so that he scratched with all his fingers on the smarting place, saying as he did so: 'The devil take you and Nozdryov too.' He woke up early in the morning. His first action, after putting on his dressing-gown and boots, was to cross the yard to the stable to tell Selifan to put the horses in the chaise at once. As he crossed the yard on his way back, he met Nozdryov, who was also in his dressing-gown and had a pipe between his teeth.
Nozdryov gave him a friendly greeting and asked him what sort of a night he had had.
'So-so,' answered Tchitchikov very drily.
'As for me, my boy,' said Nozdryov, 'such nasty things haunted me all night that it is loathsome to tell of them; and it seemed as though there were a regiment of soldiers encamped in my mouth after yesterday. Only fancy, I dreamed that I was being thrashed, upon my soul! And would you believe it? You will never guess by whom: Captain Potsyeluev and Kuvshinnikov.'
'Yes,' thought Tchitchikov to himself, 'it would be a good thing if you really were thrashed.'
'Upon my soul! And it hurt too! I woke up, dash it all, something really was stinging me, I suppose it was those hags of fleas. Well, you go and get dressed; I will come to you directly. I have only got to pitch into that rogue of a steward.'
Tchitchikov went back to his room, to wash and dress. When, after that, he went into the dining-room, the table was already laid for morning tea together with a bottle of rum. There were still traces about the room of the dinner and supper of the previous day and it seemed that no broom had been used. There were bread-crumbs on the floor and tobacco-ash even on the tablecloth. The master of the house himself who came in soon after had nothing on under his dressing-gown, and displayed a bare chest with something like a beard growing on it. Holding a chibouk in his hand and sipping from a cup, he would have been a very good subject for one of those painters who detest sleek gentlemen with hair properly cut or curled like a barber's block.
'Well, so how is it to be?' said Nozdryov after a brief pause, 'won't you play for the souls?'
'I have told you, my boy, that I don't play. I will buy them if you like.'
'I don't want to sell them: that wouldn't be acting like a friend. I am not going to make filthy lucre from the devil knows what. Playing for it is a different matter. Let us have one game anyway.'
'I have told you already I won't.'
'And you won't change?'
'Well, I tell you what, let us have a game at draughts; if you win they are all yours. I have got lots, you know, that ought to be struck off the census list. Hey, Porfiry, bring the draughtboard here!'
'No need to trouble: I am not going to play.'
'But this isn't cards; there is no question of chance or deception about it: it all depends on skill, you know. I must warn you beforehand that I can't play a bit, in fact you ought to give me something.'
'Well, suppose I do,' Tchitchikov thought to himself. 'I will play draughts with him. I don't play badly, and it will be difficult for him to be up to any tricks at draughts.'
'Very well, I will play at draughts.'
'The souls against a hundred roubles!'
'Why? Fifty would be quite enough.'
'No, fifty is not much of a stake. I had better make it up with a puppy of some sort or a gold seal for your watch-chain.'
'Very well!' said Tchitchikov.
'What piece will you give me?' said Nozdryov.
'Whatever for? Certainly not.'
'You might at least give me the first two moves.'
'I won't, I am a poor player myself.'
'I know what sort of a poor player you are!' said Nozdryov, moving forward a draught.
'It's a long time since I touched a draughtsman,' said Tchitchikov, and he too advanced a piece.
'We know what sort of a poor player you are,' said Nozdryov, moving a draughtsman and at the same time pushing forward another with the cuff of his sleeve.
'I haven't touched one for ever so long! … Aie, aie! What's this, put it back,' said Tchitchikov.
'That draught there,' said Tchitchikov, and at the same moment saw almost under his nose another which had, it seemed, reached the point of becoming a king. Where it had come from, goodness only knows. 'No,' said Tchitchikov, getting up from the table. 'It is quite impossible to play with you. You can't play three moves at once!'
'Why three? It is a mistake. One was moved by accident; I'll put it back if you like.'
'And where did that other one come from?'
'What other one?'
'Why, that other one which is just going to be a king.'
'Well, I say! don't you remember?'
'No, my friend, I have counted every move and I remember them all: you have only just put it there. Its proper place is here!'
'What, which place?' said Nozdryov, turning crimson. 'I see you are a story-teller, old fellow.'
'No, old fellow, it is you who tell stories, I fancy, but you don't tell them successfully.'
'For what do you take me?' said Nozdryov. 'Do you suppose I cheat?'
'I don't take you for anything, but I'll never play with you again.'
'No, you can't refuse,' said Nozdryov, getting hot, 'the game has been begun.'
'I have a right to refuse, for you don't play as an honourable man should.'
'No, that's a lie, you mustn't say that!'
'No, you are lying yourself.'
'I didn't cheat and you can't refuse to go on; you ought to finish the game!'
'You won't make me do that,' said Tchitchikov coolly, and going up to the draughtboard he mixed the draughts together.
Nozdryov flushed crimson and advanced so close to Tchitchikov that the latter stepped back a couple of paces.
'I'll make you play. It does not matter that you have moved the pieces. I remember all the moves. We'll put them back as they were.'
'No, my dear fellow, that's the end: I am not going to play with you again.'
'So you won't play?'
'You can see yourself that it is impossible to play with you.'
'No, say straight out, won't you play?' said Nozdryov, advancing closer.
'No,' said Tchitchikov, and at the same time he brought both his hands nearer to his face in case of need, for things were really getting rather too hot for him. This precaution was very well timed, for Nozdryov swung his arm … and it might easily have happened that one of our hero's plump and prepossessing cheeks would have received an insult that nothing could have wiped out, but, fortunately warding off the blow, he seized Nozdryov by his two menacing arms and held him firmly.
'Porfiry, Pavlushka!' shouted Nozdryov in a fury, struggling to free himself.
Hearing this shout, Tchitchikov, not wishing the serfs to witness this seductive scene, and at the same time feeling it was useless to hold Nozdryov, let go of his arms. At that instant Porfiry entered followed by Pavlushka, a stalwart fellow with whom it would be distinctly unprofitable to come to blows.
'So you won't finish the game?' said Nozdryov. 'Give me a straightforward answer!'
'It's impossible to finish the game,' said Tchitchikov and glanced out of the window. He saw his chaise standing quite ready and Selifan waiting apparently for a signal to drive up to the steps; but there was no possibility of getting out of the room, two sturdy fools of serfs were standing in the doorway.
'So you won't finish the game,' said Nozdryov with a face as hot as fire.
'If you played as an honourable man should … but as it is, I can't.'
'So you can't, you scoundrel! As soon as you see you are losing, you can't! Beat him!' he shouted frantically, turning to Porfiry and Pavlushka, while he caught hold of his cherrywood chibouk. Tchitchikov turned pale as a sheet. He tried to say something, but felt his lips move without uttering a sound.
'Beat him!' cried Nozdryov, dashing forward with the cherrywood chibouk, as hot and perspiring as though he were attacking an impregnable citadel. 'Beat him!' he shouted in the voice with which some desperate lieutenant shouts 'Forward, lads!' to his men, though his hot-headed valour has attained such notoriety that special instructions have been given him to curb it when advancing to the attack. But the lieutenant is stirred by martial ardour, everything whirls round in his head, he has visions of Suvorov and yearns for deeds of heroism. 'Forward, lads!' he shouts, regardless of the fact that he is ruining the plan laid down for the general attack, that innumerable guns are ranged in the embrasure of the impregnable fortress walls that vanish into the skies, that his helpless company will be blown into atoms, and that already the fatal bullet that will still his shouts and close his mouth for ever is whistling through the air. But if Nozdryov did suggest a desperate and frantic lieutenant attacking a fortress, it must be admitted that the fortress that he was attacking was by no means an impregnable one. On the contrary, the object of his attack was so overwhelmed with terror that his heart sank into his heels. Already the chair with which he had thought to protect himself had been wrenched from his hands by the servants, already closing his eyes, more dead than alive, he was expecting to feel his host's Circassian chibouk, and God only knows what might not have happened to him in another moment; but the fates were pleased to spare the sides, the shoulders, and all the well-bred person of our hero. Suddenly and unexpectedly, as though from the clouds, came the tinkle of jangling bells, there was a distinct sound of the rattling wheels of a trap flying up to the steps, and the heavy snorts and laboured breathing of the over-heated horses resounded even in the room. Every one involuntarily glanced out of window: a man with a moustache, in a semi-military uniform, got out of the trap. After inquiries in the hall, he walked in before Tchitchikov could recover from his terror and while he was in the most pitiful position in which mortal could be placed.
'Allow me to inquire which of the present company is Mr. Nozdryov?' said the stranger, looking with some perplexity at Nozdryov who was standing with his chibouk in his hand, and at Tchitchikov who had scarcely begun to recover from his ignominious position.
'Allow me to ask first, to whom I have the honour of speaking?' said Nozdryov, going up to him.
'I am the police-captain.'
'And what do you want?'
'I have come to inform you that you are placed under arrest until your case has been settled.'
'What nonsense, what case?' said Nozdryov.
'You are implicated in the assault by thrashing on a gentleman by name Maximov whilst in a state of intoxication.'
'That's a lie! I have never set eyes on a gentleman called Maximov.'
'Sir! Allow me to remind you that I am an officer. You may say that to your servant, but not to me.'
At this point Tchitchikov, without waiting for Nozdryov's answer, made haste to pick up his hat, slipped behind the police-captain's back, and out to the steps, got into his chaise and told Selifan to drive at his topmost speed.