Dead Souls—A Poem/Book Two/Chapter I
Why depict the poverty of our life and our melancholy imperfection, digging people out from the wilds, from the most secluded corners in the empire? What is to be done, if such is the character of the author; if he is so sick at heart over his own imperfection, and if his talent is formed to depict the poverty of our life, digging people out from the wilds and the remotest corners of the empire! And here we are again in the wilderness, again we have come upon an out-of-the-way corner. But what a wilderness and what a corner!
The hills run zig-zagging for over eight hundred miles. Like the gigantic rampart of some unending fortress they rise above the plain, here a yellowish cliff like a wall with ravines and hollows, here a green, round cushion covered, as with lambswool, with young foliage springing from the stumps of cut-down trees, and here dark forests untouched by the axe. The river, faithful to its high banks, makes with them many a crook and turn across the whole expanse, but sometimes it escapes from them altogether into the meadows, then after taking several twists it flashes like fire in the sun, hides in a copse of birch-trees, aspens and alders, and races out of it in triumph accompanied by bridges, water-mills and dams which seem to be pursuing it at every turn.
In one place the steep side of the hill rises higher than the rest, and is covered from top to bottom in the green of the thickly crowded trees. Here there is everything together, maples, pear-trees, low-growing willows, brooms, birch-trees, firs and mountain ash entwined with hops; here … glimpses of red roofs of farm buildings, the tops of the huts hidden behind them, the upper part of a mansion, and above all this mass of trees and roofs, an old-fashioned church lifts its five flashing cupolas. On each one of them is a carved gilt cross fastened to the cupola by carved gilt chains, so that the gold glitters in the distance as though hanging in the air unfastened to anything. And all this mass of trees and roofs together with the church are reflected upside down in the river where picturesque and misshapen old willows, some standing on the bank, others right in the water, dipping into it their branches and leaves, seem to be gazing at that reflection which they have not wearied of admiring through all the long years of their life.
It was a very fine view, but the view from the house over the plain and the distance was finer still. No guest or visitor could stand unmoved upon the balcony: there was a thrill at his heart and he could only exclaim, 'My God, what a vista!' A boundless expanse lay open below. Beyond the water meadows, dotted with copses and water-mills, there were green and dark-blue patches of forest, like the sea or like mist flooding the distance. Beyond the forest through the hazy atmosphere could be seen yellow sand. Beyond the sand on the distant horizon lay a ridge of chalk hills, gleaming with dazzling whiteness even in cloudy weather as though lighted up by eternal sunshine. Dark purplish patches were faintly visible here and there upon them. These were far-away hamlets, but the eye could hardly distinguish them, only a golden church spire, flashing like a spark, betrayed the presence of a big, populous village. All this was wrapped in an unbroken stillness which even the scarcely audible notes of the feathered songsters that filled the air could not disturb. In short the visitor or guest could never stand unmoved upon the balcony, and after contemplating it for an hour or two he would exclaim again as at the first moment: 'My God, what a vista!'
Who was it lived in this village which like an invincible fortress could not be approached from the front, but could only be reached from the other side by meadows, cornfields and at last through a copse of oak-trees, dotted picturesquely on the green turf, right up to the huts and the mansion? Who was the inhabitant, the master and owner of this village? To what happy man did this secluded nook belong?
To Andrey Ivanovitch Tyentyetnikov, a landowner of the Tremalahansky district, a young unmarried man of thirty-three, by rank a collegiate secretary.
What sort of man was Andrey Ivanovitch Tyentyetnikov, what was his disposition, what were his qualities and his character?
We ought, of course, to inquire of his neighbours. A neighbour who belonged to the class of retired officers, old martinets, summed him up in the laconic expression, 'A regular beast.' A general, living some eight miles away, said: 'The young man is not a fool, but he has too many notions in his head. I might have been of use to him because I have in Petersburg even …' The general did not finish his observation. The police-captain remarked: 'Why, his rank in the service is wretched, contemptible; and I have to go to him to-morrow for arrears of taxes!' If a peasant in the village was asked what his master was like, he made no answer. In fact the general opinion of him was rather unfavourable than favourable.
Yet Andrey Ivanovitch was neither good nor bad in his life and actions—he simply vegetated. Since there are not a few people in this world who do vegetate, why should not Tyentyetnikov vegetate?
Here, however, in a few words is a full chronicle of his day, and from it the reader may judge for himself of his character.
He woke up very late in the morning and would sit for a long time on his bed, rubbing his eyes. His eyes were unfortunately rather small and so the rubbing of them lasted a long time. All this time his man Mihailo was standing at the door with the washing basin and a towel. This poor Mihailo would stand waiting for an hour or two, then would go off to the kitchen and come back again—and his master was still sitting on the bed, rubbing his eyes. At last he got up from his bed, washed himself, put on his dressing-gown and went into the drawing-room, there to drink tea, coffee, cocoa, or even milk, sipping a little of each, crumbling up his bread in a merciless way and making a shameless mess everywhere with his tobacco ash. He would spend a couple of hours over his morning tea; and that was not all, he would take a cup of cold tea and go to the window looking out into the yard. The following scene took place every day before the window.
The unshaven butler Grigory would begin it by bawling at Perfilyevna the housekeeper, in the following terms: 'You paltry soul! You nonentity! You had better hold your tongue, you nasty woman.'
'I am not going to take my orders from you, anyway, you guzzling glutton!' the nonentity, alias Perfilyevna, would shout in reply.
'Nobody could get on with you: you quarrel even with the steward, you storeroom trash,' bawled Grigory.
'Yes, and the steward is as great a thief as you are!' shouted the nonentity, so that she could be heard in the village. 'You are both drunkards, wasting your master's substance, barrels without a bottom! You think that the master does not know you? Why, he is there, he hears it all.'
'Where is the master?'
'Why, he is sitting at the window, he sees it all.'
And indeed the master was sitting at the window and seeing it all.
To complete the picture, a brat whose mother had just boxed his ears, was screaming at the top of his voice, and a borzoy hound squatting on the ground whined pitifully, for the cook had just looked out of the kitchen and splashed it with scalding water; the hubbub and uproar were insufferable. Their master saw and heard it all, and not till it became so unendurable that it even hindered him in doing nothing did he send to tell them to be a little quieter in their noise.
About two hours before dinner Andrey Ivanovitch went off to his study to set to work seriously, and serious his occupation certainly was. It consisted in thinking over a work which had been continually thought over for a long time past. This work was to deal with all Russia from every point of view—civic, political, religious, philosophical, to solve the difficult questions and problems that beset her, and define clearly her great future; in short, it was a work of wide scope. But so far it had not got beyond the stage of meditation: the pen was bitten, sketches made their appearance on the paper and then it was all pushed aside; a book was taken up instead and not put down till dinner-time. The book was read with the soup, the sauce and the roast, and even with the pudding, so that some dishes got cold and others were removed untasted. Then came sipping a cup of coffee, with a pipe; then he played a game of chess with himself. What was done afterwards till supper-time it is really hard to say. I believe that simply nothing was done.
So all alone in the wide world this young man of thirty-three passed his time, sitting indoors in a dressing-gown without a cravat. He did not go out to amuse himself, he did not walk, he did not even care to go upstairs to look at the distance and the views, he did not care to open the windows to let the fresh air into the room; and the lovely view which no visitor could gaze upon without delight seemed not to exist for the owner.
From this record of his day, the reader can gather that Andrey Ivanovitch Tyentyetnikov belonged to that class of people, numerous in Russia, who are known as idlers, sluggards, lazybones, and so on. Whether these characters are born such or are made so by life—is still another question. I think, instead of answering it, I had better tell the story of Andrey Ivanovitch's childhood and education.
As a child he was a clever talented boy, lively and thoughtful by turns. By a lucky or unlucky chance he was sent to a school, the head master of which was a remarkable man in his way, though he had some eccentricities. Alexandr Petrovitch had the gift of divining the nature of the Russian, and knew in what language to speak to him. No boy ever left his presence downcast; on the contrary, even after the sternest reprimand he felt buoyed up and eager to efface his nasty or mischievous action. The mass of his pupils were on the surface so full of mischief, so lively and free and easy in their manners, that one might have taken them for a disorderly gang under no control, but one would have been mistaken; the authority of one man was too powerful in that gang. There was no boy, however mischievous or naughty, who would not come of himself to tell the head master of his pranks. He knew everything that was going on in their minds. His method was unusual in everything. He used to say that what was most important was to arouse ambition—he called ambition the force that urged men onwards—without which there is no moving him to activity. A great deal of mischief and wild spirits he did not restrain at all: in the pranks of childhood he saw the first stage of the development of character. They enabled him to discern what was hidden in the child, as a skilful physician looks calmly at the temporary symptoms, at rashes coming out on the body, and does not try to suppress them, but watches them intently to find out what is going on inside the patient.
His teachers were few in number: he taught most of the subjects himself, and it must be said that without any of the pedantic terminology and sweeping theories which young professors pride themselves upon, he could in few words convey the very essence of his subject, so that it was evident even to the youngest why he needed to understand it. He used to declare that what a man needed most of all was the science of life, that in understanding that he would understand himself and know to what he ought principally to devote himself.
This science of life he made into a separate course of study to which only the most promising of his pupils were admitted. The less gifted boys he allowed to enter the government service straight from the first class, saying it was no use to worry them too much: it was enough for them if they learnt to be patient and diligent workers free from conceit and ulterior motives. 'But the clever boys, the gifted boys, keep me busy a long time,' he used to say, and in this last course Alexandr Petrovitch became a different man, and from the first informed them that he had hitherto expected only simple intelligence, but that now he would expect from them a higher intelligence, not the intelligence that can jeer and mock at fools, but that which can bear every insult, and suffer fools without irritation. At this stage he required from them what others require from children. That he called the highest stage of intelligence. To preserve in the midst of any troubles that lofty calm in which man ought to dwell for ever—that was what he called intelligence. In this course Alexandr Petrovitch showed that he did understand the science of life. Of subjects only those were selected for study which were calculated to turn a man into a true citizen. A great part of the lectures consisted of descriptions of what lay before them in various careers, in the government service or in private callings. He laid before them in all their nakedness, concealing nothing, all the mortifications and obstacles which would confront a man on his path through life, all the dangers and temptations that would beset him. He knew all about them as though he himself had practised every calling and held every office. In fact he pictured anything but a joyful future. Strange to say, either because ambition had already been aroused in them, or because there was something in the very eye of that exceptional teacher that uttered the word, forward!—that marvellous word that works such miracles with the Russian—these lads actually sought positions of difficulty, thirsting for action just where action was hardest, where there was need to show a stout heart. There was a kind of sobriety in their lives. Alexandr Petrovitch put them to all sorts of proofs and tests, inflicted on them painful mortifications by his own action and also through their schoolfellows; but seeing through it they were all the more on their guard. Those who passed through the course were few in number, but those few were strong men, were like men who had been through fire. In the service they kept their footing even in the most precarious position when many others, cleverer perhaps than they, could not hold out, but gave up the service on account of the most trivial annoyances, or without being aware of it got into the hands of rogues and bribe-takers. But Alexandr Petrovitch's pupils did not merely hold on steadily but, trained in the knowledge of man and nature, exerted a lofty influence, even upon the corrupt and the depraved.
But poor Andrey Ivanovitch was not destined to enjoy this teaching. Just when he had been approved for that higher course as one of the best among the boys—there was a sudden calamity; the rare teacher, from whom one word of approval threw him into a delicious tremor, was all at once taken ill and died. Everything in the school was transformed. Alexandr Petrovitch's place was filled by a certain Fyodor Ivanovitch, a kind-hearted and conscientious man whose views however were entirely different. He saw something unbridled in the free and easy manners of the pupils of the first class. He began to introduce an external discipline, insisted that the young creatures were to maintain a mute stillness, that they should never under any circumstances walk out except in twos; and even began with a yard measure fixing the distance between one pair and the next. For the sake of appearance he placed them at table according to height instead of according to intelligence, so that the asses got all the best pieces and the clever ones all the bones. All this raised murmurings, especially when the new head master, as though intentionally slighting his predecessor, announced that a boy's intelligence and success in his studies were of no account in his eyes, that what he prized was good conduct, that if a boy were not good at his lessons but behaved well, he preferred him to the clever ones. But Fyodor Ivanovitch did not succeed in getting just what he aimed at. Mischief went on in secret, and secret mischief, as we all know, is worse than what is open; the strictest discipline was observed by day, but at night there were orgies.
In the top class everything was turned upside down. With the best of intentions he set up all sorts of unsuitable innovations. He engaged new teachers with new ideas and points of view. They lectured in a learned way and flung a mass of new terms and expressions at their audience; they were learned and acquainted with the latest discoveries, but alas! there was no life in their teaching. It all seemed dead to listeners who had just begun to understand. Everything went wrong. But what was worst of all was that the boys lost all respect for the school authorities: they took to laughing both at the head master and at the teachers, they used to call the head master Fedka, the bun, and various other nicknames; things came to such a pass that a good many boys had to be expelled.
Andrey Ivanovitch was of a gentle disposition. He did not take part in the nightly orgies of his companions, who in spite of the strictest supervision had set up a mistress in the neighbourhood, one for eight of them, nor in their other evil courses which went as far as sacrilege and jeering at religion, just because the head master insisted upon their attending church very frequently. But he lost heart. His ambition had been stirred, but there was no activity, no career for him. It would have been better if it had never been aroused at all. He listened to the professors who grew hot in the lecture hall, and thought of his old master, who without getting hot, knew how to speak intelligibly. He heard lectures on chemistry, on the philosophy of law, and listened to the professors, as they went deeply into all the subtleties of political science and the universal history of man conceived on such a vast scale that the professor only succeeded in treating of the introduction and development of guilds in some German towns in three years; but only some shapeless scraps of all this remained in his head. Thanks to his natural good sense, he saw that this was the wrong way to teach, but what was the right way he could not tell. And he often thought of Alexandr Petrovitch, and he used to be so sad that he did not know what to do for misery.
But youth has a future before it. As the time of leaving school drew nearer his heart began to throb. He said to himself: 'This is not life of course, but only a preparation for life, real life is to be found in the service, there are great things to be done there.' And like all ambitious youths he went to Petersburg, to which, as we all know, our ardent young men flock from all parts of Russia—to enter the service, to distinguish themselves, to gain promotion or simply to gather a smattering of our sham, colourless, icy cold 'society' education. Andrey Ivanovitch's ambitious yearnings were, however, damped at the outset by his uncle Onufry Ivanovitch, an actual civil councillor. He informed him that the only thing that mattered was a good handwriting, that without that there was no becoming a minister or statesman, while Tyentyetnikov's handwriting was of the sort which is popularly described as a 'magpie's claw, not a man's hand.' After having lessons in calligraphy for two months he succeeded with great difficulty, through his uncle's influence, in obtaining the job of copying documents in some department. When he went into the well-lighted hall in which gentlemen, with their heads on one side, sat at polished tables, writing with scratchy pens, and when he was seated beside them and a document was set before him to copy—he experienced a very strange sensation. He felt for a time as though he were at a school for small boys learning his A B C again. The gentlemen sitting round him seemed to him so like schoolboys! Some of them read novels which they hid between the big pages of their work, pretending to be busy with the work itself, and at the same time they were in a twitter every time the head of the department appeared. The time at school suddenly rose up before him as a paradise lost for ever: his studies seemed something so much above this paltry work of copying! That preparation for the service seemed to him now far superior to the service itself. And all at once his incomparable wonderful teacher whom no one could replace rose up vividly before his mind, and tears suddenly gushed from his eyes, the room began to go round, the tables grew misty, his fellow-clerks were a blur, and he almost swooned. 'No,' he thought, when he came to himself, 'I will set to work, however petty it may seem at first!' Hardening his heart he determined to do his work as the others did.
Is there any place where there are no enjoyments? They exist even in Petersburg in spite of its grim forbidding aspect. There is a cruel frost of thirty degrees in the streets, a witch's hurricane howls like a despairing devil, flapping the collars of men's fur coats against their heads, powdering their moustaches and the noses of beasts: but there is a hospitable gleam from some little window even on the fourth storey; in a cosy room a conversation that warms both heart and soul is carried on to the hiss of the samovar, in the humble light of stearine candles; an inspired and uplifting page is read from one of the poets with whom God has enriched His Russia, and the youthful heart throbs with a lofty ardour unknown in other lands and under the voluptuous skies of the south.
Tyentyetnikov soon grew used to his office work, but it never became his prime interest and object as he had at first expected; it always took a second place. It served as the best means of filling up his time, making him appreciate more thoroughly the moments that were left him. His uncle, the actual councillor, began to think that his nephew would be of some use, when suddenly his nephew spoilt it all. It must be mentioned that among Andrey Ivanovitch's friends were two who belonged to the class known as disappointed men. They were those strange uncomfortable characters who not only cannot endure injustice but cannot endure anything which to their eyes appears to be injustice. Fundamentally good, though somewhat irresponsible in their own conduct, they were full of intolerance for others. Their heated talk and lofty indignation had a great effect upon him. Working upon his nerves and exciting his irritability, they made him begin to notice all sorts of trivialities to which he would never have dreamt of paying attention in the past. He took a sudden dislike to Fyodor Fyodorovitch Lyenitsyn, the chief of the department in which he served, a man of very prepossessing appearance. He began looking for a mass of defects in him, and detested him on the ground that he displayed too much sweetness in his face when he talked to his superiors and was all vinegar at once when he turned to his inferiors. 'I could forgive him,' said Tyentyetnikov, 'if the change did not take place so quickly in his face: but on the spot, before my eyes, he is sugar and vinegar all in a minute!' From that time forward he began to watch him at every step. He fancied that Fyodor Fyodorovitch stood on his dignity to excess, that he had all the ways of petty Jacks-in-office, that he noticed unfavourably all those who did not come to pay their respects on holidays, and that he even revenged himself on those whose names did not appear on the list of visitors kept by his porter, and a number of other shortcomings from which no man good or bad is entirely free. He felt a nervous aversion for him. Some evil spirit prompted him to do something unpleasant to Fyodor Fyodorovitch. He sought an opportunity for doing this with peculiar satisfaction and succeeded in finding one. On one occasion he spoke so rudely to him that a message was sent him from the higher authorities that he must either beg his pardon or leave the service. He sent in his resignation. His uncle, the actual civil councillor, came to him, imploring and panic-stricken: 'For Christ's sake, upon my word, Andrey Ivanovitch, what's this you have been about? To throw up a career after such a good beginning, just because your chief isn't quite to your liking! What do you mean by it? Why, with that way of looking at things there would be no one left in the service. Think better of it, think better of it, there's still time. Swallow your pride and your amour propre, go and see him!'
'That's not the point, uncle,' said the nephew. 'There's no difficulty about my asking his pardon, especially as I really am to blame. He is my chief and I ought not in any case to have spoken to him as I did. But the real point is this: you have forgotten that I have other duties: I have three hundred peasants, my estate is in disorder and my steward's a fool. It will be no great loss to the state if some one sits in my place copying papers, but it will be a great loss if three hundred men don't pay their taxes. I am a landowner: there's plenty to do in that position also. If I concern myself with the preservation, care and improvement of the people entrusted to me and present the state with three hundred sober, hardworking subjects, in what way will my work be inferior to that of some chief of a department like Lyenitsyn?'
The actual civil councillor was open-mouthed with astonishment: he had not expected such a flood of words. After a moment's reflection he began after this style: 'But all the same … however can you? … How can you vegetate in the country? What society will you have among peasants? Here anyway a general or a prince may pass you in the street, if you like you can walk by the beautiful public buildings, or can go and look at the Neva, but there, whoever you pass will be a peasant. Why condemn yourself to rustic ignorance all your life?'
So spoke his uncle, the actual civil councillor. He had never walked down any street but that which led to the office, and there were no beautiful public buildings in it; he did not notice any of the people he met, whether they were princes or generals, knew nothing of the temptations by which people prone to incontinence are allured in cities, nor did he even go to the theatre. He had said all that he did to stir the ambition and work upon the imagination of the young man. He did not succeed in doing so however. Tyentyetnikov stuck to his decision. He had begun to be bored with official work and Petersburg. The country began to seem to him a haven of freedom, fostering thought and meditation and the one career of useful activity. A fortnight after this conversation he was approaching the places where his childhood had been spent.
How his heart beat, how many memories came back to him when he felt that he was near the village of his fathers! Many places he had completely forgotten and he looked with curiosity at the glorious views as though they were new to him. When the road passed by a narrow ravine into the recesses of an immense tangled forest, when he saw above, below, over his head and beneath his feet, oaks three hundred years old, which it would take three men to span, silver firs, elms, black poplars, and when in answer to the question, 'Whose forest is this?' he was told, 'Tyentyetnikov's'; and when, leaving the forest, the road ran through meadows, by aspen copses, willows old and young, and twining creepers, in sight of the heights stretching in the distance, and in various places passed over several bridges across the same river, having it sometimes on the right and sometimes on the left, and when in answer to the question, 'Whose prairies and water meadows are these?' he was told, 'Tyentyetnikov's'; when the road mounted a hill and passed along a high plateau with fields of standing corn, wheat, rye and barley on one side, while on the other lay all the part they had driven through already, which suddenly seemed to be in a picturesque distance; and when, gradually overshadowed, the way dived into and afterwards emerged from the shade of huge spreading trees dotted here and there on the green turf right up to the village, and he caught a glimpse of the brick huts and the red roofed buildings surrounding the big house; when his eagerly throbbing heart knew without question where he had arrived, all the thoughts and sensations that had been accumulating within him burst forth in some such words as these: 'Well, haven't I been a fool! Fate made me the owner of an earthly paradise, a prince, and I bound myself as a copying clerk in an office! After being educated and enlightened and accumulating a decent store of just that knowledge which is needed for the ruling of men, for the improvement of a whole region, for performing the duties of a landowner who has to be at once a judge and an organiser and a guardian of order—to entrust the task to an ignorant steward! And to choose in place of it what?—the copying of papers which a cantonist who has learnt anything could do incomparably better,' and Andrey Ivanovitch called himself a fool once more.
And meanwhile, another spectacle was awaiting him. Hearing of the master's arrival the population of the whole village had gathered at the entrance. Bright coloured kerchiefs, sashes, headbands, full-skirted coats, beards of all shapes—shovel, spade, and wedge-shaped, red, fair, and white as silver, covered the whole court in front of the house. The peasants boomed out: 'Our dear master, we have lived to see you again!' The women chanted: 'Thou golden one, silver of our hearts!' Those who stood further off actually began fighting to get nearer. A decrepit little old woman who looked like a dried pear, darted between the legs of the others, stepped up to him, clasped her hands and shrieked: 'Our nurseling! But how thin you are! the accursed foreigners have worn you out!' 'Get away, woman!' the beards, shovel, spade, and wedge-shaped, shouted to her. 'Where are you shoving to, you shrivelled thing?' Some one added to this an expression at which only a Russian peasant could help laughing. Andrey Ivanovitch could not refrain from laughter, but nevertheless he was deeply touched at heart. 'How much love, and what for?' he thought to himself, 'in return for my never having seen them, never having troubled about them! I swear from to-day that I will share your labours and your toils! I will do everything to help you to become what you ought to be, what the goodness innate in you meant you to be—that your love for me may not be for nothing, that I really may be a good master to you!'
And Tyentyetnikov really did set to work looking after his estate and his peasants in earnest. He saw at once that the steward really was an old woman and a fool with all the characteristics of a thoroughly bad steward—that is, he accurately kept an account of hens and eggs, of the yarn and the linen brought by the peasant women, but he knew absolutely nothing of harvest and sowing, and in addition suspected all the peasants of designs upon his life. He dismissed the foolish steward and engaged another, a smart fellow, in his place: without going into trivial matters he turned his attention to the points of most importance, diminished the dues, took off some of the days of labour for himself, giving the peasants more time to work on their own account, and thought that now things would go swimmingly. He went into everything himself and began to show himself in the fields, at the threshing floor, in the sheepfolds, at the mills and at the landing-stage when barges and punts were being loaded and sent off.
'My word, but he is a sharp one!' the peasants began to say, and they even scratched their heads a bit, for under the feeble control that had lasted so long they had all grown lazy. But this did not go on for very long. The Russian peasant is clever and shrewd: they soon realised that though the master was zealous and eager to undertake a great deal, he had no idea as yet how to set to work, that he talked somehow too learnedly and fancifully, beyond the grasp and understanding of the peasants. It came about that the master and the peasants, though they did not completely misunderstand each other, could not, so to speak, sing in unison, were incapable of producing the same note. Tyentyetnikov began to notice that everything somehow turned out worse on the master's land than on the peasants'. His fields were sown earlier and the crops came up later. Yet they seemed to be working well: he himself was present, and even ordered them to be given a mug of vodka for their diligent work. The peasants' rye had already long been in ear, their oats were dropping, their millet was growing into a tuft, while his corn had scarcely begun to push up into a stem, the base of the ear had not yet formed. In fact he began to notice that the peasants were simply taking him in, in spite of all their flatteries; he tried reproaching them, but received some such answer, 'How could we neglect the master's profit, your honour? you saw yourself, sir, how we did our best when we were ploughing and sowing, you ordered us to be given a mug of vodka'; what reply could he make to that?' But why has it come up so badly?' he persisted. 'Who can tell! It seems the worms have eaten it below! And look what a summer it has been, no rain at all.' But he saw that the worms had not eaten the peasants' corn, and that the rain must have fallen queerly in streaks—it had favoured the peasants' land, and not a drop had trickled on the master's fields. He found it still more difficult to get on with the women. They were continually asking to be let off their work, complaining of the heavy burden of the labours they had to perform for him. It was strange! He had abolished all the dues of linen, fruit, mushrooms and nuts, and had taken off half of their other forced labour, expecting the women to employ their free time attending to their households, sewing and making clothes for their husbands and enlarging their kitchen gardens. But nothing of the sort happened. Such idleness, squabbling, scandal-mongering prevailed among the fair sex that their husbands were continually coming to him, saying: 'Master, will you bring this fury of a woman to her senses, she is a regular devil, there is no living with her!' Sometimes, hardening his heart, he attempted to resort to severity. But how could he be severe? The woman came, so hopelessly womanish, made such a shrill outcry, was so sick and ailing, and had got herself up in such wretched filthy rags! (where she had picked them up, goodness only knows). 'Go away, go where you like as long as it is out of my sight,' said poor Tyentyetnikov, and immediately afterwards had the satisfaction of seeing the woman at once, on going out of the gate, come to blows with, a neighbour over a turnip, and in spite of her ailing condition give her as sound a leathering as any sturdy peasant could have done.
He had an idea of setting up a school among them, but this led to such a ridiculous fiasco, that he hung his head and felt that it would have been better not to have thought of it. All this perceptibly cooled his zeal for looking after his estate as well as for the judicial and moral duties of his position, in fact for activity generally. He was present at the field labours almost without noticing them; his thoughts were far away, his eyes sought extraneous objects. During the mowing he did not watch the rapid rising and falling of the sixty scythes, and the regular fall of the high grass into long rows beneath them; he looked away at some bend of the river, on the bank of which some red-beaked, red-legged martin was walking—a bird of course, not a man; he watched how the martin having caught a fish held it crossways in his beak, hesitating whether to swallow it or not, and at the same time looked up the river where another martin could be seen who had not yet caught a fish, but was watching intently the martin who had. When the corn was being cut he did not watch how the sheaves were being laid in cocks or ricks or sometimes simply in a heap; he did not care whether they threw the sheaves up and made the cornstacks lazily or vigorously. Screwing up his eyes and gazing upwards at the vast expanse of the sky, he let his nostrils drink in the scent of the fields and his ears marvel at the voices of the numberless singers of the air when from all sides, from heaven and earth alike they unite in one chorus, without jarring on one another. The quail lashes its whip, the landrail utters its harsh grating cry among the grass, the linnets twitter and chirrup as they flit to and fro, the trills of the lark fall drop by drop down an unseen airy ladder, and the calls of the cranes, floating by in a long string, like the ringing notes of silver bugles, resound in the void of the melodiously vibrating ether. If the work were going on near by, he was far away; if it were far away, his eyes sought something near by. And he was like an inattentive schoolboy who looks into a book but sees his schoolfellow making a long nose at him. At last he gave up going out to look at the work altogether, abandoned his judicial duties, settled indoors and even left off seeing his steward and receiving reports from him.
At times some of the neighbours would come to see him—a retired lieutenant of the Hussars, an inveterate pipe-smoker and saturated through and through with tobacco smoke, or an old martinet colonel, a great hand at small talk about everything. But this too began to bore him. Their conversation began to strike him as superficial; their brisk sprightly manner, their way of slapping him on the knee, and their free and easy behaviour generally, seemed to him too blunt and unreserved. He made up his mind to drop their acquaintance and did so rather curtly. When Varvar Nikolaitch Vishnepokromov, the most typical martinet among all colonels, and most agreeable of all small talkers, called upon him expressly to converse to his heart's content, touching upon politics, philosophy, literature and morality and even the financial position of England, he sent word that he was not at home and at the same time was so incautious as to show himself at the window. The visitor's eyes met his. One of course muttered between his teeth 'Beast!', while the other threw some epithet like 'Pig!' after him. So the acquaintance ended. From that time no one else came to see him. Complete solitude reigned in the house. The young man got into his dressing-gown for good, abandoning his body to inactivity and his mind to meditating upon a work on Russia. The reader has seen already how he meditated upon it. The days came and went, uniform and monotonous. It cannot be said, however, that there were not moments when he seemed as it were to awaken from sleep. When the post brought him newspapers, new books and magazines, and when he saw in print the familiar name of some old schoolfellow who had already been successful in a distinguished career in the government service, or who had made some modest contribution to science and universal culture, a quiet secret melancholy crept over his heart, and a quiet dumbly-sorrowful aching regret at his own inactivity rose up in spite of himself. Then his life seemed to him hateful and loathsome. His schooldays rose up before him extraordinarily vividly, and Alexandr Petrovitch seemed to stand before him. … Tears streamed from his eyes, his sobs lasted almost all day.
What did those sobs mean? Did his sick soul betray in them the sorrowful secret of its sickness—that the fine inner man, that had begun to be formed within him, had not had time to develop and grow strong; that unpractised in the struggle with failure he had never attained the precious faculty of rising to higher things and gaining strength from obstacles and difficulties; that the rich treasure of lofty feelings that had glowed within him like molten metal had not been tempered like steel, and now his will had no elasticity and was impotent; that his rare, marvellous teacher had died too soon, and now there was no one in the whole world who could rouse and awaken his forces, flagging from continual hesitation, and his weak, impotent will—who could cry to the soul in a living, rousing voice, the rousing word: 'Forward!' which the Russian, at every stage, in every condition and calling, thirsts to hear?
Where is the man who can utter that all-powerful word 'Forward,' in the language of our Russian soul, who knowing all the strength and quality and all the depth of our nature can, with one wonder-working gesture, spur the Russian on to the higher life? With what tears and what love would he be repaid! But centuries after centuries pass by; half a million sluggards and idlers lie plunged in unwaking slumber, and rarely is the man born in Russia that can utter that all-powerful word.
Something happened, however, that almost roused Tyentyetnikov from his apathy, and almost brought about a transformation in his character. It was something almost like love, but it too came to nothing. In the neighbourhood, some eight miles away, there lived the general who, as we have seen, gave a rather doubtful opinion of Tyentyetnikov. The general lived like a general, was hospitable and liked people to come and pay their respects to him; he did not himself pay visits, talked in a husky voice, was fond of reading, and had a daughter, a strange unique creature who was more like a fantastic apparition than a woman. Sometimes a man sees something of the sort in a dream, and all his life afterwards is brooding on that vision (and reality is lost to him for ever), and he is good for nothing. Her name was Ulinka. Her education had been rather unusual, she had been brought up by an English governess who did not know a word of Russian. She had lost her mother early in childhood. Her father had no time to look after her, and indeed, loving his daughter passionately, he could have done nothing but spoil her. It is uncommonly hard to draw her portrait. She was as full of life as life itself. She was more charming than any beauty; she was more than intelligent; more graceful and ethereal than the classical antique. It was impossible to say what country had put its imprint on her, for it would be hard to find such a profile and features anywhere, except perhaps in antique cameos. Everything in her was original as in a child brought up in freedom. If any one had seen how sudden anger would bring stern lines in her lovely forehead, and how passionately she disputed with her father, he would have thought that she was a most ill-humoured creature. But her wrath was only aroused when she heard of some injustice, whatever it might be, or of some cruel action. And how instantly that anger would have passed if she had seen the very person, who had excited it, in trouble! How immediately she would have flung him her purse without considering whether it was wise or foolish to do so, and would have torn up her dress to make bandages if he were wounded! There was something impulsive in her. When she spoke, everything in her seemed to be rushing after her thoughts—the expression of her face, the tone of her voice, the movement of her hands; the very folds of her dress seemed flying in the same direction, and it seemed as though she herself would fly away after her own words. Nothing in her was concealed. She was not afraid to lay bare her thoughts before any one, and no force could have made her be silent when she wanted to speak. Her fascinating individual gait, which belonged to her only, was so fearlessly free that every one involuntarily made way for her to pass. An evil man could not help being confused and dumb in her presence, while any one good, however shy, could talk to her at once as though she were a sister, and, strange illusion!—from the first minute it seemed as though he had somewhere, sometime, known her already, that they had met in days of unremembered infancy in their own home, on some happy evening, among the joyous shouts of a crowd of children, and after that the years of discretion seemed dull and dreary.
Andrey Ivanovitch Tyentyetnikov could never have said how it was that from the first day they were as though they had known each other all their lives. A new inexplicable feeling came into his heart. His life was for an instant lighted up. His dressing-gown was for a time laid aside. He did not linger so long in bed in the morning, and Mihailo did not have to stand so long with a washing basin in his hands. The windows were thrown open in the rooms, and the owner of the picturesque estate spent a long while wandering about the dark winding paths of his garden, and stood for hours gazing at the enchanting view into the distance. At first the general received Tyentyetnikov fairly cordially, but they could not get on really well together. Their conversations always ended in an argument and in a rather unpleasant feeling on both sides. The general did not like contradiction or controversy, though on the other hand he was very fond of talking even of subjects of which he knew nothing at all. Tyentyetnikov, too, was rather ready to take offence. For the sake of the daughter, however, much was forgiven to the father, and the peace was kept between them until some relations, Countess Boldyrev and Princess Yuzyakin, came to stay with the general: one was a widow, the other an old maiden lady, both had been maids of honour in earlier days, were somewhat given to gossip and talking scandal, and not particularly distinguished by their amiability, but they had important connections in Petersburg, and the general almost grovelled before them. It struck Tyentyetnikov that from the very day of their arrival the general became more frigid, scarcely noticed him, treated him as though he were a nonentity or the very humblest sort of clerk employed for copying. He addressed him as 'my lad,' or 'my good man,' and on one occasion even used the second person singular in speaking to him. Andrey Ivanovitch was furious; the blood rushed to his head. Controlling himself and setting his teeth, he had, however, the presence of mind to say in a particularly soft and courteous voice, while patches of colour came into his face and he was inwardly boiling: 'I ought to thank you, general, for your warm feeling; you invite me by your familiar form of address to the closest friendship, obliging me to address you in the same way, but allow me to observe that I do not forget the difference in our ages, which absolutely forbids such familiarity in our manners.' The general was abashed. Collecting his thoughts he began to say, though rather incoherently, that he had not meant it in that sense, that it is sometimes permissible for an old man to address a young man in that informal way (he did not make the faintest allusion to his rank). Their acquaintance was of course cut short from that time. Love ended as soon as it began; the light that had gleamed before him for one instant was quenched, and the gloom that followed it was darker than ever. The sluggard got back into his dressing-gown again. His life was again spent in lying about and doing nothing. Dirt and disorder reigned in the house: the broom remained in the room together with the dust for days together; his trousers even made their way into the drawing-room; on the elegant table in front of the sofa lay a pair of greasy braces as though it were a tit-bit for a guest. And his life became so drowsy and abject that not only his servants ceased to respect him, but even the hens almost pecked at him. For hours at a time he would scribble feebly, drawing crooked trees, little houses, huts, carts, sledges, or he would write 'Honoured Sir!' with an exclamation mark after it in all sorts of handwritings and characters. And sometimes while he was still plunged in forgetfulness, his pen would of itself, without his knowledge, sketch a little head that seemed to be taking flight, with delicate pointed features, with a light tress of hair raised and falling from under the comb, in long, delicate curls, with bare youthful arms—and with amazement he saw that it had turned into a portrait of her whose portrait no artist could paint. And he was even more sorrowful after that, and believing that there was no happiness on earth he was depressed and hopeless for the rest of the day.
Such were the circumstances of Andrey Ivanovitch Tyentyetnikov. Suddenly one day, on going to the window as usual with his cup of tea and his pipe, he noticed some commotion and bustle in the yard. The kitchen boy and the woman who scrubbed the floors were running to open the gate, and in the gate appeared three horses exactly as they are carved or moulded on triumphal arches, that is, one horse's head to the right, one to the left and one in the middle. On the box above them were a coachman and a footman wearing a full frock-coat, girt round the waist with a pocket-handkerchief; behind them sat a gentleman in a cap and greatcoat, wrapped in a shawl of rainbow hues. When the carriage turned before the front door it appeared that it was nothing more than a light chaise on springs. A gentleman of exceptionally decorous exterior skipped out on to the steps with the swiftness and agility almost of a military man.
Andrey Ivanovitch was scared; he thought he might be a police officer. It must be explained that in his youth he had been mixed up in rather a foolish affair. Some philosophers among the Hussars, and a student who had not completed his studies, and a spendthrift gambler got up a philanthropic society under the sole direction of an old rogue, freemason and cardsharper, who was a drunkard and a very eloquent person. The society was formed with an extremely grandiose object—to secure the happiness of all humanity. The funds required were immense. The amount of money subscribed by the generous members was incredible. Where it all went no one knew but the sole director. Tyentyetnikov was drawn into this society by two friends who were disappointed men, good-natured fellows, who became habitual drunkards through continually drinking toasts to science, enlightenment and progress. Tyentyetnikov quickly realised the position and got out of the circle. But the society succeeded in getting mixed up with other doings rather below the dignity of gentlemen, so that it even attracted the notice of the police. … So that it was no wonder that even though he had left the society and broken off all relations with the benefactor of mankind, Tyentyetnikov could not help feeling some anxiety, for his conscience was not quite at ease. And now he looked, not without alarm, at the door which was about to open.
His fears were, however, soon dispelled when his visitor made his bows with incredible elegance, keeping his head respectfully bent on one side. In brief but definite phrases he explained that for some time past he had been travelling about Russia, both on business of his own and for the purpose of gathering information, that our empire abounded in objects of inherent interest apart from the beauties of nature, the number of industries, and the variety of soils; that he had been carried away by the beautiful scenery of Tyentyetnikov's estate; that in spite of the beautiful scenery of his village he would not have ventured to disturb him by his ill-timed visit, but that something had happened to his chaise, which called for the skilled hand of blacksmiths and wheelwrights; but that, for all that, even if nothing had happened to his chaise, he could hardly have denied himself the pleasure of calling to pay his respects in person. As he finished his speech the visitor with fascinating courtesy scraped with his foot, making a little skip backwards as he did so, with the lightness of an indiarubber ball.
Andrey Ivanovitch thought that this must be some learned professor in search of knowledge, who was travelling about Russia to collect plants or possibly even geological specimens. He protested his readiness to assist him in every way, offered him the services of his workmen, his wheelwrights and his blacksmiths for the repair of the chaise, and begged him to make himself at home; he made his affable visitor sit down in a big Voltairian armchair, and prepared himself to listen to his conversation, which he did not doubt would deal with learned or scientific subjects.
The visitor, however, touched rather upon the incidents of the inner world. He spoke of the mutability of destiny, compared his life to a ship in mid-ocean, driven before the winds; referred to the fact that he had frequently had to change his appointments and his duties, that he had suffered a great deal in the cause of justice, that his life even had more than once been in danger from his enemies, and he said a great deal more from which Tyentyetnikov could gather that his visitor was rather a practical man. In conclusion he brought out a white cambric handkerchief and blew his nose more loudly than Andrey Ivanovitch had ever heard any one do. Sometimes in an orchestra there is a rascally trumpet which, when it gives a blast, seems to be blaring right in one's ear: such was the sound which echoed through the awakened rooms of the slumbering house, and it was immediately followed by an agreeable fragrance of eau-de-Cologne, invisibly diffused by the deft flourish of the cambric pocket-handkerchief.
The reader will have perhaps guessed already that the visitor was no other than our honoured and long-deserted Pavel Ivanovitch Tchitchikov. He was a little older; evidently this interval had not been free from storms and agitations. It seemed as though even the coat he wore were rather older, and the chaise, and the coachman and the groom and the horses, and the harness seemed as though they were a little worn and shabby. It seemed as though his finances too were not in a condition to be envied. But the expression of his face, his propriety, his affability were unchanged. It seemed as though he were even more agreeable in his manners and deportment. He crossed his legs even more elegantly when he sat down in an armchair; there was a still greater softness in the utterance of his words and circumspect moderation in his sayings and his looks, more discretion in his behaviour and more tact in everything. His collar and cuffs were cleaner and whiter than snow, and although he came straight from the road there was not a speck on his coat; he might have been going to a name-day party. His cheeks and chin were so smoothly shaven that only a blind man could fail to admire their agreeable curves.
A transformation took place in the house at once. Half of the house, which had been in darkness with its shutters closed, looked out on the light again. They began bringing in the luggage from the chaise, and arranging it in the rooms now flooded with light; soon in the room that was destined for a bedroom all the things essential for the toilet were installed; in the room destined for the study … But first of all it is essential that the reader should know that there were three tables in the room: one a writing-table in front of the sofa, another a card-table against the wall between the windows, and the third a corner table in the corner between the door into the bedroom and the door into an uninhabited room full of invalid furniture. On this corner table the clothes taken from the portmanteau were placed, that is: one pair of old and one pair of new trousers to wear with his dress-coat, a pair of trousers to go with the frock-coat, a pair of grey trousers, two velvet waistcoats and two satin ones, a frock-coat and two dress-coats (the white piqué waistcoats and the summer trousers had gone with the under-linen into the chest of drawers in the bedroom). These were all piled one upon another in a pyramid and covered with a silk pocket-handkerchief. In another corner between the door and the window the boots were stored in a row, a pair of top boots, not quite new, a pair perfectly new, a pair of top boots with new uppers and a pair of low patent leather boots. They too were modestly veiled with a silk pocket-handkerchief, so that they might not have been there at all. On the table between the two windows lay the writing-case. On the table before the sofa lay his portfolio, a bottle of eau-de-Cologne, sealing-wax, tooth brushes, a new calendar and two novels, both second volumes. The clean linen was all put away in the chest of drawers which was already in the bedroom; the linen that was to go to the laundress was done up into a bundle and thrust under the bed. The portmanteau being empty was also stored under the bed. The sword too was taken into the bedroom and hung on a nail not far from the bed, Both the rooms acquired an extraordinary air of neatness and tidiness, nowhere was there a scrap of paper, a feather or litter of any kind, the very air seemed to have become more refined. The agreeable odour of a fresh healthy man who changed his linen frequently, visited the bath-house and sponged himself all over on Sunday mornings was permanently installed in the room. The odour of Petrushka, the footman, made an effort to establish itself in the vestibule adjoining, but Petrushka was soon banished to the kitchen, which was indeed a more suitable place for him.
For the first few days Andrey Ivanovitch was apprehensive for his independence, fearing that the visitor might be a constraint and might involve changes in his manner of life, and might disturb the order of his day so satisfactorily established. But his apprehensions were groundless. The guest displayed an unusual capacity for adapting himself to everything. He applauded his host's philosophical leisureliness, saying that it gave him promise of living to be a hundred. He expressed himself very felicitously about solitude, also saying that it fostered great ideas in a man. Glancing at the bookcase, he spoke with approval of books in general, observing that they preserved a man from idleness. In short, he dropped few words, but they were weighty ones. In his conduct he was even more tactful; appeared at the right minute and at the right minute retired; did not pester his host with questions when he was disinclined for conversation; was pleased to play chess with him, and was pleased to sit silent. While his host was puffing out tobacco smoke in curly clouds the visitor, who did not smoke, bethought himself of an occupation in keeping with it; he would for instance take his black and silver snuff-box from out of his pocket, and holding it between two fingers of his left hand, twirl it round rapidly with one finger of his right hand, just as the terrestrial globe rotates on its own axis, or simply drummed upon it with his fingers, whistling some undefined tune. In short, he did not hinder his host in any way. 'For the first time in my life I've met a man with whom I could live,' Tyentyetnikov said to himself. 'As a rule that gift is rare amongst us. There are plenty of people among us, intelligent, cultured, good-natured, but people who are always agreeable, always good-tempered, people with whom one might live all one's life without quarrelling, I don't know whether many such people could be found in Russia! This is the first and only man I have seen.' So Tyentyetnikov characterised his visitor.
Tchitchikov for his part was very glad to be settled for a time in the house of so peaceful and inoffensive a man. He was sick of a gipsy's life. To rest if only for a month in a beautiful country place, in view of the fields and the coming spring was beneficial even from the point of view of his digestion. It would have been hard to find a better retreat to rest in. The spring decked it out with inexpressible beauty. What brilliance there was in the green! What freshness in the air! What bird notes in the woods! Paradise, joy and exaltation everywhere! The country resounded with singing as though born to new life.
Tchitchikov walked about a great deal. Sometimes he took his walks about the flat plateau that crowned the heights, keeping to the edges of it from which he had a view of the valleys in the distance where big lakes still remained from the flooded river; or he went out into the ravines, where the trees, just beginning to be green with leaves and weighed down with birds' nests, and the narrow strip of blue between them were darkened by the continual flitting to and fro of flocks of crows and resounded with the harsh cries of the crows, the chatter of the jackdaws and the cawing of the rooks; or he went down hill to the water meadows and the broken-down dam, watching the water as it rushed to fall upon the mill wheels with a deafening sound; or he made his way further to the landing-stage from which the first boats laden with peas, oats, barley or wheat were setting off as the river thawed; or he went off to the fields where the first labours of spring were beginning, to see the ploughed land lie like a black streak across the green, or the deft sower scatter the seed from the hollow of his hand, evenly, accurately, not letting a single grain fall to one side or the other. He talked to the steward and the peasants and the miller, discussing how and why and what sort of crops were to be expected, and how the ploughing was going, and at what price wheat was being sold, and what they charged in spring and autumn for the grinding of the flour, and what each peasant's name was, and which was related to which, and who bought the cows and what they fed the pigs on—in fact everything. He found out too how many of the peasants had died. It appeared that they were few in number. Being an intelligent man he saw at once that Tyentyetnikov's land was not being well managed, on every hand he saw omissions, neglect, thieving, and a good deal of drunkenness. And inwardly he said to himself: 'What a brute that Tyentyetnikov is! To neglect an estate that might bring in at least fifty thousand roubles a year!' And unable to restrain his just indignation, he repeated, 'He certainly is a brute!' More than once during these walks the idea occurred to him that he might, not now of course, but later on when his great enterprise had been accomplished and he had the means, become a peaceful owner of a similar estate. At this point there usually rose up before his mind the image of its youthful mistress, a fresh white-skinned young woman, of the merchant class perhaps, though with the breeding and education of a girl of noble birth, so that she might know something of music; music of course was of no great consequence, but since it was considered the proper thing, why run counter to public opinion? He pictured also the younger generation, destined to perpetuate the name of Tchitchikov: a rogue of a boy and a beautiful little daughter, or even a couple of urchins and two or even three little girls that every one might know that he had really lived and existed, that he might not have seemed to have passed through life like a shadow or a phantom, and might be able to hold up his head feeling he had done his duty to his country. It occurred to him also that it might not be amiss to obtain a higher grade in the service; that of a civil councillor for instance, a grade held in honour and respect. … And many things came into his mind such as often carry a man away from dreary actuality, disturb, stir and tantalise him and are sweet to him even when he knows that they will never come to pass.
Pavel Ivanovitch's servants liked the place too. Like him they felt at home in it. Petrushka was very quickly friends with Grigory, though at first they tried to impress each other and gave themselves insufferable airs. Petrushka scored off Grigory by having been in Kostroma, Yaroslav, Nizhni and even Moscow: Grigory completely floored him with Petersburg, where Petrushka had never been. The latter tried to recover his prestige by enlarging on the great remoteness of the places which he had visited, but Grigory mentioned a locality, the name of which could not be found on any map, and reckoned up journeys of more than twenty thousand miles, so that Petrushka was staggered, and stood gaping, while all the servants laughed at him. It ended in their becoming the closest friends, however; bald-headed Uncle Pimen kept a celebrated tavern, the name of which was 'Akulka,' at the further end of the village: every hour of the day they were to be seen in this establishment, there they became bosom friends, or what is called among the peasants—pot-house inseparables.
Selifan found other allurements. Every evening was spent in singing, games, and country dances in the village. Fine, graceful girls, such as it would be hard to find elsewhere, made him for some hours gape in astonishment. It was hard to say which was the finest of them, they were all white-bosomed and white-throated, they all had eyes like turnips—languishing eyes; they had the step of a peacock and their plaits reached to their waists. When he held their white hands and slowly moved with them in the figures of the dance, or when in a row with other young fellows he advanced like a wall to meet them, and the warmly glowing evening died away, and the country all around was slowly wrapped in darkness, and far away beyond the river there sounded the faithful echo of the always melancholy chant, he did not know himself what was happening to him. Long afterwards he dreamed both sleeping and waking that white hands lay in his, and he was moving with them in the dance. … With a wave of his hand he would say: 'Those damned girls won't let me alone!'
Tchitchikov's horses were also pleased with their new abode. Both the shaft-horse and the bay-coloured trace-horse, known as Assessor, as well as the dappled grey, whom Selifan called 'the rascally horse,' found their sojourn at Tyentyetnikov's anything but tedious. The oats were excellent, and the arrangements of the stables exceptionally convenient, each one had a stall partitioned off, yet through this partition he could see the other horses, so that if any one of them, even the furthest, took a fancy to neigh he could be answered at once.
In short they all felt at home. The reader may be surprised that Tchitchikov had not yet breathed a word in regard to his favourite subject. No, indeed! Pavel Ivanovitch had become very cautious in regard to that subject. Even if he had had to deal with absolute fools he would not have begun upon it quite immediately, and Tyentyetnikov, whatever he might be, read books, talked philosophy and tried to find an explanation of everything that happened and the why and wherefore of everything. … 'No, the devil take him! perhaps I had better begin from another side,' thought Tchitchikov. Chatting from time to time with the servants he learned among other things from them that their master used pretty often to visit his neighbour the general, that there was a young lady at the general's, that their master had been 'taken' with the young lady and the young lady had been 'taken' with their master … but that afterwards they had fallen out about something and parted. He noticed himself that Andrey Ivanovitch was always with pen or pencil drawing little heads, one like the other. One day soon after dinner, as he sat making his silver snuff-box rotate on its axis as usual, he spoke as follows: 'You have got everything, Andrey Ivanovitch, there is only one thing wanting.' 'What's that?' asked the other, letting off coils of smoke. 'A partner to share your life,' said Tchitchikov. Andrey Ivanovitch said nothing; and with that the conversation ended. Tchitchikov was not disconcerted. He chose another moment, this time just before supper, and after talking of one thing and another, said suddenly: 'You know really, Andrey Ivanovitch, it wouldn't be at all amiss for you to get married.' Tyentyetnikov said not a word in reply, as though he disliked any talk on the subject. Tchitchikov was not disconcerted. For the third time he chose a moment, this time after supper, and spoke thus: 'It's all very well but the more I turn over your circumstances in my mind, the more clearly I see that you must get married: you will fall into hypochondria.' Either Tchitchikov's words were so convincing, or Andrey Ivanovitch's mood was particularly favourable for openness—he heaved a sigh and said, blowing tobacco smoke into the air: 'You need to be born lucky for everything, you know, Pavel Ivanovitch.' And he told him the whole story of his acquaintance with the general and their rupture, exactly as it had all happened.
When Tchitchikov heard the whole story, word for word, and saw that the trouble had entirely originated from the word 'thou,' he was aghast. For some minutes he looked steadily into Tyentyetnikov's face and inwardly concluded: 'Why, he is a perfect fool!'
'Andrey Ivanovitch, upon my soul!' said he, gripping both his hands: 'Where is the insult? What is there insulting in the word "thou"?'
'There is nothing insulting in the word itself,' answered Tyentyetnikov, 'but in the significance of the word, in the voice in which it was uttered, that is where the insult lies. Thou! that means "Remember that you are of no importance; I receive you only because there is no one better, but if some Princess Yuzyakin comes, you know your place and stand at the door!" That's what it means.' As the mild and gentle Andrey Ivanovitch said this his eyes flashed, and a thrill of angry resentment could be heard in his voice.
'Well, even if it were said in that sense, what of it?' said Tchitchikov.
'What?' said Tyentyetnikov, gazing intently at Tchitchikov, 'you would have me visit him again after such an action?'
'What do you mean by action, it's not an action at all,' said Tchitchikov.
'What a strange fellow this Tchitchikov is!' thought Tyentyetnikov to himself.
'What a strange fellow this Tyentyetnikov is!' thought Tchitchikov to himself.
'It's not behaviour, Andrey Ivanovitch. It's simply a habit with generals: they say thou to everybody. Besides, why not allow it in an honourable and distinguished man?'
'That's a different matter,' said Tyentyetnikov. 'If he were a poor old man, not proud and stuck-up, not a general, I would allow him to call me thou, and even accept it with respect.'
'He's a perfect idiot,' thought Tchitchikov to himself. 'He would allow some ragged fellow but not a general!' and upon this reflection he retorted aloud: 'Very good, let us suppose he did insult you, but you were quits with him anyway, you insulted him and he insulted you. But to part for ever on account of a trifle, upon my word, it is beyond everything. How could you give things up when they were only just beginning? Once you have set an object before you you must persist in spite of all obstacles. What's the use of minding whether a man's insulting! people are all insulting. You won't find any one in the world nowadays that isn't insulting.'
Tyentyetnikov was completely nonplussed by this observation. He was disconcerted, he looked into Pavel Ivanovitch's face and thought to himself: 'A very strange fellow this Tchitchikov!'
'What a queer creature this Tyentyetnikov is!' Tchitchikov was thinking meanwhile.
'Allow me to set things right,' he said aloud. 'I can go to his Excellency's and say that it happened through a misunderstanding on your part, owing to your youth and your ignorance of life and the world.'
'I don't intend to grovel before him!' said Tyentyetnikov emphatically.
'God forbid, grovel!' said Tchitchikov, and crossed himself. 'To influence him by advice like a prudent mediator, but to grovel … excuse me, Andrey Ivanovitch, I did not expect that in return for my good-will and devotion … I did not expect you to take my words in such an offensive sense!'
'Forgive me, Pavel Ivanovitch, I was to blame!' said Tyentyetnikov, genuinely touched, taking both his hands gratefully. 'Your kind sympathy is precious to me, I assure you! But let us drop this subject, let us never speak of it again!'
'In that case I'll simply go to the general's without any reason,' said Tchitchikov.
'What for?' asked Tyentyetnikov, looking at Tchitchikov with surprise.
'To pay him my respects,' said Tchitchikov.
'What a strange fellow this Tchitchikov is!' thought Tyentyetnikov.
'What a strange fellow this Tyentyetnikov is!' thought Tchitchikov.
'As my chaise is not yet in fit condition,' said Tchitchikov, 'allow me to borrow a carriage from you. I will go and call upon him about ten o'clock to-morrow morning.'
'Good heavens, what a thing to ask!' Everything here is at your disposal, take any carriage you like, everything is at your service.'
They said good-night and went off to bed, not without reflecting each on the other's queerness.
Strange to relate, however, next morning when the carriage was brought round for Tchitchikov and he jumped into it with the lightness almost of a military man, wearing his new dress-coat, white cravat and waistcoat, and rolled off to pay his respects to the general, Tyentyetnikov was thrown into an agitation such as he had not experienced for a long time. The whole current of his ideas which had been slumbering and had grown dull were awakened to restless activity. All the feelings of the idler, who had hitherto been plunged in careless sloth, were suddenly caught up in a nervous tumult. At one moment he sat down on the sofa, then he went to the window, then he took up a book, then he tried to think. A fruitless attempt! A thought would not come into his head. Then he tried to think of nothing at all. A fruitless effort. Fragments of something like thought, shreds and ends of thoughts forced themselves on him and pecked at his brain from all sides. 'What a strange condition!' he said, and moving towards the window, looked out at the road which was intersected by the oak copse, and at the end of it he saw still floating in the air the dust raised by the carriage.