Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/84

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forced him to accept anything. Among the jobs he got was one to arrange for the mortgaging of several hundreds of peasants to the Trustee Committee. The estate on which they existed was hopelessly ruined. It had been ruined by the cattle plague, rascally stewards, bad harvests, infectious diseases, which carried off the best of the workmen, and lastly the folly of the landowner himself, who had furnished a house for himself in Moscow in the latest fashion, and wasted upon this the whole of his property to the last kopeck, so that he had literally nothing to eat. At last the only thing left to do was to mortgage his last remaining estate. Mortgaging to the government was at that time a new scheme and people resorted to it with some uneasiness. Tchitchikov acting as agent, after first propitiating every one (as we all know, without a preliminary consideration no one can obtain a simple piece of information or verification, at least a bottle of Madeira must be poured down every throat) and so after propitiating every one concerned, he pointed out one circumstance—that half the peasants had died—in order that there might be no difficulties made afterwards. … 'But they are all on the census list, aren't they?' said the secretary. 'They are,' answered Tchitchikov. 'Well, why are you troubled about them? One dies, another's born, and all are just as good to pawn.' The secretary, as the reader perceives, could talk in rhyme. And meanwhile the most brilliant inspiration that ever entered the mind