Madame Korobotchkina

Meanwhile Tchitchikoff, in a very well-satisfied frame of mind, sat in his britchka, which had long been rolling along the highway. From the preceding chapter, one can gather what constituted the chief subject of his thoughts; and therefore it is no wonder that he was speedily absorbed in it, body and soul. That the conjectures, calculations, and fancies which strayed through his mind were extremely agreeable, was evident from his face; for at each moment it expanded into a contented smile. He was so engrossed with his thoughts that it required a loud clap of thunder to bring him to himself, and induce him to look about him: the whole sky was now completely covered with clouds, and the dusty post-road was sprinkled with drops of rain. At length a second clap of thunder resounded, both louder and nearer than the first one, and the rain suddenly poured down as though from a pail. At first it came in a slanting direction, and beat upon one side of the britchka, then on the other; next altering its course, and becoming almost perpendicular, it drummed right upon the top of the carriage, and began to fall on our hero’s head. This made him pull down some leathern curtains, which had two small round windows, adapted for the contemplation of views upon the road, and at the same time he ordered Selifan to drive faster.

The coachman drew from beneath his box some trumpery garment of grey cloth, put it on, grasped the reins firmly, and shouted at his troïka,1 which were hardly moving their legs. However, Selifan could not at first remember whether he had passed two or three turnings. He decided, after due reflection, that there had been a great many, all of which he had passed. As a Russian soon discovers what to do in critical moments, he turned into the first cross-road he next came to, on the right, shouted, “Hey, there my respected friends!” to the horses, and set off at a gallop, without much concern as to where the cross-road would lead him.

The rain, however, seemed likely to last for a long time. The dust of the road was quickly converted into mud, and every moment it became more difficult for the horses to drag the britchka along. Tchitchikoff had already begun to grow seriously disquieted at not seeing Sobakevitch’s village. According to his calculations, they ought to have reached it long ago. He peered out on all sides, but it was now pitch dark.

“Selifan!” he said at last, leaning out of the britchka.

“What is it, master?” replied Selifan.

“Look and see if there is a village visible.”

“No, master, there isn’t one visible anywhere.” And there-upon Selifan, with a flourish of his whip, began, not exactly a song, but something which had no end. Everything entered into it,—all the cries of approbation and encouragement to which horses are treated throughout Russia, from one end of the land to the other; adjectives of every description without discrimination—in fact, the first that came to his tongue. And so it went on until, at last, he began to call the poor animals secretaries.

Meanwhile, Tchitchikoff noticed that the britchka was swaying about in all directions, and that he was being badly jolted. This warned him that they had got out of the road, and were probably careering through a ploughed field. Selifan seemed to have perceived it himself, but he said not a word.

“Here, you rascal, what road are you driving on?” cried Tchitchikoff.

“But what’s to be done, master, in such weather? you can’t see your whip before you, it’s so dark!” Thus speaking the coachman tipped the britchka, so that Tchitchikoff was obliged to hold on with both hands. It was only then that he perceived that Selifan had been drinking.

“Hold on, hold on! you’ll upset us!” he shouted to him.

“No, master; how could I upset you?” said Selifan. “It isn’t good to upset,—I know that myself already: I sha’n’t upset at all.” Thereupon he began to turn the britchka slightly, tip, tip, until finally he rolled it over on one side. Tchitchikoff fell full length into the mud. However, Selifan stopped the horses, who would,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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