indeed, have stopped of themselves, for they were greatly fatigued. This unforeseen catastrophe completely amazed the driver. Extricating himself from his box, he planted himself in front of the britchka, set both arms akimbo on his hips, and while his master was floundering about in the mud, and endeavouring to crawl out of it, he said after some reflection, Well; so it has tipped over!
Youre as drunk as a cobbler, retorted Tchitchikoff.
No, master, no. Besides, how is it possible for me to be drunk? I know that it is not a good thing to drink. I had a chat with a friend; for one may chat with a good fellow, and theres nothing wrong in that; and we also had something to eat together. A snack (zakuska) is not a disgraceful thing: a fellow may fairly take a bite with a nice companion.
What did I tell you the last time that you were intoxicated, eh? have you forgotten? asked Tchitchikoff.
No, your blagoródiue,2 how could I have forgotten? I know my business. I know that it is not right to get drunk. But I had a chat with a fine man, for
Ill thrash you! Ill teach you to chat with a fine man!
As your clemency pleases, replied Selifan, in complete acquiescence: if you must thrash me, then thrash away. I have no objection to that. And why not beat me, if there is cause for it? That is according to the masters will. It is necessary for him to beat, for the moujik often becomes ungovernable: he must be well looked after. If there is cause for it, then beat away: why not?
To this reasoning the master found no answer whatever. But at that moment it seemed as though fate had resolved to be merciful to them. The barking of a dog resounded in the distance, and Tchitchikoff, in delight, ordered the horses to be whipped up. The Russian driver possesses a fine sense of hearing in lieu of eyes; hence it happens that although he sometimes drives along at full speed, with his eyes screwed up, he always comes out somewhere. Selifan, without being able to see his hand before him, drove so directly to the village that he only drew up when the britchka stopped short with its shaft against a fence, and when it could actually go no farther. Through the thick veil of pouring rain, Tchitchikoff could merely perceive something resembling a roof. He despatched Selifan to find a gate; and this would have required a long time, no doubt, if in Russia people did not keep ill-tempered dogs in lieu of doorkeepers; and a dog, indeed, now loudly announced the britchkas arrival. A light twinkled through one small window, and reached the fence, revealing the gate to our travellers. Selifan began to knock: and soon a person draped in an armyak3 opened the wicket, whereupon the master and man heard a hoarse, feminine voice asking, Who knocks? what has happened?
We are travellers, my good woman: let us in to pass the night, said Tchitchikoff.
Youre lively travellers! rejoined the old woman: nice weather you have come in! This isnt a post-house: a landowner lives here.
But what is to be done, my good woman? We have lost our way. We cannot pass the night on the steppe, in such weather as this.
Yes: it is dark, and the weather is bad, added Selifan.
Hold your tongue, you blockhead! said Tchitchikoff.
Who are you? asked the old woman.
A nobleman, my good woman.
The word nobleman seemed to give the old woman matter for thought. Wait! Ill tell the mistress, she ejaculated.
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