While Tchitchikoff was still meditating over the nickname of “ragged man” bestowed by the moujik upon Pliushkin, he did not observe that he had arrived in the middle of an extensive village, with a multitude of izbás and streets. But he was soon forced to take notice of the fact by a tolerably severe jolting over the timber-laid road, beside which the stone-paved street of a city is nothing. These planks moved, now up, now down, like the keys of a pianoforte; and an incautious rider received either a slap on the nape of the neck, or a blow on his brow, or was even made to bite the tip of his tongue with his own teeth in a very painful manner. Tchitchikoff observed a certain peculiar antiquity in all the village structures. The timber walls of the izbás were dark and old: many of the roofs were so full of holes that they looked like gratings; on some merely the ridge-pole and the side-rafters remained, in the form of ribs. It seemed as though the owners themselves had torn off the shingles and boards, arguing, and with justice, that badly built izbás are not good shelter-places during rain, and that in fine weather the water does not come through; besides it is no use making a fuss about it, as there is all out-doors and the drinking-shops at one’s disposal, and one can go where one likes on the highway. There was no glass in the windows of the little cabins; some were stuffed with rags, or women’s petticoats; the little railed balconies, which, for an unknown reason, are built just under the roof on some Russian izbás, were all awry, and blackened even to an unpicturesque degree. Behind the izbás, in many places, stretched huge stacks of grain in rows, and behind the stacks and the ancient izbá roofs two village churches rose up into the clear air, peeping forth, now on the right hand, now on the left, as the britchka took different turns; they stood beside each other, one built of wood, and in ruins; and the other of stone, with yellow walls, all spotted and cracked. Pliushkin’s house began to appear at intervals, and at last it came fully into sight just as the last izbás were passed, and when there appeared a desolate vegetable garden or cabbage plantation, surrounded by a low, and in some places dilapidated, fence. This strange dwelling-place, which was very long, had a decrepit look. In some places it was one storey high, in others two; upon its dark roof, which did not, in many parts, afford adequate protection from the weather, on account of its age, there towered two belvederes, one facing the other, both already tottering, and destitute of any trace of paint. The walls of the house presented naked lattice-work in lieu of plaster to view in various spots, and they had evidently been subjected to all sorts of inclement weather—rain, whirlwinds, and autumnal changes. Only two of the windows were open: the rest were closed with shutters, or simply barricaded with boards. And even these two windows were damaged: one of them being darkened by a triangular piece of blue sugar-paper pasted over it.

The old and spacious garden, which stretched away behind the house, running towards the village, and then merging into a meadow, seemed to be the only fresh spot about the place, and formed the only picturesque feature in the desolate landscape. The crests of the trees, which had grown at their own will, rose up against the horizon in verdant clumps and quivering domes of foliage. The colossal white bole of a beech tree, deprived of its leafy head, which had been broken off by a gale of wind or a thunderstorm, rose from the midst of this green thicket, looking like a symmetrical column of gleaming white marble against the sky: the slanting, sharply-pointed fracture with which it ended above, instead of there being a capital, appeared dark above the snowy whiteness of the trunk. The hop-plants, which had stifled the lilacs, mountain-ashes, and hazel-bushes, climbing to the top of the fence, also threatened to envelop the shattered beech-tree. They had grown half-way up the trunk and then descended, catching in other trees, and in places hanging in the air, knotting their slender clinging tendrils into rings, which swayed gently in the breeze. The green grove, illumined by the sun, parted here and there, disclosing unlighted depths within it, looking like the dark throats of wild beasts. It was all enveloped in gloom, and in its dark recesses there stood forth here and there, beside a narrow winding path, some rickety arbour surrounded by a railing, with the decayed and hollow trunk of a willow tree, a grey Siberian acacia, and some brush- wood, which was all tangled and interlaced. A young maple-bough, too, had stretched forth its green leaves, beneath one of which a sun-ray had crept, God alone knows how, suddenly rendering it fiery, transparent, and wondrously gleaming amid that thick darkness. On one side, at the very edge of the garden, some lofty ash-trees bore the huge nests of crows aloft on their quivering crests. On some of them, boughs which had been half torn away drooped downward, laden with dry leaves. In a word, the scene was beautiful as neither art nor nature alone can invent, but as is only possible when they are both combined, when nature gives the finishing touch with her chisel to the often senseless work of man, lightening the heavy masses, demolishing all the coarsely conceived regularity and poverty of

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.