outline, and casting a wondrous warmth over all which has been planned in cold, measured purity and faultlessness.

After making one or two turns, our hero at length found himself in front of the house, which now appeared even more gloomy than before. The ancient wood fence and gates were already covered with green slime. A cluster of buildings—servants’ apartments, storehouses, cellars, evidently falling into decay—stretched on one side of the yard; beside them, to right and left, the gates of other courtyards were visible. Everything here announced that things had been conducted on a grand scale in former times.

Nothing was visible which could enliven the picture—no doors flying open, no crowd of people going in or out, no bustle of the living nor solicitude for the house. The great gates alone were open, and that because a moujik had entered with a laden telyéga covered with a mat. However, Tchitchikoff soon perceived a person who began to quarrel with the moujik who had brought this telyéga. For a long time he could not make out to what sex this person belonged—whether it was a man or a woman. The garb this person wore greatly resembled a woman’s cloak, but the voice seemed rather hoarse for a woman’s. “It must however, be a woman,” said Tchitchikoff to himself, but immediately afterwards he added, “Oh, no!” “But of course it is a woman!” he said at last, after a more searching gaze. The person, meanwhile, stared fixedly at him, as if a visitor was a rarity there. Seeing the keys which hung from this person’s belt, and hearing the very abusive words which were being addressed to the moujik, Tchitchikoff inferred that the wearer of the cloak was probably the housekeeper.

“Listen, my good woman,” he said, descending from his britchka; “does your master——?”

“Not at home,” interrupted the housekeeper, without waiting for him to finish his query; and then, after a momentary pause, she added, “What do you want?”

“I have some business to transact with him.”

“Go into the room, there, then,” said the housekeeper, opening the door, and showing him her back all spotted over with flour, and a large rent in her cloak. Our hero then entered a dark but spacious vestibule, whence the cold air poured out as though from a cellar. From the vestibule he reached a room which was also dark, being only lighted by a gleam which came through a wide crack under the door. On opening this door he found himself at last in the light, and was very much astonished at the disorder which he beheld before him. It seemed as if the floors were being washed, and as if all the house furniture had been temporarily piled up here. A broken chair was even standing on one table, and beside it was a clock of which the pendulum had stopped, and to this a spider had attached its web. There also stood a sideboard filled with ancient silver, decanters, and Chinese porcelain. Upon a desk, inlaid with mother- of-pearl, which had already fallen out in pieces, leaving behind it empty yellowish holes filled with glue, lay all sorts of things: a pile of documents, covered with a marble paper-weight which had turned green; an ancient book in a leather binding, with red edges; a lemon, completely dried up, and no larger than a broken walnut-wood knob from an arm-chair; a wineglass covered with a letter, and containing some sort of liquid and three flies; a bit of sealing-wax; a scrap of rag, which had been picked up somewhere; two ink-stained pens dried up and looking as though they were in a consumption; together with a toothpick, which was quite yellow, and with which the owner had probably cleansed his teeth prior to the arrival of the French in Moscow.

Upon the walls several pictures were suspended close together, and without any attempt at arrangement; there was a long, yellow engraving of some battle, with huge drums, shouting soldiers, three-cornered hats, and prancing horses. This lacked a glass, and was mounted in a dilapidated mahogany frame. On a line with this a huge oil painting, which represented some flowers and fruits, with a boar’s head, and a duck hanging head downwards, monopolised half the wall. From the middle of the ceiling hung a chandelier enveloped in a linen bag, to which the accumulated dust gave the aspect of a silk-worm’s cocoon with the worm in it; and in one corner of the room various things not worthy to lie upon the table were piled up in a heap. It would have been impossible to affirm that a living being inhabited this apartment, had

  By PanEris using Melati.

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