“Because his body, as you will be pleased to observe, is whiter than other people’s, and he is respectably corpulent, like a gentleman.”

Meanwhile, the gentleman who was entangled in the net had been dragged considerably nearer to the shore. On feeling that he could touch the bottom with his feet, he did so, and at the same time he became aware of the calash descending to the dam, and of Tchitchikoff seated in it.

“Have you dined?” shouted the gentleman, stepping on to the bank, with the captured fish enveloped in the net, like a lady’s hand incased in a transparent glove in summer-time. Then, as he held one hand before his eyes like a visor, to shield them from the sun, and let the other one hang down—looking for all the world like the Venus de Medici emerging from the bath—he repeated his question in a loud voice.

“No, I haven’t dined,” answered Tchitchikoff, raising his cap, and continuing to bow from the calash.

“Well, thank God for that!”

“Why?” inquired Tchitchikoff, with curiosity, holding his cap above his head.

“Because!—fling that sturgeon also into the washtub, Little Foma! Go and help him, Kuzma.” Two of the fishermen now lifted the head of some monster out of the tub. “See what a prince! he came in from the river!” added the stout gentleman. “Go to the manor-house. Coachman, take the road below, through the vegetable garden. Run, you stupid Big Foma, knock down the palings. He will guide you, and I’ll be there directly.”

Long-legged, barefooted Big Foma ran, just as he was, in his shirt alone, through the whole village, where drag-nets, fishing-baskets, and similar things hung over every cabin, for all the peasants were fishermen; then, he took down the palings of some vegetable garden, and through this garden the calash entered a square close to a wooden church. Farther on, behind the church, the roofs of the manorial buildings were visible.

“This Koshkareff is rather eccentric,” said Tchitchikoff to himself.

“Here I am!” cried a voice on one side, whereupon our hero glanced round. The gentleman had already arrived beside him, clad in a grass-green nankeen surtout and yellow breeches; but his neck was devoid of a neckcloth, after the manner of Cupid’s. He was seated sideways in a drozhky, the whole of which he took up by himself. Tchitchikoff tried to say something to him, but, behold, he had already disappeared. The drozhky again made its appearance at the spot where the fish had been drawn out, and again the fat man’s voice rang out, “Big Foma and Little Foma! Kuzma and Denis!”

When Tchitchikoff arrived at the porch of the house, he was amazed to find the fat gentleman already there to receive him in his embrace. How he had managed to fly there was incomprehensible. They kissed each other, however, making a triple cross, after the ancient Russian custom. The gentleman belonged to the old school.

“I have brought you a greeting from his excellency,” began Tchitchikoff.

“From what excellency?”

“From your relative, General Alexander Dmitrievitch.”

“Who is this Alexander Dmitrievitch?”

“General Betrishtcheff,” replied Tchitchikoff in some surprise.

“Don’t know him.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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