Luxury and Indigence

On the following day everything was arranged in the best possible manner. Kostanzhoglo gladly lent our hero ten thousand roubles, without interest or security—on his simple note of hand: so ready, indeed, was he to assist anyone on the road to wealth. He showed Tchitchikoff all over his establishment. With him, not a single moment was lost; nothing ran to waste; not the slightest irregularity took place among his villagers. There was not a sluggard anywhere. Intelligence and contentment beamed upon the faces of his peasants. Everything was so simply and sensibly arranged that it worked itself. The alternations of forest and tilled land could not fail to astonish Tchitchikoff. How much this man had accomplished, without making any noise in the world, without composing projects or treatises about the manner of insuring the well-being of all mankind! And how useless is the life of the man who dwells in towns, who frequents taverns and dances over polished floors! At this thought Tchitchikoff’s desire to become a landowner grew stronger than ever.

Kostanzhoglo himself offered to accompany our hero to Khlobuyoff’s in order to inspect the estate with him. Tchitchikoff was in fine spirits. After a hearty breakfast, they set out, all three, including Platonoff, riding in Pavel Ivanovitch’s calash; the host’s empty prolyotka1 followed them. The dog, Yarb, ran on in front, chasing the birds from the road. Kostanzhoglo’s forests and tilled fields stretched for fifteen versts on both sides of the highway. As soon as their limit was reached, everything assumed a very different aspect: the grain was sickly, and stumps took the place of trees. Khlobuyoff’s little village seemed deserted, in spite of its fine situation. The new stone mansion, which had remained in an unfinished state and uninhabited for several years, stood out most prominently of all; and behind it was the little old manor- house, which was still used as a residence. They found the master of the place unkempt and yawning, having but just awoke. He was forty years of age; his neckerchief was knotted on one side; there was a patch on his surtout, and there were holes in his shoes.

God knows what his delight at seeing his visitors was: it was as though he had beheld some brothers, from whom he had been separated for a very long time.

“Konstantin Feodorovitch! Platon Mikhailovitch! You have honoured me with a visit!” he exclaimed. “Let me rub my eyes. I really thought that no one was ever coming to see me again. Everybody flies from me, as from the plague: they think that I want to try to borrow money from them. Oh, it’s hard, hard, Konstantin Feodorovitch! I see that I alone am to blame. But what am I to do? The pig has earned his pig’s fate. Excuse me, gentlemen, for receiving you in such a costume: my boots, as you see, are full of holes. What refreshment will you take?”

“Do not stand on ceremony. We have come on business. Here is a purchaser for your estate, Pavel Ivanovitch Tchitchikoff,” said Kostanzhoglo.

“I am heartily glad to make your acquaintance. Allow me to shake hands with you.”

Tchitchikoff gave him both his hands.

“I should very much like to show you the estate, which is worthy of your attention, Pavel Ivanovitch. But permit me to inquire, gentlemen, whether you have dined?”

“Yes, yes,” said Kostanzhoglo, desirous of dismissing the subject. “We will not trespass on your hospitality, and we are going back directly.”

“In that case, let us start,” said Khlobuyoff, taking up his cap. “Let us go and inspect my disorder and thriftlessness.”

The guests put on their caps, and all set out on foot to survey the village. Almost every street was lined on both sides with wretched huts, the tiny, shattered windows of which were filled up with foot-cloths.2

  By PanEris using Melati.

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