Two Wills, A Fair, A Lawyer, and A Holy Man

Everything in the world has a use of its own. “Whoever desires a thing makes an effort to obtain it,” says the proverb. The expedition through the old lady’s trunks had been successfully achieved; and as a result, some things had found their way into Tchitchikoff’s dressing-case. In short, it had been wisely planned. Tchitchikoff had not exactly been guilty of theft, but he had taken advantage of circumstances. All of us have taken advantage at times, in one manner or another—one, of the forests belonging to the crown; another, of someone’s savings; one man will steal from his children for the sake of some itinerant actress; another, from his peasants, for the sake of buying furniture or equipages. What can one do, when so many enticements exist in the world—expensive restaurants with mad prices, and masquerades, and drives and dances with the gipsies? Surely, one cannot always restrain one’s self: man is not God. Thus Tchitchikoff, like a very great many people who are fond of every comfort, turned matters to his own advantage.

Tchitchikoff ought now to have left the town, but the roads had become bad. In the meantime, another fair had begun in the town, a genuine aristocratic fair. The first one had been more for horses, cattle, and raw products, and divers peasant manufactures, purchased by drovers and by wholesale dealers. But now, everything which had been purchased at the Nizhegorod fair, high-class wares of every description, had been brought here. Those raiders on the Russian purse, the French, had brought pomades, while French women had brought bonnets—those women who are Egyptian locusts, as Kostanzhoglo expressed it, and who, not content with devouring everything, leave their eggs behind them, buried in the earth.

The bad state of the crops had detained some landowners in the country. On the other hand, the officials who had not suffered from the bad crops turned out in force; so did their wives, to their misfortune. Having read many of those books which have been disseminated of late with the object of inoculating mankind with all sorts of novel requirements, they had conceived a most extraordinary thirst for all manner of new enjoyments. A Frenchman had opened a novel establishment, of a sort hitherto unheard of in that govenment—a pleasure-garden,1 with a supper at what purported to be a remarkably low price, the half of it being allowed to remain on credit, to boot. This was sufficient to induce not only all the heads of departments, but all the clerks, to visit it, in the expectation of future bribes from petitioners. A desire to show off in each other’s presence in the matter of horses and equipages sprang up. There was a great elbowing of different classes for the sake of diversion. In spite of the wretched weather, with mingled snow and rain, elegant calashes flew up and down. Where they all came from, God only knows, but they would not have done discredit to Petersburg itself. Merchants and clerks raised their hats adroitly, and invited the ladies to enter. Bearded traders in fur caps were rarely to be seen. Everything wore a European look.

Tchitchikoff, in a new Persian dressing-gown of gold brocade, was lolling on a divan, and chaffering with an itinerant smuggler-pedlar of Jewish extraction and German accent: and before him lay a piece of the finest cambric, which he had purchased for shirts, and two cardboard boxes of the finest soap, possessed of the most desirable qualities. This was the very same sort of soap which he had formerly been in the habit of obtaining when employed in the custom-house at Radziwill. It really did possess the property of imparting a wonderful softness and whiteness to the cheeks. At the very moment when he, in the character of a connoisseur, was making his purchases of these articles, which are indispensable to a well-bred man, the rumble of an approaching carriage became audible, together with the slight answering rattle of the walls and windows of the apartment, and his excellency Alexei Ivanovitch Lyenitzuin entered.

“I submit to your excellency’s judgment this cambric, this soap, and this cap, which I purchased yesterday,” said Tchitchikoff, while he placed on his head a cap embroidered with gold and pearl beads, and felt full of dignity and grandeur in his character of a Persian shah.

But his excellency, without vouchsafing any reply to our hero, said with a troubled look, “I must have a talk with you on business matters.” Anxiety and uneasiness were depicted on his countenance. The worthy merchant with a German accent was instantly dismissed, and they were left alone.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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