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display for me?” he asked. It took them about six months,

time:2023-12-06 02:36:59 source:Untouched network author:system read:776次

"The devil take those who first invented balls!" was his reflection. "Who derives any real pleasure from them? In this province there exist want and scarcity everywhere: yet folk go in for balls! How absurd, too, were those overdressed women! One of them must have had a thousand roubles on her back, and all acquired at the expense of the overtaxed peasant, or, worse still, at that of the conscience of her neighbour. Yes, we all know why bribes are accepted, and why men become crooked in soul. It is all done to provide wives--yes, may the pit swallow them up!--with fal-lals. And for what purpose? That some woman may not have to reproach her husband with the fact that, say, the Postmaster's wife is wearing a better dress than she is--a dress which has cost a thousand roubles! 'Balls and gaiety, balls and gaiety' is the constant cry. Yet what folly balls are! They do not consort with the Russian spirit and genius, and the devil only knows why we have them. A grown, middle-aged man--a man dressed in black, and looking as stiff as a poker--suddenly takes the floor and begins shuffling his feet about, while another man, even though conversing with a companion on important business, will, the while, keep capering to right and left like a billy-goat! Mimicry, sheer mimicry! The fact that the Frenchman is at forty precisely what he was at fifteen leads us to imagine that we too, forsooth, ought to be the same. No; a ball leaves one feeling that one has done a wrong thing--so much so that one does not care even to think of it. It also leaves one's head perfectly empty, even as does the exertion of talking to a man of the world. A man of that kind chatters away, and touches lightly upon every conceivable subject, and talks in smooth, fluent phrases which he has culled from books without grazing their substance; whereas go and have a chat with a tradesman who knows at least ONE thing thoroughly, and through the medium of experience, and see whether his conversation will not be worth more than the prattle of a thousand chatterboxes. For what good does one get out of balls? Suppose that a competent writer were to describe such a scene exactly as it stands? Why, even in a book it would seem senseless, even as it certainly is in life. Are, therefore, such functions right or wrong? One would answer that the devil alone knows, and then spit and close the book."

display for me?” he asked. It took them about six months,

Such were the unfavourable comments which Chichikov passed upon balls in general. With it all, however, there went a second source of dissatisfaction. That is to say, his principal grudge was not so much against balls as against the fact that at this particular one he had been exposed, he had been made to disclose the circumstance that he had been playing a strange, an ambiguous part. Of course, when he reviewed the contretemps in the light of pure reason, he could not but see that it mattered nothing, and that a few rude words were of no account now that the chief point had been attained; yet man is an odd creature, and Chichikov actually felt pained by the could-shouldering administered to him by persons for whom he had not an atom of respect, and whose vanity and love of display he had only that moment been censuring. Still more, on viewing the matter clearly, he felt vexed to think that he himself had been so largely the cause of the catastrophe.

display for me?” he asked. It took them about six months,

Yet he was not angry with HIMSELF--of that you may be sure, seeing that all of us have a slight weakness for sparing our own faults, and always do our best to find some fellow-creature upon whom to vent our displeasure--whether that fellow-creature be a servant, a subordinate official, or a wife. In the same way Chichikov sought a scapegoat upon whose shoulders he could lay the blame for all that had annoyed him. He found one in Nozdrev, and you may be sure that the scapegoat in question received a good drubbing from every side, even as an experienced captain or chief of police will give a knavish starosta or postboy a rating not only in the terms become classical, but also in such terms as the said captain or chief of police may invent for himself. In short, Nozdrev's whole lineage was passed in review; and many of its members in the ascending line fared badly in the process.

display for me?” he asked. It took them about six months,

Meanwhile, at the other end of the town there was in progress an event which was destined to augment still further the unpleasantness of our hero's position. That is to say, through the outlying streets and alleys of the town there was clattering a vehicle to which it would be difficult precisely to assign a name, seeing that, though it was of a species peculiar to itself, it most nearly resembled a large, rickety water melon on wheels. Eventually this monstrosity drew up at the gates of a house where the archpriest of one of the churches resided, and from its doors there leapt a damsel clad in a jerkin and wearing a scarf over her head. For a while she thumped the gates so vigorously as to set all the dogs barking; then the gates stiffly opened, and admitted this unwieldy phenomenon of the road. Lastly, the barinia herself alighted, and stood revealed as Madame Korobotchka, widow of a Collegiate Secretary! The reason of her sudden arrival was that she had felt so uneasy about the possible outcome of Chichikov's whim, that during the three nights following his departure she had been unable to sleep a wink; whereafter, in spite of the fact that her horses were not shod, she had set off for the town, in order to learn at first hand how the dead souls were faring, and whether (which might God forfend!) she had not sold them at something like a third of their true value. The consequences of her venture the reader will learn from a conversation between two ladies. We will reserve it for the ensuing chapter.

Next morning, before the usual hour for paying calls, there tripped from the portals of an orange-coloured wooden house with an attic storey and a row of blue pillars a lady in an elegant plaid cloak. With her came a footman in a many-caped greatcoat and a polished top hat with a gold band. Hastily, but gracefully, the lady ascended the steps let down from a koliaska which was standing before the entrance, and as soon as she had done so the footman shut her in, put up the steps again, and, catching hold of the strap behind the vehicle, shouted to the coachman, "Right away!" The reason of all this was that the lady was the possessor of a piece of intelligence that she was burning to communicate to a fellow-creature. Every moment she kept looking out of the carriage window, and perceiving, with almost speechless vexation, that, as yet, she was but half-way on her journey. The fronts of the houses appeared to her longer than usual, and in particular did the front of the white stone hospital, with its rows of narrow windows, seem interminable to a degree which at length forced her to ejaculate: "Oh, the cursed building! Positively there is no end to it!" Also, she twice adjured the coachman with the words, "Go quicker, Andrusha! You are a horribly long time over the journey this morning." But at length the goal was reached, and the koliaska stopped before a one-storied wooden mansion, dark grey in colour, and having white carvings over the windows, a tall wooden fence and narrow garden in front of the latter, and a few meagre trees looming white with an incongruous coating of road dust. In the windows of the building were also a few flower pots and a parrot that kept alternately dancing on the floor of its cage and hanging on to the ring of the same with its beak. Also, in the sunshine before the door two pet dogs were sleeping. Here there lived the lady's bosom friend. As soon as the bosom friend in question learnt of the newcomer's arrival, she ran down into the hall, and the two ladies kissed and embraced one another. Then they adjourned to the drawing-room.

"How glad I am to see you!" said the bosom friend. "When I heard some one arriving I wondered who could possibly be calling so early. Parasha declared that it must be the Vice-Governor's wife, so, as I did not want to be bored with her, I gave orders that I was to be reported 'not at home.'"

For her part, the guest would have liked to have proceeded to business by communicating her tidings, but a sudden exclamation from the hostess imparted (temporarily) a new direction to the conversation.

"What a pretty chintz!" she cried, gazing at the other's gown.


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