Our hero, however, felt happy and in the best disposition of mind without the old man’s watch. For such an unexpected acquisition of stock was in his opinion a most valuable gift, and he had really every difficulty in mastering his joy; but then it was also one of the most advantageous speculations—though certainly of an unheard-of nature—that he had ever made in his life. He got for a mere nothing, not only dead, but even run-away serfs, in all more than two hundred regular census slaves, and to him, whether dead or alive, most valuable beings.
As a matter of course, it must be acknowledged that whilst driving up to Pluschkin’s mansion, he had a secret presentiment that something unusual would happen to him; but certainly he was far from guessing that such a brilliant success would actually crown his anticipations.
Twilight began to merge into darkness of the evening, when the britchka approached the town. The crepuscule was mingling with the dusk quicker and faster, and it seemed as if objects in the distance were mixed up and in confusion. The red and white-coloured turnpike gates seemed of an indefinable colour, very different from their usual gay appearance; the mustachios of the sentinel on duty seemed to be on his forehead, much above his eyes, as for his nose, it appeared as if he had none.
The sudden noise and the jolting of the wheels across the pavement were an undeniable proof that the britchka had safely entered the gates of Smolensk.
The britchka soon after sustained a few more severe joltings and shakings, until at last it made a regular jump as if into a hole; fortunately it stopped short before the gates of the inn where Tchichikoff was met by his servant Petruschka, who, with one of his hands was trying to keep together the skirts of his long surtout, not wishing perhaps that they should be open and flying about, whilst, with the other hand, he assisted his master to alight from the britchka.
The head-waiter had rushed forward to meet Tchichikoff. He held a candle in his hand and a napkin thrown over his shoulder. It is impossible for us to tell whether Petruschka was pleased or not to see his master returning safely home. However, he exchanged a familiar glance with his friend Selifan, in consequence of which, his usually sulky countenance for the nonce, seemed to undergo a change which bore some slight approach to cheerfulness.
“Your glory has been on a long excursion this time,” said the head-waiter politely, as he was showing him up-stairs.
“Yes, rather,” answered Tchichikoff, when he had arrived at the landing leading towards his room. “Well, and how are you?”
“Thank heavens and your glory for your kindness!” replied the head-waiter, bowing lowly in acknowledgment of the condescension. “A cornet in the Lancers arrived last night, and has taken number sixteen, the apartment next to that of your glory’s.”
“Who? a cornet! of what regiment?”
“I really cannot inform your glory to what regiment he belongs, but he comes from Rizan, has a splendid carriage and three beautiful horses.”
“Very well, that will do; go and behave yourself well in future,” said Tchichikoff. But as he crossed the ante-room, he quickly turned up his nose, and said to Petruschka, whilst hurrying along, “You ought at least to have opened the windows, you careless fellow!”
“I have had them opened, your glory,” replied Petruschka; but in saying this, he told a falsehood, and though his master knew well enough that he was trying to impose upon him, he did not condescend to waste another word about it. After the fatigues of his journey and adventures, he felt exceedingly tired, and was anxious to retire. He ordered a very light supper to be brought up, which consisted of a few thin slices of tender sucking-pig, which he ate rather hastily, and then undressing himself quickly, he went to bed immediately, and tucked himself well up in his blankets, and was soon fast and sound asleep. He began to snore most wonderfully, and slept as soundly as only those happy mortals sleep who do not suffer from the attacks of gout or flies, nor from any superabundance of mental faculties.