As for Pavel Ivanovitch Tchichikoff, he had not the slightest idea of the reports that were circulating on his account, and, as if misfortunes never come alone, it so happened, that at this very time he was suffering from a severe cold in his face, and an influenza in his throat, both indispositions to which we are very subject in our larger towns. In order to avoid any danger to his life by this indisposition, from which Heaven preserve him! and the fear that he might perhaps die in consequence without leaving any descendants behind him, he resolved upon staying at home for a few days.
During the course of these days, he kept continually using ointments, and rinsing his throat with warm milk and figs in it, the latter fruit he always used to eat when he had used the lotion, he also wore a small pillow on his face, filled with herbs and camphor. Wishing to occupy his leisure time as pleasantly as possible, he began to write over again the various lists of the dead serfs he had been purchasing, read a little of the “Wandering Jew,” translated from the French, which he happened to find in his portmanteau, he reviewed and glanced over all the contents of his dressing-case, such as notes, visiting cards and invitations to weddings and funerals, some of them he even had the courage to read over twice, nevertheless, he soon got tired of continually doing the same thing.
He could not at all account for the fact, how it happened that he did not see a single visitor, when but a few days ago the droschkies and carriages of the imperial employés were continually standing and waiting in a line before the inn, among his most frequent visitors he was accustomed to see the carriage of the Postmaster General, the Procurator’s, or the President of the Council.
He shrugged his shoulders at the thought of it as he was walking up and down his room, applying the poultice to his swollen cheek. At last, however, he felt considerably better, and was rejoiced, Heaven knows to what extent, when he saw a possibility before him of leaving the house and walking out into the fresh air. Without any further delay, he betook himself immediately to the process of dressing, opened his toilette case, poured some hot water into a glass, took his shaving brush and soap, and prepared to shave himself, for which process it had been long ago the highest time; because, feeling his beard with his hand, and then looking at it in the looking-glass before him, he could not help exclaiming: “What a forest-like beard I have got in a few days, to be sure.” And really, though it could not have been called a forest, yet his cheeks and chin were thickly covered with what might be termed a neglected growth.
After having shaved carefully, he began to dress so quickly and lively, so that he nearly jumped out of his trowsers again. At last, he was perfectly dressed, he took up his Eau de Cologne, with which he sprinkled himself all over, and after putting on a warmer over-coat, and wrapping his cheek carefully in a silk handkerchief, he went out into the street.
His first walk out was like that of every person recovering from an indisposition; he felt cheerful and well-disposed. All that his sight met, seemed gay and pleasant to look at, the houses, the passing multitude, the carriages and horses and even the running dogs.
His first morning visit he intended to pay to his Excellency the Governor-General of Smolensk. On his road to the house of the Lord-Lieutenant, many a thought crossed his mind. The fair blondine kept continually turning about in his head; his fancy for her even began to roam, so much so that he could at last not help smiling at it himself. In such a pleasant disposition he arrived at the house of the Governor-General. He was on the point of taking off his over-coat in the hall, when the porter surprised him with the following unexpected information.
“I have orders not to receive you, Sir.”
“What, how, surely you don’t recognise me again. You had better look me well in the face,” said Tchichikoff to the man.
“How should I not know you again, Sir? It is not the first time I have seen you in this house. But the instructions I have received are very positive indeed; they refer to you alone; all other visitors are to be admitted as before.”
“You don’t mean that! Why me alone? what for?”
“Such are my orders, and I dare say it must be all right,” said the porter, and added finally the words, “yes.” After saying this, he remained coolly standing before Tchichikoff, showing no signs of his usual servility to hasten forward and help the guest of his master to take off his over-coat. It seemed, as he looked upon the stranger, that he thought, “Oho! if my master does not wish to receive you any more under his roof, you must have behaved badly, and be an impostor.”
“Incomprehensible!” thought Tchichikoff to himself, and went immediately to wait upon his friend the President; but the President became so confused at the sight of our hero, that he could not speak two words intelligibly and uttered such nonsense that both felt at last perfectly ashamed of one another.’ As he left the house, Tchichikoff tried to explain to himself, on his road, what the President’s words were meant to express, and especially a few insinuations that had dropped in the course of their conversation, however he could explain nothing.
He then went to pay his visits to a few more, to the Commissioner of Police, to the Vice-Governor, to the Postmaster-General, but they either did not receive him, or if they did, at least, all spoke in such a strange manner, and in such incomprehensible terms, and seemed in his opinion at such a loss for anything reasonable to say, that he left them under the impression that they were wrong in their minds. He called upon a few more on his road home, thinking that he would at last be able to find out a real cause for their unwarrantable conduct; however he could not discover any cause whatever.
Like a somnambulist he continued to wander about for some time in the streets of the town, perfectly incapable of deciding, whether it was he or the Imperial employés who had lost their senses.
It was already late in the evening when he returned to his hotel, which he had left in the early day, in such an excellent disposition, to chase away the annoyance he felt, he immediately ordered some tea. Engaged with melancholy reflections on his suddenly changed position vis-à-vis his acquaintance in town, he began to pour out his tea, when the door of his room was suddenly opened, and he beheld Nosdrieff standing unexpectedly before him.