Chichikov scanned the speaker's face, but could make nothing of it. Paying the tradesman for the cloth, he left the shop. Meanwhile Murazov had conveyed Khlobuev to his rooms. "Tell me," he said to his guest, "exactly how your affairs stand. I take it that, after all, your aunt left you something?" "It would be difficult to say whether or not my affairs are improved," replied Khlobuev.
Yet of the fact that every hour may be precious to the poor wretch, and that his business may suffer from the delay, we take no account. "Good sir," we say, "pray come again to-morrow. To-day I have no time to spare you." "Where do you intend henceforth to live?" inquired Platon. "Have you any other property to which you can retire?" "No," replied Khlobuev.
You have done well to dine beforehand, for not so much as a fowl is left in the place, so dire are the extremities to which you see me reduced." "Things are going hard with me, Platon Mikhalitch," continued Khlobuev. "How hard you cannot imagine. No money have I, no food, no boots.
"You confound me, you overwhelm me!" said Khlobuev, staring at his companion in open-eyed astonishment. "I can scarcely believe that your words are true, seeing that for such a trust an active, indefatigable man would be necessary. Moreover, how could I leave my wife and children unprovided for?"
"See to what wretchedness the peasant has become reduced! Should cattle disease come, Khlobuev will have nothing to fall back upon, but will be forced to sell his all to leave the peasant without a horse, and therefore without the means to labour, even though the loss of a single day's work may take years of labour to rectify.
"Good gracious!" inwardly ejaculated Chichikov. "To suppose that God would send such a fool two hundred thousand roubles!" "However," went on Khlobuev, "I possess an aunt worth three millions a pious old woman who gives freely to churches and monasteries, but finds a difficulty in helping her neighbour. At the same time, she is a lady of the old school, and worth having a peep at.
"I am afraid I must request you to name the lowest possible sum, since I find the estate in a far worse condition than I had expected to do." "Yes, it IS in a terrible state," agreed Khlobuev. "Nor is that the whole of the story.
Hitherto only for rank or for opulence had Chichikov respected a man never for mere intellectual power; but now he made a first exception in favour of Kostanzhoglo, seeing that he felt that nothing undertaken by his host could possibly come to naught. And another project which was occupying Chichikov's mind was the project of purchasing the estate of a certain landowner named Khlobuev.
To think of wasting such quantities of land! Where land wouldn't bear corn, I should dig it up, and plant it with vegetables. What ought to be done is that Khlobuev ought to take a spade into his own hands, and to set his wife and children and servants to do the same; and even if they died of the exertion, they would at least die doing their duty, and not through guzzling at the dinner table."
"Ah, Athanasi Vassilievitch," said Khlobuev, "that is another matter altogether. That I do, not for man's sake, but for the sake of Him who has ordered all things here on earth.