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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"The cloak" (or "The Overcoat"), a Short Story by Nikolai Gogol, Full Text English Version, English Translation. Nikolai Gogol's "The cloak" (or "The Overcoat", Russian: Шинель) and the original Russian text (Cyrillic)


"The Overcoat" (sometimes translated as "The Cloak", Russian: Шинель), Cover by Igor Grabar, 1890s


"We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat" 
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский


The Cloack

Original Russian (Cyrillic text) 
In the department of--but it is better not to mention the department.
There is nothing more irritable than departments, regiments, courts of
justice, and, in a word, every branch of public service. Each individual
attached to them nowadays thinks all society insulted in his person.
Quite recently a complaint was received from a justice of the peace, in
which he plainly demonstrated that all the imperial institutions were
going to the dogs, and that the Czar's sacred name was being taken in
vain; and in proof he appended to the complaint a romance in which the
justice of the peace is made to appear about once every ten lines,
and sometimes in a drunken condition. Therefore, in order to avoid all
unpleasantness, it will be better to describe the department in question
only as a certain department.

So, in a certain department there was a certain official--not a very
high one, it must be allowed--short of stature, somewhat pock-marked,
red-haired, and short-sighted, with a bald forehead, wrinkled cheeks,
and a complexion of the kind known as sanguine. The St. Petersburg
climate was responsible for this. As for his official status, he was
what is called a perpetual titular councillor, over which, as is well
known, some writers make merry, and crack their jokes, obeying the
praiseworthy custom of attacking those who cannot bite back.

His family name was Bashmatchkin. This name is evidently derived from
"bashmak" (shoe); but when, at what time, and in what manner, is not
known. His father and grandfather, and all the Bashmatchkins, always
wore boots, which only had new heels two or three times a year. His name
was Akakiy Akakievitch. It may strike the reader as rather singular
and far-fetched, but he may rest assured that it was by no means
far-fetched, and that the circumstances were such that it would have
been impossible to give him any other.

This is how it came about.

Akakiy Akakievitch was born, if my memory fails me not, in the evening
of the 23rd of March. His mother, the wife of a Government official
and a very fine woman, made all due arrangements for having the child
baptised. She was lying on the bed opposite the door; on her right
stood the godfather, Ivan Ivanovitch Eroshkin, a most estimable man,
who served as presiding officer of the senate, while the godmother, Anna
Semenovna Byelobrushkova, the wife of an officer of the quarter, and
a woman of rare virtues. They offered the mother her choice of three
names, Mokiya, Sossiya, or that the child should be called after the
martyr Khozdazat. "No," said the good woman, "all those names are poor."
In order to please her they opened the calendar to another place;
three more names appeared, Triphiliy, Dula, and Varakhasiy. "This is
a judgment," said the old woman. "What names! I truly never heard the
like. Varada or Varukh might have been borne, but not Triphiliy and
Varakhasiy!" They turned to another page and found Pavsikakhiy and
Vakhtisiy. "Now I see," said the old woman, "that it is plainly fate.
And since such is the case, it will be better to name him after his
father. His father's name was Akakiy, so let his son's be Akakiy too."
In this manner he became Akakiy Akakievitch. They christened the child,
whereat he wept and made a grimace, as though he foresaw that he was to
be a titular councillor.

In this manner did it all come about. We have mentioned it in order that
the reader might see for himself that it was a case of necessity, and
that it was utterly impossible to give him any other name. When and how
he entered the department, and who appointed him, no one could remember.
However much the directors and chiefs of all kinds were changed, he
was always to be seen in the same place, the same attitude, the same
occupation; so that it was afterwards affirmed that he had been born
in undress uniform with a bald head. No respect was shown him in the
department. The porter not only did not rise from his seat when he
passed, but never even glanced at him, any more than if a fly had flown
through the reception-room. His superiors treated him in coolly despotic
fashion. Some sub-chief would thrust a paper under his nose without
so much as saying, "Copy," or "Here's a nice interesting affair," or
anything else agreeable, as is customary amongst well-bred officials.
And he took it, looking only at the paper and not observing who handed
it to him, or whether he had the right to do so; simply took it, and set
about copying it.

The young officials laughed at and made fun of him, so far as their
official wit permitted; told in his presence various stories concocted
about him, and about his landlady, an old woman of seventy; declared
that she beat him; asked when the wedding was to be; and strewed bits of
paper over his head, calling them snow. But Akakiy Akakievitch answered
not a word, any more than if there had been no one there besides
himself. It even had no effect upon his work: amid all these annoyances
he never made a single mistake in a letter. But if the joking became
wholly unbearable, as when they jogged his hand and prevented his
attending to his work, he would exclaim, "Leave me alone! Why do you
insult me?" And there was something strange in the words and the voice
in which they were uttered. There was in it something which moved to
pity; so much that one young man, a new-comer, who, taking pattern by
the others, had permitted himself to make sport of Akakiy, suddenly
stopped short, as though all about him had undergone a transformation,
and presented itself in a different aspect. Some unseen force repelled
him from the comrades whose acquaintance he had made, on the supposition
that they were well-bred and polite men. Long afterwards, in his gayest
moments, there recurred to his mind the little official with the bald
forehead, with his heart-rending words, "Leave me alone! Why do you
insult me?" In these moving words, other words resounded--"I am thy
brother." And the young man covered his face with his hand; and many a
time afterwards, in the course of his life, shuddered at seeing how
much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness is concealed
beneath delicate, refined worldliness, and even, O God! in that man whom
the world acknowledges as honourable and noble.

It would be difficult to find another man who lived so entirely for his
duties. It is not enough to say that Akakiy laboured with zeal: no,
he laboured with love. In his copying, he found a varied and agreeable
employment. Enjoyment was written on his face: some letters were even
favourites with him; and when he encountered these, he smiled, winked,
and worked with his lips, till it seemed as though each letter might
be read in his face, as his pen traced it. If his pay had been in
proportion to his zeal, he would, perhaps, to his great surprise, have
been made even a councillor of state. But he worked, as his companions,
the wits, put it, like a horse in a mill.

Moreover, it is impossible to say that no attention was paid to him. One
director being a kindly man, and desirous of rewarding him for his long
service, ordered him to be given something more important than mere
copying. So he was ordered to make a report of an already concluded
affair to another department: the duty consisting simply in changing
the heading and altering a few words from the first to the third person.
This caused him so much toil that he broke into a perspiration, rubbed
his forehead, and finally said, "No, give me rather something to copy."
After that they let him copy on forever.

Outside this copying, it appeared that nothing existed for him. He gave
no thought to his clothes: his undress uniform was not green, but a sort
of rusty-meal colour. The collar was low, so that his neck, in spite of
the fact that it was not long, seemed inordinately so as it emerged from
it, like the necks of those plaster cats which wag their heads, and are
carried about upon the heads of scores of image sellers. And something
was always sticking to his uniform, either a bit of hay or some trifle.
Moreover, he had a peculiar knack, as he walked along the street, of
arriving beneath a window just as all sorts of rubbish were being flung
out of it: hence he always bore about on his hat scraps of melon rinds
and other such articles. Never once in his life did he give heed to what
was going on every day in the street; while it is well known that his
young brother officials train the range of their glances till they
can see when any one's trouser straps come undone upon the opposite
sidewalk, which always brings a malicious smile to their faces. But
Akakiy Akakievitch saw in all things the clean, even strokes of his
written lines; and only when a horse thrust his nose, from some unknown
quarter, over his shoulder, and sent a whole gust of wind down his neck
from his nostrils, did he observe that he was not in the middle of a
page, but in the middle of the street.

On reaching home, he sat down at once at the table, supped his cabbage
soup up quickly, and swallowed a bit of beef with onions, never noticing
their taste, and gulping down everything with flies and anything else
which the Lord happened to send at the moment. His stomach filled, he
rose from the table, and copied papers which he had brought home. If
there happened to be none, he took copies for himself, for his own
gratification, especially if the document was noteworthy, not on account
of its style, but of its being addressed to some distinguished person.

Even at the hour when the grey St. Petersburg sky had quite dispersed,
and all the official world had eaten or dined, each as he could, in
accordance with the salary he received and his own fancy; when all were
resting from the departmental jar of pens, running to and fro from their
own and other people's indispensable occupations, and from all the work
that an uneasy man makes willingly for himself, rather than what is
necessary; when officials hasten to dedicate to pleasure the time which
is left to them, one bolder than the rest going to the theatre; another,
into the street looking under all the bonnets; another wasting his
evening in compliments to some pretty girl, the star of a small official
circle; another--and this is the common case of all--visiting his
comrades on the fourth or third floor, in two small rooms with an
ante-room or kitchen, and some pretensions to fashion, such as a lamp or
some other trifle which has cost many a sacrifice of dinner or pleasure
trip; in a word, at the hour when all officials disperse among the
contracted quarters of their friends, to play whist, as they sip their
tea from glasses with a kopek's worth of sugar, smoke long pipes, relate
at times some bits of gossip which a Russian man can never, under any
circumstances, refrain from, and, when there is nothing else to talk of,
repeat eternal anecdotes about the commandant to whom they had sent word
that the tails of the horses on the Falconet Monument had been cut off,
when all strive to divert themselves, Akakiy Akakievitch indulged in
no kind of diversion. No one could ever say that he had seen him at any
kind of evening party. Having written to his heart's content, he lay
down to sleep, smiling at the thought of the coming day--of what God
might send him to copy on the morrow.

Thus flowed on the peaceful life of the man, who, with a salary of four
hundred rubles, understood how to be content with his lot; and thus it
would have continued to flow on, perhaps, to extreme old age, were
it not that there are various ills strewn along the path of life for
titular councillors as well as for private, actual, court, and every
other species of councillor, even for those who never give any advice or
take any themselves.

There exists in St. Petersburg a powerful foe of all who receive a
salary of four hundred rubles a year, or thereabouts. This foe is no
other than the Northern cold, although it is said to be very healthy.
At nine o'clock in the morning, at the very hour when the streets are
filled with men bound for the various official departments, it begins to
bestow such powerful and piercing nips on all noses impartially that the
poor officials really do not know what to do with them. At an hour when
the foreheads of even those who occupy exalted positions ache with the
cold, and tears start to their eyes, the poor titular councillors are
sometimes quite unprotected. Their only salvation lies in traversing as
quickly as possible, in their thin little cloaks, five or six streets,
and then warming their feet in the porter's room, and so thawing all
their talents and qualifications for official service, which had become
frozen on the way.

Akakiy Akakievitch had felt for some time that his back and shoulders
suffered with peculiar poignancy, in spite of the fact that he tried
to traverse the distance with all possible speed. He began finally
to wonder whether the fault did not lie in his cloak. He examined it
thoroughly at home, and discovered that in two places, namely, on the
back and shoulders, it had become thin as gauze: the cloth was worn to
such a degree that he could see through it, and the lining had fallen
into pieces. You must know that Akakiy Akakievitch's cloak served as an
object of ridicule to the officials: they even refused it the noble name
of cloak, and called it a cape. In fact, it was of singular make: its
collar diminishing year by year, but serving to patch its other parts.
The patching did not exhibit great skill on the part of the tailor,
and was, in fact, baggy and ugly. Seeing how the matter stood, Akakiy
Akakievitch decided that it would be necessary to take the cloak to
Petrovitch, the tailor, who lived somewhere on the fourth floor up
a dark stair-case, and who, in spite of his having but one eye, and
pock-marks all over his face, busied himself with considerable success
in repairing the trousers and coats of officials and others; that is to
say, when he was sober and not nursing some other scheme in his head.

It is not necessary to say much about this tailor; but, as it is the
custom to have the character of each personage in a novel clearly
defined, there is no help for it, so here is Petrovitch the tailor. At
first he was called only Grigoriy, and was some gentleman's serf; he
commenced calling himself Petrovitch from the time when he received
his free papers, and further began to drink heavily on all holidays,
at first on the great ones, and then on all church festivities without
discrimination, wherever a cross stood in the calendar. On this point he
was faithful to ancestral custom; and when quarrelling with his wife, he
called her a low female and a German. As we have mentioned his wife, it
will be necessary to say a word or two about her. Unfortunately, little
is known of her beyond the fact that Petrovitch has a wife, who wears
a cap and a dress; but cannot lay claim to beauty, at least, no one but
the soldiers of the guard even looked under her cap when they met her.

Ascending the staircase which led to Petrovitch's room--which staircase
was all soaked with dish-water, and reeked with the smell of spirits
which affects the eyes, and is an inevitable adjunct to all dark
stairways in St. Petersburg houses--ascending the stairs, Akakiy
Akakievitch pondered how much Petrovitch would ask, and mentally
resolved not to give more than two rubles. The door was open; for the
mistress, in cooking some fish, had raised such a smoke in the kitchen
that not even the beetles were visible. Akakiy Akakievitch passed
through the kitchen unperceived, even by the housewife, and at length
reached a room where he beheld Petrovitch seated on a large unpainted
table, with his legs tucked under him like a Turkish pasha. His feet
were bare, after the fashion of tailors who sit at work; and the first
thing which caught the eye was his thumb, with a deformed nail thick and
strong as a turtle's shell. About Petrovitch's neck hung a skein of silk
and thread, and upon his knees lay some old garment. He had been trying
unsuccessfully for three minutes to thread his needle, and was enraged
at the darkness and even at the thread, growling in a low voice, "It
won't go through, the barbarian! you pricked me, you rascal!"

Akakiy Akakievitch was vexed at arriving at the precise moment when
Petrovitch was angry; he liked to order something of Petrovitch when the
latter was a little downhearted, or, as his wife expressed it, "when
he had settled himself with brandy, the one-eyed devil!" Under such
circumstances, Petrovitch generally came down in his price very readily,
and even bowed and returned thanks. Afterwards, to be sure, his wife
would come, complaining that her husband was drunk, and so had fixed
the price too low; but, if only a ten-kopek piece were added, then the
matter was settled. But now it appeared that Petrovitch was in a sober
condition, and therefore rough, taciturn, and inclined to demand, Satan
only knows what price. Akakiy Akakievitch felt this, and would gladly
have beat a retreat; but he was in for it. Petrovitch screwed up his
one eye very intently at him, and Akakiy Akakievitch involuntarily said:
"How do you do, Petrovitch?"

"I wish you a good morning, sir," said Petrovitch, squinting at Akakiy
Akakievitch's hands, to see what sort of booty he had brought.

"Ah! I--to you, Petrovitch, this--" It must be known that Akakiy
Akakievitch expressed himself chiefly by prepositions, adverbs, and
scraps of phrases which had no meaning whatever. If the matter was a
very difficult one, he had a habit of never completing his sentences; so
that frequently, having begun a phrase with the words, "This, in fact,
is quite--" he forgot to go on, thinking that he had already finished
it.

"What is it?" asked Petrovitch, and with his one eye scanned
Akakievitch's whole uniform from the collar down to the cuffs, the back,
the tails and the button-holes, all of which were well known to him,
since they were his own handiwork. Such is the habit of tailors; it is
the first thing they do on meeting one.

"But I, here, this--Petrovitch--a cloak, cloth--here you see,
everywhere, in different places, it is quite strong--it is a little
dusty, and looks old, but it is new, only here in one place it is a
little--on the back, and here on one of the shoulders, it is a little
worn, yes, here on this shoulder it is a little--do you see? that is
all. And a little work--"

Petrovitch took the cloak, spread it out, to begin with, on the
table, looked hard at it, shook his head, reached out his hand to
the window-sill for his snuff-box, adorned with the portrait of some
general, though what general is unknown, for the place where the face
should have been had been rubbed through by the finger, and a square
bit of paper had been pasted over it. Having taken a pinch of snuff,
Petrovitch held up the cloak, and inspected it against the light,
and again shook his head once more. After which he again lifted the
general-adorned lid with its bit of pasted paper, and having stuffed his
nose with snuff, closed and put away the snuff-box, and said finally,
"No, it is impossible to mend it; it's a wretched garment!"

Akakiy Akakievitch's heart sank at these words.

"Why is it impossible, Petrovitch?" he said, almost in the pleading
voice of a child; "all that ails it is, that it is worn on the
shoulders. You must have some pieces--"

"Yes, patches could be found, patches are easily found," said
Petrovitch, "but there's nothing to sew them to. The thing is completely
rotten; if you put a needle to it--see, it will give way."

"Let it give way, and you can put on another patch at once."

"But there is nothing to put the patches on to; there's no use in
strengthening it; it is too far gone. It's lucky that it's cloth; for,
if the wind were to blow, it would fly away."

"Well, strengthen it again. How will this, in fact--"

"No," said Petrovitch decisively, "there is nothing to be done with it.
It's a thoroughly bad job. You'd better, when the cold winter weather
comes on, make yourself some gaiters out of it, because stockings
are not warm. The Germans invented them in order to make more money."
Petrovitch loved, on all occasions, to have a fling at the Germans. "But
it is plain you must have a new cloak."

At the word "new," all grew dark before Akakiy Akakievitch's eyes,
and everything in the room began to whirl round. The only thing he saw
clearly was the general with the paper face on the lid of Petrovitch's
snuff-box. "A new one?" said he, as if still in a dream: "why, I have no
money for that."

"Yes, a new one," said Petrovitch, with barbarous composure.

"Well, if it came to a new one, how would it--?"

"You mean how much would it cost?"

"Yes."

"Well, you would have to lay out a hundred and fifty or more," said
Petrovitch, and pursed up his lips significantly. He liked to produce
powerful effects, liked to stun utterly and suddenly, and then to glance
sideways to see what face the stunned person would put on the matter.

"A hundred and fifty rubles for a cloak!" shrieked poor Akakiy
Akakievitch, perhaps for the first time in his life, for his voice had
always been distinguished for softness.

"Yes, sir," said Petrovitch, "for any kind of cloak. If you have a
marten fur on the collar, or a silk-lined hood, it will mount up to two
hundred."

"Petrovitch, please," said Akakiy Akakievitch in a beseeching tone, not
hearing, and not trying to hear, Petrovitch's words, and disregarding
all his "effects," "some repairs, in order that it may wear yet a little
longer."

"No, it would only be a waste of time and money," said Petrovitch; and
Akakiy Akakievitch went away after these words, utterly discouraged. But
Petrovitch stood for some time after his departure, with significantly
compressed lips, and without betaking himself to his work, satisfied
that he would not be dropped, and an artistic tailor employed.

Akakiy Akakievitch went out into the street as if in a dream. "Such an
affair!" he said to himself: "I did not think it had come to--" and then
after a pause, he added, "Well, so it is! see what it has come to
at last! and I never imagined that it was so!" Then followed a
long silence, after which he exclaimed, "Well, so it is! see what
already--nothing unexpected that--it would be nothing--what a strange
circumstance!" So saying, instead of going home, he went in exactly
the opposite direction without himself suspecting it. On the way, a
chimney-sweep bumped up against him, and blackened his shoulder, and a
whole hatful of rubbish landed on him from the top of a house which was
building. He did not notice it; and only when he ran against a watchman,
who, having planted his halberd beside him, was shaking some snuff from
his box into his horny hand, did he recover himself a little, and that
because the watchman said, "Why are you poking yourself into a man's
very face? Haven't you the pavement?" This caused him to look about him,
and turn towards home.

There only, he finally began to collect his thoughts, and to survey
his position in its clear and actual light, and to argue with himself,
sensibly and frankly, as with a reasonable friend with whom one can
discuss private and personal matters. "No," said Akakiy Akakievitch, "it
is impossible to reason with Petrovitch now; he is that--evidently his
wife has been beating him. I'd better go to him on Sunday morning; after
Saturday night he will be a little cross-eyed and sleepy, for he will
want to get drunk, and his wife won't give him any money; and at such
a time, a ten-kopek piece in his hand will--he will become more fit
to reason with, and then the cloak, and that--" Thus argued Akakiy
Akakievitch with himself, regained his courage, and waited until the
first Sunday, when, seeing from afar that Petrovitch's wife had left the
house, he went straight to him.

Petrovitch's eye was, indeed, very much askew after Saturday: his head
drooped, and he was very sleepy; but for all that, as soon as he knew
what it was a question of, it seemed as though Satan jogged his memory.
"Impossible," said he: "please to order a new one." Thereupon Akakiy
Akakievitch handed over the ten-kopek piece. "Thank you, sir; I will
drink your good health," said Petrovitch: "but as for the cloak, don't
trouble yourself about it; it is good for nothing. I will make you a
capital new one, so let us settle about it now."

Akakiy Akakievitch was still for mending it; but Petrovitch would not
hear of it, and said, "I shall certainly have to make you a new one, and
you may depend upon it that I shall do my best. It may even be, as the
fashion goes, that the collar can be fastened by silver hooks under a
flap."

Then Akakiy Akakievitch saw that it was impossible to get along without
a new cloak, and his spirit sank utterly. How, in fact, was it to be
done? Where was the money to come from? He might, to be sure, depend,
in part, upon his present at Christmas; but that money had long been
allotted beforehand. He must have some new trousers, and pay a debt of
long standing to the shoemaker for putting new tops to his old boots,
and he must order three shirts from the seamstress, and a couple of
pieces of linen. In short, all his money must be spent; and even if the
director should be so kind as to order him to receive forty-five rubles
instead of forty, or even fifty, it would be a mere nothing, a mere drop
in the ocean towards the funds necessary for a cloak: although he
knew that Petrovitch was often wrong-headed enough to blurt out some
outrageous price, so that even his own wife could not refrain from
exclaiming, "Have you lost your senses, you fool?" At one time he would
not work at any price, and now it was quite likely that he had named a
higher sum than the cloak would cost.

But although he knew that Petrovitch would undertake to make a cloak
for eighty rubles, still, where was he to get the eighty rubles from? He
might possibly manage half, yes, half might be procured, but where was
the other half to come from? But the reader must first be told where
the first half came from. Akakiy Akakievitch had a habit of putting, for
every ruble he spent, a groschen into a small box, fastened with a lock
and key, and with a slit in the top for the reception of money. At the
end of every half-year he counted over the heap of coppers, and changed
it for silver. This he had done for a long time, and in the course of
years, the sum had mounted up to over forty rubles. Thus he had one half
on hand; but where was he to find the other half? where was he to get
another forty rubles from? Akakiy Akakievitch thought and thought, and
decided that it would be necessary to curtail his ordinary expenses, for
the space of one year at least, to dispense with tea in the evening; to
burn no candles, and, if there was anything which he must do, to go
into his landlady's room, and work by her light. When he went into the
street, he must walk as lightly as he could, and as cautiously, upon the
stones, almost upon tiptoe, in order not to wear his heels down in too
short a time; he must give the laundress as little to wash as possible;
and, in order not to wear out his clothes, he must take them off, as
soon as he got home, and wear only his cotton dressing-gown, which had
been long and carefully saved.

To tell the truth, it was a little hard for him at first to accustom
himself to these deprivations; but he got used to them at length, after
a fashion, and all went smoothly. He even got used to being hungry in
the evening, but he made up for it by treating himself, so to say, in
spirit, by bearing ever in mind the idea of his future cloak. From that
time forth his existence seemed to become, in some way, fuller, as if he
were married, or as if some other man lived in him, as if, in fact, he
were not alone, and some pleasant friend had consented to travel along
life's path with him, the friend being no other than the cloak, with
thick wadding and a strong lining incapable of wearing out. He became
more lively, and even his character grew firmer, like that of a man who
has made up his mind, and set himself a goal. From his face and gait,
doubt and indecision, all hesitating and wavering traits disappeared of
themselves. Fire gleamed in his eyes, and occasionally the boldest and
most daring ideas flitted through his mind; why not, for instance,
have marten fur on the collar? The thought of this almost made him
absent-minded. Once, in copying a letter, he nearly made a mistake, so
that he exclaimed almost aloud, "Ugh!" and crossed himself. Once, in
the course of every month, he had a conference with Petrovitch on the
subject of the cloak, where it would be better to buy the cloth, and
the colour, and the price. He always returned home satisfied, though
troubled, reflecting that the time would come at last when it could all
be bought, and then the cloak made.

The affair progressed more briskly than he had expected. Far beyond all
his hopes, the director awarded neither forty nor forty-five rubles for
Akakiy Akakievitch's share, but sixty. Whether he suspected that Akakiy
Akakievitch needed a cloak, or whether it was merely chance, at
all events, twenty extra rubles were by this means provided. This
circumstance hastened matters. Two or three months more of hunger and
Akakiy Akakievitch had accumulated about eighty rubles. His heart,
generally so quiet, began to throb. On the first possible day, he went
shopping in company with Petrovitch. They bought some very good cloth,
and at a reasonable rate too, for they had been considering the matter
for six months, and rarely let a month pass without their visiting the
shops to inquire prices. Petrovitch himself said that no better cloth
could be had. For lining, they selected a cotton stuff, but so firm
and thick that Petrovitch declared it to be better than silk, and even
prettier and more glossy. They did not buy the marten fur, because it
was, in fact, dear, but in its stead, they picked out the very best of
cat-skin which could be found in the shop, and which might, indeed, be
taken for marten at a distance.

Petrovitch worked at the cloak two whole weeks, for there was a great
deal of quilting: otherwise it would have been finished sooner. He
charged twelve rubles for the job, it could not possibly have been
done for less. It was all sewed with silk, in small, double seams; and
Petrovitch went over each seam afterwards with his own teeth, stamping
in various patterns.

It was--it is difficult to say precisely on what day, but probably
the most glorious one in Akakiy Akakievitch's life, when Petrovitch at
length brought home the cloak. He brought it in the morning, before
the hour when it was necessary to start for the department. Never did a
cloak arrive so exactly in the nick of time; for the severe cold had set
in, and it seemed to threaten to increase. Petrovitch brought the cloak
himself as befits a good tailor. On his countenance was a significant
expression, such as Akakiy Akakievitch had never beheld there. He
seemed fully sensible that he had done no small deed, and crossed a gulf
separating tailors who only put in linings, and execute repairs,
from those who make new things. He took the cloak out of the pocket
handkerchief in which he had brought it. The handkerchief was fresh
from the laundress, and he put it in his pocket for use. Taking out the
cloak, he gazed proudly at it, held it up with both hands, and flung it
skilfully over the shoulders of Akakiy Akakievitch. Then he pulled it
and fitted it down behind with his hand, and he draped it around
Akakiy Akakievitch without buttoning it. Akakiy Akakievitch, like an
experienced man, wished to try the sleeves. Petrovitch helped him on
with them, and it turned out that the sleeves were satisfactory also. In
short, the cloak appeared to be perfect, and most seasonable. Petrovitch
did not neglect to observe that it was only because he lived in a narrow
street, and had no signboard, and had known Akakiy Akakievitch so long,
that he had made it so cheaply; but that if he had been in business on
the Nevsky Prospect, he would have charged seventy-five rubles for the
making alone. Akakiy Akakievitch did not care to argue this point with
Petrovitch. He paid him, thanked him, and set out at once in his new
cloak for the department. Petrovitch followed him, and, pausing in the
street, gazed long at the cloak in the distance, after which he went to
one side expressly to run through a crooked alley, and emerge again into
the street beyond to gaze once more upon the cloak from another point,
namely, directly in front.

Meantime Akakiy Akakievitch went on in holiday mood. He was conscious
every second of the time that he had a new cloak on his shoulders; and
several times he laughed with internal satisfaction. In fact, there were
two advantages, one was its warmth, the other its beauty. He saw nothing
of the road, but suddenly found himself at the department. He took off
his cloak in the ante-room, looked it over carefully, and confided it
to the especial care of the attendant. It is impossible to say precisely
how it was that every one in the department knew at once that Akakiy
Akakievitch had a new cloak, and that the "cape" no longer existed.
All rushed at the same moment into the ante-room to inspect it. They
congratulated him and said pleasant things to him, so that he began at
first to smile and then to grow ashamed. When all surrounded him, and
said that the new cloak must be "christened," and that he must give
a whole evening at least to this, Akakiy Akakievitch lost his head
completely, and did not know where he stood, what to answer, or how to
get out of it. He stood blushing all over for several minutes, and was
on the point of assuring them with great simplicity that it was not a
new cloak, that it was so and so, that it was in fact the old "cape."

At length one of the officials, a sub-chief probably, in order to show
that he was not at all proud, and on good terms with his inferiors,
said, "So be it, only I will give the party instead of Akakiy
Akakievitch; I invite you all to tea with me to-night; it happens quite
a propos, as it is my name-day." The officials naturally at once offered
the sub-chief their congratulations and accepted the invitations with
pleasure. Akakiy Akakievitch would have declined, but all declared that
it was discourteous, that it was simply a sin and a shame, and that he
could not possibly refuse. Besides, the notion became pleasant to him
when he recollected that he should thereby have a chance of wearing his
new cloak in the evening also.

That whole day was truly a most triumphant festival day for Akakiy
Akakievitch. He returned home in the most happy frame of mind, took off
his cloak, and hung it carefully on the wall, admiring afresh the
cloth and the lining. Then he brought out his old, worn-out cloak, for
comparison. He looked at it and laughed, so vast was the difference.
And long after dinner he laughed again when the condition of the "cape"
recurred to his mind. He dined cheerfully, and after dinner wrote
nothing, but took his ease for a while on the bed, until it got dark.
Then he dressed himself leisurely, put on his cloak, and stepped out
into the street. Where the host lived, unfortunately we cannot say:
our memory begins to fail us badly; and the houses and streets in St.
Petersburg have become so mixed up in our head that it is very difficult
to get anything out of it again in proper form. This much is certain,
that the official lived in the best part of the city; and therefore
it must have been anything but near to Akakiy Akakievitch's residence.
Akakiy Akakievitch was first obliged to traverse a kind of wilderness of
deserted, dimly-lighted streets; but in proportion as he approached the
official's quarter of the city, the streets became more lively, more
populous, and more brilliantly illuminated. Pedestrians began to appear;
handsomely dressed ladies were more frequently encountered; the men
had otter skin collars to their coats; peasant waggoners, with their
grate-like sledges stuck over with brass-headed nails, became rarer;
whilst on the other hand, more and more drivers in red velvet caps,
lacquered sledges and bear-skin coats began to appear, and carriages
with rich hammer-cloths flew swiftly through the streets, their wheels
scrunching the snow. Akakiy Akakievitch gazed upon all this as upon
a novel sight. He had not been in the streets during the evening for
years. He halted out of curiosity before a shop-window to look at a
picture representing a handsome woman, who had thrown off her shoe,
thereby baring her whole foot in a very pretty way; whilst behind her
the head of a man with whiskers and a handsome moustache peeped through
the doorway of another room. Akakiy Akakievitch shook his head and
laughed, and then went on his way. Why did he laugh? Either because he
had met with a thing utterly unknown, but for which every one cherishes,
nevertheless, some sort of feeling; or else he thought, like many
officials, as follows: "Well, those French! What is to be said? If they
do go in anything of that sort, why--" But possibly he did not think at
all.

Akakiy Akakievitch at length reached the house in which the sub-chief
lodged. The sub-chief lived in fine style: the staircase was lit by
a lamp; his apartment being on the second floor. On entering the
vestibule, Akakiy Akakievitch beheld a whole row of goloshes on the
floor. Among them, in the centre of the room, stood a samovar or
tea-urn, humming and emitting clouds of steam. On the walls hung all
sorts of coats and cloaks, among which there were even some with beaver
collars or velvet facings. Beyond, the buzz of conversation was audible,
and became clear and loud when the servant came out with a trayful of
empty glasses, cream-jugs, and sugar-bowls. It was evident that the
officials had arrived long before, and had already finished their first
glass of tea.

Akakiy Akakievitch, having hung up his own cloak, entered the inner
room. Before him all at once appeared lights, officials, pipes, and
card-tables; and he was bewildered by the sound of rapid conversation
rising from all the tables, and the noise of moving chairs. He halted
very awkwardly in the middle of the room, wondering what he ought to do.
But they had seen him. They received him with a shout, and all thronged
at once into the ante-room, and there took another look at his cloak.
Akakiy Akakievitch, although somewhat confused, was frank-hearted, and
could not refrain from rejoicing when he saw how they praised his cloak.
Then, of course, they all dropped him and his cloak, and returned, as
was proper, to the tables set out for whist.

All this, the noise, the talk, and the throng of people was rather
overwhelming to Akakiy Akakievitch. He simply did not know where he
stood, or where to put his hands, his feet, and his whole body. Finally
he sat down by the players, looked at the cards, gazed at the face of
one and another, and after a while began to gape, and to feel that it
was wearisome, the more so as the hour was already long past when he
usually went to bed. He wanted to take leave of the host; but they
would not let him go, saying that he must not fail to drink a glass
of champagne in honour of his new garment. In the course of an hour,
supper, consisting of vegetable salad, cold veal, pastry, confectioner's
pies, and champagne, was served. They made Akakiy Akakievitch drink two
glasses of champagne, after which he felt things grow livelier.

Still, he could not forget that it was twelve o'clock, and that he
should have been at home long ago. In order that the host might not
think of some excuse for detaining him, he stole out of the room
quickly, sought out, in the ante-room, his cloak, which, to his sorrow,
he found lying on the floor, brushed it, picked off every speck upon it,
put it on his shoulders, and descended the stairs to the street.

In the street all was still bright. Some petty shops, those permanent
clubs of servants and all sorts of folk, were open. Others were shut,
but, nevertheless, showed a streak of light the whole length of the
door-crack, indicating that they were not yet free of company, and that
probably some domestics, male and female, were finishing their stories
and conversations whilst leaving their masters in complete ignorance
as to their whereabouts. Akakiy Akakievitch went on in a happy frame of
mind: he even started to run, without knowing why, after some lady, who
flew past like a flash of lightning. But he stopped short, and went on
very quietly as before, wondering why he had quickened his pace. Soon
there spread before him those deserted streets, which are not cheerful
in the daytime, to say nothing of the evening. Now they were even more
dim and lonely: the lanterns began to grow rarer, oil, evidently, had
been less liberally supplied. Then came wooden houses and fences: not
a soul anywhere; only the snow sparkled in the streets, and mournfully
veiled the low-roofed cabins with their closed shutters. He approached
the spot where the street crossed a vast square with houses barely
visible on its farther side, a square which seemed a fearful desert.

Afar, a tiny spark glimmered from some watchman's box, which seemed
to stand on the edge of the world. Akakiy Akakievitch's cheerfulness
diminished at this point in a marked degree. He entered the square, not
without an involuntary sensation of fear, as though his heart warned him
of some evil. He glanced back and on both sides, it was like a sea about
him. "No, it is better not to look," he thought, and went on, closing
his eyes. When he opened them, to see whether he was near the end of
the square, he suddenly beheld, standing just before his very nose, some
bearded individuals of precisely what sort he could not make out. All
grew dark before his eyes, and his heart throbbed.

"But, of course, the cloak is mine!" said one of them in a loud voice,
seizing hold of his collar. Akakiy Akakievitch was about to shout
"watch," when the second man thrust a fist, about the size of a man's
head, into his mouth, muttering, "Now scream!"

Akakiy Akakievitch felt them strip off his cloak and give him a push
with a knee: he fell headlong upon the snow, and felt no more. In a few
minutes he recovered consciousness and rose to his feet; but no one was
there. He felt that it was cold in the square, and that his cloak was
gone; he began to shout, but his voice did not appear to reach to the
outskirts of the square. In despair, but without ceasing to shout,
he started at a run across the square, straight towards the watchbox,
beside which stood the watchman, leaning on his halberd, and apparently
curious to know what kind of a customer was running towards him and
shouting. Akakiy Akakievitch ran up to him, and began in a sobbing voice
to shout that he was asleep, and attended to nothing, and did not see
when a man was robbed. The watchman replied that he had seen two men
stop him in the middle of the square, but supposed that they were
friends of his; and that, instead of scolding vainly, he had better
go to the police on the morrow, so that they might make a search for
whoever had stolen the cloak.

Akakiy Akakievitch ran home in complete disorder; his hair, which
grew very thinly upon his temples and the back of his head, wholly
disordered; his body, arms, and legs covered with snow. The old woman,
who was mistress of his lodgings, on hearing a terrible knocking, sprang
hastily from her bed, and, with only one shoe on, ran to open the door,
pressing the sleeve of her chemise to her bosom out of modesty; but when
she had opened it, she fell back on beholding Akakiy Akakievitch in such
a state. When he told her about the affair, she clasped her hands, and
said that he must go straight to the district chief of police, for his
subordinate would turn up his nose, promise well, and drop the matter
there. The very best thing to do, therefore, would be to go to the
district chief, whom she knew, because Finnish Anna, her former cook,
was now nurse at his house. She often saw him passing the house; and
he was at church every Sunday, praying, but at the same time gazing
cheerfully at everybody; so that he must be a good man, judging from all
appearances. Having listened to this opinion, Akakiy Akakievitch betook
himself sadly to his room; and how he spent the night there any one who
can put himself in another's place may readily imagine.

Early in the morning, he presented himself at the district chief's; but
was told that this official was asleep. He went again at ten and was
again informed that he was asleep; at eleven, and they said: "The
superintendent is not at home;" at dinner time, and the clerks in the
ante-room would not admit him on any terms, and insisted upon knowing
his business. So that at last, for once in his life, Akakiy Akakievitch
felt an inclination to show some spirit, and said curtly that he must
see the chief in person; that they ought not to presume to refuse him
entrance; that he came from the department of justice, and that when he
complained of them, they would see.

The clerks dared make no reply to this, and one of them went to call
the chief, who listened to the strange story of the theft of the coat.
Instead of directing his attention to the principal points of the
matter, he began to question Akakiy Akakievitch: Why was he going
home so late? Was he in the habit of doing so, or had he been to some
disorderly house? So that Akakiy Akakievitch got thoroughly confused,
and left him without knowing whether the affair of his cloak was in
proper train or not.

All that day, for the first time in his life, he never went near the
department. The next day he made his appearance, very pale, and in his
old cape, which had become even more shabby. The news of the robbery of
the cloak touched many; although there were some officials present who
never lost an opportunity, even such a one as the present, of ridiculing
Akakiy Akakievitch. They decided to make a collection for him on the
spot, but the officials had already spent a great deal in subscribing
for the director's portrait, and for some book, at the suggestion of the
head of that division, who was a friend of the author; and so the sum
was trifling.

One of them, moved by pity, resolved to help Akakiy Akakievitch with
some good advice at least, and told him that he ought not to go to the
police, for although it might happen that a police-officer, wishing
to win the approval of his superiors, might hunt up the cloak by some
means, still his cloak would remain in the possession of the police if
he did not offer legal proof that it belonged to him. The best thing
for him, therefore, would be to apply to a certain prominent personage;
since this prominent personage, by entering into relations with the
proper persons, could greatly expedite the matter.

As there was nothing else to be done, Akakiy Akakievitch decided to go
to the prominent personage. What was the exact official position of the
prominent personage remains unknown to this day. The reader must
know that the prominent personage had but recently become a prominent
personage, having up to that time been only an insignificant person.
Moreover, his present position was not considered prominent in
comparison with others still more so. But there is always a circle of
people to whom what is insignificant in the eyes of others, is important
enough. Moreover, he strove to increase his importance by sundry
devices; for instance, he managed to have the inferior officials meet
him on the staircase when he entered upon his service; no one was to
presume to come directly to him, but the strictest etiquette must be
observed; the collegiate recorder must make a report to the government
secretary, the government secretary to the titular councillor, or
whatever other man was proper, and all business must come before him in
this manner. In Holy Russia all is thus contaminated with the love of
imitation; every man imitates and copies his superior. They even say
that a certain titular councillor, when promoted to the head of some
small separate room, immediately partitioned off a private room for
himself, called it the audience chamber, and posted at the door a lackey
with red collar and braid, who grasped the handle of the door and opened
to all comers; though the audience chamber could hardly hold an ordinary
writing-table.

The manners and customs of the prominent personage were grand and
imposing, but rather exaggerated. The main foundation of his system
was strictness. "Strictness, strictness, and always strictness!" he
generally said; and at the last word he looked significantly into the
face of the person to whom he spoke. But there was no necessity for
this, for the half-score of subordinates who formed the entire force of
the office were properly afraid; on catching sight of him afar off
they left their work and waited, drawn up in line, until he had passed
through the room. His ordinary converse with his inferiors smacked of
sternness, and consisted chiefly of three phrases: "How dare you?" "Do
you know whom you are speaking to?" "Do you realise who stands before
you?"

Otherwise he was a very kind-hearted man, good to his comrades, and
ready to oblige; but the rank of general threw him completely off his
balance. On receiving any one of that rank, he became confused, lost his
way, as it were, and never knew what to do. If he chanced to be amongst
his equals he was still a very nice kind of man, a very good fellow in
many respects, and not stupid; but the very moment that he found himself
in the society of people but one rank lower than himself he became
silent; and his situation aroused sympathy, the more so as he felt
himself that he might have been making an incomparably better use of
his time. In his eyes there was sometimes visible a desire to join some
interesting conversation or group; but he was kept back by the thought,
"Would it not be a very great condescension on his part? Would it not
be familiar? and would he not thereby lose his importance?" And in
consequence of such reflections he always remained in the same dumb
state, uttering from time to time a few monosyllabic sounds, and thereby
earning the name of the most wearisome of men.

To this prominent personage Akakiy Akakievitch presented himself, and
this at the most unfavourable time for himself though opportune for
the prominent personage. The prominent personage was in his cabinet
conversing gaily with an old acquaintance and companion of his childhood
whom he had not seen for several years and who had just arrived when it
was announced to him that a person named Bashmatchkin had come. He asked
abruptly, "Who is he?"--"Some official," he was informed. "Ah, he can
wait! this is no time for him to call," said the important man.

It must be remarked here that the important man lied outrageously:
he had said all he had to say to his friend long before; and the
conversation had been interspersed for some time with very long pauses,
during which they merely slapped each other on the leg, and said, "You
think so, Ivan Abramovitch!" "Just so, Stepan Varlamitch!" Nevertheless,
he ordered that the official should be kept waiting, in order to show
his friend, a man who had not been in the service for a long time, but
had lived at home in the country, how long officials had to wait in his
ante-room.

At length, having talked himself completely out, and more than that,
having had his fill of pauses, and smoked a cigar in a very comfortable
arm-chair with reclining back, he suddenly seemed to recollect, and said
to the secretary, who stood by the door with papers of reports, "So it
seems that there is a tchinovnik waiting to see me. Tell him that he may
come in." On perceiving Akakiy Akakievitch's modest mien and his worn
undress uniform, he turned abruptly to him and said, "What do you want?"
in a curt hard voice, which he had practised in his room in private, and
before the looking-glass, for a whole week before being raised to his
present rank.

Akakiy Akakievitch, who was already imbued with a due amount of fear,
became somewhat confused: and as well as his tongue would permit,
explained, with a rather more frequent addition than usual of the word
"that," that his cloak was quite new, and had been stolen in the most
inhuman manner; that he had applied to him in order that he might, in
some way, by his intermediation--that he might enter into correspondence
with the chief of police, and find the cloak.

For some inexplicable reason this conduct seemed familiar to the
prominent personage. "What, my dear sir!" he said abruptly, "are you not
acquainted with etiquette? Where have you come from? Don't you know
how such matters are managed? You should first have entered a complaint
about this at the court below: it would have gone to the head of the
department, then to the chief of the division, then it would have been
handed over to the secretary, and the secretary would have given it to
me."

"But, your excellency," said Akakiy Akakievitch, trying to collect
his small handful of wits, and conscious at the same time that he
was perspiring terribly, "I, your excellency, presumed to trouble you
because secretaries--are an untrustworthy race."

"What, what, what!" said the important personage. "Where did you get
such courage? Where did you get such ideas? What impudence towards
their chiefs and superiors has spread among the young generation!" The
prominent personage apparently had not observed that Akakiy Akakievitch
was already in the neighbourhood of fifty. If he could be called a young
man, it must have been in comparison with some one who was twenty. "Do
you know to whom you speak? Do you realise who stands before you? Do you
realise it? do you realise it? I ask you!" Then he stamped his foot and
raised his voice to such a pitch that it would have frightened even a
different man from Akakiy Akakievitch.

Akakiy Akakievitch's senses failed him; he staggered, trembled in every
limb, and, if the porters had not run to support him, would have
fallen to the floor. They carried him out insensible. But the prominent
personage, gratified that the effect should have surpassed his
expectations, and quite intoxicated with the thought that his word could
even deprive a man of his senses, glanced sideways at his friend
in order to see how he looked upon this, and perceived, not without
satisfaction, that his friend was in a most uneasy frame of mind, and
even beginning, on his part, to feel a trifle frightened.

Akakiy Akakievitch could not remember how he descended the stairs and
got into the street. He felt neither his hands nor feet. Never in his
life had he been so rated by any high official, let alone a strange one.
He went staggering on through the snow-storm, which was blowing in the
streets, with his mouth wide open; the wind, in St. Petersburg fashion,
darted upon him from all quarters, and down every cross-street. In a
twinkling it had blown a quinsy into his throat, and he reached home
unable to utter a word. His throat was swollen, and he lay down on his
bed. So powerful is sometimes a good scolding!

The next day a violent fever showed itself. Thanks to the generous
assistance of the St. Petersburg climate, the malady progressed more
rapidly than could have been expected: and when the doctor arrived, he
found, on feeling the sick man's pulse, that there was nothing to be
done, except to prescribe a fomentation, so that the patient might not
be left entirely without the beneficent aid of medicine; but at the same
time, he predicted his end in thirty-six hours. After this he turned to
the landlady, and said, "And as for you, don't waste your time on him:
order his pine coffin now, for an oak one will be too expensive for
him." Did Akakiy Akakievitch hear these fatal words? and if he heard
them, did they produce any overwhelming effect upon him? Did he
lament the bitterness of his life?--We know not, for he continued in a
delirious condition. Visions incessantly appeared to him, each stranger
than the other. Now he saw Petrovitch, and ordered him to make a cloak,
with some traps for robbers, who seemed to him to be always under the
bed; and cried every moment to the landlady to pull one of them from
under his coverlet. Then he inquired why his old mantle hung before him
when he had a new cloak. Next he fancied that he was standing before
the prominent person, listening to a thorough setting-down, and saying,
"Forgive me, your excellency!" but at last he began to curse, uttering
the most horrible words, so that his aged landlady crossed herself,
never in her life having heard anything of the kind from him, the more
so as those words followed directly after the words "your excellency."
Later on he talked utter nonsense, of which nothing could be made: all
that was evident being, that his incoherent words and thoughts hovered
ever about one thing, his cloak.

At length poor Akakiy Akakievitch breathed his last. They sealed up
neither his room nor his effects, because, in the first place, there
were no heirs, and, in the second, there was very little to inherit
beyond a bundle of goose-quills, a quire of white official paper, three
pairs of socks, two or three buttons which had burst off his trousers,
and the mantle already known to the reader. To whom all this fell, God
knows. I confess that the person who told me this tale took no interest
in the matter. They carried Akakiy Akakievitch out and buried him.

And St. Petersburg was left without Akakiy Akakievitch, as though he had
never lived there. A being disappeared who was protected by none, dear
to none, interesting to none, and who never even attracted to himself
the attention of those students of human nature who omit no opportunity
of thrusting a pin through a common fly, and examining it under the
microscope. A being who bore meekly the jibes of the department, and
went to his grave without having done one unusual deed, but to whom,
nevertheless, at the close of his life appeared a bright visitant in the
form of a cloak, which momentarily cheered his poor life, and upon whom,
thereafter, an intolerable misfortune descended, just as it descends
upon the mighty of this world!

Several days after his death, the porter was sent from the department
to his lodgings, with an order for him to present himself there
immediately; the chief commanding it. But the porter had to return
unsuccessful, with the answer that he could not come; and to the
question, "Why?" replied, "Well, because he is dead! he was buried four
days ago." In this manner did they hear of Akakiy Akakievitch's death at
the department, and the next day a new official sat in his place, with a
handwriting by no means so upright, but more inclined and slanting.

But who could have imagined that this was not really the end of Akakiy
Akakievitch, that he was destined to raise a commotion after death,
as if in compensation for his utterly insignificant life? But so it
happened, and our poor story unexpectedly gains a fantastic ending.

A rumour suddenly spread through St. Petersburg that a dead man had
taken to appearing on the Kalinkin Bridge and its vicinity at night in
the form of a tchinovnik seeking a stolen cloak, and that, under the
pretext of its being the stolen cloak, he dragged, without regard to
rank or calling, every one's cloak from his shoulders, be it cat-skin,
beaver, fox, bear, sable; in a word, every sort of fur and skin which
men adopted for their covering. One of the department officials saw
the dead man with his own eyes and immediately recognised in him Akakiy
Akakievitch. This, however, inspired him with such terror that he ran
off with all his might, and therefore did not scan the dead man closely,
but only saw how the latter threatened him from afar with his finger.
Constant complaints poured in from all quarters that the backs and
shoulders, not only of titular but even of court councillors, were
exposed to the danger of a cold on account of the frequent dragging off
of their cloaks.

Arrangements were made by the police to catch the corpse, alive or dead,
at any cost, and punish him as an example to others in the most severe
manner. In this they nearly succeeded; for a watchman, on guard in
Kirushkin Alley, caught the corpse by the collar on the very scene of
his evil deeds, when attempting to pull off the frieze coat of a retired
musician. Having seized him by the collar, he summoned, with a shout,
two of his comrades, whom he enjoined to hold him fast while he himself
felt for a moment in his boot, in order to draw out his snuff-box and
refresh his frozen nose. But the snuff was of a sort which even a corpse
could not endure. The watchman having closed his right nostril with his
finger, had no sooner succeeded in holding half a handful up to the left
than the corpse sneezed so violently that he completely filled the eyes
of all three. While they raised their hands to wipe them, the dead man
vanished completely, so that they positively did not know whether they
had actually had him in their grip at all. Thereafter the watchmen
conceived such a terror of dead men that they were afraid even to seize
the living, and only screamed from a distance, "Hey, there! go your
way!" So the dead tchinovnik began to appear even beyond the Kalinkin
Bridge, causing no little terror to all timid people.

But we have totally neglected that certain prominent personage who may
really be considered as the cause of the fantastic turn taken by this
true history. First of all, justice compels us to say that after the
departure of poor, annihilated Akakiy Akakievitch he felt something like
remorse. Suffering was unpleasant to him, for his heart was accessible
to many good impulses, in spite of the fact that his rank often
prevented his showing his true self. As soon as his friend had left his
cabinet, he began to think about poor Akakiy Akakievitch. And from
that day forth, poor Akakiy Akakievitch, who could not bear up under an
official reprimand, recurred to his mind almost every day. The thought
troubled him to such an extent that a week later he even resolved to
send an official to him, to learn whether he really could assist
him; and when it was reported to him that Akakiy Akakievitch had died
suddenly of fever, he was startled, hearkened to the reproaches of his
conscience, and was out of sorts for the whole day.

Wishing to divert his mind in some way, and drive away the disagreeable
impression, he set out that evening for one of his friends' houses,
where he found quite a large party assembled. What was better, nearly
every one was of the same rank as himself, so that he need not feel
in the least constrained. This had a marvellous effect upon his mental
state. He grew expansive, made himself agreeable in conversation, in
short, he passed a delightful evening. After supper he drank a couple
of glasses of champagne--not a bad recipe for cheerfulness, as every
one knows. The champagne inclined him to various adventures; and he
determined not to return home, but to go and see a certain well-known
lady of German extraction, Karolina Ivanovna, a lady, it appears, with
whom he was on a very friendly footing.

It must be mentioned that the prominent personage was no longer a young
man, but a good husband and respected father of a family. Two sons, one
of whom was already in the service, and a good-looking, sixteen-year-old
daughter, with a rather retrousse but pretty little nose, came every
morning to kiss his hand and say, "Bonjour, papa." His wife, a still
fresh and good-looking woman, first gave him her hand to kiss, and then,
reversing the procedure, kissed his. But the prominent personage, though
perfectly satisfied in his domestic relations, considered it stylish to
have a friend in another quarter of the city. This friend was scarcely
prettier or younger than his wife; but there are such puzzles in the
world, and it is not our place to judge them. So the important personage
descended the stairs, stepped into his sledge, said to the coachman,
"To Karolina Ivanovna's," and, wrapping himself luxuriously in his
warm cloak, found himself in that delightful frame of mind than which
a Russian can conceive no better, namely, when you think of nothing
yourself, yet when the thoughts creep into your mind of their own
accord, each more agreeable than the other, giving you no trouble either
to drive them away or seek them. Fully satisfied, he recalled all the
gay features of the evening just passed, and all the mots which had made
the little circle laugh. Many of them he repeated in a low voice, and
found them quite as funny as before; so it is not surprising that he
should laugh heartily at them. Occasionally, however, he was interrupted
by gusts of wind, which, coming suddenly, God knows whence or why, cut
his face, drove masses of snow into it, filled out his cloak-collar like
a sail, or suddenly blew it over his head with supernatural force, and
thus caused him constant trouble to disentangle himself.

Suddenly the important personage felt some one clutch him firmly by the
collar. Turning round, he perceived a man of short stature, in an old,
worn uniform, and recognised, not without terror, Akakiy Akakievitch.
The official's face was white as snow, and looked just like a corpse's.
But the horror of the important personage transcended all bounds when he
saw the dead man's mouth open, and, with a terrible odour of the grave,
gave vent to the following remarks: "Ah, here you are at last! I have
you, that--by the collar! I need your cloak; you took no trouble about
mine, but reprimanded me; so now give up your own."

The pallid prominent personage almost died of fright. Brave as he was in
the office and in the presence of inferiors generally, and although, at
the sight of his manly form and appearance, every one said, "Ugh! how
much character he had!" at this crisis, he, like many possessed of an
heroic exterior, experienced such terror, that, not without cause, he
began to fear an attack of illness. He flung his cloak hastily from his
shoulders and shouted to his coachman in an unnatural voice, "Home at
full speed!" The coachman, hearing the tone which is generally employed
at critical moments and even accompanied by something much more
tangible, drew his head down between his shoulders in case of an
emergency, flourished his whip, and flew on like an arrow. In a little
more than six minutes the prominent personage was at the entrance of his
own house. Pale, thoroughly scared, and cloakless, he went home instead
of to Karolina Ivanovna's, reached his room somehow or other, and passed
the night in the direst distress; so that the next morning over their
tea his daughter said, "You are very pale to-day, papa." But papa
remained silent, and said not a word to any one of what had happened to
him, where he had been, or where he had intended to go.

This occurrence made a deep impression upon him. He even began to say:
"How dare you? do you realise who stands before you?" less frequently
to the under-officials, and if he did utter the words, it was only after
having first learned the bearings of the matter. But the most noteworthy
point was, that from that day forward the apparition of the dead
tchinovnik ceased to be seen. Evidently the prominent personage's cloak
just fitted his shoulders; at all events, no more instances of his
dragging cloaks from people's shoulders were heard of. But many active
and apprehensive persons could by no means reassure themselves, and
asserted that the dead tchinovnik still showed himself in distant parts
of the city.

In fact, one watchman in Kolomna saw with his own eyes the apparition
come from behind a house. But being rather weak of body, he dared
not arrest him, but followed him in the dark, until, at length, the
apparition looked round, paused, and inquired, "What do you want?" at
the same time showing a fist such as is never seen on living men. The
watchman said, "It's of no consequence," and turned back instantly. But
the apparition was much too tall, wore huge moustaches, and, directing
its steps apparently towards the Obukhoff bridge, disappeared in the
darkness of the night.

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