"Yes. But, as I say, I should like first to know where I can find the desk devoted to such business. Is it here or elsewhere?"
"You must state what it is you have bought, and for how much. THEN we shall be happy to give you the information."
Chichikov perceived that the officials' motive was merely one of curiosity, as often happens when young tchinovniks desire to cut a more important and imposing figure than is rightfully theirs.
"Look here, young sirs," he said. "I know for a fact that all serf business, no matter to what value, is transacted at one desk alone. Consequently I again request you to direct me to that desk. Of course, if you do not know your business I can easily ask some one else."
To this the tchinovniks made no reply beyond pointing towards a corner of the room where an elderly man appeared to be engaged in sorting some papers. Accordingly Chichikov and Manilov threaded their way in his direction through the desks; whereupon the elderly man became violently busy.
"Would you mind telling me," said Chichikov, bowing, "whether this is the desk for serf affairs?"
The elderly man raised his eyes, and said stiffly:
"This is NOT the desk for serf affairs."