"Truly it wrings one's heart to see to what lengths immorality has come."
"Some of the men have quite lost their heads about her, but for my part I think her not worth noticing."
"Of course. And her manners are unbearable. But what puzzles me most is how a travelled man like Chichikov could come to let himself in for such an affair. Surely he must have accomplices?"
"Yes; and I should say that one of those accomplices is Nozdrev."
"CERTAINLY I should say so. Why, I have known him even try to sell his own father! At all events he staked him at cards."
"Indeed? You interest me. I should never had thought him capable of such things."
"I always guessed him to be so."
The two ladies were still discussing the matter with acumen and success when there walked into the room the Public Prosecutor--bushy eyebrows, motionless features, blinking eyes, and all. At once the ladies hastened to inform him of the events related, adducing therewith full details both as to the purchase of dead souls and as to the scheme to abduct the Governor's daughter; after which they departed in different directions, for the purpose of raising the rest of the town. For the execution of this undertaking not more than half an hour was required. So thoroughly did they succeed in throwing dust in the public's eyes that for a while every one--more especially the army of public officials--was placed in the position of a schoolboy who, while still asleep, has had a bag of pepper thrown in his face by a party of more early-rising comrades. The questions now to be debated resolved themselves into two--namely, the question of the dead souls and the question of the Governor's daughter. To this end two parties were formed--the men's party and the feminine section. The men's party--the more absolutely senseless of the two--devoted its attention to the dead souls: the women's party occupied itself exclusively with the alleged abduction of the Governor's daughter. And here it may be said (to the ladies' credit) that the women's party displayed far more method and caution than did its rival faction, probably because the function in life of its members had always been that of managing and administering a household. With the ladies, therefore, matters soon assumed vivid and definite shape; they became clearly and irrefutably materialised; they stood stripped of all doubt and other impedimenta. Said some of the ladies in question, Chichikov had long been in love with the maiden, and the pair had kept tryst by the light of the moon, while the Governor would have given his consent (seeing that Chichikov was as rich as a Jew) but for the obstacle that Chichikov had deserted a wife already (how the worthy dames came to know that he was married remains a mystery), and the said deserted wife, pining with love for her faithless husband, had sent the Governor a letter of the most touching kind, so that Chichikov, on perceiving that the father and mother would never give their consent, had decided to abduct the girl. In other circles the matter was stated in a different way. That is to say, this section averred that Chichikov did NOT possess a wife, but that, as a man of subtlety and experience, he had bethought him of obtaining the daughter's hand through the expedient of first tackling the mother and carrying on with her an ardent liaison, and that, thereafter, he had made an application for the desired hand, but that the mother, fearing to commit a sin against religion, and feeling in her heart certain gnawings of conscience, had returned a blank refusal to Chichikov's request; whereupon Chichikov had decided to carry out the abduction alleged. To the foregoing, of course, there became appended various additional proofs and items of evidence, in proportion as the sensation spread to more remote corners of the town. At length, with these perfectings, the affair reached the ears of the Governor's wife herself. Naturally, as the mother of a family, and as the first lady in the town, and as a matron who had never before been suspected of things of the kind, she was highly offended when she heard the stories, and very justly so: with the result that her poor young daughter, though innocent, had to endure about as unpleasant a tete-a-tete as ever befell a maiden of sixteen, while, for his part, the Swiss footman received orders never at any time to admit Chichikov to the house.