20 December 2009

money is the most reliable thing in the world

One day, with the first sunshine and the floods of early spring, the father, taking his son with him, set out in a little cart, drawn by a chestnut piebald nag, of the kind known among horse-dealers as "magpies"; it was driven by a little hunchback, the progenitor of the only serf family owned by Chichikov's father, who performed almost all the duties in the house. They drove with the "magpie" for over a day and a half. They spent a night on the road, crossed a river, had their meals of cold pie and roast mutton, and reached the town only on the morning of the third day. The streets of the town dazzled the boy with their unexpected splendour, making him gape for several minutes. Then the "magpie" plunged with the cart into a big hole at the entrance of a narrow lane running downhill and thick with mud; it took the "magpie" a long time to get out of it; after struggling with all her might to wade through the mud, urged on by the hunchback and by the master himself, she finally succeeded in dragging them out into a little yard standing on the slope of the hill. Two flowering apple-trees grew in front of the little old house, covered with shingle and with one narrow opaque window, and there was a small garden at the back. Here lived a relative of theirs, a wizened old woman who still went to market every morning, drying her stockings on the samovar afterwards. She patted the boy on the cheek and admired his plumpness. There he was to stay and go every day to the town school.
  After spending a night there, his father set off home again next morning. No tears were shed by his father at parting. He was given fifty copecks in copper coins for pocket money and to buy sweets and, was was far more important, this wise admonition: "Mind, Pavlusha, do your lessons. Don't play the fool and get into mischief. Above all, do your best to please your teachers and superiors. If you please your chief, you will be all right and you will get ahead of everyone, even if you turn out to be a bad scholar, and even if God has given you no talent. Do not make friends with your classmates. They will teach you no good. But if you do make friends with them, play with those who are better off and might be useful to you. Don't entertain or treat anyone, but behave in such a way that you may be treated by others and, above all, take care and save your pennies: money is the most reliable thing in the world. A classmate or friend may cheat you and be the first to leave you in the lurch when you're in trouble, but money will never let you down whatever trouble you may be in. With money in your pocket you can do anything and money will see you through everything." Having delivered himself of these precepts, the father parted from his son and dragged himself off home again on his "magpie" and from that day his son never set eyes on him again, but his words and precepts sank deeply into his mind.

Gogol, Dead Souls (1961: 235-236)