At two in the afternoon I set off with the firm intention of seeing Fidèle and cross-examining her. I can’t stand the smell of cabbage; the shops along the Meshchanskaya just reek of it. What with this, and the infernal stench coming from under the front doors of all the houses, I held my nose and ran for all I was worth.
If that’s not bad enough, those beastly tradesmen let so much soot and smoke pour out of their workshops that it’s quite impossible for any respectable gentleman to take a stroll these days.
When I reached the sixth floor and rang the bell, a quite pretty-looking girl with tiny freckles came to the door. I recognized her as the same girl I’d seen walking with the old lady. She blushed slightly and straight away I realized that the little dear needed a boyfriend. ‘What do you want?’ she said. ‘I must have a talk with your dog,’ I replied. The girl was quite stupid - I could see that at once. While I was standing there the dog came out barking at me. I tried to catch hold of her but the nasty little bitch nearly sank her teeth into my nose. However, I spotted her basket in the corner. That what I was after! I went over to it, rummaged around under the straw and to my great delight pulled out a small bundle of papers. Seeing this, the filthy dog first bit me on the thigh and then, when she’s sniffed around and discovered I’d taken the papers, started whining, and pawing me, but I said to her: ‘No, my dear, good-bye!’ and took to my heels. The girl must have thought I was mad, as she seemed scared out of her wits.
When I arrived home, I intended starting work right away sorting the papers out, because I can’t see all that well by candlelight. But Mavra decided the floor needed washing. Those stupid Finns always take it into their heads to have a good clean up at the most inconvenient times. So I decided to go for a walk and have a good think about what had happened earlier. Now at last I would find out every little detail of what had been going on, what was in their minds, who were the main actors in the drama, in fact, nothing would be hidden from me: those letters would tell me everything. ‘Dogs are a clever species,’ I told myself. ‘They’re very well versed in diplomacy, and therefore everything will be written down, including a description of the Director and his private life. And there’ll be something about her, but never mind that now…Silence!’ I returned home towards the evening and spent most of the time lying on my bed.
“Diary of a Madman”, Nikolai Gogol, 1834, translation Ronald Wilks