Anton Vasilyev, the manager of a remote estate, was giving his mistress, Arina Petrovna Golovliov, an account of his trip to Moscow. He had gone there to collect the money due from those of her peasant serfs who bought the right to live in the city by paying her a tax. When he had finished with his report, she told him he might retire, but he lingered on irresolutely, as though he had something else to say, yet could not make up his mind to say it. Arina Petrovna knew her servants through and through; she knew the meaning of their slightest gestures, she could even divine their inmost thoughts. And her steward's manner immediately aroused her disquietude. Arina Petrovna liked to call her managers and domestics by nicknames. She used Telltale for Anton Vasilyev, not because she had found him to carry gossip treacherously, but simply because he had a loose tongue. The centre of the estate that he managed was an important trading village in which there were many taverns. He liked to take a glass of tea in a tavern and boast of his mistress's great power. And in the course of his boasting he would sometimes unconsciously blab out secrets. His mistress was always with a lawsuit on her hands, so that her trusty's garrulousness sometimes brought her sly stratagems to the surface before they could be executed.
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