Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/14

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but I have been for thirty years in the same place, my good sir.' To this the other officials usually answered: 'It's all very well for you, Sprechen Sie Deutsch, Ivan Andreitch: the post office is your job—receiving and despatching the mails; the worst you can do is to close the post office an hour too early if you are in a bad temper, or to accept a late letter from some merchant at the wrong hour, or to send off some parcel which ought not to be sent off—any one would be a saint, of course, in your place. But suppose you had the devil at your elbow every day, so that even what you don't want to take he thrusts upon you. You have not much to fear, to be sure; you have only one son; while God has been so bountiful to Praskovya Fyodorovna, my boy, that not a year passes but she presents me with a little Praskovya or a little Petrushka; in our place, you'd sing a different tune, my boy.' So said the officials, but whether it is really possible to resist the devil it is not for the author to decide. In the council assembled on this occasion, there was a conspicuous absence of that essential thing which among the common people is called good sense. We seem somehow not made for representative institutions. In all our assemblies, from the meetings of the peasants up to all kinds of learned and other committees, there is a pretty thorough muddle, unless there is some one at the head who is managing it all. It is hard to say why it is. Apparently the nature of the Russian people is