Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/29

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19
BOOK ONE

a word he said, even about the merest trifle, and yet they had recourse to him! Explain man if you can! He doesn't believe in God but he believes that if the bridge of his nose is scratched he will die; he passes by the work of a poet clear as daylight, all bathed in harmony and the sublime wisdom of simplicity, and pounces eagerly on the work of some audacious fellow who muddles, twists, and distorts nature, and he is delighted with it and cries: 'This is it, here is real comprehension of the mysteries of the heart!' All his life he has despised doctors and ends by consulting some peasant woman who cures him by muttering spells and using spittle, or better still invents for himself some decoction of goodness knows what rubbish, which he regards as a remedy for his complaints, God knows why. Of course the officials may be to some extent excused by the really difficult position in which they were placed. A drowning man will catch even at a straw, they say, and he has not the sense at the moment to reflect that a fly could scarcely save itself on a straw, while he weighs eleven if not twelve stone; but that consideration does not occur to him at that moment, and he clutches at the straw. So our friends clutched at Nozdryov. The police-master immediately wrote a note to him, inviting him to an evening-party. And a policeman in big boots, with engagingly rosy cheeks, ran off instantly, with his hand upon his sword, to Nozdryov's rooms. Nozdryov was engaged