Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/33

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23
BOOK ONE

other people but not in what concerns himself. How well he is provided with resolute and prudent counsels in the difficult crises of life! 'How quick and resourceful a brain!' cries the crowd, 'what a resolute character!' But let some misfortune befall that quick and resourceful man, let him be put in a difficult position himself, and what becomes of his character! The resolute man is utterly distracted, and turns into a pitiful coward, a weak insignificant baby or simply a muff, as Nozdryov called it.

All these discussions, opinions and rumours for some unaccountable reason affected the poor prosecutor more than any one. They had such an effect upon him that on reaching home he fell to brooding, and suddenly, for no rhyme or reason as the saying is, died. Whether it was a paralytic stroke or some other attack, anyway, while he was sitting at the table he flopped forward on his face. As is usual on such occasions, people cried out, 'Good God!' and flinging up their hands, sent for the doctor to bleed him, but saw that the prosecutor was a soulless corpse. It was only then they recognised with regret that he really had a soul, though he had always been too modest to show it. And meanwhile death was as terrible in a small man as in a great one: a man who had only lately been walking about, moving, playing whist, and signing various papers, and who had been so often seen among the other officials with his thick eyebrows and his winking eye, was now