Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/34

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lying on the table; his left eye did not wink now at all, but one eyebrow was still raised with a questioning expression. What the dead man was inquiring about, why he died or why he had lived—God only knows.

'But this is absurd though! It's out of the question! It's impossible that officials could scare themselves so, could make up such nonsense, could stray so far from the truth when a child could have seen through it!' Many readers will say this, and will blame the author for improbability, or will call the poor officials fools, for man is lavish in the use of the word fool, and is ready to apply it to his neighbour twenty times a day. It is quite enough if out of ten points in his character he has one stupid one, for him to be set down as a fool in spite of his nine good points. It is easy for readers to criticise, looking down from their comfortable niche on the heights from which the whole horizon lies open, at all that is taking place below, where man can only see the object nearest to him. And in the history of humanity there are many whole centuries which he would, I fancy, strike out and suppress as unnecessary. Many mistakes have been made in the world which now one would hardly think a child could make. How many crooked, narrow, impassable blind alleys, leading far off the track, has mankind chosen in the effort to reach the eternal verity, while before him the straight road lay open like the road that leads to a magnificent mansion