Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/35

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25
BOOK ONE

destined to be a royal palace! It is broader and more splendid than all the other paths, with the sun lighting it up by day and many lights by night. But men have streamed past it in blind darkness. And how many times even when guided by understanding that has been given them from heaven, they have managed even then to halt and go astray, have managed in the light of day to get into the impassable jungle, have managed to throw a blinding fog again over one another's eyes, and lured by will-of-the-wisps have succeeded in reaching the brink of the abyss, only to ask one another with horror: 'Where is the way out? Where is the road?' The present generation sees everything clearly, marvels at the errors and laughs at the follies of its forefathers, not seeing that there are streaks of heavenly light in that history, that every letter in it cries aloud to them, that on all sides a pointing finger is turned upon it, upon the present generation. But the present generation laughs and proudly, self-confidently, enters upon a series of fresh errors at which their descendants will laugh again in their turn.

Tchitchikov knew absolutely nothing of all this. As ill luck would have it, he had taken a slight chill and had a swollen face and a slight sore throat, in the distribution of which the climate of our provincial towns is extremely liberal. That his life might not—God forbid—be cut short without leaving descendants he thought it better to keep to his bed for three