Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/61

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51
BOOK ONE

and sold it very profitably. And after that he indulged for some time in other speculations, for instance, buying edibles of some sort in the market, he would sit down in class beside boys who were rather well off, and as soon as he noticed his companion showing signs of flagging, always a symptom of approaching hunger, he showed him under the bench as if by accident, the corner of a biscuit or a bun, and after tantalising him with it extorted a sum proportionate to his appetite. For two months he was unwearying in his attentions to a mouse which he kept in a little wooden cage, and succeeded at last in getting the mouse to stand on its hind legs, to lie down and get up at the word of command, and then sold it, also very profitably. When he had saved up five roubles he made a little bag for them and began saving up in a second one. He was even more discreet in his demeanour towards his teachers. No one could sit so quietly on a bench. It must be observed that the teacher made a great point of quietness and good conduct, and could not endure clever or witty boys. He fancied that they must be laughing at him. If one who had come under observation for display of wit merely stirred in his seat or twitched an eyebrow at the wrong moment, he would incur the teacher's displeasure at once. The latter would turn him out and punish him without mercy. 'I'll knock the conceit and disobedience out of you, my lad!' he said. 'I know you through and