Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/67

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57
BOOK ONE

shadow of anything of the sort. There was absolutely nothing in him; neither wickedness nor goodness, and there was something terrible about this absence of anything. His coarsely marble-like face, free from any striking irregularity, did not suggest resemblance to anything; there was a morose harmony between his features. Only the pockmarks with which his face was pitted classified it with those faces on which, to use the popular expression, the devil has threshed peas at night. It seemed as though it were beyond human power to make up to this man and win his favour, but Tchitchikov made the attempt. At first he set to work to please him in all sorts of imperceptible trifles; he carefully considered the way he mended the pens with which he wrote, and preparing several on the same pattern, always put them ready to his hand; he blew or brushed away the sand and tobacco from his table, and brought a new rag to clean his inkstand; he looked for and found his hat, as wretched a hat as ever was seen in the world, and always laid it beside him before closing time; he brushed the back of the old man's coat if he had chanced to rub against the whitewashed wall. But it remained absolutely unnoticed, exactly as though nothing had been done. At last he sniffed out something about his private life: he found out that he had a rather mature daughter whose face also looked as if the devil had threshed peas on it. He determined to make his attack on that side. He found