Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/71

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61
BOOK ONE

thing was done, and now they must have twenty-five roubles, and you have to wait a week before you guess what to do … the devil take all this disinterested honesty and official dignity!' The petitioner of course was right; but on the other hand, now there are no bribe-takers, all our higher officials are most honest and gentlemanly people, only the secretaries and copying clerks are scoundrels.

Soon a much wider field presented itself to Tchitchikov. A committee was formed to superintend the erection of a very expensive government building. He succeeded in getting on the committee, and became one of its most active members. The committee immediately set to work. They were busy over the building for six years, but either the climate hindered its progress, or the building materials were peculiar in some way, for the government building got no higher than the foundation. Meanwhile a handsome private residence made its appearance at the other end of the town for each member of the committee: apparently the character of the soil was more favourable there. The members of the committee began to grow prosperous and to rear families. It was only at this point that Tchitchikov began to relax a little the severity of his rules of abstinence and self-denial. Only now his long-drawn-out fast was a little mitigated, and it appeared that he had by no means an aversion for various enjoyments which he had succeeded in denying himself in those years of