Page:Dead Souls - A Poem by Nikolay Gogol - vol2.djvu/77

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67
BOOK ONE

conscious of a malignant impulse to slap his suave countenance, he would only say, without the slightest change in his face or his courteous manners: 'May I trouble you to be so kind as to stand up': or, 'Will you kindly walk into the other room, madam, there the wife of one of our clerks will interview you': or, 'Allow me to unpick the lining of your coat with my penknife,' and saying this he would extract from within the lining shawls and kerchiefs, as coolly as though he were taking them out of his own trunk. Even his superiors declared that he was not a man but a fiend: he found contraband goods in wheels and shafts of carriages and the ears of horses, and in all kinds of places in which it would never occur to the author to peep, and into which no one but a customs house official would venture to peep, so that the unfortunate traveller after crossing the frontier could not recover for quite a long time, and as he mopped up the beads of perspiration that came out all over him, could only cross himself and say: 'Well, well!' The victim's position was very much like that of a schoolboy who has escaped from a private room, to which he has been summoned by a master to receive a lecture, instead of which he has quite unexpectedly received a thrashing. For a brief period there was no peace for the smugglers of contraband goods. He was the menace and despair of all the Polish Jews. Nothing could overcome his honesty and incorruptibility, they were almost unnatural. He did not even amass