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Page:The Prose Tales of Alexander Poushkin (Bell, 1916).djvu/375

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WHO has not cursed postmasters, who has not quarrelled with them Who, in a moment of anger, has not demanded from them the fatal book in order to record in it unavailing complaints of their extortions, rudeness and unpunctuality? Who does not look upon them as monsters of the human race, equal to the defunct attorneys, or, at least, the brigands of Mourom? Let us, however, be just; let us place ourselves in their position, and perhaps we shall begin to judge them with more indulgence. What is a postmaster? A veritable martyr of the fourteenth class,[1] only protected by his rank from blows, and that not always (I appeal to the conscience of my readers). What is the function of this dictator, as Prince Viazemsky jokingly calls him? Is he not an actual galley-slave? He has no rest either day or night. All the vexation accumulated during the course of a wearisome journey the traveller vents upon the postmaster. Should the weather prove intolerable, the road abominable, the driver obstinate, the horses ungovernable—the postmaster is to blame. Entering into his poor abode, the traveller looks upon him as an enemy, and the postmaster is fortunate if he succeeds in soon getting rid of his uninvited guest; but if there should happen to be no horses ! . . . Heavens! what volleys of

  1. The Chinnovniks, or official nobles of Russia, are divided into fourteen classes, the fourteenth being the lowest. The members of this latter class were formerly little removed from serfs.