A Room in the Governor’s House.
Anton Antonovich, the Governor, Artemy Filippovich, the Superintendent of Charities, Luka Lukich, the Inspector of Schools, Ammos Fiodorovich, the Judge, Stepan Ilyich, Christian Ivanovich, the Doctor, and two Police Sergeants.
Governor. I have called you together, gentlemen, to tell you an unpleasant piece of news. An Inspector-General is coming.
Ammos Fiod. What, an Inspector-General?
Artemy Fil. What, an Inspector-General?
Governor. Yes, an Inspector from St. Petersburg, incognito. And with secret instructions, too.
Ammos. A pretty how-do-you-do!
Artemy. As if we hadn’t enough trouble without an Inspector!
Luka Lukich. Good Lord! With secret instructions!
Governor. I had a sort of presentiment of it. Last night I kept dreaming of two rats — regular monsters! Upon my word, I never saw the likes of them — black and supernaturally big. They came in, sniffed, and then went away. — Here’s a letter I’ll read to you — from Andrey Ivanovich. You know him, Artemy Filippovich. Listen to what he writes: “My dear friend, godfather and benefactor — [He mumbles, glancing rapidly down the page.] — and to let you know”— Ah, that’s it — “I hasten to let you know, among other things, that an official has arrived here with instructions to inspect the whole government, and your district especially. [Raises his finger significantly.] I have learned of his being here from highly trustworthy sources, though he pretends to be a private person. So, as you have your little peccadilloes, you know, like everybody else — you are a sensible man, and you don’t let the good things that come your way slip by —” [Stopping] H’m, that’s his junk —“I advise you to take precautions, as he may arrive any hour, if he hasn’t already, and is not staying somewhere incognito. — Yesterday —” The rest are family matters. “Sister Anna Krillovna is here visiting us with her husband. Ivan Krillovich has grown very fat and is always playing the fiddle”— et cetera, et cetera. So there you have the situation we are confronted with, gentlemen.
Ammos. An extraordinary situation, most extraordinary! Something behind it, I am sure.
Luka. But why, Anton Antonovich? What for? Why should we have an Inspector?
Governor. It’s fate, I suppose. [Sighs.] Till now, thank goodness, they have been nosing about in other towns. Now our turn has come.
Ammos. My opinion is, Anton Antonovich, that the cause is a deep one and rather political in character. It means this, that Russia — yes — that Russia intends to go to war, and the Government has secretly commissioned an official to find out if there is any treasonable activity anywhere.
Governor. The wise man has hit on the very thing. Treason in this little country town! As if it were on the frontier! Why, you might gallop three years away from here and reach nowhere.
Ammos. No, you don’t catch on — you don’t — The Government is shrewd. It makes no difference that our town is so remote. The Government is on the look-out all the same —
Governor [cutting him short]. On the look-out, or not on the look-out, anyhow, gentlemen, I have given you warning. I have made some arrangements for myself, and I advise you to do the same. You especially, Artemy Filippovich. This official, no doubt, will want first of all to inspect your department. So you had better see to it that everything is in order, that the night-caps are clean, and the patients don’t go about as they usually do, looking as grimy as blacksmiths.
Artemy. Oh, that’s a small matter. We can get night-caps easily enough.
Governor. And over each bed you might hang up a placard stating in Latin or some other language — that’s your end of it, Christian Ivanovich — the name of the disease, when the patient fell ill, the day of the week and the month. And I don’t like your invalids to be smoking such strong tobacco. It makes you sneeze when you come in. It would be better, too, if there weren’t so many of them. If there are a large number, it will instantly be ascribed to bad supervision or incompetent medical treatment.
Artemy. Oh, as to treatment, Christian Ivanovich and I have worked out our own system. Our rule is: the nearer to nature the better. We use no expensive medicines. A man is a simple affair. If he dies, he’d die anyway. If he gets well, he’d get well anyway. Besides, the doctor would have a hard time making the patients understand him. He doesn’t know a word of Russian.
The Doctor gives forth a sound intermediate between M and A.
Governor. And you, Ammos Fiodorovich, had better look to the courthouse. The attendants have turned the entrance hall where the petitioners usually wait into a poultry yard, and the geese and goslings go poking their beaks between people’s legs. Of course, setting up housekeeping is commendable, and there is no reason why a porter shouldn’t do it. Only, you see, the courthouse is not exactly the place for it. I had meant to tell you so before, but somehow it escaped my memory.
Ammos. Well, I’ll have them all taken into the kitchen to-day. Will you come and dine with me?
Governor. Then, too, it isn’t right to have the courtroom littered up with all sorts of rubbish — to have a hunting-crop lying right among the papers on your desk. You’re fond of sport, I know, still it’s better to have the crop removed for the present. When the Inspector is gone, you may put it back again. As for your assessor, he’s an educated man, to be sure, but he reeks of spirits, as if he had just emerged from a distillery. That’s not right either. I had meant to tell you so long ago, but something or other drove the thing out of my mind. If his odor is really a congenital defect, as he says, then there are ways of remedying it. You might advise him to eat onion or garlic, or something of the sort. Christian Ivanovich can help him out with some of his nostrums.
The Doctor makes the same sound as before.
Ammos. No, there’s no cure for it. He says his nurse struck him when he was a child, and ever since he has smelt of vodka.
Governor. Well, I just wanted to call your attention to it. As regards the internal administration and what Andrey Ivanovich in his letter calls “little peccadilloes,” I have nothing to say. Why, of course, there isn’t a man living who hasn’t some sins to answer for. That’s the way God made the world, and the Voltairean freethinkers can talk against it all they like, it won’t do any good.
Ammos. What do you mean by sins? Anton Antonovich? There are sins and sins. I tell everyone plainly that I take bribes. I make no bones about it. But what kind of bribes? White greyhound puppies. That’s quite a different matter.
Governor. H’m. Bribes are bribes, whether puppies or anything else.
Ammos. Oh, no, Anton Antonovich. But if one has a fur overcoat worth five hundred rubles, and one’s wife a shawl —
Governor. [testily]. And supposing greyhound puppies are the only bribes you take? You’re an atheist, you never go to church, while I at least am a firm believer and go to church every Sunday. You — oh, I know you. When you begin to talk about the Creation it makes my flesh creep.
Ammos. Well, it’s a conclusion I’ve reasoned out with my own brain.
Governor. Too much brain is sometimes worse than none at all. — However, I merely mentioned the courthouse. I dare say nobody will ever look at it. It’s an enviable place. God Almighty Himself seems to watch over it. But you, Luka Lukich, as inspector of schools, ought to have an eye on the teachers. They are very learned gentlemen, no doubt, with a college education, but they have funny habits — inseparable from the profession, I know. One of them, for instance, the man with the fat face — I forget his name — is sure, the moment he takes his chair, to screw up his face like this. [Imitates him.] And then he has a trick of sticking his hand under his necktie and smoothing down his beard. It doesn’t matter, of course, if he makes a face at the pupils; perhaps it’s even necessary. I’m no judge of that. But you yourself will admit that if he does it to a visitor, it may turn out very badly. The Inspector, or anyone else, might take it as meant for himself, and then the deuce knows what might come of it.
Luka. But what can I do? I have told him about it time and again. Only the other day when the marshal of the nobility came into the class-room, he made such a face at him as I had never in my life seen before. I dare say it was with the best intentions; But I get reprimanded for permitting radical ideas to be instilled in the minds of the young.
Governor. And then I must call your attention to the history teacher. He has a lot of learning in his head and a store of facts. That’s evident. But he lectures with such ardor that he quite forgets himself. Once I listened to him. As long as he was talking about the Assyrians and Babylonians, it was not so bad. But when he reached Alexander of Macedon, I can’t describe what came over him. Upon my word, I thought a fire had broken out. He jumped down from the platform, picked up a chair and dashed it to the floor. Alexander of Macedon was a hero, it is true. But that’s no reason for breaking chairs. The state must bear the cost.
Luka. Yes, he is a hot one. I have spoken to him about it several times. He only says: “As you please, but in the cause of learning I will even sacrifice my life.”
Governor. Yes, it’s a mysterious law of fate. Your clever man is either a drunkard, or he makes such grimaces that you feel like running away.
Luka. Ah, Heaven save us from being in the educational department! One’s afraid of everything. Everybody meddles and wants to show that he is as clever as you.
Governor. Oh, that’s nothing. But this cursed incognito! All of a sudden he’ll look in: “Ah, so you’re here, my dear fellows! And who’s the judge here?” says he. “Liapkin-Tiapkin.” “Bring Liapkin-Tiapkin here. — And who is the Superintendent of Charities?” “Zemlianika.”—“Bring Zemlianika here!”— That’s what’s bad.
Enter Ivan Kuzmich, the Postmaster.
Postmaster. Tell me, gentlemen, who’s coming? What chinovnik?
Governor. What, haven’t you heard?
Postmaster. Bobchinsky told me. He was at the postoffice just now.
Governor. Well, what do you think of it?
Postmaster. What do I think of it? Why, there’ll be a war with the Turks.
Ammos. Exactly. Just what I thought.
Governor [sarcastically]. Yes, you’ve both hit in the air precisely.
Postmaster. It’s war with the Turks for sure, all fomented by the French.
Governor. Nonsense! War with the Turks indeed. It’s we who are going to get it, not the Turks. You may count on that. Here’s a letter to prove it.
Postmaster. In that case, then, we won’t go to war with the Turks.
Governor. Well, how do you feel about it, Ivan Kuzmich?
Postmaster. How do I feel? How do YOU feel about it, Anton Antonovich?
Governor. I? Well, I’m not afraid, but I just feel a little — you know — The merchants and townspeople bother me. I seem to be unpopular with them. But the Lord knows if I’ve taken from some I’ve done it without a trace of ill-feeling. I even suspect — [Takes him by the arm and walks aside with him.] — I even suspect that I may have been denounced. Or why would they send an Inspector to us? Look here, Ivan Kuzmich, don’t you think you could — ahem! — just open a little every letter that passes through your office and read it — for the common benefit of us all, you know — to see if it contains any kind of information against me, or is only ordinary correspondence. If it is all right, you can seal it up again, or simply deliver the letter opened.
Postmaster. Oh, I know. You needn’t teach me that. I do it not so much as a precaution as out of curiosity. I just itch to know what’s doing in the world. And it’s very interesting reading, I tell you. Some letters are fascinating — parts of them written grand — more edifying than the Moscow Gazette.
Governor. Tell me, then, have you read anything about any official from St. Petersburg?
Postmaster. No, nothing about a St. Petersburg official, but plenty about Kostroma and Saratov ones. A pity you don’t read the letters. There are some very fine passages in them. For instance, not long ago a lieutenant writes to a friend describing a ball very wittily. — Splendid! “Dear friend,” he says, “I live in the regions of the Empyrean, lots of girls, bands playing, flags flying.” He’s put a lot of feeling into his description, a whole lot. I’ve kept the letter on purpose. Would you like to read it?
Governor. No, this is no time for such things. But please, Ivan Kuzmich, do me the favor, if ever you chance upon a complaint or denunciation, don’t hesitate a moment, hold it back.
Postmaster. I will, with the greatest pleasure.
Ammos. You had better be careful. You may get yourself into trouble.
Postmaster. Goodness me!
Governor. Never mind, never mind. Of course, it would be different if you published it broadcast. But it’s a private affair, just between us.
Ammos. Yes, it’s a bad business — I really came here to make you a present of a puppy, sister to the dog you know about. I suppose you have heard that Cheptovich and Varkhovinsky have started a suit. So now I live in clover. I hunt hares first on the one’s estate, then on the other’s.
Governor. I don’t care about your hares now, my good friend. That cursed incognito is on my brain. Any moment the door may open and in walk —
Enter Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky, out of breath.
Bobchinsky. What an extraordinary occurrence!
Dobchinsky. An unexpected piece of news!
All. What is it? What is it?
Dobchinsky. Something quite unforeseen. We were about to enter the inn —
Bobchinsky [interrupting]. Yes, Piotr Ivanovich and I were entering the inn —
Dobchinsky [interrupting]. Please, Piotr Ivanovich, let me tell.
Bobchinsky. No, please, let me — let me. You can’t. You haven’t got the style for it.
Dobchinsky. Oh, but you’ll get mixed up and won’t remember everything.
Bobchinsky. Yes, I will, upon my word, I will. PLEASE don’t interrupt! Do let me tell the news — don’t interrupt! Pray, oblige me, gentlemen, and tell Dobchinsky not to interrupt.
Governor. Speak, for Heaven’s sake! What is it? My heart is in my mouth! Sit down, gentlemen, take seats. Piotr Ivanovich, here’s a chair for you. [All seat themselves around Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky.] Well, now, what is it? What is it?
Bobchinsky. Permit me, permit me. I’ll tell it all just as it happened. As soon as I had the pleasure of taking leave of you after you were good enough to be bothered with the letter which you had received, sir, I ran out — now, please don’t keep interrupting, Dobchinsky. I know all about it, all, I tell you. — So I ran out to see Korobkin. But not finding Korobkin at home, I went off to Rastakovsky, and not seeing him, I went to Ivan Kuzmich to tell him of the news you’d got. Going on from there I met Dobchinsky —
Dobchinsky [interjecting]. At the stall where they sell pies —
Bobchinsky. At the stall where they sell pies. Well, I met Dobchinsky and I said to him: “Have you heard the news that came to Anton Antonovich in a letter which is absolutely reliable?” But Piotr Ivanovich had already heard of it from your housekeeper, Avdotya, who, I don’t know why, had been sent to Filipp Antonovich Pachechuyev —
Dobchinsky [interrupting]. To get a little keg for French brandy.
Bobchinsky. Yes, to get a little keg for French brandy. So then I went with Dobchinsky to Pachechuyev’s. — Will you stop, Piotr Ivanovich? Please don’t interrupt. — So off we went to Pachechuyev’s, and on the way Dobchinsky said: “Let’s go to the inn,” he said. “I haven’t eaten a thing since morning. My stomach is growling.” Yes, sir, his stomach was growling. “They’ve just got in a supply of fresh salmon at the inn,” he said. “Let’s take a bite.” We had hardly entered the inn when we saw a young man —
Dobchinsky [Interrupting]. Of rather good appearance and dressed in ordinary citizen’s clothes.
Bobchinsky. Yes, of rather good appearance and dressed in citizen’s clothes — walking up and down the room. There was something out of the usual about his face, you know, something deep — and a manner about him — and here [raises his hand to his forehead and turns it around several times] full, full of everything. I had a sort of feeling, and I said to Dobchinsky, “Something’s up. This is no ordinary matter.” Yes, and Dobchinsky beckoned to the landlord, Vlas, the innkeeper, you know — three weeks ago his wife presented him with a baby — a bouncer — he’ll grow up just like his father and keep a tavern. — Well, we beckoned to Vlas, and Dobchinsky asked him on the quiet, “Who,” he asked, “is that young man?” “That young man,” Vlas replied, “that young man”— Oh, don’t interrupt, Piotr Ivanovich, please don’t interrupt. You can’t tell the story. Upon my word, you can’t. You lisp and one tooth in your mouth makes you whistle. I know what I’m saying. “That young man,” he said, “is an official.”— Yes, sir. — “On his way from St. Petersburg. And his name,” he said, “is Ivan Aleksandrovich Khlestakov, and he’s going,” he said “to the government of Saratov,” he said. “And he acts so queerly. It’s the second week he’s been here and he’s never left the house; and he won’t pay a penny, takes everything on account.” When Vlas told me that, a light dawned on me from above, and I said to Piotr Ivanovich, “Hey!”—
Dobchinsky. No, Piotr Ivanovich, I said “HEY!”
Bobchinsky. Well first YOU said it, then I did. “Hey!” said both of us, “And why does he stick here if he’s going to Saratov?”— Yes, sir, that’s he, the official.
Governor. Who? What official?
Bobchinsky. Why, the official who you were notified was coming, the Inspector.
Governor [terrified]. Great God! What’s that you’re saying. It can’t be he.
Dobchinsky. It is, though. Why, he doesn’t pay his bills and he doesn’t leave. Who else can it be? And his postchaise is ordered for Saratov.
Bobchinsky. It’s he, it’s he, it’s he — why, he’s so alert, he scrutinized everything. He saw that Dobchinsky and I were eating salmon — chiefly on account of Dobchinsky’s stomach — and he looked at our plates so hard that I was frightened to death.
Governor. The Lord have mercy on us sinners! In what room is he staying?
Dobchinsky. Room number 5 near the stairway.
Bobchinsky. In the same room that the officers quarreled in when they passed through here last year.
Governor. How long has he been here?
Dobchinsky. Two weeks. He came on St. Vasili’s day.
Governor. Two weeks! [Aside.] Holy Fathers and saints preserve me! In those two weeks I have flogged the wife of a non-commissioned officer, the prisoners were not given their rations, the streets are dirty as a pothouse — a scandal, a disgrace! [Clutches his head with both hands.]
Artemy. What do you think, Anton Antonovich, hadn’t we better go in state to the inn?
Ammos. No, no. First send the chief magistrate, then the clergy, then the merchants. That’s what it says in the book. The Acts of John the Freemason.
Governor. No, no, leave it to me. I have been in difficult situations before now. They have passed off all right, and I was even rewarded with thanks. Maybe the Lord will help us out this time, too. [Turns to Bobchinsky.] You say he’s a young man?
Bobchinsky. Yes, about twenty-three or four at the most.
Governor. So much the better. It’s easier to pump things out of a young man. It’s tough if you’ve got a hardened old devil to deal with. But a young man is all on the surface. You, gentlemen, had better see to your end of things while I go unofficially, by myself, or with Dobchinsky here, as though for a walk, to see that the visitors that come to town are properly accommodated. Here, Svistunov. [To one of the Sergeants.]
Governor. Go instantly to the Police Captain — or, no, I’ll want you. Tell somebody to send him here as quickly as possibly and then come back.
Svistunov hurries off.
Artemy. Let’s go, let’s go, Ammos Fiodorovich. We may really get into trouble.
Ammos. What have you got to be afraid of? Put clean nightcaps on the patients and the thing’s done.
Artemy. Nightcaps! Nonsense! The patients were ordered to have oatmeal soup. Instead of that there’s such a smell of cabbage in all the corridors that you’ve got to hold your nose.
Ammos. Well, my mind’s at ease. Who’s going to visit the court? Supposing he does look at the papers, he’ll wish he had left them alone. I have been on the bench fifteen years, and when I take a look into a report, I despair. King Solomon in all his wisdom could not tell what is true and what is not true in it.
The Judge, the Superintendent of Charities, the School Inspector, and Postmaster go out and bump up against the Sergeant in the doorway as the latter returns.
The Governor, Bobchinsky, Dobchinsky, and Sergeant Svistunov.
Governor. Well, is the cab ready?
Svistunov. Yes, sir.
Governor. Go out on the street — or, no, stop — go and bring — why, where are the others? Why are you alone? Didn’t I give orders for Prokhorov to be here? Where is Prokhorov?
Svistunov. Prokhorov is in somebody’s house and can’t go on duty just now.
Governor. Why so?
Svistunov. Well, they brought him back this morning dead drunk. They poured two buckets of water over him, but he hasn’t sobered up yet.
Governor [clutching his head with both hands]. For Heaven’s sake! Go out on duty quick — or, no, run up to my room, do you hear? And fetch my sword and my new hat. Now, Piotr Ivanovich, [to Dobchinsky] come.
Bobchinsky. And me — me, too. Let me come, too, Anton Antonovich.
Governor. No, no, Bobchinsky, it won’t do. Besides there is not enough room in the cab.
Bobchinsky. Oh, that doesn’t matter. I’ll follow the cab on foot — on foot. I just want to peep through a crack — so — to see that manner of his — how he acts.
Governor [turning to the Sergeant and taking his sword]. Be off and get the policemen together. Let them each take a — there, see how scratched my sword is. It’s that dog of a merchant, Abdulin. He sees the Governor’s sword is old and doesn’t provide a new one. Oh, the sharpers! I’ll bet they’ve got their petitions against me ready in their coat-tail pockets. — Let each take a street in his hand — I don’t mean a street — a broom — and sweep the street leading to the inn, and sweep it clean, and — do you hear? And see here, I know you, I know your tricks. You insinuate yourselves into the inn and walk off with silver spoons in your boots. Just you look out. I keep my ears pricked. What have you been up to with the merchant, Chorniayev, eh? He gave you two yards of cloth for your uniform and you stole the whole piece. Take care. You’re only a Sergeant. Don’t graft higher than your rank. Off with you.
Enter the Police Captain.
Governor. Hello, Stepan Ilyich, where the dickens have you been keeping yourself? What do you mean by acting that way?
Captain. Why, I was just outside the gate.
Governor. Well, listen, Stepan Ilyich. An official has come from St. Petersburg. What have you done about it?
Captain. What you told me to. I sent Sergeant Pugovichyn with policemen to clean the street.
Governor. Where is Derzhimorda?
Captain. He has gone off on the fire engine.
Governor. And Prokhorov is drunk?
Governor. How could you allow him to get drunk?
Captain. God knows. Yesterday there was a fight outside the town. He went to restore order and was brought back drunk.
Governor. Well, then, this is what you are to do. — Sergeant Pugovichyn — he is tall. So he is to stand on duty on the bridge for appearance’ sake. Then the old fence near the bootmaker’s must be pulled down at once and a post stuck up with a whisp of straw so as to look like grading. The more debris there is the more it will show the governor’s activity. — Good God, though, I forgot that about forty cart-loads of rubbish have been dumped against that fence. What a vile, filthy town this is! A monument, or even only a fence, is erected, and instantly they bring a lot of dirt together, from the devil knows where, and dump it there. [Heaves a sigh.] And if the functionary that has come here asks any of the officials whether they are satisfied, they are to say, “Perfectly satisfied, your Honor”; and if anybody is not satisfied, I’ll give him something to be dissatisfied about afterwards. — Ah, I’m a sinner, a terrible sinner. [Takes the hat-box, instead of his hat.] Heaven only grant that I may soon get this matter over and done with; then I’ll donate a candle such as has never been offered before. I’ll levy a hundred pounds of wax from every damned merchant. Oh my, oh my! Come, let’s go, Piotr Ivanovich. [Tries to put the hat-box on his head instead of his hat.]
Captain. Anton Antonovich, that’s the hat-box, not your hat.
Governor [throwing the box down]. If it’s the hat-box, it’s the hat-box, the deuce take it! — And if he asks why the church at the hospital for which the money was appropriated five years ago has not been built, don’t let them forget to say that the building was begun but was destroyed by fire. I sent in a report about it, you know. Some blamed fool might forget and let out that the building was never even begun. And tell Derzhimorda not to be so free with his fists. Guilty or innocent, he makes them all see stars in the cause of public order. — Come on, come on, Dobchinsky. [Goes out and returns.] And don’t let the soldiers appear on the streets with nothing on. That rotten garrison wear their coats directly over their undershirts.
All go out.
Anna Andreyevna and Marya Antonovna rush in on the stage.
Anna. Where are they? Where are they? Oh, my God! [opening the door.] Husband! Antosha! Anton! [hurriedly, to Marya.] It’s all your fault. Dawdling! Dawdling! —“I want a pin — I want a scarf.” [Runs to the window and calls.] Anton, where are you going? Where are you going? What! He has come? The Inspector? He has a moustache? What kind of a moustache?
Governor [from without]. Wait, dear. Later.
Anna. Wait? I don’t want to wait. The idea, wait! I only want one word. Is he a colonel or what? Eh? [Disgusted.] There, he’s gone! You’ll pay for it! It’s all your fault — you, with your “Mamma, dear, wait a moment, I’ll just pin my scarf. I’ll come directly.” Yes, directly! Now we have missed the news. It’s all your confounded coquettishness. You heard the Postmaster was here and so you must prink and prim yourself in front of the mirror — look on this side and that side and all around. You imagine he’s smitten with you. But I can tell you he makes a face at you the moment you turn your back.
Marya. It can’t be helped, mamma. We’ll know everything in a couple of hours anyway.
Anna. In a couple of hours! Thank you! A nice answer. Why don’t you say, in a month. We’ll know still more in a month. [She leans out of the window.] Here, Avdotya! I say! Have you heard whether anybody has come, Avdotya? — No, you goose, you didn’t — He waved his hands? Well, what of it? Let him wave his hands. But you should have asked him anyhow. You couldn’t find out, of course, with your head full of nonsense and lovers. Eh, what? They left in a hurry? Well, you should have run after the carriage. Off with you, off with you at once, do you hear? Run and ask everybody where they are. Be sure and find out who the newcomer is and what he is like, do you hear? Peep through a crack and find everything out — what sort of eyes he has, whether they are black or blue, and be back here instantly, this minute, do you hear? Quick, quick, quick!
She keeps on calling and they both stand at the window until the curtain drops.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54