The Inspector-General/Act IV

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The Inspector-General by Nikolai Gogol
ACT IV

SCENE: The same apartment in the Governor's house.

Scene I[edit]

(Enter cautiously, almost on tiptoe, AMMOS FYODOROVICH (the Judge), ARTMI PHILIPPOVICH (the Charity Commissioner), the POSTMASTER, LUKA LUKICH, DOBCHINSKI, and BOBCHINSKI, all in full gala uniform. The whole scene is played in an undertone.)

JUDGE (arranging them all in a semicircle). For God's sake, gentlemen, form your circle quicker; let's have better order ! Good heavens he goes to Court, you know, and bullies the Council of State ! Draw up in military order, absolutely in military order ! Peter Ivanovich, you must stand there ! (Both BOBCHINSKI and DOBCHINSKI run on tiptoe to the place assigned.)

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. It's as you please, Ammos Fyodorovich ; but we certainly ought to make the attempt.

JUDGE. What attempt?

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. You know what I mean.

JUDGE. Palm-oil?

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Yes, try a little palm-oil.

JUDGE. It's risky he'll storm at us ; he's a State functionary, you know. Perhaps it had better take the form of a testimonial from the nobility and from the gentry some sort of souvenir.

POSTMASTER. Or perhaps, say there's some money been sent by post, and we don't know who it's for.

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Mind he doesn't send you by post somewhere further than you care for. I tell you, these little matters are not so managed in a well-ordered State. Why is there a whole squadron of us here ? We ought to approach him one by one, and do ... what is needful in a private interview, so that nobody knows anything about it. That's how things are done in a well-managed community. So, Ammos Fyodorovich, you ought to begin first.

JUDGE. Much better you; the illustrious visitor broke bread in your hospital. Luka Lukich had better, as the enlightener of youth.

LUKA. I can't, I can't, really, gentlemen ! I confess I've been so brought up that, if any one a single degree above me in rank addresses me, I just lose my head, and my tongue's as if stuck in the mud. No, sirs, excuse me ; really I must beg to be let off!

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Then there's no one but you, Ammos Fyodorovich ! Why, every word you utter sounds like another Cicero talking !

JUDGE. What nonsense ! Cicero, indeed ! what an idea ! Just because one now and then spouts a little about house-dogs or blood-hounds !

ALL (surrounding him). No, not only about dogs, about the building of the Tower of Babel'[1] too. . . . No, Ammos Fyodorovich, don't desert us, be our father! . . . Don't desert us, Ammos Fyodorovich !

JUDGE. Release me, gentlemen ! (At this moment footsteps and expectorations are heard in KHLESTAKOV's room. All rush headlong to the door, jostling and struggling to get out. They squeeze and crush one another a good deal, and half-suppressed exclamations are heard.)

BOBCHINSKI's VOICE. Ugh! Pyotr Ivanovich, you've trod on my toe!

ZEMLYANIKA'S VOICE. I'm stifling, stifling ; give me room, only give me time to repent ! You're squeezing the life out of me !

(Other ejaculations of "Ahh ! " " Oohh ! " etc. At last they all get through, and the room is left empty.)

Scene II[edit]

KHLESTAKOV (coming out alone, with the look of a man who has overslept himself). I've had a proper snooze, it seems. Where did they get such mattresses and feather-beds from? I regularly perspired. . . . They must have plied me fairly well after lunch : my head aches yet. ... As far as I can see, I can pass the time here very comfortably. I like generosity and hospitality all the more if I think they've not got a deep game to play. . . . And the Governor's daughter's not at all bad; while her mother, well . . . No, I don't know, but this sort of life just suits me to a T.


Scene III[edit]

JUDGE (enters and stops still, soliloquising). Oh Lord ! oh Lord ! grant me success ! How my knees knock together ! (Aloud, drawing himself up and steadying himself with his sword.) I have the honour to present myself: County Court Judge of this district and College Assessor Lyapkin-Tyapkin !

KHLESTAKOV. Pray take a seat! So you are the judge here ?

JUDGE. I was elected judge for three years by the nobility and gentry in the year 1816, and have continued in the office ever since.

KHLESTAKOV. You find it profitable, I dare say, being a judge ?

JUDGE. After three periods of the three years I was decorated with the Vladimir of the Fourth Class, with commendation from the Government (Aside.) This money is regularly burning a hole through my hand !

KHLESTAKOV. Well, I like the Vladimir; it's better than the Anna of the Third Class, at any rate.

JUDGE (thrusting his clenched fist somewhat forward, aside). Oh, Lord God ! I don't know where I'm sitting! I feel as if I was on hot burning coals !

KHLESTAKOV. What have you got in your hand there ?

JUDGE (loses his head, and drops the bank-notes on the floor). No—othing, sir !

KHLESTAKOV. Nothing ? How's that ? Why, I see there's some money dropped !

JUDGE (shaking all over). I impos-sible, sir ! (Aside.) Oh Lord, now I'm before the judge ! They've brought the cart to take me to Siberia !

KHLESTAKOV (picks the notes up). Yes, so it is ; it's money !

JUDGE. Now, all is over! I'm lost! I'm lost !

KHLESTAKOV. I say, lend me this !

JUDGE (eagerly). If you wish, sir, if you wish with the greatest of pleasure ! (Aside.) Now, courage courage ! Aid me, Most Holy Mother !

KHLESTAKOV. I spent all my money on the road, you know, over one thing and another. . . . However, as soon as I get home I'll return it you.

JUDGE. Don't mention it ; it's quite unnecessary ! The honour of lending it you is enough. . . . Indeed, with my feeble powers, but with all zeal and loyalty to the Government ... I shall endeavour to deserve . . . (Rises and stands erect, hands down his sides.) I will not venture to disturb you further with my presence.[2] . . . Will there be any injunction ?

KHLESTAKOV. Injunction! What injunction ?

JUDGE. I mean, will you not give any injunction to the judge of this district?

KHLESTAKOV. Why should I ? I've no need for him at present ; no, thank you thanks very much !

JUDGE (bowing and going out, aside). Now the town is ours !

KHLESTAKOV (alone). H'm, the Judge is an excellent fellow !

Scene IV[edit]

(Enter the POSTMASTER in uniform, sword in hand.)

POSTMASTER. I have the honour to present myself: Postmaster and Court Councillor Shpyokin !

KHLESTAKOV. Ah, welcome ! I'm very fond of agreeable company ! Take a seat ! And so you live here always ?

POSTMASTER. Yes, sir, just so.

KHLESTAKOV. Well, I like this little town of yours. Cert'nly, there are not many people in it, but what of that ? it's not the capital. That's true, isn't it—it's not the capital ?

POSTMASTER. That's quite true, sir.

KHLESTAKOV. You see, it is only in the capital you get bon-ton and no country bumpkins. That's your opinion, isn't it ?

POSTMASTER. Exactly so, sir ! (Aside.) Well, he's not at all haughty—he talks about anything !

KHLESTAKOV. Still you admit you can live happily in a small town?

POSTMASTER. Precisely so, sir !

KHLESTAKOV. What does one want? In my opinion, all you want is that people should respect you, and sincerely like you—isn't that so?

POSTMASTER. Absolutely correct.

KHLESTAKOV. I must say I'm glad we are of the same mind. I dare say I'm called eccentric, but it's my nature. (Catches the other's eye, and speaks sotto voce.) I may as well borrow a trifle of this postmaster too. (Aloud.) A very odd thing has happened to me : I've spent my last coin on the way. Can you lend me three hundred roubles ?

POSTMASTER. Of course ! I shall count it a very great happiness. Here it is take it, sir, please delighted to oblige you !

KHLESTAKOV. Thanks, very much. You see, I've a mortal hatred of stinting myself when I'm travelling. Why should I ? Ain't I right ?

POSTMASTER. Quite right, sir ! (Rises and draws himself up, with his hand on his sword.) I will not venture to disturb you further with my presence. . . . Have you any observation to make with reference to the postal administration ?

KHLESTAKOV. No, nothing ! (The POSTMASTER bows and exit.)

KHLESTAKOV (lighting a cigar). The Postmaster, it seems to me, is also a very good fellow at least, he's ready to oblige ; that's the sort of people I like.

Scene V[edit]

(Enter LUKA LUKICH, unceremoniously propelled from behind. A voice in his rear is heard saying, almost aloud, " Go on, what are you afraid of ? ")

LUKA (saluting nervously, with his hand on his sword). I have the honour to present myself: Director of Schools and Honorary Councillor Khlopov !

KHLESTAKOV. Ah, how d'ye do ! Take a seat ! Take a seat ! Won't you have a weed ? (Offers him one.)

LUKA (aside, irresolutely). Good gracious now ! I never thought of that ! Shall I take it or not ?

KHLESTAKOV. Take it, take it ; it's of an excellent brand. To be sure, it's not a Petersburg one. I used to smoke cigars there, my good sir, that cost twenty-five roubles the hundred. Ah ! you'd lick your fingers after smoking them! Here's a match light up ! (Gives him a match. LUKA tries to smoke, shaking all over.) There, don't put that end in your mouth !

LUKA (throws the cigar down, spits, and gesticulates. Aside). Devil take it all ; my cursed nervousness spoils everything!

KHLESTAKOV. I see you're not very fond of cigars, but I own they're one of my weaknesses. Not the only one, though, I'm rather susceptible to the charms of the fair sex, too. What's your taste ? Do you prefer brunettes, or blondes ? (LUKA is completely dumfounded.)

KHLESTAKOV. No, out with it!—brunettes, or blondes !

LUKA. I daren't give an opinion.

KHLESTAKOV. No, no ; don't get out of it that way. I particularly want to know your taste.

LUKA. I will venture to say then . . . (Aside.) I don't know what I'm saying— my head's in a whirl !

KHLESTAK6V. Aha! Aha! So you won't commit yourself! I'm sure you're smitten with some little brunette or other ! Confess it now, you are! (LUKA is speechless.) Oho, you're blushing. Look, look ! Why won't you speak ?

LUKA. I'm too shy, your nob—excell—enity ! (Aside.) Confound my tongue, it's done for me, done for me !

KHLESTAKOV. Too shy— eh ? Well, there's a certain something in my look which inspires that feeling ; at least I know that not a woman can resist it, can they ?

LUKA. Certainly not, sir !

KHLESTAKOV. Now, there's a very funny thing happened to me : I've spent all I possess in coming here. You couldn't lend me three hundred roubles, could you ?

LUKA (aside, grabbing at his purse). What a case, if I haven't got them ! . . . Ah, I have, I have ! (Takes some notes out, and hands them, trembling, to KHLESTAKOV.)

KHLESTAKbv. I'm deeply indebted to you !

LUKA. I will not venture to disturb you further with my presence !

KHLESTAK6V. Good-bye, then !

LUKA (disappears hastily, remarking, aside:) There ! Thank Heaven ! Perhaps he won't visit the schools now!

Scene VI[edit]

(Enter the CHARITY COMMISSIONER, ARTEMI PHILIPOVICH. He draws himself up, like the others, in a military attitude of respectful attention, with his hand on his sword.)

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. I have the honour to present myself: Charity Commissioner and Court-Councillor Zemlyanika.

KHLESTAKOV. Zdrdavstvuitye[3] won't you take a seat ?

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. I had the honour of receiving and personally conducting you through the charitable institutions committed to my charge.

KHLESTAKOV. Ah, so you did, I remember. You gave me an excellent luncheon.

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. I am glad to labour in the service of my Fatherland.

KHLESTAK6V. It's my weakness—I confess it—I'm fond of good cookery. . . . But it seems as if you weren't so tall and erect yesterday, were you ?

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. It's very possible. (After a short silence.) I can only say that I spare no effort to perform my duty zealously. (Draws his chair a little closer and speaks in a lower tone.) There's this Postmaster here does absolutely nothing. Everything is in the greatest state of neglect : letters and packages are kept back . . . pray investigate the matter yourself. The Judge too, who was here just before me, does nothing but hunt hares, and keeps his dogs in the County Court buildings ; while his general conduct, if I must unburden my mind to you—certainly it's for my country's good that I have to do it, though he's my friend and connection—well, his conduct is most deplorable. There's a certain proprietor here, Dobchinski by name you have deigned to meet him and as soon as ever Dobchinski goes away anywhere, his wife and the Judge are having a tete-a-tete. I am ready to swear to it ... and the children, down to the youngest little girl, have a very strong likeness to the Judge—

KHLESTAKOV. Well, I declare ! I never should have thought it !

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Then there's the Director of Schools. I can't think how the Government could have appointed him. He's worse than a Jacobin,[4] and he poisons the minds of the young generation with revolutionary doctrines that simply baffle description. Hadn't I better put all this down on paper ?

KHLESTAK6V. Do, by all means ; I shall be very glad to have it ! I like to read something amusing when I'm bored. . . . By the way, what is your name ?[5] I keep forgetting !

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Zemlyanika.

KHLESTAK6V. Ah, of course—Zemlyanika. And tell me, please, have you any children ?

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. To be sure I have, sir, five of 'em ; two are now grown up.

KHLESTAK6V. You don't say so ; grown up ! And, now . . . what are their—?

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. I understand, you are pleased to ask what their names are ?

KHLESTAKOV. Yes, what are their names ?

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Nikolai, Ivan, Yelizaveta, Marya, and Perepetuya.[6]

KHLESTAKOV. Good, good !

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. As I will not venture to disturb you further with my presence, or take up the time which you consecrate to the performance of your duties . . . (Bows and prepares to leave.)

KHLESTAKOV (accompanying him out). Oh, don't mention it! All you've told me is very amusing. ... It's a great treat to me. . . . (Turns back, and reopens the door, calling after him.) Hi, there ! what are your ... I quite forget your Christian and paternal names !

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Artemi Phillopovich.

KHLESTAKOV. Oh, I beg your pardon, Artemi Philippovich, but an odd thing has happened to me I've cleaned myself out coming here. You haven't got four hundred roubles to lend me ?

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Yes, I have. (Gives it.)

KHLESTAKOV. Well, that is lucky! I thank you most sincerely !


Scene VII[edit]

(Enter BOBCHINSKI and DOBCHINSKI.)

BOBCHINSKI. I have the honour to present myself: Peter, son of Ivan Bobchinski, citizen of this town.

DOBCHINSKI. And I am Pyotr, son of Ivan Dobchinski, landed proprietor.

KHLESTAKOV. Ah, but I've met you before ! I think you had a fall then ? How is your nose now?

BOBCHINSKI. Slava Bohu ! Quite well, thank you ! Please don't trouble about it; it's healed now, quite healed up !

KHLESTAKOV. That's all right, I'm glad to hear it. ... (Suddenly.) You haven't got any money about you ?

DOBCHINSKI. Money ! What for ?

KHLESTAKOV. Lend me a thousand !

BOBCHINSKI. Good God ! I haven't got such a sum ! Haven't you, though, Pyotr Ivanovich ?

DOBCHINSKI. No more have I, sir ; because, if you care to know, all my money is deposited with the Board of Guardians.[7]

KHLESTAKOV. Well, then, if you haven't a thousand, say a hundred roubles.

BOBCHINSKI (rummaging in his pockets). Haven't you got a hundred, Dobchinski? I have only got forty in paper, altogether.

DOBCHINSKI. I've no more than twenty-five roubles.

BOBCHINSKI. Have another good look, then, Pyotr Ivanovich ! You've a hole in your right pocket, I know I dare say there's some dropped through.

DOBCHINSKI. No, there's nothing in the hole, I'm positive.

KHLESTAKOV. Never mind, then I'll do with that. Very well, let it be sixty-five roubles. . . . That's all right. (Takes the notes.)

DOBCHINSKI. I was going to presume to ask you a favour with reference to a very delicate question—

KHLESTAKOV. Well, what is it ?

DOBCHINSKI. It is a matter of a very delicate nature, sir : my eldest son, will you condescend to observe, was born a little before my marriage—

KHLESTAKOV. Hullo?

DOBCHINSKI. And so, if you please, I wish him to be quite my—well, legitimate son now, sir, and to be called Dobchinski, like me, sir.

KHLESTAKOV. All right, that's quite possible ; let him be called so.

DOBCHINSKI. I wouldn't trouble you, sir, only it was a pity, with all his capabilities. The boy really gives me the greatest hopes : he repeats whole poems by heart ; and if he finds a knife anywhere, he'll at once make a little toy droshky as neatly as a conjurer, sir. Here's Bobchinski will testify to that.

BOBCHINSKI. Yes, he has wonderful talents !

KHLESTAKOV. Very good, very good ! I'll do my best for him. . . . I'll speak about it. ... I hope to ... that shall all be arranged yes, yes! ... (Turns to BOBCHINSKI.) Haven't you something to ask me for ?

BOBCHINSKI. Yes, I have a very humble request to make.

KHLESTAKOV. Well then, what about?

BOBCHINSKI. I most respectfully beg of you, when you return to Petersburg, to tell all the different grandees there— the senators and admirals— that here, your Serenity— I mean, your Excellency— in this very town lives Peter Ivanovich Bobchinski, merely to say that : Peter Ivanovich Bobchinski lives here.

KHLESTAKOV. Very good !

BOBCHINSKI. And if the Emperor should get to hear of it, then will you say to the Emperor too : May it please your Imperial Majesty, that is the town where Peter Ivanovich Bobchinski lives.

KHLESTAKOV. Certainly !

DOBCHINSKI and BOBCHINSKI (together). Pardon us for troubling you so with our presence.

KHLESTAKOV. Don't mention it, don't mention it ! It's a great pleasure to me. (Conducts them out.)

Scene VIII[edit]

KHLESTAKOV (solus). There's a good many chinovniks here ! It seems to me, though, they take me for a Government official ! I certainly drew the long bow yesterday. . . . What a set of flats they are ! I must send an account of it all to Tryapichkin at Petersburg : he writes articles— he'll scribble off a fine description of them. Hi, Osip! bring me some ink and paper! (Osip looks in at the door and says, " Directly, sir ! ") But I must be careful with Tryapichkin—this may strike him as a good joke—he'll sell his own father for a jest,[8] and he won't refuse a chance of making money. Besides, these officials are a good sort of people : their lending me money is a decided point in their favour. I'll just see how much I've got. . . . There's three hundred from the Judge, and three hundred from the Postmaster. . . . Six, seven, eight hundred—what a greasy bit of paper—eight hundred, nine hundred. . . . Oho ! it totes up to more than a thousand. . . . Now then, my friend the captain, just let me catch you now—we'll see who'll be the winner !

Scene IX[edit]

(Enter OSIP, with inkstand and paper.)

KHLESTAKOV. Now, booby, you see how well they entertain me ! (Begins to write.)

OSIP. Yes, thank the Lord ! Only, do you know, Ivan Alexandrovich—?

KHLESTAKOV. Know what ?

OSIP. You ought to be starting ! Yei Bohu it's high time !

KHLESTAKOV (writing). What nonsense ! Why?

OSIP. I mean it. The Lord be with 'em all! You've been a-going it here for two days—really, it's quite enough ! Why hob-nob with 'em any longer ? Spit on 'em ! You don't know what may happen next—[9] somebody else may turn up. . . . Yei Bohu Ivan Alexandrovich ! And there's splendid 'orses here—they'd go like lightning !

KHLESTAKOV (writes). No, I'd like to stay on here a little longer. Tomorrow will do.

OSIP. Tomorrow ! Lord love us ! We must go, Ivan Alexandrovich ! If they make a lot of you just now, it's all the better reason for starting at once. You see, they've been and mistook you for somebody else ; and the guv'nor will be angry at your loitering here. . . . Those 'orses would go famous, I'll undertake—they'd give you real good 'uns here.

KHLESTAKOV (still writing). Very well then. Only take this letter first, please, and then get an order for post-horses and mind you see that they're good ones. Tell the post-boys I'll give them each a rouble for drink, if they drive like feldjagers[10] and sing their loudest. . . . (Continues writing.) There, I fancy Tryapichkin will die of laughing—

OSIP. I'll send it off, sir, by the man here. I'd better be packing up, so's not to lose time.

KHLESTAKOV. Very good, bring me a light, though !

OSIP (goes out, and speaks behind the scene). Hi there, mate ! You take a letter to the post, and tell the postmaster he's to frank it— and order them to bring round their very best courier's troika for my master at once ; and say that the barin don't pay any fare— he travels at the Government's expense, tell 'em. They're to look alive, or the barin will be furious. Stop, the letter ain't ready yet.

KHLESTAKOV (goes on with his letter). I should like to know where he's living now— whether it's the Pochtamtskaya or the Garokhavaya.[11] He likes to change his quarters pretty often, saves paying the rent. I'll make a shot at it, and address to the Pochtamtskaya. (Folds the letter up and addresses it.)

(OSIP brings the light. KHLESTAKOV seals the letter. At the same time DERZHIMORDA'S voice is heard exclaiming: " Where are you coming to, old stick-in-the-mud?[12] You've been told no one's to be let in.")

KHLESTAKOV (gives OSIP the letter). There, take it out !

MERCHANTS' VOICES. Let us in, batyushka, you can't prevent us : we've come on business !

DERZHIMORDA'S VOICE. Be off! Be off! He's not receiving any one ! He's asleep. (The noise increases.)

KHLESTAKOV. What's up there, Osip ? See what the row's about !

OSIP (looks through the window). Some tradesmen want to come in, and the police-officer won't let 'em. They're waving papers about— they want to see you, I'm sure.

KHLESTAKOV (going to the window). Well, what do you want, my friends ?

MERCHANTS' VOICES. We throw ourselves on your favour ! Give orders that your lordship will receive our petition.

KHLESTAKOV. Let them in, let them in ! Let them come ! Osip, tell them they're to come in. (Exit OSIP. KHLESTAKOV takes some petitions in through the window, turns them over, and reads.) "To his High Well-born Illustrious Financial Lordship from the Merchant Abdulin "... the devil knows what it's about ; and what a title, too !

Scene X[edit]

(Enter the MERCHANTS, with sugar-loaves and a basket of wine.)

KHLESTAKOV. Now, my friends, what is it ?

MERCHANTS. We implore your favour !

KHLESTAKOV. Well, say what you want !

MERCHANTS. Do not ruin us, your lordship ! we are grievously and unjustly oppressed !

KHLESTAKOV. By whom ?

ONE OF THE MERCHANTS. It's all by the Governor of this town. There never was such a governor, sir ! It is impossible to describe the outrages he commits. We're so ruined by constant billeting that we may as well hang ourselves ! He catches us by the beard, and says: "Ah, you dog of a Tartar !" My God ! If we don't pay him due respect . . . ! But we've always done our duty peaceably : we've never refused anything that his lady or his daughter might want for dress. But no, you see, that is not enough for him ; why, he comes into a shop, and anything he lights upon he collars the lot : he'll see a piece of cloth, and say: " Ah, my friend, that's a nice little piece of stuff; just carry it to my house !" So we have to take it, and the piece will be fifty arshins[13] or so in length.

KHLESTAKOV. Is it possible ? Akk, what a blackguard he is !

MERCHANTS. Yes, by God ! No one ever remembers such a governor. So we cover up everything in the shop when we see him coming along. And, let alone choice articles, he'll take any sort of rubbish : some prunes had been lying in the barrel for seven years, too bad for my shop-boy to eat— he stuffs a whole handful of them into his pocket. He says his name-day[14] is the feast of St. Anthony, and then you have to bring him all kinds of things he doesn't even want— that's no matter, you've got to keep on bringing them ; and more, he says St Onufri's Day is another name-day of his, so there's nothing to be done but come with your contributions on that day too.

KHLESTAKOV. Why, he's nothing more nor less than a brigand !

MERCHANT. That's true ! But try to thwart him, and he'll quarter a whole regiment of soldiers in your house. And if we have the doors barred in his face, he says: "I will not submit you to corporal punishment or torture, as that is forbidden by the law; but, my dear, I will make you swallow red herrings."[15]

KHLESTAKOV. What a thorough-paced villain ! He ought to be sent straight to Siberia for that!

MERCHANT. Yes, if you by your favour will only remove him, all will be well, provided only he does not stay in our neighbourhood. Do not, our father, despise our bread-and-salt;[16] we pay our respects to you with this sugar-loaf and this basket of wine!

KHLESTAKOV. No, don't you imagine that; I never accept bribes. But if you offered me a loan of, say, three hundred roubles, that would be quite another matter. I could take that.

MERCHANTS. Take it then, our father. (They produce the money.) But what is three hundred—better have five hundred ; only help us !

KHLESTAKOV. If you wish it— it's a loan— I'll not say a word ! . . . I'll take it !

MERCHANTS (offering the money on a silver tray). Please accept the tray also !

KHLESTAKOV. Well, I may perhaps take the tray.

MERCHANTS (bowing). Then take the sugar-loaf as well !

KHLESTAKOV. Oh, no ! I never accept any kind of bribes

OSIP. Your High Nobility! Why won't you have it ! Take it— it will come in very useful on the journey ! . . . Give me the sugar-loaves and the packing-case— it'll all do. What's that? Cord ? Let's have the cord as well— the cord will be handy on the road : the carriage'll get damaged, or something or other— it'll do to tie it up with !

MERCHANTS. Show us this favour then, your Excellency. If you refuse to aid us in our prayer, we don't know what will happen—we may as well go and hang ourselves !

KHLESTAKOV. Most undoubtedly I will, undoubtedly ! I'll do my best !

(The MERCHANTS take their leave. A woman's voice is heard without: " No, you daren't stop me ! I'll complain to him of you ! Don't you push me so roughly ! ")

KHLESTAKOV. Who's there? (Goes to the window.) Well, what's the matter, matushka?

VOICES OF TWO WOMEN. Take pity on us, father ! Say that your worship will listen to us !

KHLESTAKOV (at the window). Let them come in.

Scene XI[edit]

(Enter the LOCKSMITH'S WIFE and the SERGEANT'S WIFE.)

LOCKSMITH'S WIFE (bowing to the ground). Have pity on me !

SERGEANT'S WIFE. Have pity on me too !

KHLESTAKOV. Who are you, women ?

SERGEANT'S WIFE. I am the sergeant Ivanov's wife.

LOCKSMITH'S WIFE. I live here, my father ; I'm the locksmith's wife, Fevronya Pyetrova Pashlyopkina

KHLESTAKOV. Stop, one of you speak at a time—what do you want?

LOCKSMITH'S WIFE. Have mercy on me—I beg for vengeance on the Governor ! May the Lord curse him with every kind of curse, so that neither the villain himself, nor his children, nor his uncles, nor his aunts, may ever prosper in anything they undertake !

KHLESTAKOV. But why ?

LOCKSMITH'S WIFE. Why, wretch that he is ! he's ordered my husband to shave his forehead[17] as a recruit, and the lot didn't fall on us, and it's against the law, for he's married !

KHLESTAKOV. How then could he do it ?

LOCKSMITH'S WIFE. He has done it, though, the villain ; he's done it ! May God blast him in this world and the next ! And his aunt, if he has an aunt—may every sort of evil blight her—may his father, if he's alive, may he rot to death, the scoundrel, and may he choke for ever for his villainy ! They ought to have taken the tailor's drunken son, but the parents gave him a big present; so he sneaked off for the son of Panteleyeva the merchant's wife, but Panteleyeva privately sent her ladyship three pieces of linen, so he pitches on me. " What do you want a husband for? " he says; " he's no use to you." Well, I'm the person to know whether he's any use or not! "Then," he says, "your husband is a thief—if he hasn't stolen already, he will do so ; it's all the same, and so they shall take him next year for a soldier." And how shall I do without my husband? Blackguard! may none of your family ever come to see the blessed light of God ! may your mother-in-law, if you have a mother-in-law—

KHLESTAKOV. There, there ! that will do ! (Motions the old woman out.) Now what have you to say ? (To the other.)

LOCKSMITH'S WIFE (going out). Don't forget me, my father !

SERGEANT'S WIFE. I have come to beg for justice against the Governor!

KHLESTAKOV. Well, well, what is it? Cut it short !

SERGEANT'S WIFE. He has flogged me, little father !

KHLESTAKOV. How?

SERGEANT'S WIFE. By mistake, my father ! Our old women were quarrelling in the market, and the police came up and took and caught and reported me—and I couldn't sit down for two days after it !

KHLESTAKOV. What's to be done now, then ?

SERGEANT'S WIFE. To be sure, that can't be altered. But command him to pay compensation for the mistake. I must bear my lot without complaining—but a little money would be very acceptable now !

KHLESTAKOV. Kharasho, kharasho ![18] You can go now—be off—I'll see to it. (Hands with petitions are thrust in through the window.) What! any more of 'em there? (Goes to the window.) No, no, I can't attend to you it's impossible, impossible! (Going out.) What a nuisance they are, devil take 'em ! Don't let 'em in, Osip !

OSIP (calls out of the window). Go away, go away, there's no time now—come to-morrow !

(The door opens, and a figure appears in a frieze great-coat with unkempt beard, swollen lips, and head bound up ; others are seen behind him in the background.)

OSIP. Be off with you, be off! Where are you a-coming to?

(He pushes his fists into the first man's stomach, shoves him into the passage, and goes out himself, shutting the door.)

Scene XII[edit]

(Enter MARYA ANTONOVNA.) MARYA. A—kh !

KHLESTAKOV. Why are you so frightened, mademoiselle?

MARYA. Oh no ! I was not frightened.

KHLESTAKOV (showing off). Pardon me, sudarinya, if I say that it is very agreeable to me to think you have taken me for one who . . . May I venture to inquire where you thought of going?

MARYA. Really, I was going nowhere.

KHLESTAKOV. Might I ask, then, why you were going nowhere ?

MARYA. I wondered if mamma were here—

KHLESTAKOV. No ; but I should really like to know why you were going nowhere ?

MARYA. Oh, I'm disturbing you. You were engaged on important business !

KHLESTAKOV (with a lady-killing air). But a glance from your eyes is better than any important business ! . . . You could never disturb me—that's quite impossible ; on the contrary, you afford me the very greatest pleasure !

MARYA. Ah, you compliment as they do in the capital !

KHLESTAK6v. A charming lady like you should only be so addressed ! May I dare to be so happy as to offer you a chair ? But no ! you should have a throne, not a chair !

MARYA. Indeed, I do not know. ... I ought to be going. (Takes a seat.)

KHLESTAKOV. What a beautiful scarf you have !

MARYA. You are making fun of me—you're only laughing at countrified people !

KHLESTAKOV. How I should long, mademoiselle, to be that scarf, so as to clasp your lily neck !

MARYA. I don't in the least understand what you mean. . . . What singular weather we are having to-day !

KHLESTAKOV. Your little lips, though, sudarinya, are worth all the weather in the world !

MARYA. You only say that because you . . . I was going to ask you to write some verses in my album as a souvenir. You know a good many, of course.

KHLESTAKOV. For you, mademoiselle, I will do anything you wish. Say the word, what verses will you have ?

MARYA. Oh, anything—so long as they're good and new !

KHLESTAKOV. Let me see—verses ! I know a lot of them !

MARYA. Well, will you tell me what you are going to write ?

KHLESTAKOV. Why should I repeat them ? I know them without that !

MARYA. I'm so fond of poetry. . . .

KHLESTAKOV. Yes, and I know a quantity of all sorts. Would you like this, say, "O thou, mortal man, who vainly in thine anguish murmurest against God."[19] . . . Or there's others , . . I can't just remember 'em now—they're all of no account. Instead, I offer you my love, which ever since your first glance . . . (Moves his chair closer.)

MARYA. Love ? I don't understand what love is ! ... I've never known what love is like . . . (Moves her chair away.)

KHLESTAKOV. But why do you move your chair away ? We had much better sit close to each other !

MARYA (moves it still further). Why close ? We're just as well apart !

KHLESTAKOV (moves his chair up). Why apart ? We're just as well close together !

MARYA. But why do you do that ?

KHLESTAKOV (edging nearer). I only seem near you—fancy that I'm far away !

MARYA (looks out of the window). Ah ! what was that, seemed to fly past ? Was it a magpie, or what ?

KHLESTAKOV (kisses her on the shoulder, and looks at the window). Yes, that was a magpie !

MARYA (rises indignantly). No, that's too much. . . . What rudeness !

KHLESTAKOV (holding her back). Forgive me, mademoiselle—I did it for love, only for love of you !

MARYA. And so you think I'm a country hoyden. . . . (Struggles to free herself.)

KHLESTAKOV (still holding her). It was for love, really, for love! ... I was only joking, Marya Antonovna, don't be angry ! I'm ready to beg your pardon on my knees ! (Falls on his knees.} Do forgive me, forgive me ! You see, you see, I'm on my knees !

Scene XIII[edit]

(Enter ANNA ANDRYEVNA.)

ANNA (sees KHLESTAKOV kneeling). Akh, what a situation ! !

KHLESTAKOV (rising). Oh, confound it !

ANNA (to her daughter). Well, miss, what's the meaning of this behaviour ?

MARYA. Mamma dear, I—

ANNA. Be off from here : d'you hear me, be off, I say ! And don't dare to show your face to me again ! (MARYA goes out in tears.) Excuse me, sir, but, I confess, I was so astonished at these proceedings . . .

KHLESTAKOV (aside). But she isn't bad-looking, either. (Throws himself at her feet.) Sudarinya, you see, I burn with love !

ANNA What's this, you on your knees ? Oh, get up, sir, get up ! The floor is quite dirty here !

KHLESTAKOV. No, on my knees—indeed, on my knees, I wish to know my fate—life or death !

ANNA. But allow me, sir ; I don't quite comprehend the meaning of your words. If I am not mistaken, you were making a proposal to my daughter !

KHLESTAKOV. No, I'm in love with you! My life hangs on a thread ! If you will not crown my constant love, then I am unfit for earthly existence ! With a flame at my heart, I ask for your hand !

ANNA. But permit me to mention that I am, so to speak . . . well, I am married !

KHLESTAKOV. What matter? Love knows no difference ! Has not Karamzin said : " The laws may condemn. . . ."[20] We will fly under the canopy of heaven ! Your hand—I crave your hand—

Scene XIV[edit]

(MARYA ANTONOVNA suddenly runs in.)

MARYA. Mamma dear, papa says, will you . . . (Sees KHLESTAKOV on his knees, and shrieks.) Akh, what a situation ! !

ANNA. What is it, then? What do you want? What have you come for? What do you mean by this flightiness ? Bursting in all of a sudden, like a cat in a fit ![21] ... Well, what have you seen that's so surprising ? What's got into your head, then ? Why, really, you act like a three-year-old child—not like, not in the least like, what one would expect from a girl of eighteen ! I wonder when you will get more sensible, and behave as a well-brought-up young lady should, and learn good manners and steadiness of conduct !

MARYA (through her tears). Really, mamma dear, I didn't know—

ANNA. Oh, your head's always empty[22] you copy Lyapkin-Tyapkin's daughters. What do you want to follow them for—you've no business to take them as your pattern. You have other examples, miss, before you—your own mother ! That's the model you ought to imitate !

KHLESTAKOV (seizing MARYA's hand). Anna Andreyevna, do not oppose our happiness, but give your blessing to a constant love !

ANNA (astounded). So it's her you're—

KHLESTAKOV. Decide my fate ! is it life or death ? !

ANNA (recovering, to MARYA). There, now' you see, minx, now you see—it was all on your account, you baggage, that our guest was pleased to fall on his knees; and then you suddenly blunder in, as if you had taken leave of your senses. It would have served you quite right if I had refused—you're not worthy of such good fortune.

MARYA. I won't do it any more, mamma ; I'll never do so again—


Scene XV[edit]

(Enter the GOVERNOR, breathlessly.)

GOVERNOR. I will never do so again, your Excellency ! Don't ruin me—don't ruin me !

KHLESTAKOV. Why, what's the matter ?

GOVERNOR. The merchants have been here, complaining to your Excellency. ... I swear, on my honour, not half of what they say is true. They cheat and rob the people themselves. The sergeant's wife lied when she told you I flogged her—it's false, yei Bohu, it's false. Why, she flogged herself !

KHLESTAKOV. The sergeant's wife may go to the devil—I'm not going to bother about her!

GOVERNOR. Don't believe 'em—don't believe em ! they're such liars . . . not a child will trust 'em even ! The whole town knows they're liars, and as for cheating, I'll go so far as to say the world has never bred such a gang !

ANNA. But do you know the honour Ivan Alexandrovich has conferred on us? He has asked for our daughter's hand !

GOVERNOR. What? what? . . . You're mad, matushka. . . . Don't be offended, your Excellency ; but she's a little wrong in the head sometimes—she takes after her mother.

KHLESTAKOV. But I do really ask for her hand ! I'm deeply in love !

GOVERNOR. I can't believe it, your Excellency— !

ANNA. Not when he tells you so ?

KHLESTAKOV. I'm not joking . . . I'm madly in love with her !

GOVERNOR. I daren't believe it ; I'm not worthy of such an honour !

KHLESTAKOV. If you refuse me Marya Antonovna's hand, the devil knows what I'm not ready for!

GOVERNOR. I can't believe you—you are pleased to be jesting, Excellency !

ANNA. Oh, what a blockhead you are, to be sure ! How many times are you to be told ?

GOVERNOR. No, no—it's incredible !

KHLESTAKOV. Give me your consent, give me your consent ! I'm a desperate man—capable of anything ! If I blow my brains out, you will be held responsible.

GOVERNOR. Oh, my God ! I am innocent, body and soul ! Don't take offence, I beg ! Please do what your honour thinks fit! My head's in such a whirl now ... I can't realise what's going on. . . . I've become a regular tom-fool such as I never was before !

ANNA. There now, give them your blessing !

(KHLESTAKOV and MARYA approach him.)

GOVERNOR. May the Lord bless you—but I am innocent of it ! (KHLESTAKOV kisses MARYA. The GOVERNOR stares at them, and at last realises that it is not all a plot.) What? what the devil ! They're really . . . ! (Rubs his eyes.) So they are, they're kissing each other ; they, actually are—just as if they were engaged ! Aha ! Oho! What a stroke of luck! Well, I'm blest !!

Scene XVI[edit]

(Enter OSIP.)

OSIP. The horses are ready !

KHLESTAKOV. All right—I'll come directly !

GOVERNOR. Are you then going away ?

KHLESTAKOV. Yes, I'm starting.

GOVERNOR. But just when—that is to say . . . you condescended to hint at a marriage, I thought !

KHLESTAKOV. I have to leave, though, at a minute's notice; but I'm only going for a day to see my uncle—he's a wealthy old boy—and I'll be back again to-morrow !

GOVERNOR. We won't venture to detain you then—we'll only hope for your safe return !

KHLESTAKOV. Thanks, thanks ; I'll come back directly! (To MARYA.) Good-bye, my love! . . . No, I can't bear to say it! Fare-well, darling. (Kisses her hand.)

GOVERNOR. Will you want anything for your journey ? You were good enough, I think, to say you were short of funds ?

KHLESTAKOV. Oh no, it doesn't matter. . . . (Reflects a little) Well ... all the same . . . since you are so kind —

GOVERNOR. How much do you want ?

KHLESTAK6V. Well, you know, you have lent me two hundred—that's to say, it wasn't two hundred, but four—I don't want to profit by your mistake—so, if you like to lend me as much again, that will make it a round sum, just eight hundred.

GOVERNOR. You shall have it at once! (Takes the notes out of his purse.) There, as if on purpose, there's some brand new notes !

KHLESTAKOV. Ah, so they are ! (Takes the notes and examines them.)} That's fine ! They say new bank-notes mean good luck, don't they ?

GOVERNOR. So they do, sir ; exactly so !

KHLESTAKOV. Well, good-bye, Anton Antonovich ! I'm deeply grateful to you for your hospitality—I've never been so well treated as here. Goodbye, Anna Andreyevna ! Farewell, Marya Antonovna, my darling !

(They go off, and their voices are heard behind the scenes.)

KHLESTAKOV. Farewell, Marya Antonovna, angel of my soul !

GOVERNOR. Oh, how's this ? You're going to ride in a post-carriage?[23]

KHLESTAKOV. Yes, it's a way I have. Springs give me a headache.

DRIVER. Tprr. . . . Whoa then !

GOVERNOR. Have something then laid there ; a rug, say. Won't you let me tell them to get you one ?

KHLESTAKOV. Oh no, why? It's needless—still, if you like, let's have the rug !

GOVERNOR. Here, Avdotya, run to the cupboard and get out the very best rug, the Persian one with the blue ground—make haste !

DRIVER. Tprrr—

GOVERNOR. How long are we to wait for your return ?

KHLESTAKOV. Oh, tomorrow, or the day after !

OSIP. Ah, is that the rug? Let's have it here—lay it so! And now put some hay this side !

DRIVER. Whoa then, whoa—

OSIP. Here, on this side ! This way ! More, that's right ! That'll do famous ! (Pats the rug with his hand.) Now you can take your seat, your honour !

KHLESTAKOV. Goodbye, Anton Antonovich !

GOVERNOR. Goodbye, your Excellency !

WOMEN'S VOICES. Goodbye, Ivan Alexandrovich !

KHLESTAKOV. Goodbye, mamenka !

DRIVER. Gee-up, my beauties! (Bell tinkles ; the curtain falls.)

notes[edit]

  1. A discussion where all are talking at the same time, and nobody is listening to any one else, is called stolpotvorenie, or "building the Tower of Babel." But here the allusion is to the Judge's scepticism.
  2. 1 Readers of the play in the original will notice that the identical formula, nye smyeyu boleye bezpakoit svayim prisrulstviem, is used in this and the three following scenes ; I therefore employ the same set of words in the translation.
  3. "How do you do ? "literally, "Be in good health," the usual Russian salutation.
  4. Referring to the Jacobins of the French Revolution.
  5. Kak vasha familya literally, what is your family, i.e., surname. Further on, he asks for his imya and otchestvo, his Christian name and his patronymic.
  6. Slavonic form of Perpetua.
  7. Local bodies, which used to act as Savings Banks, with State security, before the re-organisation of the Imperial Bank.
  8. Russian proverb.
  9. Nye roven chas—literally, one hour is unlike (another).
  10. Imperial couriers, who have precedence at the post-stations.
  11. Two of the great thoroughfares of St. Petersburg. The word ulitsa (street) is understood after their names, which mean Post Office and Peas Street respectively.
  12. Barada—literally, "beard."
  13. Nearly 39 yards.
  14. A Russian does not celebrate his birthday, but his imyenini, or the feast of his patron saint, on whose day, and after whom, he was christened. Hence an orthodox Russian can only be called after one of the saints of the Greek Calendar.
  15. To produce excessive thirst. This indirect form of torture was employed, to extort confession, by the secret police of the notorious "Third Section" of the Imperial Chancellery.
  16. The khlyeb-sol is a token of hospitality and good-will.
  17. The shaving of the forehead was formerly practised in order to prevent desertion. The phrase now means merely "to enlist."
  18. Good.
  19. oti, shio v goresti naprasno na Bogha ropshchesh, chelavyek a hackneyed quotation from an Ode on the Book of Job, by Lomonosov, the earliest Russian poet (1711-1765).
  20. Quoted from some verses in the romance, Bornholm Island by Karamzin, the great Russian historian (1766-1826).
  21. Ugoryelaya—literally, suffocated.
  22. Skvaznoi vyeter razgulivayet—literally, a draught blows through (your head).
  23. Na perekladnoi—literally, " with relays of horses," and a hired sledge or springless tarantas.