The Inspector-General/Act I

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

SCENE: A room in the Governors house.

Scene I.[edit]


GOVERNOR. I have called you together, gentlemen, to receive a very unpleasant piece of news: there's an Inspector-General coming.


GOVERNOR. Yes, an Inspector from Petersburg, incognito. With secret instructions, too.

JUDGE. Well, I declare!

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. We've escaped hitherto, so now it's our turn!

LUKA LUKICH (the School Director). Good Lord! with secret instructions!

GOVERNOR. I had a sort of presentiment of it: all last night I dreamt about a pair of monstrous rats. Upon my word, I never saw the like of 'em—so black and enormous. They came, and snuffed about, and vanished... Here's a letter which I will read you from Andrei Ivanovich Chmikov. You know him, Artemi Philippovich (to the CHARITY COMMISSIONER). This is what he says: "My dear friend, my comrade and benefactor... (He mutters over quickly the first few sentences.) ...and to let you know" — Ah ! that's it — "I hasten to let you know, amongst other things, that an official has been sent with instructions to inspect the whole province, and your district especially. (Lifts his finger significantly.) That he is coming I know from very reliable sources, but he pretends to be a private person. So, as you have your little faults, you know, like everybody else (you're a sensible man, and don't let your little perquisites slip through your fingers) . . ." (Stopping.) H'm, that's after a manner of speaking. ..." I advise you to take precautions, for he may come any hour if he has not already done so, and is staying somewhere incognito. . . . Yesterday . . ." Oh, then come family matters. " My cousin,[1] Anna Kirillovna, paid us a visit, with her husband ; Ivan Kirillovich has got very fat, and is always playing the fiddle . . ." etcetera, etcetera. Now, here's a pretty business !

JUDGE. Yes, extraordinary, simply extraordinary. There must be some reason for it.

LUKA. But why, Anton Antonovich,[2] why is it ? Why should we have an Inspector?

GOVERNOR (sighing). Oh, it's fate, I suppose ! (Sighs again.) Till now, thank goodness, they've pried into other towns; but now our time has come.

JUDGE. It's my opinion, Anton Antonovich, that it's a deep political move, and it means—let me see that—Russia . . . yes, that's it ... Russia wants to make war, and the Government has surreptitiously sent an official to see if there's any disaffection anywhere.

GOVERNOR. Ah, you've got it! you know a thing or two ! The idea of treason in an inland town ! As if it lay on the frontier ! Why, from here you may gallop for three years before you reach a foreign country.

JUDGE. No, I'll tell you how it is—you don't understand—the Government looks very closely into matters ; it may be far away, yet it observes everything—.

GOVERNOR (cutting him short). It may or it may not—anyhow, gentlemen, I have warned you. I have made some arrangements on my own behalf, and I advise you to do the same. You especially, Artemi Philoppovich ! (to the CHARITY COMMISSIONER.) Without doubt, this chinovnik will want first of all to inspect your hospital ; and so you had better see that everything is in order ; that the night-caps are clean, and that the sick persons don't go about as they usually do—looking like blacksmiths.

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Oh, that's all right. They shall have clean night-caps, if you like.

GOVERNOR. And you might write up over each bed, in Latin or some other lingo—that's your business, Christian Ivanovich (to the DOCTOR)—the name of each complaint, when the patient got ill, the day of the week and month . . . and I don't like your invalids smoking such strong tobacco ; it makes you choke when you come in. It would be better too if there weren't so many of them ; otherwise it will be at once ascribed to bad supervision or unskilful doctoring.

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Oh, Christian Ivanovich and I have settled all about the doctoring ; the nearer we get to nature the better : we don't go in for costly medicines. A man is a simple affair—if he dies, he dies ; if he gets well, why, then he gets well. And it wouldn't be easy for the sick people and Christian to understand one another ; he doesn't know a word of Russian. (The DOCTOR grunts unintelligibly.)

GOVERNOR. Also I would recommend you, Ammos Fyodorovich—(to the JUDGE)—to turn your attention to the court-house buildings. There's the ante-chamber, where the petitioners usually wait ; you've let the attendants breed geese there, and the goslings go poking their beaks amongst people's legs. Of course, rearing geese is a laudable object, and there's no reason why an usher should not do so; only, you see, the County Court is not exactly the place for it. ... I intended to mention it before, but it somehow quite escaped my memory.

JUDGE. Well, I'll tell them to take 'em all into the kitchen to-day. Will you come to dinner?

GOVERNOR (not noticing). Besides that, it doesn't do for the court chamber to get so full of rubbish of all sorts : why, there was a sporting whip lying among the papers on your very desk. I know you're fond of sport, but there is a proper time and place for everything—when the Inspector is gone you can put it back again. Then your assessor . . . he's certainly a learned man, but he reeks of spirits, as if he had just come out of a distillery; that also is undesirable. I meant to tell you of this some while ago, but something or other put it out of my head. There are ways of remedying it, if it is really, as he says, a natural failing : you can recommend him to eat onions or garlic, or something of the sort. Christian Ivanovich can help him there with some of his nostrums. (The DOCTOR grunts as before.)

JUDGE. No, it's quite impossible to get rid of it ; he says his nurse knocked him down when he was a child, and ever since he has smelt of vodka.

GOVERNOR. Well, I just reminded you of it. As regards the local administration, and what Andrei Ivanovich is pleased to call one's "little faults" in his letter, I don't understand what he means. Why, of course, there isn't a man living who has not some peccadilloes to account for : Heaven made him so—let freethinkers say what they like.

JUDGE. What do you mean by peccadilloes, Anton Antonovich ? There are peccadilloes and peccadilloes. I tell every one plainly that I take bribes, but what kind of bribes? Why, greyhound puppies. That's a totally different matter.

GOVERNOR. H'm, whether they're puppies or anything else, they're all bribes alike.

JUDGE. No, indeed, Anton Antonovich. But suppose, for example, one receives a cloak worth five hundred roubles,[3] or your good lady receives a shawl . . .

GOVERNOR (testily). Yes ; but what has that got to do with your being bribed with puppy greyhounds? Besides, you're an atheist; you never go to church ; while I, at least, am a firm believer, and attend service every Sunday. Whereas you—oh, I know you ; when I hear you talking about the Creation my hair simply stands on end.

JUDGE. What of that? I have reasoned it all out with my own unaided intellect.

GOVERNOR. Anyhow, too much knowledge is worse than none at all. . . , However, I only made a remark about the County Court, and I daresay nobody will ever look at it ; there's an odour of sanctity about the place. But you, Luka Lukich, as Director of Educational Establishments, ought to have an eye on the teachers. They're very clever people, no doubt, and are blessed with a college education ; but they have very funny habits—inseparable from their profession, I suppose. One of them, for instance, the fat-faced man—I forget his name—can't get along without screwing up his phiz like this (imitates him) when he's got into his chair ; and then he sets to work clawing his neck-tie and scratching his chin. It doesn't matter, of course, if he makes a face at a pupil—perhaps it's even necessary—I'm no judge of that ; but you yourselves will admit, that if he grimaces at a visitor, it may leave a very bad impression. The honourable Inspector, or any one else, might take it as meant for himself—and then the deuce knows what might come of it.

LUKA. What can I do with him, I ask ? I have told him of it time after time. Only the other day, when our head-master came into class, your friend made such a face at him as I had never seen before. I daresay it was with the best intentions, but people come complaining to me about radical notions being instilled into the juvenile mind.

GOVERNOR. And then you should look to the master of the history class. He has a learned head, that is evident, and has picked up any amount of knowledge ; but he lectures with such ardour that he quite forgets himself. I once listened to him. As long as he was holding forth about the Assyrians and Babylonians, it was all right ; but when he got on Alexander of Macedon, I can't describe his behaviour. Good heavens, I thought, there's a fire ! He jumped out of his chair, and smashed a stool on the ground with all his might ! Alexander of Macedon was a hero, we all know, but that's no reason for breaking the furniture ; besides, the State has to pay for the damages.

LUKA. Yes, he is fiery ! 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 frightful grimaces that you have to carry out the saints.[4]

LUKA. Ah, Heaven save us from being schoolmasters ! You're afraid of everything ; everybody meddles with you, and wants to show you that he's as learned as you are.

GOVERNOR. Oh, all that's nothing ; it's this cursed incognito ! All of a sudden he'll look in : "Ah, so you're here, my friends ! And who's the judge here?" he'll say." Lyapkin-Tyapkin."[5] "Well, bring Lyapkin-Tyapkin here, then !" " And who is the Charity Commissioner ?" "Zemlyanfka."[6] "Call Zemlyanfka, too!" There'll be a pretty kettle of fish !

Scene II[edit]

(Enter the POSTMASTER.) POSTMASTER. Tell me, gentlemen, who's coming ? What sort of chinovnik ?

GOVERNOR. What, haven't you heard ?

POSTMASTER. I heard something from Bobchinski ; he was just now with me at the postoffice.

GOVERNOR. Well, what do you think about it?

POSTMASTER. What do I think about it? Why, there'll be a war with the Turks.

JUDGE. Exactly; that's just what I thought!

GOVERNOR. Well, you're both wide of the mark.[7]

POSTMASTER. It'll be with the Turks, I'm sure. It's all the Frenchman's doing.[8]

GOVERNOR. Pooh ! War with the Turks, indeed ! It's we who are going to get into trouble, not the Turks. That's quite certain. I've a letter to say so.

POSTMASTER. Oh, then we shan't go to war with the Turks.

GOVERNOR. Well, how do you feel, Ivan Kuzmich? (To the POSTMASTER.)

POSTMASTER. How do I feel ? How do you, Anton Antonovich ?

GOVERNOR. I ? Well, I'm no coward, but I am just a little uncomfortable. The shopkeepers and townspeople bother me. It seems I'm unpopular with them ; but, the Lord knows, if I've blackmailed anybody, I've done it without a trace of ill-feeling. I even think —(button-holes him, and takes him aside)—I even think there will be some sort of complaint drawn up against me. . . . Why should we have a revizor at all ? . . . Look here, Ivan Kuzmich, don't you think you could just slightly open every letter which comes in and goes out of your office, and read it (for the public benefit, you know), to see if it contains any kind of information against me, or only ordinary correspondence? If it is all right, you can seal it up again ; or simply deliver the letter opened.

POSTMASTER. Oh, I know that game. . . . Don't teach me that! I do it from pure curiosity, not as a precaution ; I'm death on knowing what's going on in the world. And they're very interesting to read, I can tell you ! Now and then you come across a love-letter, with bits of beautiful language, and so edifying . . . much better than the Moscow News !

GOVERNOR. Tell me, then, have you read anything about any chinovnik from Petersburg ?

POSTMASTER. No, nothing about any one from Petersburg, but plenty about the Kostroma and Saratov[9] people. It's a pity you don't read the letters. There's some very fine passages in them. For instance, not long ago a lieutenant writes to a friend, describing a ball in first-rate style—splendid ! " Dear friend," he says, "I live in Elysium ; heaps of girls, music playing, flags flying," . . . quite a glowing description, quite ! I've kept it by me, on purpose. Would you like to read it ?

GOVERNOR. Thanks ; there's no time now. But oblige me, Ivan Kuzmich—if ever you chance upon a complaint or a denouncement, keep it back, without the slightest compunction.

POSTMASTER. I will, with the greatest pleasure.

JUDGE (who has overheard a little). You had better mind; you'll get into trouble over that some time or other.

POSTMASTER (innocently). Eh ? The saints[10] forbid !

GOVERNOR. It was nothing—nothing. It would be different if it concerned you or the public—but it was a private affair, I assure you !

JUDGE. H'm, some mischief was brewing, I know ! . . . But I was going to say, Anton Antonovich, that I had got a puppy to make you a present of—own sister to the dog you know about. I daresay you've heard that Cheptovich and Varkhovinski have gone to law with one another; so now I live in clover—I hunt hares first on one's estate, and then on the other's.

GOVERNOR. I don't care about your hares now, my good friend; I've got that cursed incognito on the brain ! I expect the door to be opened, and all of a sudden. . . .

Scene III[edit]

(Enter BOBCHINSKl and DOBCHINSKl, out of breath.)

BOBCHINSKI. What an extraordinary occurrence !

DOBCHINSKI An unexpected piece of news !

ALL. What is it—what is it ?

DOBCHINSKI. Something quite unforeseen ; we go into the inn—

BOBCHINSKI (interrupting). Yes, Pyotr[11] Ivanovich. and I go into the inn—

DOBCHINSKI (takes him up) All right, Peter Ivanovich, let me tell it !

BOBCHINSKI. No, no, allow me—allow me. . . . You haven't got the knack—

DOBCHINSKl. Oh, but you'll get mixed up and forget it all.

BOBCHINSKI. Oh, no, I shan't—good heavens, no ! There, don't interrupt me—do let me tell the news—don't interrupt ! Pray oblige me, gentlemen, and tell Dobchinski not to interrupt.

GOVERNOR. Well, say on, for God's sake, what is it? My heart is in my mouth! Sit down, sirs; take seats! Pyotr Ivanovich, here's a chair for you! (They all sit round BOBCHINSKI and DOBCHINSKI.) Well now, what is it, what is it ?

BOBCHINSKI. Permit me—permit me ; I can relate it properly. . . . H'm, as soon as I had the pleasure of taking my leave after you were good enough to be bothered with the letter which you had received, sir—yes, then I ran out—now please don't keep on taking me up, Dobchinski ; I know all about it, all, I tell you, sir.—So, as you'll kindly take notice, I ran out to see Karobkin. But not finding Karobkin at home, I went off to Rastakovski, and not seeing him, I went, you see, to Ivan Kuzmich,[12] to tell him of the news you'd got; yes, and going on from there I met Dobchinski—

DOBCHINSKI (breaking in). By the stall, where they sell tartlets—

BOBCHINSKI. —by the stall, where they sell tartlets. Well, I meet Dobchinski and say to him, "Have you heard the news that Anton Antonovich has got ? — the letter may be depended on ! " But Peter Ivanovich had already heard of it from your housekeeper, Avdotya,[13] who, I don't know why, had been sent to Philip Antonovich Pachechuyev—

DOBCHINSKI (interrupting). With a bottle for some French brandy.

BOBCHINSKI. —yes, with a bottle for some French brandy. Then I went with Dobchinski to Pachechuyev's—will you stop, Peter Ivanovich—there, do have done with your interfering!—So off we go to Pachechuyev's, and on our way Dobchinski says, "Let's go," says he, " to the inn. I've eaten nothing since morning . . . there's such a rumbling in my inner man" . . . Yes, sir, in Peter Ivanovich's internals. " But they've got some fresh salmon in the inn," he says ; " so we can have a snack." We hadn't been in the public-house a moment, when in comes a young man—

DOBCHINSKI (as before). Rather good-looking and well-dressed.[14]

BOBCHINSKI. —yes, rather good-looking and well-dressed—and walks into the room, with such an expression on his face—such a physiognomy—and style so distinguished a head-piece (moves his hand round his forehead). I had a kind of presentiment, and I say to Dobchinski, " There's something up here, sir ! " Yes—and Dobchinski beckoned, and called up the landlord, Vlas,[15] the inn-keeper, you know—three weeks ago his wife presented him with a baby—such a fine, forward boy—he'll grow up just like his father, and keep a public-house. Well, we called up Vlas, and Dobchinski asks him quite privately, "Who," says he, "is that young man ? " And Vlas replies, " That," says he—oh, don't interrupt me so, Peter Ivanovich, please; good Lord ! you can't tell the story, you can't tell it—you don't speak plainly, with only one tooth in your head, and a lisp.—"That young man," says he, " is a chinovnik,"—yes, sir—" who is on his way from Petersburg, and his name," says he, " is Ivan Alexandrovich Khlestakov, sir, and he's off," says he, "to the government of Saratov," says he, "and his goings-on are very peculiar—he's stayed here over a fortnight, he doesn't leave the house, he takes everything on account, and doesn't pay a kopek When he told me that, I felt illuminated from above, and I said to Peter Ivanovich, Hey ! "—

DOBCHINSKi. No, Pyotr Ivanovich, I said " Hey ! "

BOBCHINSKI. Well, first you said it, and then I did. " Hey ! " said both of us, " and why does he stay here, when he's bound for Saratov ? " Yes, sir, that chinovnik is HE !

GOVERNOR. Who—what chinovnik ?

BOBCHINSKI. Why, the chinovnik of whom you were pleased to get the notification—the Revizor.

GOVERNOR (in a panic). Great God ! what do you say ? It can't be he !

DOBCHINSKI. It is, though ! Why, he pays no money, and he doesn't go. Who else could it be ? And his padarozhnaya[16] is made out for Saratov.

BOBCHINSKI. It's he, it's he, good God,[17] it's he ! ... Why, he's so observant ; he noticed everything. He saw that Dobchinski and I were eating salmon—all on account of Dobchinski's inside . . . and he looked at our plates like this (imitates). I was in an awful fright.

GOVERNOR. Lord, have mercy upon sinners like us ! Where is he staying now, then ?

DOBCHINSKI. In room No. 5, first floor.

BOBCHINSKI. In the same room where the officers quarrelled last year on their way through.

GOVERNOR. How long has he been here?

DOBCHINSKI. A fortnight or more. He came on St. Vasili's Day.[18]

GOVERNOR. A fortnight! (Aside.) Holy Fathers and Saints, preserve me! In that fortnight the sergeant's wife was flogged ! No provisions given to the prisoners ! Dram-shops and dirt in the streets ! Shameful—scandalous ! (Tears his hair.)

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. What do you think, Anton Antonovich—had we better go to the inn in gala uniform ?

JUDGE. No, no ! First send the Mayor, then the clergy and the tradespeople ; it's all in the book, The Acts of John the Freemason[19] . . .

GOVERNOR. No no ! Leave it to me ! I've had ticklish jobs before now, and I've managed 'em all right, and even been thankful for them. Maybe, the Lord will help us out this time as well. (Turns to BOBCHINSKl.) You say he's a young man ?

BOBCHINSKI Yes, about twenty-three or four at the outside.

GOVERNOR. So much the better—it's easier to ferret anything out. It's the devil, if you've got an old bird to deal with ; but a young man's all on the surface. You, gentlemen, had better get your departments in order, while I'll go by myself, or with Dobchinski here, and have a private stroll round, to see that travellers are treated with due consideration. Here, Svistunov! (to one of the Police- Officers.)


GOVERNOR. Go at once to the Police Superintendent ; or no—I shall want you. Tell somebody to send him as quick as possible to me, and then come back here. (SVISTUNOV runs out at full speed.)

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Let us go, let us go, Ammos Fyodorovich. Some mischief may happen, I do believe.

JUDGE. What's there for you to be afraid of? Give the sick clean nightcaps, and the thing's done!

CHARITY COMMISSIONER. Nightcaps—bosh! The sick were ordered to have oatmeal porridge. Instead of that, there's such a smell of cabbages in all my corridors that you're obliged to hold your nose.

JUDGE. Well, my mind's at ease on that score. As to the County Court, who'll visit that ? Supposing he does look at any of the papers, he'll wish he'd left it alone. Why, I've been sitting fifteen years on the bench—and do I ever look at a charge-sheet ? No, thank you ! Solomon himself couldn't make head or tail of 'em!

(The JUDGE, CHARITY COMMISSIONER, SCHOOL INSPECTOR, and POSTMASTER go out, and bump violently up against the POLICE-OFFICER in the doorway as the latter returns.)

Scene IV[edit]


GOVERNOR. Well, is the droshky ready ?


GOVERNOR. Go into the street ... or no, stop ! ... go and bring . . . Why, where are the others ? How is it you are alone ? Didn't I give orders for Prokhorov to be here ? Where's Prokhorov ?

SVISTUNOV. Prokhorov's in the police-office, and can't be employed on duty just now.

GOVERNOR. How's that ?

SVISTUNOV. Well—they brought him back this morning dead drunk. They've soused his head in water, but he's not got sober yet.

GOVERNOR (tearing his hair). Akh, Bozhe moi, Bozhe moi[20] . . . Go out into the street, quick !—or no ! run to my room, sharp, d'ye hear ? and fetch my new hat and sword. Now, Peter Ivanovich (to DOBCHINSKI), let us be off!

BOBCHINSKI And me—me too! ... Let me come too, Anton Antonovich !

GOVERNOR. No, no, Bobchinski, it's impossible! Three's no company, you know, and we couldn't find room in the droshky either.

BOBCHINSKI. Oh, that doesn't matter; I'll manage it—I'll trot behind the droshky on foot—on foot—on foot! I only just want to peep through a chink, so, to see what his ways are like. . . .

GOVERNOR (turning to the POLICE-OFFICER and taking the sword). Run directly and get the constables together—let 'em each take a ... there, see how this sword has got rusted ! It's that dog of a trader, Abdulin—he sees the Governor's sword's worn out, and he doesn't provide me with a new one ! Oh, the scurvy set of tricksters! And I'll bet the scoundrels have got their petitions against me ready under their coat-tails ! . . . Let each of 'em take hold of a street . . . d—n ! I don't mean a street—a broom . . . and sweep the whole of the street that leads to the inn, and sweep it clean, mind ! . . . Do you hear ? And just look here—I know you, my friend ; I know your little ways : you worm your way in[21] there, and walk off with silver spoons in your boots—just you, look out, I have a quick ear. . . . What have you been up to with the merchant Chornyaiev, eh? He gave you two yards[22] of cloth for your uniform, and you stole the whole piece. Take care ! Don't you rob more than your station warrants ! Be off!

Scene V[edit]


GOVERNOR. Hullo, Stepan Ilyich, where to goodness have you been hiding yourself? What kind of behaviour do you call that ?

SUPERINTENDENT. I was only beyond the door for a moment.

GOVERNOR. Well, listen, Stepan Ilyich ! There's a chinovnik come from Petersburg. What arrangements have you made ?

SUPERINTENDENT. Exactly as you ordered. I have sent the Kvartalni,[23] Pugovitsin, with the constables to clean up the streets.

GOVERNOR. But where's Derzhimorda ?

SUPERINTENDENT. He's gone off with the fire-engine.

GOVERNOR. And Prokhorov's drunk ?


GOVERNOR. How is it you allowed that ?

SUPERINTENDENT. The Lord only knows ! Yesterday there was a row outside the town—he went there to stop it, and was brought back drunk.

GOVERNOR. Well, hear me, then—this is what you are to do : the police-lieutenant—he is tall, so he's to stand on the bridge—that will give a good effect. Then the old fence, near the boot-maker's, must be pulled down at once and scattered about, and a post stuck up with a wisp of straw, so as to look like building operations. The more litter there is the more it will show the Governor's zeal and activity. . . . Good God ! though, I forgot that about forty cart-loads of rubbish have been shot behind that fence. What a dirty town this is ! No matter where you put a monument, or even a paling, they collect all kinds of rubbish from the devil knows where, and upset it there ! . . . And if the newly-come chinovnik asks any of the officials if they are contented, they're to say : " Perfectly, your Honour ; " and if anybody is not contented, I'll give him something afterwards to be discontented about. , . . (Heaves a sigh.) Ah-h-h! I'm a sinner—a terrible sinner! (Takes the hat-box instead of his hat.) Heaven only grant that I may soon get quit of the matter, and then I'll give such a taper for a thank-offering as has never been given before ! -I'll levy three puds[24] of wax from every merchant for it! Akh Bozhe moi, Bozhe moil Let's be going, Peter Ivanovich ! (Tries to put the hat-box on his head instead of the hat.)

SUPERINTENDENT. Anton Antonovich, that's the hat-box, not your hat !

GOVERNOR (throwing the box down}. D—n it ! so it is ! ... And if he asks why the hospital chapel has not been built, for which the money was voted five years ago, they must mind and say that it began to be built, but got burnt down. Why, I drew up a report about it. But of course some idiot is sure to forget, and let out that the building was never even begun. . . . And tell Derzhimorda that he's not to give such free play to his fists ; guilty or innocent, he makes them all see stars, in the cause of public order. . . . Come on, come on, Dobchinski. (Goes out and returns.) And the soldiers are not to be allowed in the streets with next to nothing on : that scoundrelly garrison only put their tunics on over their shirts, with nothing at all below. (All go out.)

Scene VI[edit]

(ANNA ANDREYEVNA and MARYA ANTONOVNA rush on the scene.)

ANNA. Where are they, where are they? Akh Bozhe moi! . . (Opening the door.) Husband ! Antosha ! Anton ! (Hurriedly, to MARYA.) And it's all your fault !—dawdling, and saying, " I want a pin—I want a handkerchief." (Runs up to the window and shouts.) Anton, where are you, where are you ? Has he come—eh? the Inspector? Has he got a moustache ? What's it like ?

VOICE OF THE GOVERNOR. Wait a bit, ma'am,[25] wait a little !

ANNA. Wait? What an idea! Wait, forsooth ! . . . Not a bit of it ! I only want one word—is he a colonel, or what is he, eh ? ( With disgust.) There ! he's gone ! I won't forgive him for that ! . . . And you kept saying, " Mamma dear, do stop a moment while I pin back my scarf; I'll come directly." Directly, indeed, drat you ! It's all through you we've missed the news ! It's all your abominable vanity. You heard the Postmaster was here, and so you must needs mince before the looking-glass and strike all sorts of attitudes. You fancy he's smitten with you; but I can tell you, miss, he simply makes a face at you as soon as your back is turned.

MARYA. But what's to be done then, mamma? It's all right ; we shall know all about him in an hour or two.

ANNA. An hour or two, forsooth ! Much obliged to you, I'm sure ! A pretty answer to give me ! Why didn't you say—we shall know more in a month! . . . (She leans out of the window.) Here, Avdotya! I say! . . . Have you heard whether anybody's come, Avdotya ? . . . No? you booby—no? Well, you should have asked! Oh, you can't find out anything with your head full of lovers and flim-flams! . . . Eh, what? They went off in a hurry? Well, you should have run after the droshky ! Be off at once, d'you hear? run and ask everybody where they are—ask nicely, and find out what he's like—do you hear me ? Peep through the key-hole and find out all about it—what sort of eyes he's got—see if they're black or not, and be back here at once this minute, d'you understand ? Quick, quick, quick ! (She keeps on shouting, and they both stand at the window until the curtain drops.)


  1. In the original it is sestra (sister), for dvoyurodnaya sestra (first cousin). The sister of the writer, who is Andrei Ivanovich, would, according to Russian custom, have the patronymic Ivanovna, not Kirillovna.
  2. It is polite in Russian to address every one by his or her paternal, as well as Christian, name.
  3. The par value of the "metallic" rouble of 100 kopeks is 35s. 2d. The paper or credit rouble, which has a forced currency, varies considerably according to the rate of exchange. It has been as low as 9d. in value.
  4. To avoid shocking them. An ikon or picture of the patron saint is placed in the krasni tigol (beautiful, or sacred corner) of rooms or shops in Russia.
  5. His surname.
  6. His surname.
  7. Literally, you both hit the sky.
  8. At the period of the play the Russians and French were bitter enemies.
  9. Kostromd is a town and "government" in Great Russia, N.E. of Moscow. Saratov is in S.E. Russia. Both towns are on the Volga.
  10. Batyushki, little fathers.
  11. They both have the same imya and otchestvo (Christian and paternal names), but I have given one the Russian and the other the English form, for the sake of distinction.
  12. Shpyokin, the Postmaster.
  13. Popular form of Eudoxia.
  14. v partikuylyarnom platye, in town or morning dress, as opposed to mundir, uniform.
  15. Blaise.
  16. The posting system was well organised in the Russian Empire before the introduction of railways. A padarozhnaya, or order for relays of post-horses, could be obtained before starting at an average inclusive cost for a troika (team of three horses) of about 2d. per mile. The traveller could then post at his leisure and convenience between any two stations in the empire, from Poland to the Pacific.
  17. Yei bohu, an asseveration which is much more used than its equivalent is in English.
  18. St. Vasili of Egypt, whose day is kept on February 28th, Old Style (March 12th, New Style), by the Orthodox Church. The Russian lower classes generally reckon by saints' days instead of by the date of the month.
  19. The Freemasons are considered to be a dangerous society, and, as such, are suppressed in Russia. The freethinking Judge alludes to a forbidden book.
  20. Oh, my God
  21. Literally, you become a kum or sponsor i.e., you get intimate.
  22. Two arshins. An arshin is 28 inches.
  23. Inspector of a ward.
  24. A pud = 40 Russian lbs. = 36 lbs. Avoirdupois.
  25. Matushka literally, little mother or good wife.