Scene.—A room in the Governor's house. The Governor,
a coarse and ill-educated official, and several
functionaries of the town.
Governor (addressing the functionaries): I have bad
news. An inspector-general is coming from St. Petersburg.
You must see that your various departments are
set in order. The hospital must be tidied up and the
patients must be provided with nice white night-caps.
The school-teachers must coach up the scholars in their
[Enter Bobchinski and Dobchinski breathlessly.
Bobchinski: What an extraordinary incident!
Dobchinski: A startling announcement!
All: What is it? What is it?
Bobchinski: I will tell you correctly. After you had
received the letter from St. Petersburg, I ran out to tell
the postmaster what it had announced. On the way
Dobchinski pressed me to go into the inn for refreshment.
Into the restaurant came an elegant young man with a
fashionable aspect. The landlord told us he was an
official on his way from Petersburg to Saratov, and that
he is acting strangely, for he has been here more than a
fortnight, and pays for nothing.
Governor: Good lord! Surely it cannot be he!
Been here a fortnight? May heaven help us. You, sirs,
get all your departments in proper trim. In the meantime
I will take a stroll round the town, and satisfy myself
that travellers are treated with due respect.
The governor orders the police to see that the street leading
to the inn is well swept. He threatens to punish severely any
of the townspeople who shall dare to bring complaints of any
kind to the visiting official.
Scene.—A small room in the inn. Osip lying on his
Osip: Devil take it! I am famishing. It is two
months since we left St. Petersburg. This master of
mine has squandered all his money on the way, and here
we are penniless. The old man sends his son money, but
he goes on the racket with it till all is spent, and then he
has to pawn his clothes almost to the last rag. And now
this landlord declares he will let us have nothing more to
eat unless we pay in advance. Ah, there's the knock.
[He gets off the bed. Khelstakov enters.
Khelstakov: Go down and ask for something to eat.
Osip: No. The landlord will not let us have it. He
says we are swindlers, and he threatens to have you put
Khelstakov: Go to the devil! Call the landlord.
(Osip goes.) How fearfully hungry I am. And I was
cheated at cards and cleaned right out at Penza by that
infantry captain. What a miserable little town this is.
They give no credit at the provision shops.
Waiter: The landlord asks what you want.
Khelstakov: Please bring my dinner at once. I
must be busy directly I have dined.
The waiter replies that the landlord refuses to supply anything
more, and seems likely to complain to the governor. But
presently dinner is brought in. To Khlestakov's great consternation
Osip announces that the governor has come and is
asking for him.
Khelstakov: What? The landlord has reported me!
I'll put on an aristocratic air, and ask him how he
Governor, entering in trepidation and saluting humbly, astonishes
him by profuse offers of hospitality and entertainment,
though when at first mention is made of taking him to other
quarters, the guest in horror ejaculates that he supposes the
gaol is meant, and he asks what right the governor has to hint
at such a thing.
Khelstakov (indignantly): How dare you? I—I—I
am a government official at St. Petersburg. I—I—I——
Governor (aside): Good heavens, what a rage he is
in! He knows everything. Those confounded merchants
have told him all.
Banging the table, Khelstakov declares he will not go to the
gaol, but will complain to the Minister of the Interior; and the
governor, trembling and terrified, pleads that he has a wife and
little children, and begs that he may not be ruined. The ridiculous
misunderstanding on both sides grows more confused every
minute. The governor pours forth the most abject apologies;
declares that if the people accuse him of oppression and extortion,
and even of flogging women, they are a slandering mob.
Khelstakov: What have I to do with your enemies or
the women you have flogged? Don't attempt to flog me.
Now, look here, I will pay this landlord's account, but
just now I have not the money. That is why I am staying
Governor (aside): Sly rogue, trying to mystify me!
(Aloud) If you really are short of money, I am ready
to serve you at once.
The visitor says that he will in that case borrow 200 roubles,
and the money is readily handed over; in fact, the governor
quietly slips in 200 extra roubles. The governor, convinced that
the inspector-general is simply determined to keep up his incognito,
resolves to act accordingly, and to tell falsehoods appropriate
for mutual deception. He invites the guest to visit
Various institutions, and a round is made.
Scene.—A room in the Governor's house. Governor,
Khelstakov, and other functionaries.
Khelstakov: Fine establishments! In other towns
they showed me nothing.
Governor: In other towns I venture to say that the
officials think most about their own profit; here we only
aim at winning the approbation of the government.
Khelstakov: That lunch was very good! The fish
was delicious! Where was it that we lunched? Was it
not at the hospital? I saw the beds, but there were not
many patients. Have the sick recovered?
Governor: Yes. Since I became governor they all
get well like flies, not so much by doctoring as by honesty
and regularity. Thank God, everything goes satisfactorily
here! Another governor would undoubtedly look
after his own advantage; but, believe me, when I lie down
to sleep, my prayer is, "O Thou my Lord, may the government
perceive my zeal and be satisfied." So I have
an easy conscience.
Khelstakov: Are there any clubs here where a game
at cards could be had?
Governor: God forbid! Here such a thing as a card-club
is never heard of. I am disgusted at the sight of a
card, and never dealt one in my life. Once to amuse the
children I built a house of cards, and had accursed dreams
Luka (aside): But the villain cheated me yesterday
out of a hundred roubles!
Introduced to the governor's wife and daughter, Khlestakov
addresses them in the manner of a gallant from the metropolis,
and chatters boastfully of his influence, his position, and his
connections. His house is the first in St. Petersburg. Meantime,
the various functionaries meet in the house of the governor
to concert measures for propitiating this great courtier. They
resolve to present him with a substantial token of regard. With
great trepidation they wait on him.
Judge (entering very nervously): I have the honour
to present myself. I have been judge here since 1816,
and have been decorated with the Vladimir of the Fourth
Khelstakov: What have you there in your hand?
Judge (in bewilderment drops banknotes on the floor):
Khelstakov: How nothing? I see some money has
Judge (trembling and aside): O heaven, I am already
before the tribunal, and they have brought the cart to take
me into exile.
Khelstakov picks up the notes, and asks that the money may
be lent him, as he has spent all his cash on the journey. He
promises to return it as soon as he reaches home, but the judge
protests that the honour of lending it is enough, and he begs
that there shall be no injunction against him.
Next to present himself is the postmaster, in full uniform,
sword in hand. After a little conversation with this functionary,
Khlestakov thinks he may just as well borrow of him also, and
he forthwith mentions that a singular thing has happened to
him, for he has lost all his money on the way, and would be
glad to be obliged with the loan of three hundred roubles. It
is instantly counted out with alacrity, and the postmaster hastily
retires. Also, in a very nervous state, Luka, the School Director,
the Charity Commissioner, Bobchinski and Dobchinski, come to
pay their homage, and Khlestakov borrows easily from each in
Khelstakov (alone): There are many officials here;
it seems to me, however, that they take me for a government
functionary. What fools! I must write about it
all to Tryapitchkin at Petersburg; he will write sketches
of it in the papers. Here, Osip, bring me paper and ink!
I will just see how much money I have got. Oh, more
than a thousand!
While he is writing a letter Osip interrupts him with earnest
assurances that it will be prudent to depart speedily from the
town; for people have been mistaking him for somebody else,
and awkward complications may ensue. It is really time to go.
There are splendid horses here, and these can be secured for
the journey. Khlestakov consents, tells Osip to take the letter
to the post, and to obtain good posthorses. Suddenly some
merchants present themselves with petitions, bringing with them
gifts of sugar-loaves and wine. They pour forth bitter complaints
against the governor. They accuse him of constant and
outrageous extortion. They beg Khlestakov to secure his deposition
from office. When they offer the sugar-loaves and the
wine, Khlestakov protests that he cannot accept bribes, but if
they would offer him a loan of three hundred roubles that would
be another matter. They do so and go out.
[Enter Marya nervously.
Khelstakov: Why are you so frightened?
Marya: No; I am not frightened. I thought mamma
might be here. I am disturbing you in your important
Khelstakov: But your eyes are more attractive than
Marya: You are talking in St. Petersburg style.
Khelstakov: May I venture to be so happy as to
offer you a chair? But no; you should be offered a
throne, not a chair! I offer you my love, which ever
since your first glance——
Marya: Love! I do not understand love!
He kisses her on the shoulder, and, when she rises angrily
to go, falls on his knees. At that moment her mother enters.
With a show of indignation she orders Marya away.
Khelstakov (kneeling at her feet): Madame, you
see I burn with love.
Anna Andreyevna: But permit me, I do not quite
comprehend you. If I am not mistaken, you were making
a proposal to my daughter?
Khelstakov: No; I am in love with you.
Anna Andreyevna: But I am married!
Khelstakov: That is nothing. Let us flee under the
canopy of heaven. I crave your hand!
Marya enters, and seeing Khlestakov on his knees, shrieks.
The mother scolds her for her bad manners, and declares that
he was, after all, asking for the daughter's hand. Then enters
the governor. He breathlessly begins to bewail the base, lying
conduct of the merchants who have been slandering him, and
swears he is innocent of oppressing anybody.
To his profound amazement, Anna informs her husband that
the great man has honoured them by asking for their daughter's
hand. On recovering from his amazement, he sees the couple
kissing, and gives them his blessing. Osip enters at this juncture
to say the horses are ready, and Khlestakov informs the governor
that he is only off to visit for a day a rich uncle. He
will quickly return. He presently rides off after affectionate
farewell expressions on both sides.
Scene.—As before. The Governor, Anna Andreyevna,
and Marya. A police-officer enters.
Governor (addressing the policeman): Ivan Karpovitch,
summon the merchants here, brother. Complaining
of me, indeed! Cursed lot of Jews! Little turtle
doves! Ascertain who brought petitions; and take care
to let them know how heaven has honoured the governor.
His daughter is going to marry a man without an equal
in the world; who can achieve everything, everything,
everything. Let everybody know! Shout it out to everybody!
Ring the bells! Devil take it; now that at length
I triumph, triumph I will!
The police-officer retires. The governor and Anna indulge in
roseate prospects of their coming prosperity. Of course they
will not stay in these mean surroundings, but will remove to
St. Petersburg. Suddenly the merchants enter. The governor
receives them with the utmost indignation, assails them with
a shower of vituperation. They abjectly entreat pardon. They
promise to make amends by sending very handsome presents,
and they are enjoined not to forget to do so. The wedding
gifts are to be worthy of the occasion. The merchants retire
crestfallen, and callers stream in with profuse congratulations.
Anna, with studied haughtiness, makes them fully understand
that the family will now be far above them all. All the people
secretly express to each other their hatred and contempt for the
governor and his family.
Postmaster (breathlessly entering with an open letter
in his hand): An astonishing fact, gentlemen! The
official which we took for an inspector-general is not one!
I have discovered this from a letter which he wrote and
which I saw was addressed "Post Office Street." So, as
I said to myself that he had been reporting to the authorities
something he had found wrong in the postal department,
I felt a supernatural impulse constraining me to
open the letter.
Governor: You dared to open the letter of so powerful
Postmaster: That is just the joke; that he is neither
powerful nor a personage. I will read the letter.
(Reads) "I hasten to inform you, my dear Tryapitchkin,
of my experiences. I was cleared out of everything
on the way by an infantry captain, so that an innkeeper
wanted to put me in prison; when, owing to my Petersburg
appearance and dress, the whole town suddenly took
me for the governor-general. So now I am living with
the governor, enjoy myself, and flirt with his wife and
daughter. These people all lend me as much money as
ever I please. The governor is as stupid as a grey gelding.
The postmaster is a tippler. The charity commissioner
is a pig in a skull-cap."
Governor: I am crushed—crushed—completely
crushed. Catch him!
Postmaster: How can we catch him? I, as if purposely,
specially ordered for him the very best post-carriage
and three horses.
Governor: What an old fool I am! I have been thirty
years in the service; not a tradesman nor contractor could
cheat me; rogues upon rogues have I outwitted; three
governors-general have I deceived!
Anna Andreyevna: But this cannot be, Antosha.
He is engaged to Mashenka.
Governor (enraged): Engaged! Rubbish! Look,
look; all the world, all Christendom, all of you look how
the governor is fooled! Fool, fool; old driveller that I
am! (Shakes his fist at himself) Ah, you fat-nose!
Taking a rag for a man of rank! And now he is jingling
his bells along the road. Who first said he was an inspector-general?
[All point to Bobchinski and Dobchinski, who fall to
accusing each other. A gendarme enters.
Gendarme: The inspector-general sent by imperial
command has arrived, and requires you to attend him
immediately. He awaits you at the inn.
[Thunderstruck at this announcement, the whole group
remained as if petrified, and the curtain falls.