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The Inspector General
By Nikolai Gogol
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1961 President and Fellows of Harvard College
All rights reserved.
A room in the house of the CHIEF OF POLICE
CHIEF OF POLICE, SUPERVISOR OF CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, JUDGE, POLICE CAPTAIN, DISTRICT PHYSICIAN, and two SERGEANTS OF POLICE
CHIEF OF POLICE: I have invited you here, gentlemen, in order to communicate to you a most unpleasant piece of news: a government inspector is coming to visit us.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: What, an inspector?
ARTEMY FILIPPOVICH: What, an inspector?
CHIEF OF POLICE: An inspector from Petersburg, incognito. And furthermore, with secret instructions.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: Well, I declare!
ARTEMY FILIPPOVICH: As if we didn't have troubles enough already!
LUKA LUKICH: Oh, my God, and with secret instructions too!
CHIEF OF POLICE: I had a sort of presentiment. All last night I kept dreaming about two most extraordinary rats. Honest, I've never seen any like them: black, and awfully big. They came, sniffled about, and went away again. And now I'm going to read you a letter that I've received from Andrey Ivanovich Chmykhov, whom you know, Artemy Filippovich. Here's what he writes: "My dear friend, godfather, and benefactor," (He mutters in an undertone, rapidly glancing over the letter.) ... "and to inform you." Ah, here it is! "I hasten to inform you, by the way, that an official has arrived with instructions to inspect the whole province and especially our district. (Raising his fingers significantly.) I have found this out from most reliable people, although he is representing himself as a private individual. Knowing as I do that you, like everybody else, are liable to your little failings, because you're a smart chap and don't like to miss anything that fairly swims into your hands ..." (After a pause.) Well, this is a friendly party.... "I advise you to take precautions, because he may arrive at any moment, if he hasn't already, and isn't living somewhere around now, incognito.... Yesterday I ..." Well, next there's some family matters: "Cousin Anna Kirilovna has come to see us with her husband; Ivan Kirilovich has grown very stout, and he plays on the fiddle all the time ..." and so forth, and so on. Now there's a fix for you!
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: Yes, and such an unusual fix; absolutely extraordinary! There's something up.
LUKA LUKICH: But why on earth, Anton Antonovich; what's this for? Why send an inspector here?
CHIEF OF POLICE: What for? Evidently it's fate. (Sighing.) Up to this time, thanks be to God, they've poked into other people's business; but now it's our turn.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: I think, Anton Antonovich, that in this case it's for a subtle and more political reason. Here's what it means: Russia ... yes ... Russia's going to war; and the ministry, you see, has sent the official to find out if there's any treason brewing.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Where do you get that stuff? Aren't you the smart man! Treason in a provincial town! Is this a frontier town? Why, you can gallop away from here for three years without reaching a foreign country.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: No, I tell you, you don't understand ... you don't ... The authorities have subtle ideas: even if it is a long distance, they aren't taking any chances.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Whether they are or not, gentlemen, I've warned you. See here: I've made, for my part, some kind of arrangements, and I advise you to do the same. Especially you, Artemy Filippovich! No doubt the passing official will want first of all to inspect the charitable institutions belonging to your department, and therefore you'd better see that everything's in decent shape: the nightcaps had better be clean, and the patients had better not look like blacksmiths, as they usually do, in their little home circle.
ARTEMY FILIPPOVICH: Come, that's all right. They can put on clean nightcaps if you want.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Yes. And also above each bed write up in Latin or some such language—here, that's your job, Christian Ivanovich—the name of each disease, when the person was taken ill, and the day of the week and month.... And it's a bad thing that your patients smoke such strong tobacco that a fellow always begins to sneeze as soon as he goes in. Yes, and it would be better if there were fewer of 'em: people will attribute it right off to bad supervision or to the doctor's lack of skill.
ARTEMY FILIPPOVICH: Oh, so far as the doctoring goes, Christian Ivanovich and I have taken our measures: the closer you get to nature, the better; we don't use expensive medicines. Man's a simple creature: if he's going to die, he dies; if he's going to get well, he gets well. And besides it would be hard for Christian Ivanovich to consult with them: he doesn't know a word of Russian.
(CHRISTIAN IVANOVICH utters a sound somewhat like the letter "e" and a little like "a.")
CHIEF OF POLICE: I'd also advise you, Ammos Fedorovich, to pay some attention to the courthouse. There in the hall where the petitioners usually appear, the janitors have started raising domestic geese and goslings, and they all duck under your feet as you walk. Of course it's praiseworthy for every man to look after his domestic enterprises, and why shouldn't a janitor? Only in such a place, you know, it's hardly suitable.... I meant to bring that to your attention before, but somehow I forgot it.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: Well, I'll order them all taken away to my kitchen this very day. Come to dinner if you want to.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Besides that it's a bad thing that you have all kinds of rubbish drying up right in the court room, and a hunter's whip right over the cupboard where the documents are kept. I know that you like hunting, but all the same you'd better remove it for a while; and then, when the government inspector has gone away, you can hang it up there again. And your assessor likewise ... of course, he's a well-informed man, but he smells exactly as if he'd just come out of a distillery—and that's no good either. I've been going to speak to you about that for some time back; but I was distracted, I don't remember how. There's a remedy against that smell, if, as he says, it's actually natural to him: he can be advised to eat onions or garlic or something else. In that case Christian Ivanovich might help out with some drugs.
(CHRISTIAN IVANOVICH utters the same sound.)
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: No, it's impossible to drive it out. He says that in his childhood his nurse bumped him and that since that time he smells a little of vodka.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, I only brought it to your notice. So far as internal arrangements go and what Andrey Ivanovich calls in his letter little failings, I can't say anything, and it would be queer to talk about them, for there's no man who hasn't some weaknesses or other. Why, God himself has fixed it like that, and the Voltairians make a great mistake to say anything to the contrary.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: And what do you presume to call failings, Anton Antonovich? There are sins and sins. I tell everybody openly that I take bribes—but what kind of bribes? Wolfhound puppies. That's absolutely another matter.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, puppies or anything else—it's bribes, all the same.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: Indeed not, Anton Antonovich. Here, for instance, if a man accepts a fur coat worth five hundred rubles, or a shawl for his wife ...
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, and what if you do accept only wolfhound puppies as bribes? To make up for it, you don't believe in God; you never go to church; but I am at least firm in the faith, and I go to church every Sunday. But you ... Oh, I know you: if you begin to talk about the creation of the world, my hair simply stands on end.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: But you see I reasoned it out for myself, with my own intellect.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, in some cases it's worse to have too much intellect than to have none at all. However, I merely wanted to mention the district court; but to tell the truth, I doubt that any one will ever take a peep at it; it's such an enviable place, God Himself must protect it. Now, as for you, Luka Lukich, as supervisor of educational institutions, you'd better take special care of the teachers. Of course they're learned people, educated in various colleges; but they have very strange ways, naturally inseparable from their learned calling. One of them, for instance, the one with the fat face ... I don't remember his name ... when he gets on the platform can't do without making faces, like this (making a grimace) and then begins to iron out his beard with his hand, from under his cravat. Of course, when he pulls a snout like that at one of the pupils, it doesn't matter much, and it may even be necessary for all I can say; but judge for yourself if he should do it to a visitor—that would be awful: the government inspector or whoever it was might consider it personal, and the devil knows what might come of it.
LUKA LUKICH: Surely, but what can I do with him? I've spoken to him about it several times already. Here, just a few days ago, when our marshal of nobility happened to drop in on the class, he cut such a mug as I've never seen before. Of course he did it with the best heart in the world, but I got called down: "Why," says they, "are our young people being exposed to the contagion of freethinking?"
CHIEF OF POLICE: I ought also to mention your history teacher. His head's full of learning, that's evident, and he's picked up information by the ton; only he gets so hot in his explanations that there's no understanding him. I once listened to him: well, while he was talking about the Assyrians and the Babylonians, it was all right; but when he got as far as Alexander of Macedon I can't tell you what came over him. Damme if I didn't think there was a fire! He ran down from the platform, and banged a chair against the door with all his might. Of course, Alexander of Macedon was a hero; but why smash the chairs over him? It causes a loss to the treasury.
LUKA LUKICH: Yes, he's hot-headed. I've remarked the fact to him several times already.... He says, "Just as you please: for science I won't spare life itself."
CHIEF OF POLICE: Yes, such is the inexplicable law of the Fates: a wise man is either a drunkard or he makes such faces that you've got to carry out the holy ikons.
LUKA LUKICH: God save us from serving in the educational line! A fellow's afraid of everybody: all sorts of people interfere, and they all want to show that they're educated, too.
CHIEF OF POLICE: But all this wouldn't amount to anything—it's that damned incognito! He'll look in all of a sudden with an "Oh, here you are, sweethearts! And who's the judge here?" he'll say.—"Lyapkin-Tyapkin."—"All right, hand over Lyapkin-Tyapkin! And who's the supervisor of charitable institutions?"—"Zemlyanika."—"Well, hand over Zemlyanika!"—That's what's bad!
The same and the POSTMASTER
POSTMASTER: Will you explain, gentlemen, what sort of official is coming, and why?
CHIEF OF POLICE: But haven't you heard?
POSTMASTER: I heard something from Petr Ivanovich Bobchinsky. He just called on me at the post office.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, then, what do you think about it? POSTMASTER: What do I think? I think we're going to war with the Turks.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: Right-o! That's exactly what I thought.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Yes, but you're both talking through your hat!
POSTMASTER: Sure, it's war with the Turks. The French keep spoiling everything.
CHIEF OF POLICE: War with the Turks, your grandmother! We're going to be in a mess, not the Turks. We know that already; I have a letter.
POSTMASTER: If that's so, then there's not going to be war with the Turks.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, then, how about you, Ivan Kuzmich?
POSTMASTER: About me? How about you, Anton Antonovich?
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, what about me? I'm not afraid: that is, only a little.... The merchants and the townspeople make me uneasy. They say that I'm somewhat hard-boiled; but if I've ever taken anything from anybody, God knows it was without the least ill-feeling. I even think (taking him by the arm and leading him aside), I even think there may have been some private denunciation of me. Otherwise why in the world send the inspector to us? Now listen here, Ivan Kuzmich, hadn't you better, for our mutual benefit just unseal and read every letter that arrives at the post office, both incoming and outgoing? You know, just in case there should be some sort of denunciation, or simply, correspondence. If there isn't, of course you can seal them up again; or, so far as that goes, you can even deliver them opened.
POSTMASTER: I know, I know.... Don't try to teach me. I do it already, not as a precaution, but more out of curiosity; I'm deadly fond of finding out what's new in the world. I tell you, it's most interesting reading. There are piles of letters that you'll thoroughly enjoy, certain passages are so descriptive ... and they're so instructive ... lots better than the Moscow News.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, tell me, haven't you ever come across anything about some such official from Petersburg?
POSTMASTER: No, absolutely nothing about any one from Petersburg, but there's a lot said about those from Kostroma and Saratov. However, it's a pity that you don't read the letters: there are some corking places in them. Not long ago a lieutenant was writing to a friend and he described a ball in the most playful way ... it was awfully good: "My life, my dear friend, is being passed in the empyrean," he says; "there are lots of young ladies; the band is playing; the standard gallops by...." He described it all with very great feeling. I kept the letter out just on purpose. Do you want me to read it to you?
CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, this is hardly the time for it. So you'll do me the favor, Ivan Kuzmich, if you accidentally come across a complaint or a denunciation, to keep it back without any question.
POSTMASTER: With the greatest of pleasure.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: Look out, or you'll catch it for that, sometime!
POSTMASTER: Great Scott!
CHIEF OF POLICE: Never mind, never mind. It would be another story if you were to make anything public out of it; but you see, this is a family matter.
AMMOS FEDOROVICH: Yes, a nasty mess has been brewed! I admit I was going to call on you, Anton Antonovich, to make you a present of a little bitch. She's a sister to the dog you know. You've doubtless heard that Cheptovich and Varkhovinsky have started a lawsuit, so that now I'm living in luxury: I course hares now on one man's land, now on the other's.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Holy Saints, I don't care anything about your hares now! I can't get that damned incognito out of my head. You wait until the door opens, and then suddenly—
The same, with DOBCHINSKY and BOBCHINSKY, who both come in panting
BOBCHINSKY: An extraordinary event!
DOBCHINSKY: What unexpected news!
ALL: Why, what is it?
DOBCHINSKY: A most unforeseen affair. We went into the inn—
BOBCHINSKY (interrupting): Petr Ivanovich and I went into the inn—
DOBCHINSKY (interrupting): Hey, if you please, Petr Ivanovich, I'll tell it!
BOBCHINSKY: Hey yourself, let me ... let me, let me ... you haven't got the right style....
DOBCHINSKY: But you'll get all balled up and won't remember everything.
BOBCHINSKY: I'll remember, by George, I'll remember! Only don't mix in, let me tell it; don't meddle! Gentlemen, please tell Petr Ivanovich not to interfere!
CHIEF OF POLICE: Yes, for God's sake, tell us what's up! My heart's in my mouth. Be seated, gentlemen; take chairs! Petr Ivanovich, here's a chair for you. (All seat themselves around the two PETR IVANOVICHES.) Well now, what's up?
BOBCHINSKY: Allow me, allow me; I'll tell everything in order. No sooner had I had the pleasure of leaving you after you had got all upset over the receipt of that letter—yes, sir—than I just dropped in ... now, please don't interrupt, Petr Ivanovich! I already know all, all, all about it, sir! So, as you'll be kind enough to see, I dropped in on Korobkin. But not finding Korobkin at home, I turned in at Rastakovsky's; and not finding Rastakovsky, I went straight to Ivan Kuzmich in order to communicate to him the news you had received; and then, going away from there, I met Petr Ivanovich—
DOBCHINSKY (interrupting): Near the stall where they sell meat pies.
BOBCHINSKY: Near the stall where they sell meat pies. Yes, I met up with Petr Ivanovich; and I said to him, "Have you heard the news that Anton Antonovich has received in a trustworthy letter?" But Petr Ivanovich had already heard about it from your housekeeper, Avdotya, who had been sent, I don't know what for, to Filipp Antonovich Pochechuyev's.
DOBCHINSHY (interrupting): For a little keg for French brandy.
BOBCHINSKY (pushing his hands aside): For a little keg for French brandy. So Petr Ivanovich and I went to Pochechuyev's.... For heaven's sake, Petr Ivanovich, don't interrupt; please don't interrupt! ... We went to Pochechuyev's, and on the way Petr Ivanovich said to me: "Let's stop," he says, "at the inn. I haven't had anything in my stomach since morning, and it's simply flopping about...." Yes, sir, Petr Ivanovich's belly was.... "But they've just brought some fresh salmon into the inn," he says, "and we'll take a snack." Well, no sooner were we in the hotel, when suddenly a young man—
DOBCHINSKY (interrupting): Not bad-looking, in civilian clothes....
Excerpted from The Inspector General by Nikolai Gogol. Copyright © 1961 President and Fellows of Harvard College. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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