Act I - Scene III

[Enter Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky, out of breath.]

BOBCHINSKY: What an extraordinary occurrence!

DOBCHINSKY: An unexpected piece of news!

ALL: What is it? What is it?

DOBCHINSKY: Something quite unforeseen. We were about to enter the inn—

BOBCHINSKY: [interrupting] Yes, Piotr Ivanovich and I were entering the inn—

DOBCHINSKY: [interrupting] Please, Piotr Ivanovich, let me tell.

BOBCHINSKY: No, please, let me—let me. You can't. You haven't got the style for it.

DOBCHINSKY: Oh, but you'll get mixed up and won't remember everything.

BOBCHINSKY: Yes, I will, upon my word, I will. PLEASE don't interrupt! Do let me tell the news—don't interrupt! Pray, oblige me, gentlemen, and tell Dobchinsky not to interrupt.

GOVERNOR: Speak, for Heaven's sake! What is it? My heart is in my mouth! Sit down, gentlemen, take seats. Piotr Ivanovich, here's a chair for you. [All seat themselves around Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky.] Well, now, what is it? What is it?

BOBCHINSKY: Permit me, permit me. I'll tell it all just as it happened. As soon as I had the pleasure of taking leave of you after you were good enough to be bothered with the letter which you had received, sir, I ran out—now, please don't keep interrupting, Dobchinsky. I know all about it, all, I tell you.—So I ran out to see Korobkin. But not finding Korobkin at home, I went off to Rastakovsky, and not seeing him, I went to Ivan Kuzmich to tell him of the news you'd got. Going on from there I met Dobchinsky—

DOBCHINSKY: [interjecting] At the stall where they sell pies—

BOBCHINSKY: At the stall where they sell pies. Well, I met Dobchinsky and I said to him: "Have you heard the news that came to Anton Antonovich in a letter which is absolutely reliable?" But Piotr Ivanovich had already heard of it from your housekeeper, Avdotya, who, I don't know why, had been sent to Filipp Antonovich Pachechuyev—

DOBCHINSKY: [interrupting] To get a little keg for French brandy.

BOBCHINSKY: Yes, to get a little keg for French brandy. So then I went with Dobchinsky to Pachechuyev's.—Will you stop, Piotr Ivanovich? Please don't interrupt.—So off we went to Pachechuyev's, and on the way Dobchinsky said: "Let's go to the inn," he said. "I haven't eaten a thing since morning. My stomach is growling." Yes, sir, his stomach was growling. "They've just got in a supply of fresh salmon at the inn," he said. "Let's take a bite." We had hardly entered the inn when we saw a young man—

DOBCHINSKY: [Interrupting] Of rather good appearance and dressed in ordinary citizen's clothes.

BOBCHINSKY: Yes, of rather good appearance and dressed in citizen's clothes—walking up and down the room. There was something out of the usual about his face, you know, something deep—and a manner about him—and here [raises his hand to his forehead and turns it around several times] full, full of everything. I had a sort of feeling, and I said to Dobchinsky, "Something's up. This is no ordinary matter." Yes, and Dobchinsky beckoned to the landlord, Vlas, the innkeeper, you know,—three weeks ago his wife presented him with a baby—a bouncer—he'll grow up just like his father and keep a tavern.—Well, we beckoned to Vlas, and Dobchinsky asked him on the quiet, "Who," he asked, "is that young man?" "That young man," Vlas replied, "that young man"—Oh, don't interrupt, Piotr Ivanovich, please don't interrupt. You can't tell the story. Upon my word, you can't. You lisp and one tooth in your mouth makes you whistle. I know what I'm saying. "That young man," he said, "is an official."—Yes, sir.—"On his way from St. Petersburg. And his name," he said, "is Ivan Aleksandrovich Khlestakov, and he's going," he said "to the government of Saratov," he said. "And he acts so queerly. It's the second week he's been here and he's never left the house; and he won't pay a penny, takes everything on account." When Vlas told me that, a light dawned on me from above, and I said to Piotr Ivanovich, "Hey!"—

DOBCHINSKY: No, Piotr Ivanovich, I said "HEY!"

BOBCHINSKY: Well first YOU said it, then I did. "Hey!" said both of us, "And why does he stick here if he's going to Saratov?"—Yes, sir, that's he, the official.

GOVERNOR: Who? What official?

BOBCHINSKY: Why, the official who you were notified was coming, the Inspector.

GOVERNOR: [terrified] Great God! What's that you're saying. It can't be he.

DOBCHINSKY: It is, though. Why, he doesn't pay his bills and he doesn't leave. Who else can it be? And his postchaise is ordered for Saratov.

BOBCHINSKY: It's he, it's he, it's he—why, he's so alert, he scrutinized everything. He saw that Dobchinsky and I were eating salmon—chiefly on account of Dobchinsky's stomach—and he looked at our plates so hard that I was frightened to death.

GOVERNOR: The Lord have mercy on us sinners! In what room is he staying?

DOBCHINSKY: Room number 5 near the stairway.

BOBCHINSKY: In the same room that the officers quarreled in when they passed through here last year.

GOVERNOR: How long has he been here?

DOBCHINSKY: Two weeks. He came on St. Vasili's day.

GOVERNOR: Two weeks! [Aside.] Holy Fathers and saints preserve me! In those two weeks I have flogged the wife of a non-commissioned officer, the prisoners were not given their rations, the streets are dirty as a pothouse—a scandal, a disgrace! [Clutches his head with both hands.]

ARTEMY: What do you think, Anton Antonovich, hadn't we better go in state to the inn?

AMMOS: No, no. First send the chief magistrate, then the clergy, then the merchants. That's what it says in the book. The Acts of John the Freemason.

GOVERNOR: No, no, leave it to me. I have been in difficult situations before now. They have passed off all right, and I was even rewarded with thanks. Maybe the Lord will help us out this time, too. [Turns to Bobchinsky.] You say he's a young man?

BOBCHINSKY: Yes, about twenty-three or four at the most.

GOVERNOR: So much the better. It's easier to pump things out of a young man. It's tough if you've got a hardened old devil to deal with. But a young man is all on the surface. You, gentlemen, had better see to your end of things while I go unofficially, by myself, or with Dobchinsky here, as though for a walk, to see that the visitors that come to town are properly accommodated. Here, Svistunov. [To one of the Sergeants.]


GOVERNOR: Go instantly to the Police Captain—or, no, I'll want you. Tell somebody to send him here as quickly as possibly and then come back.

[Svistunov hurries off.]

ARTEMY: Let's go, let's go, Ammos Fiodorovich. We may really get into trouble.

AMMOS: What have you got to be afraid of? Put clean nightcaps on the patients and the thing's done.

ARTEMY: Nightcaps! Nonsense! The patients were ordered to have oatmeal soup. Instead of that there's such a smell of cabbage in all the corridors that you've got to hold your nose.

AMMOS: Well, my mind's at ease. Who's going to visit the court? Supposing he does look at the papers, he'll wish he had left them alone. I have been on the bench fifteen years, and when I take a look into a report, I despair. King Solomon in all his wisdom could not tell what is true and what is not true in it.

[The Judge, the Superintendent of Charities, the School Inspector, and Postmaster go out and bump up against the Sergeant in the doorway as the latter returns.]