Act II - Scene VIII

[Khlestakov, the Governor, and Dobchinsky. The Governor advances a few steps and stops. They stare at each other a few moments wide-eyed and frightened.]

GOVERNOR: [recovering himself a little and saluting military fashion] I have come to present my compliments, sir.

KHLESTAKOV: [bows] How do you do, sir?

GOVERNOR: Excuse my intruding.

KHLESTAKOV: Pray don't mention it.

GOVERNOR: It's my duty as chief magistrate of this town to see that visitors and persons of rank should suffer no inconveniences.

KHLESTAKOV: [a little halting at first, but toward the end in a loud, firm voice] Well—what was—to be—done? It's not—my fault. I'm—really going to pay. They will send me money from home. [Bobchinsky peeps in at the door.] He's most to blame. He gives me beef as hard as a board and the soup—the devil knows what he put into it. I ought to have pitched it out of the window. He starves me the whole day. His tea is so peculiar—it smells of fish, not tea. So why should I—The idea!

GOVERNOR: [scared] Excuse me! I assure you, it's not my fault. I always have good beef in the market here. The Kholmogory merchants bring it, and they are sober, well-behaved people. I'm sure I don't know where he gets his bad meat from. But if anything is wrong, may I suggest that you allow me to take you to another place?

KHLESTAKOV: No, I thank you. I don't care to leave. I know what the other place is—the jail. What right have you, I should like to know—how dare you?—Why, I'm in the government service at St. Petersburg. [Puts on a bold front.] I—I—I—

GOVERNOR: [aside] My God, how angry he is. He has found out everything. Those damned merchants have told him everything.

KHLESTAKOV: [with bravado] I won't go even if you come here with your whole force. I'll go straight to the minister. [Bangs his fist on the table.] What do you mean? What do you mean?

GOVERNOR: [drawing himself up stiffly and shaking all over] Have pity on me. Don't ruin me. I have a wife and little children. Don't bring misfortune on a man.

KHLESTAKOV: No, I won't go. What's that got to do with me? Must I go to jail because you have a wife and little children? Great! [Bobchinsky looks in at the door and disappears in terror.] No, much obliged to you. I will not go.

GOVERNOR: [trembling] It was my inexperience. I swear to you, it was nothing but my inexperience and insufficient means. Judge for yourself. The salary I get is not enough for tea and sugar. And if I have taken bribes, they were mere trifles—something for the table, or a coat or two. As for the officer's widow to whom they say I gave a beating, she's in business now, and it's a slander, it's a slander that I beat her. Those scoundrels here invented the lie. They are ready to murder me. That's the kind of people they are.

KHLESTAKOV: Well. I've nothing to do with them. [Reflecting.] I don't see, though, why you should talk to me about your scoundrels or officer's widow. An officer's widow is quite a different matter.—But don't you dare to beat me. You can't do it to me—no, sir, you can't. The idea! Look at him! I'll pay, I'll pay the money. Just now I'm out of cash. That's why I stay here—because I haven't a single kopek.

GOVERNOR: [aside] Oh, he's a shrewd one. So that's what he's aiming at? He's raised such a cloud of dust you can't tell what direction he's going. Who can guess what he wants? One doesn't know where to begin. But I will try. Come what may, I'll try—hit or miss. [Aloud.] H'm, if you really are in want of money, I'm ready to serve you. It is my duty to assist strangers in town.

KHLESTAKOV: Lend me some, lend me some. Then I'll settle up immediately with the landlord. I only want two hundred rubles. Even less would do.

GOVERNOR: There's just two hundred rubles. [Giving him the money.] Don't bother to count it.

KHLESTAKOV: [taking it] Very much obliged to you. I'll send it back to you as soon as I get home. I just suddenly found myself without—H'm—I see you are a gentleman. Now it's all different.

GOVERNOR: [aside] Well, thank the Lord, he's taken the money. Now I suppose things will move along smoothly. I slipped four hundred instead of two into his hand.

KHLESTAKOV: Ho, Osip! [Osip enters.] Tell the servant to come. [To the Governor and Dobchinsky.] Please be seated. [To Dobchinsky.] Please take a seat, I beg of you.

GOVERNOR: Don't trouble. We can stand.

KHLESTAKOV: But, please, please be seated. I now see perfectly how open-hearted and generous you are. I confess I thought you had come to put me in—[To Dobchinsky.] Do take a chair.

[The Governor and Dobchinsky sit down. Bobchinsky looks in at the door and listens.]

GOVERNOR: [aside] I must be bolder. He wants us to pretend he is incognito. Very well, we will talk nonsense, too. We'll pretend we haven't the least idea who he is. [Aloud.] I was going about in the performance of my duty with Piotr Ivanovich Dobchinsky here—he's a landed proprietor here—and we came to the inn to see whether the guests are properly accommodated—because I'm not like other governors, who don't care about anything. No, apart from my duty, out of pure Christian philanthropy, I wish every mortal to be decently treated. And as if to reward me for my pains, chance has afforded me this pleasant acquaintance.

KHLESTAKOV: I, too, am delighted. Without your aid, I confess, I should have had to stay here a long time. I didn't know how in the world to pay my bill.

GOVERNOR: [aside] Oh, yes, fib on.—Didn't know how to pay his bill! May I ask where your Honor is going?

KHLESTAKOV: I'm going to my own village in the Government of Saratov.

GOVERNOR: [aside, with an ironical expression on his face] The Government of Saratov! H'm, h'm! And doesn't even blush! One must be on the qui vive with this fellow. [Aloud.] You have undertaken a great task. They say travelling is disagreeable because of the delay in getting horses but, on the other hand, it is a diversion. You are travelling for your own amusement, I suppose?

KHLESTAKOV: No, my father wants me. He's angry because so far I haven't made headway in the St. Petersburg service. He thinks they stick the Vladimir in your buttonhole the minute you get there. I'd like him to knock about in the government offices for a while.

GOVERNOR: [aside] How he fabricates! Dragging in his old father, too. [Aloud.] And may I ask whether you are going there to stay for long?

KHLESTAKOV: I really don't know. You see, my father is stubborn and stupid—an old dotard as hard as a block of wood. I'll tell him straight out, "Do what you will, I can't live away from St. Petersburg." Really, why should I waste my life among peasants? Our times make different demands on us. My soul craves enlightenment.

GOVERNOR: [aside] He can spin yarns all right. Lie after lie and never trips. And such an ugly insignificant-looking creature, too. Why, it seems to me I could crush him with my finger nails. But wait, I'll make you talk. I'll make you tell me things. [Aloud.] You were quite right in your observation, that one can do nothing in a dreary out-of-the-way place. Take this town, for instance. You lie awake nights, you work hard for your country, you don't spare yourself, and the reward? You don't know when it's coming. [He looks round the room.] This room seems rather damp.

KHLESTAKOV: Yes, it's a dirty room. And the bugs! I've never experienced anything like them. They bite like dogs.

GOVERNOR: You don't say! An illustrious guest like you to be subjected to such annoyance at the hands of—whom? Of vile bugs which should never have been born. And I dare say, it's dark here, too.

KHLESTAKOV: Yes, very gloomy. The landlord has introduced the custom of not providing candles. Sometimes I want to do something—read a bit, or, if the fancy strikes me, write something.—I can't. It's a dark room, yes, very dark.

GOVERNOR: I wonder if I might be bold enough to ask you—but, no, I'm unworthy.

KHLESTAKOV: What is it?

GOVERNOR: No, no, I'm unworthy. I'm unworthy.

KHLESTAKOV: But what is it?

GOVERNOR: If I might be bold enough—I have a fine room for you at home, light and cosy. But no, I feel it is too great an honor. Don't be offended. Upon my word, I made the offer out of the simplicity of my heart.

KHLESTAKOV: On the contrary, I accept your invitation with pleasure. I should feel much more comfortable in a private house than in this disreputable tavern.

GOVERNOR: I'm only too delighted. How glad my wife will be. It's my character, you know. I've always been hospitable from my very childhood, especially when my guest is a distinguished person. Don't think I say this out of flattery. No, I haven't that vice. I only speak from the fullness of my heart.

KHLESTAKOV: I'm greatly obliged to you. I myself hate double-faced people. I like your candor and kind-heartedness exceedingly. And I am free to say, I ask for nothing else than devotion and esteem—esteem and devotion.