Act III - Scene VI

[The above, Anna Andreyevna and Marya Antonovna.]

GOVERNOR: Permit me to introduce my family, my wife and daughter.

KHLESTAKOV: [bowing] I am happy, madam, to have the pleasure of meeting you.

ANNA: Our pleasure in meeting so distinguished a person is still greater.

KHLESTAKOV: [showing off] Excuse me, madam, on the contrary, my pleasure is the greater.

ANNA: Impossible. You condescend to say it to compliment me. Won't you please sit down?

KHLESTAKOV: Just to stand near you is bliss. But if you insist, I will sit down. I am so, so happy to be at your side at last.

ANNA: I beg your pardon, but I dare not take all the nice things you say to myself. I suppose you must have found travelling very unpleasant after living in the capital.

KHLESTAKOV: Extremely unpleasant. I am accustomed, comprenez-vous, to life in the fashionable world, and suddenly to find myself on the road, in dirty inns with dark rooms and rude people—I confess that if it were not for this chance which—[giving Anna a look and showing off] compensated me for everything—

ANNA: It must really have been extremely unpleasant for you.

KHLESTAKOV: At this moment, however, I find it exceedingly pleasant, madam.

ANNA: Oh, I cannot believe it. You do me much honor. I don't deserve it.

KHLESTAKOV: Why don't you deserve it? You do deserve it, madam.

ANNA: I live in a village.

KHLESTAKOV: Well, after all, a village too has something. It has its hills and brooks. Of course it's not to be compared with St. Petersburg. Ah, St. Petersburg! What a life, to be sure! Maybe you think I am only a copying clerk. No, I am on a friendly footing with the chief of our department. He slaps me on the back. "Come, brother," he says, "and have dinner with me." I just drop in the office for a couple of minutes to say this is to be done so, and that is to be done that way. There's a rat of a clerk there for copying letters who does nothing but scribble all the time—tr, tr—They even wanted to make me a college assessor, but I think to myself, "What do I want it for?" And the doorkeeper flies after me on the stairs with the shoe brush. "Allow me to shine your boots for you, Ivan Aleksandrovich," he says. [To the Governor.] Why are you standing, gentleman? Please sit down.

GOVERNOR: Our rank is such that we can very well stand together

ARTEMY: We don't mind standing.

LUKA: Please don't trouble.

KHLESTAKOV: Please sit down without the rank. [The Governor and the rest sit down.] I don't like ceremony. On the contrary, I always like to slip by unobserved. But it's impossible to conceal oneself, impossible. I no sooner show myself in a place than they say, "There goes Ivan Aleksandrovich!" Once I was even taken for the commander-in-chief. The soldiers rushed out of the guard-house and saluted. Afterwards an officer, an intimate acquaintance of mine, said to me: "Why, old chap, we completely mistook you for the commander-in-chief."

ANNA: Well, I declare!

KHLESTAKOV: I know pretty actresses. I've written a number of vaudevilles, you know. I frequently meet literary men. I am on an intimate footing with Pushkin. I often say to him: "Well, Pushkin, old boy, how goes it?" "So, so, partner," he'd reply, "as usual." He's a great original.

ANNA: So you write too? How thrilling it must be to be an author! You write for the papers also, I suppose?

KHLESTAKOV: Yes, for the papers, too. I am the author of a lot of works—The Marriage of Figaro, Robert le Diable, Norma. I don't even remember all the names. I did it just by chance. I hadn't meant to write, but a theatrical manager said, "Won't you please write something for me?" I thought to myself: "All right, why not?" So I did it all in one evening, surprised everybody. I am extraordinarily light of thought. All that has appeared under the name of Baron Brambeus was written by me, and the The Frigate of Hope and The Moscow Telegraph.

ANNA: What! So you are Brambeus?

KHLESTAKOV: Why, yes. And I revise and whip all their articles into shape. Smirdin gives me forty thousand for it.

ANNA: I suppose, then, that Yury Miroslavsky is yours too.

KHLESTAKOV: Yes, it's mine.

ANNA: I guessed at once.

MARYA: But, mamma, it says that it's by Zagoskin.

ANNA: There! I knew you'd be contradicting even here.

KHLESTAKOV: Oh, yes, it's so. That was by Zagoskin. But there is another Yury Miroslavsky which was written by me.

ANNA: That's right. I read yours. It's charming.

KHLESTAKOV: I admit I live by literature. I have the first house in St. Petersburg. It is well known as the house of Ivan Aleksandrovich. [Addressing the company in general.] If any of you should come to St. Petersburg, do please call to see me. I give balls, too, you know.

ANNA: I can guess the taste and magnificence of those balls.

KHLESTAKOV: Immense! For instance, watermelon will be served costing seven hundred rubles. The soup comes in the tureen straight from Paris by steamer. When the lid is raised, the aroma of the steam is like nothing else in the world. And we have formed a circle for playing whist—the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the French, the English and the German Ambassadors and myself. We play so hard we kill ourselves over the cards. There's nothing like it. After it's over I'm so tired I run home up the stairs to the fourth floor and tell the cook, "Here, Marushka, take my coat"—What am I talking about?—I forgot that I live on the first floor. One flight up costs me—My foyer before I rise in the morning is an interesting spectacle indeed—counts and princes jostling each other and humming like bees. All you hear is buzz, buzz, buzz. Sometimes the Minister—[The Governor and the rest rise in awe from their chairs.] Even my mail comes addressed "Your Excellency." And once I even had charge of a department. A strange thing happened. The head of the department went off, disappeared, no one knew where. Of course there was a lot of talk about how the place would be filled, who would fill it, and all that sort of thing. There were ever so many generals hungry for the position, and they tried, but they couldn't cope with it. It's too hard. Just on the surface it looks easy enough; but when you come to examine it closely, it's the devil of a job. When they saw they couldn't manage, they came to me. In an instant the streets were packed full with couriers, nothing but couriers and couriers—thirty-five thousand of them, imagine! Pray, picture the situation to yourself! "Ivan Aleksandrovich, do come and take the directorship of the department." I admit I was a little embarrassed. I came out in my dressing-gown. I wanted to decline, but I thought it might reach the Czar's ears, and, besides, my official record—"Very well, gentlemen," I said, "I'll accept the position, I'll accept. So be it. But mind," I said, "na-na-na, LOOK SHARP is the word with me, LOOK SHARP!" And so it was. When I went through the offices of my department, it was a regular earthquake, Everyone trembled and shook like a leaf. [The Governor and the rest tremble with fright. Khlestakov works himself up more and more as he speaks.] Oh, I don't like to joke. I got all of them thoroughly scared, I tell you. Even the Imperial Council is afraid of me. And really, that's the sort I am. I don't spare anybody. I tell them all, "I know myself, I know myself." I am everywhere, everywhere. I go to Court daily. Tomorrow they are going to make me a field-marsh—

[He slips and almost falls, but is respectfully held up by the officials.]

GOVERNOR: [walks up to him trembling from top to toe and speaking with a great effort] Your Ex-ex-ex- KHLESTAKOV [curtly]. What is it?

GOVERNOR: Your Ex-ex-ex- KHLESTAKOV [as before]. I can't make out a thing, it's all nonsense.

GOVERNOR: Your Ex-ex—Your 'lency—Your Excellency, wouldn't you like to rest a bit? Here's a room and everything you may need.

KHLESTAKOV: Nonsense—rest! However, I'm ready for a rest. Your lunch was fine, gentlemen. I am satisfied, I am satisfied. [Declaiming.] Labardan! Labardan!

[He goes into the next room followed by the Governor.]