Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘The Inspector’
By Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852)
Translation of Isabel Florence Hapgood
  Scene: A room in the house of the Chief of Police.  Present: Chief of Police, Curator of Benevolent Institutions, Superintendent of Schools, Judge, Commissary of Police, Doctor, two Policemen.

CHIEF—I have summoned you, gentlemen, in order to communicate to you an unpleasant piece of news: an Inspector is coming.  1
  Judge—What! An Inspector?  2
  Chief—An Inspector from St. Petersburg, incognito. And with secret orders, to boot.  3
  Judge—I thought so!  4
  Curator—If there’s not trouble, then I’m mistaken!  5
  Superintendent—Heavens! And with secret orders, too!  6
  Chief—I foresaw it: all last night I was dreaming of two huge rats; I never saw such rats: they were black, and of supernatural size! They came, and smelled, and went away. I will read you the letter I have received from Andrei Ivan’itch Tchorikoff,—whom you know, Artemiy Philip’itch. This is what he writes:—“Dear friend, gossip and benefactor!”  [Mutters in an undertone, as he runs his eye quickly over it.]  “I hasten to inform you, among other things, that an official has arrived with orders to inspect the entire government, and our district in particular.”  [Raises his finger significantly.]  “I have heard this from trustworthy people, although he represents himself as a private individual. As I know that you are not quite free from faults, since you are a sensible man, and do not like to let slip what runs into your hands—”  [Pauses.]  Well, here are some remarks about his own affairs—“so I advise you to be on your guard: for he may arrive at any moment, if he is not already arrived and living somewhere incognito. Yesterday—” Well, what follows is about family matters— “My sister Anna Kirilovna has come with her husband; Ivan Kirilitch has grown very fat, and still plays the violin—” and so forth, and so forth. So there you have the whole matter.  7
  Judge—Yes, the matter is so unusual, so remarkable; something unexpected.  8
  Superintendent—And why? Anton Anton’itch, why is this? Why is the Inspector coming hither?  9
  Chief  [sighs]—Why? Evidently, it is fate.  [Sighs.]  Up to this time, God be praised, they have attended to other towns; now our turn has come.  10
  Judge—I think, Anton Anton’itch, that there is some fine political cause at the bottom of this. This means something: Russia—yes—Russia wants to go to war, and the minister, you see, has sent an official to find out whether there is any treason.  11
  Chief—What’s got hold of him? A sensible man, truly! Treason in a provincial town! Is it a border town—is it, now? Why, you could ride away from here for three years and not reach any other kingdom.  12
  Judge—No, I tell you. You don’t—you don’t— The government has subtle reasons; no matter if it is out of the way, they don’t care for that.  13
  Chief—Whether they care or not, I have warned you, gentlemen. See to it! I have made some arrangements in my own department, and I advise you to do the same. Especially you, Artemiy Philip’itch! Without doubt, this traveling official will wish first of all to inspect your institutions—and therefore you must arrange things so that they will be decent. The nightcaps should be clean, and the sick people should not look like blacksmiths, as they usually do in private.  14
  Curator—Well, that’s a mere trifle. We can put clean nightcaps on them.  15
  Chief—And then, you ought to have written up over the head of each bed, in Latin or some other language—that’s your business—the name of each disease: when each patient was taken sick, the day and hour. It is not well that your sick people should smoke such strong tobacco that one has to sneeze every time he goes in there. Yes, and it would be better if there were fewer of them: it will be set down at once to bad supervision or to lack of skill on the doctor’s part.  16
  Curator—Oh! so far as the doctoring is concerned, Christian Ivan’itch and I have already taken measures: the nearer to nature the better,—we don’t use any expensive medicines. Man is a simple creature: if he dies, why then he dies; if he gets well, why then he gets well. And then, it would have been difficult for Christian Ivan’itch to make them understand him—he doesn’t know one word of Russian.  17
  Chief—I should also advise you, Ammos Feodor’itch, to turn your attention to court affairs. In the ante-room, where the clients usually assemble, your janitor has got a lot of geese and goslings, which waddle about under foot. Of course it is praiseworthy to be thrifty in domestic affairs, and why should not the janitor be so too? only, you know, it is not proper in that place. I meant to mention it to you before, but always forgot it.  18
  Judge—I’ll order them to be taken to the kitchen this very day. Will you come and dine with me?  19
  Chief—And moreover, it is not well that all sorts of stuff should be put to dry in the court-room, and that over the very desk, with the documents, there should be a hunting-whip. I know that you are fond of hunting, but there is a proper time for everything, and you can hang it up there again when the Inspector takes his departure. And then your assistant—he’s a man of experience, but there’s a smell about him as though he had just come from a distillery—and that’s not as it should be. I meant to speak to you about it long ago, but something, I don’t recall now precisely what, put it out of my mind. There is a remedy, if he really was born with the odor, as he asserts: you might advise him to eat onions or garlic or something. In that case, Christian Ivan’itch could assist you with some medicaments.  20
  Judge—No, it’s impossible to drive it out: he says that his mother injured him when he was a child, and an odor of whisky has emanated from him ever since.  21
  Chief—Yes, I just remarked on it. As for internal arrangements, and what Andrei Ivan’itch in his letter calls “faults,” I can say nothing. Yes, and strange to say, there is no man who has not his faults. God himself arranged it so, and it is useless for the freethinkers to maintain the contrary.  22
  Judge—What do you mean by faults, Anton Anton’itch? There are various sorts of faults. I tell every one frankly that I take bribes; but what sort of bribes? greyhound pups. That’s quite another thing.  23
  Chief—Well, greyhound pups or anything else, it’s all the same.  24
  Judge—Well, no, Anton Anton’itch. But for example, if some one has a fur coat worth five hundred rubles, and his wife has a shawl—  25
  Chief—Well, and how about your taking greyhound pups as bribes? Why don’t you trust in God? You never go to church. I am firm in the faith, at all events, and go to church every Sunday. But you—oh, I know you! If you begin to talk about the creation of the world, one’s hair rises straight up on his head.  26
  Judge—It came of itself, of its own accord.  27
  Chief—Well, in some cases it is worse to have brains than to be entirely without them. Besides, I only just mentioned the district court: but to tell the truth, it is only very rarely that any one ever looks in there; ’tis such an enviable place that God himself protects it. And as for you, Luka Luk’itch, as superintendent of schools, you must bestir yourself with regard to the teachers. They are educated people, to be sure, and were reared at divers academies, but they have very peculiar ways which go naturally with that learned profession. One of them, for instance, the fat-faced one,—I don’t recall his name,—cannot get along without making grimaces when he takes his seat;—like this  [makes a grimace]:  and then he begins to smooth his beard out from under his neckerchief, with his hand. In short, if he makes such faces at the scholars, there is nothing to be said: it must be necessary; I am no judge of that. But just consider—if he were to do that to a visitor it might be very unpleasant; the Inspector or any one else might take it as personal. The Devil knows what might come of it.  28
  Superintendent—What am I to do with him? I have spoken to him about it several times already. A few days ago, when our chief went into the class-room, he made such a grimace as I never beheld before. He made it out of good-will; but it is a judgment on me, because freethinking is being inculcated in the young people.  29
  Chief—And I must also mention the teacher of history. He’s a wise man, that’s plain, and has acquired a great mass of learning; but he expresses himself with so much warmth that he loses control of himself. I heard him once: well, so long as he was talking about the Assyrians and Babylonians, it was all right; but when he got to Alexander of Macedon, I can’t describe to you what came over him. I thought there was a fire, by heavens! He jumped from his seat and dashed his chair to the floor with all his might. Alexander of Macedon was a hero, no doubt; but why smash the chairs? There will be a deficit in the accounts, just as the result of that.  30
  Superintendent—Yes, he is hasty! I have remarked on it to him several times. He says, “What would you have? I would sacrifice my life for science.”  31
  Chief—Yes, such is the incomprehensible decree of fate: a learned man is always a drunkard, or else he makes faces that would scare the very saints.  32
  Superintendent—God forbid that he should inspect the educational institutions. Everybody meddles and tries to show everybody else that he is a learned man.  33
  Chief—That would be nothing: that cursed incognito! All of a sudden you hear—“Ah, here you are, my little dears! And who,” says he, “is the Judge here?”—“Lyapkin-Tyapkin.”—“And who is the Superintendent of the Hospital?”—“Zemlyanika!” That’s the worst of it!  34
Enter Postmaster
  Chief—Well, how do you feel, Ivan Kusmitch?
  Postmaster—How do I feel? How do you feel, Anton Anton’itch?  36
  Chief—How do I feel? I’m not afraid; and yet I am,—a little. The merchants and citizens cause me some anxiety. They say I have been hard with them; but God knows, if I have ever taken anything from them it was not out of malice. I even think  [takes him by the arm and leads him aside]—I even think there may be a sort of complaint against me. Why, in fact, is the Inspector coming to us? Listen, Ivan Kusmitch: why can’t you—for our common good, you know—open every letter which passes through your office, going or coming, and read it, to see whether it contains a complaint or is simply correspondence? If it does not, then you can seal it up again. Besides, you could even deliver the letter unsealed.  37
  Postmaster—I know, I know. You can’t tell me anything about that; I always do it, not out of circumspection but out of curiosity: I’m deadly fond of knowing what is going on in the world. It’s very interesting reading, I can tell you! It is a real treat to read some letters: they contain such descriptions of occurrences, and they’re so improving—better than the Moscow News.  38
  [The play proceeds: two men, the town busybodies, happen to find at the inn a traveler who has been living on credit and going nowhere for two weeks. The landlord is about to put his lodger in prison for debt, when these men jump to the conclusion that he is the Inspector. The Prefect and other terrified officials accept the suggestion, in spite of his plain statement as to his identity. They set about making the town presentable, entertain and bribe him, and bow down to him. He accepts their hospitality, asks loans, makes love to the Prefect’s silly wife and daughter, betroths himself to the latter, receives the petitions and bribes of the oppressed townspeople,—and drives off with the best post-horses the town can furnish, ostensibly to ask the blessing of his rich old uncle on his marriage. The Postmaster intercepts a letter which he has written to a friend. Its revelations, and the ridicule which he therein casts on his hosts, open their eyes at last. At that moment a gendarme appears and announces that the Inspector has arrived. Tableau.]  39

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