Franz Kafka

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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Nikolai Gogol's "The Government Inspector," or "The Inspector General" (Ревизор, Revizor), English Translation


ON 25 March an unusually strange event occurred in St. Petersburg. For
that morning Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch, a dweller on the Vozkresensky
Prospekt (his name is lost now--it no longer figures on a signboard
bearing a portrait of a gentleman with a soaped cheek, and the words:
"Also, Blood Let Here")--for that morning Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch awoke
early, and caught the smell of newly baked bread. Raising himself a
little, he perceived his wife (a most respectable dame, and one
especially fond of coffee) to be just in the act of drawing newly baked
rolls from the oven.

"Prascovia Osipovna," he said, "I would rather not have any coffee for
breakfast, but, instead, a hot roll and an onion,"--the truth being that
he wanted both but knew it to be useless to ask for two things at once,
as Prascovia Osipovna did not fancy such tricks.

"Oh, the fool shall have his bread," the dame reflected. "So much the
better for me then, as I shall be able to drink a second lot of coffee."

And duly she threw on to the table a roll.

Ivan Yakovlevitch donned a jacket over his shirt for politeness' sake,
and, seating himself at the table, poured out salt, got a couple of
onions ready, took a knife into his hand, assumed an air of importance,
and cut the roll asunder. Then he glanced into the roll's middle. To his
intense surprise he saw something glimmering there. He probed it
cautiously with the knife--then poked at it with a finger.

"Quite solid it is!" he muttered. "What in the world is it likely to

He thrust in, this time, all his fingers, and pulled forth--a nose! His
hands dropped to his sides for a moment. Then he rubbed his eyes hard.
Then again he probed the thing. A nose! Sheerly a nose! Yes, and one
familiar to him, somehow! Oh, horror spread upon his feature! Yet that
horror was a trifle compared with his spouse's overmastering wrath.

"You brute!" she shouted frantically. "Where have you cut off that nose?
You villain, you! You drunkard! Why, I'll go and report you to the
police myself. The brigand, you! Three customers have told me already
about your pulling at their noses as you shaved them till they could
hardly stand it."

But Ivan Yakovlevitch was neither alive nor dead. This was the more the
case because, sure enough, he had recognised the nose. It was the nose
of Collegiate Assessor Kovalev--no less: it was the nose of a gentleman
whom he was accustomed to shave twice weekly, on each Wednesday and each

"Stop, Prascovia Osipovna!" at length he said. "I'll wrap the thing in a
clout, and lay it aside awhile, and take it away altogether later."

"But I won't hear of such a thing being done! As if I'm going to have a
cut-off nose kicking about my room! Oh, you old stick! Maybe you can
just strop a razor still; but soon you'll be no good at all for the rest
of your work. You loafer, you wastrel, you bungler, you blockhead! Aye,
I'll tell the police of you. Take it away, then. Take it away. Take it
anywhere you like. Oh, that I'd never caught the smell of it!"

Ivan Yakovlevitch was dumbfounded. He thought and thought, but did not
know what to think.

"The devil knows how it's happened," he said, scratching one ear. "You
see, I don't know for certain whether I came home drunk last night or
not. But certainly things look as though something out of the way
happened then, for bread comes of baking, and a nose of something else
altogether. Oh, I just can't make it out."

So he sat silent. At the thought that the police might find the nose at
his place, and arrest him, he felt frantic. Yes, already he could see
the red collar with the smart silver braiding--the sword! He shuddered
from head to foot.

But at last he got out, and donned waistcoat and shoes, wrapped the nose
in a clout, and departed amid Prascovia Osipovna's forcible

His one idea was to rid himself of the nose, and return quietly home--to
do so either by throwing the nose into the gutter in front of the gates
or by just letting it drop anywhere. Yet, unfortunately, he kept meeting
friends, and they kept saying to him: "Where are you off to?" or "Whom
have you arranged to shave at this early hour?" until seizure of a
fitting moment became impossible. Once, true, he did succeed in dropping
the thing, but no sooner had he done so than a constable pointed at him
with his truncheon, and shouted: "Pick it up again! You've lost
something," and he perforce had to take the nose into his possession
once more, and stuff it into a pocket. Meanwhile his desperation grew in
proportion as more and more booths and shops opened for business, and
more and more people appeared in the street.

At last he decided that he would go to the Isaakievsky Bridge, and throw
the thing, if he could, into the Neva. But here let me confess my fault
in not having said more about Ivan Yakovlevitch himself, a man estimable
in more respects than one.

Like every decent Russian tradesman, Ivan Yakovlevitch was a terrible
tippler. Daily he shaved the chins of others, but always his own was
unshorn, and his jacket (he never wore a top-coat) piebald--black,
thickly studded with greyish, brownish-yellowish stains--and shiny of
collar, and adorned with three pendent tufts of thread instead of
buttons. But, with that, Ivan Yakovlevitch was a great cynic. Whenever
Collegiate Assessor Kovalev was being shaved, and said to him, according
to custom: "Ivan Yakovlevitch, your hands do smell!" he would retort:
"But why should they smell?" and, when the Collegiate Assessor had
replied: "Really I do not know, brother, but at all events they do,"
take a pinch of snuff, and soap the Collegiate Assessor upon cheek, and
under nose, and behind ears, and around chin at his good will and

So the worthy citizen stood on the Isaakievsky Bridge, and looked about
him. Then, leaning over the parapet, he feigned to be trying to see if
any fish were passing underneath. Then gently he cast forth the nose.

At once ten puds-weight seemed to have been lifted from his shoulders.
Actually he smiled! But, instead of departing, next, to shave the chins
of chinovniki, he bethought him of making for a certain establishment
inscribed "Meals and Tea," that he might get there a glassful of punch.

Suddenly he sighted a constable standing at the end of the bridge, a
constable of smart appearance, with long whiskers, a three-cornered hat,
and a sword complete. Oh, Ivan Yakovlevitch could have fainted! Then the
constable, beckoning with a finger, cried:

"Nay, my good man. Come here."

Ivan Yaklovlevitch, knowing the proprieties, pulled off his cap at quite
a distance away, advanced quickly, and said:

"I wish your Excellency the best of health."

"No, no! None of that `your Excellency,' brother. Come and tell me what
you have been doing on the bridge."

"Before God, sir, I was crossing it on my way to some customers when I
peeped to see if there were any fish jumping."

"You lie, brother! You lie! You won't get out of it like that. Be so
good as to answer me truthfully."

"Oh, twice a week in future I'll shave you for nothing. Aye, or even
three times a week."

"No, no, friend. That is rubbish. Already I've got three barbers for the
purpose, and all of them account it an honour. Now, tell me, I ask
again, what you have just been doing?"

This made Ivan Yakovlevitch blanch, and----

Further events here become enshrouded in mist. What happened after that
is unknown to all men.


COLLEGIATE ASSESSOR KOVALEV also awoke early that morning. And when he
had done so he made the "B-r-rh!" with his lips which he always did when
he had been asleep--he himself could not have said why. Then he
stretched himself, had handed to him a small mirror from the table near
by, and set himself to inspect a pimple which had broken out on his nose
the night before. But, to his unbounded astonishment, there was only a
flat patch on his face where the nose should have been! Greatly alarmed,
he called for water, washed, and rubbed his eyes hard with the towel.
Yes, the nose indeed was gone! He prodded the spot with a hand-pinched
himself to make sure that he was not still asleep. But no; he was not
still sleeping. Then he leapt from the bed, and shook himself. No nose
had he on him still! Finally, he bade his clothes be handed him, and set
forth for the office of the Police Commissioner at his utmost speed.

Here let me add something which may enable the reader to perceive just
what the Collegiate Assessor was like. Of course, it goes without saying
that Collegiate Assessors who acquire the title with the help of
academic diplomas cannot be compared with Collegiate Assessors who
become Collegiate Assessors through service in the Caucasus, for the two
species are wholly distinct, they are----Stay, though. Russia is so
strange a country that, let one but say anything about any one
Collegiate Assessor, and the rest, from Riga to Kamchatka, at once apply
the remark to themselves--for all titles and all ranks it means the same
thing. Now, Kovalev was a "Caucasian" Collegiate Assessor, and had, as
yet, borne the title for two years only. Hence, unable ever to forget
it, he sought the more to give himself dignity and weight by calling
himself, in addition to "Collegiate Assessor," "Major."

"Look here, good woman," once he said to a shirts' vendor whom he met in
the street, "come and see me at my home. I have my flat in Sadovaia
Street. Ask merely, `Is this where Major Kovalev lives?' Anyone will
show you." Or, on meeting fashionable ladies, he would say: "My dear
madam, ask for Major Kovalev's flat." So we too will call the Collegiate
Assessor "Major."

Major Kovalev had a habit of daily promenading the Nevsky Prospekt in an
extremely clean and well-starched shirt and collar, and in whiskers of
the sort still observable on provincial surveyors, architects,
regimental doctors, other officials, and all men who have round, red
cheeks, and play a good hand at "Boston." Such whiskers run across the
exact centre of the cheek--then head straight for the nose. Again, Major
Kovalev always had on him a quantity of seals, both of seals engraved
with coats of arms, and of seals inscribed "Wednesday," "Thursday,"
"Monday," and the rest. And, finally, Major Kovalev had come to live in
St. Petersburg because of necessity. That is to say, he had come to live
in St. Petersburg because he wished to obtain a post befitting his new
title--whether a Vice-Governorship or, failing that, an
Administratorship in a leading department. Nor was Major Kovalev
altogether set against marriage. Merely he required that his bride
should possess not less than two hundred thousand rubles in capital. The
reader, therefore, can now judge how the Major was situated when he
perceived that instead of a not unpresentable nose there was figuring on
his face an extremely uncouth, and perfectly smooth and uniform patch.

Ill luck prescribed, that morning, that not a cab was visible throughout
the street's whole length; so, huddling himself up in his cloak, and
covering his face with a handkerchief (to make things look as though his
nose were bleeding), he had to start upon his way on foot only.

"Perhaps this is only imagination?" he reflected. Presently he turned
aside towards a restaurant (for he wished yet again to get a sight of
himself in a mirror). "The nose can't have removed itself of sheer

Luckily no customers were present in the restaurant--merely some waiters
were sweeping out the rooms, and rearranging the chairs, and others,
sleepy-eyed fellows, were setting forth trayfuls of hot pastries. On
chairs and tables last night's newspapers, coffee-stained, were strewn.

"Thank God that no one is here!" the Major reflected. "Now I can look at
myself again."

He approached a mirror in some trepidation, and peeped therein. Then he

"The devil only knows what this vileness means!" he muttered. "If even
there had been something to take the nose's place! But, as it is,
there's nothing there at all."

He bit his lips with vexation, and hurried out of the restaurant. No; as
he went along he must look at no one, and smile at no one. Then he
halted as though riveted to earth. For in front of the doors of a
mansion he saw occur a phenomenon of which, simply, no explanation was
possible. Before that mansion there stopped a carriage. And then a door
of the carriage opened, and there leapt thence, huddling himself up, a
uniformed gentleman, and that uniformed gentleman ran headlong up the
mansion's entrance-steps, and disappeared within. And oh, Kovalev's
horror and astonishment to perceive that the gentleman was none other
than--his own nose! The unlooked-for spectacle made everything swim
before his eyes. Scarcely, for a moment, could he even stand. Then,
deciding that at all costs he must await the gentleman's return to the
carriage, he remained where he was, shaking as though with fever. Sure
enough, the Nose did return, two minutes later. It was clad in a
gold-braided, high-collared uniform, buckskin breeches, and cockaded
hat. And slung beside it there was a sword, and from the cockade on the
hat it could be inferred that the Nose was purporting to pass for a
State Councillor. It seemed now to be going to pay another visit
somewhere. At all events it glanced about it, and then, shouting to the
coachman, "Drive up here," re-entered the vehicle, and set forth.

Poor Kovalev felt almost demented. The astounding event left him utterly
at a loss. For how could the nose which had been on his face but
yesterday, and able then neither to drive nor to walk independently, now
be going about in uniform?--He started in pursuit of the carriage,
which, luckily, did not go far, and soon halted before the Gostiny

[* Formerly the "Whiteley's" of St. Petersburg.]

Kovalev too hastened to the building, pushed through the line of old
beggar-women with bandaged faces and apertures for eyes whom he had so
often scorned, and entered. Only a few customers were present, but
Kovalev felt so upset that for a while he could decide upon no course of
action save to scan every corner in the gentleman's pursuit. At last he
sighted him again, standing before a counter, and, with face hidden
altogether behind the uniform's stand-up collar, inspecting with
absorbed attention some wares.

"How, even so, am I to approach it?" Kovalev reflected. "Everything
about it, uniform, hat, and all, seems to show that it is a State
Councillor now. Only the devil knows what is to be done!"

He started to cough in the Nose's vicinity, but the Nose did not change
its position for a single moment.

"My good sir," at length Kovalev said, compelling himself to boldness,
"my good sir, I----"

"What do you want?" And the Nose did then turn round.

"My good sir, I am in a difficulty. Yet somehow, I think, I think,
that--well, I think that you ought to know your proper place better. All
at once, you see, I find you--_where_? Do you not feel as I do about

"Pardon me, but I cannot apprehend your meaning. Pray explain further."

"Yes, but how, I should like to know?" Kovalev thought to himself. Then,
again taking courage, he went: on:

"I am, you see--well, in point of fact, you see, I am a Major. Hence you
will realise how unbecoming it is for me to have to walk about without a
nose. Of course, a peddler of oranges on the Vozkresensky Bridge could
sit there noseless well enough, but I myself am hoping soon to receive
a----Hm, yes. Also, I have amongst my acquaintances several ladies of
good houses (Madame Chektareva, wife of the State Councillor, for
example), and you may judge for yourself what that alone signifies. Good
sir"--Major Kovalev gave his shoulders a shrug--"I do not know whether
you yourself (pardon me) consider conduct of this sort to be altogether
in accordance with the rules of duty and honour, but at least you can
understand that----"

"I understand nothing at all," the Nose broke in. "Explain yourself more

"Good sir," Kovalev went on with a heightened sense of dignity, "the one
who is at a loss to understand the other is I. But at least the
immediate point should be plain, unless you are determined to have it
otherwise. Merely--you are my own nose."

The Nose regarded the Major, and contracted its brows a little.

"My dear sir, you speak in error," was its reply. "I am just
myself--myself separately. And in any case there cannot ever have
existed a close relation between us, for, judging from the buttons of
your undress uniform, your service is being performed in another
department than my own."

And the Nose definitely turned away.

Kovalev stood dumbfounded. What to do, even what to think, he had not a

Presently the agreeable swish of ladies' dresses began to be heard. Yes,
an elderly, lace-bedecked dame was approaching, and, with her, a slender
maiden in a white frock which outlined delightfully a trim figure, and,
above it, a straw hat of a lightness as of pastry. Behind them there
came, stopping every now and then to open a snuffbox, a tall, whiskered
beau in quite a twelve-fold collar.

Kovalev moved a little nearer, pulled up the collar of his shirt,
straightened the seals on his gold watch-chain, smiled, and directed
special attention towards the slender lady as, swaying like a floweret
in spring, she kept raising to her brows a little white hand with
fingers almost of transparency. And Kovalev's smiles became broader
still when peeping from under the hat he saw there to be an alabaster,
rounded little chin, and part of a cheek flushed like an early rose. But
all at once he recoiled as though scorched, for all at once he had
remembered that he had not a nose on him, but nothing at all. So, with
tears forcing themselves upwards, he wheeled about to tell the uniformed
gentleman that he, the uniformed gentleman, was no State Councillor, but
an impostor and a knave and a villain and the Major's own nose. But the
Nose, behold, was gone! That very moment had it driven away to,
presumably, pay another visit.

This drove Kovalev to the last pitch of desperation. He went back to the
mansion, and stationed himself under its portico, in the hope that, by
peering hither and thither, hither and thither, he might once more see
the Nose appear. But, well though he remembered the Nose's cockaded hat
and gold-braided uniform, he had failed at the time to note also its
cloak, the colour of its horses, the make of its carriage, the look of
the lackey seated behind, and the pattern of the lackey's livery.
Besides, so many carriages were moving swiftly up and down the street
that it would have been impossible to note them all, and equally so to
have stopped any one of them. Meanwhile, as the day was fine and sunny,
the Prospekt was thronged with pedestrians also--a whole kaleidoscopic
stream of ladies was flowing along the pavements, from Police
Headquarters to the Anitchkin Bridge. There one could descry an Aulic
Councillor whom Kovalev knew well. A gentleman he was whom Kovalev
always addressed as "Lieutenant-Colonel," and especially in the presence
of others. And there there went Yaryzhkin, Chief Clerk to the Senate, a
crony who always rendered forfeit at "Boston" on playing an eight. And,
lastly, a like "Major" with Kovalev, a like "Major" with an Assessorship
acquired through Caucasian service, started to beckon to Kovalev with a

"The devil take him!" was Kovalev's muttered comment. "Hi, cabman! Drive
to the Police Commissioner's direct."

But just when he was entering the drozhki he added:

"No. Go by Ivanovskaia Street."

"Is the Commissioner in?" he asked on crossing the threshold.

"He is not," was the doorkeeper's reply. "He's gone this very moment."

"There's luck for you!"

"Aye," the doorkeeper went on. "Only just a moment ago he was off. If
you'd been a bare half-minute sooner you'd have found him at home,

Still holding the handkerchief to his face, Kovalev returned to the cab,
and cried wildly:

"Drive on!"

"Where to, though?" the cabman inquired.

"Oh, straight ahead!"

"'Straight ahead'? But the street divides here. To right, or to left?"

The question caused Kovalov to pause and recollect himself. In his
situation he ought to make his next step an application to the Board of
Discipline--not because the Board was directly connected with the
police, but because its dispositions would be executed more speedily
than in other departments. To seek satisfaction of the the actual
department in which the Nose had declared itself to be serving would be
sheerly unwise, since from the Nose's very replies it was clear that it
was the sort of individual who held nothing sacred, and, in that event,
might lie as unconscionably as it had lied in asserting itself never to
have figured in its proprietor's company. Kovalev, therefore, decided to
seek the Board of Discipline. But just as he was on the point of being
driven thither there occurred to him the thought that the impostor and
knave who had behaved so shamelessly during the late encounter might
even now be using the time to get out of the city, and that in that case
all further pursuit of the rogue would become vain, or at all events
last for, God preserve us! a full month. So at last, left only to the
guidance of Providence, the Major resolved to make for a newspaper
office, and publish a circumstantial description of the Nose in such
good time that anyone meeting with the truant might at once be able
either to restore it to him or to give information as to its
whereabouts. So he not only directed the cabman to the newspaper office,
but, all the way thither, prodded him in the back, and shouted: "Hurry
up, you rascal! Hurry up, you rogue!" whilst the cabman intermittently
responded: "Aye, barin," and nodded, and plucked at the reins of a steed
as shaggy as a spaniel.

The moment that the drozhki halted Kovalev dashed, breathless, into a
small reception-office. There, seated at a table, a grey-headed clerk in
ancient jacket and pair of spectacles was, with pen tucked between lips,
counting sums received in copper.

"Who here takes the advertisements?" Kovalev exclaimed as he entered.
"A-ah! Good day to you."

"And my respects," the grey-headed clerk replied, raising his eyes for
an instant, and then lowering them again to the spread out copper heaps.

"I want you to publish----"

"Pardon--one moment." And the clerk with one hand committed to paper a
figure, and with a finger of the other hand shifted two accounts
markers. Standing beside him with an advertisement in his hands, a
footman in a laced coat, and sufficiently smart to seem to be in service
in an aristocratic mansion, now thought well to display some

"Sir," he said to the clerk, "I do assure you that the puppy is not
worth eight grivni even. At all events _I_ wouldn't give that much for
it. Yet the countess loves it--yes, just loves it, by God! Anyone
wanting it of her will have to pay a hundred rubles. Well, to tell the
truth between you and me, people's tastes differ. Of course, if one's a
sportsman one keeps a setter or a spaniel. And in that case don't you
spare five hundred rubles, or even give a thousand, if the dog is a good

The worthy clerk listened with gravity, yet none the less accomplished a
calculation of the number of letters in the advertisement brought. On
either side there was a group of charwomen, shop assistants,
doorkeepers, and the like. All had similar advertisements in their
hands, with one of the documents to notify that a coachman of good
character was about to be disengaged, and another one to advertise a
koliaska imported from Paris in 1814, and only slightly used since, and
another one a maid-servant of nineteen experienced in laundry work, but
prepared also for other jobs, and another one a sound drozhki save that
a spring was lacking, and another one a grey-dappled, spirited horse of
the age of seventeen, and another one some turnip and radish seed just
received from London, and another one a country house with every
amenity, stabling for two horses, and sufficient space for the laying
out of a fine birch or spruce plantation, and another one some
second-hand footwear, with, added, an invitation to attend the daily
auction sale from eight o'clock to three. The room where the company
thus stood gathered together was small, and its atmosphere confined; but
this closeness, of course, Collegiate Assessor Kovalev never perceived,
for, in addition to his face being muffled in a handkerchief, his nose
was gone, and God only knew its present habitat!

"My dear sir," at last he said impatiently, "allow me to ask you
something: it is a pressing matter."

"One moment, one moment! Two rubles, forty-three kopeks. Yes, presently.
Sixty rubles, four kopeks."

With which the clerk threw the two advertisements concerned towards the
group of charwomen and the rest, and turned to Kovalev.

"Well?" he said. "What do you want?"

"Your pardon," replied Kovalev, "but fraud and knavery has been done. I
still cannot understand the affair, but wish to announce that anyone
returning me the rascal shall receive an adequate reward."

"Your name, if you would be so good?"

"No, no. What can my name matter? I cannot tell it you. I know many
acquaintances such as Madame Chektareva (wife of the State Councillor)
and Pelagea Grigorievna Podtochina (wife of the Staff-Officer), and, the
Lord preserve us, they would learn of the affair at once. So say just `a
Collegiate Assessor,' or, better, `a gentleman ranking as Major.'"

"Has a household serf of yours absconded, then?"

"A household serf of mine? As though even a household serf would
perpetrate such a crime as the present one! No, indeed! It is my nose
that has absconded from me."

"Gospodin Nossov, Gospoding Nossov? Indeed a strange name, that![*] Then
has this Gospodin Nossov robbed you of some money?"

[* Nose is _noss_ in Russian, and Gospodin equivalent to the English

"I said nose, not Nossov. You are making a mistake. There has
disappeared, goodness knows whither, my nose, my own actual nose.
Presumably it is trying to make a fool of me."

"But how could it so disappear? The matter has something about it which
I do not fully understand."

"I cannot tell you the exact how. The point is that now the nose is
driving about the city, and giving itself out for a State Councillor
--wherefore I beg you to announce that anyone apprehending any such nose
ought at once, in the shortest possible space of time, to return it to
myself. Surely you can judge what it is for me meanwhile to be lacking
such a conspicuous portion of my frame? For a nose is not like a toe
which one can keep inside a boot, and hide the absence of if it is not
there. Besides, every Thurdsay I am due to call upon Madame Chektareva
(wife of the State Councillor): whilst Pelagea Grigorievna Podtochina
(wife of the Staff-Officer, mother of a pretty daughter) also is one of
my closest acquaintances. So, again, judge for yourself how I am
situated at present. In such a condition as this I could not possibly
present myself before the ladies named."

Upon that the clerk became thoughtful: the fact was clear from his
tightly compressed lips alone.

"No," he said at length. "Insert such an announcement I cannot."

"But why not?"

"Because, you see, it might injure the paper's reputation. Imagine if
everyone were to start proclaiming a disappearance of his nose! People
would begin to say that, that--well, that we printed absurdities and
false tales."

"But how is this matter a false tale? Nothing of the sort has it got
about it."

"You think not; but only last week a similar case occurred. One day a
chinovnik brought us an advertisement as you have done. The cost would
have been only two rubles, seventy-three kopeks, for all that it seemed
to signify was the running away of a poodle. Yet what was it, do you
think, in reality? Why, the thing turned out to be a libel, and the
`poodle' in question a cashier--of what department precisely I do not

"Yes, but here am I advertising not about a poodle, but about my own
nose, which, surely, is, for all intents and purposes, myself?"

"All the same, I cannot insert the advertisement."

"Even when actually I have lost my own nose!"

"The fact that your nose is gone is a matter for a doctor. There are
doctors, I have heard, who can fit one out with any sort of nose one
likes. I take it that by nature you are a wag, and like playing jokes in

"That is not so. I swear it as God is holy. In fact, as things have gone
so far, I will let you see for yourself."

"Why trouble?" Here the clerk took some snuff before adding with,
nevertheless, a certain movement of curiosity: "However, if it really
won't trouble you at all, a sight of the spot would gratify me."

The Collegiate Assessor removed the handkerchief.

"Strange indeed! Very strange indeed!" the clerk exclaimed. "And the
patch is as uniform as a newly fried pancake, almost unbelievably

"So you will dispute what I say no longer? Then surely you cannot but
put the announcement into print. I shall be extremely grateful to you,
and glad that the present occasion has given me such a pleasure as the
making of your acquaintance"--whence it will be seen that for once the
Major had decided to climb down.

"To print what you want is nothing much," the clerk replied. "Yet
frankly I cannot see how you are going to benefit from the step. I would
suggest, rather, that you commission a skilled writer to compose an
article describing this as a rare product of nature, and have the
article published in _The Northern Bee_" (here the clerk took more
snuff), "either for the instruction of our young" (the clerk wiped his
nose for a finish) "or as a matter of general interest."

This again depressed the Collegiate Assessor: and even though, on his
eyes happening to fall upon a copy of the newspaper, and reach the
column assigned to theatrical news, and encounter the name of a
beautiful actress, so that he almost broke into a smile, and a hand
began to finger a pocket for a Treasury note (since he held that only
stalls were seats befitting Majors and so forth)--although all this was
so, there again recurred to him the thought of the nose, and everything
again became spoilt.

Even the clerk seemed touched with the awkwardness of Kovalev's plight,
and wishful to lighten with a few sympathetic words the Collegiate
Assessor's depression.

"I am sorry indeed that this has befallen," he said. "Should you care
for a pinch of this? Snuff can dissipate both headache and low spirits.
Nay, it is good for haemorrhoids as well."

And he proffered his box-deftly, as he did so, folding back underneath
it the lid depicting a lady in a hat.

Kovalev lost his last shred of patience at the thoughtless act, and said

"How you can think fit thus to jest I cannot imagine. For surely you
perceive me no longer to be in possession of a means of sniffing? Oh,
you and your snuff can go to hell! Even the sight of it is more than I
can bear. I should say the same even if you were offering me, not
wretched birch bark, but real rappee."

Greatly incensed, he rushed out of the office, and made for the ward
police inspector's residence. Unfortunately he arrived at the very
moment when the inspector, after a yawn and a stretch, was reflecting:
"Now for two hours' sleep!" In short, the Collegiate Assessor's visit
chanced to be exceedingly ill-timed. Incidentally, the inspector, though
a great patron of manufacturers and the arts, preferred still more a
Treasury note.

"That's the thing!" he frequently would say. "It's a thing which can't
be beaten anywhere, for it wants nothing at all to eat, and it takes up
very little room, and it fits easily to the pocket, and it doesn't break
in pieces if it happens to be dropped."

So the inspector received Kovalev very drily, and intimated that just
after dinner was not the best moment for beginning an inquiry--nature
had ordained that one should rest after food (which showed the
Collegiate Assessor that at least the inspector had some knowledge of
sages' old saws), and that in any case no one would purloin the nose of
a _really_ respectable man.

Yes, the inspector gave it Kovalev between the eyes. And as it should be
added that Kovalev was extremely sensitive where his title or his
dignity was concerned (though he readily pardoned anything said against
himself personally, and even held, with regard to stage plays, that,
whilst Staff-Officers should not be assailed, officers of lesser rank
might be referred to), the police inspector's reception so took him
aback that, in a dignified way, and with hands set apart a little, he
nodded, remarked: "After your insulting observations there is nothing
which I wish to add," and betook himself away again.

He reached home scarcely hearing his own footsteps. Dusk had fallen,
and, after the unsuccessful questings, his flat looked truly dreary. As
he entered the hall he perceived Ivan, his valet, to be lying on his
back on the stained old leathern divan, and spitting at the ceiling with
not a little skill as regards successively hitting the same spot. The
man's coolness rearoused Kovalev's ire, and, smacking him over the head
with his hat, he shouted:

"You utter pig! You do nothing but play the fool." Leaping up, Ivan
hastened to take his master's cloak.

The tired and despondent Major then sought his sitting-room, threw
himself into an easy-chair, sighed, and said to himself:

"My God, my God! why has this misfortune come upon me? Even loss of
hands or feet would have been better, for a man without a nose is the
devil knows what--a bird, but not a bird, a citizen, but not a citizen,
a thing just to be thrown out of window. It would have been better, too,
to have had my nose cut off in action, or in a duel, or through my own
act: whereas here is the nose gone with nothing to show for
it--uselessly--for not a groat's profit!--No, though," he added after
thought, "it's not likely that the nose is gone for good: it's not
likely at all. And quite probably I am dreaming all this, or am fuddled.
It may be that when I came home yesterday I drank the vodka with which I
rub my chin after shaving instead of water--snatched up the stuff
because that fool Ivan was not there to receive me."

So he sought to ascertain whether he might not be drunk by pinching
himself till he fairly yelled. Then, certain, because of the pain, that
he was acting and living in waking life, he approached the mirror with
diffidence, and once more scanned himself with a sort of inward hope
that the nose might by this time be showing as restored. But the result
was merely that he recoiled and muttered:

"What an absurd spectacle still!"

Ah, it all passed his understanding! If only a button, or a silver
spoon, or a watch, or some such article were gone, rather than that
anything had disappeared like this--for no reason, and in his very flat!
Eventually, having once more reviewed the circumstances, he reached the
final conclusion that he should most nearly hit the truth in supposing
Madame Podtochina (wife of the Staff-Officer, of course--the lady who
wanted him to become her daughter's husband) to have been the prime
agent in the affair. True, he had always liked dangling in the
daughter's wake, but also he had always fought shy of really coming down
to business. Even when the Staff-Officer's lady had said point blank
that she desired him to become her son-in-law he had put her off with
his compliments, and replied that the daughter was still too young, and
himself due yet to perform five years service, and aged only forty-two.
Yes, the truth must be that out of revenge the Staff-Officer's wife had
resolved to ruin him, and hired a band of witches for the purpose,
seeing that the nose could not conceivably have been cut off--no one had
entered his private room lately, and, after being shaved by Ivan
Yakovlevitch on the Wednesday, he had the nose intact, he knew and
remembered well, throughout both the rest of the Wednesday and the day
following. Also, if the nose had been cut off, pain would have resulted,
and also a wound, and the place could not have healed so quickly, and
become of the uniformity of a pancake.

Next, the Major made his plans. Either he would sue the Staff-Officer's
lady in legal form or he would pay her a surprise visit, and catch her
in a trap. Then the foregoing reflections were cut short by a glimmer
showing through the chink of the door--a sign that Ivan had just lit a
candle in the hall: and presently Ivan himself appeared, carrying the
candle in front of him, and throwing the room into such clear radiance
that Kovalev had hastily to snatch up the handkerchief again, and once
more cover the place where the nose had been but yesterday, lest the
stupid fellow should be led to stand gaping at the monstrosity on his
master's features.

Ivan had just returned to his cupboard when an unfamiliar voice in the
hall inquired:

"Is this where Collegiate Assessor Kovalev lives?"

"It is," Kovalev shouted, leaping to his feet, and flinging wide the
door. "Come in, will you?"

Upon which there entered a police-officer of smart exterior, with
whiskers neither light nor dark, and cheeks nicely plump. As a matter of
fact, he was the police-officer whom Ivan Yakovlevitch had met at the
end of the Isaakievsky Bridge.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "but have you lost your nose?"

"I have--just so."

"Then the nose is found."

"What?" For a moment or two joy deprived Major Kovalev of further
speech. All that he could do was to stand staring, open-eyed, at the
officer's plump lips and cheeks, and at the tremulant beams which the
candlelight kept throwing over them. "Then how did it come about?"

"Well, by the merest chance the nose was found beside a roadway. Already
it had entered a stage-coach, and was about to leave for Riga with a
passport made out in the name of a certain chinovnik. And, curiously
enough, I myself, at first, took it to be a gentleman. Luckily, though,
I had my eyeglasses on me. Soon, therefore, I perceived the `gentleman'
to be no more than a nose. Such is my shortness of sight, you know, that
even now, though I see you standing there before me, and see that you
have a face, I cannot distinguish on that face the nose, the chin, or
anything else. My mother-in-law (my wife's mother) too cannot easily
distinguish details."

Kovalev felt almost beside himself.

"Where is the nose now?" cried he. "Where, I ask? Let me go to it at

"Do not trouble, sir. Knowing how greatly you stand in need of it, I
have it with me. It is a curious fact, too, that the chief agent in the
affair has been a rascal of a barber who lives on the Vozkresensky
Prospekt, and now is sitting at the police station. For long past I had
suspected him of drunkenness and theft, and only three days ago he took
away from a shop a button-card. Well, you will find your nose to be as

And the officer delved into a pocket, and drew thence the nose, wrapped
in paper.

"Yes, that's the nose all right!" Kovalev shouted. "It's the nose
precisely! Will you join me in a cup of tea?"

"I should have accounted it indeed a pleasure if I had been able, but,
unfortunately, I have to go straight on to the penitentiary. Provisions,
sir, have risen greatly in price. And living with me I have not only my
family, but my mother-in-law (my wife's mother). Yet the eldest of my
children gives me much hope. He is a clever lad. The only thing is that
I have not the means for his proper education."

When the officer was gone the Collegiate Assessor sat plunged in
vagueness, plunged in inability to see or to feel, so greatly was he
upset with joy. Only after a while did he with care take the thus
recovered nose in cupped hands, and again examine it attentively.

"It, undoubtedly. It, precisely," he said at length. "Yes, and it even
has on it the pimple to the left which broke out on me yesterday."

Sheerly he laughed in his delight.

But nothing lasts long in this world. Even joy grows less lively the
next moment. And a moment later, again, it weakens further. And at last
it remerges insensibly with the normal mood, even as the ripple from a
pebble's impact becomes remerged with the smooth surface of the water at
large. So Kovalev relapsed into thought again. For by now he had
realised that even yet the affair was not wholly ended, seeing that,
though retrieved, the nose needed to be re-stuck.

"What if it should fail so to stick!"

The bare question thus posed turned the Major pale.

Feeling, somehow, very nervous, he drew the mirror closer to him, lest
he should fit the nose awry. His hands were trembling as gently, very
carefully he lifted the nose in place. But, oh, horrors, it would not
_remain_ in place! He held it to his lips, warmed it with his breath,
and again lifted it to the patch between his cheeks--only to find, as
before, that it would not retain its position.

"Come, come, fool!" said he. "Stop where you are, I tell you."

But the nose, obstinately wooden, fell upon the table with a strange
sound as of a cork, whilst the Major's face became convulsed.

"Surely it is not too large now?" he reflected in terror. Yet as often
as he raised it towards its proper position the new attempt proved as
vain as the last.

Loudly he shouted for Ivan, and sent for a doctor who occupied a flat (a
better one than the Major's) on the first floor. The doctor was a
fine-looking man with splendid, coal-black whiskers. Possessed of a
healthy, comely wife, he ate some raw apples every morning, and kept his
mouth extraordinarily clean--rinsed it out, each morning, for
three-quarters of an hour, and polished its teeth with five different
sorts of brushes. At once he answered Kovalev's summons, and, after
asking how long ago the calamity had happened, tilted the Major's chin,
and rapped the vacant site with a thumb until at last the Major wrenched
his head away, and, in doing so, struck it sharply against the wall
behind. This, the doctor said, was nothing; and after advising him to
stand a little farther from the wall, and bidding him incline his head
to the right, he once more rapped the vacant patch before, after bidding
him incline his head to the left, dealing him, with a "Hm!" such a
thumb-dig as left the Major standing like a horse which is having its
teeth examined.

The doctor, that done, shook his head.

"The thing is not feasible," he pronounced. "You had better remain as
you are rather than go farther and fare worse. Of course, I _could_
stick it on again--I could do that for you in a moment; but at the same
time I would assure you that your plight will only become worse as the

"Never mind," Kovalev replied. "Stick it on again, pray. How can I
continue without a nose? Besides, things could not possibly be worse
than they are now. At present they are the devil himself. Where can I
show this caricature of a face? My circle of acquaintances is a large
one: this very night I am due in two houses, for I know a great many
people like Madame Chektareva (wife of the State Councillor), Madame
Podtochina (wife of the Staff-Officer), and others. Of course, though, I
shall have nothing further to do with Madame Podtochina (except through
the police) after her present proceedings. Yes," persuasively he went
on, "I beg of you to do me the favour requested. Surely there are means
of doing it permanently? Stick it on in any sort of a fashion--at all
events so that it will hold fast, even if not becomingly. And then, when
risky moments occur, I might even support it gently with my hand, and
likewise dance no more--anything to avoid fresh injury through an
unguarded movement. For the rest, you may feel assured that I shall show
you my gratitude for this visit so far as ever my means will permit."

"Believe me," the doctor replied, neither too loudly nor too softly, but
just with incisiveness and magnetic "when I say that I never attend
patients for money. To do that would be contrary alike to my rules and
to my art. When I accept a fee for a visit I accept it only lest I
offend through a refusal. Again I say--this time on my honour, as you
will not believe my plain word--that, though I could easily re-affix
your nose, the proceeding would make things worse, far worse, for you.
It would be better for you to trust merely to the action of nature. Wash
often in cold water, and I assure you that you will be as healthy
without a nose as with one. This nose here I should advise you to put
into a jar of spirit: or, better still, to steep in two tablespoonfuls
of stale vodka and strong vinegar. Then you will be able to get a good
sum for it. Indeed, I myself will take the thing if you consider it of
no value."

"No, no!" shouted the distracted Major. "Not on any account will I sell
it. I would rather it were lost again."

"Oh, I beg your pardon." And the doctor bowed. "My only idea had been to
serve you. What is it you want? Well, you have seen me do what I could."

And majestically he withdrew. Kovalev, meanwhile, had never once looked
at his face. In his distraction he had noticed nothing beyond a pair of
snowy cuffs projecting from black sleeves.

He decided, next, that, before lodging a plea next day, he would write
and request the Staff-Officer's lady to restore him his nose without
publicity. His letter ran as follows:

DEAR MADAME ALEXANDRA GRIGORIEVNA, I am at a loss to understand your
strange conduct. At least, however, you may rest assured that you will
benefit nothing by it, and that it will in no way further force me to
marry your daughter. Believe me, I am now aware of all the circumstances
connected with my nose, and know that you alone have been the prime
agent in them. The nose's sudden disappearance, its subsequent gaddings
about, its masqueradings as, firstly, a chinovnik and, secondly,
itself--all these have come of witchcraft practised either by you or by
adepts in pursuits of a refinement equal to your own. This being so, I
consider it my duty herewith to warn you that if the nose should not
this very day reassume its correct position, I shall be forced to have
resort to the law's protection and defence. With all respect, I have the
honour to remain your very humble servant, PLATON KOVALEV.

"MY DEAR SIR," wrote the lady in return, "your letter has greatly
surprised me, and I will say frankly that I had not expected it, and
least of all its unjust reproaches. I assure you that I have never at
any time allowed the chinovnik whom you mention to enter my
house--either masquerading or as himself. True, I have received calls
from Philip Ivanovitch Potanchikov, who, as you know, is seeking my
daughter's hand, and, besides, is a man steady and upright, as well as
learned; but never, even so, have I given him reason to hope. You speak,
too, of a nose. If that means that I seem to you to have desired to
leave you with a nose and nothing else, that is to say, to return you a
direct refusal of my daughter's hand, I am astonished at your words,
for, as you cannot but be aware, my inclination is quite otherwise. So
now, if still you wish for a formal betrothal to my daughter, I will
readily, I do assure you, satisfy your desire, which all along has been,
in the most lively manner, my own also. In hopes of that, I remain yours

"No, no!" Kovalev exclaimed, after reading the missive. "She, at least,
is not guilty. Oh, certainly not! No one who had committed such a crime
could write such a letter." The Collegiate Assessor was the more expert
in such matters because more than once he had been sent to the Caucasus
to institute prosecutions. "Then by what sequence of chances has the
affair happened? Only the devil could say!"

His hands fell in bewilderment.

It had not been long before news of the strange occurrence had spread
through the capital. And, of course, it received additions with the
progress of time. Everyone's mind was, at that period, bent upon the
marvellous. Recently experiments with the action of magnetism had
occupied public attention, and the history of the dancing chairs of
Koniushennaia Street also was fresh. So no one could wonder when it
began to be said that the nose of Collegiate Assessor Kovalev could be
seen promenading the Nevski Prospekt at three o'clock, or when a crowd
of curious sightseers gathered there. Next, someone declared that the
nose, rather, could be beheld at Junker's store, and the throng which
surged thither became so massed as to necessitate a summons to the
police. Meanwhile a speculator of highly respectable aspect and whiskers
who sold stale cakes at the entrance to a theatre knocked together some
stout wooden benches, and invited the curious to stand upon them for
eighty kopeks each; whilst a retired colonel who came out early to see
the show, and penetrated the crowd only with great difficulty, was
disgusted when in the window of the store he beheld, not a nose, but
merely an ordinary woollen waistcoat flanked by the selfsame lithograph
of a girl pulling up a stocking, whilst a dandy with cutaway waistcoat
and receding chin peeped at her from behind a tree, which had hung there
for ten years past.

"Dear me!" irritably he exclaimed. "How come people so to excite
themselves about stupid, improbable reports?"

Next, word had it that the nose was walking, not on the Nevski Prospekt,
but in the Taurida Park, and, in fact, had been in the habit of doing so
for a long while past, so that even in the days when Khozrev Mirza had
lived near there he had been greatly astonished at the freak of nature.
This led students to repair thither from the College of Medicine, and a
certain eminent, respected lady to write and ask the Warden of the Park
to show her children the phenomenon, and, if possible, add to the
demonstration a lesson of edifying and instructive tenor.

Naturally, these events greatly pleased also gentlemen who frequented
routs, since those gentlemen wished to entertain the ladies, and their
resources had become exhausted. Only a few solid, worthy persons
deprecated it all. One such person even said, in his disgust, that
comprehend how foolish inventions of the sort could circulate in such an
enlightened age he could not--that, in fact, he was surprised that the
Government had not turned its attention to the matter. From which
utterance it will be seen that the person in question was one of those
who would have dragged the Government into anything on earth, including
even their daily quarrels with their wives.


But again events here become enshrouded in mist. What happened after
that is unknown to all men.


FARCE really does occur in this world, and, sometimes, farce altogether
without an element of probability. Thus, the nose which lately had gone
about as a State Councillor, and stirred all the city, suddenly
reoccupied its proper place (between the two cheeks of Major Kovalev) as
though nothing at all had happened. The date was 7 April, and when, that
morning, the major awoke as usual, and, as usual, threw a despairing
glance at the mirror, he this time, beheld before him, what?--why, the
nose again! Instantly he took hold of it. Yes, the nose, the nose
precisely! "Aha!" he shouted, and, in his joy, might have executed a
trepak about the room in bare feet had not Ivan's entry suddenly checked
him. Then he had himself furnished with materials for washing, washed,
and glanced at the mirror again. Oh, the nose was there still! So next
he rubbed it vigorously with the towel. Ah, still it was there, the same
as ever!

"Look, Ivan," he said. "Surely there is a pimple on my nose?" But
meanwhile he was thinking: "What if he should reply: `You are wrong,
sir. Not only is there not a pimple to be seen, but not even a nose'?"

However, all that Ivan said was:

"Not a pimple, sir, that isn't. The nose is clear all over."

"Good!" the Major reflected, and snapped his fingers. At the same moment
Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch peeped round the door. He did so as timidly as
a cat which has just been whipped for stealing cream.

"Tell me first whether your hands are clean?" the Major cried.

"They are, sir."

"You lie, I'll be bound."

"By God, sir, I do not!"

"Then go carefully."

As soon as Kovalev had seated himself in position Ivan Yakovlevitch
vested him in a sheet, and plied brush upon chin and a portion of a
cheek until they looked like the blanc mange served on tradesmen's

"Ah, you!" Here Ivan Yakovlevitch glanced at the nose. Then he bent his
head askew, and contemplated the nose from a position on the flank. "It
looks right enough," finally he commented, but eyed the member for quite
a little while longer before carefully, so gently as almost to pass the
imagination, he lifted two fingers towards it, in order to grasp its
tip--such always being his procedure.

"Come, come! Do mind!" came in a shout from Kovalev. Ivan Yakovlevitch
let fall his hands, and stood disconcerted, dismayed as he had never
been before. But at last he started scratching the razor lightly under
the chin, and, despite the unhandiness and difficulty of shaving in that
quarter without also grasping the organ of smell, contrived, with the
aid of a thumb planted firmly upon the cheek and the lower gum, to
overcome all obstacles, and bring the shave to a finish.

Everything thus ready, Kovalev dressed, called a cab, and set out for
the restaurant. He had not crossed the threshold before he shouted:
"Waiter! A cup of chocolate!" Then he sought a mirror, and looked at
himself. The nose was still in place! He turned round in cheerful mood,
and, with eves contracted slightly, bestowed a bold, satirical scrutiny
upon two military men, one of the noses on whom was no larger than a
waistcoat button. Next, he sought the chancery of the department where
he was agitating to obtain a Vice-Governorship (or, failing that, an
Administratorship), and, whilst passing through the reception vestibule,
again surveyed himself in a mirror. As much in place as ever the nose

Next, he went to call upon a brother Collegiate Assessor, a brother
"Major." This colleague of his was a great satirist, but Kovalev always
met his quarrelsome remarks merely with: "Ah, you! I know you, and know
what a wag you are."

Whilst proceeding thither he reflected:

"At least, if the Major doesn't burst into laughter on seeing me, I
shall know for certain that all is in order again."

And this turned out to be so, for the colleague said nothing at all on
the subject.

"Splendid, damn it all!" was Kovalev's inward comment.

In the street, on leaving the colleague's, he met Madame Podtochina, and
also Madame Podtochina's daughter. Bowing to them, he was received with
nothing but joyous exclamations. Clearly all had been fancy, no harm had
been done. So not only did he talk quite a while to the ladies, but he
took special care, as he did so, to produce his snuffbox, and
deliberately plug his nose at both entrances. Meanwhile inwardly he

"There now, good ladies! There now, you couple of hens! I'm not going to
marry the daughter, though. All this is just--_par amour_, allow me."

And from that time onwards Major Kovalev gadded about the same as
before. He walked on the Nevski Prospekt, and he visited theatres, and
he showed himself everywhere. And always the nose accompanied him the
same as before, and evinced no signs of again purposing a departure.
Great was his good humour, replete was he with smiles, intent was he
upon pursuit of fair ladies. Once, it was noted, he even halted before a
counter of the Gostini Dvor, and there purchased the riband of an order.
Why precisely he did so is not known, for of no order was he a knight.

To think of such an affair happening in this our vast empire's northern
capital! Yet general opinion decided that the affair had about it much
of the improbable. Leaving out of the question the nose's strange,
unnatural removal, and its subsequent appearance as a State Councillor,
how came Kovalev not to know that one ought not to advertise for a nose
through a newspaper? Not that I say this because I consider newspaper
charges for announcements excessive. No, that is nothing, and I do not
belong to the number of the mean. I say it because such a proceeding
would have been _gauche_, derogatory, not the thing. And how came the
nose into the baked roll? And what of Ivan Yakovlevitch? Oh, I cannot
understand these points--absolutely I cannot. And the strangest, most
unintelligible fact of all is that authors actually can select such
occurrences for their subject! I confess this too to pass my
comprehension, to----But no; I will say just that I do not understand
it. In the first place, a course of the sort never benefits the country.
And in the second place--in the second place, a course of the sort never
benefits anything at all. I cannot divine the use of it.

Yet, even considering these things; even conceding this, that, and the
other (for where are not incongruities found at times?) there may have,
after all, been something in the affair. For no matter what folk say to
the contrary, such affairs do happen in this world--rarely of course,
yet none the less really.


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