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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811)

Ready for the Inspector

From “The Broken Jug”

ADAM, Village Magistrate, and LICHT, Clerk of Court.

Licht.Eh, what in the world has come over you, friend Adam? Do you know how you look?

Adam(sitting and bandaging his leg).Oh, yes. In order to stumble, all that one needs are feet, especially on this slippery floor. I slipped down here. The occasion for such a mishap each man bears in himself.

Licht.What, my friend? In himself?

Adam.Yes, in himself.

Licht.Upon my word!

Adam.What do you mean?

Licht.You are descended from a pretty wild ancestor. He fell at the very beginning of things, and became famous through his fall. Have you, too——



Adam.I? But I tell you, here I slipped—right here.

Licht.Not metaphorically? Actually fell down?

Adam.That would be a poor enough metaphor. Yes, actually!

Licht.And how did it happen?

Adam.Just now, as I was getting out of bed. I was singing a cheerful morning song, and before I had begun my day I fell, and wrenched my foot.

Licht.The left one, to boot?

Adam.The left one?

Licht.Yes, this one here!

Adam.To be sure!

Licht.A pity! For that foot walks the ways of sin with some difficulty at best.

Adam.That foot? With difficulty? Why?

Licht.Why, your clubfoot!

Adam.Clubfoot? Lumpfoot! One foot is as much of a lump as the other!

Licht.Pardon me. You wrong your right foot, which can hardly boast of equal size, and risks less going on slippery places.

Adam.Pshaw! Where one dares to go, the other follows too.

Licht.And what has injured your face so?

Adam.My face?

Licht.What, you do not know?

Adam.I believe you are lying! How does it look?

Licht.How it looks?

Adam.Yes, friend, how?


Adam.Explain yourself.

Licht.It’s flayed most horribly. A piece of your cheek is missing, so big that it would need scales to estimate it.

Adam.The devil it is!

Licht(brings a mirror).Here, convince yourself! A sheep driven by wolves, that forces its way through a hedge of thorns, leaves not more wool behind than you.

Adam.Hm, hm! You are right. It looks unlovely enough. The nose has suffered too.

Licht.And the eye.

Adam.Not the eye!

Licht.Yes; right across here is a mark as bloody—so help me Heaven!—as though a giant had laid a club across it.

Adam.Hm, hm! You see, I did not note all that.

Licht.Yes, under fire one does not feel one’s wounds.

Adam.Fire? What, with the stove I fought? Yes, now I know. I lost my balance, clutched about in the air for some support, and caught hold of the trousers—which had got wet last night, and which I had hung beside the stove—thinking to save myself. But the band snapped, and trousers and I together came down, I with my forehead against the stove, on the stove’s sharpest corner.

Licht(laughs).Good! Good!

Adam.Cursed, rather!

Licht.The first fall of Adam in such conditions——

Adam.Well, well, but what’s the news?

Licht.The news—the news! I had almost forgot to tell you.


Licht.Prepare for unexpected company from Utrecht.


Licht.The inspector of village courts is coming.

Adam.Who is coming?

Licht.The inspector from Utrecht. He is traveling about to see how justice is administered. He will be here to-day.

Adam.To-day? Are you in your right mind?

Licht.True as I live! He was at Holla, the nearest place, yesterday, and looked into the workings of the court there. A farmer saw the fresh horses hitched up. He’s coming now to us at Huisum.

Adam.To-day? The inspector from Utrecht? The good man grinds his own ax as well as any other, and hates a fuss. He will not come to Huisum to annoy us.

Licht.If he went as far as Holla, he’ll go on to Huisum. Take care!

Adam.Go to with your fairy tales, I tell you.

Licht.The farmer saw him.

Adam.Who can tell whom the squinting rascal saw! These fellows cannot tell a face from a bald head. Put a three-cornered hat on a cane, throw a cloak about it, and such a lout will take it for any one you please.

Licht.Very well, go on doubting until the inspector is at the door.

Adam.What, at the door, without warning us by so much as a word?

Licht.Stupid! It’s not the old inspector, Wachholder. Then all would be well. It is the counselor, Walther.

Adam.Even so! Leave me in peace! Like us, the man has taken his oath, and, like us, is ruled by the edicts and traditional observances.

Licht.Well, listen to me. Inspector Walther appeared in Holla yesterday quite unexpectedly. He inspected the books and the treasury of the court, and suspended judge and clerk summarily from office. Why, I cannot tell.

Adam.The devil! Did the farmer say that too?

Licht.This, and more.


Licht.If you want to know, early this morning the judge was looked for. He had been arrested in his house. They found him in the barn. He had hung himself from a crossbeam.

Adam.What is it you say?

Licht.They cut him down, rubbed him all over, poured water on him, and finally managed to bring him back to life.

Adam.Oh, did they?

Licht.Now, everything in his house is sealed for official examination, as though he really were a corpse, and another has already been put in his place.

Adam.Shocking! Shocking! A careless fellow he was, true, yet otherwise honest, sure as I live. A fellow he was who was good company, but very careless, that I’ll not deny. If the inspector really was in Holla, I have no doubt that our poor friend fared badly.

Licht.And it is only owing to this circumstance that the inspector is not here yet. At noon he will be, that’s certain.

Adam.At noon? Very well. Now true friendship will show itself. You know how two hands can help each other. You, too, I know, would like to be a magistrate, and you deserve to be as much as any one. But the proper time has not yet come.

Licht.I a magistrate? What are you thinking of?

Adam.You are a friend of reasonable, measured speech; you have studied your Cicero thoroughly, in spite of the fellows who lecture at Amsterdam. But hold down your ambition for to-day, do you hear? Other and more fitting times will come for you to exercise your art.

Licht.Why, we’re the closest friends! You have nothing to fear from me.

Adam.For, at the proper time, you remember, even the great Demosthenes was silent. Follow the master now. And though I am no king of Macedon, I show gratitude in my own way.

Licht.But why are you so suspicious? Have I ever——

Adam.True, true! Only remember, not everything will bear the light of day. It was only a jest. Is there any reason why a judge must always be as grave as a polar bear?

Licht.I quite agree with you.

Adam.Well, then, let’s to the courtroom, and put the records in order.

Ser.Inspector Walther sends greetings; he’ll be here in a moment.

Adam.Gracious Heaven! Has he done his business at Holla?

Ser.Yes, he’s at Huisum.

Adam.Ho! Lieschen! Gretchen!

Licht.Not so loud!


Licht.Send the inspector thanks for his courtesy.

Ser.To-morrow we pass on to Hussahe.

Adam.What am I to do? How shall I be ready in time?(Fumbles about for his clothes.)

Lies.(entering).Here I am.

Licht.Put on your trousers! Are you mad?

Gret.(entering).Here I am, judge!

Licht.Here, take your coat.

Adam.Who came in then—the inspector?

Licht.Nonsense, the maids.

Adam.Aha! My cravat, my collar, my cloak!

Lies.First you need your waistcoat.

Adam.Take the coat off again! Quick!

Licht(to the SERVANT).The inspector will be very welcome here. We shall be ready to receive him presently. Tell him that.

Adam.No, no! Say that Judge Adam asks to be excused.


Adam.Yes, excused. Is he already on the way?

Ser.He’s at the inn. He sent for the smith to mend his carriage.

Adam.Good! My compliments to him. Say I must be excused. I nearly broke my neck. See for yourself how I look! And then, every fright or shock acts on me like a purgative. Say that I’m ill.

Licht.Are you quite mad? Say that we await the inspector’s visit with pleasure.

Adam.The devil!


Adam.I feel as if I had swallowed a rhubarb pill!

Licht.Are you determined to betray yourself?

Adam.Gretchen, you scarecrow! Lieschen!

Lies. and Gret.Here we are!

Adam.Away, I say! Get sausage, cheese, ham, and bottles out of the courtroom! Quick! Not you—the other!

Lies.What else do you want?

Adam.Silence! Run, and get me my wig out of the bookcase!(Exeunt LIESCHEN and GRETCHEN.)

Licht(to SERVANT).I hope the inspector did not hurt himself on the journey.

Ser.The carriage ran into a ditch.

Licht.Into a ditch, you say? And was no one hurt?

Ser.No one badly. A shaft broke, and the inspector sprained his hand slightly.

Adam.Oh, that he had broken his neck!

Licht.Sprained his hand! Dear me, did the smith come?

Ser.To mend the shaft, yes.


Adam.You mean the doctor!


Ser.For the shaft.

Adam.No, for the hand.

Ser.Good-by, gentlemen.(Aside.)Surely those fellows must be mad.(Exit.)

Licht.I meant the smith.

Adam.You betray yourself, my friend.

Licht.How so?

Adam.You are all confused!


Adam.Well, what have you there?

Lies.A roll of Brunswick sausage.

Adam.No; those are rolled-up documents.

Licht.I in confusion?

Adam.You must take those back to the courtroom.

Lies.The sausages?

Adam.No, these things here.

Licht.It was a misunderstanding.

Gret.I can’t find your wig in the bookcase.

Adam.Why not?



Gret.Last night, at eleven——

Adam.Well, go on!

Gret.You came home without a wig.

Adam.I! Without a wig?

Gret.There’s Lieschen here will bear me out. Your other wig is at the hairdresser’s.

Adam.I came without——

Gret.Yes, it’s true. You were quite bald when you came home. You said you had had a fall, don’t you remember? And you bade me wash the blood from your face?

Adam.The shameless creature!

Gret.It’s true, though!

Adam.Silence, I tell you! Not a word of it is true!

Licht.I thought you had a fall this morning?

Adam.So I did. To-day the wound, and yesterday the wig. I had it freshly powdered on my head, and took it off with my hat. Go, Gretchen, to my friend the parson, and ask him to lend me his wig. I believe the cat, pig that she is, littered in mine. Now it is lying dirty under the bed. That’s it—I remember now!

Licht.The cat! Are you mad?

Adam.True as I live! Five kittens, black and yellow, and one white.

Licht.Littered in the wig?

Adam.To be sure! I hung the wig on a nail, brushed against it by accident, and it fell down——

Licht.Whereupon the cat, no doubt, took it in its mouth——

Adam.No, no!

Licht.Carried it under the bed, and littered in it.

Adam.I did not say so!

Licht.Well, what happened then?

Adam.I pushed the wig under the bed this morning.

Licht.So that the cat could litter there last night!

Gret.(giggling).Am I to go?

Adam.Yes, and my compliments to the parson’s wife. I’ll send back the wig in good condition. You need not ask the parson.