Act IV - Scene I

[Enter cautiously, almost on tiptoe, Ammos Fiodorovich, Artemy Filippovich, the Postmaster, Luka Lukich, Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky in full dress-uniform.]

AMMOS: For God's sake, gentlemen, quick, form your line, and let's have more order. Why, man alive, he goes to Court and rages at the Imperial Council. Draw up in military line, strictly in military line. You, Piotr Ivanovich, take your place there, and you, Piotr Ivanovich, stand here.

[Both the Piotr Ivanoviches run on tiptoe to the places indicated.]

ARTEMY: Do as you please, Ammos Fiodorovich, I think we ought to try.

AMMOS: Try what?

ARTEMY: It's clear what.

AMMOS: Grease?

ARTEMY: Exactly, grease.

AMMOS: It's risky, the deuce take it. He'll fly into a rage at us. He's a government official, you know. Perhaps it should be given to him in the form of a gift from the nobility for some sort of memorial?

POSTMASTER: Or, perhaps, tell him some money has been sent here by post and we don't know for whom?

ARTEMY: You had better look out that he doesn't send you by post a good long ways off. Look here, things of such a nature are not done this way in a well-ordered state. What's the use of a whole regiment here? We must present ourselves to him one at a time, and do—what ought to be done, you know—so that eyes do not see and ears do not hear. That's the way things are done in a well-ordered society. You begin it, Ammos Fiodorovich, you be the first.

AMMOS: You had better go first. The distinguished guest has eaten in your institution.

ARTEMY: Then Luka Lukich, as the enlightener of youth, should go first.

LUKA: I can't, I can't, gentlemen. I confess I am so educated that the moment an official a single degree higher than myself speaks to me, my heart stands still and I get as tongue-tied as though my tongue were caught in the mud. No, gentlemen, excuse me. Please let me off.

ARTEMY: It's you who have got to do it, Ammos Fiodorovich. There's no one else. Why, every word you utter seems to be issuing from Cicero's mouth.

AMMOS: What are you talking about! Cicero! The idea! Just because a man sometimes waxes enthusiastic over house dogs or hunting hounds.

ALL: [pressing him] No, not over dogs, but the Tower of Babel, too. Don't forsake us, Ammos Fiodorovich, help us. Be our Saviour!

AMMOS: Let go of me, gentlemen.

Footsteps and coughing are heard in Khlestakov's room. All hurry to the door, crowding and jostling in their struggle to get out. Some are uncomfortably squeezed, and half-suppressed cries are heard.

[BOBCHINSKY'S VOICE: Oh, Piotr Ivanovich, you stepped on my foot.]

ARTEMY: Look out, gentlemen, look out. Give me a chance to atone for my sins. You are squeezing me to death.

[Exclamations of "Oh! Oh!" Finally they all push through the door, and the stage is left empty.]