Act IV - Scene X

[Khlestakov and Merchants, with a basket of wine and sugar loaves.]

KHLESTAKOV: What is it, friends?

MERCHANTS: We beseech your favor.

KHLESTAKOV: What do you want?

MERCHANTS: Don't ruin us, your Worship. We suffer insult and wrong wholly without cause.

KHLESTAKOV: From whom?

A MERCHANT: Why, from our governor here. Such a governor there never was yet in the world, your Worship. No words can describe the injuries he inflicts upon us. He has taken the bread out of our mouths by quartering soldiers on us, so that you might as well put your neck in a noose. He doesn't treat you as you deserve. He catches hold of your beard and says, "Oh, you Tartar!" Upon my word, if we had shown him any disrespect, but we obey all the laws and regulations. We don't mind giving him what his wife and daughter need for their clothes, but no, that's not enough. So help me God! He comes to our shop and takes whatever his eyes fall on. He sees a piece of cloth and says, "Oh, my friends, that's a fine piece of goods. Take it to my house." So we take it to his house. It will be almost forty yards.

KHLESTAKOV: Is it possible? My, what a swindler!

MERCHANTS: So help us God! No one remembers a governor like him. When you see him coming you hide everything in the shop. It isn't only that he wants a few delicacies and fineries. He takes every bit of trash, too—prunes that have been in the barrel seven years and that even the boy in my shop would not eat, and he grabs a fist full. His name day is St. Anthony's, and you'd think there's nothing else left in the world to bring him and that he doesn't want any more. But no, you must give him more. He says St. Onufry's is also his name day. What's to be done? You have to take things to him on St. Onufry's day, too.

KHLESTAKOV: Why, he's a plain robber.

MERCHANTS: Yes, indeed! And try to contradict him, and he'll fill your house with a whole regiment of soldiers. And if you say anything, he orders the doors closed. "I won't inflict corporal punishment on you," he says, "or put you in the rack. That's forbidden by law," he says. "But I'll make you swallow salt herring, my good man."

KHLESTAKOV: What a swindler! For such things a man can be sent to Siberia.

MERCHANTS: It doesn't matter where you are pleased to send him. Only the farthest away from here the better. Father, don't scorn to accept our bread and salt. We pay our respects to you with sugar and a basket of wine.

KHLESTAKOV: No, no. Don't think of it. I don't take bribes. Oh, if, for example, you would offer me a loan of three hundred rubles, that's quite different. I am willing to take a loan.

MERCHANTS: If you please, father. [They take out money.] But what is three hundred? Better take five hundred. Only help us.

KHLESTAKOV: Very well. About a loan I won't say a word. I'll take it.

MERCHANTS: [proffering him the money on a silver tray] Do please take the tray, too.

KHLESTAKOV: Very well. I can take the tray, too.

MERCHANTS: [bowing] Then take the sugar at the same time.

KHLESTAKOV: Oh, no. I take no bribes.

OSIP: Why don't you take the sugar, your Highness? Take it. Everything will come in handy on the road. Give here the sugar and that case. Give them here. It'll all be of use. What have you got there—a string? Give it here. A string will be handy on the road, too, if the coach or something else should break—for tying it up.

MERCHANTS: Do us this great favor, your illustrious Highness. Why, if you don't help us in our appeal to you, then we simply don't know how we are to exist. We might as well put our necks in a noose.

KHLESTAKOV: Positively, positively. I shall exert my efforts in your behalf.

[The Merchants leave. A woman's voice is heard saying: "Don't you dare not to let me in. I'll make a complaint against you to him himself. Don't push me that way. It hurts."]

KHLESTAKOV: Who is there? [Goes to the window.] What is it, mother?

[Two women's voices are heard: "We beseech your grace, father. Give orders, your Lordship, for us to be heard."]

KHLESTAKOV: Let her in.