Act V - Scene II
[The same and the Merchants.]
GOVERNOR: Ah, how do you do, my fine fellows?
MERCHANTS: [bowing] We wish you health, father.
GOVERNOR: Well, my dearly beloved friends, how are you? How are your goods selling? So you complained against me, did you, you tea tanks, you scurvy hucksters? Complain, against me? You crooks, you pirates, you. Did you gain a lot by it, eh? Aha, you thought you'd land me in prison? May seven devils and one she-devil take you! Do you know that—
ANNA: Good heavens, Antosha, what words you use!
GOVERNOR: [irritated] Oh, it isn't a matter of words now. Do you know that the very official to whom you complained is going to marry my daughter? Well, what do you say to that? Now I'll make you smart. You cheat the people, you make a contract with the government, and you do the government out of a hundred thousand, supplying it with rotten cloth; and when you give fifteen yards away gratis, you expect a reward besides. If they knew, they would send you to—And you strut about sticking out your paunches with a great air of importance: "I'm a merchant, don't touch me." "We," you say, "are as good as the nobility." Yes, the nobility, you monkey-faces. The nobleman is educated. If he gets flogged in school, it is for a purpose, to learn something useful. And you—start out in life learning trickery. Your master beats you for not being able to cheat. When you are still little boys and don't know the Lord's Prayer, you already give short measure and short weight. And when your bellies swell and your pockets fill up, then you assume an air of importance. Whew! What marvels! Because you guzzle sixteen samovars full a day, that's why you put on an air of importance. I spit on your heads and on your importance.
MERCHANTS: [bowing] We are guilty, Anton Antonovich.
GOVERNOR: Complaining, eh? And who helped you with that grafting when you built a bridge and charged twenty thousand for wood when there wasn't even a hundred rubles' worth used? I did. You goat beards. Have you forgotten? If I had informed on you, I could have despatched you to Siberia. What do you say to that?
A MERCHANT. I'm guilty before God, Anton Antonovich. The evil spirit tempted me. We will never complain against you again. Ask whatever satisfaction you want, only don't be angry.
GOVERNOR: Don't be angry! Now you are crawling at my feet. Why? Because I am on top now. But if the balance dipped the least bit your way, then you would trample me in the very dirt—you scoundrels! And you would crush me under a beam besides.
MERCHANTS: [prostrating themselves] Don't ruin us, Anton Antonovich.
GOVERNOR: Don't ruin us! Now you say, don't ruin us! And what did you say before? I could give you—[shrugging his shoulders and throwing up his hands.] Well, God forgive you. Enough. I don't harbor malice for long. Only look out now. Be on your guard. My daughter is going to marry, not an ordinary nobleman. Let your congratulations be—you understand? Don't try to get away with a dried sturgeon or a loaf of sugar. Well, leave now, in God's name.