Oblomov, p.37Ivan Goncharov
‘I don’t need it any more,’ said Oblomov. ‘I – I am not going to move there.’
‘Wha-at? Not move there?’ Tarantyev cried menacingly. ‘You’ve rented it and you’re not going to move? And what about the agreement?’
‘You’ve forgotten, have you? You signed an agreement for a year. Come on, let us have eight hundred roubles, and then you can go where you like. Four people were after that flat and they were all turned away. One of them would have taken it for three years.’
Oblomov only just remembered that on the very day of his moving to the country cottage Tarantyev brought him a paper which in his hurry he signed without reading. ‘Good Lord, what have I done?’ he thought.
‘But I don’t want the flat,’ said Oblomov. ‘I’m going abroad.’
‘Abroad!’ Tarantyev interrupted. ‘With that German? You’ll never do it, old man…. You’ll never go!’
‘Why not? I’ve already got my passport. I can show you if you like. Bought a trunk too.’
‘You won’t go!’ Tarantyev repeated indifferently. ‘You’d better let me have the rent for six months in advance.’
‘I have no money.’
‘You can get it, can’t you? Ivan Matveyevich, the landlady’s brother, will stand no nonsense. He’ll take out a summons at once: you won’t be able to wriggle out of it then. Besides, I’ve paid him with my own money, so you’d better pay me.’
‘Where did you get so much money?’ asked Oblomov.
‘It’s none of your business. I’ve been repaid an old debt. Come on, let’s have the money. That’s what I’ve come for.’
‘All right. I’ll call one day this week and get a new tenant for the flat. I’m sorry, but I’m in a hurry now.’
He began buttoning his coat.
‘And what sort of a flat do you want?’ Tarantyev said. ‘You won’t find a better. You haven’t seen it, have you?’
‘I don’t want to see it,’ replied Oblomov. ‘What do I want to move there for? It’s too far – –’
‘From what?’ Tarantyev interrupted rudely.
But Oblomov did not say what it was far from.
‘From the centre,’ he added later.
‘What centre? What do you want it for? To lie about?’
‘No, I don’t lie about any more.’
‘I don’t. To-day – er – I – –’
‘What?’ Tarantyev interrupted.
‘I am not dining at home.’
‘Give me the money and then you can go to the devil!’
‘What money?’ Oblomov repeated impatiently. ‘I’ll call at the flat soon and talk it over with the landlady.’
‘What landlady? What does she know? She’s a woman! No, sir. You talk to her brother – then you’ll see!’
‘All right, I’ll call and talk to him.’
‘Will you? I don’t think! Give me the money and go where you like.’
‘I haven’t any money. I shall have to borrow.’
‘Well, in that case you’d better pay for my cab fare,’ Tarantyev persisted. ‘Three roubles.’
‘Where is your cabby? And why so much as three roubles?’
‘I’ve dismissed him. Why so much? Because he didn’t want to bring me here. Not over the sand, he said. And there’ll be another three roubles back!’
‘You can go by bus from here for half a rouble,’ said Oblomov. ‘Here you are.’
He gave him four roubles. Tarantyev put them in his pocket, and then asked:
‘What about dinner money?’
‘I shall be late for dinner in town and I shall have to call at a pub on the way. Everything’s terribly expensive here: they’re sure to charge me five roubles at least!’
Oblomov took out another rouble and threw it to Tarantyev in silence. He did not sit down because he was anxious that his visitor should go as soon as possible; but Tarantyev did not go.
‘Tell them to give me something to eat,’ he said.
‘But aren’t you going to have your dinner at a pub?’ Oblomov observed.
‘Dinner – yes! But it’s only just gone one.’
Oblomov told Zakhar to give him something to eat.
‘There’s nothing in the house, sir,’ Zakhar said dryly, looking sullenly at Tarantyev. ‘Nothing has been prepared. And when, sir,’ he addressed Tarantyev, ‘are you going to return the master’s shirt and waistcoat?’
‘What shirt and waistcoat?’ Tarantyev asked. ‘I returned them long ago.’
‘When was that?’ asked Zakhar.
‘Why, my good man, I handed the things to you when you were moving, didn’t I? You shoved them into some bundle, and now you ask for them.’
Zakhar was dumbfounded.
‘Good Lord, sir,’ he cried, addressing Oblomov, ‘that’s a scandal, that is!’
‘Go on, tell me another,’ Tarantyev replied. ‘I suppose you sold them for drink and now you ask me for them.’
‘No, sir, I have never in my life sold my master’s things for drink,’ Zakhar wheezed. ‘Now you, sir – –’
‘Stop it, Zakhar!’ Oblomov interrupted him sternly.
‘Didn’t you take our broom and two of our cups?’ Zakhar asked again.
‘What broom?’ Tarantyev thundered. ‘Oh, you old rascal! Come on, you’d better give me a bite of something!’
‘Do you hear how he swears at me, sir?’ said Zakhar. ‘There is no food in the house – not even any bread, and Anisya has gone out,’ he declared firmly and went out of the room.
‘Where do you have dinner?’ asked Tarantyev. ‘I must say it’s funny all right – Oblomov goes for walks in the wood, doesn’t dine at home – – When are you going to move to your flat? It’ll be autumn soon. Come and have a look at it.’
‘All right, all right. I will soon….’
‘And don’t forget to bring the money!’
‘Yes, yes, yes!’ Oblomov said impatiently.
‘Well, do you want anything doing to your flat? They’ve stained the floors and painted the ceilings, doors, and windows – everything. It has cost more than a hundred roubles, old man.’
‘Yes, yes, all right…. Oh,’ Oblomov suddenly remembered, ‘there’s one thing I was going to tell you. Could you, please, go to the courts for me – I have a deed of trust that has to be witnessed….’
‘I am not your solicitor, am I?’ Tarantyev said.
‘I’ll give you more for your dinner,’ said Oblomov.
‘The wear and tear of my boots will cost me more than you will give me.’
‘Take a cab, I’ll pay.’
‘I’m sorry, but I can’t go to the courts,’ Tarantyev said gloomily.
‘Oh? Why not?’
‘I have enemies who bear me malice and are doing their best to ruin me.’
‘Oh, very well, I’ll go myself,’ said Oblomov, picking up his cap.
‘You see, when you move to the flat Ivan Matveyevich will do everything for you. He’s a fine fellow, I tell you, not at all like some German upstart! A real, hundred-per-cent Russian official, has sat for thirty years on the same chair, runs his office, has money too, but never takes a cab. His coat is no better than mine; would never hurt a fly, speaks in a very low voice, never goes roaming abroad like your – –’
‘Tarantyev,’ Oblomov shouted, banging his fist on the table, ‘don’t talk of something you don’t understand!’
Tarantyev opened his eyes wide at such unheard-of impudence on Oblomov’s part and even forgot to be offended at being put below Stolz.
‘So that’s what you are like now, old man,’ he muttered, taking up his hat. ‘What energy!’
He stroked his hat with his sleeve, then looked at it and at Oblomov’s hat that lay on the bookstand.
‘You don’t wear your hat,’ he said, taking Oblomov’s hat and trying it on. ‘I see you have a cap. Lend it to me for the summer, old man.’
‘Oh, to hell with you!’ said Tarantyev, pushing his way clumsily through the door. ‘You’re a little – er – queer, old man. Wait till you’ve had a talk with Ivan Matveyevich, and see what happens if you don’t bring the money.’
HE went away, and Oblomov sat down in the arm-chair, feeling thoroughly upset. He could not shake off the unpleasant impression left by Tarantyev’s visit for a long time. At last he remembered his plans for the morning, and the hideous appearance of Tarantyev faded from his mind; a smile came back to his face. He stood before the looking-glass for some time, straightening his tie, smiling and looking to see if there was any trace of Olga’s ardent kiss on his cheek.
‘Two nevers,’ he said softly, with joyful excitement, ‘and what a difference between them! One has already faded and the other has blossomed out so gorgeously.’
Then he sank deeper and deeper into thought. He felt that the bright and cloudless festival of love had gone, that love was truly becoming a duty, that it was becoming intermingled with his whole life, forming an integral part of its ordinary functions and beginning to lose its rainbow colours. That morning, perhaps, he had caught sight of its last roseate ray, and in future it would no longer shine brightly, but warm his life invisibly; life would swallow it up, and it would be its powerful but hidden mainspring. And henceforth its manifestations would be so simple, so ordinary. The poetic period was over and stern reality was beginning: the courts, journey to Oblomovka, building the house, mortgaging the estate, constructing the road, never-ending business troubles with the peasants, getting the work on the estate organized – harvesting, threshing, casting up accounts, the agent’s worried face, the noblemen’s elections, court sessions…. Only occasionally, at long intervals, would Olga’s eyes shine upon him, the strains of Casta diva reach him, and after snatching a hasty kiss, he would have to hurry off to the fields, to the town, and then again to the agent and the click of the abacus. The arrival of visitors would bring little comfort to him: they would talk about how much spirit they had distilled, how many yards of cloth they had delivered to the Government…. Oh dear, that wasn’t what he had promised himself, was it? Was that life? And yet people lived as though this was all that life meant. Andrey, too, liked it!
But marriage – the wedding, why, that was, anyway, the poetry of life, that was a fully opened-up flower. He imagined how he would lead Olga to the altar: she would be wearing orange blossom on her head and a long veil. There would be whispers of wonderment in the crowd. She would give him her hand shyly, her bosom heaving gently, her head bowed with her usual graceful pride, and would not know how to look at the crowd. Now a smile would light up her face, now tears would appear in her eyes, or the crease over her eyebrow would stir thoughtfully. At home, after the guests had gone, she would throw herself on his chest, as she had to-day, still wearing her gorgeous wedding-dress….
‘No,’ he thought, ‘I must run to Olga. I can’t think and feel by myself. I’ll tell everyone, the whole world – no, just her aunt, then the baron; I shall write to Stolz – he will be surprised! Then I’ll tell Zakhar: he will fall at my feet and howl with joy. I shall give him twenty-five roubles. Anisya will come and try to kiss my hand: I’ll give her ten roubles – then – then I shall shout for joy in a loud voice so that the whole world will hear and say: “Oblomov is happy, Oblomov is getting married!” Now I’ll run to Olga – we shall sit and whisper together for hours, making our secret plans to merge our two lives into one!’
He ran off to Olga. She listened to his dreams with a smile, but as soon as he jumped up to run and tell her aunt, she knit her brows in a way that alarmed him.
‘Not a word to anyone!’ she said, putting a finger to her lips and begging him to speak lower so that her aunt should not hear in the next room. ‘The time hasn’t come yet!’
‘Hasn’t the time come now that everything has been decided between us?’ he asked impatiently. ‘What are we to do now? How are we to begin? We can’t just sit and do nothing. We must think of our duties – serious life is beginning….’
‘Yes, it is,’ she agreed, looking searchingly at him.
‘Well, so I’d like to take the first step – go to your aunt and – –’
‘That’s the last step.’
‘Which is the first, then?’
‘The first – to go to the courts: you have to write some document, haven’t you?’
‘Yes – to-morrow – –’
‘Why not to-day?’
‘To-day – to-day is a very special day, and I can’t leave you, Olga, can I?’
‘Very well, to-morrow. And then?’
‘Then tell your aunt, write to Stolz.’
‘No, then you must go to Oblomovka…. Mr Stolz wrote to you what you had to do in the country, didn’t he? I don’t know what business you have there – building, is it?’ she asked, looking into his face.
‘Good Lord,’ said Oblomov, ‘if we are to listen to what Stolz says we’ll never get as far as telling your aunt! He says that I must begin building the house, then construct the road, then open schools!… You won’t do that in a lifetime. Let’s go there together, Olga, and then – –’
‘But where shall we go to? Is there a house there?’
‘No – the old house isn’t good enough; I expect the front steps must have collapsed by now.’
‘So where shall we go to?’ she asked.
‘We’ll have to find a flat here.’
‘For that you’ll also have to go to town,’ she observed. ‘That’s the second step.’
‘Then – –’ he began.
‘I think you’d better take the two steps first and then – –’
‘What’s all this?’ Oblomov thought mournfully. ‘No whispering for hours, no secret plans to merge our two lives into one! Everything has turned out differently somehow. What a strange girl Olga is! She never stands still, she never indulges in romantic dreams even for a moment, just as though she’d never dreamed in her life, just as though she never felt the need of giving herself up to day-dreaming! Go to the courts at once – look for a flat! Just like Andrey! They all seem to have conspired to be in a hurry to live!’
Next day he went to town, taking with him a piece of stamped paper to settle his business at the courts: he drove to town reluctantly, yawning and gazing about him. He did not know where exactly the courts were, and called first on Ivan Gerasimovich to ask in which department he had to witness the signature of the deed of trust. Ivan Gerasimovich was very glad to see Oblomov and would not let him go without lunch. Then he sent for a friend to find out from him how the business was to be done, for he himself had got out of touch with such things. The lunch and the consultation were over only by three o’clock. It was too late for the courts, and the following day was Saturday and the courts would be closed, so that it all had to be put off till Monday.
Oblomov went to his new flat in Vyborg. He spent a long time driving along narrow lanes with long wooden fences on either side. At last he found a policeman who told him that the house was in a different part of the suburb, and he pointed to a street where there were only fences and no houses, with grass growing in the road, which was full of ruts made of dried mud. Oblomov drove on, admiring the nettles by the fences and the rowan-berries peeping out from behind them. At last the policeman pointed to a little old house standing in a yard, adding: ‘That’s it, sir.’ ‘The house of the widow of the Collegiate Assessor Pshenitzyn’, Oblomov read on the gate, and told the driver to drive into the yard.
The yard was the size of a room, so that the shaft of the carriage struck a corner and frightened a number of hens that scattered cackling in all directions, some even attempting to fly; a big black dog on a chain began to bark furiously, rushing to right and left and trying to reach the horses’ muzzles. Oblomov sat
‘Who do you want?’ she asked.
‘The landlady, Mrs Pshenitzyn.’
The old woman bent her head in bewilderment.
‘Are you sure it isn’t Ivan Matveyevich you would like to see?’ she asked. ‘I’m afraid he isn’t at home. He hasn’t come back from the office yet.’
‘I want to see the landlady,’ said Oblomov.
Meanwhile the hubbub in the house continued. Heads kept peeping out of windows; the door behind the old woman kept opening and closing and different people looked out. Oblomov turned round: in the yard two children, a boy and a girl, stood regarding him with curiosity. A sleepy peasant in a sheepskin appeared from somewhere and, screening his eyes from the sun, gazed lazily at Oblomov and the carriage. The dog kept up a low and abrupt barking and every time Oblomov moved or a horse stamped, it began jumping about on its chain and barking continuously. On the right, over the fence, Oblomov saw an endless kitchen garden planted with cabbages, and on the left, over the fence, he could see several trees and a green wooden summer-house.
‘Do you want Agafya Matveyevna?’ the old woman asked. ‘Why?’
‘Tell the landlady that I want to see her,’ said Oblomov. ‘I have taken rooms here.’
‘So you are the new lodger, Mr Tarantyev’s friend, are you? Wait, I’ll tell her.’
She opened the door, and several heads drew back hastily and rushed away into the inner rooms. He managed to catch sight of a white-skinned, rather plump woman, with a bare neck and elbows and no cap on, who smiled at having been seen by a stranger. She, too, rushed away from the door.
‘Please come in, sir,’ said the old woman, coming back, and she led Oblomov through a small entrance hall into a fairly large room and asked him to wait. ‘The lady of the house will be here presently,’ she added.
‘And the dog is still barking,’ thought Oblomov, examining the room.
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes