Oblomov, p.56
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       Oblomov, p.56

           Ivan Goncharov
 
‘No, you mustn’t refuse,’ he insisted. ‘If you don’t sign the paper it will mean that Mr Oblomov owes you ten thousand.’

  ‘No, he doesn’t owe me a penny,’ she repeated. ‘I swear he doesn’t.’

  ‘In that case you must sign the paper. Good-bye till-morrow.’

  ‘To-morrow you’d better go and see my brother,’ she said, seeing him off. ‘He lives just there, at the corner, across the street.’

  ‘No, and I’d ask you to say nothing to your brother till I come, or it will be very unpleasant for Mr Oblomov.’

  ‘Then I won’t say anything to him,’ she said obediently.

  7

  ON the following day Agafya Matveyevna gave Stolz a written statement to the effect that she had no claim of any kind on Oblomov. With this statement Stolz suddenly appeared before her brother. That was a real bombshell for Ivan Matveyevich. He took out the IOU and pointed with the shaking finger of his right hand, which he held with the nail downwards, to Oblomov’s signature and the attached notary’s signature.

  ‘It’s the law, sir,’ he said. ‘I’ve nothing to do with it. I’m merely watching over my sister’s interests. I have no idea what money Mr Oblomov had borrowed from her.’

  ‘You have not heard the last of it!’ Stolz threatened him as he drove off.

  ‘It’s perfectly legal,’ Ivan Matveyevich pleaded, hiding his hands in his sleeves, ‘and I’ve nothing to do with it!’

  As soon as he came to his office on the following day, a messenger arrived from the General, who wanted to see him at once.

  ‘The General?’ all the clerks in the office repeated in horror. ‘Whatever for? Does he want some document? Which one? Quick, quick! File the papers, draw up the schedules! What is it?’

  In the evening Ivan Matveyevich came to the tavern greatly disconcerted. Tarantyev had been waiting for him there for hours.

  ‘Well, what is it, old man?’ he asked impatiently.

  ‘What is it?’ Ivan Matveyevich said monotonously. ‘What do you think?’

  ‘You were told off?’

  ‘Told off!’ Ivan Matveyevich mimicked him. ‘I wish I’d been given a beating! And you’re a nice one, too!’ he cried, reproachfully. ‘You didn’t tell me what sort of German he was, did you?’

  ‘But I told you he was a rascally fellow!’

  ‘A rascally fellow, is it? We’ve seen plenty of rascals! Why didn’t you tell me he had influence? Why, he’s on familiar terms with the General, just as you are with me. Would I have had anything to do with him, if I’d known?’

  ‘But,’ Tarantyev retorted, ‘it’s perfectly legal!’

  ‘Perfectly legal!’ Ivan Matveyevich again mimicked him. ‘Just try and say it there: why, your tongue will stick to the roof of your mouth. Do you know what the General asked me?’

  ‘What?’ Tarantyev asked curiously.

  ‘Is it true that you and some other blackguard made the landowner Oblomov drunk and forced him to sign an IOU in your sister’s name?’

  ‘Did he actually say “and some other blackguard”?’ asked Tarantyev.

  ‘Yes, he did.’

  ‘Who can that blackguard be?’ Tarantyev asked again.

  His friend looked at him.

  ‘I don’t expect you know, do you?’ he said bitterly. ‘It couldn’t be you by any chance, could it?’

  ‘Me? So I’ve got mixed up in it too?’

  ‘You’d better thank the German and your country neighbour. The German, you see, has sniffed it all out, cross-questioned everybody….’

  ‘You should have mentioned someone else, old man, and told them I had nothing to do with it.’

  ‘Should I now? Why, what sort of a saint are you?’

  ‘But what did you say when the General asked whether it was true that you and some other blackguard…? That was when you should have tried to bluff him.’

  ‘Bluff him? You can’t bluff a fellow like that! You should have seen those green eyes of his! I tried my best to say that the whole thing was not true, that it was a slander, that I knew nothing about any Oblomov, and that it was all Tarantyev’s fault, but I just couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. I merely threw myself on his mercy.’

  ‘Well, they’re not going to prosecute you, are they?’ Tarantyev asked hoarsely. ‘Mind, I had nothing to do with it. Now, you, old man – –’

  ‘You had nothing to do with it? No, sir, if we are in for it, you will be the first. Who was it persuaded Oblomov to drink? Who abused and threatened him?’

  ‘But it was your idea,’ said Tarantyev.

  ‘Why, are you a minor, by any chance? I know nothing whatever about the whole business.’

  ‘That’s not fair, old man! Think how much money you had through me, and I’ve only had three hundred roubles.’

  ‘You don’t want me to take the whole blame on myself, do you? Clever, aren’t you? No, sir, I know nothing about it. I was just asked by my sister to witness an IOU at a notary’s, for, being a woman, she doesn’t understand such things – that’s all. You and Zatyorty were the witnesses, so it’s your responsibility!’

  ‘You should have had a good talk to your sister – how did she dare to go against her own brother?’ said Tarantyev.

  ‘My sister’s a fool – what can I do with her?’

  ‘What about her?’

  ‘About her? She goes on crying and insisting that Oblomov owes her nothing and that she never gave him any money.’

  ‘But you have an IOU from her,’ said Tarantyev. ‘You won’t lose your money.’

  Ivan Matveyevich took his sister’s IOU out of his pocket, tore it up, and gave it to Tarantyev.

  ‘Here, I’ll make you a present of it, if you like,’ he added. ‘What can I take from her? Her house and the kitchen garden? I wouldn’t get a thousand for it: it’s all falling to pieces. And, anyway, what do you take me for – an infidel? Do you want me to let her go begging with her children?’

  ‘So they are going to prosecute us, are they?’ Tarantyev asked timidly. ‘Well, old man, we’ll have to do our best to get off as lightly as possible. You’ll have to get me out of it, old man.’

  ‘Who’s going to prosecute you? There won’t be any prosecution. The General, it is true, threatened to send me out of town, but the German interceded. He doesn’t want to disgrace Oblomov.’

  ‘You don’t say so, old man! Ugh, what a weight off my mind! Let’s have a drink!’ said Tarantyev.

  ‘Have a drink? Out of whose income, pray? Not yours, by any chance?’

  ‘What about yours? I daresay you’ve collected your seven roubles to-day as usual.’

  ‘Have I, indeed? I’m afraid it’s good-bye to my income. I haven’t finished telling you what the General said.’

  ‘Why, what was it?’ Tarantyev asked, getting suddenly frightened again.

  ‘He told me to send in my resignation!’

  ‘Good Lord!’ Tarantyev said, staring at Ivan Matveyevich. ‘Well,’ he concluded furiously. ‘I’ll tell him off properly now!’

  ‘All you can do is to tell people off!’

  ‘I’ll tell him what I think of him, whatever you say!’ said Tarantyev. ‘Still, perhaps you’re right, and I’d better wait. I’ve just thought of something. Listen, old man.’

  ‘Not again?’ Ivan Matveyevich cried doubtfully.

  ‘We could do an excellent piece of business, only it’s a pity you’ve moved to another house.’

  ‘What is that?’

  ‘What is that!’ Tarantyev said, looking at Ivan Matveyevich. ‘Spy on Oblomov and your sister, see the sort of pies they are baking there, and – have your witnesses ready! The German himself won’t be able to do anything then. And you’re a free man now: if you bring an action against him – it’s perfectly legal! I daresay the German, too, will get cold feet and be glad to come to some arrangement.’

  ‘I don’t know, it might work!’ said Ivan Matveyevich thoughtfully. ‘You’re not bad at thinking out new ideas, but you’re no good at al
l for business, neither is Zatyorty. But I’ll find some way. Wait a moment!’ he said, getting excited. ‘I’ll show them! I’ll send my cook round to my sister’s kitchen: she’ll make friends with Anisya and find out everything, and then – let’s have a drink, old man!’

  ‘Let’s have a drink!’ Tarantyev repeated. ‘And then I’ll give Oblomov a piece of my mind!’

  Stolz tried to take Oblomov away to the country, but Oblomov asked him to let him remain only for a month, and he asked him so earnestly that Stolz could not help taking pity on his friend. Oblomov claimed that he needed that month to pay his accounts, to give up the flat, and to settle his affairs in Petersburg so that he need not return there. He had, besides, to buy everything he needed for his country house; finally, he wanted to find a good housekeeper, someone like Agafya Matveyevna, and he did not even despair of persuading her to sell her house and move to the country, to a job worthy of her – complicated housekeeping on quite a vast scale.

  ‘Incidentally, about that landlady of yours,’ Stolz interrupted him. ‘I wanted to ask you, Ilya, what are your relations with her?’

  Oblomov blushed suddenly.

  ‘What do you mean?’ he asked hurriedly.

  ‘You know very well,’ Stolz observed, ‘or there wouldn’t have been any reason for you to blush. Listen, Ilya, if a warning can be of any use, I ask you in the name of our friendship to be careful.’

  ‘What of? Good heavens!’ Oblomov, looking embarrassed, protested.

  ‘You speak of her with such warmth that I am really beginning to think that you…’

  ‘Love her, did you want to say? Good heavens!’ Oblomov interrupted with a forced laugh.

  ‘Well, all the worse if there isn’t anything spiritual about it, If it’s only – –’

  ‘Andrey, have you ever known me to do anything immoral?’

  ‘Why did you blush, then?’

  ‘Because you could have thought such a thing about me.’

  Stolz shook his head doubtfully.

  ‘Take care, Ilya, and don’t fall into the pit. A common woman, filthy life, a stifling atmosphere, stupidity, coarseness – faugh!’

  Oblomov was silent.

  ‘Well, good-bye,’ Stolz concluded. ‘So I’ll tell Olga we shall see you in summer, if not at our house, then at Oblomovka. Remember: she will not leave you alone.’

  ‘Certainly, certainly,’ Oblomov replied. ‘You may even add that, if she lets me, I’ll spend the winter with you.’

  ‘We should be delighted!’

  Stolz left the same day, and in the evening Tarantyev came to see Oblomov. He could not restrain himself from hauling him over the coals on account of Ivan Matveyevich. He omitted to take one thing into consideration, namely, that in the llyinskys’ social circle Oblomov had lost the habit of associating with people like himself and that his putting up with rudeness and insolence had given way to disgust. That would have become apparent long ago, and, in fact, had partly shown itself when Oblomov lived at the summer cottage, but since then Tarantyev’s visits had been less frequent, and they only met in the presence of other people, so that there had been no clashes between them.

  ‘Good evening, old man!’ Tarantyev said spitefully, without offering his hand to Oblomov.

  ‘Good evening,’ Oblomov replied coldly, looking out of the window.

  ‘Well, have you seen off your benefactor?’

  ‘I have. Why?’

  ‘Some benefactor!’ Tarantyev went on venomously.

  ‘You don’t like him, do you?’

  ‘No, I’d have strung him up!’ Tarantyev hissed with hatred.

  ‘Would you really?’

  ‘And you, too, on the same tree!’

  ‘Whatever for?’

  ‘Deal honestly with people: if you owe them money, pay up, and don’t try to wriggle out of it. What have you done now?’

  ‘Look here, Tarantyev; spare me your fairy-tales: I’ve listened to you long enough through laziness and carelessness. You see, I thought you had just a little bit of conscience, but you haven’t. You and that cunning old rascal wanted to cheat me. Which of you is the worse I don’t know, but you are both loathsome to me. A friend has saved me from that stupid affair…’

  ‘A nice friend!’ Tarantyev said. ‘I understand he has cheated you of your fiancée. A fine benefactor, I must say! Well, old man, you certainly are a fool!’

  ‘None of your endearments, please!’ Oblomov cut him short.

  ‘I’ll say what I like! You didn’t want to have anything to do with me – you’re ungrateful! I’ve found you a decent home here, I have found you a real treasure of a woman. Peace and comfort – it’s me you have to thank for it, for it’s me who got them for you, but you won’t have anything to do with me. Found a benefactor, have you? A German! Rents your estate, does he? You wait: he’ll skin you alive, make you buy shares. He’ll make a beggar of you, mark my words! A fool, I tell you, that’s what you are. More than a fool; you’re a brute, an ungrateful brute!’

  ‘Tarantyev!’ Oblomov cried menacingly.

  ‘What are you shouting for? I’ll shout at the top of my voice for the whole world to hear that you are a fool and a brute!’ Tarantyev shouted. ‘Ivan Matveyevich and I waited hand and foot on you, looked after you, served you just as though we were your serfs, walked on tiptoe, tried to anticipate your every wish, and you went and discredited him before his superiors. Now he has lost his job and can’t earn a living. That is a low-down trick! Now you must give him half your property. Let me have a bill of exchange in his name. You’re not drunk now, but in full possession of your faculties; let me have it, I tell you. I won’t go without it…’

  ‘What are you shouting like that for, Mr Tarantyev?’ the landlady and Anisya said, looking in at the door. “Two people in the street have stopped to listen.’

  ‘I’ll go on shouting,’ bawled Tarantyev. ‘I’ll bring shame and disgrace on this stupid blockhead! Let that rogue of a German cheat you now that he is working hand in glove with your mistress….’

  A loud slap resounded in the room. Tarantyev, struck on the cheek by Oblomov, fell silent instantly, sank on to a chair and rolled his stunned eyes in amazement.

  ‘What’s this? What’s this – eh? What’s all this?’ he said, pale and breathless, holding his cheek. ‘Dishonour? You’ll pay for it! I’ll send in a complaint to the Governor-General at once. You saw it, didn’t you?’

  ‘We didn’t see anything!’ the two women cried in one voice.

  ‘Oh, so it’s a plot, is it? A thieves’ kitchen, is it? A gang of swindlers! Robbing, murdering….’

  ‘Get out, you blackguard!’ Oblomov cried, pale and trembling with rage. ‘Clear out this minute or I’ll kill you like a dog!’

  He was looking round for a stick.

  ‘Murder! Help!’ shouted Tarantyev.

  ‘Zakhar, throw this scoundrel out and see that he doesn’t show his face here again!’ Oblomov cried.

  ‘Come along, sir,’ said Zakhar, pointing to the icon and the door; ‘here’s God and there’s the door.’

  ‘I haven’t come to see you, but my friend,’ Tarantyev bawled.

  ‘Good gracious, sir, I don’t want to have anything to do with you, I’m sure,’ Agafya Matveyevna said. ‘You used to come to see my brother, not me. I’m sick and tired of you. You eat us out of house and home and abuse us into the bargain!’

  ‘Oh, so that’s it! Very well, your brother will show you what’s what! And you will pay me for your insult! Where’s my hat? To hell with you! Robbers, murderers!’ he shouted as he walked across the yard. ‘You’ll pay me for your insult, you will!’

  The dog jumped on the chain, barking at the top of its voice.

  That was the last time Tarantyev and Oblomov ever saw each other.

  8

  STOLZ did not come to Petersburg for several years. Only once did he pay a short visit to Oblomovka and Olga’s estate. Oblomov received a letter from him in which Stolz tried to persuade him
to go to the country and take charge of his estate, which was in good working order now; he and Olga were leaving for the south coast of the Crimea for two reasons: he had business in Odessa, and Olga was in delicate health since her confinement and hoped to benefit from a holiday in the Crimea. They settled in a quiet little spot on the seashore. Their house was small and modest. Its architecture and its interior decorations had a style of their own, which bore the imprint of the personal taste and thoughts of its owners. They had brought many things with them and had many more packages, cases, and cartloads sent them from Russia and abroad. A lover of comfort might perhaps have shrugged at the apparently discordant character of the furniture, old pictures, statues with broken arms and legs, engravings, sometimes rather bad but dear for sentimental reasons, and all sorts of knick-knacks. Only a connoisseur’s eyes would light up eagerly at the sight of some of the pictures or a book yellow with age, old china, stones, and coins. But there was a breath of warm life among the furniture of different periods, the pictures, the bric-à-brac, which were of no significance to anybody, but which reminded them of some happy hour or some memorable occasion, and among the enormous number of books and sheets of music. There was something in it all that stimulated the mind and aesthetic feeling, something that made one aware of the unslumbering thought and the radiant beauty of human achievement as one was aware of the radiant and eternal beauty of nature all around. The tall desk which belonged to Andrey’s father was also there, as well as the chamois-leather gloves. The oilskin cloak hung in the corner near the cupboard with minerals, shells, stuffed birds, samples of different kinds of clay, merchandise, and so on. The place of honour was occupied by an Erard grand piano, shining with gold and inlaid work. The cottage was covered from top to bottom with a network of vine, ivy, and myrtle. From one side of the balcony the sea could be seen, and from the other the road to the town. It was from that end that Olga watched for Andrey to return when he had been away from home on business, and, seeing him, she went downstairs, ran through a lovely flower-garden and a long poplar avenue, and flung herself on her husband’s neck, her cheeks flushed with joy and her eyes sparkling, always with the same ardour of impatient happiness, in spite of the fact that it was not the first nor the second year of their marriage.

 
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