Oblomov, p.7
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       Oblomov, p.7

           Ivan Goncharov
 

  ‘I say, they’re still the same!’ Tarantyev observed sternly, taking out a cigar and looking at Oblomov.

  ‘Yes, they’re the same,’ Oblomov replied absent-mindedly.

  ‘But didn’t I tell you to buy the others – foreign ones? So that’s how you remember what is said to you! Mind you get some by next Saturday or you won’t see me here for a long time. Good Lord, what horrible stuff!’ he went on, lighting a cigar, and letting out one cloud of smoke into the room, he inhaled another. ‘Can’t smoke it.’

  ‘You’ve come early to-day, Tarantyev,’ said Oblomov, yawning.

  ‘Why? You’re not getting tired of me, are you?’

  ‘No, I just mentioned it. You usually come in time for dinner, and now it’s only just gone twelve.’

  ‘I’ve come earlier on purpose to find out what there is for dinner. Your food is so awful as a rule that I thought I’d better find out what you’ve ordered for to-day.’

  ‘You’d better ask in the kitchen,’ said Oblomov.

  Tarantyev went out.

  ‘Good heavens!’ he said, returning. ‘Beef and veal! The trouble with you, old man, is that you don’t know how to live – a landowner, forsooth! What sort of a gentleman are you? You look like a shopkeeper – you’ve no idea how to treat a friend! Have you bought any Madeira at least?’

  ‘Don’t know, you’d better ask Zakhar,’ said Oblomov, hardly listening to him. ‘I expect they must have some wine there.’

  ‘You mean the same wine as before – from the German? Really, my dear fellow, you ought to buy some in the English shop.’

  ‘Oh, it’ll have to do,’ said Oblomov. ‘Don’t want to send out for it.’

  ‘But look here, give me the money and I’ll fetch it. I have to go past the shop anyway. I’ve still to make another call.’

  Oblomov rummaged in the drawer and produced a red tenrouble note.

  ‘Madeira costs seven roubles, and this is ten,’ said Oblomov.

  ‘Let’s have it all. Don’t be afraid – they’ll give me the change at the shop.’

  He snatched the note from Oblomov’s hand and quickly hid it in his pocket.

  ‘Well,’ said Tarantyev, putting on his hat. ‘I’ll be back by five o’clock. I have a call to make: I’ve been promised a job in a spirits depot and they asked me to look in. By the way, my dear fellow, won’t you hire a carriage to go to Yekaterinhof to-day? You might take me with you.’

  Oblomov shook his head.

  ‘Why not? Are you too lazy, or do you grudge the money? Oh, you sluggard!’ he said. ‘Well, good-bye for the present.’

  ‘Wait, Tarantyev,’ Oblomov interrupted him. ‘I want to ask your advice.’

  ‘What is it? Come on, out with it! I’m in a hurry.’

  ‘Well, two misfortunes have befallen me, all at once. I have to move…’

  ‘Serves you right. Why don’t you pay your rent?’ said Tarantyev, turning to go.

  ‘Good Lord, no! I always pay in advance. No, they’re going to convert this flat. Wait a moment. Where are you off to? Tell me what I am to do. They rush me. They want me to move within a week.’

  ‘What sort of advice do you expect me to give you? You needn’t imagine – –’

  ‘I don’t imagine anything,’ said Oblomov. ‘Don’t shout. Better think what I am to do. You’re a practical man – –’

  But Tarantyev was no longer listening to him. He was thinking of something.

  ‘Well,’ he said, taking off his hat and sitting down. ‘All right, you may thank me and order champagne for dinner. Your business is settled.’

  ‘What do you mean?’ asked Oblomov.

  ‘Will there be champagne?’

  ‘Perhaps, if your advice is worth it.’

  ‘Aye, but you’re not worth the advice. You don’t imagine I’ll give you advice for nothing, do you? There, you can ask him,’ he added, pointing to Alexeyev, ‘or his relative.’

  ‘All right, all right, tell me,’ Oblomov begged.

  ‘Now, listen: you must move to-morrow.’

  ‘Good Lord, what an idea! I knew that myself.’

  ‘Wait, don’t interrupt,’ Tarantyev shouted. ‘To-morrow you will move to the flat of a good friend of mine in Vyborg.’

  ‘What nonsense is that! Vyborg! Why, they say wolves roam the streets there in winter!’

  ‘Oh, well, they do come there sometimes from the islands, but what has that got to do with you?’

  ‘But it’s such a dull place – a wilderness, no one lives there.’

  ‘Nonsense! A good friend of mine lives there. She has a house of her own with big kitchen gardens. She is a gentlewoman, a widow with two children. Her unmarried brother lives with her. He’s a clever fellow, not like that chap in the corner there,’ he said, pointing to Alexeyev. ‘He’s a damn sight more intelligent than you or I.’

  ‘What has that got to do with me?’ Oblomov said impatiently. ‘I’m not going to move there.’

  ‘We shall see about that. No, sir, if you ask for my advice, you have to do as I tell you.’

  ‘I’m not going there,’ Oblomov said firmly.

  ‘To hell with you, then,’ replied Tarantyev, and, pulling his hat over his eyes, walked to the door.

  ‘You funny fellow,’ Tarantyev said, coming back. ‘Do you find it so pleasant here?’

  ‘Pleasant? Why it’s so near to everything,’ Oblomov said. ‘To the shops, the theatre, my friends – it’s the centre of the city, everything – –’

  ‘Wha-at?’ Tarantyev interrupted him. ‘And how long is it since you went out? Tell me that. How long is it since you went to a theatre? Who are the friends you visit? Why the hell do you want to live in the centre of the city, pray?’

  ‘What do you mean, why? For lots of reasons.’

  ‘You see, you don’t know yourself. But there – why, think of it: you’ll live in the house of a gentlewoman, a good friend of mine, in peace and quiet. No one to disturb you – no noise, clean and tidy. Why, you live here just as at an inn – you, a gentleman, a landowner! But there everything is clean and quiet, and there’s always someone to talk to if you’re bored. Except me, no one will come to visit you there. Two children – play about with them to your heart’s content. What more do you want? And think what you will save! What do you pay here?’

  ‘Fifteen hundred.’

  ‘Well, there you’d pay a thousand for almost a whole house! And such lovely bright rooms! She’s long been wanting a quiet, tidy lodger – so there you are!’

  Oblomov shook his head absent-mindedly.

  ‘Nonsense, you’ll move all right!’ said Tarantyev. ‘Just consider: it’ll cost you half of what you’re spending here: you’ll save five hundred in rent alone. Your food will be twice as good and as clean; your cook and Zakhar won’t be able to steal – –’

  A growl was heard from the entrance hall.

  ‘– and there’ll be more order too,’ Tarantyev went on. ‘Why, it’s dreadful to sit down to dinner at your place now. You want the pepper – it isn’t there; vinegar – they’ve forgotten to buy any, the knives have not been cleaned; you say you keep losing your linen – dust everywhere – it’s disgusting! And there a woman will be keeping house – neither you, nor that fool Zakhar – –’

  The growling in the entrance hall grew louder.

  ‘– that old dog won’t have to bother about anything,’ Tarantyev went on. ‘You will be provided with board and lodgings. Why hesitate? Move – and that’s the end of it.’

  ‘But how could I – for no rhyme or reason – suddenly move to Vyborg?’

  ‘What’s the use of talking to you?’ Tarantyev said, wiping the perspiration from his face. ‘It’s summer time now: why, it’s as good as living in a country house. Why rot here in Gorokhovaya Street? There you would have the Bezbarodkin Gardens, Okhta is next door, the Neva within a few yards, your own kitchen garden – no dust, no stuffiness! Why waste time thinking? I’ll nip over to her now before dinner – you’ll
let me have the cab fares – and to-morrow you can move – –’

  ‘What a man!’ said Oblomov. ‘Suddenly he gets a crazy idea into his head and I have to move to Vyborg. I mean, it’s not difficult to think of such a plan. No, sir, you’d better think of something that would make it possible for me to stay here. I’ve lived here for eight years and I don’t want to change.’

  ‘It’s settled: you’re going to move. I’ll go and see my friend at once and call about my job another time.’

  He was about to go, but Oblomov stopped him.

  ‘Wait, wait! Where are you off to? I’ve a much more important business to settle. Have a look at the letter I’ve received from my bailiff and tell me what to do about it.’

  ‘Dear me, you are a queer fish and no mistake,’ Tarantyev replied. ‘You can’t do anything by yourself. It’s always I who have to do things for you. Of what use is a man like you? But, then, you’re not a man: you’re just a stuffed dummy.’

  ‘Where’s that letter? Zakhar, Zakhar! He’s put it away somewhere again!’ Oblomov said.

  ‘Here’s the bailiff’s letter,’ said Alexeyev, picking up the crumpled letter.

  ‘Yes, here it is,’ Oblomov repeated and began to read it aloud. ‘What do you say?’ he asked when he had finished reading the letter. ‘What am I to do? Droughts, arrears – –’

  ‘You’re hopeless – hopeless!’ said Tarantyev.

  ‘But why am I hopeless?’

  ‘Why, aren’t you hopeless?’

  ‘Well, if I am, tell me what to do.’

  ‘And what will I get out of it?’

  ‘I’ve promised you champagne – what more do you want?’

  ‘Champagne was for finding you a flat. Why, I’ve done you a favour, and you don’t appreciate it – you argue about it – you’re ungrateful. Well, try and find a flat by yourself! And what a flat! The main thing is you’ll have absolute peace, just as if you were living at your own sister’s. Two children, an unmarried brother, I shall be calling every day – –’

  ‘All right, all right,’ Oblomov interrupted. ‘You’d better tell me now what I am to do about the bailiff.’

  ‘No, sir, not unless you add beer for dinner. I’ll tell you then.’

  ‘He wants beer now! Haven’t you had enough – –’

  ‘Good-bye, then,’ said Tarantyev, again putting on his hat.

  ‘Good heavens! here the bailiff writes that my income will be two thousand less, and he wants beer, too! All right, buy some beer.’

  ‘Let’s have some more money,’ said Tarantyev.

  ‘But what about the change from the tenrouble note?’

  ‘And what about the cab fares to Vyborg?’

  Oblomov took out another rouble and thrust it into his hand crossly.

  ‘Your bailiff is a rogue – that’s what I think,’ Tarantyev began, putting the rouble in his pocket, ‘and you stand there with your mouth open and believe him. You see the sort of tall story he tells you! Drought, bad harvest, arrears, runaway peasants – it’s all a pack of lies! I’ve heard that in our district, on the Shumilov estate, the harvest last year was so good that they paid off all their debts. And Shumilov is only thirty-five miles from you: why haven’t the crops there been burnt up? Then there is something else he has invented – arrears! But what was he doing? Why did he neglect them? Why should there be arrears? Is there no work to be had in our district – no market for a peasant’s produce? Why, the thief – I’d teach him a lesson! And I daresay the peasants ran away because he got some money from them and then let them go, and he never complained to the police at all.’

  ‘I don’t believe it,’ said Oblomov. ‘Why, he actually quotes the police inspector’s answer in the letter and so authentically, too.’

  ‘Oh, you simpleton! You don’t know anything. All rogues write authentically – take my word for it. Here, for instance,’ he went on, pointing to Alexeyev, ‘sits an honest fellow who won’t hurt a fly – well, will he write an authentic letter? Never. But his relation, though a rogue and a swine, will. And you won’t write such a letter, either. Your bailiff therefore is a rascal just because he has written such a clever and authentic-sounding letter. You see how carefully he chose his words: “to send them back to their place of domicile.”’

  ‘What am I to do with him?’ asked Oblomov.

  ‘Sack him at once.’

  ‘But whom shall I appoint in his place? What do I know about the peasants? Another one might be worse. I haven’t been there for twelve years.’

  ‘Go to your estate yourself: that must be done. Spend the summer there and in the autumn come straight to the new flat. I’ll see that it’s all ready for you.’

  ‘Move to a new flat – go to the country – and all by myself! What desperate measures you suggest!’ Oblomov said, looking displeased. ‘Nothing about avoiding extremes and suggesting some sort of compromise.’

  ‘Well, my dear fellow, you’re as good as done for. Why, in your place I’d have mortgaged the estate long ago and bought another or a house here in a good residential part of the town; that’s a damn sight better than that country place of yours. And then I’d have mortgaged the house and bought another. Let me have your estate and I’d soon make them sit up.’

  ‘Stop boasting and think of something so that I need not leave this flat or go to the country and so that everything should be settled satisfactorily,’ Oblomov remarked.

  ‘But will you ever do anything?’ said Tarantyev. ‘Have a good look at yourself. Why, you’re not good for anything. Of what use are you to your country? You can’t even go to your estate!’

  ‘It’s a bit too soon for me to go there,’ replied Oblomov. ‘I must first finish my plan of the changes I intend to introduce on my estate.… But, look here, Tarantyev,’ Oblomov said suddenly, ‘why shouldn’t you go instead? You know what the business is and you have a pretty good idea what the countryside is like in those parts – I would pay your expenses – –’

  ‘I’m not your manager, am I?’ Tarantyev said haughtily. ‘Besides, I’ve lost the knack of dealing with peasants.’

  ‘What am I to do?’ said Oblomov, pensively. ‘I’m hanged if I know.’

  ‘Well, write to the police inspector. Ask him if the bailiff has spoken to him about runaway peasants,’ Tarantyev advised, ‘and ask him to visit your estates too; then write to the Governor to order the police inspector to report on the bailiff’s conduct. “Will your Excellency be so good as to take a fatherly interest in me and cast a merciful eye upon the terrible and inevitable misfortune that threatens to overwhelm me as a result of my bailiff’s outrageous behaviour and the utter ruin which is bound to overtake me together with my wife and twelve little children who will be left unprovided for and starving” – –’

  Oblomov laughed.

  ‘Where am I to get so many children if I am asked to produce them?’ he said.

  ‘Nonsense, man! Write: “Twelve children”. No one will pay any attention to it and no one will make inquiries, but it will sound “authentic”. The Governor will pass on the letter to his secretary, and you will write to the secretary at the same time – with an enclosure, of course – and he will give the necessary order. And ask your neighbours, too: whom have you got there?’

  ‘Dobrynin lives near,’ said Oblomov. ‘I used to see him often here; he is in the country now.’

  ‘Well, write to him, too. Ask him nicely: “You will be doing me a great favour and oblige me as a Christian, a neighbour, and a friend.” And add some Petersburg present to the letter – a box of cigars, for instance. That is what you should do, but you don’t seem to have any sense at all. You’re hopeless! I’d have made that bailiff sit up; I’d have shown him! When does the post go?’

  ‘The day after to-morrow,’ said Oblomov.

  ‘Very well. Sit down and write at once.’

  ‘But if it’s the day after to-morrow, why should I write now?’ Oblomov remarked. ‘To-morrow will do. And, look here, old man,’
he added. ‘You may as well crown your “act of charity”, and I will add a fish or some bird for dinner.’

  ‘What now?’

  ‘Sit down and write – it won’t take you long to scribble three letters. You put everything so “authentically”,’ he added, trying to conceal a smile, ‘and Alexeyev could copy it out.’

  ‘Good Lord, how do you like that!’ Tarantyev replied. ‘Me write your letters? I haven’t written anything at the office for the last two days: the moment I sit down, my left eye begins to run. Must have caught a chill in it, and my head, too, begins to swim if I bend down. You’re lazy, my dear fellow, lazy. Hopeless, hopeless…’

  ‘Oh, if only Andrey would hurry up and come!’ said Oblomov. ‘He’d put everything straight!’

  ‘Some good Samaritan you’ve found, I must say!’ Tarantyev interrupted. ‘A damned German – a crafty rascal!’

  Tarantyev had a sort of instinctive aversion to foreigners. To him a Frenchman, a German, or an Englishman were synonymous with swindler, impostor, rogue, or bandit. He made no distinction between nations: they were all alike in his eyes.

  ‘Look here, Tarantyev,’ Oblomov said sternly, ‘I’d be glad if you would control your language, especially when speaking of an intimate friend of mine.…’

  ‘An intimate friend!’ Tarantyev replied with hatred. ‘What sort of connexion is he of yours? A German – we all know what that is.’

  ‘He’s closer than any relation. I was brought up with him and we were educated together, and I shan’t allow any impertinence – –’

  Tarantyev turned purple with rage.

  ‘Well,’ he said, ‘if you prefer the German to me, I shan’t set foot in your house again.’

  He put on his hat and walked to the door. Oblomov at once felt sorry.

  ‘You ought to respect him as my friend and speak more carefully about him – that is all I ask,’ he said. ‘It isn’t much of a favour, is it?’

  ‘To respect a German?’ Tarantyev said with the utmost contempt. ‘Why should I?’

  ‘But I’ve just told you – if for nothing else then because we grew up and went to the same school together.’

 

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