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Chapter 2

  • LATE that August rain set in, and, one day, Oblomov saw a vanload of th_lyinskis' furniture come past his windows. To remain in his country villa, now that the park was desolate and the shutters hung closed over th_lyinskis' windows, seemed to him impossible. At length he removed to th_ooms which had been recommended him by Tarantiev, until such time as h_hould be able to find for himself a new flat. He took hasty meals a_estaurants, and spent most of his evenings with Olga.
  • But the long autumn evenings in town were not like the long, bright days ami_ields and woods.
  • Here he could not visit Olga three times a day, nor send her notes by Zakhar, seeing that she was five versts away. Thus the posied poem of the late summe_eemed somehow to have halted, or to be moving more slowly, as though i_ontained less substance than of yore.
  • Sometimes they would keep silence for quite half an hour at a time, while sh_usied herself with her needlework, and he busied himself in a chaos o_houghts which ranged beyond the immediate present. Only at intervals would h_aze at her and tremble with passion; only at intervals would she throw him _leeting glance, and smile as she caught the rays of tender humility, o_ilent happiness, which his eyes conveyed.
  • Yet on the sixth day, when Olga invited him to meet her at a certain shop, an_o escort her homeward on foot, he found his position begin to grow a trifl_wkward.
  • "Oh, if you knew how difficult things are!" he said. She returned no answer, but sighed. On another occasion she said to him—"Until we have arrange_verything we cannot possibly tell my aunt. Nor must we see so much of on_nother. You had better come to dinner only on Sundays and Wednesdays. Also, we might meet at the theatre occasionally, if I first give you notice that w_re going to be there. Also, as soon as a fine day should occur I mean to g_or a walk in the Summer Gardens, and you might come to meet me. The scen_ill remind us of our park in the country." She added this last with a quive_f emotion.
  • He kissed her hand in silence, and parted from her until Sunday. She followe_im with her eyes—then sat down to immerse herself in a wave of sound at th_iano. But something in her was weeping, and the notes seemed to be weeping i_ympathy. She tried to sing, but no song would come.
  • A few days later, Oblomov was lolling on the sofa and playing with one of hi_lippers—now picking it up from the floor with his toe, now dropping it again.
  • To him entered Zakhar.
  • "What now?" asked Oblomov indifferently. Zakhar said nothing, but eyed hi_ith a sidelong glance.
  • "Well?" said Oblomov again.
  • "Have you yet found for yourself another flat?" Zakhar countered.
  • "No, not yet. Why should you want to know?"
  • "Because I suppose the wedding will be taking place soon after Christmas."
  • "The wedding? What wedding?" Oblomov suddenly leaped up.
  • "You know what wedding—your own," replied Zakhar with assurance, as though h_ere speaking of an event long since arranged for. "You are going to b_arried, are you not?"
  • "I to be married? To whom?" And Oblomov glared at the valet.
  • "To Mademoiselle Ilyinski—" Almost before the man could finish his word_blomov had darted forward.
  • "Who put that idea into your head?" he cried in a carefully suppressed voice.
  • "The Lord bless us all and protect us!" Zakhar ejaculated, backing towards th_oor. "Who told me about it? Why, the Ilyinskis' servants, this very summer."
  • "Rubbish!" hissed Oblomov as he shook a warning finger at the old man.
  • "Remember—henceforth let me hear not a word about it!" He pointed to the door, and Zakhar left the room—filling the flat with his sighs as he did so.
  • Somehow Oblomov could not recover his composure, but remained gazing at th_pot which Zakhar had just vacated. Then he clasped his hands behind his head, and re-seated himself in the arm-chair.
  • "So the servants' hall and the kitchen are talking!" was his insisten_eflection. " It has come to this, that Zakhar can actually dare to ask m_hen the wedding is to be! Yes, and that though even Olga's aunt has not a_nkling of the truth! What would she think of it if she knew? The wedding, that most poetical moment in the life of a lover, that crown of all hi_appiness—why, lacqueys and grooms are talking of it even though nothing i_et decided upon! No answer has come from the estate, my registry certificat_s a blank, and a new flat still remains to be found."
  • With that he fell to analysing that poetical phase from which the colour ha_aded with Zakhar's mention of the same. Oblomov was beginning to see th_ther face of the medal. He tossed and turned from side to side, lay flat o_is back, leaped up and took a stride or two, and ended by sinking back into _eclining position.
  • "How come folk to know about it?" he reflected. "Olga has kept silence, and _oo have breathed not a word. So much for stolen meetings at dawn and sunset, for passionate glances, for the wizardry of song! Ah, those poems of love!
  • Never do they end save in disaster. One should go beneath the wedding canop_efore one attempts to swim in an atmosphere of roses. To think that befor_ny preparations have been made—before even an answer has come from th_state, or I have obtained either money or a flat—I should have to go to he_unt, and to say: 'This is my betrothed!' At all costs must I put a stop t_hese rumours. Marriage! What is marriage?"
  • He smiled as he remembered his recent poetical idealization of th_eremony—the long train to the gown, the orange-blossoms, the whispers of th_rowd. Somehow the colours had now changed; the crowd now comprised also th_ncouth, the slovenly Zakhar and the whole staff of the Ilyinskis' servants'
  • hall. Also, he could see a long line of carriages and a sea of strange, coldl_nquisitive faces. The scene was replete with glimmering, deadly weariness.
  • Summoning Zakhar to his presence, he again asked him how he had dared t_pread such rumours.
  • "For do you know what marriage means?" he demanded of his valet. "It mean_hat a lot of idle lacqueys and women and children start chattering i_itchens and shops and the market-place. A given individual ceases to be know_s Ilya Ilyitch or Peter Petrovitch, and henceforth ranks only as the zhenich.
  • Yesterday no one would have noticed him, but by to-morrow every one will b_taring at him as though he were a notorious rascal. Neither at the theatr_or in the street will folk let him pass without whispering, 'Here comes th_henich'. And every day other folk will call upon him with their faces reduce_o an even greater state of imbecility than distinguishes yours at thi_oment—all in order that they may vie with one another in saying imbecil_hings. That is how such an affair begins. And early each morning the zhenic_ust go to see his betrothed in lemon-coloured gloves—never at any time may h_ook untidy or weary; and always he must eat and drink what is customary unde_he circumstances, in order that his sustenance may appear to compris_rincipally bouquets and air. That is the programme which is supposed t_ontinue fully for three or four months! How could I go through such a_rdeal? Meanwhile you, Zakhar, would have had to run backwards and forward_etween my place and my betrothed's, as well as to keep making a round of th_ailors', the bootmakers', and the cabinetmakers' establishments, owing to th_act that I myself could not have been in every spot at once. And soon th_hole town would have come to hear of it. 'Have you yet heard the news?
  • Oblomov is going to be married!' 'Really? To whom? And what is she like? An_hen is the ceremony to be?' Talk, talk, talk! Besides, how could I hav_fforded the necessary expenses? You know how much money I possess. Have I ye_ound another flat? And am I not owing a thousand roubles for this one? An_ould not the hire of fresh quarters have cost me three thousand roubles more, considering the extra rooms which would have been required? And would ther_ot have been the cost of a carriage, and of a cook, and so forth? How could _ossibly have paid for it all?"
  • Oblomov checked himself abruptly. He felt horrified to think of th_hreatening, the uncomfortable, vision which his imagination had conjured up.
  • The roses, the orange-blossoms, the glitter and show, the whispers of th_rowd—all these had faded into the background. His fond dreams, his peace o_ind alike were gone. He could not eat or sleep, and everything had assumed a_ir of gloom and despondency. In seeking to overawe Zakhar, he had ended b_rightening also himself, for he had stumbled upon the practical view o_arriage, and come to perceive that, despite nuptial poetry, marriag_onstitutes an official, a very real step towards a serious assumption of ne_nd insistent obligations. Unable, therefore, to make up his mind as to wha_e should say to Olga when he next met her, he decided to defer his visi_ntil the following Wednesday. Having arrived at this decision, he fel_asier.
  • Two days later, Zakhar entered the room with a letter from Olga.
  • "I cannot wait until Wednesday," she wrote. "I feel so lost through these lon_bsences from your side that I shall look to see you in the Summer Gardens a_hree o'clock to-morrow."
  • "I cannot go," he thought to himself. The next moment he comforted himsel_ith the reflection that very likely her aunt, or some other lady, would b_ith her; in which case he would have a chance of concealing his nervousness.
  • Scarcely had he reached the Gardens when he saw her approaching. She wa_eiled, and at first he did not recognize her.
  • "How glad I am that you have come!" she exclaimed. "I was afraid you would no_o so."
  • She pressed his hand, and looked at him with an air so frank, so full of jo_t having stolen this moment from Fate, that he felt envious of her, an_egretful that he could not share in her lighthearted mood. Her whole fac_espoke a childish confidence in the future, in her happiness, and in him.
  • Truly she was very charming!
  • "But why do you look so gloomy?" suddenly she exclaimed. "Why do you sa_othing? I had thought you would be overjoyed to see me, whereas I find yo_one to sleep again! Wake up, sir!"
  • "I am both well and happy," he hastened to say—fearful lest things shoul_ttain the point of her guessing what was really in his mind. "But I a_isturbed that you should have come alone."
  • "Rather, it is for me to be disturbed about that," she retorted. "Do you thin_ ought to have brought my aunt with me?"
  • "Yes, Olga."
  • "Then, if I had known that, I would have invited her to come," offendedly sh_aid as she withdrew her hand from his. "Until now I had imagined that you_reatest happiness in life was to be with me, and with me alone. Let us go fo_ row in a boat."
  • With that she set off towards the river, dragging his unwilling form behin_er.
  • "Are you coming to our house to-morrow?" she inquired when they were safel_ettled in their seats.
  • "My God!" he reflected. "Already she has divined my thoughts, and knows that _o not want to come!"
  • "Yes, yes," he answered aloud.
  • "In the morning, and for the whole day?"
  • "Yes."
  • She splashed his face playfully with water.
  • "How bright and cheerful everything looks!" she remarked as she gazed abou_er. "Let us come again to-morrow. This time I shall come straight from home."
  • "Then you have not come straight from home to-day?"
  • "No, but from a shop, from a jeweller's."
  • Oblomov looked alarmed.
  • "Suppose your aunt were to find out?" he suggested.
  • "Oh, suppose the Neva were to become dried up, and that this boat were t_verturn, and that our house were suddenly to fall down, and that—that yo_ere suddenly to lose your love for me?" As she spoke she splashed him again.
  • "Listen, Olga," he said when they had landed on the bank. "At the risk o_exing and offending you, I ought to tell you something."
  • "What is it?" Her tone was impatient.
  • "That we ought not to be indulging in these secret meetings."
  • "But we are betrothed to one another?"
  • "Yes, dearest Olga," he replied, pressing her hands, "and therefore we ar_ound to be all the more careful. I would rather be walking with you alon_his avenue publicly than by stealth—I would rather see the eyes of passers-b_rop respectfully before you than run the risk of incurring a suspicion tha_ou have so far forgotten your modesty and your upbringing as to lose you_ead and fail in your duty."
  • "But I have not forgotten my modesty and my upbringing," she exclaimed, withdrawing her hands.
  • "No, I know that you have not," he agreed. "I was merely thinking of wha_eople might say—of how the world in general might look upon it all. Pray d_ot misunderstand me. What I desire is that to the world you should seem to b_s pure, as irreproachable, as in actual fact you are. To me your conduc_eems solely honourable and modest; but would every one believe it to be so?"
  • "What you say is right," she said after a pause. "Consequently, let us tell m_unt to-morrow, and obtain her consent."
  • Oblomov turned pale. "Why hurry so?" he asked. "I know that, two weeks ago, _yself was urging haste; but at that time I had not thought of the necessar_reparations."
  • "Then your heart is failing you? That I can see clearly."
  • "No; I am merely cautious. Even now I see a carriage approaching us. Are yo_ure that the people in it are not acquaintances of yours? How these thing_hrow one into a fever of perspiration! Let us depart as quickly as possible."
  • And with that he set off, almost at a run.
  • "Until to-morrow, then," she said.
  • "No, until the day after to-morrow. That would be better. Or even until Frida_r Saturday."
  • "No, no; you must come to-morrow. Do you hear? What have we not come to! Wha_ mountain of sorrow are you not threatening to bring upon my head!"
  • She turned to go home.