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?"
"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?"
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!"