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Chapter 3

  • IN the Veaborg Quarter peace and quietness reigned supreme. They reigned i_ts unwashed streets, with their wooden sidewalks, and in its lean garden_mid the nettle-encumbered ditches, where a goat with a ragged cord around it_eck was diligently engaged in cropping the herbage and snatching dul_ntervals of slumber. At midday, however, the high, smart boots of a cler_lattered along a sidewalk, the muslin curtain at a window was pulled aside t_dmit the features of a Civil Service official's lady, and for a brief momen_here showed itself over a garden fence the fresh young face of a girl—the_he face of a companion—then the face which had first appeared, as two maiden_aughed and tittered during the process of swinging each other on a garde_wing.
  • Also in the abode of Oblomov's landlady all was quiet. Had you entered th_ittle courtyard, you would have happened upon an idyllic scene. The poultr_ould have started running hither and thither in fussy alarm, and the dog_iven tongue in furious accents, while Akulina would have paused in he_ursuit of milking the cow, and the dvornik in his task of chopping firewood, in order that they might gaze unhampered at the visitor. "Whom do you wish t_ee?" the dvornik would have inquired; and on your mentioning Oblomov's name, or that of the mistress of the house, he would have pointed to the steps o_he front door, and then resumed his task of wood-chopping; whereupon th_isitor would have followed the neat, sanded path to the steps (which he woul_ave found covered with a plain, clean carpet of some sort), and, reaching fo_he brightly polished knob of the doorbell, would have had the door opened t_im by Anisia, one of the children, the landlady herself, or Zakhar.
  • Everything in Agafia Matvievna's establishment smacked of an opulence and _omestic sufficiency which had been lacking in the days when she had share_ouse with her brother, Tarantiev's bosom friend. The kitchen, the lumberroom, and the pantry were alike fitted with cupboards full of china, crockery, an_ousehold wares of every sort; while in cases were set out Oblomov's plate an_rticles of silver (long ago redeemed, and never since pledged). In short, th_lace abounded in such commodities as are to be found in the abode of ever_rugal housewife. Also, so carefully was everything packed in camphor an_ther preservatives that when Agafia Matvievna went to open the doors of th_upboards she could scarcely stand against the overwhelming perfume of mingle_arcotics which came forth, and had to turn her head aside for a few moments.
  • Hams hung from the ceiling of the storeroom (to avoid damage by mice), and, with them, cheeses, loaves of sugar, dried fish, and bags of nuts an_reserved mushrooms. On a table stood tubs of butter, pots of sour cream, baskets of apples, and God knows what else besides, for it would require th_en of a second Homer to describe in full, and in detail, all that had becom_ccumulated in the various corners and on the various floors of this littl_est of domestic life. As for the kitchen, it was a veritable palladium o_ctivity on the part of the mistress and her efficient assistant, Anisia.
  • Everything was kept indoors and in its proper place; throughout ther_revailed a system of orderliness and cleanliness ; and only into on_articular nook of the house did a ray of light, a breath of air, the goo_ousewife's eye, and the nimble, all-furbishing hand of the domestic neve_enetrate. That nook was Zakhar's den. Lacking a window, it was so constantl_lunged in darkness that its resemblance to a lair rather than to a huma_abitation was rendered the more complete. Whenever Zakhar surprised in hi_en the mistress of the house (come thither to plan a cleaning or variou_mprovements) he explained to her, in forcible terms, that it was not _oman's business to sweep out a place where faggots, blacking, and boots ough_o lie, and that it mattered not a jot that clothes should be tossed in a hea_n the floor, or that the bed in the stove corner had become overspread wit_ust, seeing that it was he, and not she, whose function it was to repose upo_hat bed. As for a besom, a few planks, a couple of bricks, the remains of _arrel, and two blocks of wood which he always kept in his room, he could not, he averred, get on in his domestic duties without them (though why that was s_e left to the imagination). Finally, according to his own statement, neithe_he dust nor the cobwebs in the least inconvenienced him—to which he begged t_dd a reminder that, since he never obtruded his nose into the kitchen, h_hould be the more pleased if he could be left alone by those to whom th_itchen was at all times open. Once, when he surprised Anisia in his sanctum, he threatened her so furiously with uplifted fist that the case was referre_o the court of superior instance—that is to say, to Oblomov himself, wh_alked supinely to the door of the den, inserted his head therein, scanned th_partment and its contents, sneezed, and returned mutely to his own quarters.
  • "What have you gained by it all?" said Zakhar to the mistress and he_yrmidon, who had accompanied Oblomov, in the hope that his participation i_he affair would lead to a change of some sort. Then the old valet laughed t_imself in a way which twisted his eyebrows and whiskers askew.
  • In the other rooms of the house, however, everything looked bright and clea_nd fresh. The old stuff curtains had disappeared, and the doors and window_f the drawing-room and the study were hung with blue and green drapery an_uslin curtains—the work of Agafia Matvievna's own hands. Indeed, for days a_ time Oblomov, prone upon his sofa, had watched her bare elbows flicker t_nd fro as she plied needle and thread; nor had he once gone to sleep to th_ound of thread being alternately inserted and bitten off, as had been hi_ustom in the old days at Oblomovka.
  • "Enough of work," he had nevertheless said to her at intervals, "Pray ceas_our labours for a while."
  • "Nay," she had always replied, "God loves those who toil."
  • Nor was his coffee prepared for him with less care, attention, and skill tha_ad been the case before he had changed his old quarters for his present ones.
  • Giblet soup, macaroni with Parmesan cheese, soup concocted of kvass and herbs, home-fed pullets—all these dishes succeeded one another in regular rotation, and by so doing helped to make agreeable breaks in the otherwise monotonou_outine of the little establishment. Nor did the sun, whenever shining, fai_o brighten his room from morning till night—thanks to the fact that th_arket-gardens on either side of the building prevented that luminary's ray_rom being shaded off by any obstacle. Outside, ducks quacked cheerfully, while, within, a geranium, added to a few hyacinths which the children ha_rought home, filled the little apartment with a perfume which mingle_leasantly with the smoke of Havana cigars and the scent of the cinnamon o_he vanilla which the mistress of the house would be preparing with bare, energetic arms.
  • Thus Oblomov lived in a sort of gilded cage—a cage within which, as in _iorama, the only changes included alternations of day and night and of th_easons. Of changes of the disturbing kind which stir up the sediment from th_ottom of life's bowl—a sediment only too frequently both bitter an_bnoxious—there were none. Ever since the day when Schtoltz had cleared him o_ebt, and Tarantiev and Tarantiev's friend had taken themselves off for good, every adverse element had disappeared from Oblomov's existence, and ther_urrounded him only good, kind, sensible folk who had agreed to underpin hi_xistence with theirs, and to help him not to notice it, nor to feel it, as i_ursued its even course. Everything was, as it were, at peace, and of tha_eace, that inertia, Oblomov represented the complete, the natural, embodimen_nd expression. After passing in review and considering his mode of life, h_ad sunk deeper and deeper therein, until finally he had come to th_onclusion that he had no farther to go, and nothing farther to seek, and tha_he ideal of his life would best be preserved where he was—albeit withou_oetry, without those finer shades wherewith his imagination had once painte_or him a spacious, careless course of manorial life on his own estate an_mong his own peasantry and servants.
  • Upon his present mode of life he looked as a continuation of the Oblomovka_xistence (only with a different colouring of locality, and, to a certai_xtent, of period). Here, as at Oblomovka, he had succeeded in escaping life, in driving a bargain with it, and ensuring to himself an inviolable seclusion.
  • Inwardly he congratulated himself on having left behind him the irksome, irritating demands and menaces of mundane existence—on having placed a grea_istance between himself and the horizon where there may be seen flashing th_ightning-bolts of keen pleasure, and whence come the thunder-peals of sudde_ffliction, and where flicker the false hopes and the splendid visions o_verage happiness, and where independence of thought gradually engulfs an_evours a man, and where passion slays him outright, and where the intellec_ails or triumphs, and where humanity engages in constant warfare, and leave_he field of battle in a state of exhaustion and of ever-unsatisfied, ever- insatiable desire. Never having experienced the consolations to be won i_ombat, he had none the less renounced them, and felt at ease only in a remot_orner to which action and fighting and the actual living of life were alik_trangers.
  • Yet moments there were when his imagination stirred within him again, and whe_here recurred to his mind forgotten memories and unrealized dreams, and whe_e felt in his conscience whispered reproaches for having made of his life s_ittle as he had done. And whenever that occurred he slept restlessly, awok_t intervals, leaped out of bed, and shed chill tears of hopelessness over th_right ideal that was now extinguished for ever. He shed them as folk she_hem over a dead friend whom with bitter regret they recognize to have bee_eglected during his lifetime. Then he would glance at his surroundings, hu_o himself his present blessings, and grow comforted on noting how quietly, how restfully, the sun was rising amid a blaze of glory. Thus he had come to _ecision that not only was his life compounded in the best manner fo_xpressing the possibilities to which the idealistic-peaceful side of huma_xistence may attain, but also that it had been expressly created for, an_reordained to, that purpose. To others, he reflected, let it fall to expres_ife's restless aspects ; to others let it be given to exercise forces o_onstruction and destruction; to each man be allotted his true métier.
  • Such the philosophy which our Plato of Oblomovka elaborated for the purpose o_ulling himself to sleep amid the problems and the stern demands of duty an_f destiny. He had been bred and nourished to play the part, not of _ladiator in the arena but of a peaceful onlooker at the struggle. Never coul_is diffident, lethargic spirit have faced either the raptures or the blows o_ife. Hence he expressed only one of its aspects, and had no mind either t_ucceed in it, or to change anything in it, or to repent of his decision. A_he years flowed on both emotion and repining came to manifest themselves a_arer and rarer intervals, until, by quiet, imperceptible degrees, he becam_inally interned in the plain, otiose tomb of retirement which he ha_ashioned with his own hands, even as desert anchorites who have turned fro_he world dig for themselves a material sepulchre. Of reorganizing his estate, and removing thither with his household, he had given up all thought. Th_teward whom Schtoltz had placed in charge of Oblomovka regularly sent him th_ncome therefrom, and the peasantry proffered him flour and poultry a_hristmastide, and everything on the estate was prospering.
  • Meanwhile he ate heartily and much, even as he had done at Oblomovka. Also, h_alked and worked sluggishly and little—again, as he had done at Oblomovka.
  • Lastly, in spite of his advancing years, he drank beer and vodka à raisin wit_omplete insouciance, and took to sleeping ever more and more protractedl_fter dinner.
  • But suddenly a change occurred. One day, after his usual quota of slumber an_ay dreams, he tried to rise from the sofa, but failed, and his tongue refuse_o obey him. Terrified, he could compass only a gesture when he tried to cal_or help. Had he been living with Zakhar alone, he might have continued t_ignal for assistance until next morning, or have died, and not been foun_here till the following day; but, as it was, the eyes of his landlady ha_een watching over him like the eyes of Providence itself, and it cost her n_kill of wit, but only an instinct of the heart, to divine that all was no_ell with Oblomov. No sooner had the instinct dawned upon her than Anisia wa_ispatched in a cab for a doctor, while Agafia Matvievna herself applied ic_o the patient's head, and extracted from her medicine chest the whole armour_f smelling-bottles and fomentations which custom and report had designate_or use at such a juncture. Even Zakhar managed to get one of his boots on, and, thus shod, to fuss around his master in company with the doctor, th_istress of the house, and Anisia.
  • At length, blood having been let, Oblomov returned to consciousness, and wa_nformed that he had just sustained an apoplectic stroke, and that he mus_dopt a different course of life. Henceforth, vodka, beer, wine, coffee, an_ich food were, with certain exceptions, to be prohibited, while in thei_lace there were prescribed for him daily exercise and a regular amount o_leep of an exclusively nocturnal nature. Even then these remedies would hav_ome to nothing but for Agafia Matvievna's watchfulness; but she had the wi_o to introduce the system that the entire household involuntarily assisted i_ts working. Thus, partly by cunning and partly by kindness, she contrived t_ean Oblomov from his attractive indulgences in wine, postprandial slumber, and fish pasties. For instance, as soon as ever he began to doze, either _hair would be upset in an adjoining room, or, of its own volition, some ol_nd worthless crockery would begin flying into splinters, or the childre_ould start making a noise, and be told, fortissimo, to be gone. Lastly, should even this not prove effective, her own kindly voice would be hear_alling to him, in order to ask him some question or another.
  • Also, the garden path was lengthened, and on it Oblomov accomplished, mornin_nd evening, a constitutional of some two hours' duration. With him ther_ould walk the landlady—or, if she could not attend, one of the children, o_is old friend, the irresponsible and to every man both humble and agreeabl_lexiev. One morning Oblomov, leaning on the boy Vania's arm, slowly paced th_ath. By this time Vania had grown into almost a youth, and found it hard t_estrict his brisk, rapid step to Oblomov's more tardy gait. As the elder ma_alked he made little use of one of his legs, which was a trace of the strok_hich he had recently sustained.
  • "Let us go indoors now, Vaniushka," he said; wherefore they directed thei_teps towards the door. But to meet them there issued Agafia Matvievna.
  • "Why are you coming in so early?" she inquired.
  • "Early, indeed? Why, we have paced the path twenty times each way, and fro_ere to the fence is a distance of fifty sazhens; wherefore we have covere_wo versts in all."
  • "And how many times do you say you have paced it?" she inquired of Vania.
  • He hesitated.
  • "Do not lie, but look me straight in the face," she continued, fixing him wit_er gaze. "I have been watching you the whole time. Remember next Sunday.
  • Possibly I might not let you go to the party that night."
  • "Well, mother," the boy said at length, "we have paced the path only twelv_imes."
  • "Ah, you rogue!" exclaimed Oblomov. "You were nipping off acacia-leaves al_he time, whereas I was keeping the most careful account."
  • "Then you must go and do some more walking," decided the landlady. "Besides, the fish soup is not yet ready." And she closed the door upon the pair.
  • Oblomov, much against his will, completed another eight pacings of the path, and then entered the dining-room. On the large round table the fish soup wa_ow steaming, and all hastened to take their usual seats—Oblomov in solitar_tate on the sofa, the landlady on his right, and the rest in due sequence.
  • "I will help you to this herring, as it is the fattest," said Agafi_atvievna.
  • "Very well," he remarked. "Only, I think that a pie would go well with it."
  • "Oh dear! I have forgotten the pies! I meant to make some last night, but m_emory is all gone to pieces!" The artful Agafia Matvievna! "Besides, I a_fraid that I have forgotten the cutlets and the cabbage. In fact, you mus_ot expect very much of a dinner to-day." This was addressed ostensibly t_lexiev.
  • "Never mind," he replied. "I can eat anything."
  • "But why not cook him some pork and peas, or a beef-steak?" asked Oblomov.
  • "I did go to the butcher's for a beefsteak, but there was not a single morse_f good beef left. However, I have made Monsieur Alexiev a cherry compôt_nstead. I know he likes that." The truth was that cherry compôte was not ba_or Oblomov wherefore the complacent Alexiev had no choice but both to eat i_nd to like it.
  • After dinner no power on earth could prevent Oblomov from assuming a recumben_osition; so, to obviate his going to sleep, the landlady was accustomed t_lace beside him his coffee, and then to inspire her children to play games o_he floor, so that, willy-nilly, Oblomov should be forced to join in thei_port. Presently she withdrew to the kitchen to see if the coffee was ye_eady, and, meanwhile, the children's clatter died away. Almost at once _entle snore arose in the room—then a louder one—then one louder still; an_hen Agafia Matvievna returned with the steaming coffee-pot she encountere_uch a volume of snoring as would have done credit to a post-house.
  • Angrily she shook her head at Alexiev.
  • "It is not my fault," he said deprecatingly. "I tried to stir up the children, but they would not listen to me."
  • Swiftly depositing the coffee-pot upon the table, she caught up littl_ndriusha from the floor, and gently seated him upon the sofa by Oblomov'_ide; whereupon the child wriggled towards him, climbed his form until he ha_eached his face, and grasped him firmly by the nose.
  • "Hi! Hullo! Who is that?" cried Oblomov uneasily as he opened his eyes.
  • "You had gone to sleep, so Andriusha climbed on to the sofa and awoke you,"
  • replied the landlady kindly.
  • "I had gone to sleep, indeed?" retorted Oblomov, laying his arm around th_ittle one. "Do you think I did not hear him creeping along on all fours? Why, I hear everything. To think of the little rascal catching me by the nose! I'l_ive it him! But there, there." Tenderly embracing the child, he deposited hi_n the floor again, and heaved a profound sigh. "Tell us the news, Iva_lexiev," he said.
  • "You have heard it all. I have nothing more to tell."
  • "How so? You go into society, and I do not. Is there nothing new in th_olitical world?"
  • "It is being said that the earth is growing colder every day, and that one da_t will become frozen altogether."
  • "Away with you! Is that politics?"
  • A silence ensued. Oblomov quietly relapsed into a state of coma that wa_either sleeping nor waking. He merely let his thoughts wander at will, without concentrating them upon anything in particular as calmly he listene_o the beating of his heart and occasionally blinked his eyes. Thus he san_nto a vague, enigmatical condition which partook largely of the nature o_allucination. In rare instances there come to a man fleeting moments o_bstraction when he seems to be reliving past stages of his life. Whether h_as previously beheld in sleep the phenomena which are passing before hi_ision, or whether he has gone through a previous existence and has sinc_orgotten it, we cannot say; but at all events he can see the same person_round him as were present in the first instance, and hear the same words a_ere uttered then.
  • So was it with Oblomov now. Gradually there spread itself about him the hus_hich he had known long ago. He could hear the beating of the well-know_endulum, the snapping of the thread as it was bitten off, and the repetitio_f familiar whispered sentences like "I cannot make the thread go through th_ye of the needle. Pray do it for me, Masha—your eyesight is keener tha_ine."
  • Lazily, mechanically he looked into his landlady's face; and straightway fro_he recesses of his memory there arose a picture which, somewhere, had bee_ell known to him.
  • To his vision there dawned the great, dark drawing-room in the house of hi_outh, lit by a single candle. At the table his mother and her guests wer_itting over their needlework, while his father was silently pacing up an_own. Somehow the present and the past had become fused and interchanged, s_hat, as the little Oblomov, he was dreaming that at length he had reached th_nchanted country where the rivers run milk and honey, and bread can b_btained without toil, and every one walks clad in gold and silver.
  • Once again he could hear the old legends and the old folk-tales, mingled wit_he clatter of knives and crockery in the kitchen. Once again he was pressin_lose to his nurse to listen to her tremulous, old woman's voice. "That i_ilitrissa Kirbitievna," she was saying as she pointed to the figure of hi_andlady. Also, the same clouds seemed to be floating in the blue zenith tha_sed to float there of yore, and the same wind to be blowing in at the window, and ruffling his hair, and the same cock of the Oblomovkan poultry-yard to b_trutting and crowing below. Suddenly a dog barked. Some other guest must b_rriving! Would it be old Schtoltz and his little boy from Verklevo? Yes, probably, for to-day is a holiday. And in very truth it is they—he can hea_heir footsteps approaching nearer and nearer! The door opens, and "Andrei!"
  • he exclaims excitedly, for there, sure enough, stands his friend—but now grow_o manhood, and no longer a little boy! …