OBLOMOV'S face beamed as he walked home. His blood was boiling, and a light was shining in his eyes. He entered his room—and at once the radiance disappeared as his eyes, full of disgusted astonishment, became glued to one particular spot. That particular spot was the arm-chair, wherein was snugly ensconced Tarantiev.
"Why is it I never find you here?" the visitor asked sternly. "Why are you always gadding about? That old fool Zakhar has quite got out of hand. I asked him for a morsel of food and a glass of vodka, and he refused me both!"
"I have been for a walk in the park," replied Oblomov coldly. For the moment he had forgotten the murky atmosphere wherein he had spent so much of his life. And now, in a twinkling, Tarantiev had brought him tumbling from the clouds! His immediate thought was that the visitor might insist on remaining to dinner, and so prevent him from paying his visit to Olga and her aunt.
"Why not come and take a look at that flat?" went on Tarantiev.
"Because there is no need," replied Oblomov, avoiding his interlocutor's eye. "I have decided not to move."
"Not to move?" exclaimed Tarantiev threateningly. "Not when I have hired the place for you, and you have signed the lease?"
This led Oblomov to remember that, on the very day of his removal from town to the country villa, he had signed, without previously perusing it, a document which his present visitor had submitted to him.
"Nevertheless," he remarked, " I shall not want the flat. I am going abroad."
"I am sure you are not," retorted Tarantiev coolly. "What is more, the sooner you hand over to me a half-year's rent, the better. Your new landlady does not care for such tricks to be played upon her. I have paid the money on your behalf, and I require to be repaid."
"Where did you contrive to get the money from?"
"That has nothing to do with you. As a matter of fact, I had an old debt repaid me. A better flat you could not find in all the city."
"Nevertheless I do not want it. It lies too far from—from—"
"From where? From the centre of the city?"
Oblomov forbore to specify what he meant, but merely remarked that he should not be dining at home that evening.
"Then hand me over the rent, and the devil take you!" exclaimed Tarantiev.
"I possess no money at all. As it is, I shall have to borrow some."
"Well, repay me at least my cab fare," insisted the visitor. "It was only three roubles."
"Where is the cabman? Why has he charged you so much?"
"I dismissed him long ago. I may add that the fare home is another three roubles."
"By the coach you could travel for half a rouble." However, Oblomov tendered Tarantiev four roubles, which the man at once pocketed.
"Also, I have expended some seven roubles on your account," went on Tarantiev. "Besides, you might as well advance me something towards the price of a dinner. Roadside inns are dear. As a rule they fleece one of five roubles."
Silently Oblomov handed him another rouble, in the hope that the man would now depart; but Tarantiev was not to be so easily shaken off.
"And also you might order Zakhar to bring me a snack now," he said.
"But I thought you intended to dine at an inn?"
"Yes, to dine, but at the moment the time is two o'clock, and no more."
Oblomov issued the necessary orders. On receiving them, Zakhar looked darkly at Tarantiev.
"We have no food ready," he said. "Also, where are my master's shirt and jacket?"
"Shirt and jacket? Why, I gave them back to you long ago. I stuffed them into your own hands, and you bundled them away into a corner. Yet you come asking me where they are!"
"Also, what about a floorbrush and two cups which you carried off?" persisted Zakhar.
"Floorbrush? What floorbrush?" retorted Tarantiev. "Go and get me something to eat, you old fool!"
"We have not a single morsel in the house," said Zakhar; "and also there is nobody to cook it." With which he withdrew.
Tarantiev looked about him, and, perceiving Oblomov to be possessed both of a hat and a cap, attempted unsuccessfully to borrow the former for the remainder of the summer, and then took his leave.
When he had gone Oblomov sat plunged in thought. He recognized that his bright, cloudless holiday of love was over, and that workaday love had now become the order of the day, and that already it was so completely entering into his life's ordinary tendencies that things were beginning to lose their rainbow colours.
"Indeed," he reflected, "this morning may have seen the extinction of the last roseate ray of love's festival—so that henceforth my life is to be warmed rather than lighted. Yes, life will swallow up love, although secretly it will remain moved by its powerful springs, and its manifestations be of an invariably simple, everyday nature. Yes, the poem is fading, and stern prose is to follow—to follow with a drab series of incidents which shall comprise a marriage ceremony, a journey to Oblomovka, the building of a house, an application to the local council, the laying out of roads, an endless transaction of business with peasants, a number of improvements, harvests, and so forth, the frequent spectacle of the bailiff's anxious face, elections to the council of nobles, and sundry sittings on the local bench." Somewhere he could see Olga beaming upon him, and singing Casta Diva, and then giving him a hasty kiss before he went forth to work, or to the town, or to interview the bailiff. Guests would call (a no very comforting prospect!), and they would talk about the wine which each happened to be brewing in his vats, and about the number of arshins of cloth which each happened to have rendered to the Treasury. What would this amount to? What was it he was promising for himself? Was it life? Whether life or not, it would have to be lived as though it, and it alone, constituted existence. At least it would be an existence that would find favour with Schtoltz
But the actual wedding ceremony—that, at all events, would represent the poetry of life, its nascent, its just opening flower? He pictured himself leading Olga to the altar. On her head there would be a wreath of orange-blossoms, and to her gown a long train, and the crowd would whisper in amazement. Shyly, and with gently heaving bosom and brow bent forward in gracious pride, she would give him her hand in complete unconsciousness that the eyes of all were fixed upon her. Then a bright smile would show itself on her face, the tears would begin to well, and for a moment or two the furrow on her forehead would twitch with thought. Then, when they had arrived home and the guests had all departed, she, yes, she—clad still in her gorgeous raiment—would throw herself upon his breast as she had done that morning!
Unable any longer to keep his fancies to himself, he went with them to Olga. She listened to him with a smile; but when he jumped up with the intention of informing also her aunt she frowned with such decision that he halted in awe.
"Not a word to any one!" she said. "The right moment is not yet come."
"What ought we to do first, then?
"To go to the registrar, and to sign the record."
"After marriage to go and live at Oblomovka, and to see what can be done there."
"We shall not be able to do that, for the house is in ruins, and a new one must first be built."
"Then where are we to live?"
"We must take a flat in town."
"Then you had better go at once and see about it."
"Alas!" was Oblomov's reflection. "Olga wishes for ever to be on the move. Apparently she cares nothing about dreaming over the poetical phases of life, or losing herself in reveries. She is like Schtoltz. It would seem as though the two had conspired to live life at top speed."