"ARE you certain that nothing remains to you of your property—that there
is no hope of anything?" asked Olga a few days later.
"Yes, I am certain," he replied—then added with a touch of hesitation in
his tone: "But perhaps within a year or so—"
"Within a year or so you may be able to order your life and your affairs?
Reflect a moment."
He sighed, for he was fighting a battle with himself, and the battle was
reflected in his face.
"Listen," she went on. "Remember that you and I are no longer children,
and that we are not jesting, and that the matter may affect our whole lives.
Inquire sternly of your conscience, therefore, and tell me (for I know you,
as well as trust you) whether you can stand by me your life long, and be to
me all that I need? You know me as I know you: consequently you understand
what it is that I am trying to say. Should you return me a bold, a
considered 'Yes,' I will cancel a certain decision of mine—I will give you
my hand, and together we will go abroad, or to your estate, or to the
"Ah, if you knew how much I love you!" he began.
"I desire no protestations of love—only a brief answer."
"Do not torture me, Olga," he cried with weariness in his tone.
"Then am I right in what I suppose?" she asked.
"Yes—you are right," was the firm, but significant, reply.
There followed a long pause.
"Shall I tell you what you would have done had we married?" at length she
said. "Day by day you would have relapsed farther and farther into your
slough. And I? You see what I am—that I am not yet grown old, and that I
shall never cease to live. But you would have taken to waiting for
Christmas, and then for Shrovetide, and to attending evening parties, and to
dancing, and to thinking of nothing at all. You would have retired to rest
each night with a sigh of thankfulness that the day had passed so quickly;
and each morning you would have awakened with a prayer that to-day might be
exactly as yesterday. That would have been our future. Is it not
so? Meanwhile I should have been fading away. Do you really think
that in such a life you would have been happy?"
He tried to rise and leave the room, but his feet refused their office.
He tried to say something, but his throat seemed dry, and no sound would
come. All he could do was to stretch out his hand.
"Forgive me!" he murmured.
She too tried to speak, but could not. She too tried to extend her hand,
but it fell back. Finally, her face contracted painfully, and, sinking
forward upon his shoulder, she burst into a storm of sobbing. It was as
though all her weapons had slipped from her grasp, and once more she was
just a woman—a woman defenceless in her fight with sorrow.
"Good-bye, good-bye!" she said amid her spasms of weeping. He sat
listening painfully to her sobs, but felt as though he could say nothing to
check them. Sinking into a chair, and burying her face in her handkerchief,
she wept bitter, burning tears, with her head bowed upon the table.
"Olga," at length he said, "why torture yourself in this way? You love
me, and could never survive a parting. Take me, therefore, as I am, and love
in me just so much as may be worthy of it."
Without raising her head, she made a gesture of refusal.
"No, no," she forced herself to gasp. "Nor need you fear for me and my
grief. I know myself. I am merely weeping my heart out, and shall then weep
no more. Do not hinder me, but go. God has punished me. Yet how it hurts,
how it hurts!"
Her sobs redoubled.
"But suppose the pain should not pass?" he said. "Suppose it
should wreck your health? Tears like these are tears of poison. Olga,
darling, do not weep. Forget the past."
"No, no; let me weep. I am weeping not so much for the future as for the
past." She could scarcely utter the words. "It was all so bright—but now it
is gone! It is not I that am weeping; it is my memory—my memory of the
summer, of the park—that is pouring out its grief. Do you remember those
things? Yes, I am yearning for the avenue, and for the lilac that you gave
me . . . They had struck their roots into my heart, and—and the plucking of
them up is painful indeed!"
In her despair she bowed her head, and sobbed again—repeating: "Oh, how
it hurts! Oh, how it hurts!"
"But suppose you were to die of this?" he said in sudden alarm. "Olga,
Olga! Think a moment!"
"No, no," she interrupted, raising her head, and striving to look at him
through her tears. "Not long ago I realized that I was loving in you only
what I wished you to contain—that it was only the future Oblomov of my
dreams—it was so dear to me. Ilya, you are good and honourable and tender;
but you are all this only as is a dove which, with its head hidden under its
wing, wishes to see nothing better. All your life you would have sat perched
beneath the eaves. But I am different—I wish for more than that; though
what it is I wish for even I myself could scarcely say. On the other hand,
do you think that you could have taught me what that something is,
that you could have supplied me with what I lack, that you could
have given me all that I—?"
Oblomov's legs were tottering under him. Sinking into a chair, he wiped
his hands and forehead with his handkerchief. The words had been harsh—they
had stung him to the quick. Somehow, too, they had seared him inwardly,
while outwardly they had chilled him as with a breath of frost. No more
could he do than smile the sort of pitiful, deprecating smile which may be
seen on the face of a beggar who is being rated for his sorry clothing—the
sort of smile which says: "I am poor and naked and hungry. Beat me,
Suddenly Olga realized the sting which her words had contained, and threw
herself impetuously upon him.
"Forgive me, my friend," she said tenderly and with tears in her voice.
"I did not think what I was saying, for I am almost beside myself. Yes,
forget all that has happened, and let us be as formerly—let all remain
"No," he replied, as abruptly he rose to his feet and checked her
outburst with a decisive gesture. "All cannot remain unchanged. Nor
need you regret that you have told me the truth. I have well deserved it."
She burst into a renewed fit of weeping.
"Go!" she said, twisting her tear-soaked handkerchief in her hands. "I
cannot bear this any longer. To me at least the past is dear."
She covered her face, and the sobs poured forth afresh.
"Why has everything thus come to rack and ruin?" she cried. "Who has put
a curse upon you, Ilya? Why have you done this? You are clever and kind and
good and noble; yet you can wreck our lives in this way! What nameless evil
has undone you?"
"It has a name," he said almost inaudibly. She looked at him
questioningly with tear-filled eyes. "That name," he added, "is 'The Disease
Turning with bowed head, he departed.
Whither he wandered, or what he did, he never afterwards knew. Late at
night he returned home. His landlady, hearing his knock, awoke Zakhar, who
undressed his master, and wrapped him in the old dressing-gown.
"How comes that to be here?" asked Oblomov, glancing at the garment.
"I was given it by the landlady to-day," replied Zakhar. "She has just
cleaned and mended it."
Sinking into an arm-chair, Oblomov remained there. All around was growing
dim and dreamlike. As he sat there with his head resting on his hand he
neither remarked the dimness nor heard the striking of the hours. All his
mind was plunged in a chaos of formless, indefinite thoughts which, like the
clouds in the sky, passed aimlessly, disconnectedly athwart the surface of
his brain. Of none of them could he catch the actual substance. His heart
felt crushed, and for the moment the life in it was in abeyance.
Mechanically he gazed in front of him without even noticing that day was
breaking, or that his landlady's dry cough was once more audible, or that
the dvornik was beginning to cut firewood in the courtyard, or that
the usual clatter in the house had begun again. At length he went to bed,
and fell into a leaden, an uncomfortable sleep . . . .
"To-day is Sunday," whispered the kindly voice of the landlady, "and I
have baked you a pie. Will you not have some?"
He returned no answer, for he was in a high fever.