This is all Julie and Boris’ entrapment, uh, I mean engagement.
Boris is interested in Julie, but as a rich bride. He’s drawn to Marya, but doesn’t know how to talk to her, and she’s completely ignorant. Julie, meanwhile, is wealthy and prone to melancholy. Boris thinks it may be all show, but they both bond over the sadness of the world and how difficult everything is, ending in death.
Julie has an album (I guess in the 18th and 19th century young women would have albums in which they would keep keepsakes and mementos, and friends would draw in them) in which Boris draws trees and writes (in French) “Rustic tress, your gloomy branches shake darkness and melancholy down on me”. Charmer! And at one point a tombstone which reads:
(translation from the French here - it’s in French) “Death is helpful and death is peaceful/ Ah! Against sorrows there is no other refuge.”
Of course, Anna Mikhailovna is all over this, and tells her son who close she’s becoming to Julie, and mentioned her enormous estates. Boris gets her “simple-hearted slyness”, but still listens to her.
Meanwhile, Boris can’t propose because “some secret feeling of aversion for her, for her passionate desire to get married, for her unnaturalness, and a feeling of horror at renouncing the possibility of true love, still stopped [him].”
She’s also described as being too plump, and covering herself with powder. Sounds attractive, right?
Boris finally proposes, mostly because he’s horrified at the thought of having spent all this time in Moscow for nothing. Excellent. I hope they’re really happy.
Of course, as Boris predicted, all showers of melancholy disappeared once the wedding was announced. Surprise!!