Fathers and Sons/Chapter 16

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THE COUNTRY HOUSE IN WHICH ANNA SERGEYEVNA LIVED STOOD on the slope of a low hill not far from a yellow stone church with a green roof, white columns, and decorated with a fresco over the main entrance, representing The Resurrection of Christ in the Italian style. Especially remarkable for its voluminous contours was the figure of a swarthy soldier in a helmet, sprawling in the foreground of the picture. Behind the church stretched a long village street with chimneys peeping out here and there from thatched roofs. The manor house was built in the same style as the church, the style now famous as that of Alexander I; the whole house was painted yellow, and it had a green roof, white columns and a pediment with a coat of arms carved on it. The provincial architect had designed both buildings according to the instructions of the late Odintsov, who could not endure--as he expressed it--senseless and arbitrary innovations. The house was flanked on both sides by the dark trees of an old garden; an avenue of clipped pines led up to the main entrance,

Our friends were met in the hall by two tall footmen in livery; one of them ran at once to fetch the butler. The butler, a stout man in a black tail coat, promptly appeared and led the visitors up a staircase covered with rugs into a specially prepared room in which two beds had been arranged with every kind of toilet accessory. It was evident that order reigned in the house; everything was clean, and there was everywhere a peculiar dignified fragrance such as one encounters in ministerial reception rooms.

"Anna Sergeyevna asks you to come to see her in half an hour," the butler announced. "Have you any orders to give meanwhile?"

"No orders, my good sir," answered Bazarov, "but perhaps you will kindly trouble yourself to bring a glass of vodka."

"Certainly, sir," said the butler, looking rather surprised, and went out, his boots creaking.

"What grand genre," remarked Bazarov, "that's what you call it in your set, I think. A Grand Duchess complete."

"A nice Grand Duchess," answered Arkady, "to invite straight away such great aristocrats as you and me to stay with her."

"Especially me, a future doctor and a doctor's son, and grandson of a village priest . . . you know that, I suppose . . . a village priest's grandson, like the statesman Speransky," added Bazarov, after a brief silence, pursing his lips. "Anyhow, she gives herself the best of everything, this pampered lady! Shan't we soon find ourselves wearing tail coats?"

Arkady only shrugged his shoulders . . . but he, too, felt a certain embarrassment.

Half an hour later Bazarov and Arkady made their way together into the drawing room. It was a large lofty room, luxuriously furnished but with little personal taste. Heavy expensive furniture stood in a conventional stiff arrangement along the walls, which were covered in a buff wall paper decorated with golden arabesques. Odintsov had ordered the furniture from Moscow through a wine merchant who was a friend and agent of his. Over a sofa in the center of one wall hung a portrait of a flabby fair-haired man, which seemed to look disapprovingly at the visitors. "It must be the late husband," whispered Bazarov to Arkady. "Shall we dash off?" But at that moment the hostess entered. She wore a light muslin dress; her hair, smoothly brushed back behind her ears, imparted a girlish expression to her pure, fresh face.

"Thank you for keeping your promise," she began. "You must stay a little while; you won't find it so bad here. I will introduce you to my sister; she plays the piano well. That's a matter of indifference to you, Monsieur Bazarov, but you, Monsieur Kirsanov, are fond of music, I believe. Apart from my sister, an old aunt lives with me, and a neighbor sometimes comes over to play cards. That makes up our whole circle. And now let us sit down."

Madame Odintsov delivered this whole little speech very fluently and distinctly, as if she had learned it by heart; then she turned to Arkady. It appeared that her mother had known Arkady's mother and had even been her confidante in her love for Nikolai Petrovich. Arkady began to talk with warm feeling about his dead mother; meanwhile Bazarov sat and looked through some albums. "What a tame cat I've become," he thought.

A beautiful white wolfhound with a blue collar ran into the drawing room and tapped on the floor with its paws; it was followed by a girl of eighteen with a round and pleasing face and small dark eyes. In her hands she held a basket filled with flowers.

"This is my Katya," said Madame Odintsov, nodding in her direction.

Katya made a slight curtsey, sat down beside her sister and began arranging the flowers. The wolfhound, whose name was Fifi, went up to both visitors in turn, wagging its tail and thrusting its cold nose into their hands.

"Did you pick them all yourself?" asked Madame Odintsov.

"Yes," answered Katya.

"Is auntie coming down for tea?"

"She's coming."

When Katya spoke, her face had a charming smile, at once bashful and candid, and she looked up from under her eyebrows with a kind of amusing severity. Everything about her was naive and undeveloped, her voice, the downy bloom on her face, the rosy hands with white palms and the rather narrow shoulders . . . she was constantly blushing and she breathed quickly.

Madame Odintsov turned to Bazarov. "You are looking at pictures out of politeness, Evgeny Vassilich," she began. "It doesn't interest you, so you had better come and join us, and we will have a discussion about something."

Bazarov moved nearer. "What have you decided to discuss?" he muttered.

"Whatever you like. I warn you, I am dreadfully argumentative."


"Yes. That seems to surprise you. Why?"

"Because, so far as I can judge, you have a calm and cool temperament and to be argumentative one needs to get excited."

"How have you managed to sum me up so quickly? In the first place I am impatient and persistent--you should ask Katya; and secondly I am very easily carried away."

Bazarov looked at Anna Sergeyevna.

"Perhaps. You know best. Very well, if you want a discussion--so be it. I was looking at the views of Swiss mountains in your albums, and you remarked that they couldn't interest me. You said that because you suppose I have no artistic feeling--and it is true I have none; but those views might interest me from a geological standpoint, for studying the formation of mountains, for instance."

"Excuse me; but as a geologist, you would rather study a book, some special work on the subject and not a drawing."

"The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book."

Anna Sergeyevna was silent for a few moments.

"So you have no feeling whatsoever for art?" she said, leaning her elbow on the table and by so doing bringing her face nearer to Bazarov. "How do you manage without it?"

"Why, what is it needed for, may I ask?"

"Well, at least to help one to know and understand people."

Bazarov smiled. "In the first place, experience of life does that, and in the second, I assure you the study of separate individuals is not worth the trouble it involves. All people resemble each other, in soul as well as in body; each of us has a brain, spleen, heart and lungs of similar construction; the so-called moral qualities are the same in all of us; the slight variations are insignificant. It is enough to have one single human specimen in order to judge all the others. People are like trees in a forest; no botanist would think of studying each individual birch tree."

Katya, who was arranging the flowers one by one in a leisurely way, raised her eyes to Bazarov with a puzzled expression, and meeting his quick casual glance, she blushed right up to her ears. Anna Sergeyevna shook her head.

"The trees in a forest," she repeated. "Then according to you there is no difference between a stupid and an intelligent person, or between a good and a bad one."

"No, there is a difference, as there is between the sick and the healthy. The lungs of a consumptive person are not in the same condition as yours or mine, although their construction is the same. We know more or less what causes physical ailments; but moral diseases are caused by bad education, by all the rubbish with which people's heads are stuffed from childhood onwards, in short, by the disordered state of society. Reform society, and there will be no diseases."

Bazarov said all this with an air as though he were all the while thinking to himself. "Believe me or not as you wish, it's all the same to me!" He slowly passed his long fingers over his whiskers and his eyes strayed round the room.

"And you suppose," said Anna Sergeyevna, "that when society is reformed there will be no longer any stupid or wicked people?"

"At any rate, in a properly organized society it will make no difference whether a man is stupid or clever, bad or good."

"Yes, I understand. They will all have the same spleen."

"Exactly, madam."

Madame Odintsov turned to Arkady. "And what is your opinion, Arkady Nikolayevich?"

"I agree with Evgeny," he answered.

Katya looked at him from under her eyelids.

"You amaze me, gentlemen," commented Madame Odintsov, "but we will talk about this again. I hear my aunt now coming in to tea--we must spare her."

Anna Sergeyevna's aunt, Princess X., a small shriveled woman with a pinched-up face like a fist, with staring bad-tempered eyes under her grey brows, came in, and scarcely bowing to the guests, sank into a broad velvet-covered armchair, in which no one except herself was privileged to sit. Katya put a stool under her feet; the old lady did not thank her or even look at her, only her hands shook under the yellow shawl which almost covered her decrepit body. The princess liked yellow, even her cap had yellow ribbons.

"How did you sleep, auntie?" asked Madame Odintsov, raising her voice.

"That dog here again," mumbled the old lady in reply, and noticing that Fifi was making two hesitating steps in her direction, she hissed loudly.

Katya called Fifi and opened the door for her. Fifi rushed out gaily, imagining she was going to be taken for a walk, but when she found herself left alone outside the door she began to scratch and whine. The princess frowned. Katya rose to go out . . .

"I expect tea is ready," said Madame Odintsov. "Come, gentlemen; auntie, will you go in to tea?"

The princess rose from her chair without speaking and led the way out of the drawing room. They all followed her into the dining room. A little Cossack page drew back noisily from the table a chair covered with cushions, also dedicated to the princess, who sank into it. Katya, who poured out tea, handed her first a cup decorated with a coat of arms. The old lady helped herself to honey, which she put in her cup (she considered it both sinful and extravagant to drink tea with sugar in it, although she never spent a penny of her own on anything), and suddenly asked in a hoarse voice, "And what does Prince Ivan write?"

No one made any reply. Bazarov and Arkady soon observed that the family paid no attention to her although they treated her respectfully. "They put up with her because of her princely family," thought Bazarov. After tea Anna Sergeyevna suggested that they should go out for a walk, but it began to rain a little, and the whole party, except the princess, returned to the drawing room. The neighbor arrived, the devoted cardplayer; his name was Porfiri Platonich, a plump greyish little man with short spindly legs, very polite and jocular. Anna Sergeyevna, who still talked principally to Bazarov, asked him whether he would like to play an old-fashioned game of preference with them. Bazarov accepted, saying that he certainly needed to prepare himself in advance for the duties in store for him as a country doctor.

"You must be careful," remarked Anna Sergeyevna; "Porfiri Platonich and I will defeat you. And you, Katya," she added, "play something to Arkady Nikolaich; he's fond of music, and we shall enjoy listening too."

Katya went unwillingly to the piano, and Arkady, although he was genuinely fond of music, unwillingly followed her; it seemed to him that Madame Odintsov was getting rid of him, and he felt already like most young men of his age, a vague and oppressive excitement, like a foretaste of love. Katya lifted the lid of the piano, and without looking at Arkady, asked in an undertone "What am I to play to you?"

"What you like," answered Arkady indifferently.

"What sort of music do you prefer?" went on Katya, without changing her attitude.

"Classical," answered Arkady in the same tone of voice.

"Do you like Mozart?"

"Yes, I like Mozart."

Katya pulled out Mozart's Sonata Fantasia in C minor. She played very well, although a little too precisely and drily. She sat upright and motionless without taking her eyes off the music, her lips tightly compressed, and only towards the end of the sonata her face started to glow, her hair loosened and a little lock fell over her dark brow.

Arkady was especially struck by the last part of the sonata, the part where the enchanting gaiety of the careless melody at its height is suddenly broken into by the pangs of such a sad and almost tragic suffering . . . but the ideas inspired in him by the sounds of Mozart were not related to Katya. Looking at her, he merely thought, "Well, that young lady doesn't play too badly, and she's not bad looking, either."

When she had finished the sonata, Katya, without taking her hands from the keys, asked, "Is that enough?"

Arkady said that he would not venture to trouble her further, and began talking to her about Mozart; he asked her whether she had chosen that sonata herself, or someone else had recommended it to her. But Katya answered him in monosyllables and withdrew into herself. When this happened, she did not come out again quickly; at such times her face took on an obstinate, almost stupid expression. She was not exactly shy, but she was diffident and rather overawed by her sister, who had educated her, but who never even suspected that such a feeling existed in Katya. Arkady was at length reduced to calling Fifi over to him and stroking her on the head with a benevolent smile in order to create the impression of being at his ease. Katya went on arranging her flowers.

Meanwhile Bazarov was losing and losing. Anna Sergeyevna played cards with masterly skill; Porfiri Platonich also knew how to hold his own. Bazarov lost a sum, which though trifling in itself, was none too pleasant for him. At supper Anna Sergeyevna again turned the conversation to botany.

"Let us go for a walk tomorrow morning," she said to him; "I want you to teach me the Latin names of several wild plants and their species."

"What's the good of the Latin names to you?" asked Bazarov.

"Order is needed for everything," she answered.

"What a wonderful woman Anna Sergeyevna is!" cried Arkady, when he was alone in their room with his friend.

"Yes," answered Bazarov, "a female with brains; and she's seen life too."

"In what sense do you mean that, Evgeny Vassilich?"

"In a good sense, in a good sense, my worthy Arkady Nikolayevich! I'm sure she also manages her estate very efficiently. But what is wonderful is not her, but her sister."

"What? That little dark creature?"

"Yes, the little dark creature--she's fresh, untouched and shy and silent, anything you want . . . one could work on her and make something out of her--but the other--she's an experienced hand."

Arkady did not answer Bazarov, and each of them got into bed occupied with his own particular thoughts.

Anna Sergeyevna was also thinking about her guests that evening. She liked Bazarov for his absence of flattery and for his definite downright views. She found in him something new, which she had not met before, and she was curious. Anna Sergeyevna was a rather strange person. Having no prejudices at all, and no strong convictions either, she neither avoided things nor went out of her way to secure anything special. She was clear-sighted and she had many interests, but nothing completely satisfied her; indeed, she hardly desired any complete satisfaction. Her mind was at once inquiring and indifferent; though her doubts were never soothed by forgetfulness, they never grew powerful enough to agitate her disagreeably. Had she not been rich and independent, she would probably have thrown herself into the struggle and experienced passion . . . But life ran easily for her, although she was sometimes bored, and she went on from day to day without hurrying and only rarely feeling disturbed. Rainbow-colored visions sometimes glowed before her eyes, but she breathed more peacefully when they faded away, and she did not hanker after them. Her imagination certainly overstepped the limits of conventional morality, but all the time her blood flowed as quietly as ever in her charmingly graceful, tranquil body. Sometimes, emerging from her fragrant bath, warm and languid, she would start musing on the emptiness of life, its sorrow, labor and vindictiveness . . . her soul would be filled with sudden daring and burn with generous ardor; but then a draught would blow from a half-open window and Anna Sergeyevna would shrink back into herself with a plaintive, almost angry feeling, and there was only one thing she needed at that particular moment--to get away from that nasty draught.

Like all women who have not succeeded in loving, she wanted something without knowing what it was. Actually she wanted nothing, though it seemed to her that she wanted everything. She could hardly endure the late Odintsov (she married him for practical reasons though she might not have agreed to become his wife if she had not regarded him as a good-natured man), and she had conceived a hidden repugnance for all men, whom she could think of only as slovenly, clumsy, dull, feebly irritating creatures. Once, somewhere abroad, she had met a handsome young Swede with a chivalrous expression and with honest eyes under an open brow; he made a strong impression on her, but that had not prevented her from returning to Russia.

"A strange man this doctor," she thought as she lay in her magnificent bed, on lace pillows under a light silk eiderdown. Anna Sergeyevna had inherited from her father some of his passion for luxury. She had been devoted to him, and he had idolized her, used to joke with her as though she were a friend and equal, confided his secrets to her and asked her advice. Her mother she scarcely remembered.

"This doctor is a strange man," she repeated to herself. She stretched, smiled, clasped her hands behind her head, ran her eyes over two pages of a stupid French novel, dropped the book--and fell asleep, pure and cold in her clean and fragrant linen.

The following morning Anna Sergeyevna went off botanizing with Bazarov immediately after breakfast and returned just before dinner; Arkady did not go out anywhere, but spent about an hour with Katya. He was not bored in her company. She offered of her own accord to play the Mozart sonata again; but when Madame Odintsov came back at last and he caught sight of her, he felt a sudden pain in his heart . . . She walked through the garden with a rather tired step, her cheeks were burning and her eyes shone more brightly than usual under her round straw hat. She was twirling in her fingers the thin stalk of some wild flower, her light shawl had slipped down to her elbows, and the broad grey ribbons of her hat hung over her bosom. Bazarov walked behind her, self-confident and casual as ever, but Arkady disliked the expression of his face, although it was cheerful and even affectionate. Bazarov muttered "Good day" between his teeth and went straight to his room, and Madame Odintsov shook Arkady's hand absent-mindedly and also walked past him.

"Why good day?" thought Arkady. "As if we had not seen each other already today!"