Fathers and Sons/Chapter 19

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IN SPITE OF HER MASTERLY SELF-CONTROL AND SUPERIORITY TO every kind of prejudice, Madame Odintsov felt awkward when she entered the dining room for dinner. However, the meal went off quite satisfactorily. Porfiri Platonich turned up and told various anecdotes; he had just returned from the town. Among other things, he announced that the governor had ordered his secretaries on special commissions to wear spurs, in case he might want to send them off somewhere on horseback, at greater speed. Arkady talked in an undertone to Katya, and attended diplomatically to the princess. Bazarov maintained a grim and obstinate silence. Madame Odintsov glanced at him twice, not furtively, but straight in his face, which looked stern and choleric, with downcast eyes and a contemptuous determination stamped on every feature, and she thought: "No . . . no . . . no." After dinner, she went with the whole company into the garden, and seeing that Bazarov wanted to speak to her, she walked a few steps to one side and stopped. He approached her, but even then he did not raise his eyes and said in a husky voice: "I have to apologize to you, Anna Sergeyevna. You must be furious with me."

"No, I'm not angry with you, Evgeny Vassilich, but I'm upset."

"So much the worse. In any case I've been punished enough. I find myself, I'm sure you will agree, in a very stupid position. You wrote to me, 'Why go away?' But I can't stay and I don't want to. Tomorrow I shall no longer be here."

"Evgeny Vassilich, why are you . . ."

"Why am I going away?"

"No, I didn't mean that."

"The past won't return, Anna Sergeyevna, but sooner or later this was bound to happen. Therefore I must go. I can imagine only one condition which would have enabled me to stay: but that condition will never be. For surely--excuse my impudence--you don't love me and never will love me?"

Bazarov's eyes glittered for a moment from under his dark brows.

Anna Sergeyevna did not answer him.

"I'm afraid of this man," was the thought that flashed through her mind.

"Farewell then," muttered Bazarov, as if he guessed her thought, and he turned back to the house.

Anna Sergeyevna followed him slowly, and calling Katya to her, she took her arm. She kept Katya by her side till the evening. She did not play cards and kept on laughing, which was not at all in keeping with her pale and worried face. Arkady was perplexed, and looked at her, as young people do, constantly wondering: "What can it mean?" Bazarov shut himself up in his room and only reappeared at teatime. Anna Sergeyevna wanted to say a kind word to him, but she could not bring herself to address him . . .

An unexpected incident rescued her from her embarrassment: the butler announced the arrival of Sitnikov.

Words can hardly describe the strange figure cut by the young champion of progress as he fluttered into the room. He had decided with his characteristic impudence to go to the country to visit a woman whom he hardly knew, who had never invited him, but with whom, as he had ascertained, such talented people and intimate friends of his were staying; nevertheless, he was trembling to the marrow of his bones with fright, and instead of bringing out the excuses and compliments which he had learned by heart beforehand, he muttered something idiotic about Evdoksya Kukshina having sent him to inquire after Anna Sergeyevna's health and that Arkady Nikolayevich had always spoken to him in terms of the highest praise . . . At this point he faltered and lost his presence of mind so completely that he sat down on his hat. However, since no one turned him out, and Anna Sergeyevna even introduced him to her aunt and sister, he soon recovered himself and began to chatter to his heart's content. The introduction of something commonplace is often useful in life; it relieves an overstrained tension, and sobers down self-confident or self-sacrificing feelings by recalling how closely it is related to them. With Sitnikov's appearance everything became somehow duller, more trivial--and easier: they all even ate supper with a better appetite, and went to bed half an hour earlier than usual.

"I can now repeat to you," said Arkady, as he lay down in bed, to Bazarov, who was also undressing, "what you once said to me: 'Why are you so melancholy? It looks as though you were fulfilling some sacred duty.'"

For some time past a tone of artificially free-and-easy banter had sprung up between the two young men, always a sure sign of secret dissatisfaction or of unexpressed suspicion.

"I'm going to my father's place tomorrow," said Bazarov.

Arkady raised himself and leaned on his elbow. He felt both surprised and somehow pleased. "Ah," he remarked, "and is that why you are sad?"

Bazarov yawned. "If you know too much, you grow old."

"And what about Anna Sergeyevna?"

"What about her?"

"I mean, will she let you go?"

"I'm not in her employment."

Arkady became thoughtful while Bazarov lay down and turned his face to the wall. Some minutes passed in silence.

"Evgeny!" suddenly exclaimed Arkady.


"I shall also leave tomorrow."

Bazarov made no answer.

"Only I shall go home," continued Arkady. "We will go together as far as Khokhlovsky, and there you can get horses at Fedot's. I should have been delighted to meet your people, but I'm afraid I should only get in their way and yours. Of course you're coming back to stay with us?"

"I've left all my things with you," said Bazarov, without turning round.

"Why doesn't he ask me why I'm going away?--and just as suddenly as he is?" thought Arkady. "As a matter of fact, why am I going, and why is he?" he went on reflecting. He could find no satisfactory answer to his own question, though his heart was filled with some bitter feeling. He felt he would find it hard to part from this life to which he had grown so accustomed; but for him to stay on alone would also be queer. "Something has happened between them," he reasoned to himself; "what's the good of my hanging around here after he has gone? Obviously I should bore her stiff, and lose even the little that remains for me." He began to conjure up a picture of Anna Sergeyevna; then other features gradually eclipsed the lovely image of the young widow.

"I'm sorry about Katya too," Arkady whispered to his pillow, on which a tear had already fallen . . . Suddenly he shook back his hair and said aloud: "What the devil brought that idiotic Sitnikov here?"

Bazarov started to move about in his bed, and then made the following answer: "I see you're still stupid, my boy. Sitnikovs are indispensable to us. For me, don't you understand--I need such blockheads. In fact, it's not for the gods to bake bricks . . ."

"Oho!" thought Arkady, and only then he saw in a flash the whole fathomless depth of Bazarov's conceit. "So you and I are gods, in that case? At least, you're a god, but I suppose I'm one of the blockheads."

"Yes," repeated Bazarov gloomily. "You're still stupid."

Madame Odintsov expressed no particular surprise when Arkady told her the next day that he was going with Bazarov; she seemed tired and preoccupied. Katya looked at him with silent gravity. The princess went so far as to cross herself under her shawl, so that he could not help noticing it; but Sitnikov, on the other hand, was most disconcerted. He had just appeared for. breakfast in a smart new costume, not this time in the Slavophil fashion; the previous evening he had astonished the man appointed to look after him by the quantity of linen he had brought, and now all of a sudden his comrades were deserting him! He took a few quick steps, darted round like a hunted hare on the edge of a wood, and abruptly, almost with terror, almost with a wail, he announced that he also proposed to leave. Madame Odintsov made no attempt to detain him.

"My carriage is very comfortable," added the unlucky young man, turning to Arkady; "I can take you, while Evgeny Vassilich takes your tarantass, so that will be even more convenient."

"But really, it's quite off your road, and it's a long way to where I live."

"Never mind, that's nothing; I've plenty of time, besides I have business in that direction."

"Selling vodka?" asked Arkady, rather too contemptuously. But Sitnikov was already reduced to such despair that he did not even laugh as he usually did. "I assure you, my carriage is extremely comfortable," he muttered, "and there will be room for everyone."

"Don't upset Monsieur Sitnikov by refusing . . . ," murmured Anna Sergeyevna.

Arkady glanced at her and bowed his head significantly.

The visitors left after breakfast. As she said good-by to Bazarov, Madame Odintsov held out her hand to him, and said, "We shall meet again, shan't we?"

"As you command," answered Bazarov.

"In that case, we shall."

Arkady was the first to go out into the porch; he climbed into Sitnikov's carriage. The butler tucked him in respectfully, but Arkady would gladly have struck him or burst into tears. Bazarov seated himself in the tarantass. When they reached Khokhlovsky, Arkady waited till Fedot, the keeper of the posting station, had harnessed the horses, then going up to the tarantass, he said with his old smile to Bazarov, "Evgeny, take me with you, I want to come to your place."

"Get in," muttered Bazarov between his teeth.

Sitnikov, who had been walking up and down by the wheels of his carriage, whistling boldly, could only open his mouth and gape when he heard these words; while Arkady coolly pulled his luggage out of the carriage, took his seat beside Bazarov, and, bowing politely to his former traveling companion, shouted, "Drive off!" The tarantass rolled away and was soon out of sight . . . Sitnikov, utterly confused, looked at his coachman, but he was flicking his whip round the tail of the off-side horse. Finally Sitnikov jumped into his carriage--and yelling at two passing peasants, "Put on your caps, fools!" he drove to the town, where he arrived very late, and where the next day, at Madame Kukshin's he spoke severely about two "disgustingly stuck-up and ignorant fellows."

Sitting in the tarantass alongside Bazarov, Arkady pressed his friend's hand warmly, and for a long time he said nothing. It seemed as though Bazarov appreciated both Arkady's action and his silence. He had not slept at all the previous night, neither had he smoked, and for several days he had scarcely eaten anything. His thin profile stood out darkly and sharply from under his cap, which was pulled down over his eyebrows.

"Well, brother," he said at last, "give me a cigar . . . but look, I say, is my tongue yellow?"

"It's yellow," answered Arkady.

"Hm--yes . . . and the cigar has no taste. The machine is out of gear."

"You have certainly changed lately," observed Arkady.

"That's nothing; we shall soon recover. One thing bothers me--my mother is so softhearted; if your tummy doesn't grow round as a barrel and you don't eat ten times a day, she's in despair. My father's all right, he's been everywhere and known all the ups and downs. No, I can't smoke," he added, and flung the cigar away into the dusty road.

"Do you think it's another sixteen miles to your place?" asked Arkady.

"Yes, but ask this wise man." He pointed to the peasant sitting on the box, a laborer of Fedot's.

But the wise man only answered: "Who's to know? miles aren't measured hereabouts," and went on swearing under his breath at the shaft horse for "kicking with her headpiece," by which he meant, jerking her head.

"Yes, yes," began Bazarov, "it's a lesson for you, my young friend, an instructive example. The devil knows what rubbish it is. Every man hangs by a thread, any minute the abyss may open under his feet, and yet he must go and invent for himself all kinds of troubles and spoil his life."

"What are you hinting at?" asked Arkady.

"I'm not hinting at anything; I'm saying plainly that we both behaved like fools. What's the use of talking about it? But I've noticed in hospital work, the man who's angry with his illness--he's sure to get over it."

"I don't quite understand you," remarked Arkady, "it seems you have nothing to complain about."

"Well, if you don't quite understand me, I'll tell you this; to my mind it's better to break stones on the road than to let a woman get the mastery of even the end of one's little finger. That's all . . . ," Bazarov was about to utter his favorite word "romanticism," but checked himself and said "rubbish." "You won't believe me now, but I'll tell you; you and I fell into feminine society and very nice we found it; but we throw off that sort of society--it's like taking a dip in cold water on a hot day. A man has no time for these trifles. A man must be untamed, says an old Spanish proverb. Now you, my wise friend," he added, addressing the peasant on the box. "I suppose you have a wife?"

The peasant turned his dull bleary-eyed face towards the two young friends.

"A wife? Yes. How could it be otherwise?"

"Do you beat her?"

"My wife? Anything may happen. We don't beat her without a reason."

"That's fine. Well, and does she beat you?"

The peasant tugged at the reins. "What things you say, sir. You like a joke." He was obviously offended.

"You hear, Arkady Nikolayevich. But we've been properly beaten--that's what comes of being educated people."

Arkady gave a forced laugh, while Bazarov turned away and did not open his mouth again for the rest of the journey.

Those sixteen miles seemed to Arkady quite like double the distance. But at last on the slope of some rising ground the little village where Bazarov's parents lived came into sight. Close to it, in a young birch copse, stood a small house with a thatched roof. Two peasants with their hats on stood near the first hut swearing at each other. "You're a great swine," said one, "you're worse than a little sucking pig." "And your wife's a witch," retorted the other.

"By their unconstrained behavior," remarked Bazarov to Arkady, "and by the playfulness of their phraseology, you can guess that my father's peasants are not overmuch oppressed. But there he is himself coming out on the steps of the house. He must have heard the bells; it's him all right, I recognize his figure; ay! ay! only how grey he's grown, poor old chap!"