Fathers and Sons/Chapter 22

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IN SILENCE, ONLY RARELY EXCHANGING A FEW WORDS, OUR friends traveled as far as Fedot's.

Bazarov was not altogether pleased with himself, and Arkady was displeased with him. He also felt gripped by that melancholy without a cause, which only very young people experience. The coachman changed the horses and getting up on to the box, inquired: "To the right or to the left?"

Arkady shuddered. The road to the right led to the town, and from there home; the road to the left led to Madame Odintsov's place. He looked at Bazarov. "Evgeny," he asked, "to the left?"

Bazarov turned away.

"What folly is this?" he muttered.

"I know it is folly," answered Arkady. "But what harm does it do? It's not for the first time."

Bazarov pulled his cap down over his forehead. "As you like," he said at last.

"Turn to the left," shouted Arkady.

The tarantass rolled off in the direction of Nikolskoe. But having decided on committing the folly, the friends maintained an even more obstinate silence than before, and seemed positively bad tempered.

Already, by the manner in which the butler met them in the porch of Madame Odintsov's house, the friends could guess that they had acted injudiciously in giving way so suddenly to a passing caprice. They were obviously not expected. They sat for quite a long time in the drawing room with rather stupid faces. At length Madame Odintsov came in to them. She greeted them with her usual politeness, but showed surprise at their rapid return, and judging by the, deliberation of her gestures and words, she was not over pleased about it. They hastened to explain that they had only called there on their way, and within four hours must continue their journey to the town. She confined herself to a mild exclamation, asked Arkady to convey her greetings to his father, and sent for her aunt. The princess appeared, looking half asleep, which gave her wrinkled old face an even more hostile expression. Katya was unwell and did not leave her room. Arkady suddenly realized that he was at least as anxious to see Katya as to see Anna Sergeyevna herself. The four hours passed in small talk about one thing or another; Anna Sergeyevna both listened and talked without smiling. It was only when they were already saying good-by that her former friendliness seemed somehow to light up again in her.

"I have an attack of spleen just now," she said, "but don't pay any attention to that, and come here again--I say that to both of you--before long."

Both Bazarov and Arkady responded with a silent bow, took their seats in the carriage, and without stopping again anywhere, drove straight home to Maryino, where they arrived safely on the evening of the following day. During the whole journey neither of them so much as mentioned the name of Madame Odintsov; Bazarov, in particular, hardly opened his mouth, and kept staring sideways at the road with a kind of embittered concentration.

At Maryino everyone was overjoyed to see them. The prolonged absence of his son had begun to make Nikolai Petrovich uneasy; he uttered a joyful exclamation and bounced up and down on the sofa, dangling his legs, when Fenichka ran in to him with sparkling eyes and announced the arrival of the "young gentlemen"; even Pavel Petrovich felt to some degree pleasantly excited, and smiled indulgently as he shook hands with the returned wanderers. Talk and questions followed quickly; Arkady talked most, especially at supper, which lasted till long after midnight. Nikolai Petrovich ordered up some bottles of porter which had just been brought from Moscow, and he himself made merry till his cheeks turned purple, laughing repeatedly with a rather childlike but nervous laughter. Even the servants were affected by the general gaiety. Dunyasha ran up and down like one possessed, slamming doors from time to time; while Pyotr at three o'clock in the morning was still trying to play a Cossack waltz on the guitar. The strings emitted their sweet and plaintive sounds in the motionless air, but except for some short preliminary flourishes the cultured valet's efforts failed to produce any tune; nature had granted him no more talent for music than it had for anything else.

But meanwhile things had not been going too well at Maryino, and poor Nikolai Petrovich was having a hard time. Every day difficulties arose on the farm--senseless, distressing difficulties. The troubles with the hired laborers had become intolerable. Some gave notice or asked for higher wages, while others walked off with wages they had received in advance; the horses fell sick; the harness was damaged as though it had been burnt; the work was carelessly done; a threshing machine ordered from Moscow turned out to be unusable because it was too heavy; another winnowing machine was ruined the very first time it was used; half the cattle sheds were burned down because a blind old woman on the farm went with a blazing firebrand in windy weather to fumigate her cow . . . of course, the old woman maintained that the whole mishap was due to the master's plan of introducing new-fangled cheeses and dairy products. The bailiff suddenly turned lazy and began to grow fat as every Russian grows fat when he gets an easy living. When he caught sight of Nikolai Petrovich in the distance, he would try to demonstrate his zeal by throwing a stick at a passing pig, or by threatening some half-naked ragamuffin, but for the rest of the time he was generally asleep. The peasants who had been put on the rent system did not pay in time and stole wood from the forest; almost every night the watchmen caught peasants' horses in the farm meadows and sometimes removed them after a scrimmage. Nikolai Petrovich would fix a money fine for damages, but the matter usually ended by the horses being returned to their owners after they had been kept for a day or two on the master's forage. On top of all this the peasants began to quarrel among themselves; brothers asked for their property to be divided, their wives could not get on together in one house; suddenly a quarrel would flare up, they would all rise to their feet, as though at a given signal, would run to the porch of the estate office, and crawl in front of the master, often in a drunken state with battered faces, demanding justice and retribution; an uproar and clamor would ensue, the shrill screams of the women mingling with the curses of the men. The contending parties had to be examined, and one had to shout oneself hoarse, knowing in advance that it was in any case quite impossible to reach a just settlement. There were not enough hands for the harvest; a neighboring yeoman, in the most benevolent manner, contracted to supply him with reapers for a commission of two rubles per acre--and cheated him in the most shameless way; his peasant women demanded exorbitant prices, and meanwhile the corn got spoiled; the harvest was not in the common ownership, but at the same time the Council of Guardians issued threats and demanded immediate and full payment of interest due . . .

"It's beyond my power!" exclaimed Nikolai Petrovich several times in despair. "I can't flog them myself; to send for the police--is against my principles, but without the fear of punishment you can do absolutely nothing with them!"

"Du calme, du calme," Pavel Petrovich would remark on these occasions, but he hummed to himself, frowned and twisted his mustache.

Bazarov held himself aloof from all the "squabbles," and indeed as a guest it was not incumbent on him to meddle in other people's affairs. On the day after his arrival in Maryino he set to work on his frogs, his infusoria, and his chemical experiments, and spent all his time over them. Arkady, on the contrary, considered it his duty, if not to help his father, at least to create an impression of being ready to help him. He listened to him patiently and sometimes gave his advice, not that he expected it to be acted upon, but in order to show his concern. The details of agricultural management were not repugnant to him; he even indulged in pleasant dreams about agricultural work, but at this time his mind was preoccupied with other ideas. To his own surprise Arkady found he was thinking incessantly of Nikolskoe; formerly he would have just shrugged his shoulders if anyone had told him he could feel bored under the same roof as Bazarov--particularly in his own home--but now he was bored and longed to get away. He tried walking till he was tired out, but that did not help either. One day when talking to his father, he found out that Nikolai Petrovich possessed a number of quite interesting letters, written to his wife by Madame Odintsov's mother, and Arkady gave him no peace until he had taken out the letters, for which Nikolai Petrovich was obliged to rummage in twenty different drawers and boxes. Having gained possession of these crumbling papers, Arkady somehow calmed down as if he had secured a clearer vision of the goal towards which he ought now to move. "'I say that to both of you,'" he kept on repeating to himself, "those were the words she added. I shall go there, I shall go, hang it all!" Then he recalled his last visit, the cold reception and his previous embarrassment, and shyness overwhelmed him. But the adventurous daring of youth, the secret desire to try his luck, to test his powers independently without anyone else's protection--prevailed at last. Before ten days had passed after his return to Maryino, on the pretext of going to study the organization of Sunday schools, he galloped off again to the town, and from there on to Nikolskoe.

Uninterruptedly urging the driver forward, he dashed on like a young officer riding into battle; he felt at once frightened and lighthearted and breathless with impatience. "The main thing is--I mustn't think," he kept on saying to himself. His driver happened to be a high-spirited fellow, who stopped in front of every inn and exclaimed, "A drink?" or "What about a drink?" but, to make up for that, after the drink he did not spare his horses. At length there came into sight the high roof of the familiar house . . . "What shall I do?" suddenly flashed through Arkady's mind. "Anyhow, I can't turn back now!" The three horses sped gaily on; the driver yelled and whistled at them. Already the little bridge was echoing under the wheels and the horses' hoofs, and the avenue of lopped pines was drawing nearer . . . he caught a glimpse of a woman's pink dress moving among the dark green trees, and a young face peeped out from under the light fringe of a parasol . . . he recognized Katya, and she recognized him. Arkady ordered the driver to stop the galloping horses, jumped out of the carriage and went up to her.

"It's you!" she murmured and slowly blushed all over; "let us go to my sister, she's here in the garden; she will be pleased to see you."

Katya led Arkady into the garden. His meeting with her struck him as a particularly happy omen; he was delighted to see her, as though she were someone close to his heart. Everything had happened so agreeably; no butler, no formal announcement. At a turn in the path he caught sight of Anna Sergeyevna. She was standing with her back to him; hearing his footsteps, she gently turned round.

Arkady would have felt embarrassed again, but the first words which she uttered immediately set him at ease. "Welcome, you runaway!" she said in her smooth caressing voice, and came forward to meet him, smiling and screwing up her eyes from the sun and breeze. "Where did you find him, Katya?"

"I have brought you something, Anna Sergeyevna," he began, "which you certainly don't expect . . ."

"You have brought yourself; that's better than anything else."