Fathers and Sons/Chapter 23

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HAVING SEEN ARKADY OFF WITH IRONICAL SYMPATHY, AND GIVEN him to understand that he was not in the least deceived about the real object of his journey, Bazarov shut himself up in solitude, and set to work with feverish intensity. He no longer argued with Pavel Petrovich, particularly since the latter assumed in his presence an oppressively aristocratic manner and expressed his opinions more by inarticulate sounds than by words. Only on one occasion Pavel Petrovich fell into a controversy with the nihilist over the then much discussed question about the rights of the nobles in the Baltic provinces, but he quickly stopped himself, remarking with a chilly politeness: "However, we cannot understand one another; I, at least, have not the honor of understanding you."

"I should think not!" exclaimed Bazarov. "A human being can understand everything--how the ether vibrates, and what's going on in the sun; but how another person can blow his nose differently from him, that he's incapable of understanding."

"What, is that a joke?" remarked Pavel Petrovich in a questioning tone and walked away.

However, he sometimes asked permission to be present at Bazarov's experiments and once even placed his perfumed face, washed with the finest soap, over the microscope, in order to see how a transparent protozoon swallowed a green speck and busily chewed it with two very adroit organs which were in its throat. Nikolai Petrovich visited Bazarov much oftener than his brother; he would have come every day "to learn," as he expressed it, if the worries of his farm had not kept him too busy. He did not interfere with the young research worker; he used to sit down in a corner of the room and watch attentively, occasionally permitting himself some discreet question. During dinner and supper he used to try to turn the conversation to physics, geology or chemistry, since all other subjects, even agriculture, to say nothing of politics, might lead, if not to collisions, at least to mutual dissatisfaction. Nikolai Petrovich guessed that his brother's dislike of Bazarov had not diminished. A minor incident, among many others, confirmed his surmise. Cholera began to break out in some places in the neighborhood, and even "carried off" two people from Maryino itself. One night Pavel Petrovich had a rather severe attack of illness. He was in pain till the morning, but he never asked for Bazarov's help; when he met him the next day, in reply to his question why he had not sent for him, he answered, still very pale, but perfectly brushed and shaved. "Surely I remember you said yourself you don't believe in medicine." So the days passed. Bazarov went on working obstinately and grimly . . . and meanwhile there was in Nikolai Petrovich's house one person to whom, if he did not open his heart, he was at least glad to talk . . . that person was Fenichka.

He used to meet her chiefly in the early morning, in the garden or the farmyard; he never went to see her in her room and she had only once come to his door to inquire--should she give Mitya his bath or not? She not only had confidence in him and was not afraid of him, she felt freer and more at ease with him than she did with Nikolai Petrovich himself. It is hard to say how this came about; perhaps because unconsciously she felt in Bazarov the absence of anything aristocratic, of all that superiority which at once attracts and overawes. In her eyes he was both an excellent doctor and a simple man. She attended to her baby in his presence without any embarrassment, and once when she was suddenly overcome by giddiness and headache she took a spoonful of medicine from his hands. When Nikolai Petrovich was there she kept Bazarov somehow at a distance; she did this not out of hypocrisy but from a definite sense of propriety. Of Pavel Petrovich she was more afraid than ever; for some time he had begun to watch her, and would suddenly appear, as if he had sprung out of the earth behind her back, in his English suit with an impassive vigilant face and with his hands in his pockets.

"It's like having cold water thrown over one," said Fenichka to Dunyasha, who sighed in response and thought of another "heartless" man. Bazarov, without the faintest suspicion of the fact, had become the "cruel tyrant" of her heart.

Fenichka liked Bazarov, and he liked her also. His face was even transformed when he talked to her; it took on an open kindly expression, and his habitual nonchalance was modified by a kind of jocular attentiveness. Fenichka was growing prettier every day. There is a period in the life of young women when they suddenly begin to expand and blossom like summer roses; such a time had come for Fenichka. Everything contributed to it, even the June heat which was then at its height. Dressed in a light white dress, she seemed herself whiter and more graceful; the sun had not tanned her skin; but the heat, from which she could not protect herself, spread a slight flush over her cheeks and ears and a gentle languor through her whole body, reflected in the dreamy expression of her charming eyes. She was almost unable to work and kept on sighing and complaining with a comic helplessness.

"You should go oftener to bathe," Nikolai Petrovich told her. He had arranged a large bathing place covered with an awning in the only one of his ponds which had not yet completely dried up.

"Oh, Nikolai Petrovich! But you die before you get to the pond and on the way back you die again. You see, there's no shade in the garden."

"That's true, there's no shade," said Nikolai Petrovich, wiping his forehead.

One day at seven o'clock in the morning, Bazarov was returning from a walk and encountered Fenichka in the lilac arbor, which had long ceased to flower but was still thick with green leaves. She was sitting on the bench and had as usual thrown a white kerchief over her head; beside her lay a whole heap of red and white roses still wet with dew. He said good morning to her.

"Oh, Evgeny Vassilich!" she said and lifted the edge of her kerchief a little in order to look at him, in doing which her arm was bared to the elbow.

"What are you doing here?" said Bazarov, sitting down beside her. "Are you making a bouquet?"

"Yes, for the table at lunch. Nikolai Petrovich likes it."

"But lunch is still a long way off. What a mass of flowers."

"I gathered them now, for it will be hot later on and one can't go out. Even now one can only just breathe. I feel quite weak from the heat. I'm quite afraid I may get ill."

"What an idea! Let me feel your pulse."

Bazarov took her hand, felt for the evenly throbbing pulse but did not even start to count its beats.

"You'll live a hundred years," he said, dropping her hand.

"Ah, God forbid!" she cried.

"But why? Don't you want a long life?"

"Well, but a hundred years! We had an old woman of eighty-five near us--and what a martyr she was! Dirty, deaf, bent, always coughing, she was only a burden to herself. What kind of a life is that?"

"So it's better to be young."

"Well, isn't it?"

"But why is it better? Tell me!"

"How can you ask why? Why, here am I, now I'm young, I can do everything--come and go and carry, and I don't need to ask anyone for anything . . . What can be better?"

"But it's all the same to me, whether I'm young or old."

"How do you mean--all the same? It's impossible what you say."

"Well, judge for yourself, Fedosya Nikolayevna, what good is my youth to me? I live alone, a solitary man . . ."

"That always depends on you."

"It doesn't all depend on me! At least someone ought to take pity on me."

Fenichka looked sideways at Bazarov, but said nothing. "What's that book you have?" she said, after a short pause.

"That? It's a scientific book, a difficult one."

"Are you still studying? Don't you find it dull? I should think you must know everything already."

"Evidently not everything. You try to read a little of it."

"But I don't understand a word of it. Is it Russian?" asked Fenichka, taking the heavily bound book in both hands. "How thick it is!"

"Yes, it's Russian."

"All the same I shan't understand anything."

"Well and I don't want you to understand it. I want to look at you while you are reading. When you read the tip of your nose moves so nicely."

Fenichka, who had started to spell out in a low voice an article "On Creosote" she had chanced upon, laughed and threw down the book . . . it slipped from the bench to the ground. "I like it too when you laugh," remarked Bazarov.

"Oh, stop!"

"I like it when you talk. It's like a little brook babbling."

Fenichka turned her head away.

"What a one you are!" she murmured, as she went on sorting out the flowers. "And how can you like listening to me? You have talked with such clever ladies."

"Ah, Fedosya Nikolayevna! Believe me, all the clever ladies in the world aren't worth your little elbow."

"There now, what will you invent next!" whispered Fenichka, clasping her hands together.

Bazarov picked up the book from the ground.

"That's a medical book. Why do you throw it away?"

"Medical?" repeated Fenichka, and turned round to him. "Do you know, ever since you gave me those drops--do you remember?--Mitya has slept so well. I really don't know how to thank you; you are so good, really."

"But actually you have to pay doctors," said Bazarov with a smile. "Doctors, you know yourself, are grasping people."

Fenichka raised her eyes which seemed still darker from the whitish reflection cast on the upper part of her face, and looked at Bazarov. She did not know whether he was joking or not.

"If you want, we shall be very glad . . . I shall have to ask Nikolai Petrovich . . ."

"You think I want money?" interrupted Bazarov. "No, I don't want money from you."

"What then?" asked Fenichka.

"What?" repeated Bazarov. "Guess."

"As if I'm likely to guess."

"Well, I will tell you; I want--one of those roses." Fenichka laughed again and even threw up her hands--so amused she was by Bazarov's request. She laughed and at the same time she felt flattered. Bazarov was watching her intently. "By all means," she said at length, and bending over the bench she began to pick out some roses. "Which will you have--a red or a white one?"

"Red, and not too large."

She sat up again. "Here, take it," she said, but at once drew back her outstretched hand, and biting her lips, looked towards the entrance of the summerhouse and then listened.

"What is it?" asked Bazarov. "Nikolai Petrovich?"

"No--he has gone to the fields . . . and I'm not afraid of him . . . but Pavel Petrovich . . . I fancied ." .


"It seemed to me he was passing by. No . . . it was no one. Take it." Fenichka gave Bazarov the rose.

"What makes you afraid of Pavel Petrovich?"

"He always frightens me. One talks--and he says nothing, but just looks knowing. Of course, you don't like him either. You remember you were always quarreling with him. I don't know what you quarreled about, but I can see you turning him this way and that . . ."

Fenichka showed with her hands how in her opinion Bazarov turned Pavel Petrovich round about.

Bazarov smiled. "And if he defeated me," he asked, "would you stand up for me?"

"How could I stand up for you? But no, one doesn't get the better of you."

"You think so? But I know a hand which, if it wanted to, could knock me down with one finger."

"What hand is that?"

"Why, don't you know really? Smell the wonderful scent of this rose you gave me."

Fenichka stretched her little neck forward and put her face close to the flower, . . . The kerchief slipped from her hair on to her shoulders, disclosing a soft mass of black shining and slightly ruffled hair.

"Wait a moment; I want to smell it with you," said Bazarov; he bent down and kissed her vigorously on her parted lips.

She shuddered, pushed him back with both her hands on his breast, but pushed weakly, so that he was able to renew and prolong his kiss.

A dry cough made itself heard behind the lilac bushes. Fenichka instantly moved away to the other end of the bench. Pavel Petrovich showed himself in the entrance, bowed slightly, muttered in a tone of sorrowful anger, "You are here!" and walked away. Fenichka at once gathered up all her roses and went out of the summerhouse.

"That was wrong of you, Evgeny Vassilich," she whispered as she left; there was a tone of sincere reproach in her whisper.

Bazarov remembered another recent scene and he felt both ashamed and contemptuously annoyed. But he shook his head at once, ironically congratulated himself on his formal assumption of the rôle of a Don Juan, and went back to his own room.

Pavel Petrovich went out of the garden and made his way with slow steps to the wood. He stayed there quite a long time, and when he returned to lunch, Nikolai Petrovich inquired anxiously whether he felt unwell; his face had turned so dark.

"You know I sometimes suffer from bilious attacks," Pavel Petrovich answered calmly.