Fathers and Sons/Chapter 4

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NO CROWD OF HOUSE SERVANTS RAN OUT TO MEET THEIR MASTER; there appeared only a little twelve-year-old girl, and behind her a young lad, very like Pyotr, came out of the house; he was dressed in a grey livery with white armorial buttons and was the servant of Pavel Petrovich Kirsanov. He silently opened the carriage door and unbuttoned the apron of the tarantass. Nikolai Petrovich with his son and Bazarov walked through a dark and almost empty hall, through the door of which they caught a glimpse of a young woman's face, and into a drawing room furnished in the most modern style.

"Well, here we are at home," said Nikolai Petrovich, removing his cap and shaking back his hair. "Now the main thing is to have supper and then to rest."

"It wouldn't be a bad thing to have a meal, certainly," said Bazarov, stretching himself, and he sank on to a sofa.

"Yes, yes, let us have supper at once," exclaimed Nikolai Petrovich, and for no apparent reason stamped his foot. "Ah, here comes Prokovich, just at the right moment."

A man of sixty entered, white-haired, thin and swarthy, dressed in a brown coat with brass buttons and a pink neckerchief. He grinned, went up to kiss Arkady's hand, and after bowing to the guest, retreated to the door and put his hands behind his back.

"Here he is, Prokovich," began Nikolai Petrovich; "at last he has come back to us . . . Well? How do you find him?"

"As well as could be," said the old man, and grinned again. Then he quickly knitted his bushy eyebrows. "Do you want supper served?" he asked solemnly.

"Yes, yes, please. But don't you want to go to your room first, Evgeny Vassilich?"

"No, thanks. There's no need. Only tell them to carry my little trunk in there and this garment, too," he added, taking off his loose overcoat.

"Certainly. Prokovich, take the gentleman's coat." (Prokovich, with a puzzled look, picked up Bazarov's "garment" with both hands, and holding it high above his head went out on tiptoe.) "And you, Arkady, are you going to your room for a moment?"

"Yes, I must wash," answered Arkady, and was just moving towards the door when at that moment there entered the drawing room a man of medium height, dressed in a dark English suit, a fashionable low cravat and patent leather shoes, Pavel Petrovich Kirsanov. He looked about forty-five; his closely cropped grey hair shone with a dark luster like unpolished silver; his ivory-colored face, without wrinkles, had exceptionally regular and clear features, as though carved by a sharp and delicate chisel, and showed traces of outstanding beauty; particularly fine were his shining, dark almond-shaped eyes. The whole figure of Arkady's uncle, graceful and aristocratic, had preserved the flexibility of youth and that air of striving upwards, away from the earth, which usually disappears when people are over thirty.

Pavel Petrovich drew from his trouser pocket his beautiful hand with its long pink nails, a hand which looked even more beautiful against the snowy white cuff buttoned with a single large opal, and stretched it out to his nephew. After a preliminary European hand shake, he kissed him three times in the Russian style; in fact he touched his cheek three times with his perfumed mustache, and said, "Welcome!"

Nikolai Petrovich introduced him to Bazarov; Pavel Petrovich responded with a slight inclination of his supple body and a slight smile, but he did not give him his hand and even put it back in his pocket.

"I began to think that you weren't coming today," he began in a pleasant voice, with an amiable swing and shrug of the shoulders; his smile showed his splendid white teeth. "Did anything go wrong on the road?"

"Nothing went wrong," answered Arkady. "Only we dawdled a bit. So now we're as hungry as wolves. Make Prokovich hurry up, Daddy; I'll be back in a moment."

"Wait, I'm coming with you," exclaimed Bazarov, suddenly pulling himself off the sofa. Both the young men went out.

"Who is he?" asked Pavel Petrovich.

"A friend of Arkasha's; according to him a very clever young man."

"Is he going to stay with us?"


"That unkempt creature!"

"Well, yes."

Pavel Petrovich drummed on the table with his finger tips. "I fancy Arkady s'est dégourdi," he observed. "I'm glad he has come back."

At supper there was little conversation. Bazarov uttered hardly a word, but ate a lot. Nikolai Petrovich told various anecdotes about what he called his farming career, talked about the forthcoming government measures, about committees, deputations, the need to introduce new machinery, etc. Pavel Petrovich paced slowly up and down the dining room (he never ate supper), occasionally sipping from a glass of red wine and less often uttering some remark or rather exclamation, such as "Ah! aha! hm!" Arkady spoke about the latest news from Petersburg, but he was conscious of being a bit awkward, with that awkwardness which usually overcomes a youth when he has just stopped being a child and has come back to a place where they are accustomed to regard and treat him as a child. He made his sentences quite unnecessarily long, avoided the word "Daddy," and even sometimes replaced it by the word "Father," mumbled between his teeth; with exaggerated carelessness he poured into his glass far more wine than he really wanted and drank it all. Prokovich did not take his eyes off him and kept on chewing his lips. After supper they all separated at once.

"Your uncle's a queer fellow," Bazarov said to Arkady, as he sat in his dressing gown by the bed, smoking a short pipe. "All that smart dandyism in the country. Just think of it! And his nails, his nails--they ought to be sent to an exhibition!"

"Why, of course you don't know," replied Arkady; "he was a great figure in his day. I'll tell you his story sometime. He was extremely handsome, and used to turn all the women's heads."

"Oh, that's it! So he keeps it up for the sake of old times. What a pity there's no one for him to fascinate here! I kept on looking at his astonishing collar, just like marble--and his chin, so meticulously shaved. Come, come, Arkady, isn't it ridiculous?"

"Perhaps it is, but he's a good man really."

"An archaic survival! But your father is a splendid fellow. He wastes his time reading poetry and knows precious little about farming, but he's kindhearted."

"My father has a heart of gold."

"Did you notice how shy he was?"

Arkady shook his head, as if he were not shy himself.

"It's something astonishing," went on Bazarov, "these old romantic idealists! They go on developing their nervous systems till they get highly strung and irritable, then they lose their balance completely. Well, good night. In my room there's an English washstand, but the door won't fasten. Anyhow, that ought to be encouraged--English washstands--they stand for progress!"

Bazarov went out, and a sense of peaceful happiness stole over Arkady. It was sweet to fall asleep in one's own home, in the familiar bed, under the quilt which had been worked by loving hands, perhaps the hands of his old nurse, those gentle, good and tireless hands. Arkady remembered Yegorovna, and sighed and wished, "God rest her soul" . . . for himself he said no prayer.

Both he and Bazarov soon fell asleep, but others in the house remained awake much longer. Nikolai Petrovich was agitated by his son's return. He lay in bed but did not put out the candles, and propping his head in his hands he went on thinking. His brother was sitting till long after midnight in his study, in a wide armchair in front of the fireplace, in which some embers glowed faintly. Pavel Petrovich had not undressed, but some red Chinese slippers had replaced his patent leather shoes. He held in his hand the last number of Galignani, but he was not reading it; he gazed fixedly into the fireplace, where a bluish flame flickered, dying down and flaring up again at intervals . . . God knows where his thoughts were wandering, but they were not wandering only in the past; his face had a stern and concentrated expression, unlike that of a man who is solely absorbed in his memories. And in a little back room, on a large chest, sat a young woman in a blue jacket with a white kerchief thrown over her dark hair; this was Fenichka; she was now listening, now dozing, now looking across towards the open door, through which a child's bed was visible and the regular breathing of a sleeping infant could be heard.