Half an hour later Nikolai Petrovitch went into the garden to his favourite arbour. He was overtaken by melancholy thoughts. For the first time he realised clearly the distance between him and his son; he foresaw that every day it would grow wider and wider. In vain, then, had he spent whole days sometimes in the winter at Petersburg over the newest books; in vain had he listened to the talk of the young men; in vain had he rejoiced when he succeeded in putting in his word too in their heated discussions. 'My brother says we are right,' he thought, 'and apart from all vanity, I do think myself that they are further from the truth than we are, though at the same time I feel there is something behind them we have not got, some superiority over us.... Is it youth? No; not only youth. Doesn't their superiority consist in there being fewer traces of the slaveowner in them than in us?'
Nikolai Petrovitch's head sank despondently, and he passed his hand over his face.
'But to renounce poetry?' he thought again; 'to have no feeling for art, for nature ...'
And he looked round, as though trying to understand how it was possible to have no feeling for nature. It was already evening; the sun was hidden behind a small copse of aspens which lay a quarter of a mile from the garden; its shadow stretched indefinitely across the still fields. A peasant on a white nag went at a trot along the dark, narrow path close beside the copse; his whole figure was clearly visible even to the patch on his shoulder, in spite of his being in the shade; the horse's hoofs flew along bravely. The sun's rays from the farther side fell full on the copse, and piercing through its thickets, threw such a warm light on the aspen trunks that they looked like pines, and their leaves were almost a dark blue, while above them rose a pale blue sky, faintly tinged by the glow of sunset. The swallows flew high; the wind had quite died away, belated bees hummed slowly and drowsily among the lilac blossom; a swarm of midges hung like a cloud over a solitary branch which stood out against the sky. 'How beautiful, my God!' thought Nikolai Petrovitch, and his favourite verses were almost on his lips; he remembered Arkady's Stoff und Kraft—and was silent, but still he sat there, still he gave himself up to the sorrowful consolation of solitary thought. He was fond of dreaming; his country life had developed the tendency in him. How short a time ago, he had been dreaming like this, waiting for his son at the posting station, and what a change already since that day; their relations that were then undefined, were defined now—and how defined! Again his dead wife came back to his imagination, but not as he had known her for many years, not as the good domestic housewife, but as a young girl with a slim figure, innocently inquiring eyes, and a tight twist of hair on her childish neck. He remembered how he had seen her for the first time. He was still a student then. He had met her on the staircase of his lodgings, and, jostling by accident against her, he tried to apologise, and could only mutter, 'Pardon, monsieur,' while she bowed, smiled, and suddenly seemed frightened, and ran away, though at the bend of the staircase she had glanced rapidly at him, assumed a serious air, and blushed. Afterwards, the first timid visits, the half-words, the half-smiles, and embarrassment; and melancholy, and yearnings, and at last that breathing rapture.... Where had it all vanished? She had been his wife, he had been happy as few on earth are happy.... 'But,' he mused, 'these sweet first moments, why could one not live an eternal, undying life in them?'
He did not try to make his thought clear to himself; but he felt that he longed to keep that blissful time by something stronger than memory; he longed to feel his Marya near him again to have the sense of her warmth and breathing, and already he could fancy that over him....
'Nikolai Petrovitch,' came the sound of Fenitchka's voice close by him; 'where are you?'
He started. He felt no pang, no shame. He never even admitted the possibility of comparison between his wife and Fenitchka, but he was sorry she had thought of coming to look for him. Her voice had brought back to him at once his grey hairs, his age, his reality....
The enchanted world into which he was just stepping, which was just rising out of the dim mists of the past, was shaken—and vanished.
'I'm here,' he answered; 'I'm coming, run along.' 'There it is, the traces of the slave owner,' flashed through his mind. Fenitchka peeped into the arbour at him without speaking, and disappeared; while he noticed with astonishment that the night had come on while he had been dreaming. Everything around was dark and hushed. Fenitchka's face had glimmered so pale and slight before him. He got up, and was about to go home; but the emotion stirred in his heart could not be soothed at once, and he began slowly walking about the garden, sometimes looking at the ground at his feet, and then raising his eyes towards the sky where swarms of stars were twinkling. He walked a great deal, till he was almost tired out, while the restlessness within him, a kind of yearning, vague, melancholy restlessness, still was not appeased. Oh, how Bazarov would have laughed at him, if he had known what was passing within him then! Arkady himself would have condemned him. He, a man forty-four years old, an agriculturist and a farmer, was shedding tears, causeless tears; this was a hundred times worse than the violoncello.
Nikolai Petrovitch continued walking, and could not make up his mind to go into the house, into the snug peaceful nest, which looked out at him so hospitably from all its lighted windows; he had not the force to tear himself away from the darkness, the garden, the sense of the fresh air in his face, from that melancholy, that restless craving.
At a turn in the path, he was met by Pavel Petrovitch. 'What's the matter with you?' he asked Nikolai Petrovitch; 'you are as white as a ghost; you are not well; why don't you go to bed?'
Nikolai Petrovitch explained to him briefly his state of feeling and moved away. Pavel Petrovitch went to the end of the garden, and he too grew thoughtful, and he too raised his eyes toward the heavens. But in his beautiful dark eyes, nothing was reflected but the light of the stars. He was not born an idealist, and his fastidiously dry and sensuous soul, with its French tinge of cynicism was not capable of dreaming....
'Do you know what?' Bazarov was saying to Arkady the same night. 'I've got a splendid idea. Your father was saying to-day that he'd had an invitation from your illustrious relative. Your father's not going; let us be off to X——; you know the worthy man invites you too. You see what fine weather it is; we'll stroll about and look at the town. We'll have five or six days' outing, and enjoy ourselves.'
'And you'll come back here again?'
'No; I must go to my father's. You know, he lives about twenty-five miles from X——. I've not seen him for a long while, and my mother too; I must cheer the old people up. They've been good to me, especially my father; he's awfully funny. I'm their only one too.'
'And will you be long with them?'
'I don't suppose so. It will be dull, of course.'
'And you'll come to us on your way back?'
'I don't know ... I'll see. Well, what do you say? Shall we go?'
'If you like,' observed Arkady languidly.
In his heart he was highly delighted with his friend's suggestion, but he thought it a duty to conceal his feeling. He was not a nihilist for nothing!
The next day he set off with Bazarov to X——. The younger part of the household at Maryino were sorry at their going; Dunyasha even cried ... but the old folks breathed more easily.
The town of X—— to which our friends set off was in the jurisdiction of a governor who was a young man, and at once a progressive and a despot, as often happens with Russians. Before the end of the first year of his government, he had managed to quarrel not only with the marshal of nobility, a retired officer of the guards, who kept open house and a stud of horses, but even with his own subordinates. The feuds arising from this cause assumed at last such proportions that the ministry in Petersburg had found it necessary to send down a trusted personage with a commission to investigate it all on the spot. The choice of the authorities fell upon Matvy Ilyitch Kolyazin, the son of the Kolyazin, under whose protection the brothers Kirsanov had once found themselves. He, too, was a 'young man'; that is to say, he had not long passed forty, but he was already on the high road to becoming a statesman, and wore a star on each side of his breast—one, to be sure, a foreign star, not of the first magnitude. Like the governor, whom he had come down to pass judgment upon, he was reckoned a progressive; and though he was already a bigwig, he was not like the majority of bigwigs. He had the highest opinion of himself; his vanity knew no bounds, but he behaved simply, looked affable, listened condescendingly, and laughed so good-naturedly, that on a first acquaintance he might even be taken for 'a jolly good fellow.' On important occasions, however, he knew, as the saying is, how to make his authority felt. 'Energy is essential,' he used to say then, 'l'énergie est la première qualité d'un homme d'état;' and for all that, he was usually taken in, and any moderately experienced official could turn him round his finger. Matvy Ilyitch used to speak with great respect of Guizot, and tried to impress every one with the idea that he did not belong to the class of routiniers and high-and-dry bureaucrats, that not a single phenomenon of social life passed unnoticed by him.... All such phrases were very familiar to him. He even followed, with dignified indifference, it is true, the development of contemporary literature; so a grown-up man who meets a procession of small boys in the street will sometimes walk after it. In reality, Matvy Ilyitch had not got much beyond those political men of the days of Alexander, who used to prepare for an evening party at Madame Svyetchin's by reading a page of Condillac; only his methods were different, more modern. He was an adroit courtier, a great hypocrite, and nothing more; he had no special aptitude for affairs, and no intellect, but he knew how to manage his own business successfully; no one could get the better of him there, and, to be sure, that's the principal thing.
Matvy Ilyitch received Arkady with the good-nature, we might even call it playfulness, characteristic of the enlightened higher official. He was astonished, however, when he heard that the cousins he had invited had remained at home in the country. 'Your father was always a queer fellow,' he remarked, playing with the tassels of his magnificent velvet dressing-gown, and suddenly turning to a young official in a discreetly buttoned-up uniform, he cried, with an air of concentrated attention, 'What?' The young man, whose lips were glued together from prolonged silence, got up and looked in perplexity at his chief. But, having nonplussed his subordinate, Matvy Ilyitch paid him no further attention. Our higher officials are fond as a rule of nonplussing their subordinates; the methods to which they have recourse to attain that end are rather various. The following means, among others, is in great vogue, 'is quite a favourite,' as the English say; a high official suddenly ceases to understand the simplest words, assuming total deafness. He will ask, for instance, What's to-day?'
He is respectfully informed, 'To-day's Friday, your Ex-s-s-s-lency.'
'Eh? What? What's that? What do you say?' the great man repeats with intense attention.
'To-day's Friday, your Ex—s—s—lency.'
'Eh? What? What's Friday? What Friday?'
'Friday, your Ex—s—s—s—lency, the day of the week.'
'What, do you pretend to teach me, eh?'
Matvy Ilyitch was a higher official all the same, though he was reckoned a liberal.
'I advise you, my dear boy, to go and call on the Governor,' he said to Arkady; 'you understand, I don't advise you to do so because I adhere to old-fashioned ideas of the necessity of paying respect to authorities, but simply because the Governor's a very decent fellow; besides, you probably want to make acquaintance with the society here.... You're not a bear, I hope? And he's giving a great ball the day after to-morrow.'
'Will you be at the ball?' inquired Arkady.
'He gives it in my honour,' answered Matvy Ilyitch, almost pityingly. 'Do you dance?'
'Yes; I dance, but not well.'
'That's a pity! There are pretty girls here, and it's a disgrace for a young man not to dance. Again, I don't say that through any old-fashioned ideas; I don't in the least imagine that a man's wit lies in his feet, but Byronism is ridiculous, il a fait son temps.'
'But, uncle, it's not through Byronism, I ...'
'I will introduce you to the ladies here; I will take you under my wing,' interrupted Matvy Ilyitch, and he laughed complacently. 'You'll find it warm, eh?'
A servant entered and announced the arrival of the superintendent of the Crown domains, a mild-eyed old man, with deep creases round his mouth, who was excessively fond of nature, especially on a summer day, when, in his words, 'every little busy bee takes a little bribe from every little flower.' Arkady withdrew.
He found Bazarov at the tavern where they were staying, and was a long while persuading him to go with him to the Governor's. 'Well, there's no help for it,' said Bazarov at last. 'It's no good doing things by halves. We came to look at the gentry; let's look at them!'
The Governor received the young men affably, but he did not ask them to sit down, nor did he sit down himself. He was in an everlasting fuss and hurry; in the morning he used to put on a tight uniform and an excessively stiff cravat; he never ate or drank enough; he was for ever making arrangements. He invited Kirsanov and Bazarov to his ball, and within a few minutes invited them a second time, regarding them as brothers, and calling them Kisarov.
They were on their way home from the Governor's, when suddenly a short man, in a Slavophil national dress, leaped out of a trap that was passing them, and crying, 'Yevgeny Vassilyitch!' dashed up to Bazarov.
'Ah! it's you, Herr Sitnikov,' observed Bazarov, still stepping along on the pavement; 'by what chance did you come here?'
'Fancy, absolutely by chance,' he replied, and returning to the trap, he waved his hand several times, and shouted, 'Follow, follow us! My father had business here,' he went on, hopping across the gutter, 'and so he asked me.... I heard to-day of your arrival, and have already been to see you....' (The friends did, in fact, on returning to their room, find there a card, with the corners turned down, bearing the name of Sitnikov, on one side in French, on the other in Slavonic characters.) 'I hope you are not coming from the Governor's?'
'It's no use to hope; we come straight from him.'
'Ah! in that case I will call on him too.... Yevgeny Vassilyitch, introduce me to your ... to the ...'
'Sitnikov, Kirsanov,' mumbled Bazarov, not stopping.
'I am greatly flattered,' began Sitnikov, walking sidewise, smirking, and hurriedly pulling off his really over-elegant gloves. 'I have heard so much.... I am an old acquaintance of Yevgeny Vassilyitch, and, I may say—his disciple. I am indebted to him for my regeneration....'
Arkady looked at Bazarov's disciple. There was an expression of excitement and dulness imprinted on the small but pleasant features of his well-groomed face; his small eyes, that seemed squeezed in, had a fixed and uneasy look, and his laugh, too, was uneasy—a sort of short, wooden laugh.
'Would you believe it,' he pursued, 'when Yevgeny Vassilyitch for the first time said before me that it was not right to accept any authorities, I felt such enthusiasm ... as though my eyes were opened! Here, I thought, at last I have found a man! By the way, Yevgeny Vassilyitch, you positively must come to know a lady here, who is really capable of understanding you, and for whom your visit would be a real festival; you have heard of her, I suppose?'
'Who is it?' Bazarov brought out unwillingly.
'Kukshina, Eudoxie, Evdoksya Kukshin. She's a remarkable nature, émancipée in the true sense of the word, an advanced woman. Do you know what? We'll all go together to see her now. She lives only two steps from here. We will have lunch there. I suppose you have not lunched yet?'
'No; not yet.'
'Well, that's capital. She has separated, you understand, from her husband; she is not dependent on any one.'
'Is she pretty?' Bazarov cut in.
'N-no, one couldn't say that.'
'Then, what the devil are you asking us to see her for?'
'Fie; you must have your joke.... She will give us a bottle of champagne.'
'Oh, that's it. One can see the practical man at once. By the way, is your father still in the gin business?'
'Yes,' said Sitnikov, hurriedly, and he gave a shrill spasmodic laugh. 'Well? Will you come?'
'I don't really know.'
'You wanted to see people, go along,' said Arkady in an undertone.
'And what do you say to it, Mr. Kirsanov?' Sitnikov put in. 'You must come too; we can't go without you.'
'But how can we burst in upon her all at once?'
'That's no matter. Kukshina's a brick!'
'There will be a bottle of champagne?' asked Bazarov.
'Three!' cried Sitnikov; 'that I answer for.'
'My own head.'
'Your father's purse would be better. However, we are coming.'
The small gentleman's house in the Moscow style, in which Avdotya Nikitishna, otherwise Evdoksya, Kukshin, lived, was in one of the streets of X——, which had been lately burnt down; it is well known that our provincial towns are burnt down every five years. At the door, above a visiting card nailed on all askew, there was a bell-handle to be seen, and in the hall the visitors were met by some one, not exactly a servant, nor exactly a companion, in a cap—unmistakable tokens of the progressive tendencies of the lady of the house. Sitnikov inquired whether Avdotya Nikitishna was at home.
'Is that you, Victor?' sounded a shrill voice from the adjoining room. 'Come in.'
The woman in the cap disappeared at once.
'I'm not alone,' observed Sitnikov, with a sharp look at Arkady and Bazarov as he briskly pulled off his overcoat, beneath which appeared something of the nature of a coachman's velvet jacket.
'No matter,' answered the voice. 'Entrez.'
The young men went in. The room into which they walked was more like a working study than a drawing-room. Papers, letters, fat numbers of Russian journals, for the most part uncut, lay at random on the dusty tables; white cigarette ends lay scattered in every direction. On a leather-covered sofa, a lady, still young, was half reclining. Her fair hair was rather dishevelled; she wore a silk gown, not perfectly tidy, heavy bracelets on her short arms, and a lace handkerchief on her head. She got up from the sofa, and carelessly drawing a velvet cape trimmed with yellowish ermine over her shoulders, she said languidly, 'Good-morning, Victor,' and pressed Sitnikov's hand.
'Bazarov, Kirsanov,' he announced abruptly in imitation of Bazarov.
'Delighted,' answered Madame Kukshin, and fixing on Bazarov a pair of round eyes, between which was a forlorn little turned-up red nose, 'I know you,' she added, and pressed his hand too.
Bazarov scowled. There was nothing repulsive in the little plain person of the emancipated woman; but the expression of her face produced a disagreeable effect on the spectator. One felt impelled to ask her, 'What's the matter; are you hungry? Or bored? Or shy? What are you in a fidget about?' Both she and Sitnikov had always the same uneasy air. She was extremely unconstrained, and at the same time awkward; she obviously regarded herself as a good-natured, simple creature, and all the while, whatever she did, it always struck one that it was not just what she wanted to do; everything with her seemed, as children say, done on purpose, that's to say, not simply, not naturally.
'Yes, yes, I know you, Bazarov,' she repeated. (She had the habit—peculiar to many provincial and Moscow ladies—of calling men by their surnames from the first day of acquaintance with them.) 'Will you have a cigar?'
'A cigar's all very well,' put in Sitnikov, who by now was lolling in an armchair, his legs in the air; 'but give us some lunch. We're awfully hungry; and tell them to bring us up a little bottle of champagne.'
'Sybarite,' commented Evdoksya, and she laughed. (When she laughed the gum showed above her upper teeth.) 'Isn't it true, Bazarov; he's a Sybarite?'
'I like comfort in life,' Sitnikov brought out, with dignity. 'That does not prevent my being a Liberal.'
'No, it does; it does prevent it!' cried Evdoksya. She gave directions, however, to her maid, both as regards the lunch and the champagne.
'What do you think about it?' she added, turning to Bazarov. 'I'm persuaded you share my opinion.'
'Well, no,' retorted Bazarov; 'a piece of meat's better than a piece of bread even from the chemical point of view.'
'You are studying chemistry? That is my passion. I've even invented a new sort of composition myself.'
'A composition? You?'
'Yes. And do you know for what purpose? To make dolls' heads so that they shouldn't break. I'm practical, too, yon see. But everything's not quite ready yet. I've still to read Liebig. By the way, have you read Kislyakov's article on Female Labour, in the Moscow Gazette? Read it please. You're interested in the woman question, I suppose? And in the schools too? What does your friend do? What is his name?'
Madame Kukshin shed her questions one after another with affected negligence, not waiting for an answer; spoilt children talk so to their nurses.
'My name's Arkady Nikolaitch Kirsanov,' said Arkady, 'and I'm doing nothing.'
Evdoksya giggled. 'How charming! What, don't you smoke? Victor, do you know, I'm very angry with you.'
'They tell me you've begun singing the praises of George Sand again. A retrograde woman, and nothing else! How can people compare her with Emerson! She hasn't an idea on education, nor physiology, nor anything. She'd never, I'm persuaded, heard of embryology, and in these days—what can be done without that?' (Evdoksya even threw up her hands.) 'Ah, what a wonderful article Elisyevitch has written on that subject! He's a gentleman of genius.' (Evdoksya constantly made use of the word 'gentleman' instead of the word 'man.') 'Bazarov, sit by me on the sofa. You don't know, perhaps, I'm awfully afraid of you.'
'Why so? Allow me to ask.'
'You're a dangerous gentleman; you're such a critic. Good God! yes! why, how absurd, I'm talking like some country lady. I really am a country lady, though. I manage my property myself; and only fancy, my bailiff Erofay's a wonderful type, quite like Cooper's Pathfinder; something in him so spontaneous! I've come to settle here finally; it's an intolerable town, isn't it? But what's one to do?'
'The town's like every town,' Bazarov remarked coolly.
'All its interests are so petty, that's what's so awful! I used to spend the winters in Moscow ... but now my lawful spouse, Monsieur Kukshin's residing there. And besides, Moscow nowadays ... there, I don't know—it's not the same as it was. I'm thinking of going abroad; last year I was on the point of setting off.'
'To Paris, I suppose?' queried Bazarov.
'To Paris and to Heidelberg.'
'Why to Heidelberg?'
'How can you ask? Why, Bunsen's there!'
To this Bazarov could find no reply.
'Pierre Sapozhnikov ... do you know him?'
'No, I don't.'
'Not know Pierre Sapozhnikov ... he's always at Lidia Hestatov's.'
'I don't know her either.'
'Well, it was he undertook to escort me. Thank God, I'm independent; I've no children.... What was that I said: thank God! It's no matter though.'
Evdoksya rolled a cigarette up between her fingers, which were brown with tobacco stains, put it to her tongue, licked it up, and began smoking. The maid came in with a tray.
'Ah, here's lunch! Will you have an appetiser first? Victor, open the bottle; that's in your line.'
'Yes, it's in my line,' muttered Sitnikov, and again he gave vent to the same convulsive laugh.
'Are there any pretty women here?' inquired Bazarov, as he drank off a third glass.
'Yes, there are,' answered Evdoksya; 'but they're all such empty-headed creatures. Mon amie, Odintsova, for instance, is nice-looking. It's a pity her reputation's rather doubtful.... That wouldn't matter, though, but she's no independence in her views, no width, nothing ... of all that. The whole system of education wants changing. I've thought a great deal about it, our women are very badly educated.'
'There's no doing anything with them,' put in Sitnikov; 'one ought to despise them, and I do despise them fully and completely!' (The possibility of feeling and expressing contempt was the most agreeable sensation to Sitnikov; he used to attack women in especial, never suspecting that it was to be his fate a few months later to be cringing before his wife merely because she had been born a princess Durdoleosov.) 'Not a single one of them would be capable of understanding our conversation; not a single one deserves to be spoken of by serious men like us!'
'But there's not the least need for them to understand our conversation,' observed Bazarov.
'Whom do you mean?' put in Evdoksya.
'What? Do you adopt Proudhon's ideas, then?'
Bazarov drew himself up haughtily. 'I don't adopt any one's ideas; I have my own.'
'Damn all authorities!' shouted Sitnikov, delighted to have a chance of expressing himself boldly before the man he slavishly admired.
'But even Macaulay,' Madame Kukshin was beginning ...
'Damn Macaulay,' thundered Sitnikov. 'Are you going to stand up for the silly hussies?'
'For silly hussies, no, but for the rights of women, which I have sworn to defend to the last drop of my blood.'
'Damn!'—but here Sitnikov stopped. 'But I don't deny them,' he said.
'No, I see you're a Slavophil.'
'No, I'm not a Slavophil, though, of course ...'
'No, no, no! You are a Slavophil. You're an advocate of patriarchal despotism. You want to have the whip in your hand!'
'A whip's an excellent thing,' remarked Bazarov; 'but we've got to the last drop.'
'Of what?' interrupted Evdoksya.
'Of champagne, most honoured Avdotya Nikitishna, of champagne—not of your blood.'
'I can never listen calmly when women are attacked,' pursued Evdoksya. 'It's awful, awful. Instead of attacking them, you'd better read Michelet's book, De l'amour. That's exquisite! Gentlemen, let us talk of love,' added Evdoksya, letting her arm fall languidly on the rumpled sofa cushion.
A sudden silence followed. 'No, why should we talk of love,' said Bazarov; 'but you mentioned just now a Madame Odintsov ... That was what you called her, I think? Who is that lady?'
'She's charming, charming!' piped Sitnikov. 'I will introduce you. Clever, rich, a widow. It's a pity, she's not yet advanced enough; she ought to see more of our Evdoksya. I drink to your health, Evdoxie! Let us clink glasses! Et toc, et toc, et tin-tin-tin! Et toc, et toc, et tin-tin-tin!!!'
'Victor, you're a wretch.'
The lunch dragged on a long while. The first bottle of champagne was followed by another, a third, and even a fourth.... Evdoksya chattered without pause; Sitnikov seconded her. They had much discussion upon the question whether marriage was a prejudice or a crime, and whether men were born equal or not, and precisely what individuality consists in. Things came at last to Evdoksya, flushed from the wine she had drunk, tapping with her flat finger-tips on the keys of a discordant piano, and beginning to sing in a hoarse voice, first gipsy songs, and then Seymour Schiff's song, 'Granada lies slumbering'; while Sitnikov tied a scarf round his head, and represented the dying lover at the words—
'And thy lips to mine
In burning kiss entwine.'
Arkady could not stand it at last. 'Gentlemen, it's getting something like Bedlam,' he remarked aloud. Bazarov, who had at rare intervals put in an ironical word in the conversation—he paid more attention to the champagne—gave a loud yawn, got up, and, without taking leave of their hostess, he walked off with Arkady. Sitnikov jumped up and followed them.
'Well, what do you think of her?' he inquired, skipping obsequiously from right to left of them. 'I told you, you see, a remarkable personality! If we only had more women like that! She is, in her own way, an expression of the highest morality.'
'And is that establishment of your governor's an expression of the highest morality too?' observed Bazarov, pointing to a ginshop which they were passing at that instant.
Sitnikov again went off into a shrill laugh. He was greatly ashamed of his origin, and did not know whether to feel flattered or offended at Bazarov's unexpected familiarity.
A few days later the ball at the Governor's took place. Matvy Ilyitch was the real 'hero of the occasion.' The marshal of nobility declared to all and each that he had come simply out of respect for him; while the Governor, even at the ball, even while he remained perfectly motionless, was still 'making arrangements.' The affability of Matvy Ilyitch's demeanour could only be equalled by its dignity. He was gracious to all, to some with a shade of disgust, to others with a shade of respect; he was all bows and smiles 'en vrai chevalier français' before the ladies, and was continually giving vent to a hearty, sonorous, unshared laugh, such as befits a high official. He slapped Arkady on the back, and called him loudly 'nephew'; vouchsafed Bazarov—who was attired in a rather old evening coat—a sidelong glance in passing—absent but condescending—and an indistinct but affable grunt, in which nothing could be distinguished but 'I ...' and 'very much'; gave Sitnikov a finger and a smile, though with his head already averted; even to Madame Kukshin, who made her appearance at the ball with dirty gloves, no crinoline, and a bird of Paradise in her hair, he said 'enchanté.'. There were crowds of people, and no lack of dancing men; the civilians were for the most part standing close along the walls, but the officers danced assiduously, especially one of them who had spent six weeks in Paris, where he had mastered various daring interjections of the kind of—'zut,' 'Ah, fichtr-re,' 'pst, pst, mon bibi,' and such. He pronounced them to perfection with genuine Parisian chic, and at the same time he said 'si j'aurais' for 'si j'avais,' 'absolument' in the sense of 'absolutely,' expressed himself, in fact, in that Great Russo-French jargon which the French ridicule so when they have no reason for assuring us that we speak French like angels, 'comme des anges.'
Arkady, as we are aware, danced badly, while Bazarov did not dance at all; they both took up their position in a corner; Sitnikov joined himself on to them, with an expression of contemptuous scorn on his face, and giving vent to spiteful comments, he looked insolently about him, and seemed to be really enjoying himself. Suddenly his face changed, and turning to Arkady, he said, with some show of embarrassment it seemed, 'Odintsova is here!'
Arkady looked round, and saw a tall woman in a black dress standing at the door of the room. He was struck by the dignity of her carriage. Her bare arms lay gracefully beside her slender waist; gracefully some light sprays of fuchsia drooped from her shining hair on to her sloping shoulders; her clear eyes looked out from under a rather overhanging white brow, with a tranquil and intelligent expression—tranquil it was precisely, not pensive—and on her lips was a scarcely perceptible smile. There was a kind of gracious and gentle force about her face.
'Do you know her?' Arkady asked Sitnikov.
'Intimately. Would you like me to introduce you?'
'Please ... after this quadrille.'
Bazarov's attention, too, was directed to Madame Odintsov.
'That's a striking figure,' he remarked. 'Not like the other females.'
After waiting till the end of the quadrille, Sitnikov led Arkady up to Madame Odintsov; but he hardly seemed to be intimately acquainted with her; he was embarrassed in his sentences, while she looked at him in some surprise. But her face assumed an expression of pleasure when she heard Arkady's surname. She asked him whether he was not the son of Nikolai Petrovitch.
'I have seen your father twice, and have heard a great deal about him,' she went on; 'I am glad to make your acquaintance.'
At that instant some adjutant flew up to her and begged for a quadrille. She consented.
'Do you dance then?' asked Arkady respectfully.
'Yes, I dance. Why do you suppose I don't dance? Do you think I am too old?'
'Really, how could I possibly.... But in that case, let me ask you for a mazurka.'
Madame Odintsov smiled graciously. 'Certainly,' she said, and she looked at Arkady not exactly with an air of superiority, but as married sisters look at very young brothers. Madame Odintsov was a little older than Arkady—she was twenty-nine—but in her presence he felt himself a schoolboy, a little student, so that the difference in age between them seemed of more consequence. Matvy Ilyitch approached her with a majestic air and ingratiating speeches. Arkady moved away, but he still watched her; he could not take his eyes off her even during the quadrille. She talked with equal ease to her partner and to the grand official, softly turned her head and eyes, and twice laughed softly. Her nose—like almost all Russian noses—was a little thick; and her complexion was not perfectly clear; Arkady made up his mind, for all that, that he had never before met such an attractive woman. He could not get the sound of her voice out of his ears; the very folds of her dress seemed to hang upon her differently from all the rest—more gracefully and amply—and her movements were distinguished by a peculiar smoothness and naturalness.
Arkady felt some timidity in his heart when at the first sounds of the mazurka he began to sit it out beside his partner; he had prepared to enter into a conversation with her, but he only passed his hand through his hair, and could not find a single word to say. But his timidity and agitation did not last long; Madame Odintsov's tranquillity gained upon him too; before a quarter of an hour had passed he was telling her freely about his father, his uncle, his life in Petersburg and in the country. Madame Odintsov listened to him with courteous sympathy, slightly opening and closing her fan; his talk was broken off when partners came for her; Sitnikov, among others, twice asked her. She came back, sat down again, took up her fan, and her bosom did not even heave more rapidly, while Arkady fell to chattering again, filled through and through by the happiness of being near her, talking to her, looking at her eyes, her lovely brow, all her sweet, dignified, clever face. She said little, but her words showed a knowledge of life; from some of her observations Arkady gathered that this young woman had already felt and thought much....
'Who is that you were standing with?' she asked him, 'when Mr. Sitnikov brought you to me?'
'Did you notice him?' Arkady asked in his turn. 'He has a splendid face, hasn't he? That's Bazarov, my friend.'
Arkady fell to discussing 'his friend.' He spoke of him in such detail, and with such enthusiasm, that Madame Odintsov turned towards him and looked attentively at him. Meanwhile, the mazurka was drawing to a close. Arkady felt sorry to part from his partner; he had spent nearly an hour so happily with her! He had, it is true, during the whole time continually felt as though she were condescending to him, as though he ought to be grateful to her ... but young hearts are not weighed down by that feeling.
The music stopped. 'Merci,' said Madame Odintsov, getting up. 'You promised to come and see me; bring your friend with you. I shall be very curious to see the man who has the courage to believe in nothing.'
The Governor came up to Madame Odintsov, announced that supper was ready, and, with a careworn face, offered her his arm. As she went away, she turned to give a last smile and bow to Arkady. He bowed low, looked after her (how graceful her figure seemed to him, draped in the greyish lustre of the black silk!), and thinking, 'This minute she has forgotten my existence,' was conscious of an exquisite humility in his soul.
'Well?' Bazarov questioned him, directly he had gone back to him in the corner. 'Did you have a good time? A gentleman has just been talking to me about that lady; he said, "She's—oh, fie! fie!" but I fancy the fellow was a fool. What do you think, what is she?—oh, fie! fie!'
'I don't quite understand that definition,' answered Arkady.
'Oh, my! What innocence!'
'In that case, I don't understand the gentleman you quote. Madame Odintsov is very sweet, no doubt, but she behaves so coldly and severely, that....'
'Still waters ... you know!' put in Bazarov. 'That's just what gives it piquancy. You like ices, I expect?'
'Perhaps,' muttered Arkady. 'I can't give an opinion about that. She wishes to make your acquaintance, and has asked me to bring you to see her.'
'I can imagine how you've described me! But you did very well. Take me. Whatever she may be—whether she's simply a provincial lioness, or "advanced" after Kukshina's fashion—any way she's got a pair of shoulders such as I've not set eyes on for a long while.'
Arkady was wounded by Bazarov's cynicism, but—as often happens—he reproached his friend not precisely for what he did not like in him ...
'Why are you unwilling to allow freethinking in women?' he said in a low voice.
'Because, my boy, as far as my observations go, the only freethinkers among women are frights.'
The conversation was cut short at this point. Both the young men went away immediately after supper. They were pursued by a nervously malicious, but somewhat faint-hearted laugh from Madame Kukshin; her vanity had been deeply wounded by neither of them having paid any attention to her. She stayed later than any one at the ball, and at four o'clock in the morning she was dancing a polka-mazurka with Sitnikov in the Parisian style. This edifying spectacle was the final event of the Governor's ball.
'Let's see what species of mammalia this specimen belongs to,' Bazarov said to Arkady the following day, as they mounted the staircase of the hotel in which Madame Odintsov was staying. 'I scent out something wrong here.'
'I'm surprised at you!' cried Arkady. 'What? You, you, Bazarov, clinging to the narrow morality, which ...'
'What a funny fellow you are!' Bazarov cut him short, carelessly. 'Don't you know that "something wrong" means "something right" in my dialect and for me? It's an advantage for me, of course. Didn't you tell me yourself this morning that she made a strange marriage, though, to my mind, to marry a rich old man is by no means a strange thing to do, but, on the contrary, very sensible. I don't believe the gossip of the town; but I should like to think, as our cultivated Governor says, that it's well-grounded.'
Arkady made no answer, and knocked at the door of the apartments. A young servant in livery, conducted the two friends in to a large room, badly furnished, like all rooms in Russian hotels, but filled with flowers. Soon Madame Odintsov herself appeared in a simple morning dress. She seemed still younger by the light of the spring sunshine. Arkady presented Bazarov, and noticed with secret amazement that he seemed embarrassed, while Madame Odintsov remained perfectly tranquil, as she had been the previous day. Bazarov himself was conscious of being embarrassed, and was irritated by it. 'Here's a go!—frightened of a petticoat!' he thought, and lolling, quite like Sitnikov, in an easy-chair, he began talking with an exaggerated appearance of ease, while Madame Odintsov kept her clear eyes fixed on him.
Anna Sergyevna Odintsov was the daughter of Sergay Nikolaevitch Loktev, notorious for his personal beauty, his speculations, and his gambling propensities, who after cutting a figure and making a sensation for fifteen years in Petersburg and Moscow, finished by ruining himself completely at cards, and was forced to retire to the country, where, however, he soon after died, leaving a very small property to his two daughters—Anna, a girl of twenty, and Katya, a child of twelve. Their mother, who came of an impoverished line of princes—the H——s— had died at Petersburg when her husband was in his heydey. Anna's position after her father's death was very difficult. The brilliant education she had received in Petersburg had not fitted her for putting up with the cares of domestic life and economy,—for an obscure existence in the country. She knew positively no one in the whole neighbourhood, and there was no one she could consult. Her father had tried to avoid all contact with the neighbours; he despised them in his way, and they despised him in theirs. She did not lose her head, however, and promptly sent for a sister of her mother's Princess Avdotya Stepanovna H——, a spiteful and arrogant old lady, who, on installing herself in her niece's house, appropriated all the best rooms for her own use, scolded and grumbled from morning till night, and would not go a walk even in the garden unattended by her one serf, a surly footman in a threadbare pea-green livery with light blue trimming and a three-cornered hat. Anna put up patiently with all her aunt's whims, gradually set to work on her sister's education, and was, it seemed, already getting reconciled to the idea of wasting her life in the wilds.... But destiny had decreed another fate for her. She chanced to be seen by Odintsov, a very wealthy man of forty-six, an eccentric hypochondriac, stout, heavy, and sour, but not stupid, and not ill-natured; he fell in love with her, and offered her his hand. She consented to become his wife, and he lived six years with her, and on his death settled all his property upon her. Anna Sergyevna remained in the country for nearly a year after his death; then she went abroad with her sister, but only stopped in Germany; she got tired of it, and came back to live at her favourite Nikolskoe, which was nearly thirty miles from the town of X——. There she had a magnificent, splendidly furnished house and a beautiful garden, with conservatories; her late husband had spared no expense to gratify his fancies. Anna Sergyevna went very rarely to the town, generally only on business, and even then she did not stay long. She was not liked in the province; there had been a fearful outcry at her marriage with Odintsov, all sorts of fictions were told about her; it was asserted that she had helped her father in his cardsharping tricks, and even that she had gone abroad for excellent reasons, that it had been necessary to conceal the lamentable consequences ... 'You understand?' the indignant gossips would wind up. 'She has gone through the fire,' was said of her; to which a noted provincial wit usually added: 'And through all the other elements?' All this talk reached her; but she turned a deaf ear to it; there was much independence and a good deal of determination in her character.
Madame Odintsov sat leaning back in her easy-chair, and listened with folded hands to Bazarov. He, contrary to his habit, was talking a good deal, and obviously trying to interest her—again a surprise for Arkady. He could not make up his mind whether Bazarov was attaining his object. It was difficult to conjecture from Anna Sergyevna's face what impression was being made on her; it retained the same expression, gracious and refined; her beautiful eyes were lighted up by attention, but by quiet attention. Bazarov's bad manners had impressed her unpleasantly for the first minutes of the visit like a bad smell or a discordant sound; but she saw at once that he was nervous, and that even flattered her. Nothing was repulsive to her but vulgarity, and no one could have accused Bazarov of vulgarity. Arkady was fated to meet with surprises that day. He had expected that Bazarov would talk to a clever woman like Madame Odintsov about his opinions and his views; she had herself expressed a desire to listen to the man 'who dares to have no belief in anything'; but, instead of that, Bazarov talked about medicine, about homoeopathy, and about botany. It turned out that Madame Odintsov had not wasted her time in solitude; she had read a good many excellent books, and spoke herself in excellent Russian. She turned the conversation upon music; but noticing that Bazarov did not appreciate art, she quietly brought it back to botany, even though Arkady was just launching into a discourse upon the significance of national melodies. Madame Odintsov treated him as though he were a younger brother; she seemed to appreciate his good-nature and youthful simplicity—and that was all. For over three hours, a lively conversation was kept up, ranging freely over various subjects.
The friends at last got up and began to take leave. Anna Sergyevna looked cordially at them, held out her beautiful, white hand to both, and, after a moment's thought, said with a doubtful but delightful smile. 'If you are not afraid of being dull, gentlemen, come and see me at Nikolskoe.'
'Oh, Anna Sergyevna,' cried Arkady, 'I shall think it the greatness happiness ...'
'And you, Monsieur Bazarov?'
Bazarov only bowed, and a last surprise was in store for Arkady; he noticed that his friend was blushing.
'Well?' he said to him in the street; 'are you still of the same opinion—that she's ...'
'Who can tell? See how correct she is!' retorted Bazarov; and after a brief pause he added, 'She's a perfect grand-duchess, a royal personage. She only needs a train on behind, and a crown on her head.'
'Our grand-duchesses don't talk Russian like that,' remarked Arkady.
'She's seen ups and downs, my dear boy; she's known what it is to be hard up!'
'Any way, she's charming,' observed Arkady.
'What a magnificent body!' pursued Bazarov. 'Shouldn't I like to see it on the dissecting-table.'
'Hush, for mercy's sake, Yevgeny! that's beyond everything.'
'Well, don't get angry, you baby. I meant it's first-rate. We must go to stay with her.'
'Well, why not the day after to-morrow. What is there to do here? Drink champagne with Kukshina. Listen to your cousin, the Liberal dignitary?... Let's be off the day after to-morrow. By the way, too—my father's little place is not far from there. This Nikolskoe's on the S—— road, isn't it?'
'Optime, why hesitate? leave that to fools and prigs! I say, what a splendid body!'
Three days later the two friends were driving along the road to Nikolskoe. The day was bright, and not too hot, and the sleek posting-horses trotted smartly along, switching their tied and plaited tails. Arkady looked at the road, and not knowing why, he smiled.
'Congratulate me,' cried Bazarov suddenly, 'to-day's the 22nd of June, my guardian angel's day. Let's see how he will watch over me. To-day they expect me home,' he added, dropping his voice.... 'Well, they can go on expecting.... What does it matter!'