No crowd of house-serfs ran out on to the steps to meet the gentlemen; a little girl of twelve years old made her appearance alone. After her there came out of the house a young lad, very like Piotr, dressed in a coat of grey livery, with white armorial buttons, the servant of Pavel Petrovitch Kirsanov. Without speaking, he opened the door of the carriage, and unbuttoned the apron of the coach. Nikolai Petrovitch with his son and Bazarov walked through a dark and almost empty hall, from behind the door of which they caught a glimpse of a young woman's face, into a drawing-room furnished in the most modern style.
'Here we are at home,' said Nikolai Petrovitch, taking off his cap, and shaking back his hair. 'That's the great thing; now we must have supper and rest.'
'A meal would not come amiss, certainly,' observed Bazarov, stretching, and he dropped on to a sofa.
'Yes, yes, let us have supper, supper directly.' Nikolai Petrovitch with no apparent reason stamped his foot. 'And here just at the right moment comes Prokofitch.'
A man about sixty entered, white-haired, thin, and swarthy, in a cinnamon-coloured dress-coat with brass buttons, and a pink neckerchief. He smirked, went up to kiss Arkady's hand, and bowing to the guest retreated to the door, and put his hands behind him.
'Here he is, Prokofitch,' began Nikolai Petrovitch; 'he's come back to us at last.... Well, how do you think him looking?'
'As well as could be,' said the old man, and was grinning again, but he quickly knitted his bushy brows. 'You wish supper to be served?' he said impressively.
'Yes, yes, please. But won't you like to go to your room first, Yevgeny Vassilyitch?'
'No, thanks; I don't care about it. Only give orders for my little box to be taken there, and this garment, too,' he added, taking off his frieze overcoat.
'Certainly. Prokofitch, take the gentleman's coat.' (Prokofitch, with an air of perplexity, picked up Bazarov's 'garment' in both hands, and holding it high above his head, retreated on tiptoe.) 'And you, Arkady, are you going to your room for a minute?'
'Yes, I must wash,' answered Arkady, and was just moving towards the door, but at that instant there came into the drawing-room a man of medium height, dressed in a dark English suit, a fashionable low cravat, and kid shoes, Pavel Petrovitch Kirsanov. He looked about forty-five: his close-cropped, grey hair shone with a dark lustre, like new silver; his face, yellow but free from wrinkles, was exceptionally regular and pure in line, as though carved by a light and delicate chisel, and showed traces of remarkable beauty; specially fine were his clear, black, almond-shaped eyes. The whole person of Arkady's uncle, with its aristocratic elegance, had preserved the gracefulness of youth and that air of striving upwards, away from earth, which for the most part is lost after the twenties are past.
Pavel Petrovitch took out of his trouser pocket his exquisite hand with its long tapering pink nails, a hand which seemed still more exquisite from the snowy whiteness of the cuff, buttoned with a single, big opal, and gave it to his nephew. After a preliminary handshake in the European style, he kissed him thrice after the Russian fashion, that is to say, he touched his cheek three times with his perfumed moustaches, and said, 'Welcome.'
Nikolai Petrovitch presented him to Bazarov; Pavel Petrovitch greeted him with a slight inclination of his supple figure, and a slight smile, but he did not give him his hand, and even put it back into his pocket.
'I had begun to think you were not coming to-day,' he began in a musical voice, with a genial swing and shrug of the shoulders, as he showed his splendid white teeth. 'Did anything happen on the road.'
'Nothing happened,' answered Arkady; 'we were rather slow. But we're as hungry as wolves now. Hurry up Prokofitch, dad; and I'll be back directly.'
'Stay, I'm coming with you,' cried Bazarov, pulling himself up suddenly from the sofa. Both the young men went out.
'Who is he?' asked Pavel Petrovitch.
'A friend of Arkasha's; according to him, a very clever fellow.'
'Is he going to stay with us?'
'That unkempt creature?'
Pavel Petrovitch drummed with his finger tips on the table. 'I fancy Arkady s'est dégourdi,' he remarked. 'I'm glad he has come back.'
At supper there was little conversation. Bazarov especially said nothing, but he ate a great deal. Nikolai Petrovitch related various incidents in what he called his career as a farmer, talked about the impending government measures, about committees, deputations, the necessity of introducing machinery, etc. Pavel Petrovitch paced slowly up and down the dining-room (he never ate supper), sometimes sipping at a wineglass of red wine, and less often uttering some remark or rather exclamation, of the nature of 'Ah! aha! hm!' Arkady told some news from Petersburg, but he was conscious of a little awkwardness, that awkwardness, which usually overtakes a youth when he has just ceased to be a child, and has come back to a place where they are accustomed to regard him 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, it is true, between his teeth; with an exaggerated carelessness he poured into his glass far more wine than he really wanted, and drank it all off. Prokofitch did not take his eyes off him, and kept chewing his lips. After supper they all separated at once.
'Your uncle's a queer fish,' Bazarov said to Arkady, as he sat in his dressing-gown by his bedside, smoking a short pipe. 'Only fancy such style in the country! His nails, his nails—you ought to send them to an exhibition!'
'Why of course, you don't know,' replied Arkady. 'He was a great swell in his own day, you know. I will tell you his story one day. He was very handsome, you know, used to turn all the women's heads.'
'Oh, that's it, is it? So he keeps it up in memory of the past. It's a pity there's no one for him to fascinate here though. I kept staring at his exquisite collars. They're like marble, and his chin's shaved simply to perfection. Come, Arkady Nikolaitch, isn't that ridiculous?'
'Perhaps it is; but he's a splendid man, really.'
'An antique survival! But your father's a capital fellow. He wastes his time reading poetry, and doesn't know much about farming, but he's a good-hearted fellow.'
'My father's a man in a thousand.'
'Did you notice how shy and nervous he is?'
Arkady shook his head as though he himself were not shy and nervous.
'It's something astonishing,' pursued Bazarov, 'these old idealists, they develop their nervous systems till they break down ... so balance is lost. But good-night. In my room there's an English washstand, but the door won't fasten. Anyway that ought to be encouraged—an English washstand stands for progress!'
Bazarov went away, and a sense of great happiness came over Arkady. Sweet it is to fall asleep in one's own home, in the familiar bed, under the quilt worked by loving hands, perhaps a dear nurse's hands, those kind, tender, untiring hands. Arkady remembered Yegorovna, and sighed and wished her peace in heaven.... For himself he made no prayer.
Both he and Bazarov were soon asleep, but others in the house were awake long after. His son's return had agitated Nikolai Petrovitch. He lay down in bed, but did not put out the candles, and his head propped on his hand, he fell into long reveries. His brother was sitting long after midnight in his study, in a wide armchair before the fireplace, on which there smouldered some faintly glowing embers. Pavel Petrovitch was not undressed, only some red Chinese slippers had replaced the kid shoes on his feet. He held in his hand the last number of Galignani, but he was not reading; he gazed fixedly into the grate, where a bluish flame flickered, dying down, then flaring up again.... God knows where his thoughts were rambling, but they were not rambling in the past only; the expression of his face was concentrated and surly, which is not the way when a man is absorbed solely in recollections. In a small back room there sat, on a large chest, a young woman in a blue dressing jacket with a white kerchief thrown over her dark hair, Fenitchka. She was half listening, half dozing, and often looked across towards the open door through which a child's cradle was visible, and the regular breathing of a sleeping baby could be heard.
The next morning Bazarov woke up earlier than any one and went out of the house. 'Oh, my!' he thought, looking about him, 'the little place isn't much to boast of!' When Nikolai Petrovitch had divided the land with his peasants, he had had to build his new manor-house on four acres of perfectly flat and barren land. He had built a house, offices, and farm buildings, laid out a garden, dug a pond, and sunk two wells; but the young trees had not done well, very little water had collected in the pond, and that in the wells tasted brackish. Only one arbour of lilac and acacia had grown fairly well; they sometimes had tea and dinner in it. In a few minutes Bazarov had traversed all the little paths of the garden; he went into the cattle-yard and the stable, routed out two farm-boys, with whom he made friends at once, and set off with them to a small swamp about a mile from the house to look for frogs.
'What do you want frogs for, sir?' one of the boys asked him.
'I'll tell you what for,' answered Bazarov, who possessed the special faculty of inspiring confidence in people of a lower class, though he never tried to win them, and behaved very casually with them; 'I shall cut the frog open, and see what's going on in his inside, and then, as you and I are much the same as frogs, only that we walk on legs, I shall know what's going on inside us too.'
'And what do you want to know that for?'
'So as not to make a mistake, if you're taken ill, and I have to cure you.'
'Are you a doctor then?'
'Vaska, do you hear, the gentleman says you and I are the same as frogs, that's funny!'
'I'm afraid of frogs,' observed Vaska, a boy of seven, with a head as white as flax, and bare feet, dressed in a grey smock with a stand-up collar.
'What is there to be afraid of? Do they bite?'
'There, paddle into the water, philosophers,' said Bazarov.
Meanwhile Nikolai Petrovitch too had waked up, and gone in to see Arkady, whom he found dressed. The father and son went out on to the terrace under the shelter of the awning; near the balustrade, on the table, among great bunches of lilacs, the samovar was already boiling. A little girl came up, the same who had been the first to meet them at the steps on their arrival the evening before. In a shrill voice she said—
'Fedosya Nikolaevna is not quite well, she cannot come; she gave orders to ask you, will you please to pour out tea yourself, or should she send Dunyasha?'
'I will pour out myself, myself,' interposed Nikolai Petrovitch hurriedly. 'Arkady, how do you take your tea, with cream, or with lemon?'
'With cream,' answered Arkady; and after a brief silence, he uttered interrogatively, 'Daddy?'
Nikolai Petrovitch in confusion looked at his son.
'Well?' he said.
Arkady dropped his eyes.
'Forgive me, dad, if my question seems unsuitable to you,' he began, 'but you yourself, by your openness yesterday, encourage me to be open ... you will not be angry ...?'
'You give me confidence to ask you.... Isn't the reason, Fen ... isn't the reason she will not come here to pour out tea, because I'm here?'
Nikolai Petrovitch turned slightly away.
'Perhaps,' he said, at last, 'she supposes ... she is ashamed.'
Arkady turned a rapid glance on his father.
'She has no need to be ashamed. In the first place, you are aware of my views' (it was very sweet to Arkady to utter that word); 'and secondly, could I be willing to hamper your life, your habits in the least thing? Besides, I am sure you could not make a bad choice; if you have allowed her to live under the same roof with you, she must be worthy of it; in any case, a son cannot judge his father,—least of all, I, and least of all such a father who, like you, has never hampered my liberty in anything.'
Arkady's voice had been shaky at the beginning; he felt himself magnanimous, though at the same time he realised he was delivering something of the nature of a lecture to his father; but the sound of one's own voice has a powerful effect on any man, and Arkady brought out his last words resolutely, even with emphasis.
'Thanks, Arkasha,' said Nikolai Petrovitch thickly, and his fingers again strayed over his eyebrows and forehead. 'Your suppositions are just in fact. Of course, if this girl had not deserved.... It is not a frivolous caprice. It's not easy for me to talk to you about this; but you will understand that it is difficult for her to come here, in your presence, especially the first day of your return.'
'In that case I will go to her,' cried Arkady, with a fresh rush of magnanimous feeling, and he jumped up from his seat. 'I will explain to her that she has no need to be ashamed before me.'
Nikolai Petrovitch too got up.
'Arkady,' he began, 'be so good ... how can ... there ... I have not told you yet ...'
But Arkady did not listen to him, and ran off the terrace. Nikolai Petrovitch looked after him, and sank into his chair overcome by confusion. His heart began to throb. Did he at that moment realise the inevitable strangeness of the future relations between him and his son? Was he conscious that Arkady would perhaps have shown him more respect if he had never touched on this subject at all? Did he reproach himself for weakness?—it is hard to say; all these feelings were within him, but in the state of sensations—and vague sensations—while the flush did not leave his face, and his heart throbbed.
There was the sound of hurrying footsteps, and Arkady came on to the terrace. 'We have made friends, dad!' he cried, with an expression of a kind of affectionate and good-natured triumph on his face. 'Fedosya Nikolaevna is not quite well to-day really, and she will come a little later. But why didn't you tell me I had a brother? I should have kissed him last night, as I have kissed him just now.'
Nikolai Petrovitch tried to articulate something, tried to get up and open his arms. Arkady flung himself on his neck.
'What's this? embracing again?' sounded the voice of Pavel Petrovitch behind them.
Father and son were equally rejoiced at his appearance at that instant; there are positions, genuinely affecting, from which one longs to escape as soon as possible.
'Why should you be surprised at that?' said Nikolai Petrovitch gaily. 'Think what ages I have been waiting for Arkasha. I've not had time to get a good look at him since yesterday.'
'I'm not at all surprised,' observed Pavel Petrovitch; 'I feel not indisposed to be embracing him myself.'
Arkady went up to his uncle, and again felt his cheeks caressed by his perfumed moustache. Pavel Petrovitch sat down to the table. He wore an elegant morning suit in the English style, and a gay little fez on his head. This fez and the carelessly tied little cravat carried a suggestion of the freedom of country life, but the stiff collars of his shirt—not white, it is true, but striped, as is correct in morning dress—stood up as inexorably as ever against his well-shaved chin.
'Where's your new friend?' he asked Arkady.
'He's not in the house; he usually gets up early and goes off somewhere. The great thing is, we mustn't pay any attention to him; he doesn't like ceremony.'
'Yes, that's obvious.' Pavel Petrovitch began deliberately spreading butter on his bread. 'Is he going to stay long with us?'
'Perhaps. He came here on the way to his father's.'
'And where does his father live?'
'In our province, sixty-four miles from here. He has a small property there. He was formerly an army doctor.'
'Tut, tut, tut! To be sure, I kept asking myself, "Where have I heard that name, Bazarov?" Nikolai, do you remember, in our father's division there was a surgeon Bazarov?'
'I believe there was.'
'Yes, yes, to be sure. So that surgeon was his father. Hm!' Pavel Petrovitch pulled his moustaches. 'Well, and what is Mr. Bazarov himself?' he asked, deliberately.
'What is Bazarov?' Arkady smiled. 'Would you like me, uncle, to tell you what he really is?'
'If you will be so good, nephew.'
'He's a nihilist.'
'Eh?' inquired Nikolai Petrovitch, while Pavel Petrovitch lilted a knife in the air with a small piece of butter on its tip, and remained motionless.
'He's a nihilist,' repeated Arkady.
'A nihilist,' said Nikolai Petrovitch. 'That's from the Latin, nihil, nothing, as far as I can judge; the word must mean a man who ... who accepts nothing?'
'Say, "who respects nothing,"' put in Pavel Petrovitch, and he set to work on the butter again.
'Who regards everything from the critical point of view,' observed Arkady.
'Isn't that just the same thing?' inquired Pavel Petrovitch.
'No, it's not the same thing. A nihilist is a man who does not bow down before any authority, who does not take any principle on faith, whatever reverence that principle may be enshrined in.'
'Well, and is that good?' interrupted Pavel Petrovitch.
'That depends, uncle. Some people it will do good to, but some people will suffer for it.'
'Indeed. Well, I see it's not in our line. We are old-fashioned people; we imagine that without principles, taken as you say on faith, there's no taking a step, no breathing. Vous avez changé tout cela. God give you good health and the rank of a general, while we will be content to look on and admire, worthy ... what was it?'
'Nihilists,' Arkady said, speaking very distinctly.
'Yes. There used to be Hegelists, and now there are nihilists. We shall see how you will exist in void, in vacuum; and now ring, please, brother Nikolai Petrovitch; it's time I had my cocoa.'
Nikolai Petrovitch rang the bell and called, 'Dunyasha!' But instead of Dunyasha, Fenitchka herself came on to the terrace. She was a young woman about three-and-twenty, with a white soft skin, dark hair and eyes, red, childishly-pouting lips, and little delicate hands. She wore a neat print dress; a new blue kerchief lay lightly on her plump shoulders. She carried a large cup of cocoa, and setting it down before Pavel Petrovitch, she was overwhelmed with confusion: the hot blood rushed in a wave of crimson over the delicate skin of her pretty face. She dropped her eyes, and stood at the table, leaning a little on the very tips of her fingers. It seemed as though she were ashamed of having come in, and at the same time felt that she had a right to come.
Pavel Petrovitch knitted his brows severely, while Nikolai Petrovitch looked embarrassed.
'Good morning, Fenitchka,' he muttered through his teeth.
'Good morning,' she replied in a voice not loud but resonant, and with a sidelong glance at Arkady, who gave her a friendly smile, she went gently away. She walked with a slightly rolling gait, but even that suited her.
For some minutes silence reigned on the terrace. Pavel Petrovitch sipped his cocoa; suddenly he raised his head. 'Here is Sir Nihilist coming towards us,' he said in an undertone.
Bazarov was in fact approaching through the garden, stepping over the flower-beds. His linen coat and trousers were besmeared with mud; clinging marsh weed was twined round the crown of his old round hat; in his right hand he held a small bag; in the bag something alive was moving. He quickly drew near the terrace, and said with a nod, 'Good morning, gentlemen; sorry I was late for tea; I'll be back directly; I must just put these captives away.'
'What have you there—leeches?' asked Pavel Petrovitch.
'Do you eat them—or keep them?'
'For experiment,' said Bazarov indifferently, and he went off into the house.
'So he's going to cut them up,' observed Pavel Petrovitch. 'He has no faith in principles, but he has faith in frogs.'
Arkady looked compassionately at his uncle; Nikolai Petrovitch shrugged his shoulders stealthily. Pavel Petrovitch himself felt that his epigram was unsuccessful, and began to talk about husbandry and the new bailiff, who had come to him the evening before to complain that a labourer, Foma, 'was deboshed,' and quite unmanageable. 'He's such an Æsop,' he said among other things; 'in all places he has protested himself a worthless fellow; he's not a man to keep his place; he'll walk off in a huff like a fool.'
Bazarov came back, sat down to the table, and began hastily drinking tea. The two brothers looked at him in silence, while Arkady stealthily watched first his father and then his uncle.
'Did you walk far from here?' Nikolai Petrovitch asked at last.
'Where you've a little swamp near the aspen wood. I started some half-dozen snipe; you might slaughter them; Arkady.'
'Aren't you a sportsman then?'
'Is your special study physics?' Pavel Petrovitch in his turn inquired.
'Physics, yes; and natural science in general.'
'They say the Teutons of late have had great success in that line.'
'Yes; the Germans are our teachers in it,' Bazarov answered carelessly.
The word Teutons instead of Germans, Pavel Petrovitch had used with ironical intention; none noticed it however.
'Have you such a high opinion of the Germans?' said Pavel Petrovitch, with exaggerated courtesy. He was beginning to feel a secret irritation. His aristocratic nature was revolted by Bazarov's absolute nonchalance. This surgeon's son was not only not overawed, he even gave abrupt and indifferent answers, and in the tone of his voice there was something churlish, almost insolent.
'The scientific men there are a clever lot.'
'Ah, ah. To be sure, of Russian scientific men you have not such a flattering opinion, I dare say?'
'That is very likely.'
'That's very praiseworthy self-abnegation,' Pavel Petrovitch declared, drawing himself up, and throwing his head back. 'But how is this? Arkady Nikolaitch was telling us just now that you accept no authorities? Don't you believe in them?'
'And how am I accepting them? And what am I to believe in? They tell me the truth, I agree, that's all.'
'And do all Germans tell the truth?' said Pavel Petrovitch, and his face assumed an expression as unsympathetic, as remote, as if he had withdrawn to some cloudy height.
'Not all,' replied Bazarov, with a short yawn. He obviously did not care to continue the discussion.
Pavel Petrovitch glanced at Arkady, as though he would say to him, 'Your friend's polite, I must say.' 'For my own part,' he began again, not without some effort, 'I am so unregenerate as not to like Germans. Russian Germans I am not speaking of now; we all know what sort of creatures they are. But even German Germans are not to my liking. In former days there were some here and there; they had—well, Schiller, to be sure, Goethe ... my brother—he takes a particularly favourable view of them.... But now they have all turned chemists and materialists ...'
'A good chemist is twenty times as useful as any poet,' broke in Bazarov.
'Oh, indeed,' commented Pavel Petrovitch, and, as though falling asleep, he faintly raised his eyebrows. 'You don't acknowledge art then, I suppose?'
'The art of making money or of advertising pills!' cried Bazarov, with a contemptuous laugh.
'Ah, ah. You are pleased to jest, I see. You reject all that, no doubt? Granted. Then you believe in science only?'
'I have already explained to you that I don't believe in anything; and what is science—science in the abstract? There are sciences, as there are trades and crafts; but abstract science doesn't exist at all.'
'Very good. Well, and in regard to the other traditions accepted in human conduct, do you maintain the same negative attitude?'
'What's this, an examination?' asked Bazarov.
Pavel Petrovitch turned slightly pale.... Nikolai Petrovitch thought it his duty to interpose in the conversation.
'We will converse on this subject with you more in detail some day, dear Yevgeny Vassilyitch; we will hear your views, and express our own. For my part, I am heartily glad you are studying the natural sciences. I have heard that Liebig has made some wonderful discoveries in the amelioration of soils. You can be of assistance to me in my agricultural labours; you can give me some useful advice.'
'I am at your service, Nikolai Petrovitch; but Liebig's miles over our heads! One has first to learn the a b c, and then begin to read, and we haven't set eyes on the alphabet yet.'
'You are certainly a nihilist, I see that,' thought Nikolai Petrovitch. 'Still, you will allow me to apply to you on occasion,' he added aloud. 'And now I fancy, brother, it's time for us to be going to have a talk with the bailiff.'
Pavel Petrovitch got up from his seat.
'Yes,' he said, without looking at any one; 'it's a misfortune to live five years in the country like this, far from mighty intellects! You turn into a fool directly. You may try not to forget what you've been taught, but—in a snap!—they'll prove all that's rubbish, and tell you that sensible men have nothing more to do with such foolishness, and that you, if you please, are an antiquated old fogey. What's to be done? Young people, of course, are cleverer than we are!'
Pavel Petrovitch turned slowly on his heels, and slowly walked away; Nikolai Petrovitch went after him.
'Is he always like that?' Bazarov coolly inquired of Arkady directly the door had closed behind the two brothers.
'I must say, Yevgeny, you weren't nice to him,' remarked Arkady. 'You have hurt his feelings.'
'Well, am I going to consider them, these provincial aristocrats! Why, it's all vanity, dandy habits, fatuity. He should have continued his career in Petersburg, if that's his bent. But there, enough of him! I've found a rather rare species of a water-beetle, Dytiscus marginatus; do you know it? I will show you.'
'I promised to tell you his story,' began Arkady.
'The story of the beetle?'
'Come, don't, Yevgeny. The story of my uncle. You will see he's not the sort of man you fancy. He deserves pity rather than ridicule.'
'I don't dispute it; but why are you worrying over him?'
'One ought to be just, Yevgeny.'
'How does that follow?'
'No; listen ...'
And Arkady told him his uncle's story. The reader will find it in the following chapter.
Pavel Petrovitch Kirsanov was educated first at home, like his younger brother, and afterwards in the Corps of Pages. From childhood he was distinguished by remarkable beauty; moreover he was self-confident, somewhat ironical, and had a rather biting humour; he could not fail to please. He began to be seen everywhere, directly he had received his commission as an officer. He was much admired in society, and he indulged every whim, even every caprice and every folly, and gave himself airs, but that too was attractive in him. Women went out of their senses over him; men called him a coxcomb, and were secretly jealous of him. He lived, as has been related already, in the same apartments as his brother, whom he loved sincerely, though he was not at all like him. Nikolai Petrovitch was a little lame, he had small, pleasing features of a rather melancholy cast, small, black eyes, and thin, soft hair; he liked being lazy, but he also liked reading, and was timid in society.
Pavel Petrovitch did not spend a single evening at home, prided himself on his ease and audacity (he was just bringing gymnastics into fashion among young men in society), and had read in all some five or six French books. At twenty-eight he was already a captain; a brilliant career awaited him. Suddenly everything was changed.
At that time, there was sometimes seen in Petersburg society a woman who has even yet not been forgotten. Princess R——. She had a well-educated, well-bred, but rather stupid husband, and no children. She used suddenly to go abroad, and suddenly return to Russia, and led an eccentric life in general. She had the reputation of being a frivolous coquette, abandoned herself eagerly to every sort of pleasure, danced to exhaustion, laughed and jested with young men, whom she received in the dim light of her drawing-room before dinner; while at night she wept and prayed, found no peace in anything, and often paced her room till morning, wringing her hands in anguish, or sat, pale and chill, over a psalter. Day came, and she was transformed again into a grand lady; again she went out, laughed, chattered, and simply flung herself headlong into anything which could afford her the slightest distraction. She was marvellously well-proportioned, her hair coloured like gold and heavy as gold hung below her knees, but no one would have called her a beauty; in her whole face the only good point was her eyes, and even her eyes were not good—they were grey, and not large—but their glance was swift and deep, unconcerned to the point of audacity, and thoughtful to the point of melancholy—an enigmatic glance. There was a light of something extraordinary in them, even while her tongue was lisping the emptiest of inanities. She dressed with elaborate care. Pavel Petrovitch met her at a ball, danced a mazurka with her, in the course of which she did not utter a single rational word, and fell passionately in love with her. Being accustomed to make conquests, in this instance, too, he soon attained his object, but his easy success did not damp his ardour. On the contrary, he was in still more torturing, still closer bondage to this woman, in whom, even at the very moment when she surrendered herself utterly, there seemed always something still mysterious and unattainable, to which none could penetrate. What was hidden in that soul—God knows! It seemed as though she were in the power of mysterious forces, incomprehensible even to herself; they seemed to play on her at will; her intellect was not powerful enough to master their caprices. Her whole behaviour presented a series of inconsistencies; the only letters which could have awakened her husband's just suspicions, she wrote to a man who was almost a stranger to her, whilst her love had always an element of melancholy; with a man she had chosen as a lover, she ceased to laugh and to jest, she listened to him, and gazed at him with a look of bewilderment. Sometimes, for the most part suddenly, this bewilderment passed into chill horror; her face took a wild, death-like expression; she locked herself up in her bedroom, and her maid, putting her ear to the keyhole, could hear her smothered sobs. More than once, as he went home after a tender interview, Kirsanov felt within him that heartrending, bitter vexation which follows on a total failure.
'What more do I want?' he asked himself, while his heart was heavy. He once gave her a ring with a sphinx engraved on the stone.
'What's that?' she asked; 'a sphinx?'
'Yes,' he answered, 'and that sphinx is you.'
'I?' she queried, and slowly raising her enigmatical glance upon him. 'Do you know that's awfully flattering?' she added with a meaningless smile, while her eyes still kept the same strange look.
Pavel Petrovitch suffered even while Princess R—— loved him; but when she grew cold to him, and that happened rather quickly, he almost went out of his mind. He was on the rack, and he was jealous; he gave her no peace, followed her about everywhere; she grew sick of his pursuit of her, and she went abroad. He resigned his commission in spite of the entreaties of his friends and the exhortations of his superiors, and followed the princess; four years he spent in foreign countries, at one time pursuing her, at another time intentionally losing sight of her. He was ashamed of himself, he was disgusted with his own lack of spirit ... but nothing availed. Her image, that incomprehensible, almost meaningless, but bewitching image, was deeply rooted in his heart. At Baden he once more regained his old footing with her; it seemed as though she had never loved him so passionately ... but in a month it was all at an end: the flame flickered up for the last time and went out for ever. Foreseeing inevitable separation, he wanted at least to remain her friend, as though friendship with such a woman was possible.... She secretly left Baden, and from that time steadily avoided Kirsanov. He returned to Russia, and tried to live his former life again; but he could not get back into the old groove. He wandered from place to place like a man possessed; he still went into society; he still retained the habits of a man of the world; he could boast of two or three fresh conquests; but he no longer expected anything much of himself or of others, and he undertook nothing. He grew old and grey; spending all his evenings at the club, jaundiced and bored, and arguing in bachelor society became a necessity for him—a bad sign, as we all know. Marriage, of course, he did not even think of. Ten years passed in this way; they passed by colourless and fruitless—and quickly, fearfully quickly. Nowhere does time fly past as in Russia; in prison they say it flies even faster. One day at dinner at the club, Pavel Petrovitch heard of the death of the Princess R——. She had died at Paris in a state bordering on insanity.
He got up from the table, and a long time he paced about the rooms of the club, or stood stockstill near the card-players, but he did not go home earlier than usual. Some time later he received a packet addressed to him; in it was the ring he had given the princess. She had drawn lines in the shape of a cross over the sphinx and sent him word that the solution of the enigma—was the cross.
This happened at the beginning of the year 1848, at the very time when Nikolai Petrovitch came to Petersburg, after the loss of his wife. Pavel Petrovitch had scarcely seen his brother since the latter had settled in the country; the marriage of Nikolai Petrovitch had coincided with the very first days of Pavel Petrovitch's acquaintance with the princess. When he came back from abroad, he had gone to him with the intention of staying a couple of months with him, in sympathetic enjoyment of his happiness, but he had only succeeded in standing a week of it. The difference in the positions of the two brothers was too great. In 1848, this difference had grown less; Nikolai Petrovitch had lost his wife, Pavel Petrovitch had lost his memories; after the death of the princess he tried not to think of her. But to Nikolai, there remained the sense of a well-spent life, his son was growing up under his eyes; Pavel, on the contrary, a solitary bachelor, was entering upon that indefinite twilight period of regrets that are akin to hopes, and hopes that are akin to regrets, when youth is over, while old age has not yet come.
This time was harder for Pavel Petrovitch than for another man; in losing his past, he lost everything.
'I will not invite you to Maryino now,' Nikolai Petrovitch said to him one day, (he had called his property by that name in honour of his wife); 'you were dull there in my dear wife's time, and now I think you would be bored to death.'
'I was stupid and fidgety then,' answered Pavel Petrovitch; 'since then I have grown quieter, if not wiser. On the contrary, now, if you will let me, I am ready to settle with you for good.'
For all answer Nikolai Petrovitch embraced him; but a year and a half passed after this conversation, before Pavel Petrovitch made up his mind to carry out his intention. When he was once settled in the country, however, he did not leave it, even during the three winters which Nikolai Petrovitch spent in Petersburg with his son. He began to read, chiefly English; he arranged his whole life, roughly speaking, in the English style, rarely saw the neighbours, and only went out to the election of marshals, where he was generally silent, only occasionally annoying and alarming land-owners of the old school by his liberal sallies, and not associating with the representatives of the younger generation. Both the latter and the former considered him 'stuck up'; and both parties respected him for his fine aristocratic manners; for his reputation for successes in love; for the fact that he was very well dressed and always stayed in the best room in the best hotel; for the fact that he generally dined well, and had once even dined with Wellington at Louis Philippe's table; for the fact that he always took everywhere with him a real silver dressing-case and a portable bath; for the fact that he always smelt of some exceptionally 'good form' scent; for the fact that he played whist in masterly fashion, and always lost; and lastly, they respected him also for his incorruptible honesty. Ladies considered him enchantingly romantic, but he did not cultivate ladies' acquaintance....
'So you see, Yevgeny,' observed Arkady, as he finished his story, 'how unjustly you judge of my uncle! To say nothing of his having more than once helped my father out of difficulties, given him all his money—the property, perhaps you don't know, wasn't divided—he's glad to help any one, among other things he always sticks up for the peasants; it's true, when he talks to them he frowns and sniffs eau de cologne.' ...
'His nerves, no doubt,' put in Bazarov.
'Perhaps; but his heart is very good. And he's far from being stupid. What useful advice he has given me especially ... especially in regard to relations with women.'
'Aha! a scalded dog fears cold water, we know that!'
'In short,' continued Arkady, 'he's profoundly unhappy, believe me; it's a sin to despise him.'
'And who does despise him?' retorted Bazarov. 'Still, I must say that a fellow who stakes his whole life on one card—a woman's love—and when that card fails, turns sour, and lets himself go till he's fit for nothing, is not a man, but a male. You say he's unhappy; you ought to know best; to be sure, he's not got rid of all his fads. I'm convinced that he solemnly imagines himself a superior creature because he reads that wretched Galignani, and once a month saves a peasant from a flogging.'
'But remember his education, the age in which he grew up,' observed Arkady.
'Education?' broke in Bazarov. 'Every man must educate himself, just as I've done, for instance.... And as for the age, why should I depend on it? Let it rather depend on me. No, my dear fellow, that's all shallowness, want of backbone! And what stuff it all is, about these mysterious relations between a man and woman? We physiologists know what these relations are. You study the anatomy of the eye; where does the enigmatical glance you talk about come in there? That's all romantic, nonsensical, æsthetic rot. We had much better go and look at the beetle.'
And the two friends went off to Bazarov's room, which was already pervaded by a sort of medico-surgical odour, mingled with the smell of cheap tobacco.