Fathers and Sons/Chapter 18

THE NEXT DAY WHEN MADAME ODINTSOV CAME DOWN TO TEA, Bazarov sat for a long time bending over his cup, then suddenly glanced up at her . . . she turned towards him as if he had touched her, and he fancied that her face was paler since the night before. She soon went off to her own room and did not reappear till breakfast. It had rained since early morning, so that there was no question of going for walks. The whole party assembled in the drawing room. Arkady took up the last number of a journal and began to read. The princess, as usual, first tried to express angry amazement by her facial expression, as though he were doing something indecent, then glared angrily at him, but he paid no attention to her.

"Evgeny Vassilich," said Anna Sergeyevna, "let us go to my room. I want to ask you . . . you mentioned a textbook yesterday..."

She got up and went to the door. The princess looked round as if she wanted to say, "Look at me; see how shocked I am!" and again stared at Arkady, but he merely raised his head, and exchanging glances with Katya, near whom he was sitting, he went on reading.

Madame Odintsov walked quickly into her study. Bazarov followed her without raising his eyes, and only listening to the delicate swish and rustle of her silk dress gliding in front of him. Madame Odintsov sat down in the same armchair in which she had sat the evening before, and Bazarov also sat down in his former place.

"Well, what is that book called?" she began after a short silence.

"Pelouse et Fré, Notions Générales . . . ," answered Bazarov. "However, I might recommend to you also Ganot, Traité élémentaire de Physique Expérimentale. In that book the illustrations are clearer, and as a complete textbook--"

Madame Odintsov held out her hand.

"Evgeny Vassilich, excuse me, but I didn't invite you here to discuss textbooks. I wanted to go on with our conversation of last night. You went away so suddenly . . . It won't bore you?"

"I am at your service, Anna Sergeyevna. But what were we talking about last night?"

Madame Odintsov cast a sidelong glance at Bazarov.

"We were talking about happiness, I believe. I told you about myself. By the way, I just mentioned the word 'happiness.' Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying, for instance, music, a beautiful evening, or a conversation with agreeable people, it all seems to be rather a hint of immeasurable happiness existing somewhere apart, rather than genuine happiness, such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess? Why is it? Or perhaps you never experience that kind of feeling?"

"You know the saying, 'Happiness is where we are not,'" replied Bazarov. "Besides, you told me yesterday that you are discontented. But it is as you say, no such ideas ever enter my head."

"Perhaps they seem ridiculous to you?"

"No, they just don't enter my head."

"Really. Do you know, I should very much like to know what you do think about?"

"How? I don't understand you."

"Listen, I have long wanted to have a frank talk with you. There is no need to tell you--for you know it yourself--that you are not an ordinary person; you are still young--your whole life lies before you. For what are you preparing yourself? What future awaits you? I mean to say, what purpose are you aiming at, in what direction are you moving, what is in your heart? In short, who and what are you?"

"You surprise me, Anna Sergeyevna. You know, that I am studying natural science and who I . . ."

"Yes, who are you?"

"I have already told you that I am going to be a district doctor."

Anna Sergeyevna made an impatient movement.

"What do you say that for? You don't believe it yourself. Arkady might answer me in that way, but not you."

"How does Arkady come in?"

"Stop! Is it possible you could content yourself with such a humble career, and aren't you always declaring that medicine doesn't exist for you? You--with your ambition--a district doctor! You answer me like that in order to put me off because you have no confidence in me. But you know, Evgeny Vassilich, I should be able to understand you; I also have been poor and ambitious, like you; perhaps I went through the same trials as you."

"That's all very well, Anna Sergeyevna, but you must excuse me . . . I am not in the habit of talking freely about myself in general, and there is such a gulf between you and me . . ."

"In what way, a gulf? Do you mean to tell me again that I am an aristocrat? Enough of that, Evgeny Vassilich; I thought I had convinced you . . ."

"And apart from all that," broke in Bazarov, "how can we want to talk and think about the future, which for the most part doesn't depend on ourselves? If an opportunity turns up of doing something--so much the better, and if it doesn't turn up--at least one can be glad that one didn't idly gossip about it beforehand."

"You call a friendly conversation gossip! Or perhaps you consider me as a woman unworthy of your confidence? I know you despise us all!"

"I don't despise you, Anna Sergeyevna, and you know that."

"No, I don't know anything . . . but let us suppose so. I understand your disinclination to talk about your future career, but as to what is taking place within you now . . ."

"Taking place!" repeated Bazarov. "As if I were some kind of government or society! In any case, it is completely uninteresting, and besides, can a person always speak out loud of everything which 'takes place' within him!"

"But I don't see why you shouldn't speak freely, about everything you have in your heart."

"Can you?" asked Bazarov.

"I can," answered Anna Sergeyevna, after a moment's hesitation.

Bazarov bowed his head. "You are luckier than I."

"As you like," she continued, "but still something tells me that we did not get to know each other for nothing, that we shall become good friends. I am sure that your--how shall I say--your constraint, your reserve, will disappear eventually."

"So you have noticed in me reserve . . . and, how did you put it--constraint?"


Bazarov got up and went to the window.

"And would you like to know the reason for this reserve, would you like to know what is happening within me?"

"Yes," repeated Madame Odintsov, with a sort of dread which she did not quite understand.

"And you will not be angry?"


"No?" Bazarov was standing with his back to her. "Let me tell you then that I love you like a fool, like a madman . . . There, you've got that out of me."

Madame Odintsov raised both her hands in front of her, while Bazarov pressed his forehead against the windowpane. He was breathing hard; his whole body trembled visibly. But it was not the trembling of youthful timidity, not the sweet awe of the first declaration that possessed him: it was passion beating within him, a powerful heavy passion not unlike fury and perhaps akin to it . . . Madame Odintsov began to feel both frightened and sorry for him.

"Evgeny Vassilich . . . ," she murmured, and her voice rang with unconscious tenderness.

He quickly turned round, threw a devouring look at her--and seizing both her hands, he suddenly pressed her to him.

She did not free herself at once from his embrace, but a moment later she was standing far away in a corner and looking from there at Bazarov. He rushed towards her . . .

"You misunderstood me," she whispered in hurried alarm. It seemed that if he had made one more step she would have screamed . . . Bazarov bit his lips and went out.

Half an hour later a maid gave Anna Sergeyevna a note from Bazarov; it consisted merely of one line: "Am I to leave today, or can I stop till tomorrow?"

"Why should you leave? I did not understand you--you did not understand me," Anna Sergeyevna answered, but to herself she thought "I did not understand myself either."

She did not show herself till dinnertime, and kept walking up and down her room, with her arms behind her back, sometimes stopping in front of the window or the mirror, and sometimes slowly rubbing her handkerchief over her neck, on which she still seemed to feel a burning spot. She asked herself what had impelled her to get that out of him, as Bazarov had expressed it, to secure his confidence, and whether she had really suspected nothing . . . "I am to blame," she concluded aloud, "but I could not have foreseen this." She became pensive and blushed when she recalled Bazarov's almost animal face when he had rushed at her . . .

"Or?" she suddenly uttered aloud, stopped short and shook her curls . . . she caught sight of herself in the mirror; her tossed-back head, with a mysterious smile on the half-closed, half-open eyes and lips, told her, it seemed, in a flash something at which she herself felt confused . . .

"No," she decided at last. "God alone knows what it would lead to; he couldn't be trifled with; after all, peace is better than anything else in the world."

Her own peace of mind was not deeply disturbed; but she felt sad and once even burst into tears, without knowing why--but not on account of the insult she had just experienced. She did not feel insulted; she was more inclined to feel guilty. Under the influence of various confused impulses, the consciousness that life was passing her by, the craving for novelty, she had forced herself to move on to a certain point, forced herself also to look beyond it--and there she had seen not even an abyss, but only sheer emptiness . . . or something hideous.