Fathers and Sons/Chapter 20

BAZAROV LEANED OUT OF THE TARANTASS, WHILE ARKADY stretched out his head from behind his companion's back and saw standing on the steps of the little house a tall thinnish man with ruffled hair and a sharp aquiline nose, dressed in an old military coat, not buttoned up. He stood with his legs wide apart, smoking a long pipe and screwing up his eyes to keep the sun out of them.

The horses stopped.

"Arrived at last!" exclaimed Bazarov's father, still continuing to smoke, though the pipe was fairly jumping up and down between his fingers. "Come, get out, get out, let me hug you."

He began embracing his son . . . "Enyusha, Enyusha," resounded a woman's quavering voice. The door flew open and on the threshold appeared a plump little old woman in a white cap and short colored jacket. She cried, staggered, and would probably have fallen if Bazarov had not supported her. Her plump little hands were instantly twined round his neck, her head was pressed to his breast, and there followed a complete hush, only interrupted by the sound of her broken sobs.

Old Bazarov breathed hard and screwed up his eyes more than before.

"There, that's enough, enough, Arisha! leave off!" he said, exchanging a look with Arkady, who remained standing motionless by the tarantass, while even the peasant on the box turned his head away. "That's quite unnecessary! Please leave off."

"Ah, Vassily Ivanich," faltered the old woman, "for what ages, my dear one, my darling, Enyushenka . . . ," and without unclasping her hands, she drew back her wrinkled face, wet with tears, and overwhelmed with tenderness, and looked at him with blissful and somehow comic eyes and then again fell on his neck.

"Well, yes of course, that's all in the nature of things," remarked Vassily Ivanich. "Only we had better come indoors. Here's a visitor arrived with Evgeny. You must excuse this," he added, turning to Arkady and slightly scraping the ground with his foot: "You understand, a woman's weakness, and well, a mother's heart."

His own lips and eyebrows were quivering and his chin shook--but obviously he was trying to master his feelings and to appear almost indifferent. Arkady bowed.

"Let's go in, mother, really," said Bazarov, and he led the enfeebled old woman into the house. He put her in a comfortable armchair, once more hurriedly embraced his father, and introduced Arkady to him.

"Heartily glad to make your acquaintance," said Vassily Ivanich, "but you mustn't expect anything grand: we live very simply here, like military people. Arina Vlasyevna, pray calm yourself; what faintheartedness! Our guest will think ill of you."

"My good sir," said the old woman through her tears, "I haven't the honor of knowing your name and your father's."

"Arkady Nikolayevich," interposed Vassily Ivanich solemnly, in a low voice.

"Excuse a foolish old woman like me." She blew her nose, and bending her head from left to right, she carefully wiped one eye after the other. "You must excuse me. I really thought I should die, that I should not live to see again my darling--"

"Well and here we have lived to see him again, madam," put in Vassily Ivanovich. "Tanyushka," he said, turning to a bare-legged little girl of thirteen in a bright red cotton dress, who was shyly peeping in at the door, "bring your mistress a glass of water--on a tray, do you hear?--and you, gentlemen," he added with a kind of old-fashioned playfulness--"allow me to invite you into the study of a retired veteran."

"Just once more let me embrace you, Enyushka," groaned Arina Vlasyevna. Bazarov bent down to her. "Gracious, how handsome you've grown!"

"Well, I don't know about being handsome," remarked Vassily Ivanovich. "But he's a man, as the saying goes--ommfay. And now I hope, Arina Vlasyevna, having satisfied your maternal heart, you will turn your thoughts to satisfying the appetites of our dear guests, because, as you know, even nightingales can't be fed on fairy tales."

The old lady rose from her chair. "This very minute, Vassily Ivanovich, the table shall be laid. I will myself run to the kitchen and order the samovar to be brought in; everything will be ready, everything. Why, for three whole years I have not seen him, have not been able to give him food or drink--is that nothing?"

"Well, you see to things, little hostess, bustle about, don't put us to shame; and you, gentlemen, I beg you to follow me. Here is Timofeich come to pay his respects to you, Evgeny. And the old dog, I dare say he too is delighted. Ay, aren't you delighted, old dog? Be so good as to follow me."

And Vassily Ivanovich went bustling ahead, shuffling and flapping with his down-at-heel slippers.

His whole house consisted of six tiny rooms. One of these--the one into which he led our friends--was called the study. A thick-legged table, littered with papers blackened by an ancient accumulation of dust as if they had been smoked, occupied the whole space between the two windows; on the walls hung Turkish firearms, whips, a saber, two maps, some anatomical diagrams, a portrait of Hufeland, a monogram woven out of hair in a blackened frame, and a diploma under glass; a leather sofa, torn and worn hollow in places, stood between two huge cupboards of Karelian birchwood; on the shelves, books, little boxes, stuffed birds, jars and phials were crowded together in confusion; in one corner lay a broken electric battery.

"I warned you, my dear guest," began Vassily Ivanovich, "that we live, so to speak, bivouacking . . ."

"Now stop that, what are you apologizing for?" Bazarov interrupted. "Kirsanov knows very well that we're not Croesuses and that you don't live in a palace. Where are we going to put him, that's the question?"

"To be sure, Evgeny, there's an excellent room in the little wing; he will be very comfortable there."

"So you've had a wing built on?"

"Of course, where the bathhouse is," put in Timofeich. "That is next to the bathroom," Vassily Ivanovich added hurriedly. "It's summer now . . . I will run over there at once and arrange things; and you, Timofeich, bring in their luggage meanwhile. Of course I hand over my study to you, Evgeny. Suum cuique."

"There you have him! A most comical old chap and very good-natured," remarked Bazarov, as soon as Vassily Ivanovich had gone. "Just as queer a fish as yours, only in a different way. He chatters too much."

"And your mother seems a wonderful woman," remarked Arkady.

"Yes, there's no humbug about her. You just see what a dinner she'll give us."

"They weren't expecting you today, sir, they've not brought any beef," observed Timofeich, who was just dragging in Bazarov's trunk.

"We shall manage all right even without beef; you can't squeeze water from a stone. Poverty, they say, is no crime."

"How many serfs has your father?" asked Arkady suddenly. "The property is not his, but mother's; there are fifteen serfs, if I remember."

"Twenty-two in all," added Timofeich in a dissatisfied tone. The shuffling of slippers was heard and Vassily Ivanovich reappeared. "In a few minutes your room will be ready to receive you," he exclaimed triumphantly. "Arkady--Nikolaich? I think that's how I should call you. And here is your servant," he added, indicating a boy with close-cropped hair, who had come in with him, wearing a long blue caftan with holes in the elbows and a pair of boots which did not belong to him. "His name is Fedka, I repeat again, though my son has forbidden it, you must not expect anything grand. But this fellow knows how to fill a pipe. You smoke, of course?"

"I prefer to smoke cigars," answered Arkady.

"And you're quite right there. I like cigars myself, but in these remote parts it is extremely difficult to get them."

"Enough crying poverty," interrupted Bazarov. "You had better sit down on the sofa here and let us have a look at you."

Vassily Ivanovich laughed and sat down. His face was very much like his son's, only his brow was lower and narrower, his mouth rather wider, and he never stopped making restless movements, shrugged his shoulders as though his coat cut him under the armpits, blinked, cleared his throat and gesticulated with his fingers, whereas his son's most striking characteristic was the nonchalant immobility of his manner.

"Crying poverty," repeated Vassily Ivanovich. "You must suppose, Evgeny, that I want our guest, so to speak, to take pity on us, by making out that we live in such a wilderness. On the contrary I maintain that for a thinking man there is no such thing as a wilderness. At least I try, as far as possible, not to grow rusty, so to speak, not to fall behind the times."

Vassily Ivanovich drew out of his pocket a new yellow silk handkerchief, which he had found time to snatch up when he ran over to Arkady's room, and flourishing it in the air, he went on: "I am not speaking now of the fact that I, for instance, at the cost of quite considerable sacrifices to myself, have put my peasants on the rent system and given up my land to them in return for half the proceeds. I considered it my duty; common sense alone demands that it should be done, though other landowners don't even think about doing it. But I speak now of the sciences, of education."

"Yes, I see you have here the Friend of Health for 1855," remarked Bazarov.

"That was sent me by an old comrade as a friendly gesture," Vassily Ivanovich hastily announced; "but we have, for instance, some idea even of phrenology," he added, addressing himself principally to Arkady, and pointing out a small plaster head on the cupboard, divided into numbered squares; "even Sch¨nlein is not unknown to us--and Rademacher."

"Do people still believe in Rademacher in this province?" inquired Bazarov.

Vassily Ivanovich cleared his throat. "In this province . . . of course gentlemen, you know better; how could we keep pace with you? You are here to take our places. Even in my time, there was a so-called humoralist Hoffman, and a certain Brown with his vitalism--they seemed very ridiculous to us, but they, too, had great reputations at one time. Someone new has taken Rademacher's place with you; you bow down to him, but in another twenty years it will probably be his turn to be laughed at."

"For your consolation I can tell you," said Bazarov, "that we nowadays laugh at medicine altogether and bow down to nobody."

"How do you mean? Surely you want to be a doctor."

"Yes, but the one doesn't prevent the other."

Vassily Ivanovich poked his middle finger into his pipe, where a little smoldering ash was left. "Well, perhaps, perhaps--I'm not going to dispute. What am I? A retired army doctor, valla too; and now farming has fallen to my lot. I served in your grandfather's brigade," he addressed himself to Arkady again. "Yes, yes, I have seen many sights in my time. And I mixed with every kind of society. I myself, the man you see before you, have felt the pulse of Prince Wittgenstein and of Zhukovsky! They were in the southern army, the fourteenth, you understand" (and here Vassily Ivanovich pursed his lips significantly). "I knew them all inside out. Well, well, but my work was only on one side; stick to your lancet and be content! Your grandfather was a very honorable man and a real soldier."

"Confess, he was a regular blockhead," remarked Bazarov lazily.

"Ah, Evgeny, how can you use such an expression? Do consider . . . of course General Kirsanov was not one of those . . ."

"Well, drop him," interrupted Bazarov. "As I was driving along I was pleased to see your birch plantation; it has sprung up admirably."

Vassily Ivanovich brightened. "And you must see the little garden I've got now. I planted every tree myself. I have fruit, raspberries and all kinds of medicinal herbs. However much you young gentlemen may know, old Paracelsus spoke the sacred truth; in herbis, verbis et lapidibus . . . I've retired from practice, as you know, but at least twice a week something happens to bring me back to my old work. They come for advice--I can't drive them away--and sometimes the poor people need help. Indeed there are no doctors here at all. One of the neighbors here, a retired major, just imagine it, he doctors the people too. I ask the question: 'Has he studied medicine?' They answer: 'No, he hasn't studied, he does it more from philanthropy' . . . ha! ha! from philanthropy! What do you think of that? Ha! ha!"

"Fedka! fill me a pipe!" said Bazarov sternly.

"And there's another doctor here who had just visited a patient," continued Vassily Ivanovich in a kind of desperation, "but the patient had already gone ad patres; the servant wouldn't let the doctor in, and tells him: 'You're no longer needed.' He never expected this, got confused and asked: 'Well, did your master hiccup before he died?' 'Yes.' 'Did he hiccup much?' 'Yes.' 'Ah, well, that's all right,' and off he went again. Ha! ha! ha!"

The old man laughed alone. Arkady managed to show a smile on his face. Bazarov merely stretched himself. The conversation continued in this way for about an hour. Arkady found time to go to his room which turned out to be the anteroom to the bathroom, but it was very cosy and clean. At last Tanyushka came in and announced that dinner was ready.

Vassily Ivanovich was the first to get up. "Come, gentlemen, you must pardon me generously if I have bored you. Maybe my good wife will give you better satisfaction."

The dinner, though hastily prepared, was very good and even abundant; only the wine was not quite up to the mark; it was sherry, almost black, bought by Timofeich in the town from a well-known merchant, and it had a flavor of copper or resin; the flies also were a nuisance. On ordinary days a serf boy used to keep driving them away with a big green branch, but on this occasion Vassily Ivanovich had sent him away for fear of adverse criticism from the younger generation. Arina Vlasyevna had changed her dress, and was wearing a high cap with silk ribbons and a pale blue flowered shawl. She started crying again as soon as she caught sight of her Enyusha, but her husband did not need to admonish her; she herself made haste to dry her tears in order not to spoil her shawl. Only the young men ate; the host and hostess had both dined long ago. Fedka waited at table, obviously encumbered by his unfamiliar boots; he was helped by a woman with a masculine cast of face and one eye, called Anfisushka; she fulfilled the duties of housekeeper, poultry woman and laundress. Vassily Ivanovich walked up and down throughout the dinner, and with a perfectly contented and even blissful face talked about the grave anxieties he had felt about Napoleon's policy and the complications of the Italian question. Arina Vlasyevna took no notice of Arkady and did not press him to eat; leaning her round face on her little fist, her full cherry-colored lips and the little moles on her cheeks and over her eyebrows adding to her extremely kind, good-natured expression, she did not take her eyes off her son and constantly sighed; she was dying to know for how long he would stay, but she was afraid to ask him. "What if he stays for two days?" she thought, and her heart sank. After the roast Vassily Ivanovich disappeared for a moment and returned with an opened half-bottle of champagne.

"Here," he exclaimed, "though we do live in the wilds, we have something to make merry with on festive occasions!" He poured out three full glasses and a little wineglass, proposed the health of "our invaluable guests," and at once tossed off his glass in military fashion and made Arina Vlasyevna drink her wineglass to the last drop. When the time came for the sweet preserves, Arkady, who could not bear anything sweet, thought it his duty, however, to taste four different kinds which had been freshly made--all the more since Bazarov flatly refused them and began at once to smoke a cigar. Afterwards tea was served with cream, butter and rolls; then Vassily Ivanovich took them all out into the garden to admire the beauty of the evening. As they passed a garden seat he whispered to Arkady, "This is the spot where I love to meditate as I watch the sunset; it suits a recluse like me. And there, a little farther off, I have planted some of the trees beloved by Horace."

"What trees?" asked Bazarov, overhearing, "Oh . . . acacias."

Bazarov began to yawn.

"I suppose it is time our travelers were in the embrace of Morpheus," observed Vassily Ivanovich.

"In other words, it's time for bed," Bazarov interposed. "That's a correct judgment; it certainly is high time!"

Saying good night to his mother, he kissed her on the forehead while she embraced him and secretly behind his back she gave him her blessing three times. Vassily Ivanovich showed Arkady to his room and wished him "as refreshing repose as I also enjoyed at your happy years." In fact Arkady slept extremely well in his bathhouse; it smelt of mint, and two crickets behind the stove rivaled each other in their prolonged drowsy chirping. Vassily Ivanovich went from Arkady's room to his own study and, settling down on the sofa at his son's feet, was looking forward to having a chat with him; but Bazarov sent him away at once, saying he felt sleepy, but he did not fall asleep till morning. With wide-open eyes he stared angrily into the darkness; memories of childhood had no power over him, and besides he had not yet been able to rid himself of the impression of his recent bitter experiences. Arina Vlasyevna first prayed to her heart's content, then she had a long, long conversation with Anfisushka, who stood rooted to the spot in front of her mistress, and fixing her solitary eye upon her, communicated in a mysterious whisper all her observations and conjectures about Evgeny Vassilevich. The old lady's head was giddy with happiness, wine and tobacco smoke; her husband tried to talk to her--but with a wave of the hand he gave it up.

Arina Vlasyevna was a genuine Russian lady of olden times; she ought to have lived two centuries before, in the ancient Moscow days. She was very devout and emotional; she believed in fortunetelling, charms, dreams and omens of every conceivable kind; she believed in the prophecies of crazy people, in house spirits, in wood spirits, in unlucky meetings, in the evil eye, in popular remedies; she ate specially prepared salt on Holy Thursday and believed that the end of the world was close at hand; she believed that if on Easter Sunday the candles did not go out at Vespers, then there would be a good crop of buckwheat, and that a mushroom will not grow after a human eye has seen it; she believed that the devil likes to be where there is water, and that every Jew has a blood-stained spot on his breast; she was afraid of mice, of snakes, of frogs, of sparrows, of leeches, of thunder, of cold water, of draughts, of horses, of goats, of red-haired people and of black cats; she regarded crickets and dogs as unclean animals; she never ate veal, pigeons, crayfish, cheese, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, hares, or watermelons because a cut watermelon suggested the head of John the Baptist; she could not speak of oysters without a shudder; she enjoyed eating--but strictly observed fasts; she slept ten hours out of the twenty-four--and never went to bed at all if Vassily Ivanovich had so much as a headache; she had never read a single book except Alexis or the Cottage in the Forest; she wrote one or at most two letters in a year, but she was an expert housewife, knew all about preserving and jam making, though she touched nothing with her own hands and was usually reluctant to move from her place. Arina Vlasyevna was very kindhearted and in her own way far from stupid. She knew that the world is divided into masters whose duty it is to command, and simple people whose duty it is to serve--and so she felt no disgust for servile behavior or bowing to the ground; but she treated affectionately and gently those in subjection to her, never let a single beggar go away empty-handed, and never spoke ill of anyone, though she was fond of gossip. In her youth she had been very pretty, had played the clavichord and spoken a little French; but in the course of many years of wandering with her husband, whom she had married against her will, she had grown stout and forgotten both music and French. Her son she loved and feared unutterably; she had handed over the management of her little estate to Vassily Ivanovich--and she no longer took any part in it; she would groan, wave her handkerchief and raise her eyebrows higher and higher in horror directly her old husband began to discuss impending land reforms and his own plans. She was apprehensive, always expecting some great calamity, and would weep at once whenever she remembered anything sad . . . Nowadays such women have almost ceased to exist. God knows whether this should be a cause for rejoicing!