Fathers and Sons/Chapter 24
TWO HOURS LATER HE KNOCKED AT BAZAROV'S DOOR.
"I must apologize for hindering you in your scientific researches," he began, seating himself in a chair by the window and leaning with both hands on a handsome walking-stick with an ivory knob (he usually walked without a stick), "but I am obliged to ask you to spare me five minutes of your time . . . no more."
"All my time is at your disposal," answered Bazarov, whose face quickly changed its expression the moment Pavel Petrovich crossed the threshold.
"Five minutes will be enough for me. I have come to put one question to you."
"A question? What about?"
"I will tell you if you will be good enough to listen to me. At the beginning of your stay in my brother's house, before I had renounced the pleasure of conversing with you, I had occasion to hear your opinion on many subjects; but as far as I can remember, neither between us, nor in my presence, was the subject of singlecombats or dueling discussed. Allow me to hear what are your views on that subject?"
Bazarov, who had stood up to meet Pavel Petrovich, sat down on the edge of the table and folded his arms.
"My view is," he said, "that from the theoretical point of view dueling is absurd; but from the practical point of view--well, that's quite another matter."
"So, you mean to say, if I understand you rightly, that whatever theoretical views you may hold about dueling, you would in practice not allow yourself to be insulted without demanding satisfaction?"
"You have guessed my meaning completely."
"Very good. I am very glad to hear that from you. Your words release me from a state of uncertainty . . "
"Of indecision, do you mean?"
"That is all the same; I express myself in order to be understood; I . . . am not a seminary rat. Your words have saved me from a rather grievous necessity. I have made up my mind to fight you."
Bazarov opened his eyes wide.
"And what for, may I ask?"
"I could explain the reason to you," began Pavel Petrovich, "but I prefer to keep silent about it. To my mind your presence here is superfluous. I find you intolerable, I despise you, and if that is not enough for you . . ."
Pavel Petrovich's eyes flashed . . . Bazarov's too were glittering.
"Very good," he said. "Further explanations are unnecessary. You've taken it into your head to try out on me your chivalrous spirit. I could refuse you this pleasure--but it can't be helped!"
"I am sensible of my obligations to you," answered Pavel Petrovich, "and I may count then on your accepting my challenge, without compelling me to resort to violent measures?"
"That means, speaking without metaphor, to that stick?" Bazarov remarked coolly. "That is entirely correct. You have no need to insult me; indeed it would not be quite safe . . . you can remain a gentleman . . . I accept your challenge also like a gentleman."
"Excellent," observed Pavel Petrovich, and put his stick down in the corner. "We will say a few words now about the conditions of our duel; but I should first like to know whether you consider it necessary to resort to the formality of a trifling dispute which might serve as a pretext for my challenge?"
"No, it's better without formalities."
"I also think so. I suggest it is also inappropriate to dwell further on the real reason for our skirmish. We cannot endure one another. What more is necessary?"
"What more is necessary?" repeated Bazarov ironically. "As regards the conditions of the duel itself, since we shall have no seconds--for where could we get them?"
"Exactly, where could we get any?"
"I therefore have the honor to put the following proposals to you; we shall fight early tomorrow morning, at six, let us say, behind the plantation, with pistols, at a distance of ten paces . . ."
"At ten paces? That will do; we can still hate each other at that distance."
"We could make it eight," remarked Pavel Petrovich.
"We could; why not?"
"We fire twice, and to be prepared for everything, let each put a letter in his pocket, accepting responsibility for his own end."
"I don't quite agree with that," said Bazarov. "It smacks too much of a French novel, a bit unreal."
"Perhaps. You will agree, however, that it would be unpleasant to incur the suspicion of murder?"
"I agree. But there is a means of avoiding that painful accusation. We shall have no seconds, but we could have a witness."
"And who, may I ask?"
"Your brother's valet. He's a man standing at the height of contemporary culture, who would play his part in such an affair with all the necessary ; repeated Vassily comilfo."
"I think you are joking, sir."
"Not in the least. If you think over my suggestion you will be convinced that it is full of common sense and simplicity. Murder will out--but I can undertake to prepare Pyotr in a suitable manner and bring him to the field of battle."
"You persist in joking," said Pavel Petrovich, getting up from his chair. "But after the courteous readiness you have shown, I have no right to claim . . . so everything is arranged . . . by the way, I suppose you have no pistols?"
"How should I have pistols, Pavel Petrovich? I'm not an army man."
"In that case, I offer you mine. You may rest assured that I have not shot with them for five years."
"That's a very consoling piece of news.--"
Pavel Petrovich picked up his stick . . . "And now, my dear sir, it only remains for me to thank you and to leave you to your studies. I have the honor to take leave of you."
"Until we have the pleasure of meeting again, my dear sir," said Bazarov, conducting his visitor to the door.
Pavel Petrovich went out; Bazarov remained standing for a moment in front of the door, then suddenly exclaimed, "What the devil-- How fine and how stupid! A pretty farce we've been acting; like trained dogs dancing on their hind legs. But it was out of the question to refuse; I really believe he would have struck me, and then . . ." (Bazarov turned pale at the very thought; all his pride stood up on end.) "I might have had to strangle him like a kitten." He went back to his microscope, but his heart was beating fast and the composure so essential for accurate observation had disappeared. "He saw us today," he thought, "but can it be that he would do all this on account of his brother? And how serious a matter is it--a kiss? There must be something else in it. Bah! Isn't he in love with her himself? Obviously he's in love--it's as clear as daylight. What a mess, just think . . . it's a bad business!" he decided at last. "It's bad from whatever angle one looks at it. In the first place to risk a bullet through one's brain, and then in any case to go away from here; and what about Arkady . . . and that good-natured creature Nikolai Petrovich? It's a bad business."
The day passed in a peculiar calm and dullness. Fenichka gave no sign of life at all; she sat in her little room like a mouse in its hole. Nikolai Petrovich had a careworn look. He had just heard that his wheat crop on which he had set high hopes had begun to show signs of blight, Pavel Petrovich overwhelmed everyone, even Prokovich, with his icy politeness. Bazarov began a letter to his father, but tore it up and threw it under the table. "If I die," he thought, "they will hear about it; but I shan't die; no, I shall struggle along in this world for a long time yet." He gave Pyotr an order to come to him on important business the next morning as soon as it was light. Pyotr imagined that Bazarov wanted to take him to Petersburg. Bazarov went to bed late, and all night long he was oppressed by disordered dreams . . . Madame Odintsov kept on appearing in them; now she was his mother and she was followed by a kitten with black whiskers, and this kitten was really Fenichka; then Pavel Petrovich took the shape of a great forest, with which he had still to fight. Pyotr woke him at four o'clock; he dressed at once and went out with him.
It was a lovely fresh morning; tiny flecked clouds stood overhead like fleecy lambs in the clear blue sky; fine dewdrops lay on the leaves and grass, sparkling like silver on the spiders' webs; the damp dark earth seemed still to preserve the rosy traces of the dawn; the songs of larks poured down from all over the sky. Bazarov walked as far as the plantation, sat down in the shade at its edge and only then disclosed to Pyotr the nature of the service he expected from him. The cultured valet was mortally alarmed; but Bazarov quieted him down by the assurance that he would have nothing to do except to stand at a distance and look on, and that he would not incur any sort of responsibility. "And besides," he added, "only think what an important part you have to play." Pyotr threw up his hands, cast down his eyes, and leaned against a birch tree, looking green with terror.
The road from Maryino skirted the plantation; a light dust lay on it, untouched by wheel or foot since the previous day. Bazarov found himself staring along this road, picking and chewing a piece of grass, and he kept on repeating to himself: "What a piece of idiocy!" The morning chill made him shiver twice . . . Pyotr looked at him dismally, but Bazarov only smiled; he was not frightened.
The tramp of horses' hoofs could be heard coming along the road . . . A peasant came into sight from behind the trees. He was driving before him two horses hobbled together, and as he passed Bazarov he looked at him rather strangely, without removing his cap, which evidently disturbed Pyotr, as an unlucky omen.
"There's someone else up early too," thought Bazarov, "but he at least has got up for work while we . . ."
"It seems the gentleman is coming," whispered Pyotr suddenly.
Bazarov raised his head and caught sight of Pavel Petrovich. Dressed in a light checked coat and snow-white trousers, he was walking quickly along the road; under his arm he carried a box wrapped in green cloth.
"Excuse me, I think I have kept you waiting," he said, bowing first to Bazarov and then to Pyotr, whom he treated respectfully at that moment as representing some kind of second. "I did not want to wake up my man."
"It doesn't matter," said Bazarov. "We've only just arrived ourselves."
"Ah! so much the better!" Pavel Petrovich looked around. "There's no one in sight; no one to interfere with us . . we can proceed?"
"Let us proceed."
"You don't demand any more explanations, I suppose."
"No, I don't."
"Would you like to load?" inquired Pavel Petrovich, taking the pistols out of the box.
"No; you load, and I will measure out the paces. My legs are longer," added Bazarov with a smile. "One, two, three . . ."
"Evgeny Vassilich," stammered Pyotr with difficulty (he was trembling as if he had fever), "say what you like, but I am going farther off."
"Four, five . . . all right, move away, my good fellow; you can even stand behind a tree and stop up your ears, only don't shut your eyes; and if anyone falls, run and pick him up. Six . . . seven . . . eight . . ." Bazarov stopped. "Is that enough?" he asked, turning to Pavel Petrovich, "or shall I add two paces more?"
"As you like," replied the latter, pressing the second bullet into the barrel.
"Well, we'll make two paces more," Bazarov drew a line on the ground with the toe of his boot. "There's the barrier. By the way, how many paces may each of us go back from the barrier? That's an important question too. It was not discussed yesterday."
"I suppose, ten," replied Pavel Petrovich, handing Bazarov both pistols. "Will you be so good as to choose?"
"I will be so good. But you must admit, Pavel Petrovich, that our duel is unusual to the point of absurdity. Only look at the face of our second."
"You are disposed to laugh at everything," answered Pavel Petrovich. "I don't deny the strangeness of our duel, but I think it is my duty to warn you that I intend to fight seriously. A bon entendeur, salut!"
"Oh! I don't doubt that we've made up our minds to do away with each other; but why not laugh and unite utile dulci? So you can talk to me in French and I'll reply in Latin."
"I intend to fight seriously," repeated Pavel Petrovich and he walked off to his place. Bazarov on his side counted off ten paces from the barrier and stood still.
"Are you ready?" asked Pavel Petrovich.
"We can approach each other."
Bazarov moved slowly forward and Pavel Petrovich walked towards him, his left hand thrust in his pocket, gradually raising the muzzle of his pistol . . . "He's aiming straight at my nose," thought Bazarov, "and how carefully he screws up his eyes, the scoundrel! Not an agreeable sensation. I'd better look at his watch-chain Something whizzed by sharply close to Bazarov's ear, and a shot rang out at that moment. "I heard it, so it must be all right," managed to flash through Bazarov's brain. He took one more step, and without taking aim, pressed the trigger.
Pavel Petrovich swayed slightly and clutched at his thigh. A thin stream of blood began to trickle down his white trousers.
Bazarov threw his pistol aside and went up to his antagonist. "Are you wounded?" he asked.
"You had the right to call me up to the barrier," said Pavel Petrovich. "This is a trifle. According to our agreement, each of us has the right to one more shot."
"Well, but excuse me, we'll leave that to another time," answered Bazarov, and caught hold of Pavel Petrovich, who was beginning to turn pale. "Now I'm no longer a duelist but a doctor, and first of all I must have a look at your wound. Pyotr! Come here, Pyotr! Where have you hidden yourself?"
"What nonsense . . . I need help from nobody," said Pavel Petrovich jerkily, "and--we must--again . . ." He tried to pull at his mustache, but his hand failed him, his eyes grew dim, and he fainted.
"Here's a pretty pass. A fainting-fit! What next!" Bazarov exclaimed involuntarily as he laid Pavel Petrovich on the grass. "Let's see what is wrong." He pulled out a handkerchief, wiped away the blood, and began to feel around the wound . . . "The bone's not touched," he muttered through his teeth, "the bullet didn't go deep; only one muscle vastus externus grazed. He'll be dancing about in three weeks. Fainting! Oh these nervous people! Fancy, what a delicate skin."
"Is he killed?" whispered the trembling voice of Pyotr behind his back.
Bazarov looked round.
"Go for some water quickly, my good fellow, and he'll outlive you and me yet."
But the perfect servant failed apparently to understand his words and did not move from the spot. Pavel Petrovich slowly opened his eyes. "He's dying," murmured Pyotr and started crossing himself. "You are right . . . what an idiotic face!" remarked the wounded gentleman with a forced smile.
"Go and fetch the water, damn you!" shouted Bazarov.
"There's no need . . . it was a momentary vertigo. Help me to sit up . . . there, that's right . . . I only need something to bind up this scratch, and I can reach home on foot, or else you can send for a droshky for me. The duel, if you agree, need not be renewed. You have behaved honorably . . . today, today--take note."
"There's no need to recall the past," answered Bazarov, "and as regards the future, it's not worth breaking your head about that either, for I intend to move off from here immediately. Let me bind up your leg now; your wound--is not dangerous, but it's always better to stop the bleeding. But first I must bring this corpse to his senses."
Bazarov shook Pyotr by the collar and sent him off to fetch a droshky.
"Mind you don't frighten my brother," Pavel Petrovich said to him; "don't inform him on any account."
Pyotr dashed off, and while he was running for a droshky, the two antagonists sat on the ground in silence. Pavel Petrovich tried not to look at Bazarov; he did not want to be reconciled to him in any case; he felt ashamed of his own arrogance, of his failure; he was ashamed of the whole affair he had arranged even though he realized it could not have ended more auspiciously. "At least he won't go on hanging around here," he consoled himself by thinking: "one should be thankful even for that." The prolonged silence was oppressive and awkward. Both of them felt ill at ease; each was conscious that the other understood him. For friends such a feeling is agreeable, but for those who are not friends it is most unpleasant, especially when it is impossible either to come to an understanding or to separate.
"Haven't I bound up your leg too tight?" asked Bazarov at last.
"No, not at all, it's excellent," answered Pavel Petrovich, and added after a pause, "we can't deceive my brother, he will have to be told that we quarreled about politics."
"Very good," said Bazarov. "You can say that I cursed all Anglomaniacs."
"All right. What do you suppose that man thinks about us now?" continued Pavel Petrovich, pointing at the same peasant who had driven the hobbled horses past Bazarov a few minutes before the duel, and who was now going back again along the same road and took off his cap at the sight of the "masters."
"Who knows him!" answered Bazarov. "Most likely of all he thinks about nothing. The Russian peasant is that mysterious unknown person about whom Mrs. Radcliffe used to say so much. Who can understand him? He doesn't understand himself."
"Ah, so that's what you think," Pavel Petrovich began, then suddenly exclaimed, "Look what your fool of a Pyotr has done! Here's my brother galloping towards us."
Bazarov turned round and saw Nikolai Petrovich sitting in a droshky, his face pale. He jumped out before it had stopped and ran up to his brother.
"What does this mean?" he called out in an agitated voice. "Evgeny Vassilich, what is this?"
"Nothing," answered Pavel Petrovich, "they have alarmed you quite unnecessarily. We had a little dispute, Mr. Bazarov and I--and I have had to pay for it a little."
"But for heaven's sake, what was it all about?"
"How shall I explain? Mr. Bazarov alluded disrespectfully to Sir Robert Peel. I hasten to add that I am the only person to blame in all this, and Mr. Bazarov has behaved honorably. I challenged him."
"But you're covered with blood!"
"Well, did you suppose I had water in my veins? But this bloodletting positively does me good. Isn't that so, doctor? Help me to get into the droshky and don't give way to gloomy thoughts. I shall be quite well tomorrow. That's it; excellent. Drive off, coachman."
Nikolai Petrovich followed the droshky on foot. Bazarov lagged behind . . .
"I must ask you to look after my brother," Nikolai Petrovich said to him, "until we get another doctor from the town."
Bazarov nodded his head without speaking. An hour later Pavel Petrovich was already lying in bed with a skillfully bandaged leg. The whole house was upset; Fenichka felt ill; Nikolai Petrovich was silently wringing his hands, while Pavel Petrovich laughed and joked, especially with Bazarov; he had put on a fine cambric nightshirt, an elegant morning jacket, and a fez; he did not allow the blinds to be drawn down, and humorously complained about the necessity of not being allowed to eat.
Towards night, however, he grew feverish; his head ached. The doctor arrived from the town. (Nikolai Petrovich would not listen to his brother, nor did Bazarov want him to; he sat the whole day in his room, looking yellow and angry, and only went in to the invalid for as brief a visit as possible; twice he happened to meet Fenichka, but she shrank away from him in horror.) The new doctor advised a cooling diet; he confirmed, however, Bazarov's assurance that there was no danger. Nikolai Petrovich told him that his brother had hurt himself accidentally, to which the doctor replied "Hm!" but on having twenty-five silver rubles slipped into his hand on the spot, he remarked, "You don't say so! Well, such things often happen, of course."
No one in the house went to bed or undressed. Nikolai Petrovich from time to time went in on tiptoe to his brother's room and tiptoed out again; Pavel Petrovich dozed, sighed a little, told his brother in French "Couchez-vous," and asked for something to drink. Nikolai Petrovich sent Fenichka in to him once with a glass of lemonade; Pavel Petrovich looked at her intently and drank off the glass to the last drop. Towards morning the fever had increased a little; a slight delirium started. At first Pavel Petrovich uttered incoherent words; then suddenly he opened his eyes, and seeing his brother beside his bed, anxiously leaning over him, he murmured, "Don't you think, Nikolai, Fenichka has something in common with Nellie?"
"What Nellie, Pavel dear?"
"How can you ask that? With Princess R . Especially in the upper part of the face. C'est de la même famille."
Nikolai Petrovich made no answer, but inwardly he marveled at the persistent vitality of old passions in a man. "This is what happens when it comes to the surface," he thought.
"Ah, how I love that empty creature!" groaned Pavel Petrovich, mournfully clasping his hands behind his head. "I can't bear that any insolent upstart should dare to touch . . ." he muttered a few minutes later.
Nikolai Petrovich only sighed; he never even suspected to whom these words referred.
Bazarov came to see him on the following day at eight o'clock. He had already managed to pack and had set free all his frogs, insects and birds.
"You have come to say good-by to me?" said Nikolai Petrovich, getting up to meet him.
"I understand and fully approve of you. My poor brother is of course to blame; but he has been punished for it. He told me that he made it impossible for you to act otherwise. I believe that you could not avoid this duel, which . . . which to some extent is explained by the almost constant antagonism of your different points of view." (Nikolai Petrovich began to get rather mixed up in his words.) "My brother is a man of the old school, hot-tempered and obstinate . . . thank God that it has only ended in this way. I have taken all possible precautions to avoid publicity."
"I'll leave you my address, in case there's any fuss," said Bazarov casually.
"I hope there will be no fuss, Evgeny Vassilich . . . I am very sorry that your stay in my house should have come to . . . such an end. It distresses me all the more on account of Arkady's . . ."
"I expect I shall see him," replied Bazarov, in whom every kind of "explanation" and "pronouncement" always aroused a feeling of impatience. "In case I don't, may I ask you to say good-by to him for me and to accept the expression of my regret."
"And I, too, ask . . ." began Nikolai Petrovich with a bow. But Bazarov did not wait for him to finish his sentence and went out of the room.
On hearing that Bazarov was going, Pavel Petrovich expressed a desire to see him and shook him by the hand. But even then Bazarov remained as cold as ice; he realized that Pavel Petrovich wanted to display magnanimity. He found no opportunity of saying good-by to Fenichka; he only exchanged glances with her from the window. Her face struck him by its sad look. "She'll come to grief, probably," he said to himself, "though she may pull through somehow!"
Pyotr, however, was so overcome that he wept on his shoulder, until Bazarov cooled him down by asking if he had a constant water supply in his eyes; and Dunyasha felt obliged to run away into the plantation to hide her emotion. The originator of all this distress climbed into a country cart, lit a cigar, and when, three miles further on at a bend in the road, he saw for the last time the Kirsanovs' farmstead and its new manor house standing together on the sky line, he merely spat and muttering, "Damned noblemen," wrapped himself more tightly in his cloak.
Pavel Petrovich was soon better; but he had to lie in bed for about a week. He bore his captivity, as he called it, fairly patiently, though he took great trouble over his toilet and had everything scented with eau de Cologne. Nikolai Petrovich read papers to him; Fenichka waited on him as before, brought him soup, lemonade, boiled eggs and tea; but a secret dread seized her every time she came into his room. Pavel Petrovich's unexpected action had alarmed everyone in the house, and her most of all; Prokovich was the only person not troubled by it, and he discoursed on how gentlemen used to fight in his day only with real gentlemen, but such low scoundrels they would have ordered to be horsewhipped in the stables for their insolence.
Fenichka's conscience scarcely reproached her, but she was tormented at times by the thought of the real cause of the quarrel; and Pavel Petrovich, too, looked at her so strangely . . . so that even when her back was turned she felt his eyes fixed on her. She grew thinner from constant inward agitation and, as it happened, became still more charming.
One day--the incident took place in the early morning--Pavel Petrovich felt better and moved from his bed to the sofa, while Nikolai Petrovich, having previously made inquiries about his brother's health, went off to the threshing floor. Fenichka brought him a cup of tea, and setting it down on a little table, was about to withdraw, Pavel Petrovich detained her.
"Where are you going in such a hurry, Fedosya Nikolayevna," he began, "are you so busy?"
"No . . . yes, I have to pour out tea."
"Dunyasha will do that without you; sit down for a little while with an invalid. By the way, I must have a talk with you."
Fenichka sat down on the edge of an armchair without speaking.
"Listen," said Pavel Petrovich, pulling at his mustache, "I have wanted to ask you for a long time; you seem somehow afraid of me."
"I . . . ?"
"Yes, you. You never look me in the face, as if your conscience were not clear."
Fenichka blushed but looked up at Pavel Petrovich. He seemed so strange to her and her heart began quietly throbbing. "Surely you have a clear conscience?" he asked her.
"Why should it not be clear?" she whispered.
"Why indeed. Besides, whom could you have wronged? Me? That is unlikely. Any other people living in the house? That is also a fantastic idea. Could it be my brother? But surely you love him?"
"I love him."
"With your whole soul, with your whole heart?"
"I love Nikolai Petrovich with my whole heart."
"Truly? Look at me, Fenichka." (He called her by that name for the first time.) . . . "You know, it is a great sin to tell lies!"
"I am not lying, Pavel Petrovich. If I did not love Nikolai Petrovich, there would be no point in my living any longer."
"And you will never give him up for anyone else?"
"For whom else could I give him up?"
"For whom indeed! Well, what about that gentleman who has just gone away from here?"
Fenichka got up.
"My God, Pavel Petrovich, why are you torturing me? What have I done to you? How can you say such things?"
"Fenichka," said Pavel Petrovich in a sad voice, "you know I saw . . ."
"What did you see?"
"Well, there . . . in the summerhouse."
Fenichka blushed to the roots of her hair and to her ears. "How can I be blamed for that?" she pronounced with an effort.
Pavel Petrovich raised himself up. "You were not to blame? No? Not at all?"
"I love Nikolai Petrovich and no one else in the world and I shall always love him!" cried Fenichka with sudden force, while sobs rose in her throat. "As for what you saw, I will say on the dreadful day of last judgment that I am innocent of any blame for it and always was, and I would rather die at once if people can suspect me of any such thing against my benefactor, Nikolai Petrovich . . ."
But here her voice failed, and at the same moment she felt that Pavel Petrovich was seizing and pressing her hand . . . She looked at him and was almost petrified. He had turned even paler than before; his eyes were shining, and most surprising of all--one large solitary tear was rolling down his cheek. "Fenichka!" he said in a strange whisper. "Love him, love my brother! He is such a good kind man. Don't give him up for anyone, don't listen to anyone else's talk. Only think, what can be more terrible than to love and not to be loved in return. Never leave my poor Nikolai!" Fenichka's eyes were dry and her fright had vanished--so great was her amazement. But what were her feelings when Pavel Petrovich, Pavel Petrovich of all people, pressed her hand to his lips and seemed to pierce into it without kissing it, only breathing convulsively from time to time . . .
"Good heavens!" she thought, "is he suffering from some attack?"
At that moment his whole ruined life stirred within him.
The staircase creaked under rapidly approaching footsteps. . . . He pushed her away from him and let his head drop back on the pillow. The door opened, and Nikolai Petrovich came in, looking cheerful, fresh and ruddy. Mitya, just as fresh and rosy as his father, with nothing but his little shirt on, was frisking about in his arms, snatching with bare little toes at the buttons of his rough country coat.
Fenichka simply flung herself upon him and clasping him and her son together in her arms, dropped her head on his shoulder. Nikolai Petrovich was astonished; Fenichka, so shy and modest, never demonstrated her feelings for him in front of a third person.
"What's the matter?" he said, and glancing at his brother he handed Mitya to her. "You don't feel worse?" he asked, going up to Pavel Petrovich, who buried his face in a cambric handkerchief.
"No . . . not at all . . . on the contrary, I am much better."
"You shouldn't have been in such a hurry to move to the sofa. Where are you going?" added Nikolai Petrovich, turning towards Fenichka, but she had already closed the door behind her. "I was bringing my young hero in to show you; he has been crying for his uncle. Why did she carry him off? What's wrong with you, though? Has anything happened between you?"
"Brother!" said Pavel Petrovich gravely. "Give me your word to carry out my one request."
"What request, tell me."
"It is very important; it seems to me the whole happiness of your life depends on it. I have been thinking a lot all this time about what I want to say to you now . . . Brother, do your duty, the duty of an honest and generous man, put an end to the scandal and the bad example you are setting--you, the best of men!"
"What do you mean, Pavel?"
"Marry Fenichka . . . she loves you; she is--the mother of your son."
Nikolai Petrovich moved a step backwards and threw up his hands. "You say that, Pavel? You, whom I always took for the most relentless opponent of such marriages! You say that! But don't you know that it was only out of respect for you that I have not done what you rightly called my duty!"
"Your respect for me was quite mistaken in this case," said Pavel Petrovich with a weary smile. "I begin to think that Bazarov was right when he accused me of being an aristocratic snob. No, dear brother, let us stop worrying ourselves about the opinion of the outside world; we are elderly humble people by now; it's high time we laid aside all these empty vanities. We must do our duty, just as you say, and maybe we shall find happiness that way in addition."
Nikolai Petrovich rushed over to embrace his brother. "You have really opened my eyes," he exclaimed. "I was right in always maintaining that you are the kindest and wisest man in the world, and now I see you are just as reasonable as you are generous-minded."
"Softly, softly," Pavel Petrovich interrupted him. "Don't knock the leg of your reasonable brother who at close on fifty has been fighting a duel like a young lieutenant. So, then, the matter is settled; Fenichka is to be my . . . belle-soeur."
"My darling Pavel! But what will Arkady say?"
"Arkady? He'll be enthusiastic, of course! Marriage is not a principle for him, but on the other hand his sentiment of equality will be gratified. Yes, and after all what is the good of caste divisions au dix-neuvième siècle?"
"Ah, Pavel, Pavel! let me kiss you once more! Don't be afraid, I'll be careful."
The brothers embraced each other.
"What do you think, shouldn't you tell her straight away what you intend to do?"
"Why should we hurry?" answered Nikolai Petrovich. "Did you have a conversation with her?"
"A conversation, between us? Quelle idée!"
"Well, that's all right. First of all, you must get well; it won't run away from us, and meanwhile we must think it over and consider . . ."
"But surely you have made up your mind?"
"Of course I have, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will leave you now; you must rest; any excitement is bad for you . . . But we will talk it over another time. Go to sleep, my dear, and God grant you good health!"
"Why does he thank me like that?" thought Pavel Petrovich, when he was left alone. "As if it did not depend on himself! Then as soon as he marries I will go away somewhere, far from here, to Dresden or Florence, and I will live there till I expire." Pavel Petrovich moistened his forehead with eau de Cologne and closed his eyes. Lit up by the brilliant daylight, his beautiful emaciated head lay on the white pillow like the head of a dead man . . . And indeed he was a dead man.