Fathers and Sons

by Ivan S. Turgenev

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Chapter V

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 ...?'

'Go on.'

'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.

'No, frogs.'

'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.'


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