Fathers and Sons

by Ivan S. Turgenev

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter XVI

The country-house in which Anna Sergyevna lived stood on an exposed hill at no great distance from a yellow stone church with a green roof, white columns, and a fresco over the principal entrance representing the 'Resurrection of Christ' in the 'Italian' style. Sprawling in the foreground of the picture was a swarthy warrior in a helmet, specially conspicuous for his rotund contours. Behind the church a long village stretched in two rows, with chimneys peeping out here and there above the thatched roofs. The manor-house was built in the same style as the church, the style known among us as that of Alexander; the house too was painted yellow, and had a green roof, and white columns, and a pediment with an escutcheon on it. The architect had designed both buildings with the approval of the deceased Odintsov, who could not endure—as he expressed it—idle and arbitrary innovations. The house was enclosed on both sides by the dark trees of an old garden; an avenue of lopped pines led up to the entrance.

Our friends were met in the hall by two tall footmen in livery; one of them at once ran for the steward. The steward, a stout man in a black dress coat, promptly appeared and led the visitors by a staircase covered with rugs to a special room, in which two bedsteads were already prepared for them with all necessaries for the toilet. It was clear that order reigned supreme in the house; everything was clean, everywhere there was a peculiar delicate fragrance, just as there is in the reception rooms of ministers.

'Anna Sergyevna asks you to come to her in half-an-hour,' the steward announced; 'will there be orders to give meanwhile?'

'No orders,' answered Bazarov; 'perhaps you will be so good as to trouble yourself to bring me a glass of vodka.'

'Yes, sir,' said the steward, looking in some perplexity, and he withdrew, his boots creaking as he walked.

'What grand genre!' remarked Bazarov. 'That's what it's called in your set, isn't it? She's a grand-duchess, and that's all about it.'

'A nice grand-duchess,' retorted Arkady, 'at the very first meeting she invited such great aristocrats as you and me to stay with her.'

'Especially me, a future doctor, and a doctor's son, and a village sexton's grandson.... You know, I suppose, I'm the grandson of a sexton? Like the great Speransky,' added Bazarov after a brief pause, contracting his lips. 'At any rate she likes to be comfortable; oh, doesn't she, this lady! Oughtn't we to put on evening dress?'

Arkady only shrugged his shoulders ... but he too was conscious of a little nervousness.

Half-an-hour later Bazarov and Arkady went together into the drawing-room. It was a large lofty room, furnished rather luxuriously but without particularly good taste. Heavy expensive furniture stood in the ordinary stiff arrangement along the walls, which were covered with cinnamon-coloured paper with gold flowers on it; Odintsov had ordered the furniture from Moscow through a friend and agent of his, a spirit merchant. Over a sofa in the centre of one wall hung a portrait of a faded light-haired man—and it seemed to look with displeasure at the visitors. 'It must be the late lamented,' Bazarov whispered to Arkady, and turning up his nose, he added, 'Hadn't we better bolt ...?' But at that instant the lady of the house entered. She wore a light barège dress; her hair smoothly combed back behind her ears gave a girlish expression to her pure and fresh face.

'Thank you for keeping your promise,' she began. 'You must stay a little while with me; it's really not bad here. I will introduce you to my sister; she plays the piano well. That is a matter of indifference to you, Monsieur Bazarov; but you, I think, Monsieur Kirsanov, are fond of music. Besides my sister I have an old aunt living with me, and one of our neighbours comes in sometimes to play cards; that makes up all our circle. And now let us sit down.'

Madame Odintsov delivered all this little speech with peculiar precision, as though she had learned it by heart; then she turned to Arkady. It appeared that her mother had known Arkady's mother, and had even been her confidante in her love for Nikolai Petrovitch. Arkady began talking with great warmth of his dead mother; while Bazarov fell to turning over albums. 'What a tame cat I'm getting!' he was thinking to himself.

A beautiful greyhound with a blue collar on, ran into the drawing-room, tapping on the floor with his paws, and after him entered a girl of eighteen, black-haired and dark-skinned, with a rather round but pleasing face, and small dark eyes. In her hands she held a basket filled with flowers.

'This is my Katya,' said Madame Odintsov, indicating her with a motion of her head. Katya made a slight curtsey, placed herself beside her sister, and began picking out flowers. The greyhound, whose name was Fifi, went up to both of the visitors, in turn wagging his tail, and thrusting his cold nose into their hands.

'Did you pick all that yourself?' asked Madame Odintsov.

'Yes,' answered Katya.

'Is auntie coming to tea?'


When Katya spoke, she had a very charming smile, sweet, timid, and candid, and looked up from under her eyebrows with a sort of humorous severity. Everything about her was still young and undeveloped; the voice, and the bloom on her whole face, and the rosy hands, with white palms, and the rather narrow shoulders.... She was constantly blushing and getting out of breath.

Madame Odintsov turned to Bazarov. 'You are looking at pictures from politeness, Yevgeny Vassilyitch,' she began. That does not interest you. You had better come nearer to us, and let us have a discussion about something.'

Bazarov went closer. 'What subject have you decided upon for discussion?' he said.

'What you like. I warn you, I am dreadfully argumentative.'


'Yes. That seems to surprise you. Why?'

'Because, as far as I can judge, you have a calm, cool character, and one must be impulsive to be argumentative.'

'How can you have had time to understand me so soon? In the first place, I am impatient and obstinate—you should ask Katya; and secondly, I am very easily carried away.'

Bazarov looked at Anna Sergyevna. 'Perhaps; you must know best. And so you are inclined for a discussion—by all means. I was looking through the views of the Saxon mountains in your album, and you remarked that that couldn't interest me. You said so, because you suppose me to have no feeling for art, and as a fact I haven't any; but these views might be interesting to me from a geological standpoint, for the formation of the mountains, for instance.'

'Excuse me; but as a geologist, you would sooner have recourse to a book, to a special work on the subject, and not to a drawing.'

'The drawing shows me at a glance what would be spread over ten pages in a book.'

Anna Sergyevna was silent for a little.

'And so you haven't the least artistic feeling?' she observed, putting her elbow on the table, and by that very action bringing her face nearer to Bazarov. 'How can you get on without it?'

'Why, what is it wanted for, may I ask?'

'Well, at least to enable one to study and understand men.'

Bazarov smiled. 'In the first place, experience of life does that; and in the second, I assure you, studying separate individuals is not worth the trouble. All people are like one another, in soul as in body; each of us has brain, spleen, heart, and lungs made alike; and the so-called moral qualities are the same in all; the slight variations are of no importance. A single human specimen is sufficient to judge of all by. People are like trees in a forest; no botanist would think of studying each individual birch-tree.'

Katya, who was arranging the flowers, one at a time in a leisurely fashion, lifted her eyes to Bazarov with a puzzled look, and meeting his rapid and careless glance, she crimsoned up to her ears. Anna Sergyevna shook her head.

'The trees in a forest,' she repeated. 'Then according to you there is no difference between the stupid and the clever person, between the good-natured and ill-natured?'

'No, there is a difference, just as between the sick and the healthy. The lungs of a consumptive patient are not in the same condition as yours and mine, though they are made on the same plan. We know approximately what physical diseases come from; moral diseases come from bad education, from all the nonsense people's heads are stuffed with from childhood up, from the defective state of society; in short, reform society, and there will be no diseases.'

Bazarov said all this with an air, as though he were all the while thinking to himself, 'Believe me or not, as you like, it's all one to me!' He slowly passed his fingers over his whiskers, while his eyes strayed about the room.

'And you conclude,' observed Anna Sergyevna, 'that when society is reformed, there will be no stupid nor wicked people?'

'At any rate, in a proper organisation of society, it will be absolutely the same whether a man is stupid or clever, wicked or good.'

'Yes, I understand; they will all have the same spleen.'

'Precisely so, madam.'

Madame Odintsov turned to Arkady. 'And what is your opinion, Arkady Nikolaevitch?'

'I agree with Yevgeny,' he answered.

Katya looked up at him from under her eyelids.

'You amaze me, gentlemen,' commented Madame Odintsov, 'but we will have more talk together. But now I hear my aunt coming to tea; we must spare her.'

Anna Sergyevna's aunt, Princess H——, a thin little woman with a pinched-up face, drawn together like a fist, and staring ill-natured-looking eyes under a grey front, came in, and, scarcely bowing to the guests, she dropped into a wide velvet covered arm-chair, upon which no one but herself was privileged to sit. Katya put a footstool under her feet; the old lady did not thank her, did not even look at her, only her hands shook under the yellow shawl, which almost covered her feeble body. The Princess liked yellow; her cap, too, had bright yellow ribbons.

'How have you slept, aunt?' inquired Madame Odintsov, raising her voice.

'That dog in here again,' the old lady muttered in reply, and noticing Fifi was making two hesitating steps in her direction, she cried, 'Ss——ss!'

Katya called Fifi and opened the door for him.

Fifi rushed out delighted, in the expectation of being taken out for a walk; but when he was left alone outside the door, he began scratching and whining. The princess scowled. Katya was about to go out....

'I expect tea is ready,' said Madame Odintsov.

'Come gentlemen; aunt, will you go in to tea?'

The princess got up from her chair without speaking and led the way out of the drawing-room. They all followed her in to the dining-room. A little page in livery drew back, with a scraping sound, from the table, an arm-chair covered with cushions, devoted to the princess's use; she sank into it; Katya in pouring out the tea handed her first a cup emblazoned with a heraldic crest. The old lady put some honey in her cup (she considered it both sinful and extravagant to drink tea with sugar in it, though she never spent a farthing herself on anything), and suddenly asked in a hoarse voice, 'And what does Prince Ivan write?'

No one made her any reply. Bazarov and Arkady soon guessed that they paid no attention to her though they treated her respectfully.

'Because of her grand family,' thought Bazarov....

After tea, Anna Sergyevna suggested they should go out for a walk; but it began to rain a little, and the whole party, with the exception of the princess, returned to the drawing-room. The neighbour, the devoted card-player, arrived; his name was Porfiry Platonitch, a stoutish, greyish man with short, spindly legs, very polite and ready to be amused. Anna Sergyevna, who still talked principally with Bazarov, asked him whether he'd like to try a contest with them in the old-fashioned way at preference? Bazarov assented, saying 'that he ought to prepare himself beforehand for the duties awaiting him as a country doctor.'

'You must be careful,' observed Anna Sergyevna; 'Porfiry Platonitch and I will beat you. And you, Katya,' she added, 'play something to Arkady Nikolaevitch; he is fond of music, and we can listen, too.'

Katya went unwillingly to the piano; and Arkady, though he certainly was fond of music, unwillingly followed her; it seemed to him that Madame Odintsov was sending him away, and already, like every young man at his age, he felt a vague and oppressive emotion surging up in his heart, like the forebodings of love. Katya raised the top of the piano, and not looking at Arkady, she said in a low voice—

'What am I to play you?'

'What you like,' answered Arkady indifferently.

'What sort of music do you like best?' repeated Katya, without changing her attitude.

'Classical,' Arkady answered in the same tone of voice.

'Do you like Mozart?'

'Yes, I like Mozart.'

Katya pulled out Mozart's Sonata-Fantasia in C minor. She played very well, though rather over correctly and precisely. She sat upright and immovable, her eyes fixed on the notes, and her lips tightly compressed, only at the end of the sonata her face glowed, her hair came loose, and a little lock fell on to her dark brow.

Arkady was particularly struck by the last part of the sonata, the part in which, in the midst of the bewitching gaiety of the careless melody, the pangs of such mournful, almost tragic suffering, suddenly break in.... But the ideas stirred in him by Mozart's music had no reference to Katya. Looking at her, he simply thought, 'Well, that young lady doesn't play badly, and she's not bad-looking either.'

When she had finished the sonata, Katya without taking her hands from the keys, asked, 'Is that enough?' Arkady declared that he could not venture to trouble her again, and began talking to her about Mozart; he asked her whether she had chosen that sonata herself, or some one had recommended it to her. But Katya answered him in monosyllables; she withdrew into herself, went back into her shell. When this happened to her, she did not very quickly come out again; her face even assumed at such times an obstinate, almost stupid expression. She was not exactly shy, but diffident, and rather overawed by her sister, who had educated her, and who had no suspicion of the fact. Arkady was reduced at last to calling Fifi to him, and with an affable smile patting him on the head to give himself an appearance of being at home.

Katya set to work again upon her flowers.

Bazarov meanwhile was losing and losing. Anna Sergyevna played cards in masterly fashion; Porfiry Platonitch, too, could hold his own in the game. Bazarov lost a sum which, though trifling in itself, was not altogether pleasant for him. At supper Anna Sergyevna again turned the conversation on botany.

'We will go for a walk to-morrow morning,' she said to him; 'I want you to teach me the Latin names of the wild flowers and their species.'

'What use are the Latin names to you?' asked Bazarov.

'Order is needed in everything,' she answered.

'What an exquisite woman Anna Sergyevna is!' cried Arkady, when he was alone with his friend in the room assigned to them.

'Yes,' answered Bazarov, 'a female with brains. Yes, and she's seen life too.'

'In what sense do you mean that, Yevgeny Vassilyitch?'

'In a good sense, a good sense, my dear friend, Arkady Nikolaevitch! I'm convinced she manages her estate capitally too. But what's splendid is not her, but her sister.'

'What, that little dark thing?'

'Yes, that little dark thing. She now is fresh and untouched, and shy and silent, and anything you like. She's worth educating and developing. You might make something fine out of her; but the other's—a stale loaf.'

Arkady made no reply to Bazarov, and each of them got into bed with rather singular thoughts in his head.

Anna Sergyevna, too, thought of her guests that evening. She liked Bazarov for the absence of gallantry in him, and even for his sharply defined views. She found in him something new, which she had not chanced to meet before, and she was curious.

Anna Sergyevna was a rather strange creature. Having no prejudices of any kind, having no strong convictions even, she never gave way or went out of her way for anything. She had seen many things very clearly; she had been interested in many things, but nothing had completely satisfied her; indeed, she hardly desired complete satisfaction. Her intellect was at the same time inquiring and indifferent; her doubts were never soothed to forgetfulness, and they never grew strong enough to distract her. Had she not been rich and independent, she would perhaps have thrown herself into the struggle, and have known passion. But life was easy for her, though she was bored at times, and she went on passing day after day with deliberation, never in a hurry, placid, and only rarely disturbed. Dreams sometimes danced in rainbow colours before her eyes even, but she breathed more freely when they died away, and did not regret them. Her imagination indeed overstepped the limits of what is reckoned permissible by conventional morality; but even then her blood flowed as quietly as ever in her fascinatingly graceful, tranquil body. Sometimes coming out of her fragrant bath all warm and enervated, she would fall to musing on the nothingness of life, the sorrow, the labour, the malice of it.... Her soul would be filled with sudden daring, and would flow with generous ardour, but a draught would blow from a half-closed window, and Anna Sergyevna would shrink into herself, and feel plaintive and almost angry, and there was only one thing she cared for at that instant—to get away from that horrid draught.

Like all women who have not succeeded in loving, she wanted something, without herself knowing what. Strictly speaking, she wanted nothing; but it seemed to her that she wanted everything. She could hardly endure the late Odintsov (she had married him from prudential motives, though probably she would not have consented to become his wife if she had not considered him a good sort of man), and had conceived a secret repugnance for all men, whom she could only figure to herself as slovenly, heavy, drowsy, and feebly importunate creatures. Once, somewhere abroad, she had met a handsome young Swede, with a chivalrous expression, with honest blue eyes under an open brow; he had made a powerful impression on her, but it had not prevented her from going back to Russia.

'A strange man this doctor!' she thought as she lay in her luxurious bed on lace pillows under a light silk coverlet.... Anna Sergyevna had inherited from her father a little of his inclination for splendour. She had fondly loved her sinful but good-natured father, and he had idolised her, used to joke with her in a friendly way as though she were an equal, and to confide in her fully, to ask her advice. Her mother she scarcely remembered.

'This doctor is a strange man!' she repeated to herself. She stretched, smiled, clasped her hands behind her head, then ran her eyes over two pages of a stupid French novel, dropped the book—and fell asleep, all pure and cold, in her pure and fragrant linen.

The following morning Anna Sergyevna went off botanising with Bazarov directly after lunch, and returned just before dinner; Arkady did not go off anywhere, and spent about an hour with Katya. He was not bored with her; she offered of herself to repeat the sonata of the day before; but when Madame Odintsov came back at last, when he caught sight of her, he felt an instantaneous pang at his heart. She came through the garden with a rather tired step; her cheeks were glowing and her eyes shining more brightly than usual under her round straw hat. She was twirling in her fingers the thin stalk of a wildflower, a light mantle had slipped down to her elbows, and the wide gray ribbons of her hat were clinging to her bosom. Bazarov walked behind her, self-confident and careless as usual, but the expression of his face, cheerful and even friendly as it was, did not please Arkady. Muttering between his teeth, 'Good-morning!' Bazarov went away to his room, while Madame Odintsov shook Arkady's hand abstractedly, and also walked past him.

'Good-morning!' thought Arkady ... 'As though we had not seen each other already to-day!'


Return to the Fathers and Sons Summary Return to the Ivan S. Turgenev Library

© 2022 AmericanLiterature.com