Fathers and Sons

by Ivan S. Turgenev

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Chapter XVIII

The following morning when Madame Odintsov came down to morning tea, Bazarov sat a long while bending over his cup, then suddenly he glanced up at her.... She turned to him as though he had struck her a blow, and he fancied that her face was a little paler since the night before. She quickly went off to her own room, and did not appear till lunch. It rained from early morning; there was no possibility of going for a walk. The whole company assembled in the drawing-room. Arkady took up the new number of a journal and began reading it aloud. The princess, as was her habit, tried to express her amazement in her face, as though he were doing something improper, then glared angrily at him; but he paid no attention to her.

'Yevgeny Vassilyitch' said Anna Sergyevna, 'come 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 with an expression that seemed to say, 'Look at me; see how shocked I am!' and again glared at Arkady; but he raised his voice, and exchanging glances with Katya, near whom he was sitting, he went on reading.

Madame Odintsov went with rapid steps to her study. Bazarov followed her quickly, not raising his eyes, and only with his ears catching the delicate swish and rustle of her silk gown gliding before him. Madame Odintsov sank into the same easy-chair in which she had sat the previous evening, and Bazarov took up the same position as before.

'What was the name of that book?' she began, after a brief silence.

'Pelouse et Frémy, Notions générales,' answered Bazarov. 'I might though recommend you also Ganot, Traité élémentaire de physique éxpérimentale. In that book the illustrations are clearer, and in general it's a text-book.'

Madame Odintsov stretched out her hand. 'Yevgeny Vassilyitch, I beg your pardon, but I didn't invite you in here to discuss text-books. I wanted to continue our conversation of last night. You went away so suddenly.... It will not bore you ...'

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

Madame Odintsov flung a sidelong glance at Bazarov.

'We were talking of happiness, I believe. I told you about myself. By the way, I mentioned the word "happiness." Tell me why it is that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a fine evening, or a conversation with sympathetic people, it all seems an intimation of some measureless happiness existing apart somewhere rather than actual happiness—such, I mean, as we ourselves are in possession of? Why is it? Or perhaps you have no feeling like that?'

'You know the saying, "Happiness is where we are not,"' replied Bazarov; 'besides, you told me yesterday you are discontented. I certainly never have such ideas come into my head.'

'Perhaps they seem ridiculous to you?'

'No; but they don't come into my head.'

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

'What? I don't understand.'

'Listen; I have long wanted to speak openly to you. There's no need to tell you—you are conscious of it yourself—that you are not an ordinary man; you are still young—all life is before you. What are you preparing yourself for? What future is awaiting you? I mean to say—what object do you want to attain? What are you going forward to? What is in your heart? in short, who are you? What are you?'

'You surprise me, Anna Sergyevna. You are aware that I am studying natural science, and who I ...'

'Well, who are you?'

'I have explained to you already that I am going to be a district doctor.'

Anna Sergyevna made a movement of impatience.

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

'Why, in what is Arkady ...'

'Stop! Is it possible you could content yourself with such a humble career, and aren't you always maintaining yourself that you don't believe in medicine? You—with your ambition—a district doctor! You answer me like that to put me off, because you have no confidence in me. But, do you know, Yevgeny Vassilyitch, that I could understand you; I have been poor myself, and ambitious, like you; I have been perhaps through the same trials as you.'

'That is all very well, Anna Sergyevna, but you must pardon me for ... I am not in the habit of talking freely about myself at any time as a rule, and between you and me there is such a gulf ...'

'What sort of gulf? You mean to tell me again that I am an aristocrat? No more of that, Yevgeny Vassilyitch; I thought I had proved to you ...'

'And even apart from that,' broke in Bazarov, 'what could induce one to talk and think about the future, which for the most part does not depend on us? If a chance turns up of doing something—so much the better; and if it doesn't turn up—at least one will be glad one didn't gossip idly about it beforehand.'

'You call a friendly conversation idle 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 Sergyevna, and you know that.'

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

'Taking place!' repeated Bazarov, 'as though I were some sort of government or society! In any case, it is utterly uninteresting; and besides, can a man always speak of everything that "takes place" in him?'

'Why, I don't see why you can't speak freely of everything you have in your heart.'

'Can you?' asked Bazarov.

'Yes,' answered Anna Sergyevna, after a brief hesitation.

Bazarov bowed his head. 'You are more fortunate than I am.'

Anna Sergyevna looked at him questioningly. 'As you please,' she went on, 'but still something tells me that we have not come together for nothing; that we shall be great friends. I am sure this—what should I say, constraint, reticence in you will vanish at last.'

'So you have noticed reticence ... as you expressed it ... constraint?'


Bazarov got up and went to the window. 'And would you like to know the reason of this reticence? Would you like to know what is passing within me?'

'Yes,' repeated Madame Odintsov, with a sort of dread she did not at the time 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 forced it out of me.'

Madame Odintsov held both hands out before her; but Bazarov was leaning with his forehead pressed against the window pane. He breathed hard; his whole body was visibly trembling. But it was not the tremor of youthful timidity, not the sweet alarm of the first declaration that possessed him; it was passion struggling in him, strong and painful—passion not unlike hatred, and perhaps akin to it.... Madame Odintsov felt both afraid and sorry for him.

'Yevgeny Vassilyitch!' she said, and there was the ring of unconscious tenderness in her voice.

He turned quickly, flung a searching look on her, and snatching both her hands, he drew her suddenly to his breast.

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

'You have misunderstood me,' she whispered hurriedly, in alarm. It seemed if he had made another step she would have screamed.... Bazarov bit his lips, and went out.

Half-an-hour after, a maid gave Anna Sergyevna a note from Bazarov; it consisted simply of one line: 'Am I to go to-day, or can I stop till to-morrow?'

'Why should you go? I did not understand you—you did not understand me,' Anna Sergyevna answered him, but to herself she thought: 'I did not understand myself either.'

She did not show herself till dinner-time, and kept walking to and fro in her room, stopping sometimes at the window, sometimes at the looking-glass, and slowly rubbing her handkerchief over her neck, on which she still seemed to feel a burning spot. She asked herself what had induced her to 'force' Bazarov's words, his confidence, and whether she had suspected nothing ... 'I am to blame,' she decided aloud, 'but I could not have foreseen this.' She fell to musing, and blushed crimson, remembering Bazarov's almost animal face when he had rushed at her....

'Oh?' she uttered suddenly aloud, and she stopped short and shook back her curls.... She caught sight of herself in the glass; her head thrown back, with a mysterious smile on the half-closed, half-opened eyes and lips, told her, it seemed, in a flash something at which she herself was confused....

'No,' she made up her mind at last. 'God knows what it would lead to; he couldn't be played with; peace is anyway the best thing in the world.'

Her peace of mind was not shaken; but she felt gloomy, and even shed a few tears once though she could not have said why—certainly not for the insult done her. She did not feel insulted; she was more inclined to feel guilty. Under the influence of various vague emotions, the sense of life passing by, the desire of novelty, she had forced herself to go up to a certain point, forced herself to look behind herself, and had seen behind her not even an abyss, but what was empty ... or revolting.


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