Fathers and Sons

by Ivan S. Turgenev

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Chapter XXVI

The deceased Odintsov had not liked innovations, but he had tolerated 'the fine arts within a certain sphere,' and had in consequence put up in his garden, between the hothouse and the lake, an erection after the fashion of a Greek temple, made of Russian brick. Along the dark wall at the back of this temple or gallery were placed six niches for statues, which Odintsov had proceeded to order from abroad. These statues were to represent Solitude, Silence, Meditation, Melancholy, Modesty, and Sensibility. One of them, the goddess of Silence, with her finger on her lip, had been sent and put up; but on the very same day some boys on the farm had broken her nose; and though a plasterer of the neighbourhood undertook to make her a new nose 'twice as good as the old one,' Odintsov ordered her to be taken away, and she was still to be seen in the corner of the threshing barn, where she had stood many long years, a source of superstitious terror to the peasant women. The front part of the temple had long ago been overgrown with thick bushes; only the pediments of the columns could be seen above the dense green. In the temple itself it was cool even at mid-day. Anna Sergyevna had not liked visiting this place ever since she had seen a snake there; but Katya often came and sat on the wide stone seat under one of the niches. Here, in the midst of the shade and coolness, she used to read and work, or to give herself up to that sensation of perfect peace, known, doubtless, to each of us, the charm of which consists in the half-unconscious, silent listening to the vast current of life that flows for ever both around us and within us.

The day after Bazarov's arrival Katya was sitting on her favourite stone seat, and beside her again was sitting Arkady. He had besought her to come with him to the 'temple.'

There was about an hour still to lunch-time; the dewy morning had already given place to a sultry day. Arkady's face retained the expression of the preceding day; Katya had a preoccupied look. Her sister had, directly after their morning tea, called her into her room, and after some preliminary caresses, which always scared Katya a little, she had advised her to be more guarded in her behaviour with Arkady, and especially to avoid solitary talks with him, as likely to attract the notice of her aunt and all the household. Besides this, even the previous evening Anna Sergyevna had not been herself; and Katya herself had felt ill at ease, as though she were conscious of some fault in herself. As she yielded to Arkady's entreaties, she said to herself that it was for the last time.

'Katerina Sergyevna,' he began with a sort of bashful easiness, 'since I've had the happiness of living in the same house with you, I have discussed a great many things with you; but meanwhile there is one, very important ... for me ... one question, which I have not touched upon up till now. You remarked yesterday that I have been changed here,' he went on, at once catching and avoiding the questioning glance Katya was turning upon him. 'I have changed certainly a great deal, and you know that better than any one else—you to whom I really owe this change.'

'I?... Me?...' said Katya.

'I am not now the conceited boy I was when I came here,' Arkady went on. 'I've not reached twenty-three for nothing; as before, I want to be useful, I want to devote all my powers to the truth; but I no longer look for my ideals where I did; they present themselves to me ... much closer to hand. Up till now I did not understand myself; I set myself tasks which were beyond my powers.... My eyes have been opened lately, thanks to one feeling.... I'm not expressing myself quite clearly, but I hope you understand me.'

Katya made no reply, but she ceased looking at Arkady.

'I suppose,' he began again, this time in a more agitated voice, while above his head a chaffinch sang its song unheeding among the leaves of the birch—'I suppose it's the duty of every one to be open with those ... with those people who ... in fact, with those who are near to him, and so I ... I resolved ...'

But here Arkady's eloquence deserted him; he lost the thread, stammered, and was forced to be silent for a moment. Katya still did not raise her eyes. She seemed not to understand what he was leading up to in all this, and to be waiting for something.

'I foresee I shall surprise you,' began Arkady, pulling himself together again with an effort, 'especially since this feeling relates in a way ... in a way, notice ... to you. You reproached me, if you remember, yesterday with a want of seriousness,' Arkady went on, with the air of a man who has got into a bog, feels that he is sinking further and further in at every step, and yet hurries onwards in the hope of crossing it as soon as possible; 'that reproach is often aimed ... often falls ... on young men even when they cease to deserve it; and if I had more self-confidence ...' ('Come, help me, do help me!' Arkady was thinking, in desperation; but, as before, Katya did not turn her head.) 'If I could hope ...'

'If I could feel sure of what you say,' was heard at that instant the clear voice of Anna Sergyevna.

Arkady was still at once, while Katya turned pale. Close by the bushes that screened the temple ran a little path. Anna Sergyevna was walking along it escorted by Bazarov. Katya and Arkady could not see them, but they heard every word, the rustle of their clothes, their very breathing. They walked on a few steps, and, as though on purpose, stood still just opposite the temple.

'You see,' pursued Anna Sergyevna, 'you and I made a mistake; we are both past our first youth, I especially so; we have seen life, we are tired; we are both—why affect not to know it?—clever; at first we interested each other, curiosity was aroused ... and then ...'

'And then I grew stale,' put in Bazarov.

'You know that was not the cause of our misunderstanding. But, however, it was to be, we had no need of one another, that's the chief point; there was too much ... what shall I say? ... that was alike in us. We did not realise it all at once. Now, Arkady ...'

'So you need him?' queried Bazarov.

'Hush, Yevgeny Vassilyitch. You tell me he is not indifferent to me, and it always seemed to me he liked me. I know that I might well be his aunt, but I don't wish to conceal from you that I have come to think more often of him. In such youthful, fresh feeling there is a special charm ...'

'The word fascination is most usual in such cases,' Bazarov interrupted; the effervescence of his spleen could be heard in his choked though steady voice. 'Arkady was mysterious over something with me yesterday, and didn't talk either of you or your sister.... That's a serious symptom.'

'He is just like a brother with Katya,' commented Anna Sergyevna, 'and I like that in him, though, perhaps, I ought not to have allowed such intimacy between them.'

'That idea is prompted by ... your feelings as a sister?' Bazarov brought out, drawling.

'Of course ... but why are we standing still? Let us go on. What a strange talk we are having, aren't we? I could never have believed I should talk to you like this. You know, I am afraid of you ... and at the same time I trust you, because in reality you are so good.'

'In the first place, I am not in the least good; and in the second place, I have lost all significance for you, and you tell me I am good.... It's like a laying a wreath of flowers on the head of a corpse.'

'Yevgeny Vassilyitch, we are not responsible ...' Anna Sergyevna began; but a gust of wind blew across, set the leaves rustling, and carried away her words. 'Of course, you are free ...' Bazarov declared after a brief pause. Nothing more could be distinguished; the steps retreated ... everything was still.

Arkady turned to Katya. She was sitting in the same position, but her head was bent still lower. 'Katerina Sergyevna,' he said with a shaking voice, and clasping his hands tightly together, 'I love you for ever and irrevocably, and I love no one but you. I wanted to tell you this, to find out your opinion of me, and to ask for your hand, since I am not rich, and I feel ready for any sacrifice.... You don't answer me? You don't believe me? Do you think I speak lightly? But remember these last days! Surely for a long time past you must have known that everything—understand me—everything else has vanished long ago and left no trace? Look at me, say one word to me ... I love ... I love you ... believe me!'

Katya glanced at Arkady with a bright and serious look, and after long hesitation, with the faintest smile, she said, 'Yes.'

Arkady leapt up from the stone seat. 'Yes! You said Yes, Katerina Sergyevna! What does that word mean? Only that I do love you, that you believe me ... or ... or ... I daren't go on ...'

'Yes,' repeated Katya, and this time he understood her. He snatched her large beautiful hands, and, breathless with rapture, pressed them to his heart. He could scarcely stand on his feet, and could only repeat, 'Katya, Katya ...' while she began weeping in a guileless way, smiling gently at her own tears. No one who has not seen those tears in the eyes of the beloved, knows yet to what a point, faint with shame and gratitude, a man may be happy on earth.

The next day, early in the morning, Anna Sergyevna sent to summon Bazarov to her boudoir, and with a forced laugh handed him a folded sheet of notepaper. It was a letter from Arkady; in it he asked for her sister's hand.

Bazarov quickly scanned the letter, and made an effort to control himself, that he might not show the malignant feeling which was instantaneously aflame in his breast.

'So that's how it is,' he commented; 'and you, I fancy, only yesterday imagined he loved Katerina Sergyevna as a brother. What are you intending to do now?'

'What do you advise me?' asked Anna Sergyevna, still laughing.

'Well, I suppose,' answered Bazarov, also with a laugh, though he felt anything but cheerful, and had no more inclination to laugh than she had; 'I suppose you ought to give the young people your blessing. It's a good match in every respect; Kirsanov's position is passable, he's the only son, and his father's a good-natured fellow, he won't try to thwart him.'

Madame Odintsov walked up and down the room. By turns her face flushed and grew pale. 'You think so,' she said. 'Well, I see no obstacles ... I am glad for Katya ... and for Arkady Nikolaevitch too. Of course, I will wait for his father's answer. I will send him in person to him. But it turns out, you see, that I was right yesterday when I told you we were both old people.... How was it I saw nothing? That's what amazes me!' Anna Sergyevna laughed again, and quickly turned her head away.

'The younger generation have grown awfully sly,' remarked Bazarov, and he too laughed. 'Good-bye,' he began again after a short silence. 'I hope you will bring the matter to the most satisfactory conclusion; and I will rejoice from a distance.'

Madame Odintsov turned quickly to him. 'You are not going away? Why should you not stay now? Stay ... it's exciting talking to you ... one seems walking on the edge of a precipice. At first one feels timid, but one gains courage as one goes on. Do stay.'

'Thanks for the suggestion, Anna Sergyevna, and for your flattering opinion of my conversational talents. But I think I have already been moving too long in a sphere which is not my own. Flying fishes can hold out for a time in the air; but soon they must splash back into the water; allow me, too, to paddle in my own element.'

Madame Odintsov looked at Bazarov. His pale face was twitching with a bitter smile. 'This man did love me!' she thought, and she felt pity for him, and held out her hand to him with sympathy.

But he too understood her. 'No!' he said, stepping back a pace. 'I'm a poor man, but I've never taken charity so far. Good-bye, and good luck to you.'

'I am certain we are not seeing each other for the last time,' Anna Sergyevna declared with an unconscious gesture.

'Anything may happen!' answered Bazarov, and he bowed and went away.

'So you are thinking of making yourself a nest?' he said the same day to Arkady, as he packed his box, crouching on the floor. 'Well, it's a capital thing. But you needn't have been such a humbug. I expected something from you in quite another quarter. Perhaps, though, it took you by surprise yourself?'

'I certainly didn't expect this when I parted from you,' answered Arkady; 'but why are you a humbug yourself, calling it "a capital thing," as though I didn't know your opinion of marriage.'

'Ah, my dear fellow,' said Bazarov, 'how you talk! You see what I'm doing; there seems to be an empty space in the box, and I am putting hay in; that's how it is in the box of our life; we would stuff it up with anything rather than have a void. Don't be offended, please; you remember, no doubt, the opinion I have always had of Katerina Sergyevna. Many a young lady's called clever simply because she can sigh cleverly; but yours can hold her own, and, indeed, she'll hold it so well that she'll have you under her thumb—to be sure, though, that's quite as it ought to be.' He slammed the lid to, and got up from the floor. 'And now, I say again, good-bye, for it's useless to deceive ourselves—we are parting for good, and you know that yourself ... you have acted sensibly; you're not made for our bitter, rough, lonely existence. There's no dash, no hate in you, but you've the daring of youth and the fire of youth. Your sort, you gentry, can never get beyond refined submission or refined indignation, and that's no good. You won't fight—and yet you fancy yourselves gallant chaps—but we mean to fight. Oh well! Our dust would get into your eyes, our mud would bespatter you, but yet you're not up to our level, you're admiring yourselves unconsciously, you like to abuse yourselves; but we're sick of that—we want something else! we want to smash other people! You're a capital fellow; but you're a sugary, liberal snob for all that—ay volla-too, as my parent is fond of saying.'

'You are parting from me for ever, Yevgeny,' responded Arkady mournfully; 'and have you nothing else to say to me?'

Bazarov scratched the back of his head. 'Yes, Arkady, yes, I have other things to say to you, but I'm not going to say them, because that's sentimentalism—that means, mawkishness. And you get married as soon as you can; and build your nest, and get children to your heart's content. They'll have the wit to be born in a better time than you and me. Aha! I see the horses are ready. Time's up! I've said good-bye to every one.... What now? embracing, eh?'

Arkady flung himself on the neck of his former leader and friend, and the tears fairly gushed from his eyes.

'That's what comes of being young!' Bazarov commented calmly. 'But I rest my hopes on Katerina Sergyevna. You'll see how quickly she'll console you! Good-bye, brother!' he said to Arkady when he had got into the light cart, and, pointing to a pair of jackdaws sitting side by side on the stable roof, he added, 'That's for you! follow that example.'

'What does that mean?' asked Arkady.

'What? Are you so weak in natural history, or have you forgotten that the jackdaw is a most respectable family bird? An example to you!... Good-bye!'

The cart creaked and rolled away.

Bazarov had spoken truly. In talking that evening with Katya, Arkady completely forgot about his former teacher. He already began to follow her lead, and Katya was conscious of this, and not surprised at it. He was to set off the next day for Maryino, to see Nikolai Petrovitch. Anna Sergyevna was not disposed to put any constraint on the young people, and only on account of the proprieties did not leave them by themselves for too long together. She magnanimously kept the princess out of their way; the latter had been reduced to a state of tearful frenzy by the news of the proposed marriage. At first Anna Sergyevna was afraid the sight of their happiness might prove rather trying to herself, but it turned out quite the other way; this sight not only did not distress her, it interested her, it even softened her at last. Anna Sergyevna felt both glad and sorry at this. 'It is clear that Bazarov was right,' she thought; 'it has been curiosity, nothing but curiosity, and love of ease, and egoism ...'

'Children,' she said aloud, 'what do you say, is love a purely imaginary feeling?'

But neither Katya nor Arkady even understood her. They were shy with her; the fragment of conversation they had involuntarily overheard haunted their minds. But Anna Sergyevna soon set their minds at rest; and it was not difficult for her—she had set her own mind at rest.


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