Uzyskaj dostęp do tej i ponad 60000 książek od 6,99 zł miesięcznie
Bazarov - a gifted, impatient, and caustic young man - has journeyed from school to the home of his friend Arkady Kirsanov. But soon Bazarov's outspoken rejection of authority and social conventions touches off quarrels, misunderstandings, and romantic entanglements that will utterly transform the Kirsanov household and reflect the changes taking place all across nineteenth-century Russia.
Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Liczba stron: 392
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Thank you for reading. If you enjoy this book, please leave a review.
All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.
Copyright © 2016 by Ivan Turgenev
Published by Jovian Press
Interior design by Pronoun
Distribution by Pronoun
“WELL, PETER? CANNOT YOU SEE them yet?” asked a barin of about forty who, hatless, and clad in a dusty jacket over a pair of tweed breeches, stepped on to the verandah of a posting-house on the 20th day of May, 1859. The person addressed was the barin’s servant—a round-cheeked young fellow with small, dull eyes and a chin adorned with a tuft of pale-coloured down.
Glancing along the high road in a supercilious manner, the servant (in whom everything, from the turquoise ear-ring to the dyed, pomaded hair and the mincing gait, revealed the modern, the rising generation) replied: “No, barin, I cannot.”
“Is that so?” queried the barin.
“Yes,” the servant affirmed.
The barin sighed, and seated himself upon a bench. While he is sitting there with his knees drawn under him and his eyes moodily glancing to right and left, the reader may care to become better acquainted with his personality.
His name was Nikolai Petrovitch Kirsanov, and he owned (some fifteen versts from the posting-house) a respectable little property of about two hundred souls (or, as, after that he had apportioned his peasantry allotments, and set up a “farm,” he himself expressed it, a property “of two thousand desiatini“). His father, one of the generals of 1812, had spent his life exclusively in military service as the commander, first of a brigade, and then of a division; and always he had been quartered in the provinces, where his rank had enabled him to cut a not inconspicuous figure. As for Nikolai Petrovitch himself, he was born in Southern Russia (as also was his elder brother, Paul—of whom presently), and, until his fourteenth year, received his education amid a circle of hard-up governors, free-and-easy aides-de-camp, and sundry staff and regimental officers. His mother came of the family of the Koliazins, and, known in maidenhood as Agathe, and subsequently as Agathoklea Kuzminishna Kirsanov, belonged to the type of “officer’s lady.” That is to say, she wore pompous mobcaps and rustling silk dresses, was always the first to approach the cross in church, talked volubly and in a loud tone, of set practice admitted her sons to kiss her hand in the morning, and never failed to bless them before retiring to rest at night. In short, she lived the life which suited her. As the son of a general, Nikolai Petrovitch was bound—though he evinced no particular bravery, and might even have seemed a coward—to follow his brother Paul’s example by entering the army; but unfortunately, owing to the fact that, on the very day when there arrived the news of his commission, he happened to break his leg, it befell that, after two months in bed, he rose to his feet a permanently lamed man. When his father had finished wringing his hands over the mischance, he sent his son to acquire a civilian education; whence it came about that Nikolai, at eighteen, found himself a student at the University of St. Petersburg. At the same period his brother obtained a commission in one of the regiments of Guards; and, that being so, their father apportioned the two young men a joint establishment, and placed it under the more or less detached supervision of Ilya Koliazin, their maternal uncle and a leading tchinovnik. That done, the father returned to his division and his wife, and only at rare intervals sent his sons sheets of grey foolscap (scrawled and re-scrawled in flamboyant calligraphy) to which there was appended, amid a bower of laborious flourishes, the signature “Piotr Kirsanov, Major-General.” In the year 1835 Nikolai Petrovitch obtained his university degree; and in the same year General Kirsanov was retired for incompetence at a review, and decided to transfer his quarters to St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, just as he was on the point both of renting a house near the Tavritchesky Gardens and of being enrolled as a member of the English Club, a stroke put an end to his career, and Agathoklea Kuzminishna followed him soon afterwards, since never had she succeeded in taking to the dull life of the capital, but always had hankered after the old provincial existence. Already during his parents’ lifetime, and to their no small vexation, Nikolai Petrovitch had contrived to fall in love with the daughter of a certain tchinovnik named Prepolovensky, the landlord of his flat; and since the maiden was not only comely, but one of the type known as “advanced” (that is to say, she perused an occasional “Science” article in one newspaper or another), he married her out of hand as soon as the term of mourning was ended, and, abandoning the Ministry of Provincial Affairs to which, through his father’s influence, he had been posted, embarked upon connubial felicity in a villa adjoining the Institute of Forestry. Thence, after a while, the couple removed to a diminutive, but in every way respectable, flat which could boast of a spotless vestibule and an icy-cold drawing-room; and thence, again, they migrated to the country, where they settled for good, and where, in due time, they had born to them a son Arkady. The existence of husband and wife was one of perfect comfort and tranquillity. Almost never were they parted from one another, they read together, they played the piano together, and they sang duets. Also, she would garden or superintend the poultry-yard, and he would set forth a-hunting, or see to the management of the estate. Meanwhile Arkady led an existence of equal calm and comfort, and grew, and waxed fat; until, in 1847, when ten years had been passed in this idyllic fashion, Kirsanov’s wife breathed her last. The blow proved almost more than the husband could bear—so much so that his head turned grey in a few weeks. Yet, though he sought distraction for his thoughts by going abroad, he felt constrained, in the following year, to return home, where, after a prolonged period of inaction, he took up the subject of Industrial Reform. Next, in 1855, he sent his son to the University of St. Petersburg, and, for the same reason, spent the following three winters in the capital, where he seldom went out, but spent the greater part of his time in endeavouring to fraternise with his son’s youthful acquaintances. The fourth winter, however, he was prevented by various circumstances from spending in St. Petersburg; and thus in the May of 1859 we see him—grey-headed, dusty, a trifle bent, and wholly middle-aged—awaiting his son’s home-coming after the elevation of the latter (in Nikolai’s own footsteps) to the dignity of a graduate.
Presently either a sense of decency or (more probably) a certain disinclination to remain immediately under his master’s eye led the servant to withdraw to the entrance gates, and there to light a pipe. Nikolai Petrovitch, however, continued sitting with head bent, and his eyes contemplating the ancient steps of the verandah, up which a stout speckled hen was tap-tapping its way on a pair of splayed yellow legs, and thereby causing an untidy, but fastidious-looking, cat to regard it from the balustrade with marked disapproval. Meanwhile the sun beat fiercely down, and from the darkened interior of a neighbouring granary came a smell as of hot rye straw. Nikolai Petrovitch sank into a reverie. “My son Arkady a graduate!"—the words kept passing and repassing through his mind. Again and again he tried to think of something else, but always the same thought returned to him. Until eventually he reverted to the memory of his dead wife. “Would that she were still with me!” was his yearning reflection. Presently a fat blue pigeon alighted upon the roadway, and fell to taking a hasty drink from a pool beside the well. And almost at the instant that the spectacle of the bird caught Nikolai Petrovitch’s eye, his ear caught the sound of approaching wheels.
“They are coming, I think,” hazarded the servant as he stepped forward through the gates.
Nikolai Petrovitch sprang to his feet, and strained his eyes along the road. Yes, coming into view there was a tarantass, drawn by three stagehorses; and in the tarantass there could be seen the band of a student’s cap and the outlines of a familiar, well-beloved face.
“Arkasha, Arkasha!” was Kirsanov’s cry as, running forward, he waved his arms. A few moments later he was pressing his lips to the sun-tanned, dusty, hairless cheek of the newly-fledged graduate.
“YES, BUT FIRST GIVE ME a rub down, dearest Papa,” said Arkady in a voice which, though a little hoarsened with travelling, was yet clear and youthful. “See! I am covering you with dust!” he added as joyously he returned his father’s caresses.
“Oh, but that will not matter,” said Nikolai Petrovitch with a loving, reassuring smile as he gave the collar of his son’s blue cloak a couple of pats, and then did the same by his own jacket. Thereafter, gently withdrawing from his son’s embrace, and beginning to lead the way towards the inn yard, he added: “Come this way, come this way. The horses will soon be ready.”
His excitement seemed even to outdo his son’s, so much did he stammer and stutter, and, at times, find himself at a loss for a word. Arkady stopped him.
“Papa,” he said, “first let me introduce my good friend Bazarov, who is the comrade whom I have so often mentioned in letters to you, and who has been kind enough to come to us for a visit.”
At once Nikolai Petrovitch wheeled round, and, approaching a tall man who, clad in a long coat with a tasselled belt, had just alighted from the tarantass, pressed the bare red hand which, after a pause, the stranger offered him.
“I am indeed glad to see you!” was Nikolai Petrovitch’s greeting, “I am indeed grateful to you for your kindness in paying us this visit! Alas, I hope that, that——But first might I inquire your name?”
“Evgenii Vasiliev,” replied the other in slow, but virile, accents as, turning down the collar of his coat, he revealed his face more clearly. Long and thin, with a high forehead which looked flattened at the top and became sharpened towards the nose, the face had large, greenish eyes and long, sandy whiskers. The instant that the features brightened into a smile, however, they betokened self-assurance and intellect.
“My dearest Evgenii Vasiliev”, Nikolai Petrovitch continued, “I trust that whilst you are with us you will not find time hang heavy upon your hands.”
Bazarov gave his lips a slight twitch, but vouchsafed no reply beyond raising his cap—a movement which revealed the fact that the prominent convolutions of the skull were by no means concealed by the superincumbent mass of indeterminate-coloured hair.
“Now, Arkady,” went on Nikolai Petrovitch as he turned to his son, “shall we have the horses harnessed at once, or should you prefer to rest a little?”
“Let us rest at home, Papa. So pray have the horses put to.”
“I will,” his father agreed. “Peter! Bestir yourself, my good fellow!”
Being what is known as a “perfectly trained servant,” Peter had neither approached nor shaken hands with the young barin, but contented himself with a distant bow. He now vanished through the yard gates.
“Though I have come in the koliaska,” said Nikolai Petrovitch, “I have brought three fresh horses for the tarantass.”
Arkady then drank some water from a yellow bowl proffered by the landlord, while Bazarov lighted a pipe, and approached the ostler, who was engaged in unharnessing the stagehorses.
“Only two can ride in the koliaska,” continued Nikolai Petrovitch; “wherefore I am rather in a difficulty to know how your friend will——”
“Oh, he can travel in the tarantass,” interrupted Arkady. “Moreover, do not stand on any ceremony with him, for, wonderful though he is, he is also quite simple, as you will find for yourself.”
Nikolai Petrovitch’s coachman brought out the horses, and Bazarov remarked to the ostler:
“Come, bestir yourself, fat-beard!”
“Did you hear that, Mitiusha?” added another ostler who was standing with his hands thrust into the back slits of his blouse. “The barin has just called you a fat-beard. And a fat-beard you are.”
For answer Mitiusha merely cocked his cap to one side and drew the reins from the back of the sweating shafts-horse.
“Quick now, my good fellows!” cried Nikolai Petrovitch. “Bear a hand, all of you, and for each there will be a glassful of vodka.”
Naturally, it was not long before the horses were harnessed, and then father and son seated themselves in the koliaska, Peter mounted the box of that vehicle, and Bazarov stepped into the tarantass, and lolled his head against the leather cushion at the back. Finally the cortège moved away.
“TO THINK THAT YOU ARE now a graduate and home again!” said Nikolai Petrovitch as he tapped Arkady on the knee, and then on the shoulder. “There now, there now!”
“And how is Uncle? Is he quite well?” asked Arkady—the reason for the question being that though he felt filled with a genuine, an almost childish delight at his return, he also felt conscious of an instinct that the conversation were best diverted from the emotional to the prosaic.
“Yes, your uncle is quite well. As a matter of fact, he also had arranged to come and meet you, but at the last moment changed his mind.”
“Did you have very long to wait?” continued Arkady.
“About five hours.”
“Dearest Papa!” cried Arkady as, leaning over towards his father, he imprinted upon his cheek a fervent kiss. Nikolai Petrovitch smiled quietly.
“I have got a splendid horse for you,” he next remarked. “Presently you shall see him. Also, your room has been entirely repapered.”
“And have you a room for Bazarov as well?”
“One shall be found for him.”
“Oh—and pray humour him in every way you can. I could not express to you how much I value his friendship.”
“But you have not known him very long, have you?”
“No—not very long.”
“I thought not, for I do not remember to have seen him in St. Petersburg last winter. In what does he most interest himself?”
“Principally in natural science. But, to tell the truth, he knows practically everything, and is to become a doctor next year.”
“Oh! So he is in the Medical Faculty?” Nikolai Petrovitch remarked; after which there was silence for a moment.
“Peter,” went on Nikolai, pointing with his hand, “are not those peasants there some of our own?”
Peter glanced in the direction indicated, and saw a few waggons proceeding along a narrow by-road. The teams were bridleless, and in each waggon were seated some two or three muzhiks with their blouses unbuttoned.
“Yes, they are some of our own,” Peter responded.
“Then whither can they be going? To the town?”
“Yes—or to the tavern.” This last was added contemptuously, and with a wink to the coachman that was designed to enlist that functionary’s sympathy: but as the functionary in question was one of the old school which takes no share in the modern movement, he stirred not a muscle of his face.
“This year my peasants have been giving me a good deal of trouble,” Nikolai Petrovitch continued to his son. “Persistently do they refuse to pay their tithes. What ought to be done with them?”
“And do you find your hired workmen satisfactory?”
“Not altogether,” muttered Nikolai Petrovitch. “You see, they have become spoilt, more’s the pity! Any real energy seems quite to have left them, and they not only ruin my implements, but also leave the land untilled. Does estate-management interest you?”
“The thing we most lack here is shade,” remarked Arkady in evasion of the question.
“Ah, but I have had an awning added to the north balcony, so that we can take our meals in the open air.”
“But that will give the place rather the look of a villa, will it not? Things of that sort never prove effectual. But oh, the air here! How good it smells! Yes, in my opinion, things never smell elsewhere as they do here. And oh, the sky!”
Suddenly Arkady stopped, threw a glance of apprehension in the direction of the tarantass, and relapsed into silence.
“I quite agree with you,” replied Nikolai Petrovitch. “You see, the reason is that you were born here, and that therefore the place is bound to have for you a special significance.”
“But no significance can attach to the place of a man’s birth, Papa.”
“Oh no. None whatsoever.”
Nikolai Petrovitch glanced at the speaker, and for fully half a verst let the vehicle proceed without the conversation between them being renewed. At length Nikolai Petrovitch observed:
“I cannot remember whether I wrote to tell you that your old nurse, Egorovna, is dead.”
“Dead? Oh, the poor old woman! But Prokofitch—is he still alive?”
“He is so, and in no way changed—that is to say, he grumbles as much as ever. In fact, you will find that no really important alterations have taken place at Marino.”
“And have you the same steward as before?”
“No; I have appointed a fresh one, for I came to the conclusion that I could not have any freed serfs about the place. That is to say, I did not feel as though I could trust such fellows with posts of responsibility.” Arkady indicated Peter with his eyes, and Nikolai Petrovitch therefore subdued his voice a little. “He? Oh, il est libre, en effet. You see, he is my valet. But as regards a steward, I have appointed a miestchanin, at a salary of 250 roubles a year, and he seems at least capable. But"—and here Nikolai Petrovitch rubbed his forehead, which gesture with him always implied inward agitation—"I ought to say that, though I have told you that you will find no alterations of importance at Marino, the statement is not strictly true, seeing that it is my duty to warn you that, that——” Nikolai Petrovitch hesitated again—then added in French: “Perhaps by a stern moralist my frankness might be considered misplaced; yet I will not conceal from you, nor can you fail to be aware, that always I have had ideas of my own on the subject of the relations which ought to subsist between a father and his son. At the same time, this is not to say that you have not the right to judge me. Rather, it is that at my age——Well, to put matters bluntly, the girl whom you will have heard me speak of——”
“You mean Thenichka?” said Arkady.
Nikolai Petrovitch’s face went red.
“Do not speak of her so loudly,” he advised. “Yes, she is living with us. I took her in because two of our smaller rooms were available. But of course the arrangement must be changed.”
“Why must it, Papa?”
“Because this friend of yours is coming, and also because—well, it might make things awkward.”
“Do not disturb yourself on Bazarov’s account. He is altogether superior to such things.”
“Yes, so you say; but the mischief lies in the fact that the wing is so small.”
“Papa, Papa!” protested Arkady. “Almost one would think that you considered yourself to blame for something; whereas you have nothing to reproach yourself with.”
“Ah, but I have,” responded Nikolai Petrovitch. His face had turned redder than ever.
“No, you have not, Papa,” repeated Arkady with a loving smile, while adding to himself with a feeling of indulgent tenderness for his good, kind father, as well as with a certain sense of “superiority”: “Why is he making these excuses?”
“I beg of you to say no more,” he continued with an involuntary feeling of exultation in being “grown up” and “emancipated.” As he did so Nikolai Petrovitch glanced at him from under the fingers of the hand which was still rubbing his brows. At the same moment something seemed to give his heart a stab. Mentally, as before, he blamed himself.
“Here our fields begin,” he observed after a pause.
“I see,” rejoined Arkady. “And that is our forest in front, I suppose?”
“It is so. Only, only—I have sold it, and this year it is to be removed.”
“Why have you sold it?”
“Because I needed the money. Moreover, the land which it occupies must go to the peasants.”
“What? To the peasants who pay you no tithes?”
“Possibly. But some day they will pay me.”
“I regret the forest’s loss,” said Arkady, and then resumed his contemplation of the landscape.
The scenery which the party were traversing could not have been called picturesque, for, with slight undulations, only fields, fields, and again fields, stretched to the very horizon. True, a few patches of copse were visible, but the ditches, with their borderings of low, sparse brushwood, recalled the antique land-measurement of Katherine’s day. Also, streams ran pent between abruptly sloping banks, hamlets with dwarfed huts (of which the blackened roofs were, for the most part, cracked in half) stood cheek by jowl with crazy grinding-byres of plaited willow, empty threshing-floors had their gates sagging, and from churches of wood or of brick which stood amid dilapidated graveyards the stucco was peeling, and the crosses were threatening at any moment to fall. As he gazed at the scene Arkady’s heart contracted. Moreover, the peasants encountered on the road looked ragged, and were riding sorry nags, while the laburnum trees which stood ranged like miserable beggars by the roadside had their bark hanging in strips, and their boughs shattered. Lastly, the lean, mud-encrusted cows which could be seen hungrily cropping the herbage in the ditches were so “staring” of coat that the animals might just have been rescued from the talons of some terrible, death-dealing monster; and as one gazed at those weak, pitiful beasts, almost one could fancy that one saw uprisen from amid the beauty of spring, the pale phantoms of Winter—its storms and its frost and its snow.
“Evidently this is not a rich district,” reflected Arkady. “Rather, it is a district which gives one the impression neither of abundance nor of hard work. Yet can it be left as it is? No! Education is what we need. But how is that education to be administered, or, for that matter, to be introduced?”
Thus Arkady. Yet, even as the thought passed through his mind, Spring seemed once more to regain possession of her kingdom, and everything around him grew golden-green, and trees, shrubs, and herbage started to wave and glimmer under the soft, warm breath of the vernal zephyrs, and larks took to pouring out their souls in endless, ringing strains, and siskins, circling high over sunken ponds, uttered their cry, then skimmed the hillocks in silence, and handsome black rooks stalked among the tender green of the short corn-shoots, or settled among the pale-white, smokelike ripples of the young rye, whence at intervals they protruded their heads.
Arkady gazed and gazed; and gradually, as he did so, his late thoughts grew dimmer and disappeared, and, throwing off his travelling-cloak, he peered so joyously, with such a boyish air, into his father’s face that Nikolai Petrovitch bestowed upon him yet another embrace.
“We have but little further to go now,” he remarked. “In fact, when once we have topped that rise the house will come into view. And what a time we are going to have together, Arkasha! For you will be able to help me with the estate (if you care to, that is to say?), and you and I will draw nearer to one another, and make one another’s better acquaintance.”
“We will!” cried Arkady. “And what splendid weather for us both!”
“Yes; specially for your home-coming is spring in all its glory. Yet I am not sure that I do not agree with Pushkin where he says, in Eugène Onegin:
“How sad to me is your coming,
O spring, spring, season of love!”
“Arkady,” shouted Bazarov from the tarantass, “please send me a match or two, for I have nothing to light my pipe with.”
Instantly Nikolai Petrovitch ceased quoting poetry, and Arkady (who had listened with considerable surprise, though also with a certain measure of sympathy, to his father) hastened to produce from his pocket a silver matchbox, and to dispatch the same by the hand of Peter.
“In return, would you care to have a cigar?” called Bazarov.
“I should,” replied Arkady.
The result was that when Peter returned to the koliaska he handed Arkady not only the matchbox, but also a fat black cigar. This Arkady lit at leisure, and then proceeded to diffuse around him so strong and acrid an odour of tobacco that Nikolai Petrovitch (a non-smoker from birth) found himself forced to avert his nose (though he did this covertly, for fear of offending his son).
A quarter of an hour later the vehicles drew up at the steps of a new wooden mansion, painted grey, and roofed with red sheet-iron. The mansion was Marino, or Novaia Sloboda, or, to quote the peasants’ name, “Bobili Chutor.”
THERE ISSUED ON TO THE verandah to greet the arrivals no throng of household serfs—only a solitary girl of twelve. Presently, however, she was joined by a young fellow much resembling Peter, but dressed in a grey livery coat to which embossed, silver-gilt buttons were attached. This was Paul Kirsanov’s valet. In silence he opened the door of the koliaska, and unhooked the apron of the tarantass; whereupon the three gentlemen alighted, passed through a dark, bare hall (the face of a young woman peered at them for a moment from behind a door), and entered a drawing-room upholstered in the latest fashion.
“So here we are at home again!” exclaimed Nikolai Petrovitch, taking off his cap, and shaking back his hair. “Let us have supper, and then for bed, bed!”
“Yes, something to eat would undoubtedly be welcome,” remarked Bazarov as, yawning, he seated himself upon a sofa.
“Quite so; I will have supper served at once.” Nikolai Petrovitch, for no apparent reason, tripped over his own feet. “And here comes Prokofitch,” he added.
As he spoke entered a man of about sixty who, white-haired, and of thin, swarthy features, was wearing a cinnamon-coloured tail-coat with brass buttons and a crimson collar. He smiled with delight as he approached and shook hands with Arkady. Then, with a bow to the guest, he retired to the doorway, and folded his hands behind his back.
“So here is the young master, Prokofitch!” said Nikolai Petrovitch. “He is home at last. And how, think you, is he looking?”
“Very well, very well,” the old man said with another smile. The next moment, however, he knit his shaggy brows, and suggested: “Shall I lay the table?”
“If you please, if you please.” Nikolai Petrovitch turned to Bazarov.
“Before supper,” he said, “would you care to go to your room?”
“I thank you, no. But please have my trunk conveyed thither, and also this wrap.” And Bazarov divested himself of his cloak.
“Certainly. Prokofitch, take the gentleman’s cloak.”
The old butler received the garment gingerly, held it well away from him with both hands, and left the room on tiptoe.
“And you, Arkady?” continued Nikolai Petrovitch. “Do you not wish to go to your room?”
“Yes; for a wash I should be thankful,” was Arkady’s reply as he moved towards the door. At that moment it opened to admit a man of medium height who was dressed in a dark English suit, a fashionably low collar, and a pair of patent leather boots. This was Paul Petrovitch Kirsanov. Although forty-five, he had close-cropped grey hair of the sheen of new silver, and his sallow, unwrinkled face was as clear-cut and regular of outline as though carved with a light, fine chisel. Still retaining traces of remarkable comeliness, his bright, black, oblong eyes had a peculiar attraction, and his every well-bred, refined feature showed that symmetry of youth, that air of superiority to the rest of the world which usually disappears when once the twenties have been passed.
Drawing from his trouser pocket a slender hand the long, pink nails of which looked all the slenderer for the snowy whiteness of the superimposed cuff and large opal sleeve-link, he offered it to his nephew; after which, this prefatory European “handshake” over, he thrice kissed Arkady in the Russian fashion—that is to say, touched his nephew’s cheek with his perfumed moustache, and murmured: “I congratulate you.”
Next Nikolai Petrovitch presented to him Bazarov. Inclining his supple figure with a faint smile, Paul Petrovitch this time did not offer his hand. On the contrary, he replaced it in his pocket.
“I was beginning to think that you never meant to arrive,” he said with an amiable hoist of his shoulders and a display of some beautiful white teeth. “What happened to you?”
“Nothing,” replied Arkady, “except that we lingered a little. For the same reason are we as hungry as wolves; so pray tell Prokofitch to be quick, Papa, and I shall be back in a moment.”
“Wait; I will go with you,” added Bazarov as he rose from the sofa; and the two young men left the room together.
“Who is your guest?” asked Paul Petrovitch.
“A friend of Arkady’s, and, according to Arkady’s showing, a man of intellect.”
“He is going to stay here?”
“A long-haired fellow like that?”
In that particular direction Paul Petrovitch said no more, but, tapping the table with his finger-nails, added:
“Je pense que notre Arkady s’est dégourdi. And in any case I am pleased to see him back again.”
At supper little was said. In particular did Bazarov scarcely speak, though he ate heartily; and only Nikolai Petrovitch proved garrulous as he related various incidents in what he termed his “agricultural life,” and gossiped of forthcoming administrative measures, committees, deputations, the need of introducing machinery, and other such topics.
For his part, Paul Petrovitch paced the room (he never took supper), and sipped a glassful of red wine, and occasionally interjected some such remark—rather, exclamation—as “Ah!” or “Oh, ho!” or “H’m!” Arkady’s contribution consisted of a little St. Petersburg gossip, even though, throughout, he was conscious of a touch of that awkwardness which overtakes a young man when, just ceased to be a boy, he returns to the spot where hitherto he has ranked as a mere child. In other words, he drawled his phrases unnecessarily, carefully avoided the use of the term “Papasha,” and, once, even went so far as to substitute for it the term “Otety”—though, true, he pronounced it with some difficulty. Lastly, in his excessive desire to seem at his ease, he helped himself to more wine than was good for him, and tasted some of every brand. Meanwhile Prokofitch chewed his lips, and never removed his eyes from his young master.
Supper over, the company dispersed.
“A queer fellow is that uncle of yours,” Bazarov said to Arkady as, clad in a dressing-gown, he seated himself by his friend’s bed, and sucked at a short pipe. “To think of encountering such elegance in the country! He would take a prize with his finger-nails.”
“You do not know him yet,” said Arkady. “In his day he was a leading lion, and some time or another I will tell you his history. Yes, many and many a woman has lost her head over his good looks.”
“Then I should think that he has nothing to live on save memories,” observed Bazarov. “At all events, there is no one here for him to enslave. I looked him over to-night, and never in my life have beheld a collar of such marvellous gloss, or a chin so perfectly shaven. Yet such things can come to look ridiculous, do not you think?”
“Yes—perhaps they can. But he is such an excellent fellow in himself!”
“Oh, certainly—a truly archangelic personage! Your father, too, is excellent; for though he may read foolish poetry, and though his ideas on the subject of industry may be few, his heart is in the right place.”
“He is a man with a heart of gold.”
“Nevertheless, did you notice his nervousness to-night?”
Arkady nodded as though to himself such a weakness was a perfect stranger.
“Curious indeed!” commented Bazarov. “Ah, you elderly Romanticists! You over-develop the nervous system until the balance is upset. Now, good-night. In my room there is an English washstand, yet the door will not shut! But such things (English washstands I mean) need to be encouraged: they represent ‘progress.’”
And Bazarov departed, while Arkady surrendered himself to a sensation of comfort. How pleasant was it to be sinking to sleep in one’s comfortable home, and in one’s own familiar bed, and under a well-known coverlet worked by loving hands—perhaps those of his good, kind, tireless old nurse! And at the thought of Egorovna he sighed, and commended her soul to the Heavenly Powers. But for himself he did not pray.
Soon both he and Bazarov were asleep; but certain other members of the household there were who remained wakeful. In particular had Nikolai Petrovitch been greatly excited by his son’s return; and though he went to bed, he left the candle burning, and, resting with his head on his hands, lay thinking deeply.
Also, his brother sat up in his study until nearly midnight. Seated in an ample armchair before a corner where a marble stove was smouldering, he had effected no alteration in his costume beyond having exchanged his patent leather boots for a pair of heelless, red felt slippers. Lastly, he was holding, though not reading, the latest number of Galignani, and his eyes were fixed upon the stove, where a quivering blue spurt of flame kept alternately disappearing and bursting forth again. Whither his thoughts were wandering God only knows; but that they were not meandering through the past alone was proved by the fact that in his expression there was a concentrated gloom which is never in evidence when a man’s mind is occupied with memories and no more.
Finally, seated on a chest in a small room at the back of the house, and wearing a blue dressing-jacket and, thrown over her dark hair, a white scarf, was the girl Thenichka. As she sat there she kept listening, and starting, and gazing towards an open door which at once afforded a glimpse of an infant’s cot and admitted the sound of a sleeping child’s respiration.
Next morning Bazarov was the first to awake and go out of doors.
“Ah,” thought he to himself as he gazed about him, “this is not much of a place to look at.”
When apportioning allotments to his peasantry, Nikolai Petrovitch had found himself forced to exclude from the new “farm” four desiatins of level, naked land, and upon this space had built himself a house, quarters for his servants, and a homestead. Also, he had laid out a garden, dug a pond, and sunk two wells. But the young trees had fared badly, very little water had risen in the pond, and the wells had developed a brackish taste. The only vegetation to attain robust growth was a clump of lilacs and acacias, under the shade of which the household was accustomed to take tea or to dine. Within a few minutes Bazarov had traversed all the paths in the garden, visited the stables and the cattlesheds, and made friends with two young household serfs whom he happened to encounter, and with whom he set forth to catch frogs in a marsh about a verst from the manor.
“For what do you want frogs, barin?” asked one of the lads.
“To make them useful,” replied Bazarov (who possessed a peculiar gift for winning the confidence of his inferiors, even though he never cozened them, but, on the contrary, always treated them with asperity). “You see, I like to open them, and then to observe what their insides are doing. You and I are frogs too, except that we walk upon our hind legs. Thus the operation helps me to understand what is taking place in ourselves.”
“And what good will that do you?”
“This. That if you should fall sick, and I should have to treat you, I might avoid some mistakes.”
“Then you are a doctor?”
“Listen to that, Vasika! The barin says that you and I too are frogs. My word!”
“I don’t like frogs,” remarked Vasika, a barefooted boy of seven with a head as white as tow, and a costume made up of a grey blouse and a stiff collar.
“Why don’t you like them?” asked Bazarov. “Do you think they will bite you? Nay! Into the water, my young philosophers!”
Nikolai Petrovitch too had left his bed, and, on going to visit Arkady, found him fully dressed; wherefore father and son proceeded to repair to the terrace, and there seated themselves under the shade of the awning. Amid nosegays of lilac, a tea-urn was simmering on a table by the balustrade, and presently there appeared upon the scene also the damsel who, on the previous night, had met the arrivals on the verandah. She announced in shrill tones:
“Theodosia Nikolaevna is not very well this morning, and cannot come to breakfast. So she has told me to ask you whether you will pour out tea for yourselves, or whether she is to send Duniasha?”
“I will pour it out myself,” Nikolai Petrovitch replied with some haste. “Will you have cream or lemon in your tea, Arkady?”
“Cream,” he replied. After a pause he continued:
Nikolai Petrovitch glanced confusedly in his direction.
“Yes?” said he.
Arkady lowered his eyes.
“Pardon me if my question should seem to you indiscreet,” he began, “but, owing to your frankness of last night, I am emboldened to return it. You will not take offence, will you?”
“Oh no! Pray go on.”
“Then I feel encouraged to ask you whether it—whether it is because I am here that she—that is to say, Thenichka—has not joined us at breakfast?”
Nikolai Petrovitch slightly averted his face.
“It may be so,” he said at length. “At all events, I presume that—that she prefers, she prefers—in fact, that she is shy.”
Arkady glanced at his father.
“But why should she be shy?” he inquired. “In the first place, you know my views” (he uttered the words with no little complacency), “and, in the second place, surely you cannot suppose that I would by a hair’s breadth intrude upon your life and your habits? No; sure am I that never could you make a bad choice; and if you have asked this girl to reside under your roof, that is tantamount to saying that she has well deserved it. In any case, moreover, it is not for a son to summon his father to judgment—least of all for me, who possess a father like yourself, a father who has never restricted his son’s freedom of action.”
At first Arkady’s voice had trembled a little, since not only did he feel that he was doing the “magnanimous,” but also he knew that he was delivering something like a “lecture” to his father; but such an effect does the sound of his own voice exercise upon a human being that towards the end Arkady pronounced his words firmly, and even with a certain degree of empressement.
“I thank you, Arkady,” Nikolai Petrovitch said faintly as his fingers began their customary perambulation of his forehead. “Nor is your conjecture mistaken, for if this girl had not deserved the invitation, I should not, of course, have—in other words, as you imply, this is no frivolous whim on my part. Nor need I have spoken of the matter, were it not that I desired you to understand that she might possibly have felt embarrassed at meeting you on the very day after your arrival.”
“Then let me go and meet her,” exclaimed Arkady with another access of “magnanimity” as he sprang from his chair. “Yes, let me go and explain to her why she need not shun me.”
Nikolai Petrovitch also rose.
“Arkady,” he began, “pray do me a favour. Hitherto I had not warned you that——”
But, without listening to him, Arkady darted from the terrace. For a moment or two Nikolai Petrovitch gazed after him—then, overcome with confusion, relapsed into a chair. His heart was beating rapidly. Whether or not he was picturing to himself a strangeness of future relations with his son; whether he was imagining that, had his son refrained from interfering, the latter might have paid him more respect in future; whether he was reproaching himself for his own weakness—it is difficult to say what his thoughts were. Probably in them there was a combination of the feelings just indicated, if only in the form of apprehensions. Yet those apprehensions cannot have been deeply rooted, as was proved by the fact that, for all the beating of his heart, the colour had not left his face.
Soon hasty footsteps were heard approaching, and Arkady reappeared on the terrace.
“I have made her acquaintance!” he shouted with a kindly, good-humoured, triumphant expression. “That Theodosia Nikolaievna is not well to-day is a fact; but also it is a fact that she is going to appear later. And why did you not tell me that I had a little brother? Otherwise I should have gone and kissed him last night, even as I have done this moment.”
Nikolai Petrovitch tried to say something—to rise and to make an explanation of some sort; but Arkady cut him short by falling upon his neck.
“What is this? Again embracing?” said Paul Petrovitch behind them.
As a matter of fact, neither father nor son was ill-pleased to see him appear, for, however touching such situations may be, one may be equally glad to escape from them.
“At what are you surprised?” asked Nikolai Petrovitch gaily. “Remember that I have not seen Arkesha for several centuries—at all events, not since last night!”
“Oh, I am not surprised,” said Paul Petrovitch. “On the contrary, I should not mind embracing him myself.”
And Arkady, on approaching his uncle, felt once more upon his cheek the impression of a perfumed moustache. Paul Petrovitch then sat down to table. Clad in an elegant morning suit of English cut, he was flaunting on his head a diminutive fez which helped the carelessly folded tie to symbolise the freedom of a country life. At the same time, the stiff collar of the shirt (which was striped, not white, as best befitted a matutinal toilet) supported with its usual rigour an immaculately shaven chin.
“Well, Arkady?” said he. “Where is your new friend?”
“Out somewhere. He seldom misses going for an early morning walk. But the great thing is to take no notice of him, for he detests all ceremony.”
“So I have perceived.” And with his usual deliberateness Paul Petrovitch began to butter a piece of bread. “Will he be staying here very long?”
“Well, as long as he may care to stay. As a matter of fact, he is going on to his father’s place.”
“And where does his father live?”
“Some eighty versts from here, in the same province as ourselves. I believe he has a small property, and used to be an army doctor.”
“H’m! Ever since last night I have been asking myself where I can have heard the name before. Nikolai, do you remember whether there was a doctor of that name in our father’s division?”
“Yes, there used to be.”
“Then that doctor will be this fellow’s father. H’m!” And Paul Petrovitch twitched his moustache. “What exactly is your Bazarov?” he enquired of Arkady.
“What is he?” Arkady repeated smiling. “Do you really want me to tell you what he is, Uncle?”
“If you please, my nephew.”
“He is a Nihilist.”
“A what?” exclaimed Nikolai Petrovitch, while even Paul Petrovitch paused in the act of raising a knife to the edge of which there was a morsel of butter adhering.
“A Nihilist,” repeated Arkady.
“A Nihilist?” queried Nikolai Petrovitch. “I imagine that that must be a term derived from the Latin nihil or ‘nothing.’ It denotes, I presume, a man who—a man who—well, a man who declines to accept anything.”
“Or a man who declines to respect anything,” hazarded Paul Petrovitch as he re-applied himself to the butter.
“No, a man who treats things solely from the critical point of view,” corrected Arkady.
“But the two things are one and the same, are they not?” queried Paul Petrovitch.
“Oh no. A Nihilist is a man who declines to bow to authority, or to accept any principle on trust, however sanctified it may be.”
“And to what can that lead?” asked Paul Petrovitch.
“It depends upon the individual. In one man’s case, it may lead to good; in that of another, to evil.”
“I see. But we elders view things differently. We folk of the older generation believe that without principles” (Paul Petrovitch pronounced the word softly, and with a French accent, whereas Arkady had pronounced it with an emphasis on the leading syllable)—"without principles it is impossible to take a single step in life, or to draw a single breath. Mais vous avez changé tout cela. God send you health and a general’s rank, Messieurs Nihil—how do you pronounce it?”
“Ni-hi-lists,” said Arkady distinctly.
“Quite so (formerly we had Hegelists, and now they have become Nihilists)—God send you health and a general’s rank, but also let us see how you will contrive to exist in an absolute void, an airless vacuum. Pray ring the bell, brother Nikolai, for it is time for me to take my cocoa.”
Tysiące ebooków i audiobooków
Ich liczba ciągle rośnie, a Ty masz gwarancję niezmiennej ceny.
Napisali o nas:
Nowy sposób na e-księgarnię
Czytelnicy nie wierzą
Legimi idzie na całość
Projekt Legimi wielkim wydarzeniem
Spotify for ebooks