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Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev, 1861

Chapter 5

THE NEXT MORNING BAZAROV WOKE UP EARLIER THAN ANYONE else and went out of the house. "Ugh!" he thought, "this isn't much of a place!" When Nikolai Petrovich had divided his estate with his peasants, he had to set aside for his new manor house four acres of entirely 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 flourished, very little water had collected in the pond, and the well water had a brackish taste. Only one arbor of lilac and acacia had grown up properly; the family sometimes drank tea or dined there. In a few minutes Bazarov had explored all the little paths in the garden; he went into the cattle yard and the stables, discovered two farm boys with whom he made friends at once, and went off with them to a small swamp about a mile from the house in order to search for frogs.

"What do you want frogs for, sir?" asked one of the boys.

"I'll tell you what for," answered Bazarov, who had a special capacity for winning the confidence of lower-class people, though he never cringed to them and indeed treated them casually; "I shall cut the frog open to see what goes on inside him, and then, as you and I are much the same as frogs except that we walk on legs, I shall learn what is going on inside us as well."

"And why do you want to know that?"

"In order not to make a mistake if you're taken ill and I have to cure you."

"Are you a doctor, then?"


"Vaska, did you hear that? The gentleman says that you and I are just like frogs; that's queer."

"I'm frightened of frogs," remarked Vaska, a boy of seven with flaxen hair and bare feet, dressed in a grey smock with a high collar.

"What are you frightened of? Do they bite?"

"There, paddle along into the water, you philosophers," said Bazarov.

Meanwhile Nikolai Petrovich had also awakened and had gone to see Arkady, whom he found dressed. Father and son went out on to the terrace under the shelter of the awning; the samovar was already boiling on the table near the balustrade among great bunches of lilac. A little girl appeared, the same one who had first met them on their arrival the evening before. In a shrill voice she said, "Fedosya Nikolayevna is not very well and she can't come; she told me to ask you, will you pour out tea yourself or should she send Dunyasha?"

"I'll pour myself, of course," interposed Nikolai Petrovich hurriedly. "Arkady, how do you like your tea, with cream or with lemon?"

"With cream," answered Arkady, then after a brief pause he muttered questioningly, "Daddy?"

Nikolai Petrovich looked at his son with embarrassment. "Well?" he said.

Arkady lowered his eyes.

"Excuse me, Daddy, if my question seems to you indiscreet," he began; "but you yourself by your frank talk yesterday encouraged me to be frank . . . you won't be angry?"

"Go on."

"You make me bold enough to ask you, isn't the reason why Fen . . . isn't it only because I'm here that she won't come to pour out tea?"

Nikolai Petrovich turned slightly aside.

"Perhaps," he at length answered, "she supposes . . . she feels ashamed."

Arkady glanced quickly at his father. "She has no reason to feel ashamed. In the first place, you know my point of view," (Arkady much enjoyed pronouncing these words) "and secondly, how could I want to interfere in the smallest way with your life and habits? Besides, I'm sure you couldn't make a bad choice; if you allow her to live under the same roof with you, she must be worthy of it; in any case, it's not for a son to judge his father--particularly for me, and with such a father, who has always let me do everything I wanted."

Arkady's voice trembled to start with; he felt he was being magnanimous and realized at the same time that he was delivering something like a lecture to his father; but the sound of his own voice has a powerful effect on any man, and Arkady pronounced the last words firmly and even emphatically.

"Thank you, Arkasha," said Nikolai Petrovich thickly, and his fingers again passed over his eyebrows. "What you suppose is in fact quite true. Of course if this girl hadn't deserved . . . it's not just a frivolous fancy. It's awkward for me to talk to you about this, but you understand that it's difficult for her to come here in your presence, especially on the first day of your arrival."

"In that case I'll go to her myself!" exclaimed Arkady, with a fresh onrush of generous excitement, and he jumped up from his seat. "I will explain to her that she has no need to feel ashamed in front of me."

Nikolai Petrovich got up also.

"Arkady," he began, "please . . . how is it possible . . . there . . . I haven't told you yet . . ."

But Arkady was no longer listening to him; he had run off the terrace. Nikolai Petrovich gazed after him and sank into a chair overwhelmed with confusion. His heart began to throb . . . Did he realize at that moment the inevitable strangeness of his future relations with his son? Was he aware that Arkady might have shown him more respect if he had never mentioned that subject at all? Did he reproach himself for weakness? It is hard to say. All these feelings moved within him. though in the state of vague sensations only, but the flush remained on his face, and his heart beat rapidly.

Then came the sound of hurrying footsteps and Arkady appeared on the terrace. "We have introduced ourselves, Daddy!" he cried with an expression of affectionate and good-natured triumph on his face. "Fedosya Nikolayevna is really not very well today, and she will come out a little later. But why didn't you tell me I have a brother? I should have kissed him last night as I kissed him just now!"

Nikolai Petrovich tried to say something, tried to rise and open wide his arms. Arkady flung himself on his neck.

"What's this? Embracing again!" sounded the voice of Pavel Petrovich behind them.

Father and son were both equally glad to see him at that moment; there are situations, however touching, from which one nevertheless wants to escape as quickly as possible.

"Why are you surprised at that?" said Nikolai Petrovich gaily. "What ages I've been waiting for Arkasha. I haven't had time to look at him properly since yesterday."

Arkady went up to his uncle and again felt on his cheeks the touch of that perfumed mustache. Pavel Petrovich sat down at the table. He was wearing another elegant English suit with a bright little fez on his head. That fez and the carelessly tied little cravat suggested the freedom of country life, but the stiff collar of his shirt--not white, it is true, but striped, as is correct with morning dress--stood up as inexorably as ever against his well-shaved chin.

"Where is your new friend?" he asked Arkady.

"He's not in the house; he usually gets up early and goes off somewhere. The main thing is not to pay any attention to him; he dislikes ceremony."

"Yes, that's obvious," Pavel Petrovich began, slowly spreading butter on his bread. "Is he going to stay long with us?"

"Possibly. He came here on his way to his father's."

"And where does his father live?"

"In our province, about sixty-five miles from here. He has a small property there. He used to be an army doctor."

"Tut, tut, tut! Of course. I kept on asking myself, 'Where have I heard that name before, Bazarov?' Nikolai, don't you remember, there was a surgeon called Bazarov in our father's division."

"I believe there was."

"Exactly. So that surgeon is his father. Hm!" Pavel Petrovich pulled his mustache. "Well, and Monsieur Bazarov, what is he?" he asked in a leisurely tone.

"What is Bazarov?" Arkady smiled. "Would you like me to tell you, uncle, what he really is?"

"Please do, nephew."

"He is a nihilist!"

"What?" asked Nikolai Petrovich, while Pavel Petrovich lifted his knife in the air with a small piece of butter on the tip and remained motionless.

"He is a nihilist," repeated Arkady.

"A nihilist," said Nikolai Petrovich. "That comes from the Latin nihil, nothing, as far as I can judge; the word must mean a man who . . . who recognizes nothing?"

"Say--who respects nothing," interposed Pavel Petrovich and lowered his knife with the butter on it.

"Who regards everything from the critical point of view," said Arkady.

"Isn't that exactly the same thing?" asked Pavel Petrovich.

"No, it's not the same thing. A nihilist is a person who does not bow down to any authority, who does not accept any principle on faith, however much that principle may be revered."

"Well, and is that good?" asked Pavel Petrovich. "That depends, uncle dear. For some it is good, for others very bad."

"Indeed. Well, I see that's not in our line. We old-fashioned people think that without principles, taken as you say on faith, one can't take a step or even breathe. Vous avez changé tout cela; may God grant you health and a general's rank, and we shall be content to look on and admire your . . . what was the name?"

"Nihilists," said Arkady, pronouncing very distinctly.

"Yes, there used to be Hegelists and now there are nihilists. We shall see how you will manage to exist in the empty airless void; and now ring, please, brother Nikolai, it's time for me to drink my cocoa."

Nikolai Petrovich rang the bell and called, "Dunyasha!" But instead of Dunyasha, Fenichka herself appeared on the terrace. She was a young woman of about twenty-three with a soft white skin, dark hair and eyes, childishly pouting lips and plump little hands. She wore a neat cotton dress; a new blue kerchief lay lightly over her soft shoulders. She carried a large cup of cocoa and setting it down in front of Pavel Petrovich, she was overcome with confusion; the hot blood rushed in a wave of crimson under the delicate skin of her charming face. She lowered her eyes and stood by the table slightly pressing it with her finger tips. She looked as if she were ashamed of having come in and somehow felt at the same time that she had a right to come.

Pavel Petrovich frowned and Nikolai Petrovich looked embarrassed. "Good morning, Fenichka," he muttered through his teeth.

"Good morning," she replied in a voice not loud but resonant, and casting a quick glance at Arkady, who gave her a friendly smile, she went quietly away. She had a slightly swaying walk, but that also suited her.

For some minutes silence reigned on the terrace. Pavel Petrovich was sipping his cocoa; suddenly he raised his head. "Here is Mr. Nihilist coming over to visit us," he murmured.

Bazarov was in fact approaching through the garden, striding over the flower beds. His linen coat and trousers were bespattered with mud; a clinging marsh plant was twined round the crown of his old round hat, in his right hand he held a small bag in which something alive was wriggling. He walked quickly up to the terrace and said with a nod, "Good morning, gentlemen; sorry I was late for tea; I'll join you in a moment. I just have to put these prisoners away."

"What have you there, leeches?" asked Pavel Petrovich.

"No, frogs."

"Do you eat them or keep them for breeding?"

"For experiments," answered Bazarov indifferently, and went into the house.

"So he's going to cut them up," observed Pavel Petrovich; "he has no faith in principles, but he has faith in frogs."

Arkady looked sadly at his uncle; Nikolai Petrovich almost imperceptibly shrugged his shoulders. Pavel Petrovich himself felt that his epigram had misfired and he began to talk about farming and the new bailiff who had come to him the evening before to complain that a laborer, Foma, was "debauched," and had become unmanageable. "He's such an Æsop," he remarked. "He announces to everyone that he's a worthless fellow; he wants to have a good time and then he'll suddenly leave his job on account of some stupidity."


nihilists: literally, "nothing-ists", those who believe in nothing at all but deny all values. Later, the term became more sinister when Russians using this name advocated assassination and terrorism.

principles: Pavel says it with the soft French, Bazarov with the harsh Russian, pronunciation.

Vous avez changé tout cela;: French, You have changed all that.

Hegelists: followers of the German idealist philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel (1770-1831).

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