Next> | <Prev | End

Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev, 1861



Chapter 25


AT NIKOLSKOE KATYA AND ARKADY WERE SITTING IN THE GARDEN on a turf seat in the shade of a tall ash tree; Fifi had placed herself on the ground near them, giving her long body that graceful curve which is known among sportsmen as the "hare's bend." Both Arkady and Katya were silent; he held in his hands a half-open book, while she was picking out of a basket some remaining crumbs of white bread and throwing them to the small family of sparrows which with their peculiar cowardly impudence were chirping and hopping around right up to her feet. A faint breeze, stirring the ash leaves, kept gently moving pale gold patches of sunlight up and down across the shady path and over Fifi's back; an unbroken shadow fell on Arkady and Katya; only from time to time a bright streak gleamed in her hair. Both were silent, but the way in which they were silent and sitting together indicated a certain confidential friendliness; each of them seemed not to be thinking of the other, while secretly rejoicing at each other's presence. Their faces, too, had changed since we saw them last; Arkady seemed more composed and Katya brighter and more self-confident.

"Don't you think," began Arkady, "that the ash has been very well named in Russian Yasen; not a single other tree is so light and translucently clear (yasno) against the sky."

Katya raised her eyes upwards and murmured, "Yes," and Arkady thought, "Well, she doesn't reproach me for talking poetically."

"I don't care for Heine," said Katya, glancing at the book which Arkady held in his hands, "either when he laughs or when he weeps. I like him when he is thoughtful and sad."

"And I like him when he laughs," remarked Arkady.

"Those are the relics of your old satirical tendency." ("Relics," thought Arkady. "If Bazarov could have heard that!") "Wait a bit; we shall transform you.

"Who will transform me? You?"

"Who? My sister, Porfiry Platonovich, whom you've stopped quarreling with, my aunt, whom you escorted to church the day before yesterday."

"Well, I couldn't refuse. But, as for Anna Sergeyevna, you remember she agreed with Evgeny in a great many things."

"My sister was under his influence then, just as you were."

"As I was! Have you noticed that I've already shaken off his influence?"

Katya remained silent.

"I know," continued Arkady, "you never liked him."

"I'm unable to judge him."

"Do you know, Katerina Sergeyevna, every time I hear that answer, I don't believe it . . . there is no one beyond the capacity of judgment of any of us! That is just a pretext for getting out of it."

"Well, I'll tell you then, he is . . . not because I don't like him, but I feel he is quite alien to me, and I am alien to him . . . and you too are alien to him."

"Why is that?"

"How can I tell you? He's a wild beast, while we are both domestic animals."

"And am I a domestic animal?"

Katya nodded her head.

Arkady scratched his ear. "Listen, Katerina Sergeyevna, surely that is in the nature of an insult."

"Why, would you rather be wild?"

"Not wild, but powerful, energetic."

"It's no good wishing to be that . . . your friend, you see, doesn't wish for it, but he has it."

"Hm! So you suppose he had a great influence on Anna Sergeyevna?"

"Yes. But no one can keep the upper hand of her for long," added Katya in a low voice.

"Why do you think that?"

"She's very proud . . . I didn't mean to say that . . she values her independence very much."

"Who doesn't value it?" asked Arkady, and the thought flashed through his mind: "What is it for?" The same thought occurred to Katya. Young people who are friendly and often together constantly find themselves thinking the same thoughts.

Arkady smiled and, coming a little closer to Katya, he said in a whisper: "Confess, you are a little afraid of her."

"Of whom?"

"Of her," repeated Arkady significantly.

"And how about you?" asked Katya in her turn.

"I am also. Please note I said, I am also."

Katya wagged her finger at him threateningly.

"I wonder at that," she began; "my sister has never felt so friendly towards you as just now; much more than when you first came here."

"Fancy that!"

"And you haven't noticed it? Aren't you glad about it?"

Arkady became thoughtful.

"How have I succeeded in winning Anna Sergeyevna's favor? Could it be because I brought her your mother's letters?"

"Both for that and for other reasons which I won't tell you."

"Why?"

"I shan't say."

"Oh, I know, you're very obstinate."

"Yes, I am."

"And observant."

Katya cast a sidelong glance at Arkady. "Perhaps so; does that annoy you? What are you thinking about?"

"I'm wondering how you have grown to be so observant as you certainly are. You are so shy and distrustful; you keep everyone at a distance . . ."

"I live so much alone; that in itself leads to thoughtfulness. But do I keep everyone at a distance?"

Arkady flung a grateful glance at Katya.

"That's all very well," he went on; "but people in your position--I mean with your fortune, seldom possess that gift; it is hard for them, as it is for emperors, to get at the truth."

"But, you see, I am not rich."

Arkady was surprised and did not at once understand Katya. "Why, as a matter of fact, the property is all her sister's!" struck him suddenly; the thought was not disagreeable to him.

"How nicely you said that," he remarked.

"What?"

"You said it nicely, simply, without either being ashamed or making much of it. By the way, I imagine there must always be something special, a kind of pride in the feeling of a person who knows and says that he is poor."

"I have never experienced anything of that sort, thanks to my sister. I referred to my position just now only because it happened to come up in our conversation."

"Well, but you must admit that even you have something of that pride I spoke of just now."

"For instance?"

"For instance, surely you--excuse my question--you wouldn't be willing to marry a rich man?"

"If I loved him very much . . . no, probably even then I wouldn't marry him."

"There, you see!" cried Arkady, and after a moment's pause he added, "And why wouldn't you marry him?"

"Because even in the ballads unequal matches are always unlucky."

"Perhaps you want to dominate, or . . ."

"Oh, no! What's the good of that? On the contrary, I'm ready to obey; only inequality is difficult. But to keep one's self-respect and to obey--that I can understand; that is happiness; but a subordinate existence . . . no, I've had enough of that as it is."

"Had enough of that," repeated Arkady after Katya. "You're not Anna Sergeyevna's sister for nothing; you're just as independent as she is; but you're more reserved. I'm sure you would never be the first to express your feelings, however strong or sacred . . ."

"Well, what would you expect?" asked Katya.

"You are equally intelligent; you have as much character, if not more, than she . . ."

"Don't compare me with my sister, please," interrupted Katya hurriedly; "it puts me too much at a disadvantage. You seem to forget that my sister is beautiful and clever and . . . you in particular, Arkady Nikolaich, ought not to say such things and with such a serious face too."

"What does that mean? 'You in particular.' And what makes you conclude that I'm joking?"

"Of course you're joking."

"Do you think so? But what if I'm convinced of what I say? If I find that I've not even put it strongly enough?"

"I don't understand you."

"Really? Well, now I see that I certainly overestimated your powers of observation."

"How is that?"

Arkady made no answer and turned away, but Katya searched for a few more crumbs in the basket and began throwing them to the sparrows; but she moved her arm too vigorously and the birds flew away without stopping to pick them up.

"Katerina Sergeyevna," began Arkady suddenly, "it is probably a matter of indifference to you; but you should know, I would not exchange you, neither for your sister, nor for anyone else in the world."

He got up and walked quickly away, as if he were frightened by the words which had burst from his lips.

Katya let her two hands drop together with the basket, on to her knees, and with bowed head she gazed for some time after Arkady. Gradually a crimson flush spread a little to her cheeks, but her lips did not smile, and her dark eyes had a look of perplexity and of some other still undefined feeling.

"Are you alone?" sounded the voice of Anna Sergeyevna, quite close to her. "I thought you came into the garden with Arkady."

Katya slowly raised her eyes to her sister (elegantly, almost elaborately dressed, she was standing on the path and tickling Fifi's ears with the tip of her parasol) and slowly answered, "I'm alone."

"So I see," answered the other sister with a laugh. "I suppose he has gone back to his room."

"Yes."

"Were you reading together?"

"Yes."

Anna Sergeyevna took Katya under the chin and raised her face.

"You didn't quarrel, I hope."

"No," said Katya, quietly moving away her sister's hand.

"How solemnly you answer. I thought I should find him here and was going to suggest a walk with him. He keeps on asking me about it. They have brought your new shoes from the town; go and try them on; I noticed yesterday that your old ones are quite worn out. Really you don't pay enough attention to these things; but all the same you've got such lovely little feet! And your hands are good . . . only rather large; so you must make the most of your feet. But you're not a flirt."

Anna Sergeyevna went farther down the path, her beautiful dress rustling slightly as she walked.

Katya rose from the bench, and taking Heine with her, also went off--only not to try on the new shoes.

"Lovely little feet," she thought, as she slowly and lightly mounted the stone steps of the terrace which were burning from the heat of the sun. "Lovely little feet, you call them . . . Well, he shall be at my feet."

But a feeling of shame came over her at once, and she ran swiftly upstairs.

Arkady was going along the passage to his room when he was overtaken by the butler, who announced that Mr. Bazarov was sitting in his room.

"Evgeny!" muttered Arkady in a startled tone. "Has he been here long?"

"He has arrived only this minute, and gave orders not to be announced to Anna Sergeyevna but to be shown straight up to you."

"Can any misfortune have happened at home?" thought Arkady, and running hurriedly up the stairs he opened the door at once. The sight of Bazarov immediately reassured him, though a more experienced eye would probably have discerned signs of inward excitement in the sunken but still energetic face of the unexpected visitor. With a dusty cloak over his shoulders, and a cap on his head, he was sitting by the window; he did not even get up when Arkady flung himself on his neck with loud exclamations.

"Well, how unexpected! What good luck has brought you?" he kept on repeating, bustling about the room like someone who both imagines and wants to show that he is pleased. "I suppose everything is all right at home; they're all well, aren't they?"

"Everything is all right there, but not everyone is well," said Bazarov. "But don't go on chattering, get them to bring me some kvass, sit down and listen to what I'm going to tell you, in a few, but, I hope, fairly vigorous sentences."

Arkady kept quiet while Bazarov told him about his duel with Pavel Petrovich. Arkady was greatly surprised and even upset, but he did not think it necessary to show this; he asked only whether his uncle's wound was really not serious, and on receiving the reply that it was--most interesting, though not from a medical point of view--he gave a forced smile, but he felt sick at heart and somehow ashamed. Bazarov seemed to understand him.

"Yes, brother," he said, "you see what comes of living with feudal people. One becomes feudal oneself and takes part in knightly tournaments. Well, so I set off for my father's place," Bazarov concluded, "and on the way I turned in here . . . to tell you all this, I should say, if I didn't think it a useless and stupid lie. No, I turned in here--the devil knows why. You see it's sometimes a good thing for a man to take himself by the scruff of the neck and pull himself away, like a radish out of its bed; that's what I've just done . . . But I wanted to take one more look at what I've parted company with, at the bed where I've been sitting."

"I hope that those words don't apply to me," retorted Arkady excitedly. "I hope you don't think of parting from me."

Bazarov looked at him intently; his eyes were almost piercing.

"Would that upset you so much? It strikes me that you have parted from me already; you look so fresh and smart . . . your affairs with Anna Sergeyevna must be proceeding very well."

"What do you mean by my affairs with Anna Sergeyevna?"

"Why, didn't you come here from the town on her account, my little bird? By the way, how are those Sunday schools getting on? Do you mean to tell me you're not in love with her? Or have you already reached the stage of being bashful about it?"

"Evgeny, you know I've always been frank with you; I can assure you, I swear to you, you're making a mistake."

"Hm! A new story," remarked Bazarov under his breath, "but you needn't get agitated about it, for it's a matter of complete indifference to me. A romantic would say: I feel that our roads are beginning to branch out in different directions, but I will simply say that we're tired of each other."

"Evgeny . . ."

"There's no harm in that, my good soul; one gets tired of plenty of other things in the world! And now I think we had better say good-by. Ever since I've been here I've felt so disgusting, just as if I'd been reading Gogol's letters to the wife of the Governor of Kaluga. By the way, I didn't tell them to unharness the horses."

"Good heavens, that's impossible!"

"And why?"

"I say nothing of myself, but it would be the height of discourtesy to Anna Sergeyevna, who will certainly want to see you."

"Well, you're mistaken there."

"On the contrary, I'm convinced that I'm right," retorted Arkady. "And what are you pretending for? For that matter, haven't you come here because of her?"

"That might even be true, but you're mistaken all the same." But Arkady was right. Anna Sergeyevna wanted to see Bazarov and sent a message to him to that effect through the butler. Bazarov changed his clothes before he went to her; it turned out that he had packed his new suit in such a way as to be able to take it out easily.

Madame Odintsov received him, not in the room where he had so unexpectedly declared his love to her, but in the drawing room. She held her finger tips out to him amiably, but her face showed signs of involuntary tension.

"Anna Sergeyevna," Bazarov hastened to say, "first of all I must set your mind at rest. Before you stands a simple mortal, who came to his senses long ago, and hopes that other people too have forgotten his follies. I am going away for a long time, and though I'm by no means a soft creature, I should be sorry to carry away with me the thought that you remember me with abhorrence."

Anna Sergeyevna gave a deep sigh like one who has just climbed to the top of a high mountain, and her face lit up with a smile. She held out her hand to Bazarov a second time and responded to his pressure.

"Let bygones be bygones," she said, "all the more so, since, to say what is on my conscience, I was also to blame then, either for flirting or for something else. In a word, let us be friends as we were before. The other was a dream, wasn't it? And who remembers dreams?"

"Who remembers them? And besides, love . . . surely it's an imaginary feeling."

"Indeed? I am very pleased to hear that." Anna Sergeyevna expressed herself thus and so did Bazarov; they both thought they were speaking the truth. Was the truth, the whole truth, to be found in their words? They themselves did not know, much less could the author. But a conversation ensued between them, just as if they believed one another completely.

Anna Sergeyevna asked Bazarov, among other things, what he had been doing at the Kirsanovs'. He was on the point of telling her about his duel with Pavel Petrovich, but he checked himself with the thought that she might suppose he was trying to make himself interesting, and answered that he had been working the whole time.

"And I," observed Anna Sergeyevna, "had a fit of depression to start with, goodness knows why; I even planned to go abroad, just fancy! But that passed off; your friend Arkady Nikolaich arrived, and I settled down to my routine again, to my proper function."

"And what is that function, may I ask?"

"To be an aunt, guardian, mother--call it what you like. Incidentally, do you know I used not to understand before your close friendship with Arkady Nikolaich; I found him rather insignificant. But now I have got to know him better, and I recognize his intelligence . . . but he is young, so young, it's a great thing . . . not like you and me, Evgeny Vassilich."

"Is he still shy in your presence?" asked Bazarov.

"But was he . . ." began Anna Sergeyevna, and after a short pause she went on. "He has grown more trustful now; he talks to me; formerly he used to avoid me; though, as a matter of fact, I didn't seek his society either. He is more Katya's friend."

Bazarov felt vexed. "A woman can't help being a hypocrite," he thought.

"You say he used to avoid you," he said aloud with a cold smile; "but probably it's no secret to you that he was in love with you?"

"What? He too?" ejaculated Anna Sergeyevna.

"He too," repeated Bazarov, with a submissive bow. "Can it be that you didn't know it and that I've told you something new?"

Anna Sergeyevna lowered her eyes. "You are mistaken, Evgeny Vassilich."

"I don't think so. But perhaps I ought not to have mentioned it."

"And don't you try to fool me any more," he added to himself.

"Why not mention it? But I imagine that here as well you attach too much importance to a transitory impression. I begin to suspect that you are inclined to exaggerate."

"We had better not talk about that, Anna Sergeyevna."

"And why?" she replied, but herself diverted the conversation into another channel. She still felt ill at ease with Bazarov, though she had both told and assured herself that everything was forgotten. While exchanging the simplest remarks with him, even when she joked with him, she was conscious of an embarrassed fear. Thus do people on a steamer at sea talk and laugh carelessly, for all the world as if they were on dry land; but the moment there is some hitch, if the smallest sign appears of something unusual, there emerges at once on every face an expression of peculiar alarm, revealing the constant awareness of constant danger.

Anna Sergeyevna's conversation with Bazarov did not last long. She began to he absorbed in her own thoughts, to answer absentmindedly and ended by suggesting that they should go into the hall, where they found the princess and Katya.

"But where is Arkady Nikolaich?" asked the hostess, and on hearing that he had not been seen for more than an hour, she sent someone to look for him. He was not found at once; he had hidden himself away in the wildest part of the garden, and with his chin propped on his folded hands, he was sitting wrapped in thought. His thoughts were deep and serious, but not mournful. He knew that Anna Sergeyevna was sitting alone with Bazarov, and he felt no jealousy as he had before; on the contrary, his face slowly brightened; it seemed as if he was at once wondering and rejoicing and deciding to do something.






Notes



Gogol's letters: a slight anachronism, as these letters that offended everyone did not get published until 1860.


^Top | Next> 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 [25] 26 27 28