The same day also saw Bazarov make Thenichka's acquaintance. This was when he was walking in the garden with Arkady, and discussing the question of why certain trees in the garden, especially oaks, had not prospered as they might have done. Said he:
"You ought to plant the place with as many silver poplars as you can, and also with Norwegian firs—limes too, if loam should first be added. For instance, the reason why this clump has done so well is that it is made up of lilacs and acacias, of which neither require much room. But hullo! There is some one sitting there!"
The persons seated in the arbour were Thenichka, Duniasha, and little Mitia. Bazarov halted, and Arkady nodded to Thenichka as to an old acquaintance. Then the pair passed on again, and Bazarov inquired of his companion:
"Who was she?"
"To whom are you referring?"
"You know to whom. My word, she is good-looking!"
Arkady explained, with a touch of embarrassment, the identity of Thenichka.
"Ah!" Bazarov remarked. "Then your father has not at all bad taste. Indeed, I commend it. But what a young dog he is! I too must be introduced."
And he turned back in the direction of the arbour.
"Evgenii!" exclaimed Arkady nervously as he followed his friend. "For God's sake be careful what you do!"
"You need not be alarmed. I know what is what. I am no rustic."
And, approaching Thenichka, he doffed his cap.
"Allow me to introduce myself," he said with a polite bow. "I am a friend of Arkady's, and a perfectly harmless individual."
Rising from her seat, Thenichka gazed at him in silence.
"Oh, and what a fine baby!" he continued. "Pray do not disturb yourself. Never yet have I cast upon a child an evil spell. But why are his cheeks so red? Is he cutting teeth?"
"Yes," replied Thenichka. "He has now cut four of them, and the gums are a little swelled."
"Then let me see them. Do not be afraid. I am a doctor."
With that he took the baby into his arms, and both Thenichka and Duniasha were astonished at the fact that it made no resistance, showed no fear.
"I see," he continued. "Well, everything is going right with him, and he will have plenty of teeth. Nevertheless, should he in any way ail, please let me know. Are you yourself well?"
"Yes, thank God!"
"'Thank God,' say I too, for health on the part of the mother is the chief point of all. And you?" he added, turning to Duniasha. The latter, ultra-prim of demeanour in the drawing-room, and ultra-frivolous of behaviour in the kitchen, answered with a giggle.
"Well, you look all right. Here! Take your hero back again."
He replaced the baby in Thenichka's arms.
"How quiet he has been with you!" she exclaimed under her breath.
"Always children are quiet with me," he remarked. "You see, I know how to handle them."
"And they know when people are fond of them," put in Duniasha.
"True," assented Thenichka. "Though it is seldom that Mitia will go to any one's arms but mine."
"Would he come to me?" ventured Arkady, who, until now standing in the background, at this moment came forward towards the arbour. But on his attempting to wheedle Mitia to his arms, the infant threw back its head, and started to cry—a circumstance which greatly perturbed Thenichka.
"Another time—when he has come to be more used to me," said Arkady indulgently. And the two friends departed.
"What is her name?" asked Bazarov.
"Thenichka—Theodosia," replied Arkady.
"And her patronymic?"
"Bene! What I like about her is her total absence of shyness. True, that is a trait which some might have condemned in her, but I say, 'What rubbish!' For why need she be bashful? She is a mother, and therefore justified."
"I agree," said Arkady. "And my father——"
"Also is justified," concluded Bazarov.
"No, I do not agree in that respect."
"You do not altogether welcome a superfluous heir?"
"For shame, Evgenii!" cried Arkady heatedly. "How can you impute such motives? What I mean is that my father is not justified from one point of view. That is to say, he ought to marry her."
"Oh, ho!" said Bazarov quietly. "How high and mighty we are getting! So you still attribute importance to the marriage rite? This I should not have expected of you."
For some paces the friends walked on in silence. Then Bazarov continued:
"I have been inspecting your father's establishment. The cattle look poor, the horses seem broken-down, the buildings have a tipsy air, the workmen manifest a tendency to loaf, and I cannot yet determine whether the new steward is a fool or a rogue."
"You are censorious to-day?"
"I am; and the reason is that these good peasants are cheating your father—exemplifying the proverb that 'The Russian muzhik will break even the back of God.'"
"Soon I shall have to agree with my uncle in his opinion that you think but poorly of Russia."
"Rubbish! The Russian's very best point is that he holds a poor opinion of himself. Two and two make four. Nothing but that matters."
"And is nature also rubbish?" queried Arkady with a musing glance at the mottled fields where they lay basking in the soft, kindly rays of the morning sun.
"Nature is rubbish—at least in the sense in which you understand her. She is not a church, but a workshop wherein man is the labourer."
At this moment there came wafted to their ears the long-drawn strains of a violoncello, on which a sensitive, but inexperienced, hand was playing Schubert's Erwartung. Like honey did the voluptuous melody suffuse the air.
"Who is the musician?" asked Bazarov in astonishment.
"What? Your father plays the 'cello?"
"At his age?"
"Yes—he is only forty-four."
Bazarov burst out laughing.
"Why do you laugh?" asked Arkady.
"Pardon me, but the idea that your father—a man of forty-four, a paterfamilias, and a notable in the county—should play the 'cello!"
And he continued laughing, though Arkady, for all his reverence for his mentor, failed to accomplish even a smile.