The manor-house in which Anna Sergievna resided stood on an open hillock, and close to a yellow stone church with a green roof, white columns, and an entrance surmounted by a fresco representative of Our Lord's Resurrection—the latter executed in the "Italian" style, and having as its most noticeable feature the figure of a swarthy warrior whose rounded contours filled the entire foreground. Behind the church, the village extended into two long wings, and had thatched roofs surmounted by a medley of chimneys; while the manor-house itself was built in a style homogeneous with the design of the church—that is to say, in the style commonly known as "Alexandrine," and embracing yellow-painted walls, a green roof, white columns, and a front adorned with a coat-of-arms. In fact, both buildings had been erected by a provincial architect to the order of the late Odintsov, a man impatient (so he himself always expressed it) of "vain and arbitrary innovations." Lastly, to right and left of the house there showed the trees of an antique garden, while an avenue of clipped firs led the way to the principal entrance.
The friends having been met in the hall by two strapping lacqueys in livery, one of the latter immediately ran for the butler; who (a stout man in a black tail-coat) proceeded to usher the guests up a carpeted staircase, and into a room which contained a couple of beds and the usual appurtenances of the toilet. Evidently neatness was the order of the day in the establishment, for everything was both spotlessly clean and as fragrant as the chamber wherein a Minister of State holds his receptions.
"Anna Sergievna will be glad to see you in half an hour," the butler said. "Meanwhile, have you any orders for me?"
"No, worthy one," replied Bazarov. "Except that you might so far condescend as to bring me a small glassful of vodka."
"It shall be done, sir," said the butler with a shade of hesitation; whereafter he departed with creaking boots.
"What grandeur!" commented Bazarov. "In your opinion, how ought our hostess to be addressed? In the style of a duchess?"
"Yes, and of a very great duchess," replied Arkady. "The more so, seeing that she has invited such influential aristocrats as ourselves to visit her."
"I presume that you are referring to your humble servant—a future doctor, the son of a doctor, and the grandson of a sexton? By the way, are you aware that my grandparent was a sexton, even as was Speransky's?" A smile curled his lips. "Thus you see that the lady is mistaken, woefully mistaken. We haven't such a thing as a tail-coat, have we?"
Arkady shrugged his shoulders bravely; but he too was feeling a little awe-stricken.
At the close of the half-hour the pair entered the drawing-room, which they found to be a large, lofty apartment of rich, but tasteless, appointments. Against the walls, in the usual affected style, stood heavy, expensive furniture, the walls themselves were hung with brown curtains to which were florid gilt borders (all these things the late Odintsov had ordered through a Muscovite friend who kept a wineshop), and above a divan in the centre of the room hung a portrait of a wrinkled, sandy-haired individual who seemed to be regarding the newcomers with extreme distaste.
"He," whispered Bazarov.
The hostess herself then entered. She was clad in a light dress, and had her hair dressed behind the ears—a style which communicated to her pure, fresh countenance an air of almost girlish juvenility.
"Thank you for having kept your promise," she said. "And now that you are come, I think that you will find the time not altogether dull. For one thing, I intend to introduce you to my sister, who is a skilful piano-player (of course, Monsieur Bazarov, to you such things are a matter of indifference, but you, Monsieur Kirsanov, I know, adore the art of music). Also, an elderly aunt lives with me as my companion, and at intervals a neighbour looks in for a game of cards. You see our home circle. Now let us seat ourselves."
Madame delivered this little speech with the precision of a lesson which she had learnt by heart, and then turned to converse with Arkady. On finding that her mother had known his, and that the latter had made the former her confidant during her love affair with Nikolai Petrovitch, the lad fell to speaking enthusiastically of his dead parent, while Bazarov applied himself to the inspection of some albums.
"What a domesticated individual I am!" thought he to himself.
Presently, with much pattering of paws, there burst into the room a splendid Russian greyhound with a blue collar; and it was followed by a young girl of eighteen with a dark complexion, dark hair, a round, but pleasant, face, and small, dark eyes. She was carrying a basket of flowers.
"My sister Katia," said Madame Odintsov, indicating the girl with her head.
Katia seated herself beside Madame, and fell to arranging her flowers; while the greyhound (whose name was Fifi) approached each of the guests in turn, laid his cold nose in their hands, and wagged his tail.
"Have you gathered those flowers yourself?" asked Madame Odintsov.
"Yes, Anna Sergievna," the girl replied.
"And is your aunt going to join us at tea?"
These replies of Katia's were accompanied with a frank, but gentle and bashful, smile, and an upward glance half grave, half sportive. Everything in her betokened youth and freshness—her voice, the down on her cheeks, her little pink hands with their white, dimpled palms, and the slightly contracted shoulders. Also, she blushed without ceasing, and drew her breath with a fluttering respiration.
Presently Madame Odintsov turned to Bazarov.
"Surely it is only out of politeness that you are looking at those photographs?" she said. "They cannot possibly interest you. Pray move nearer to us, and let us engage in an argument."
Bazarov approached her.
"What shall we argue about?" he inquired.
"About anything you like. But first let me warn you that I am a redoubtable opponent."
"Yes, certainly. You look surprised? Why so?"
"Because, so far as I can tell, your temperament is one of the cold and lethargic order, whereas argument needs impulsiveness."
"How have you contrived so quickly to appraise me? To begin with, I am both impatient and exacting. Ask Katia if I am not. Also, I am easily moved to impulse."
Bazarov darted a glance at her.
"Possibly," he said. "Certainly you ought to know best. But, since you desire to argue, let us argue. While looking at those views of Saxon Switzerland, I heard you remark that they could not interest me. This you said, I presume, because you suppose me to be lacking in the artistic sense. Well, I am so. But might not those pictures be interesting to me solely from the geological point of view—from the standpoint of an observer, say, of the formation of mountains?"
"Pardon me, but, as a geologist, you would prefer to resort to some special work on that science, not to a few pictures."
"Oh, not necessarily. For a picture may instantly present what a book could set forth only in a hundred pages."
Anna Sergievna made no reply.
"Well," she resumed, leaning forward upon the table—a movement which brought her face closer to Bazarov's, "since you possess not a grain of the artistic instinct, how do you contrive to get on without it?"
"Rather, I would ask you: What is the artistic instinct able to effect?"
"It is able at least to help one to examine and to instruct one's fellow man."
"In the first place," he retorted, "the prime requisite in that connection is experience of life; and, in the second place, the study of detached personalities is scarcely worth the trouble. For all we human beings are alike, in body as in spirit. In each of us there is an identical brain, an identical spleen, an identical heart, an identical pair of lungs, an identical stock of the so-called moral qualities (trifling variations between which we need not take into account). Therefore from a single specimen of the human race may all the rest be judged. In fact, human beings are like trees in a forest. You never find a botanist studying its individual trunks."
Katia, who had been arranging her flowers, glanced at Bazarov in amazement, and, in so doing, encountered his keen, contemptuous gaze, and blushed to her ears. Anna Sergievna shook her head.
"Trees in a forest!" she exclaimed. "Think you, then, that there is no difference between the wise man and the fool, the good and the bad?"
"No, I do not," replied Bazarov. "On the contrary, I believe that such differences do exist. The point is that they exist only as between the sound and the ailing. For instance, a consumptive's lungs are not as yours and mine; yet they have been fashioned precisely as our own have been. Also, whereas, to a certain extent, we know whence bodily disorders arise, moral disorders come of faulty education, the thousand and one follies with which the human brain is afflicted, in short, any irregular condition of the social body. Rectify that body, and moral sickness will soon cease to be."
Speaking as though he were saying to himself, "Believe me or not as you like, it is all one to me," Bazarov drew his long fingers through his whiskers, while his eyes glowed like coals.
"Then you think," pursued Anna Sergievna, "that, once the social body has been rectified, stupid and evil people will cease to exist?"
"At all events, once the social body is properly organised, the fact that a man be wise or stupid, good or bad, will cease to be of importance."
"Ah! I understand! That is because we all possess an identical spleen?"
"Precisely so, madam."
She turned to Arkady.
"And what is your opinion, Arkady Nikolaievitch?" she enquired.
"I agree with Evgenii," was his reply as, in his turn, he received a glance of astonishment from Katia.
"I am surprised, gentlemen," said Madame. "However, I can hear my aunt approaching, so let us spare her ears, and discuss this later."
Anna Sergievna's aunt—a small, spare woman with a mallet-shaped face, a pair of narrow, malicious eyes, and a grey false front—bestowed scarcely so much as a bow upon the guests, but at once relapsed into a huge velvet armchair which no one but herself was allowed to use. And even when Katia hastened to place for her a footstool, the old woman did not thank her, nor even look at her, but chafed her hands under the yellow shawl which covered the whole of her frail figure. Beyond all things was she fond of yellow; wherefore she had had her cap trimmed with ribands of the same hue.
"Have you slept well, Auntie?" Madame Odintsov inquired with a raising of her voice.
"That dog is here again!" the old woman muttered on noticing that Fifi was taking an irresolute step or two in her direction. "Turn the beast out, I say! Out with it!"
Calling Fifi, Katia opened the door for the animal to leave the room; whereupon, though it bounded out in joyous mood (under the impression that it was about to be taken for a walk), it no sooner found itself marooned outside than it fell to whining and scratching at the panels; which caused the Princess to frown, and necessitated Katia's exit to rectify matters.
"Tea is ready, I believe," Madame Odintsov continued. "Gentlemen, pray come. Will you have some tea, Auntie?"
The Princess rose from her chair in silence, and headed a procession to the dining-room, where a Cossack footman pulled a padded armchair from under the table (like the last, it was reserved for the Princess alone), and she subsided into its depths. Katia poured out tea, and handed her aunt the first cup—a cup adorned with a coat-of-arms; whereafter the old woman added some honey to the beverage (she looked upon tea-drinking with sugar as a sin of extravagance, and the more so since never at any time would she consent to spend an unnecessary kopeck), and then asked hoarsely:
"What has Prince Ivan to say in his letter?"
No one answered, and in time Bazarov and Arkady apprised the fact that, though treated, certainly, with respect, the old woman attracted no one's serious attention.
"They keep her here for show," Bazarov reflected. "She is kept because she comes of a princely house."
Tea over, Anna Sergievna proposed a walk; but since at that moment a drop of rain came pattering down, the company (with the exception of the Princess) returned to the drawing-room. Presently the neighbour addicted to a game of cards came in, and proved to be one Porphyri Platonitch—a stout, grey-headed, affable, diverting individual who, in addition, could boast of a pair of legs as shapely as though turned with a lathe. Anna Sergievna then inquired of Bazarov (with whom she had again been in conversation) whether he would care to join them in the old-fashioned game of "Preferences"; and he consented on the ground that he could not too soon prepare himself for the post of a district physician.
"But take care," remarked his hostess. "Porphyri Platonitch and I are not unlikely to beat you. Meanwhile, do you, Katia, go and play something on the piano for the benefit of Arkady Nikolaievitch. I know that he loves music, and we too shall be glad to listen to you."
Reluctantly Katia approached the piano; nor, in spite of Arkady's fondness for music, did he follow her any more eagerly.
The truth of it was that he felt himself to be being "got rid of" by Madame Odintsov, and already there was simmering in his heart, as in the heart of any young man of his age, that vague, oppressive feeling which is the harbinger of love.
Raising the lid of the piano, Katia murmured under her breath, and without looking at Arkady:
"What shall I play?"
"Anything you wish," he replied with indifference.
"But what sort of music do you prefer?" she persisted with unchanged attitude.
"Classical music," was the reply delivered with equal nonchalance.
So Katia produced the Viennese master's Sonata-Fantasia in C minor. She played it well, but coldly, and not with any excess of precision. Likewise, she kept her lips compressed, her eyes upon the keys, and her form erect and motionless. Only towards the close of the piece did her face kindle at all, while at the same moment a tiny curl detached itself from her loosely-bound hair, and fell over her dusky forehead.
Arkady also felt moved by the closing portion of the Sonata—the portion where the charming, careless gaiety of the melody gives place to sudden bursts of mournful, almost tragic lamentation. Yet the thoughts which Mozart's strains aroused in him bore no relation to Katia. He merely looked at her now and then, and reflected:
"She plays well; nor is she bad-looking."
The Sonata over, Katia inquired, without removing her hands from the keyboard: "Is that enough?" and Arkady replied that he would not think of troubling her further. Then he went on to talk of Mozart, and to ask her whether she herself had selected the Sonata, or whether it had been selected for her by some one. Katia answered in monosyllables, and from time to time went into hiding, retired into herself; and on each occasion of this sort she made her reappearance but reluctantly, and with a face composed to a stubborn, almost a stupid, air. Yet she was not timid so much as diffident and a trifle overawed by the presence of the sister who had brought her up (not that the sister in question ever suspected it). Finally, she returned to her flowers, and Arkady found himself reduced to calling Fifi to his side, and stroking the dog's head with a kindly smile.
As for Bazarov, he had to pay forfeit after forfeit, for Anna Sergievna was fairly clever at cards, and Porphyri Platonitch was a player fully able to look after himself. Consequently the young doctor rose a loser, not by a considerable sum, but by one which, at all events, was sufficient to be scarcely agreeable. After supper Anna Sergievna started a discussion on botany.
"I wish you would take me for a walk to-morrow morning," she said. "I want you to teach me the Latin names of our field flowers, and also their characteristics."
"But how could the Latin names benefit you?" he inquired.
"System is in all things necessary," she replied.
"A truly wonderful woman!" Arkady commented the same evening, on finding himself alone with his friend in the bedroom.
"Yes," replied Bazarov. "She certainly possesses brains. Also, she has dreamed dreams."
"In what sense?"
"In the best sense, my friend—in the very best sense, O Arkady Nikolaievitch. Certain also am I that she manages her property well. But the marvellous phenomenon is not she, but her sister."
"What? That hoyden?"
"Yes, that hoyden. The hoyden contains an element of freshness and virginity and timidity and reticence and anything else you like which makes her really an object worthy of interest. Of the one you could make whatsoever you might desire, whereas of the other there is nothing to be said save that she represents a yesterday's loaf."
Arkady made no reply, and soon the two men were asleep and dreaming their own dreams.
The same night Anna Sergievna devoted much thought to her two guests. Bazarov she liked both for his total lack of affectation and for the piquancy of his criticisms; so that she seemed to divine in him something new, something which had hitherto remained unknown to her experience. All of which excited her curiosity.
And she too was a strange being. Free from all prejudice, and devoid of all strong beliefs, she rendered obeisance to nothing, and had in view no goal. Again, though much was open to her sight, and much interested her, nothing really satisfied her, and she had no wish for such satisfaction, since her intellect was at once inquiring and indifferent, and harboured doubts which never merged into insensibility, and aspirations which never swelled into unrest. True, if she had been dowered with less wealth and independence, she might have plunged into the fray, and learnt the nature of passion; but, as things stood, she took life unhastingly, and, though often finding it tedious, spent her days in a deliberate, rarely agitated manner. True, at times rainbow colours gleamed even before her eyes; yet no sooner had they faded than she would draw her breath as before, and in no way regret their disappearance. Again, though, at times, her imagination exceeded the bounds of what is considered permissible by conventional morality, her blood still coursed tranquilly through her lethargic and bewitchingly shaped frame; and only when she was issuing in a warm and tender glow from her comfortable bathroom would she fall to pondering upon the futility of life, its sorrow and toil and cruelty, and feel her soul swell to sudden temerity, and begin to seethe with noble aspirations. Yet even then, let but a draught happen to blow in her direction from an open window, and at once she would shrug her shoulders, commiserate herself, come very near to losing her temper, and become conscious of nothing but the thought that the one thing necessary was to ensure that by hook or by crook that abominable draught should be averted.
Again, like all women who have never known what it is to fall in love, she was sensible of a persistent yearning for something wholly undefined. There was nothing that she actually lacked, yet she seemed to lack everything. The late Odintsov she had merely tolerated (the marriage having been one de convenance only—though she would never have consented to become his wife had he not also been kindly of heart), and from the experience she had derived a certain aversion to the male sex in general, which she conceived to be composed exclusively of creatures slovenly, idle, wearisome, and weakly exacting in their habits. In fact, only once had she met (it was somewhere abroad) a man who had in any way attracted her. He had been a young Swede of a knightly countenance, honest blue eyes, and an open brow; but, for all the impression that he had made upon her, the impression in question had not prevented her from shortly afterwards returning to Russia.
"A strange man, that Bazarov," she thought to herself as she reposed in her magnificent bed with its lace-embroidered pillows and its light silken coverlet. It may be said, that, in addition to having inherited her late father's fastidious and luxurious tastes, she still cherished for that wayward, but kindhearted, parent a considerable affection, since during his lifetime he had not only adored her and cracked jokes with her on equal terms, but also accorded her his whole confidence, and made it his invariable custom to seek her advice. Of her mother she had but the scantiest of remembrance.
"Yes, a strange man is that Bazarov," she repeated; after which she stretched her limbs, smiled, clasped her hands behind her head, ran an eye over the pages of two foolish French novels, let fall the second of these volumes from her hands, and relapsed into slumber—a cold, spotless figure in spotless, fragrant white.
When breakfast was over next morning, she set forth upon the botanising expedition with Bazarov; to return home just before luncheon time. Meanwhile Arkady did not leave the house, but spent an hour with Katia, nor found the time wearisome, seeing that of her own accord Katia volunteered to repeat the Sonata. Yet the instant that his eyes beheld Madame Odintsov returning his heart leapt within him. She was crossing the garden with a slightly tired step, but with her cheeks rosy of hue, her eyes shining under her round straw hat with even greater brilliancy than usual, and her fingers twirling between them the stalk of some field flower. Also, her light mantilla had slipped to her shoulders, and the broad ribands of her hat were floating over her bosom. Behind her walked Bazarov with his usual air of superciliousness and self-assurance, while on his face there was an expression cheerful, and even good-humoured. Yet somehow, Arkady did not like that expression.
Muttering "Good-morning," Bazarov passed towards his room, while Madame Odintsov accorded the young man a negligent handshake—then similarly continued her way.
"'Good morning!'" thought Arkady to himself. "One would think that she and I had made one another's acquaintance only to-day!"