Chapter XX

Bazarov leant forward from the tarantass, and Arkady, peering over his friend's shoulder, beheld, on the entrance steps of the manor-house, a tall, thin man with dishevelled hair and a narrow, aquiline nose. Clad in an old military tunic of which the front was flying open, he was standing with legs apart, a long pipe in his mouth, and eyes blinking in the glare of the sunlight.

The horses pulled up.

"So you have come at last!" exclaimed Bazarov's father, still continuing to smoke (though, as he did so, the stem of the pipe was rattling and shaking between his fingers). "Now, jump out, jump out!"

Again and again he embraced his son.

"Eniusha, Eniusha!" the tremulous voice of an old woman also cried as the door of the house opened and there appeared on the threshold a short, rotund old dame in a white cap and a short striped blouse. Gasping and staggering, she would have fallen had not Bazarov hastened to support her. As he did so her fat old arms clasped him around the neck, and her head sank upon his bosom. All then was still for a moment. Only her convulsive sobs broke the silence. Meanwhile Bazarov Senior breathed hard, and blinked more vigorously than ever.

"Enough, enough, Arisha!" he said at length with a glance at Arkady, who had remained standing beside the tarantass (and even the peasant on the box-seat had turned away his head). "Pray cease, I tell you. This is not necessary. I beg of you to cease."

"Ah, Vasili Ivanitch!" whimpered the poor old woman. "To think of the long while since last I saw my Eniusha, my own, my darling boy!" Still keeping her arms clasped around Bazarov, she withdrew her ruffled, convulsed, tear-stained face from his breast, looked at him for a moment with blissful, yet comical, eyes, and glued herself again to his bosom.

"Yes, yes," said Vasili Ivanitch. "Such is in the nature of things. But had we not better go indoors? See! Evgenii has brought a guest!"

With a slight scrape and a bow, he added to Arkady:

"Pray pardon us, sir, but you will understand the situation. A woman's weakness—ahem!—and a mother's heart."

His lips, chin, and eyebrows too were working. Evidently he was striving to master himself, and to appear totally indifferent. Arkady responded to his bow with a like salutation.

"Yes, yes, dear mother; let us go indoors," said Bazarov. Leading the shaking old lady into the house, he seated her in a cosy chair, bestowed upon his father another hurried embrace, and then presented Arkady.

"I am glad indeed to make your acquaintance!" said Vasili Ivanitch. "I am glad indeed! But do not expect too much of us, my dear sir. My establishment is organised on simple lines; it is placed on what I might call 'a war footing.' Come, come, Arina! Pray calm yourself, and attend to your duties as a hostess. Oh, fie, to give way in such a manner! What will our guest think of you?"

"My dear, I do not know the gentleman's name," the old lady sobbed through her tears.

"Arkady Nikolaievitch," prompted Vasili Ivanitch in an undertone, but with great ceremony.

"Then pray pardon a foolish old woman, sir." Arina Vlasievna blew her nose, inclined her head to right and left, and wiped each eye in turn as she did so. "Yes, pray pardon me, but I had thought never again to see my darling boy before I died."

"But, you see, we have seen him again," said Vasili Ivanitch. "Here, Taniushka!"—this to a barefooted serf girl of thirteen who, clad in a bright red cotton frock, had been an interested, but timid, observer in the doorway. "Bring your mistress a glass of water on a salver. Do you hear? And you, gentlemen," he continued with old-fashioned sprightliness, "will you be so good as to step into the study of a retired veteran?"

"First another kiss, Eniusha," gasped Arina Vlasievna. Then, as Bazarov bent over her form, she added: "How handsome you have grown!"

"Handsome or not, he is human," said Vasili Ivanitch. "Wherefore, now that you have satisfied your mother's heart, I look to you to see also to the satisfaction of our honoured guests. For than yourself no one knows better that nightingales cannot be fed on air."

This caused the old lady to rise from her chair, and to exclaim:

"Yes, yes: in one moment, Vasili Ivanitch. The table shall be laid, and I myself will hurry to the kitchen, and see that the samovar be got ready. Everything shall be done. Why, it must be three years since last I gave Eniusha a meal."

"Yes, three years, dear wife. But now bustle about, and do not let yourself get flurried. Gentlemen, accompany me, I beg of you. But here is Timotheitch coming to pay you his respects. How delighted he looks, the old rascal! Now, pray favour me with your company."

And he strode fussily ahead with much shuffling and creaking of flat-soled slippers.

The Bazarovian establishment consisted of six small rooms, of which one—the room to which Vasili Ivanitch was now conducting our friends—was looked upon as the study. Between its two windows there stood a fat-legged table, strewn with dusty, fusty papers; on the walls hung a number of Turkish weapons, nagaiki, and swords, a couple of landscapes, a few anatomical plates, a portrait of Hufeland, a black-framed monogram done in hair, and a diploma protected with a glass front; between two large birchwood cupboards stood a ragged, battered leathern sofa; on shelves lay huddled a miscellany of books, boxes, stuffed birds, jars, and bladders; and, lastly, in a corner reposed a broken electric battery.

"Already I have warned you," said Vasili Ivanitch to Arkady, "that we live here, so to speak, en bivouac."

"Make no excuses," put in Bazarov. "Kirsanov knows that you and I are not Croesuses, and that no butler is kept. But where can we find Arkady a bed? That is the question."

"We have an excellent room in the wing, where he would be most comfortable."

"You have added a wing, then?"

"Yes, Evgenii Vasilitch," Timotheitch interposed. "At least, a bathroom."

"But it is to a room next the bathroom that I am referring," Vasili Ivanitch hastened to explain. "However, that will not matter, since it is now summer time. I will run up there at once, and see that it is put in order. Meanwhile, Timotheitch, fetch in the luggage. To you, Evgenii, I will allot the study. Cuique suum."

"There!" said Bazarov to Arkady as soon as his father had left the room. "Is he not just such a jolly, good-hearted, queer old fellow as your own father, though in a different way? He chatters just as he always used to do."

"Yes; and your mother seems an excellent woman."

"She is. Moreover, you can see that she does not attempt to hide her feelings. Only wait and see what a dinner she will give us!"

"But as you were not expected to-day," put in Timotheitch, who had just re-entered with Bazarov's portmanteau, "no beef has been got into the house."

"Never mind. Let us dine without beef—or, for that matter, without anything at all. 'Poverty is no crime.'"

"How many souls are there on your father's property?" asked Arkady.

"It is not his property; it is my mother's. The number of souls on it is, I think, fifteen."

"No, twenty-two," corrected Timotheitch with an air of pride. The next moment the sound of shuffling slippers was heard once more, and Vasili Ivanitch re-entered.

"Your room will be ready for you in a few minutes," he announced grandiloquently to Arkady. "Meanwhile, here is your servant." He pointed to a close-cropped urchin who, clad in an out-at-elbows blue kaftan and an odd pair of shoes, had also made his appearance. "His name is Thedika, and, for all my son's injunction, I had better repeat to you not to expect too much of him—though certainly he will be able to fill your pipe for you. I presume that you smoke?"

"I do, but only cigars."

"A commendable rule! I too prefer cigars, but find them extremely difficult to procure in this isolated part of the country."

"Have done with bewailing your poverty," Bazarov good-naturedly interrupted. "Rather, seat yourself on this sofa, and take a rest."

Vasili Ivanitch smilingly did as he was bidden. Extremely like his son in features (save that his forehead was lower and narrower, and his mouth a trifle wider), he was for ever on the move—now shrugging his shoulders as though his coat cut him under the armpits, now blinking, now coughing, now twitching his fingers. In this he was sharply differentiated from his son, whose most distinguishing characteristic was his absolute immobility.

"Have done with bewailing my poverty?" repeated the old man. "Why, you cannot surely think that I would weary our guest with complaints concerning our isolation? As a matter of fact, a man of brains need never be isolated, and I myself do everything in my power to avoid becoming moss-grown, and falling behind the times."

Extracting from his pocket a new yellow handkerchief which he had contrived to lay hands upon while proceeding to Arkady's room, he continued, as he flourished the handkerchief in the air:

"Of the fact that, at some cost to myself, I have organised my peasantry on the obrok system, and apportioned them one-half, even more, of my land, I will not speak, since I conceive that to have been my duty, as well as a measure dictated by prudence (though no other landowner in the neighbourhood would have done as much). Rather, I am referring to scholarships and to science."

"I see that you have here The Friend of Health for 1855," remarked Bazarov.

"Yes, a friend sent it me," Vasili Ivanitch hastened to explain. "Phrenology too we take into account" (he addressed this last to Arkady rather than to Bazarov, while accompanying it with a nod towards a small plaster bust of which the cranial surface was divided into a series of numbered squares). "Yes indeed! Nor are we ignorant of Schönlein and Rademacher."

"In the province of —— you still believe in Rademacher?" queried Bazarov.

Vasili Ivanitch laughed.

"In the province of —— we still believe in ——? Ah, gentlemen! Hardly could you expect us to move as fast as you do. You find us in a state of transition. In my day, the humoralist Hoffmann and the vitalist Braun had already come to be looked upon with ridicule (and their fulminations undoubtedly seem absurd); but now you have replaced Rademacher with a new authority, and are making obeisance to that authority exactly as though in twenty years' time he too will not have fallen into contempt."

"Let me tell you, for your comforting," said Bazarov, "that we ridicule all medicine, and render obeisance to no one."

"What? Do you not wish to become a doctor?"

"Yes; but the one thing does not preclude the other."

Vasili Ivanitch raked out his pipe until only a glowing morsel of ash remained.

"Perhaps so, perhaps so," he said. "That point I will not dispute. For who am I that I should dispute such things—I who am a mere retired army doctor, et voilà tout—an army doctor who has taken to agriculture?"

With that he turned to Arkady.

"Do you know, I served under your grandfather," he said. "He was then in command of a brigade. Many and many a review have I seen. And the society in which I mixed, the men whom I had as comrades! Yes, this humble individual has felt the pulses of Prince Vitzentschein and Zhukovsky, and also known all the leaders of the Southern Army of '14." He pursed his lips impressively. "At the same time, of course, my department was a separate one from theirs. It was the department of the lancet, you understand. Your grandfather stood high in the esteem of every one, and was a true soldier."

"We will agree that he was a decent old curmudgeon," drawled Bazarov.

"To think of speaking so, Evgenii!" exclaimed the old man. "General Kirsanov was not one of those who——"

"Never mind him. As we were driving hither I greatly admired your birch plantation. It is doing splendidly."

Vasili Ivanitch's face brightened instantly.

"Yes, and see what a garden I have made!" he exclaimed. "Every tree in it has been planted with my own hands—orchard trees, and bush fruit trees, and every sort of medicinal herb. Ah, young sirs, though you may be wise in your generation, many a truth did old Paracelsus discover in herbis et verbis et lapidibus. For myself, I have now retired from practice; yet twice a week am I given a chance to refurbish my ancient store of knowledge, since folk come to me for advice, and I cannot well turn them away. In particular do the poor seek my help, since there is no other doctor hereabouts. Yet stay! A certain retired major dabbles in the art. Once I asked him whether he had ever studied medicine, and he replied that he had not, that all that he did he did 'out of philanthropy'! 'Out of philanthropy'! Ha, ha, ha! What think you of that, eh? Ha, ha, ha!"

"Fill me a pipe, Thedika," said Bazarov curtly.

"And there was another doctor who came to visit a patient in this neighbourhood," continued Vasili Ivanitch in a tone of mock despair. "But by the time he arrived the patient had already joined his forefathers, and the servant of the house would not admit the doctor, saying that the latter's services were no longer required. This the doctor had scarcely expected, and he was rather taken aback. 'Did the barin gasp before he died?' he inquired. 'He did, sir,' was the reply. 'Very much?' 'Yes, very much.' 'Good!—And the doctor returned home. Ha, ha, ha!"

Yet no one laughed except the old man himself. True, Arkady contrived to summon up a smile, but Bazarov only stretched himself and yawned. The conversation lasted about an hour, and then Arkady managed to get away to his room, which he found to consist of the vestibule to the bathroom, but at the same time to be clean and inviting. Soon afterwards Taniushka arrived to announce dinner.

The meal, though hastily prepared, was excellent, and even sumptuous. Only the wine proved to be rather of the "gooseberry" order—the dark-coloured sherry procured by Timotheitch from a certain wine merchant in the town smacking in equal parts of resin and of honey. Also, in addition, the flies made themselves a nuisance, owing to the fact that the page boy whose duty it was to keep them at bay with a green whisk had, for the nonce, been banished, lest he should excite too much comment on the part of the up-to-date visitors. Lastly, Arina Vlasievna had robed herself in gala attire—that is to say, in a high-peaked cap with yellow ribands and a blue, embroidered shawl. She burst into renewed weeping on beholding her beloved Eniusha, but, this time, gave her husband no occasion to chide her, so speedily did her own fear of staining her shawl cause her to wipe away the tears. None but the two young men ate anything, for the host and hostess had long ago dined; while as waiters there officiated Thedika (much burdened with the novelty of wearing shoes) and a woman of a masculine type of face, and with a hump on her back, who was also accustomed to execute the functions of housekeeper, keeper of the poultry, and sempstress. During the meal Vasili Ivanitch paced to and fro, and discussed, in cheerful, and even rapturous, terms, the grave fears which Napoleon's policy and the intricacy of the Italian question inspired in his breast. Arina Vlasievna, for her part, quite disregarded Arkady, and offered him not a single dish, but, seated with her hand supporting her face (to which a pair of puffy, cherry-coloured lips and a few moles communicated a kindly expression), kept her eyes fixed upon her son, while her breath came in a succession of pants. Her great desire was to ask her son how long he was going to stay, but she dared not do so for fear he should reply: "Only for two days," or something of the kind—which was a prospect of a nature to make her heart die within her. On the roast being served, Vasili Ivanitch disappeared, and returned, the next moment, with an uncorked bottle of champagne.

"See here," he exclaimed. "Rustic though we may be, we still keep something to make merry with on state occasions."

That said, he filled three tumblers and a wine-glass, proposed a health to "our inestimable guests," heel-tapped his glass in the military fashion, and forced his wife to drain hers to the dregs. Presently the pastry course supervened; during which, though Arkady could not bear anything sweet, he deemed it his duty to partake of no less than four out of the many confections which had been prepared for his benefit. And this obligation he felt to be the more binding in that Bazarov bluntly declined all, and lit a cigar. Lastly there appeared tea, cream, biscuits, and butter; after which Vasili Ivanitch conducted the party into the garden, in order that the guests might admire the beauty of the evening. As he passed a certain bench he whispered in Arkady's ear:

"This is where I love to sit and meditate as I watch the sun sinking. It is just the spot for a hermit like myself. And, further on, I have planted a few of Horace's favourite trees."

"What trees?" asked Bazarov, who had partially overheard.

"Acacia trees."

The other yawned, and, on observing this, Vasili Ivanitch hastened to say:

"I expect that you travellers would like now to seek the arms of Morpheus?"

"We should," Bazarov assented. "Yes, that is a true saying."

Upon which the son said "Good night" to his mother, and kissed her on the forehead, while she bestowed upon him a threefold embrace and (covertly) a blessing; while Vasili Ivanitch conducted Arkady to his room, and wished him "such God-given rest as I myself used to enjoy during the happier years of my life."

And certainly Arkady slept splendidly in the mint-scented annexe to the bathroom, where the only sound to be heard was that of a cricket chirping lustily against a rival from behind the stove.

Meanwhile, on leaving Arkady, Vasili Ivanitch repaired to the study, where, squatting at the foot of the sofa, he was about to enter into a discursive conversation with his son when the latter dismissed him, on the plea that he desired, rather, to go to sleep. Yet never once did Bazarov close his eyes that night, but lay staring into the darkness, since his memories of childhood had less power to move him than had the remembrance of the bitter experience through which he had recently passed.

For her part, Arina Vlasievna said her prayers with an overflowing heart, and then indulged in a long talk with Anfisushka; who, planted like a block before her mistress, with her solitary eye fixed upon the latter, communicated in a mysterious whisper her opinions and prognostications on the subject of Evgenii Vasilitch. Finally Arina Vlasievna's pleasurable emotion, coupled with the wine and the tobacco smoke, so caused the old lady's head to start whirling that, when her husband came to bed, he found himself obliged to moderate her exuberance with a gesture.

Arina Vlasievna was a true Russian housewife of the old school. That is to say, she ought to have lived a couple of hundred years earlier, during the period when the ancient Muscovite Empire was in being. At once pious and extremely nervous, she believed in every species of portent, divination, proverb, and vision; also in such things as urodivïe, household demons, wood spirits, unlucky encounters, spells, popular medicines, Thursday salt, and an ever-imminent end to the world. Again, she placed much faith in such ideas as that, if a lighted candle lasts through the night preceding Easter Day, the buckwheat crops will come up well; that, should a human eye chance to fall upon a mushroom during the process of its growth, such growth will terminate forthwith; that the devil loves to be where-soever there is water; and that all Jews bear on their breasts a blood-red stain. Again, she stood in great awe of mice, adders, frogs, sparrows, leeches, thunder, cold water, draughts, horses, billy-goats, fair men, and black cats, and also looked upon crickets and dogs as unclean creatures. Again, she never ate veal, pigeons, crabs, cheese, asparagus, artichokes, hare, or water melons (the last-named for the reason that, when split open, they reminded her of the head of John the Baptist!). Nor could she ever speak of oysters without a shudder. Again, though she loved eating, she observed every fast; though she slept ten hours out of the twenty-four, she never even went to bed if Vasili Ivanitch had got a headache; she read no books beyond Alexis or Siskins of the Forest; she wrote, at most, two letters a year; she knew every wrinkle as regards the departments of housekeeping, boiling, and baking (and that even though she herself never laid a finger upon anything, and hated even to have to stir from her place); she was aware that there were certain folk in the world who must command, and others who must serve—wherefore she loved servility and genuflexions; she treated all her subordinates with kindness and consideration; she sent never a beggar away empty; and she condemned no one for a fault, although at times she had a tendency to talk scandal. Likewise, in her youth she had been comely, and a player of the clavichord, and able to speak a little French; but, owing to long residence with a husband whom she had married purely for love, she had grown rusty in those accomplishments, and forgotten alike her French and her music; she loved and feared her son to a degree almost beyond expression; she deputed the management of her property entirely to Vasili Ivanitch, and never interfered with it, but would fall to gasping, and waving her handkerchief about, and affrightedly raising her eyebrows, whenever her helpmeet happened to broach some new plan or some necessary reform which he had in his mind's eye; and, lastly, she was of so apprehensive a temperament that she lived in constant fear of some unknown misfortune, and would burst into tears should any one mention anything of a mournful character.

Such women are now extinct; and only God knows whether we ought to be glad of the fact.