In the shade of a tall ash tree in the garden at Nikolsköe Katia and Arkady were seated on a bench. Beside them, on the ground, lay Fifi—his lengthy body twisted into the curve known to sporting folk as "the hare's crouch." Neither from Arkady nor from Katia was a word proceeding. Arkady was holding in his hands a half-opened book, and she was picking a few crumbs from a basket, and throwing them to a small family of sparrows which, with the timid temerity of their tribe, were chirping and hopping at her very feet. A faint breeze was stirring the leaves of the ash tree, and dappling Fifi's tawny back and the dark line of the pathway with a number of wavering circles of pale golden light; but Arkady and Katia were wholly in shade, save that an occasional streak glanced upon, and gleamed in, her hair. Just for the reason that the pair were silent and side by side was there present to their consciousness a camaraderie which, while causing neither to have the other definitely in mind, pleased each with the sense of the other's propinquity. The expression of both is changed since last we saw them. Arkady's face wears a staider air, and Katia looks more animated and less retiring.
At length, however, Arkady spoke.
"Do you not think," he said, "that our Russian term yasen is particularly suitable to the ash tree? For no other tree cleaves the air with such airy brightness." Katia looked up.
"I agree," she replied, while Arkady proudly reflected: "At all events she does not reprove me for talking in 'beautiful language.'"
"By the way," Katia continued with a glance at the book in his hands, "I cannot say that I always approve of Heine. I like him neither when he is laughing nor when he is in tears—I like him only when he is meditative and languid."
"Well, I like him when he is laughing," Arkady remarked.
"Then still there survives in you a trace of your old satirical tendency. Still your reformation needs to be completed."
"Indeed?" thought Arkady. "My satirical tendency? Oh, that Bazarov could have heard that!"
While aloud he said:
"Who is 'we'? Yourself?"
"Oh dear no! My sister, and Porfiri Platonitch, with whom you no longer quarrel, and my aunt, whom, three days ago, you escorted to church."
"I did so only because I could not refuse. And as regards Anna Sergievna, kindly remember that, in many things, she agrees with Bazarov."
"Yes, she used to be greatly under his influence, and so did you."
"And so did I? Then am I now emancipated from that influence?"
Katia returned no reply.
"I know that you never liked him," Arkady continued.
"Did I not? It was not for me to judge him."
"Never do I hear that reply without declining to believe it. There is not a person living whom all of us have not the right to judge. A disclaimer of that kind always represents an excuse."
"To tell the truth, I disliked him less than I felt him to be a stranger to me—as complete a one as I to him—or you either, for that matter."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that—well, how can I express it? That, whereas he was a wild bird, you and I are tame ones."
"I am a tame one?"
Katia nodded assent. Arkady scratched his ear.
"Look here," he said. "I may tell you that that constitutes, in essence, an insult."
"Why so? Do you want to be a wild bird?"
"Not necessarily a wild one, but at least one strong and energetic."
"You need wish no such thing. Your friend was both, yet he would rather have been otherwise.
"H'm! You believe that he used to exercise a considerable influence over Anna Sergievna?"
"Yes. But no one can hold a rein over her for long." Katia added this last sotto voce.
"What makes you think that?"
"The fact that she is very proud—rather, that she values her independence."
"Who does not?" queried Arkady, while there flashed through his mind the thought: "Why this mention of her?" Curiously enough, the same thought occurred to Katia too. But this was not so curious as might have been supposed, seeing that when young people meet in frequent and amicable converse, identical thoughts are apt to enter their brains.
Arkady smiled, edged nearer to Katia, and said in a whisper: "Confess that you are a little afraid of her."
"Of her" repeated Arkady meaningly.
"Are you afraid of her?" countered Katia.
"I am. Please note that I believe you to be the same."
Katia raised a menacing finger.
"I am surprised at you!" she exclaimed. "Never at any time has my sister been better disposed towards you than she is now. She likes you considerably more than when you first came."
"Yes. And have you not noticed it? You ought to be pleased at the notion."
"How I have contrived to win Anna Sergievna's good graces I do not know," at length he said. "Surely it cannot be because I brought her those letters which were written by your mother?"
"It is, though, and because of other reasons as well—reasons which I will forbear to mention."
"Why will you?"
"Because I will."
"Oh, I know your faculty for obstinacy."
"It is one which I possess."
"Also, your faculty for observing things."
Katia glanced at him. Then she inquired:
"Why lose your temper? What are you thinking of?"
"This: that I cannot understand how you come to possess those powers of observation which undoubtedly are yours. I understand it the less because you are so nervous and distrustful and shy of everybody and——"
"It is because I have lived such a lonely life. A life of that kind leads one to reflect in spite of oneself. Am I shy of every one, though?"
Arkady bestowed upon her an appreciative glance.
"Never mind," he said. "At all events it is not often that people in your position—I mean, people of your wealth—possess such a gift. To them, as to the Tsars, truth penetrates hardly."
"But I am not wealthy."
Arkady failed at first to follow her meaning, but reflected: "Certainly the property belongs to her sister, not to her." Nor was the thought wholly unpleasing—so little so that presently he added:
"You said that very prettily."
"I said what?"
"That you are not wealthy. You said it so simply, so without any false shame, so without the least arrière pensée. Apropos, the consciousness of the ordinary person who both knows and confesses that he or she is poor always seems to me to contain more than the mere words imply—it harbours also a touch of vanity."
"I have, thanks to my sister, had no experience of poverty. And as for my possessions, I mentioned them only because the words came of themselves to my lips."
"Quite so. Yet confess that you too harbour a grain of the vanity to which I have alluded."
"Give me an example of my doing so."
"An example? Well, may I ask why you have not married a rich man?"
"Were I to love such a one very much, I——But no man of that sort has come my way: wherefore I have made no such marriage."
"There, now!" cried Arkady. "But why should you not do so in the future?"
"Because even the poets deprecate mésalliances."
"You mean that you wish either to rule or——?"
"Oh no! What good would that be? On the contrary, I am prepared to be ruled, even though I believe that inequality in any form works badly. A union of self-respect with submission—that is what I best understand, that is what spells true happiness. A mere subordinate existence is—well, something which I do not fancy."
"'Something which I do not fancy,'" commented Arkady. "Yes, you are of the same blood as Anna Sergievna: you are as independent as she, and you are even more secretive. In fact, however deep-rooted and sacred a stock of sentiments you might hold, you would never, of your own accord, give them utterance."
"Of course! How could you suppose anything else?"
"Also, you are clever, and have a measure of character equal to, if not greater than, hers."
"I dislike being compared with my sister. You seem to have forgotten that she is both 'beautiful' and 'intellectual' and—— Moreover, you, above all people, ought not to say anything to her disparagement, and still less to say it seriously."
"Why 'you, above all people'? Do you think that I am jesting?"
"I am certain of it."
"Indeed? But what if I were to say that I really mean my words? What if I were to say that, if anything, I have under-expressed what is in my mind?"
"I fail to follow you."
"Do you? Your quickness of perception has been overrated."
"Why has it?"
Averting his head, Arkady returned no reply, while Katia fell to searching for the last crumbs in her basket, and throwing them to the sparrows. Unfortunately, the throw of her arm proved too strong, and the birds flew away without even touching the food offered them.
"Katia," said Arkady, "it may be that you look upon these things as matters of no moment. Kindly note, therefore, that neither for your sister nor for any other person would I exchange Mademoiselle Katerina Sergievna."
Rising, he walked away as though in sudden alarm at having allowed the words to escape his lips. Meanwhile Katia, with her hands resting upon the basket and her head bent, gazed after him. Gradually there crept into her cheeks a rosy tint; and though her lips were not smiling, and her dark eyes contained a hint of perplexity, there lurked also in her expression another unexpressed feeling.
"Are you alone?" said Anna Sergievna's voice from behind her. "I thought that Arkady came with you into the garden?"
Katia slowly raised her eyes to her sister (tastefully, and even showily, dressed, the latter was standing on the path, and engaged in stirring Fin's ears with the point of an open parasol), and as slowly replied:
"Yes—I am alone."
"So I see," commented Madame with a smile. "He has gone indoors, I suppose?"
"And you have been reading with him?"
Anna Sergievna took Katia under the chin, and raised her face towards her own.
"You have not quarrelled, I hope?" she said.
"Oh no," said Katia, and quietly put away her sister's hand.
"What solemn replies! Well, I came here to propose a walk, since he is always asking me to go on one. But, to pass to another subject, some shoes have arrived for you from the town, so you had better go and try them on. Only yesterday I was noticing how shabby your old ones are. In general, you do not take sufficient pains in such matters, for you have charming feet, and also not ugly hands, even though a trifle too large. You ought to take care of your feet. When you are here you do not do so sufficiently."
Madame passed onwards with a light rustle of her handsome gown, while Katia rose from the bench, and, taking the volume of Heine, departed in another direction—though not to try on the boots.
"'You have charming feet,'" she repeated to herself as she tripped up the sun-baked steps of the terrace. "'You have charming feet.' Well, before long some one shall be at them."
Confusion then overcame her, and she took the remaining steps at a bound.
Meanwhile Arkady made for his room. As he was passing through the hall he was overtaken by the butler, and informed that Monsieur Bazarov was awaiting him above.
"Evgenii Vasilitch?" exclaimed Arkady in a tone very much as of alarm. "Has he been here long?"
"A few minutes only. He instructed me not to announce him to Madame but to take him straight to your room."
"I hope that nothing unfortunate has occurred at home," reflected Arkady as he ran up the stairs and opened the door of the bedroom. But the first sight of Bazarov's face reassured him, even though a more experienced eye might have detected in the features of the unlooked-for guest certain signs that inward turmoil underlay their usual rigidity. Clad in a dust cloak and a travelling cap, he was seated on the window-sill, and did not rise even when, rushing towards him with exclamations of astonishment, and fussing to and fro like a man who believes himself to be overjoyed, as well as desires other people to believe it, Arkady cried:
"What a surprise! What has brought you here? Surely everything at home is well, and all are in good health?"
"Everything at your home is well," said Bazarov; "but all are not in good health. However, if your brains are not hopelessly wandering, first tell them to bring me some kvass, and then sit down and listen to my few but, I hope, well-chosen words."
This quieted Arkady, and upon that Bazarov told him of the duel with Paul Petrovitch. The recital finished, Arkady stood amazed, as well as distressed. But this he did not think it necessary to state—he merely inquired whether his uncle's wound were really a harmless one, and, on receiving the reply that it was of a nature uninteresting from every but the medical point of view, forced a smile. Yet all the while he felt secretly hurt, and also secretly ashamed. This Bazarov seemed to divine.
"See," he said, "what comes of consorting with feudal folk! Should one's lot be cast among them, inevitably one gets drawn into their knightly tourneys. Being on my way to my parents' place, I have turned aside to...But no; I will not be guilty of a foolish and useless lie. The real reason why I have turned aside is that—oh, the devil only knows why! Times there are when a man ought to take himself by the scruff of the neck, and uproot himself like a radish from a garden border. That is what I did when I was last here. But, since, a longing has come upon me to take just another peep at all that I then forsook—to view once more the border where I used to grow."
"By the words 'all that I then forsook' I hope that you do not mean myself as well?" cried Arkady anxiously. "Do not say that you intend to sever me also from your friendship?"
Bazarov looked at him. He did so fixedly, almost sharply.
"Would the eventuality distress you?" he inquired. "Rather, it is you who have forsaken me, O verdant and transparent soul. Inter alia, I hope that your affair with Anna Sergievna is progressing?"
"My 'affair with Anna Sergievna'?"
"For her sake, was it not, you came hither from the town? Ah, tender young chicken of mine, what about those Sunday Schools? Come, come! Do not tell me that you are not in love with her. Or have you at last learnt to be secretive?"
"Always I have been frank with you, as you know; wherefore pray believe me when I say—I call God to witness that it is true—that your surmises are mistaken."
"Truly a new song!" remarked Bazarov sotto voce.
"But do not disturb yourself: it is all one to me. Certainly, a Romanticist would have said: 'Our roads are beginning to diverge'; but I say no more than that clearly we have no further use for one another."
"Dear lad, it is no misfortune. At all times is something in the world finding out that it has no use for something else. So we must say good-bye. Ever since I arrived in this place I have been feeling as uncomfortable as a Governor's lady when she hears a work of Gogol's read aloud. In fact, I did not order my horses to be unharnessed."
"But you cannot act like this!"
"Because, apart from my own feelings, such a speedy departure would be the height of rudeness to Anna Sergievna. I know that she would like to see you."
"No, she would not."
"I am positive that she would. Why pretend like this? Are you going to say that it is not for her sake alone that you are here?"
"You have grounds for that surmise, yet I say that you are wrong."
But Arkady proved to be right, for Anna Sergievna really desired to see Bazarov, and, through the butler, sent him word to that effect. After tidying his costume, therefore, and tucking his new great-coat under his arm (in readiness to depart as soon as the interview should be concluded), he went downstairs, and was received, not in the room where he had unexpectedly disclosed his passion, but in the drawing-room. Anna Sergievna's manner, as she offered him the tips of her fingers, was pleasant enough, yet her face betrayed involuntary tension.
"To begin with," Bazarov hastened to say, "allow me to reassure you. You see before you a corpse which has long returned to its senses, and is also not destitute of hope that others have forgotten its folly. I am unlikely to see you again for an extended period, but, though (as you know) I am not given to sentiment, I feel that I should like to bear away with me the thought that my image still fills your mind with aversion."
She caught at her breath like a person who has just arrived at the summit of a lofty mountain. Then her face lightened into a smile, and, offering Bazarov her hand a second time, she allowed it to respond to the pressure of his.
"When sorrow is asleep, do not wake it," she said. "And the less so since my conscience convicts me, if not of coquetry on that occasion, at all events of something else. One word more. Let us be friends again. For it was all a dream, was it not? And who remembers dreams?"
"Who indeed? And love—well, love is a mere empirical sentiment."
"I am glad to hear you say so."
Thus Anna Sergievna, and thus Bazarov. And both conceived themselves to be speaking the truth. But was it the truth?—at all events, the whole truth? The speakers themselves did not know, and therefore the author does not. Nevertheless both the man and the woman framed their words to create an atmosphere of mutual confidence.
Next Anna Sergievna asked Bazarov how he had spent his time at the Kirsanovs'; and though he came within an ace of telling her of the duel with Paul Petrovitch, he checked himself in time, and replied that he had been engaged in work.
"And I," she said, "have been, for some unknown reason, out of humour, and meditating going abroad; but the fit is passing now (thanks to the arrival of your friend Arkady Nikolaievitch), and already I find myself relapsing into my old rut, and resuming my true rôle."
"And what is your true rôle?"
"The rôle of acting as aunt or preceptress or mother—call it what you like—to my sister. In passing, I wonder if you are aware that once upon a time I did not altogether understand your close friendship with Arkady Nikolaievitch? Somehow he seemed too insignificant for you. But now, I know him better, and have convinced myself that in his head there is a brain. Above all things, he is young, young—not like you and myself, Evgenii Vasilitch."
"But he is still shy in your presence?" queried Bazarov.
"He" began Anna Sergievna; then, checking herself, continued: "No; he is gaining confidence, and has taken to talking to me quite freely; whereas once upon a time, though I did not seek his company, he used to flee whenever I came near him. By the way, he is great friends with Katia."
Somehow this irritated Bazarov.
"Never can a woman forbear dissembling," was his reflection. Aloud he said with a frigid smile: "Then you say that he used to flee from you? But surely it cannot be a secret that formerly he cherished for you une grande passion?"
"What? He too?"
"Yes, he too," affirmed Bazarov with a nod. "But I think that you knew that? It was not a piece of news that I have just told you?"
Her eyes became fixed upon the floor.
"I believe you to be wrong," she observed.
"I think not. But perhaps I ought not to have mentioned it?" To himself he added: "And perhaps you will not, in future, play the hypocrite with me."
"Why should you not have mentioned it?" she queried. "As a matter of fact, I believe you to be attaching importance to a mere passing impression, and shall soon think that you have a tendency to exaggerate."
"Suppose we talk of something else?" he suggested.
"For what reason?"
However, of her own accord she diverted the conversation into another channel. True, she had assured him, and she herself believed, that everything was buried in the past; yet she felt ill at ease, and conscious that, even while jesting or exchanging the merest of bagatelles, she had weighing upon her a nervous oppression. In fact, it was akin to the case of passengers afloat. Though such folk will laugh and talk with the same apparent indifference as on land, let but the machinery stop, or the least sign of anything unusual appear, and at once every face will display that peculiar expression of anxiety which comes only of constant knowledge of ever-present danger.
Of similar sort was Anna Sergievna's interview with Bazarov; nor was it prolonged, in that soon she began to feel so absent-minded, and to answer with such vagueness, that she proposed a move to the hall, where there were found Katia and the Princess.
"And where is Arkady Nikolaievitch?" inquired the hostess; and, on being told that he had not been seen for over an hour, she sent messengers to summon him. But this proved a lengthy task, seeing that he had withdrawn to the remotest corner of the garden, and, sitting with chin upon hands, was plunged in thought. Those thoughts were important and profound, but not sad; and though he knew that Anna Sergievna was alone with Bazarov, he felt none of his old jealousy, but, rather, gazed before him with quiet cheerfulness—with an air as though something had pleased and surprised him, and led him to arrive at a certain decision.