FATHERS AND SONS
On that same day Bazarov met Fenichka. He was walking with Arkady in the garden and explaining to him why some of the trees, particularly the oaks, were growing badly.
“You would do better to plant silver poplars here, or firs and perhaps limes, with some extra black earth. The arbor there has grown up well,” he added, “because it’s acacia and lilac; they’re good shrubs, they don’t need looking after. Ah! there’s someone inside.”
In the arbor Fenichka was sitting with Dunyasha and Mitya. Bazarov stopped and Arkady nodded to Fenichka like an old friend.
“Who’s that?” Bazarov asked him directly they had passed by. “What a pretty girl!”
“Whom do you mean?”
“You must know; only one of them is pretty.”
Arkady, not without embarrassment, explained to him briefly who Fenichka was.
“Aha!” remarked Bazarov. “That shows your father’s got good taste. I like your father; ay, ay! He’s a good fellow. But we must make friends,” he added, and turned back towards the arbor.
“Evgeny,” cried Arkady after him in bewilderment, “be careful what you do, for goodness’ sake.”
“Don’t worry,” said Bazarov. “I’m an experienced man, not a country bumpkin.”
Going up to Fenichka, he took off his cap. “May I introduce myself?” he began, making a polite bow. “I’m a friend of Arkady Nikolayevich and a harmless person.”
Fenichka got up from the garden seat and looked at him without speaking.
“What a wonderful baby,” continued Bazarov. “Don’t be uneasy, my praises have never brought the evil eye. Why are his cheeks so flushed? Is he cutting his teeth?”
“Yes,” murmured Fenichka, “he has cut four teeth already and now the gums are swollen again.”
“Show me . . . don’t be afraid, I’m a doctor.” Bazarov took the baby in his arms, and to the great astonishment of both Fenichka and Dunyasha the child made no resistance and was not even frightened.
“I see, I see . . . It’s nothing, he’ll have a good set of teeth. If anything goes wrong you just tell me. And are you quite well yourself?”
“Very well, thank God.”
“Thank God, that’s the main thing. And you?” he added, turning to Dunyasha.
Dunyasha, who behaved very primly inside the house and was frivolous out of doors, only giggled in reply.
“Well, that’s all right. Here’s your young hero.”
Fenichka took back the baby in her arms.
“How quiet he was with you,” she said in an undertone. “Children are always good with me,” answered Bazarov. “I have a way with them.”
“Children know who loves them,” remarked Dunyasha. “Yes, they certainly do,” Fenichka added. “Mitya won’t allow some people to touch him, not for anything.”
“Will he come to me?” asked Arkady, who after standing at a distance for some time had come to join them. He tried to entice Mitya into his arms, but Mitya threw back his head and screamed, much to Fenichka’s confusion.
“Another day, when he’s had time to get accustomed to me,” said Arkady graciously, and the two friends walked away.
“What’s her name?” asked Bazarov.
“Fenichka . . . Fedosya,” answered Arkady.
“And her father’s name? One must know that, too.”
“Good. What I like about her is that she’s not too embarrassed. Some people, I suppose, would think ill of her on that account. But what rubbish! Why should she be embarrassed? She’s a mother and she’s quite right.”
“She is in the right,” observed Arkady, “but my father . . .”
“He’s right, too,” interposed Bazarov.
“Well, no, I don’t think so.”
“I suppose an extra little heir is not to your liking.”
“You ought to be ashamed to attribute such thoughts to me!” retorted Arkady hotly. “I don’t consider my father in the wrong from that point of view; as I see it, he ought to marry her.”
“Well, well,” said Bazarov calmly, “how generous-minded we are! So you still attach significance to marriage; I didn’t expect that from you.”
The friends walked on a few steps in silence.
“I’ve seen all round your father’s place,” began Bazarov again. “The cattle are bad, the horses are broken down, the buildings aren’t up to much, and the workmen look like professional loafers; and the bailiff is either a fool or a knave, I haven’t yet found out which.”
“You are very severe today, Evgeny Vassilich.”
“And the good peasants are taking your father in properly; you know the proverb ‘the Russian peasant will cheat God himself.’”
“I begin to agree with my uncle,” remarked Arkady. “You certainly have a poor opinion of Russians.”
“As if that mattered! The only good quality of a Russian is to have the lowest possible opinion about himself. What matters is that twice two make four and the rest is all rubbish.”
“And is nature rubbish?” said Arkady, gazing pensively at the colored fields in the distance, beautifully lit up in the mellow rays of the sinking sun.
“Nature, too, is rubbish in the sense you give to it. Nature is not a temple but a workshop, and man is the workman in it.”
At that moment the long drawn-out notes of a cello floated out to them from the house. Someone was playing Schubert’s Expectation with feeling, though with an untrained hand, and the sweet melody flowed like honey through the air.
“What is that?” exclaimed Bazarov in amazement.
“Your father plays the cello?”
“And how old is your father?”
Bazarov suddenly roared with laughter.
“What are you laughing at?”
“My goodness! A man of forty-four, a father of a family, in this province, plays on the cello!”
Bazarov went on laughing, but, much as he revered his friend’s example, this time Arkady did not even smile.