LETS see what species of mammalia this specimen belongs to, Bazarov said to Arkady the following day, as they mounted the staircase of the hotel in which Madame Odintsov was staying. I scent out something wrong here.
What a funny fellow you are! Bazarov cut him short, carelessly. Dont you know that something wrong means something right in my dialect and for me? Its an advantage for me, of course. Didnt you tell me yourself this morning that she made a strange marriage, though, to my mind, to marry a rich old man is by no means a strange thing to do, but, on the contrary, very sensible. I dont believe the gossip of the town; but I should like to think, as our cultivated Governor says, that its well-grounded.
Arkady made no answer, and knocked at the door of the apartments. A young servant in livery conducted the two friends in to a large room, badly furnished, like all rooms in Russian hotels, but filled with flowers. Soon Madame Odintsov herself appeared in a simple morning dress. She seemed still younger by the light of the spring sunshine. Arkady presented Bazarov, and noticed with secret amazement that he seemed embarrassed, while Madame Odintsov remained perfectly tranquil, as she had been the previous day. Bazarov himself was conscious of being embarrassed, and was irritated by it. Heres a go!frightened of a petticoat! he thought, and lolling, quite like Sitnikov, in an easy-chair, he began talking with an exaggerated appearance of ease, while Madame Odintsov kept her clear eyes fixed on him.
Anna Sergyevna Odintsov was the daughter of Sergay Nikolaevitch Loktev, notorious for his personal beauty, his speculations, and his gambling propensities, who after cutting a figure and making a sensation for fifteen years in Petersburg and Moscow, finished by ruining himself completely at cards, and was forced to retire to the country, where, however, he soon after died, leaving a very small property to his two daughtersAnna, a girl of twenty, and Katya, a child of twelve. Their mother, who came of an impoverished line of princesthe Hshad died at Petersburg when her husband was in his heydey. Annas position after her fathers death was very difficult. The brilliant education she had received in Petersburg had not fitted her for putting up with the cares of domestic life and economy,for an obscure existence in the country. She knew positively no one in the whole neighbourhood, and there was no one she could consult. Her father had tried to avoid all contact with the neighbours; he despised them in his way, and they despised him in theirs. She did not lose her head, however, and promptly sent for a sister of her mothers, Princess Avdotya Stepanovna H, a spiteful and arrogant old lady, who, on installing herself in her nieces house, appropriated all the best rooms for her own use, scolded and grumbled from morning till night, and would not go a walk even in the garden unattended by her one serf, a surly footman in a threadbare pea-green livery with light blue trimming and a three-cornered hat. Anna put up patiently with all her aunts whims, gradually set to work on her sisters education, and was, it seemed, already getting reconciled to the idea of wasting her life in the wilds. But destiny had decreed another fate for her. She chanced to be seen by Odintsov, a very wealthy man of forty-six, an eccentric hypochrondriac, stout, heavy, and sour, but not stupid, and not ill-natured; he fell in love with her, and offered her his hand. She consented to become his wife, and he lived six years with her, and on his death settled all his property upon her. Anna Sergyevna remained in the country for nearly a year after his death; then she went abroad with her sister, but only stopped in Germany; she got tired of it, and came back to live at her favourite Nikolskoe, which was nearly thirty miles from the town of X. There she had a magnificent, splendidly furnished house and a beautiful garden, with conservatories; her late husband had spared no expense to gratify his fancies. Anna Sergyevna went very rarely to the town, generally only on business, and even then she did not stay long. She was not liked in the province; there had been a fearful outcry at her marriage with Odintsov, all sorts of fictions were told about her; it was asserted that she had helped her father in his cardsharping tricks, and even that she had gone abroad for excellent reasons, that it had been necessary to conceal the lamentable consequences You understand? the indignant gossips would wind up. She has gone through the fire, was said of her; to which a noted provincial wit usually added: And through all the other elements? All this talk reached her; but she turned a deaf ear to it; there was much independence and a good deal of determination in her character.
Madame Odintsov sat leaning back in her easy-chair, and listened with folded hands to Bazarov. He, contrary to his habit, was talking a good deal, and obviously trying to interest heragain a surprise for Arkady. He could not make up his mind whether Bazarov was attaining his object. It was difficult to conjecture from Anna Sergyevnas face what impression was being made on her; it retained the same expression, gracious and refined; her beautiful eyes were lighted up by attention, but by quiet attention. Bazarovs bad manners had impressed her unpleasantly for the first minutes of the visit like a bad smell or a discordant sound; but she saw at once that he was nervous, and that even flattered her. Nothing was repulsive to her but vulgarity, and no one could have accused Bazarov of vulgarity. Arkady was fated to meet with surprises that day. He had expected that Bazarov would talk to a clever woman like Madame Odintsov about his opinions and his views; she had herself expressed a desire to listen to the man who dares to have no belief in anything; but, instead of that, Bazarov talked about medicine, about homopathy, and about botany. It turned out that Madame Odintsov had not wasted her time in solitude; she had read a good many excellent books, and spoke herself in excellent Russian. She turned the conversation upon music; but noticing that Bazarov did not appreciate art, she quietly brought it back to botany, even though Arkady was just launching into a discourse upon the significance of national melodies. Madame Odintsov treated him as though he were a younger brother; she seemed to appreciate his good-nature and youthful simplicityand that was all. For over three hours, a lively conversation was kept up, ranging freely over various subjects.
The friends at last got up and began to take leave. Anna Sergyevna looked cordially at them, held out her beautiful, white hand to both, and, after a moments thought, said with a doubtful but delightful smile, If you are not afraid of being dull, gentlemen, come and see me at Nikolskoe.
Who can tell? See how correct she is! retorted Bazarov; and after a brief pause he added, Shes a perfect grandduchess, a royal personage. She only needs a train on behind, and a crown on her head.
Well, why not the day after to-morrow. What is there to do here? Drink champagne with Kukshina. Listen to your cousin, the Liberal dignitary? Lets be off the day after to-morrow. By the way, toomy fathers little place is not far from there. This Nikolskoes on the S road, isnt it?
Three days later the two friends were driving along the road to Nikolskoe. The day was bright, and not too hot, and the sleek posting-horses trotted smartly along, switching their tied and plaited tails. Arkady looked at the road, and not knowing why, he smiled.
Congratulate me, cried Bazarov suddenly, to-days the 22nd of June, my guardian angels day. Lets see how he will watch over me. To-day they expect me home, he added, dropping his voice. Well, they can go on expecting. What does it matter!