Five years ago, in the autumn, on the road from Moscow to Tula, I had to sit almost all day in the postal house for a lack of horses. With cold despair I looked out the window when a small cart stopped in front of the porch. A 30-year-old man entered the room with a trace of smallpox on his dry, yellowish face, blue-black hair and small, swollen eyes. We talked for tea. The ruined landlord Pyotr Petrovich Karataev went to Moscow to serve. He told me about the cause of the ruin.
When Karataev lived in the village, he fell in love with a beautiful girl named Matryona. The girl did not belong to him, and Karataev wanted to redeem her. Her mistress was a rich and terrible old woman, who lived from him about 15 versts, she owned the village of Kukuevka. Karataev came to see her. Met his old companion, who promised to pass his request to the lady. Two days later Karataev again went to the lady and persuaded her to sell him Matryon for a long time, promised any money, but the harmful old woman, having learned about Karataev’s feelings, refused flatly. She said that she had sent Matryona to a distant steppe village, and suggested finding a respectable bride for Karataev.
Karataev suffered for a long time and blamed himself for ruining Matryon....
From this moment the troubles of Karataev began. The lady did not spare money to return Matryona. It turned out that she wanted to marry Karataev in her companion, and was very angry when her plans were upset. Matren Karataev hid in a remote farmstead. One night she came to him to say goodbye: she saw what troubles fell on Karataev because of her. The next day, Matryona returned to Kukuevka. What happened to her later, I never found out.
A year later I happened to go to a Moscow coffee shop. There, in the billiard room, I met Pyotr Petrovich Karataev. All this time he lived in Moscow – his village was sold at auction. Now it was a shabby, drunk person, disappointed in life. I never met Karataev again.