1878. Krakowskie suburb of Warsaw. The hosiery shop “Ya. Mintsel and son” is run by the clerk Ignacy Zhetsky – a lonely, grumpy, crystal-honest old man who has worked for forty years at the firm; he is an ardent Bonapartist, in 1848-1849. fought for the freedom of Hungary and is still loyal to the heroic ideals of his youth; and yet he adores his friend and master Stanislav Vokulsky, whom he knew as a boy. Vokulsky served as a sexual in a tavern, but sat at night on books; everyone mocked him, but he did enter the university, however, for his part in the national liberation struggle he was exiled to Irkutsk, again took up physics there, returned to the almost established scientist, but in Warsaw no one took him to work, and so that to die of hunger, he married the passionately in love with him, Malgorzata Mintsel, an elderly, but an attractive widow of the store owner. Not wishing to be accused of the fact that he eats bread for free, Vokulsky goes headlong into the trade – and the store triples its turnover. Former friends despise Vokulsky because he is rich, forgetting about the heroic ideals of his youth. But four years later, Malgozhata dies, and the forty-five-year-old Vokulsky, having abandoned the store, again sits down for the books. He would soon become a great scientist – but once he saw a twenty-five-year-old beautiful aristocrat Isabella Lentskaya in the theater, she falls madly into insanity and goes
Isabella is a tall, slender girl with ashy hair and amazingly beautiful eyes – she sincerely considers herself descended to earth as a goddess. Having spent all his life in the artificial world of luxurious high society salons, whose inhabitants deeply despise all who are not aristocrats by birth, Isabella looks with pity at people from another, “lower” world. But her father, the fat gray-haired gentleman Tomasz Lentzky, after having completely squandered, is forced to leave European courts, settle with his daughter in Warsaw and now talks about his closeness to the people. Notable friends turn their backs on the ruined Lentsky, and Isabel’s wives are married to some rich old men. However, she had never loved anyone in her life… The girl yearns for a high life, but begins to despise the inhabitants of the living rooms:
Vokulsky is going to create a Society for Trade with the East. Seeking to approach Isabella, he calls Lentzky into his companions: thus the old man will quickly become rich. He, despising the “merchant” Vokulsky, is ready without shame to use it. A Vokulsky secretly buys promissory notes of Pan Tomas and fascinates his sister-countess, Aunt Isabella, generous donations to the poor (the countess is inspired by charity). But Isabella despises and is afraid of this huge strong man with the red, frost-bitten in Siberia hands.
A Vokulsky thinks about the Polish aristocracy – a frozen caste, which “with its own necromancy cramps all movement going from below.” He and Isabella are creatures of different breeds. And yet he can not give up his beloved! His soul, tormented by pain, suddenly bursts open – and he sees the suffering of thousands of poor people. But how to help them all?!
The Countess invites Vokulsky to himself. In her mansion, the latter becomes timid and lost, and the notorious idlers look at the merchant with contempt. But soon the prince sits down to Vokulsky. As a true celestial, he looks favorably at ordinary people, mourns the fate of his unfortunate homeland – but has not done anything useful in his entire life. Now the prince, completely unaware of commerce, wants to join with other aristocrats in the Society for Trade with Russia. They will make a profit – and no one will say that knowing is sitting idly by. Seeing how courteous the prince and Vokulsky, the Countess’s guests decide: there is something in this merchant! Now they look at him with cautious admiration, like a beautiful wild beast.
Vokulsky thinks only of Isabella. Aspiring to enter into its circle, he removes a luxurious apartment, buys a carriage and horses, eschews merchants who can not forgive him this. At the same time, he helps a few poor people to get to their feet, and soon opens a new luxury store. All the manufacturers and merchants shout that Vokulsky is not a patriot. Selling cheap Russian goods, he ruins the domestic industry! But he himself believes that it is quite patriotic to supply buyers with inexpensive good things and to destroy the monopoly of greedy factory owners (by the way, mainly Germans).
“Two people are combined in Vokulsky: a romantic of the 1850s and a positivist of the 1870s, such as him, either subjugating themselves, or, after encountering an insurmountable obstacle, they break their heads,” says the wise Dr. Schumann.
Vokulsky tears the Lencki bills, hoping that his beloved will someday appreciate his nobility. To help Isabella, he secretly buys for ninety thousand belonging to her family an ugly and neglected apartment house, the price of which is sixty thousand. The lawyer-mediator is outraged by this stupidity: the unmarried girl-Isabella can marry the merchant Vokulsky, but Isabella with money – never! However, Vokulsky stands on his own: he can not, hunting Isabella, drive her into a corner!
Soon Vokulsky summons Baron Kszeszówski, who insulted Isabella, to a duel. Delighted with her affectionate smile, Vokulsky decides to throw the corpse of the scoundrel at the feet of the beauty. However, the case ends only with the carved tooth of the baron… Seeing the frenzy of Vokulsky, everyone around suspect that he started some grandiose speculation. Vokulsky indignant: from his childhood he lived like a bird in a cage, and now, when he finally spread his wings, everyone giggles at him like domestic geese on the wild brother who is climbing upward…
And Isabella, seeing how aristocrats are winding around Vokulsky, finally notices what an outstanding man he is. His love flattered her. He could even become her husband… With people there are the most terrible misfortunes… But, beloved – never! On the eve of the duel Isabella burst into tears, regretting her faithful servant, but realizing that the Almighty can not leave alive a man who insulted Lanna with her help. However, soon the beauty is already dreaming about how this millionaire, who loves her ideal love, will find her a worthy husband, and then, after many years, shoot herself on her grave… And, meeting with Vokulsky, Isabella looks at him with such tenderness that he, having lost his head from happiness, begs his beloved to let him be her slave. “Avoid the females of another breed – the voice of the wise doctor Schumann sounds in his ears.
In Poland, a cheerful, slender, swarthy, slightly bald patter and slacker Kazek Starskiy comes back from abroad. Aunt Isabella believes that this is a perfect party for the girl. In vain, Isabella refused him a couple of years ago. He, of course, squandered his fortune and everything in debt… But something he will leave the godmother…
Soon Starzky, which is visibly distorting the Polish speech, is to Isabella – and she accepts his impudent courtship. Seeing this, insulted and shocked Vokulsky coldly bids him farewell and leaves for Paris. “Tell at mercy – a merchant, and so touchy!” – Lentsky is surprised, having already managed to solicit from Vokulsky a lot of money “for future profits.”
Conducting Vokulsky, the old man Shuman defames modern civilization, erecting so many barriers between a man and a woman. And Zhetsky, worried about Vokulsky, begins to suspect that he is a victim of social injustice. All his life he painfully climbed up – and how much useful would he have done if he had not been disturbed!
In Paris, “dear Stanislav Petrovich” joyfully meets the Russo-beaked giant Suzin. Vokulsky helps him to conclude a few very profitable transactions, from which he himself receives a considerable percentage, and wanders around Paris, thinking about his life. He always aspired to the unattainable… Vokulsky comes Professor Geist, who is looking for money for his studies. He is considered a madman, he also claims that he is about to get a lighter metal than air and will change the whole world. Vokulsky rejoices: this is the business that is worth devoting life to! So what to choose: work and fame – or love that burns to ashes? Here comes a letter from the patroness of Vokulsky old aristocrat Zaslavskaya, who once loved his uncle. Now the kindly old woman informs that Isabella, when she heard the name of Vokulsky, blushed… And Vokulsky rushes to Poland, in the estate of Zaslavskaya. Here Vokulsky meets the young, cute inventor Okhotsk, who is genuinely delighted. The heart of this young man is given to science, he considers women only a handicap in his work. Even in Zaslavek, a young widow, a beauty Vonsovskaya, boredom for the sake of changing admirers, like gloves, and the godson of the hostess Starskiy, who trail after all women in a row, are visiting. His deeds are bad: the godmother has decided not to leave his estate to him, the rich woman Vonsovskaya does not want to marry him, but he completely lost his way and, having decided to marry Isabella, is looking for a wealthy husband. like gloves, and the godson of the hostess, Stary, who trails all the women in a row. His deeds are bad: the godmother has decided not to leave his estate to him, the rich woman Vonsovskaya does not want to marry him, but he completely lost his way and, having decided to marry Isabella, is looking for a wealthy husband. like gloves, and the godson of the hostess, Stary, who trails all the women in a row. His deeds are bad: the godmother has decided not to leave his estate to him, the rich woman Vonsovskaya does not want to marry him, but he completely lost his way and, having decided to marry Isabella, is looking for a wealthy husband.
Vonsovskaya likes Vokulsky, but she does not manage to seduce him, and she angrily declares that all men are scoundrels: first they make clean girls to become cold coquettees, and then despise them for it…
Zaslavskaya, knowing about Vokulsky’s feelings, invites Isabella to Zaslavek. Tu left even one of the elderly suitors, fell in love with a young relative Zaslavskaya. Isabella is shocked: means, it can be thrown for another woman?! The soil leaves the beauty from under the feet, and Isabella starts to think about marrying Vokulsky. He begs to recognize for him human rights and to judge him by deeds, and not by titles. Strength and work are the only privileges in this world. At the ruins of Castle Zaslavsky Vokulsky falls to Isabella on her knees, and she does not reject it. Happy Vokulsky is ready to die, blessing his beloved.
Through the efforts of Zhetskogo Vokulsky, returning to Warsaw, he begins to cater to the kind and charming Helena Stavskaya; that husband left her, and now she gives lessons, containing an old mother and a small charming daughter. Exhausted by his love for Isabella, Vokulsky finds a curative rest in Helen’s company. She gave Vokulsky her heart long ago. Why he fell in love with Isabel, and not in Helen, the old man Zhetsky lamented, himself a worshiper of the “angel of kindness” Stavskaya. And Vokulsky, in order not to scare Isabella, sells his store. Zhetsky in despair. Isabella, however, having forced Vokulsky to compete, admires his blindness and meekness – and agrees to marry him. His love turns into ecstasy. Unable to part with Isabella for a single day, Vokulsky does not even go to the funeral of Zaslavskaya.
But soon the Lentsky and Vokulsky go to Krakow, taking Starsky with them. Considering that Vokulsky does not know English, Isabella and Starskii talk in this language, with contempt regarding Vokulsky. Starish brazenly cares for Isabella, claiming that his cynicism like women more than the worship of men like Vokulsky. Shocked Vokulsky at the first station jumps out of the car and rushes under the train. But the switchman is one of the poor people who are benefited by Vokulsky – he saves him. At the very moment when it seemed that everyone had betrayed Vokulsky, the land, the common man and God remained with him.
Returning to Warsaw, Vokulsky falls into deep apathy and completely departs from affairs. “Gore from greed,” – say the merchants. Zhetsky begs him to marry Pani Stavskaya, but is Vokulsky, being a spiritual ruin, capable of giving her happiness? Soon he realizes that it is foolish to be angry with Isabella and Starsky: they are a natural product of their environment. Vokulsky’s life is now pointless and empty. He still loves Isabel – but will not return to her! Insulted human dignity is not a joke!
Soon Vokulsky leaves – no one knows where, and perhaps forever. Old man Zhetskomu does not want to live anymore: the world is getting worse and worse… Pani Stavskaya marries a cute and smart merchant, the former steward of Vokulsky. And Isabella started a new admirer to drive with him to Zaslavsky Castle and missed there on Vokulsky. But the fan quickly got fed up with this, and he abandoned it, and the old rich bridegroom broke off his engagement and left for Lithuania. Isabella rolled the tantrum, and Pan Lentsky died of grief. “And she’s not a bad person, she just has absolutely nothing to do, that’s flirting and became the meaning of her existence,” notes Okhotsky, “and Vokulsky is from the breed of people who are eager for great goals and grandiose work.” It was such madmen who created civilization ” .
The notary reads the gift Vokulsky: 140 thousand – Okhotsky, 25 – Zhetskiy and 20 – a small daughter of Mrs. Stavskaya. The rest is poor, in fact this is a will.
And then to Zhetskogo there are rumors that Vokulsky blew up the Castle of Zaslav, whose walls were explained to Isabella in love. Schumann believes that Vokulsky himself was killed under the rubble: the current world is not for romantics. Zhetsky laughs: Vokulsky simply dared the castle from the face of the earth, as others sweep away from the shelf love souvenirs. By the way, they say that Isabella goes to the monastery. Will, apparently, flirt with the Lord God.
Soon shocked Zhetsky finds out that he is not trusted in the store: he can not part with the company he gave his whole life to, the old man works now for free, which is suspicious. And the last romanticist, Zhetsky, dies. Inspirational inventor Okhotsk forever leaves abroad. “Who will remain?” Shuman asked. “We!” – amicably answer the crooked businessmen.