Former hussar, retired forty-year retired colonel Yegor Rostanev, owner of the rich and well-appointed estate of Stepanchikov, where he lives together with his mother, the widow of General Krachotkin, an unmarried sister, Sasha’s daughter of fifteen and son of Ilya for eight years. Rostaneva’s wife died a few years ago. The house is filled with survivors, among which is Foma Fomich Opiskin, who was formerly a clown “because of a piece of bread” at Krachotkin, but managed to wholly subordinate his influence to the general and her retinue from “overripe” girls by reading “soul-saving books,” interpreting “Christian virtues, “dreams,” masterful “condemnation of others, as well as unrestrained self-praise. “Incarnation of self-love most limitless,” “bent” because of previous humiliations and ” which squeezes out envy and poison at every meeting, with each other’s luck, “the miserable Opiskin finds ideal conditions for the manifestation of his nature in Rostandov’s house.” The kind, conscientious, compliant, inclined to self-accusation, Stepanchikov’s master in character is not capable of asserting his own dignity, independence and interests, his main aspiration is peace and “universal happiness” in the house, the contentment of those around him is a deep spiritual need for which he is ready to sacrifice almost everyone. “Convinced
Now Foma and the general’s general want to coerce the colonel into a marriage with a middle-aged but very rich girl, Tatyana Ivanovna, invited to visit Stepanchikovo for this purpose. This kind, simple-hearted creature is just a toy in the hands of intriguers. Unexpectedly ascended by a rich inheritance from humiliating vegetation, she “moved” with her mind. “Mania to civic affairs” makes her behavior ridiculous and strange; any rascal with the help of cheap “romance” effects can lure, rob and throw it. Regretting Tatyana Ivanovna, Rostanev, however, opposes plans to enrich his family, because he is in love with the young governess of his children, Nastasya Evgrafovna Blackberries. A girl from a poor family, she was educated and educated at the expense of a colonel, who had previously loved her as a daughter. Nastya herself is cordially attached to Sashenka’s father and Ilyusha. But both do not admit to themselves and each other in their love: Rostanev – because of the difference in age, Nastya – because of the difference in social status. Nevertheless, for six months their mutual sympathy is not a secret for spies, who sensed a threat to their dominance. In fact, Nastya, unlike his oldest friend, openly resents tyranny and antics of Opisan and obviously will not tolerate this, becoming Stephenchikov’s mistress. The fugitives demand the shameful expulsion of the girl from home, under the guise of unscrupulous demagoguery about the “phenomenal lasciviousness” of the delicate and chaste Rostaneva and the care for Nastya’s morality, which allegedly has a bad influence on children. Ready for endless concessions, in this matter the colonel shows some firmness:
Arrived in Stepanchikovo early July morning, the Petersburger finds here a real “madhouse”. The wealthy master trembles before the poor settler, afraid of “offending” his superiority. He secretly meets with his own serfs, who heard about the intention to “give” their despot to Ocena. They are in desperation begging the master not to give them into “insult.” He agrees, wondering why Thomas, forcing the peasants to learn French and astronomy, is “not so sweet” to them. Sergei Aleksandrovich, like his uncle, initially suspects in Opusan “an extraordinary nature,” but “embittered” by circumstances and dreams “to reconcile him with man” with respect and kindness. When he has changed clothes, he goes to the tea-room, where the whole society has gathered: the general’s wife and her prizhvalkami,
Misincikov, Tatiana Ivanovna, Nastya and the children. There is no Thomas, because; he is “angry” with Rostanev for his unyielding attitude toward marriage. “Serdyatsya” and other domestic, accusing the Colonel out loud in the “grim egoism,” “killing mamma” and other nonsense. Kind-heartedly worried and awkwardly justified. One Sasha speaks about Opisan’s truth: “he is stupid, capricious, dirty, ungrateful, hard-hearted, tyrant, gossip, liar,” “all of us will eat.” Pretenduyuschy to an extraordinary mind, talent and knowledge, Opiskin is also jealous of the “learned” nephew of Rostan, as a result of which the poor visitor is subjected to an extremely unpleasant reception from the general’s wife.
Finally, Foma enters: this is a “pluvanny little man” “about fifty years old,” with hypocritical manners and “impudent self-confidence” on his face. Everyone fawns before him. He also begins to mock the domestic boy Falaley, who fell into disgrace with him because of his beauty and the location of the general’s wife. Desperate to learn Falalei in French, Thomas decides to “ennoble” his dreams. He who does not know how to lie to Falalei all the time dreams “a rough, peasant” dream “about a white bull,” in which Thomas sees the “corrupting” influence of Rostanev. On the eve of Opecin managed to catch his victim on another “crime” – the performance of “indecent” dance about the komarinsky peasant. The torturer tramples on the “live bifstecks” on the grounds that he knows “Rus” and “
In the garden, Sergei Alexandrovich meets with his alleged bride, receives a refusal and learns of her intention to leave Stepanchikovo on the same day. From the windows you can hear the scandal. The colonel does not want to yield to Nastia and decides to part with Opisin “in a noble way, without any humiliation” for the latter. During the conversation alone in the tea room, he generously offers Foma fifteen thousand and promises to buy a house for him in the city. Opiskin also throws money, pretending to be an incorruptible virtue. The colonel, it turns out, reproaches him with a piece of bread and is vaunted with his wealth. Poor Rostanev repents, begs for forgiveness. It is possible only on the condition that he will humble his “pride” and call the survivor “Your Excellency”, that is, he recognizes him worthy of a “general’s rank”. Unhappy good-natured goes to this humiliation. For a short time pacified Thomas “forgives” him and Gavril.
Late in the evening, in the wing to Sergei Aleksandrovich comes Misenchikov in the vain hope of finding in the young man a paid assistant. His “idea” consists in the removal of Tatyana Ivanovna, marrying her and mastering her money. By the way, this will save Rostane from an unwanted marriage. Мизинчиков promises to act with the sick woman humanely, having given her a worthy life and peace of mind. True, he is afraid that he will be ahead of Obnoskin, whom he inadvertently opened.
After Mizincikov’s departure, an uncle with a footman Vidoplyasov appears. This is the “secretary” of Opisan, the fool, confused by him, who understands the “nobility of the soul” as pretentiousness and contempt for everything that is national, natural. Enduring for his conceit ridicule of the courtyard, he begs to change his “dissonant” name to Oleandrov, Ulanova, Essbeketov, etc. His poems call “Vidoplyasov’s yells.” Rostanev informs his nephew that he has “settled everything”: Nastya remains, since Sergei Alexandrovich is declared her fiancé, and his uncle himself makes an offer to Tatyana Ivanovna tomorrow. Upon learning of the forthcoming departure of Nastenka, the colonel rushes to stop her.
The nephew follows him through the garden at night and sees Tatyana Ivanovna in the arbor with Obnovskin, who clearly stole the “idea” of Misinchikov. Soon he meets and alarmed uncle: just Thomas found him in the moment of a kiss with Nastenka, who admitted to him in love. Intending tomorrow to make an offer to his beloved girl, the colonel nevertheless fears Openko’s conviction and “trezvon”, which he can raise. At night he writes “brother and friend”, begging not to disclose a meeting in the garden and promote the consent of the general’s wife to his marriage with Nastya.
At dawn, Tatyana Ivanovna’s escape with Obnoskin is discovered. Rostanev rushes in pursuit and pulls out the insane from the hands of the swindler. She is back in Stepanchikov.
In the afternoon, there is a general meeting in the rooms of Thomas Fomich on the occasion of the name day of Ilyusha. At the height of the holiday, Opiskin, confident that he was not going to be released, is playing the comedy of “expulsion” from the estate in a “simple, muzhik cart”, with a “knot”. “At last” he tears the letter of Yegor Ilyich and notifies those present that he saw him at night with Nastya “in the garden, under the bushes.” The ragged Colonel throws out the boor, who obviously did not expect such a denouement. Gavrila takes him away on a cart. Rostanev asks the mother for blessing for marriage, but she does not listen to her son and only begs to return Foma Fomich. The colonel agrees on the condition that he publicly apologizes to Nastya. Meanwhile, the despondent and subdued Opiskin returns himself – Rostanev finds him “already in the village.”
The cunning does a new “trick”: it turns out that he is the well-wisher of Nastya, the defender of her “innocence”, who was threatened by the “unbridled passions” of the colonel. Simple-minded Rostanev feels guilt, and Thomas unexpectedly joins the hands of lovers for all. The general’s wife blesses them. Those present enthusiastically thank Openko for organizing the “universal happiness”. The former “rebels” ask him for forgiveness.
After the wedding, Thomas became even stronger in the house: “he sibilished, buckled, broke, angry, scolded, but reverence for him” happy “did not decrease.” The general’s wife passed away in three years, Opiskin – in seven. Found after his death, the writings turned out to be “an extraordinary rubbish”. Children from Rostane and Nastya were not.