A young man of twenty-six is a petty official who has lived for eight years in Petersburg in the 1840s, in one of the lucrative houses along the Catherine Canal, in a room with cobwebs and smoky walls. After the service, his favorite pastime is walking around the city. He notices passers-by and at home, some of them become his “friends.” However, among people he has almost no friends. He is poor and alone. With sadness, he watches how the residents of St. Petersburg are going to the dacha. He has nowhere to go. Outside the city, he enjoys the northern spring nature, which is like a “stunted and sick” girl, for one instant becoming “wonderfully beautiful.”
Returning home at ten in the evening, the hero sees a female figure at the canal grille and hears a sobbing. Sympathy encourages him to get acquainted, but the girl runs away fearfully. The drunk tries to stick to her, and only the “knot stick”, which is in the hero’s hand, saves a pretty stranger. They talk to each other. The young man confesses that before he knew only “mistresses”, he never spoke with “women” and therefore is very shy. It calms the fellow traveler. She listens to the story of the “novels” that the escort created in dreams, about falling in love with the ideal fictitious images, about the hope of someday getting to know reality with a girl worthy of love. But here she is almost at home and wants to say goodbye. The dreamer begs for a new meeting. The girl “needs to be here for herself”, and she is not against the presence of a new acquaintance tomorrow at the same hour at the same place. Her condition is “friendship”, “but you can not fall in love”. Like the Dreamer, she needs someone who can be trusted, from whom to ask for advice
In the second meeting they decide to listen to each other’s “stories”. The hero begins. It turns out that he is a “type”: in “strange corners of Petersburg” similar “middle-born creatures” like “dreamers” live, whose “life is a mixture of something purely fantastic, hot-ideal and at the same time <…> dull-prosaic and ordinary. ” They are frightened by the society of living people, as long hours spend among “magic ghosts”, in “rapturous dreams”, in imaginary “adventures.” “You say, as if you were reading a book,” Nastenka guesses the source of the subjects and images of the interlocutor: the works of Hoffmann, Merimee, W. Scott, Pushkin. After the delicious, “voluptuous” dreams it hurts to wake up in “loneliness”, in your “musty, unnecessary life. “The girl feels sorry for her friend, and he understands that” such a life is a crime and a sin. “After” fantastic nights “,” there are minutes of sobering that are terrible. “” Dreams survive “, the soul wants” real life. “Nastenka promises the Dreamer that they will be together now, and here is her confession: she is an orphan, she lives with her old blind grandmother in a small house of her own, until she was engaged in training with a teacher for fifteen years, and for the last two years she has been” pinned ” dress of a grandmother, who otherwise can not follow her. a young man of “pleasant appearance.” He gave his young mistress the books of V. Scott, Pushkin and other authors, and invited them with his grandmother to the theater, especially the opera The Barber of Seville. When he announced that he was leaving, the poor recluse decided on a desperate act: she packed her things in a bundle, came into the room to the tenant, sat down and “cried three times.” Fortunately, he understood everything, and most importantly, managed to love Nastenka before that. But he was poor and without a “decent place,” and therefore could not immediately marry. They agreed that exactly a year later, after returning from Moscow, where he hoped to “arrange his affairs,” the young man would wait for his bride on a bench near the channel at ten o’clock in the evening. The year passed. He’s been in Petersburg for three days already. At the agreed place, he is not… Now the hero is clear the reason for the tears of the girl on the evening of acquaintance. Trying to help, he is called to pass on to the groom her letter, which she does the next day. came into the room to the tenant, sat down and “cried in three streams.” Fortunately, he understood everything, and most importantly, managed to love Nastenka before that. But he was poor and without a “decent place,” and therefore could not immediately marry. They agreed that exactly a year later, after returning from Moscow, where he hoped to “arrange his affairs,” the young man would wait for his bride on a bench near the channel at ten o’clock in the evening. The year passed. He’s been in Petersburg for three days already. At the agreed place, he is not… Now the hero is clear the reason for the girl’s tears in the evening of acquaintance....
Because of the rain, the third meeting of the heroes takes place only through the night. Nastenka is afraid that the bridegroom will not come again, and can not hide her excitement from her friend. She feverishly dreams about the future. The hero is sad, because he himself loves the girl. And yet the Dreamer gets selflessness to console and reassure Nastenka, who has fallen in spirit. Touched, the girl compares the groom to a new friend: “Why is it not you? .. He is worse than you, even though I love him more than you.” And he continues to dream: “Why do we all go wrong, brothers and brothers?” Why does the best person always seem to be hiding something from the other and keeping silent from him? <…> everyone looks as if he is more severe than he really is… “Gratefully accepting the sacrifice of the Dreamer, Nastenka also takes care of him:” you are recovering, “” you… love… ” “God give you happiness with her!” In addition, now with the hero forever and her friendship.
And then at last the fourth night. The girl finally felt thrown “inhumanly” and “cruelly”. The dreamer again offers help: go to the offender and make him “respect” the feelings of Nastenka. However, pride awakens in her: she no longer loves the deceiver and will try to forget him. The “barbaric” act of the tenant emphasizes the moral beauty of a friend sitting next to him: “would you not do this, would you not abandon the one who came to you herself, in the eyes of a shameless mockery of her weak, stupid heart?” The dreamer no longer has the right to hide the truth already guessed by the girl: “I love you, Nastenka!” He does not want to “torment” her with his “egoism” in a bitter moment, but suddenly his love will prove to be necessary? And indeed, in response, he says: “I do not like him, Nastenka escapes from the hands of the hero and rushes to meet him. Already, it would seem, the self-fulfilling hope for happiness, for a real life leaves the Dreamer. He silently looks after the lovers. Nastenka escapes from the hands of the hero and rushes to meet him. Already, it would seem, the self-fulfilling hope for happiness, for a real life leaves the Dreamer. He silently looks after the lovers.
The next morning the hero receives a letter from a happy girl asking for forgiveness for involuntary deception and with gratitude for his love, “cured” her “murdered heart.” The other day she is getting married. But her feelings are contradictory: “Oh God, if I could love you both at once!” And yet the Dreamer must remain “eternally friend, brother…”. Again he is alone in a suddenly “aged” room. But fifteen years later he recalls with tenderness his short love: “May you be blessed for the moment of bliss and happiness that you have given to another, a lonely, grateful heart!” … A whole minute of bliss! for the rest of human life? .. “