Events unfold during one day in the living room of the military’s house in the 80’s. XIX century.
The Captain and the Pastor are dealing with the case of Private Noida. He received a complaint – he does not want to give money for the maintenance of his illegitimate child. Noid excuses himself, nodding at another soldier – Ludwig: how do you know, maybe he is the father of a child? Emma walked with both. If Noid had been sure that he was his father, he would have married. But how can he be sure of this? And all my life with a strange child, not so hot as interesting. The chiefs drive Noida out of the room. In fact, what can I prove?
The captain and Pastor, the brother of the wife of Captain Laura, met not about Noida; they discuss how to deal with the upbringing of Bertha, the daughter of the Captain. The fact is that in her views on her upbringing husband and wife sharply diverge: Laura opened her art talent, and
the Captain believes that it is better to give Bertha the profession of a teacher. Then, if she does not get married, she will have a well-paid job, and if she does, she can properly raise her own children. Laura, however, stands on her own. She does not want her daughter to be sent to study in the city, where she will have to live with the familiar Captain Smedberg, known, according to Laura, a freethinker and troublemaker. The captain does not want to leave Bert at home, where everyone educates her in her own way: mother-in-law prepares her for spiritual purposes, Laura dreams that she becomes an actress, the governess tries to turn her into a methodologist,
In the opinion of Pastor, the Captain generally dismissed his women. Let her behave with Laura more cautiously, she has a strong temper, in her childhood she achieved everything – pretended paralyzed and lay so until her desires were not fulfilled. In general, the last time the Captain looks bad. Does he know that a new doctor is coming to them?
Laura comes to Rotmistra. She needs money to farm. What happened to Noid? Ah, this is official work!
But the whole house knows about it! Did they release Noida? Just because the child is illegitimate and can not prove who his father is? And in marriage, in the opinion of the Captain, is it possible?
First meets the new doctor Laura. Is everyone in the family healthy? Thank God, there are no acute illnesses. But not all is well. The doctor knows, certain circumstances… It seems to her that her husband is sick. He orders books with boxes, but does not read them. And, looking at the microscope, he declares that he sees other planets. Does he often change decisions? For the past twenty years there was probably no order, which he would not abolish… Yes, of course, she will not worry her husband with unexpected ideas. In an inflamed brain, any idea can turn into an obsession, into a mania. So you do not have to raise suspicions in it?
The captain cordially greets the arriving person. Did the Doctor really read his work on mineralogy? Right now he is on his way to a big discovery. Studies of meteoritic matter with the help of a spectroscope have yielded tremendous results. He found in it traces of coal – organic life! Unfortunately, the ordered literature does not come. The doctor will live here, in the wing, or will he occupy an official apartment? He does not care? Let him know in advance. The captain of indifferent people does not like!
The Nurse comes to the Rotmistra. He would have calmed down and reconciled with his wife! Let her leave the girl at home! The mother has only joy that a child! The captain is outraged. How, and his old nurse also on the side of his wife? Old Margrethe, what is more dear to him than his mother! Traitor! Yes, he agrees with Margrethe, scholarship in family matters is not helping. As they say, live with wolves – wolf howl! .. Well, now in it and true faith is not! Why is it the Nurse, when she starts talking about her God, do her eyes become angry?
With the daughter of Bertha, whom the Captain likes passionately, his relationship to the end also does not add up. My daughter agrees to go to the city, unless my father persuades my mother. Berthe did not want to engage in spiritualism with his grandmother. Still the grandmother says that although the father considers other planets into the telescope, in ordinary life he does not understand anything.
The same evening, between Rotmistrom and Laura, there is another explanation. The captain decided to send the girl to the city? Laura will not allow this! She, like her mother, has more rights to the girl! After all, you can not know exactly who the father of the child is, while his mother has one. What does this mean in this case? “And the fact that Laura can declare: Bertha is her daughter, not him!” Then the power of the Captain of the Year is over the child! By the way, why is he so sure of his fatherhood?
The captain leaves the house, promising to return no earlier than midnight. At this time, Laura talks with the Doctor. He believes that the Captain is absolutely healthy: pursuing science is more evidence of the clarity of the mind than about his frustration. The failure of books to Rothmistru, apparently, is due to the increased care of his wife about the peace of her husband? Yes, but today my husband again set off for the most unbridled fantasies. He imagined that he was not the father of his own daughter, and before that, when examining the case of a soldier, he stated that no man could say with absolute certainty that he was the father of his child. Similar with him – not the first time. Six years ago, in a similar situation, he confessed in a letter to the doctor that he feared for his own mind.
The doctor suggests: we must wait for the Captain. So he does not suspect anything, let him say that the doctor was called because of aunt’s illness.
The captain returns. Having met the Nurse, he asks her who was the father of her child? Of course, her husband. Is she sure? In addition to her husband, she had no men. Did her husband believe in his fatherhood? Have made!
The Doctor enters into the living room. What does the Doctor do here at the late hour? He was summoned: the mistress’s mother tucked her leg. It’s strange! The nurse said a minute ago that her mother-in-law had caught a cold. By the way, what does the Doctor think: you can not establish paternity with absolute certainty? Yes, but there are women. Well, women who believe! With the Captain, when he was younger, there were so many spicy stories! No, he would not believe any, even the most virtuous woman! But this is not true! the Doctor tries to reason with him. The captain speaks, his thoughts generally take a painful direction.
Hardly the Doctor has time to leave, as the Captain causes a wife! He knows, she overhears their conversation outside the door. And she wants to talk to her. He went to the post office. His suspicions were confirmed: Laura intercepted all his orders. And he, too, in turn, opened all the letters addressed to her and found out from them that the wife had been for a long time inspiring all his friends and colleagues that he was insane. But he still offers Laura peace! He will forgive her everything! Let him only say: who is actually their father Bertha? This thought torments him, he really can go crazy!
Between the spouses there is a stormy explanation: from aggression and denunciation of Laura in all sorts of vices, the captain goes on to self-abase and praise her maternal virtues: his weak, she supported at the most critical moments! Yes, only at such times she liked her, “Laura admits. A man in it, she hates. Who of the two is right? – Asks the Captain and himself answers his own question: the one in whose hands the power. Then victory for her! – Announces Laura. Why? Because tomorrow morning, guardianship will be established over him! But on what grounds? Based on his own letter to the doctor, where he confesses in his madness. Did he forget? In a rage, the captain hurls a lighted table lamp at Laura. His wife dodges and runs away.
The Captain was locked in one of the rooms. He tries to break the door from the inside. Laura tells her brother: her husband went insane and threw a burning lamp into it, had to lock him up. But is not that her own fault? – more asserting than asking, says the brother. The Doctor enters into the living room. What is more profitable for them? he asks bluntly. If you sentence the Captain to a fine, he still does not calm down. If he is put in jail, he will leave soon. It remains to recognize him as crazy. The straitjacket is ready. Who will put it on the Captain? There are no hunters present. To the aid called ordinary Noida. Only now the Nurse agrees to dress the patient. She does not want Noid to make her big boy hurt.
Finally the Captain breaks the door and goes outside. He argues with himself: his case has been repeatedly described in the literature. Telemachus said to Athena: to know who the father is to man, but it’s really impossible. This is also the case with Ezekiel. Alexander Pushkin also became a victim – not so much a fatal bullet as there were rumors of his wife’s infidelity. A fool, he believed on her deathbed in her innocence!
The captain offends the Pastor and the Doctor, calling them cuckolds. He knows something about them and can whisper in his ear to the Doctor. Has he turned pale? That’s it! In general, clarity in family relations can be made only one way: you need to get married, divorce, become a lover of your ex-wife and adopt your own child. Then the relationship will be marked with absolute precision! What does Bert say to him? That he did not deal well with his mother by hurling a lamp at her? And that after that he is not her father? Clear! Where is his revolver? Cartridges have already been removed from it! Alas! A Nurse? What is the Nurse doing with him now? Does Adolf remember how, in her childhood, she took away from him the deception of a dangerous toy – a knife? Give, say, a snake, or it will sting! It is just like now that she has dressed him. Let him lie down now on the sofa! Bye Bye!
No, Rothmistra has no luck with women! They are all against him: his mother was afraid to give birth to him, his sister demanded submission from him, the first woman awarded him with a bad illness, a daughter forced to choose between him and his mother, became his enemy, and the wife became the opponent who persecuted him until he fell down dead!
But Laura was not going to ruin him! Maybe somewhere in the back streets of her soul there was a desire to get rid of him, but she primarily defended her interests. So, if before it it is to blame, before God and conscience Laura is pure. As for his suspicions about Bertha, they are ridiculous.
The captain demands that he be covered with a marching uniform. He curses women (“The mighty power fell before low cunning, and damn you, witch, damn all of you, women!”), But then calls for help a woman mother. He calls the Nurse. His last words: “Lull me, I’m tired, I’m so tired! Good-night, Margrethe, blessed are you in wives.” The captain dies, as the Doctor has determined, from an apoplexy stroke.