Ivan Petrovich, a twenty-four-year-old novice writer, in search of a new apartment, meets on a Petersburg street a strange old man with a dog. Unable to be thin, in rags, he has the habit of sitting for hours in Miller’s confectionery near Voznesensky Prospekt, basking at the stove and staring at the deadly unseeing glance at one of the visitors. On this March evening, one of them is indignant at the “impoliteness” of the poor man. He in fear goes and dies nearby on the sidewalk. Arriving home to a stranger, Ivan Petrovich learns his name – Smith – and decides to settle in his empty house under the roof of the apartment building,
Since childhood, the orphan, Ivan Petrovich grew up in the family of Nikolai Sergeyevich Ikhmenev, a small nobleman of an old family, who runs the rich estate of Prince Peter Aleksandrovich Valkovsky. Friendship and love connected him with the daughter of Ichmeny Natasha, who is younger than him for three years. The young man went to St. Petersburg, to the university, and saw his “own” only five years later, when they moved to the capital because of a quarrel with Valkovsky. The last many years he had provided friendship and trust to his manager up to the point that he sent his son Alesha to “nurture” his nineteen-year-old son. Believing the rumors about the desire of Ichmeny to marry the young prince to his daughter, Valkovsky in retaliation accused the good, honest and naive old man of
Ivan Petrovich almost a daily guest at Ichmenov, where he was again adopted as a native. It is here that he reads his first novel, just printed and having extraordinary success. Love grows between him and Natasha, it is already about the wedding, with which, however, they decide to wait one year until the literary position of the groom is strengthened.
“Wonderful” time passes when Ichmenyev starts to visit Alyosha. Valkovsky, who has his views on the future of his son, repeats the accusation of pimping and forbids the latter to see Natasha. The insulted Ihmenev, however, does not suspect the love of her daughter and the young prince until she leaves the parental home for her lover.
Lovers take an apartment and want to be married soon. Their relationship is complicated by the unusual nature of Alyosha. This beautiful, elegant secular youth is a child by naivety, unselfishness, simplicity, sincerity, but also selfishness, frivolity, irresponsibility, spinelessness. Immensely loving Natasha, he does not try to provide her financially, often leaves one, tightens the painful state of her mistress for her. The captivating, weak-willed Alyosha lends itself to the influence of his father, who wants to marry him to the rich. To do this, we must separate our son from Natasha, and the prince refuses the young man in financial support. This is a serious test for the young couple. But Natasha is ready to live modestly and work. In addition, the bride found by the prince for Alyosha – Katya – is a beautiful girl, pure and naive, like her supposed bridegroom. She can not be carried away, and a new love, according to the calculation of an intelligent and astute prince, will soon drive out his old son from an unstable heart. And Katya herself already loves Alyosha, not knowing that he is not free.
Natasha from the very beginning is clear to her lover: “if I do not always be with him, constantly, every moment, he will stop loving me, forget and abandon me.” She loves “like crazy,” “not good,” she “even the pain of it – happiness.” Stronger nature, she seeks to rule and “torment to pain” – “and therefore hastened to be sacrificed first”. Natasha continues to love Ivan Petrovich as a sincere and reliable friend, a support, a “golden heart”, selflessly giving her care and warmth. “We will live three of us.”
His former apartment is visited by his thirteen-year-old granddaughter Nelly. Struck by her closeness, savagery and a miserable look, Ivan Petrovich finds out the conditions of her life: Nellie’s mother recently died of consumption, and the girl fell into the hands of a cruel podnia. Reflecting on the ways of Nelly’s rescue, the hero encounters on the street with the old school friend Masloboev – a private detective, with the help of which he tears a girl from a depraved brothel and settles in his apartment. Nellie is seriously ill, and most importantly – unhappiness and human anger made her distrustful and painfully proud. She is suspiciously taking care of herself, slowly thawing, but finally hotly attached to her savior. Even jealous of him to Natasha, whose fate is so busy with her older friend.
Already six months, as the last left from inconsolable parents. The father suffers silently and proudly, at night shedding tears over the portrait of his daughter, and in the day of condemning and almost cursing her. The mother takes heart in talking about her with Ivan Petrovich, who reports all the news. They are disappointing. Alyosha approaches Katya more and more, not showing herself to Natasha for several days. She thinks about the break: “He can not marry me, he can not go against his father.” It’s hard, “when he, the first, will forget” her near another – that’s why Natasha Kho-
Chet is ahead of the “traitor”. However, Alyosha announces to Katya about the impossibility of their marriage because of her love for Natasha and her obligations to her. The generosity of the “bride”, who approved his “nobility” and showed participation in the position of “happy” rival, admires Alyosha. Prince Valkovsky, concerned about the “firmness” of his son, is making a new “move.” Having come to Natasha and Alyosha, he gives a feigned consent to their marriage, expecting that the calmed conscience of the youth will no longer be an obstacle to his growing love for Katya. Alyosha is “delighted” with his father’s deed; Ivan Petrovich, on a number of grounds, notes that the prince does not care about the happiness of his son. Natasha also quickly unravels the “game” of Valkovsky, whose plan, however, is quite successful. During a heated conversation, she exposes him to Alyosha.
The latter is surprised to learn that the prince is using Masloboev’s services in a certain matter connected with Nellie and her deceased mother. Oblivious and hints the classmate devotes the hero to its essence: many years ago, Valkovsky “climbed” into the enterprise with a British breeder Smith. Wishing to “seize” his money with a “gift”, he seduced and took abroad the passionately in love idealist, the daughter of Smith, who gave it to them. A bankrupt old man cursed his daughter. Soon the rascal threw the girl, whom, apparently, still had to be married, with little Nellie in her arms, without means of subsistence. After long wanderings the deadly mother returned from Nelly to St. Petersburg in the hope that the girl’s father would take part in her destiny. In despair, she often tried to write a scoundrel to her husband, overcoming pride and contempt. Valkovsky himself, cherishing plans for a new profitable marriage, was afraid of documents about a legitimate marriage, possibly kept by Nellie’s mother. For their search, Masloboev was hired.
Valkovsky carries the hero for the evening to Katya, where Alyosha is also present. Natasha’s friend can see the futility of her hopes for Alyosha’s love: Natasha’s “fiance” can not break away from Katya’s society. Then Ivan Petrovich and the prince go to dinner in the restaurant. During the conversation, Valkovsky throws off the mask: arrogantly tames the trustfulness and nobility of Ichmenev, cynically rant about Natasha’s female virtues, reveals her mercantile plans for Alyosha and Katya, laughs at Ivan Petrovich’s feelings toward Natasha, and offers him money to marry her. This is a strong, but absolutely immoral person whose credo is “love yourself,” and use others to your advantage. Particularly amusing the prince playing on the sublime feelings of his victims. He himself appreciates only money and rude pleasures. He wants, so that the hero prepared Natasha for a close separation from Alyosha (he must go to the village with Katya) without “scenes, pastors and Schiller”. His goal – to remain in the eyes of his son, a loving and noble father “for the most comfortable mastering of Katya’s money later.”
Far from the plans of his father, Alyosha is torn between two girls, no longer knowing which one he loves more. However, Katya is more of a “couple” by nature. Before leaving rivals meet and decide the fate of Alyosha in addition to his participation: Natasha with a pain inferior to his beloved Katya, “no character” and childishly “near” mind. Strangely, “this is something” she “in him and loved the most”, and now Katya loves the same.
Valkovsky offers abandoned Natasha money for contact with the depraved old Count. Ivan Petrovich, who arrived in time, beats and rudely throws out the offender. Natasha should return to her parents’ house. But how to persuade the old man Ikhmenev to forgive, although his beloved, but disgraced his daughter? In addition to other offenses, the prince has just won a lawsuit and takes away from his unfortunate father all his small fortune.
For a long time already the Ichmenyevs have decided to take an orphan girl to their place. The choice fell on Nellie. But she refused to live with “cruel” people, like her grandfather Smith, and did not forgive her mother during her lifetime. PLEASING Nellie to tell Ichmen the story of her mother, Ivan Petrovich hopes to soften the heart of the old man. His plan is successful: the family reunites, and Nellie soon becomes an “idol of the whole house” and responds to “universal love” for herself.
On warm June evenings, Ivan Petrovich, Masloboev and the doctor often gather in the hospitable house of Ichmenyevs on Vasilievsky Island. Soon separation: the old man got a place in Perm. Natasha is sad because of the experience. Dulls family happiness and serious heart disease in Nellie, from which the poor girl soon dies. Before his death, the legitimate daughter of Prince Valkovsky does not forgive, in spite of the evangelical commandment, his traitor to his father, but, on the contrary, curses him. Natasha, depressed by the future parting with Ivan Petrovich, regrets that she destroyed their possible joint happiness.
These notes were compiled by the hero a year after the events described. Now he is alone, in the hospital and, it seems, will soon die.