The narrator yearns for times when “Russians were Russian”, and Moscow beauties wore sarafans, and did not flaunt themselves in Gallo-Saxon dresses. To resurrect these glorious times, the narrator decided to retell the story he had heard from his grandmother’s grandmother.
Once upon a time in Moscow a rich boyar, Matvei Andreev, lived in Moscow, the right hand and conscience of the tsar, hospitable and a very generous man. The boyar had already passed sixty years, his wife had died long ago, and the only joy of Matvei was Natalya’s daughter. Nobody could compare with Natalia neither beauty, nor meek disposition. Not knowing the reading and writing, she grew like a flower, “had a lovely soul, was as gentle as a turtledove, innocent as a lamb, sweet as a month in May.” Going to mass, the girl spent the whole day handicrafting, and in the evenings she met girlfriends at the girls’ parties. Natalya’s mother was replaced by an old nurse,
a faithful servant of the deceased noblewoman.
Natalia led such a life until the “seventeenth spring of her life” came. One day the girl noticed that all the creatures of the earth have a couple, and in her heart the need to love has awakened. Natalya became sad and thoughtful, for she could not understand the vague desires of her heart. One winter time, when she came to mass, the girl noticed a beautiful young man in a blue caftan with golden buttons in the temple, and immediately realized that it was him. The next three days the young man did not appear in the church, and on the fourth day Natalia saw him again.
For several days he accompanied the girl to the gate of her house, not daring to speak, and then came to her house. Nurse allowed the lovers to meet. The young man, whose name Alexei, confessed to Natalia in love and persuaded her to marry him secretly. Alex was afraid that the boyar would not accept him as his son-in-law, and promised Natalia that they would rush into Matvei’s feet after the wedding.
Nurse was bribed, and the same evening Alexey brought Natalia to a dilapidated
church where they were married by an old priest. Then, taking with them an old nurse, the newlyweds went into the thicket of dense forest. There was a cottage in which they settled. Nurse, trembling with fear, decided that she had given her pigeon to a robber. Then Alexei confessed that he was the son of the disgraced boyar of Luboslavsky. Some thirty years ago, several noble boyars “rebelled against the lawful authority of the young sovereign.” Alexei’s father did not take part in the riot, but was arrested on false slander. “A faithful friend opened the prison door for him,” the boyar fled, lived for many years among strangers’ tribes, and died in the arms of his only son. All this time the boyar received letters from a friend. After burying his father, Alexei returned to Moscow to restore the family’s honor. A friend arranged for him refuge in the wilds of the forest and died without waiting for the young man. Settled in a forest house, Alexei often went to Moscow, where he saw Natalya and fell in love. He got acquainted with the nanny, told her about his passion, and she admitted him to the girl.
In the meantime the boyar Matvey discovered the loss. He showed a farewell letter written by Alexei, the Tsar, and the Emperor ordered to find the daughter of his faithful servant. The search continued until the summer, but did not succeed. All this time, Natalia lived in the wilderness with her beloved husband and nanny.
Despite the cloudless happiness, the daughter did not forget about her father. A faithful man brought them news about the boyar. Once he brought another message – about the war with the Lithuanians. Alex decided to go to war, in order to restore the honor of a kind. He decided to take Natalia to her father, but she refused to part with her husband and went with him to the war, dressed in a man’s dress and introduced himself as Alexei’s younger brother.
After a while, the messenger brought the king’s message of victory. The generals described the battle to the sovereign in detail and told of the brave brothers who first rushed to the enemy and carried away the others. Having affectionately met the hero, the tsar learned that this was the son of the boyar Luboslavsky. The Emperor already knew about the unfair denunciation from the recently deceased rebel. Boyarin Matvey with joy recognized in the younger brother of the hero Natalia. Both the tsar and the old boyar forgave the young spouses for arbitrariness. They moved to the city and got married again. Alexei became an approximate king, and Boyar Matvey lived to a very old age and died surrounded by his beloved grandchildren.