In the provincial town of S. lives the educated and talented, according to local residents, the Turkin family. The head of the family, Ivan Petrovich Turkin, “a full, handsome brunette with beacons, arranged amateur theatricals for a charitable purpose, played the old generals himself and at the same time he coughed very funny.” He knew many anecdotes, charades, sayings, liked to joke and joke and always had there was such an expression that it was impossible to understand whether he was joking or serious. ” His family also has his talents: his wife, Vera Iosifovna, writes novels, and her daughter, Ekaterina Ivanovna, plays the piano. All Turks willingly show their talents to numerous guests.
Appointed to the city for the service of doctor Dmitry Ionovich Startsev
During dinner Ivan Petrovich demonstrates his talents. He “always spoke in his extraordinary language, worked out by long exercises in wit and, evidently, long since become part of his habit: Bolypinsky, not durably, I thanked you…” At the end of the evening the host presents the “nail of the program” to the guests. After the request of Ivan Petrovich: “Come on, Pava, draw!” Pavlusha’s lackey becomes in a pose and speaks in a tragic voice:
Vera Iosifovna, suffering from migraine, can not be cured by city doctors. Soon, Dr. Startsev receives an invitation from her to visit her and “alleviate her suffering.”
He begins to visit the Turks often, tries to look after Kotik, who is constantly busy with music. The unsuccessful attempt at an explanation results in the fact that Kotik appoints Startsov’s appointment at night to the cemetery, to which she, unlike the doctor, is not. The next day the doctor goes to the Turkins to make an offer, simultaneously thinking about how much dowry will be given for Ekaterina Ivanovna, and whether new relatives will demand from him to quit the zemstvo service. Startsev makes Kitty a proposal, but the virgins –
Ushka refuses under the pretext of love of art, to which she decided to devote her life. Three days old Startsev worries, but then calms down and returns to his former way of life.
It takes 4 years. Startsev’s practice is expanding. The doctor gets fat and suffers from shortness of breath. He does not have close friends, the townsfolk irritate him with their views on life. Startsev himself in the society “spoke about the need to work, that it is impossible to live without difficulty… Everyone took this as a reproach and began to get angry and persistently argue.” Startsev does not go to the theater or to concerts, is completely immersed in work.
Once Vera Iosifovna invites the doctor to come to her birthday. Turks take Startsev as usual. At the evening, Startsev also sees Kitty, who came to stay with her. According to Startsev, Kotik has changed: he does not like her pallor, smile, voice, dress, even the chair in which she sits. Vera Iosifovna again reads out her novel aloud, and Startsev notes to himself how much the product is worthless. Then Kotik plays the piano “noisily and for a long time,” and Startsev rejoices that he did not marry her. Startsev and Ekaterina Ivanovna descend into the garden. Kotik is no longer mistaken about his abilities: “I’m such a pianist as my mother’s writer.” On the questioning of the girl about his affairs, the doctor complains of life “without impressions, without thoughts.” He no longer talks about his hospital and about noble aspirations. Kotik enthusiastically exclaims, that it is a great happiness to be a zemstvo doctor and to help sufferers. She admits that Startsev is the best person with whom she was acquainted. Startsev reminisces about the money he takes out of his pockets every evening with great pleasure, and a flash of memories flashed in his soul goes out. Startsev refuses to dinner, intending to go home. Finally, the hosts show him the “nail program” – Pava, uttering a tragic voice “Die, unhappy!”.
On the way home Startsev thinks that if the most talented people in the whole city are so mediocre, then what should be the city. Within a few days Kotik sends Startsev a note with an invitation to come, but he refuses. A few more years pass. Startsev is getting even fatter, acquiring a huge practice in the city, an estate and two houses in the city. In the city his name is simply “Ionich”. He became more irritable and impatient. He is lonely. Nothing interests him, except money. Ivan Petrovich has not changed at all and still entertains guests. Vera Iosifovna willingly reads her novels to guests, and Kotik plays the piano for four hours every day.