N. G. Pomyalovsky
In one of the St. Petersburg apartment houses on the Catherine’s canal lives the family of an official Ignat Vasilich Dorogov. He has six children, the oldest of them is Nadya, she is twenty years old. Mother of the family, Anna Andreevna, is an exemplary mistress. The house is full of comfort and tranquility.
Grandfather and grandmother Anna Andreevna were poor Petersburg petty bourgeois. On their daughter, Mavre Matveyevna, who was intelligent, good-looking and hardworking, a small official married Chizhikov. Mavra Matveyevna’s economy and energy led to the fact that the family had prosperity. Anna Andreevna was her youngest daughter. Since childhood she has become accustomed to order and secure existence. When Anna Andreevna married Ignat Vasilich, their relations were not easy. The young husband led a very dissolute life, and this caused his wife a lot of suffering, until she finally managed to tidy him up, to accustom him to the house. Ignat Vasilich became domovit, but in his character austerity and gloom appeared, which are especially noticeable in his relations with children.
When visitors come, the house becomes more cheerful. The Dorokhovs often have officials Yegor Ivanovich Molotov, Makar Makarych Kasimov, Semyon Vasilich Rogozhnikov, Dr. Fedor Ilyich Benediktov. On one of these evenings, Rogozhnikov tells the story of his director, who did not allow the minor official Menchov to marry a poor girl.
Nadia Dorogova was brought up in a closed institute, but her memories of college life were never pleasant to her. And no wonder: there were ugly orders. Classy ladies did not hesitate to take bribes from the inmates, the guilty girls were kept in the infirmary, putting on their straitjackets. There was a lot of artificial, fake education.
Coming out of the institute, Nadia spends a lot of time reading. Dreams about her husband and her household are interspersed with dreams of love. Nadia has suitors, but she refuses them. The girl often talks with Molotov, a regular guest in their house. She addresses him with a wide variety of questions. It seems to Nadia that Molotov is somewhat different from other acquaintances.
Molotov comes to the artist Mikhail Mikhailovich Cherevanin, Dorogov’s relative. Mikhail Mikhailovich is a talented and original person, but he is not stable. In love he was not lucky, and he became a cynic. Once he loved the comfort of home, and now settled in an untidy workshop in Peski. Molotov finds a company of crocheting youth from Cherevanin, among whom, with surprise, he sees the sons of familiar officials. Drunken young men rant about topical issues.
Molotov and Cherevanin, after leaving merry guests, go to Nevsky. Molotov reproaches the artist for his indiscriminate life. He describes his state of mind: everything is indifferent, everything seems insignificant. His way of thinking Cherevanin calls “cemetery”. As a child he lived near the cemetery and since then he has learned to see all the gloomy sides. However, the artist promises to start a new life, work hard.
Evening at the Dorokhovs. Here Molotov, and Cherevanin, and young Kasimov, who yesterday wanted to become an artist, and now glad that he got the job of an official. Molotov talks about the beginning of his career. He became an official not by calling, but by the invitation of a friend who got his place… Yegor Ivanovich does not want to continue the story.
Ignat Vasilich leaves the room with the secretary of the State General Podtyazhin. Cherevanin tells Molotov about his not very successful attempts to start a new life.
Nadya alone with Cherevanin asks him about Molotov. The artist recalls how Molotov was appointed to an investigation into the case of a woman who killed her husband. Yegor Ivanovich regretted the criminal, and since then he believes that in wickedness people are not to blame but the environment. He became condescending to everyone, but not to himself.
Father announces to Nadya that General Podryazhin is wooing her. The girl is horrified: the general does not like her. But parents do not want to hear about the refusal. Nadya decides to consult Molotov. The conversation ends with the fact that Nadya and Yegor Ivanych explain each other in love.
Molotov asks the hands of Nadezhda Ignatovna. But Ignat Vasilich is enraged – especially he is indignant that his daughter kissed Molotov. Yegor Ivanych is denied home, and his father orders him to throw Molotov out of his head. Cherevanov, however, consoles Nadia, advises her not to be afraid of anything and to stand on her own ground.
It takes three days. Dorogovs celebrate the name day of Nadezhda Ignatovna. Cherevanov in conversation with Nadia sarcastically characterizes the guests. Ignat Vasilich before all calls Nadya the bride of General Podtyazhin. However, Nadya declares that he will marry only Molotov.
Numerous relatives are amazed by this scene. The next day, when they met Dorogov, they advised him to open Nadya’s eyes to Molotov: and he, he said, was a debauchee. There is some truth in these accusations: indeed, Molotov had a mistress. However, Nadia does not want to believe anything.
Then the father announces to his daughter that she will remain an old maid. Nadya is afraid that his father will raise his hand. Seeing the horror on his daughter’s face, Ignat Vasilich begins to feel his guilt before her, but he somehow lacks the determination to forgive Nadya.
Molotov, however, spends his time in anticipation. Finally, unable to stand the inaction, he goes to General Podtyazhin and explains that Nadia loves him, Molotov. The general without hesitation agrees to abandon such an eccentric girl and decides to marry his daughter Kasimov. Yegor Ivanych and Podtyazhin go to Dorogov together. The general is explained with Ignat Vasilich. He is somewhat discouraged, but nothing to do… Nadi’s parents agree to her marriage to Molotov.
Molotov tells the bride of his past. After disappointment in the official service, he tried to do free work, tried various professions, worked at an inn, was a teacher, a writer, but realized that the department provides a better person. He wanted money, comfort, “philistine happiness” and had to become an official again. Not everyone is allowed to be heroes, and therefore it remains only to “honestly enjoy life.” Nadia agrees in everything with her fiancé.