Evgeny Alexandrovich Arbenin, a man of not the first youth, a player by nature and by profession, getting rich on cards, decides to change his destiny: conclude an “alliance with virtue,” marry and heal with a master. It is conceived – done. Life, however, makes a significant correction to this most beautiful plan. After getting involved not so much that by direct calculation, rather “by thinking mature”, Eugene, unexpectedly for himself, falls in love, and not in jest, in his young wife. And this, with his gloominess and his temperament – like lava, “bubbling” – does not promise spiritual comfort. It seems to have “died down”, moored to the family pier, but feels like a “broken shuttle”, thrown again into the open, stormy sea. His wife, no doubt, an angel, but she is a child, and with her soul, and for years, and in a childlike way loves everything that glitters, but most of all “and shine and noise,
and the gossip of balls. “So today: holidays, St. Petersburg amuses, dances, and somewhere Nastasya Pavlovna Arbenina (home-like – Nina) is entertained… She promised to be up to midnight, now it’s the second time… Finally, she sneaks on tiptoe and kisses him like a good uncle on the forehead. “Arbenin makes her a scene, but the darlings scold her-only they do it!” Moreover, Yevgeny Alexandrovich himself is not without a sin: he violated the vow – “for the cards no longer sit down.” He sat down! True, the pretext is also benign: we must get out of the trouble of the loser Prince Zvezdich! With Zvezdich from the gambling house he goes to the house of the masquerade – to Engelhardt. To dissipate. It is impossible to scatter: in the idle crowd, Arbenin is all stranger, but Zvezdich, a young and very handsome guard, in his element and, of course, dreams of an adventure The dream comes true. A mysterious lady in a mask, intriguing, confesses to him in an involuntary passion. The prince asks for a symbolic “object” in memory of the fancy dress. The mask,
without risking to give away its ring, gives the handsome man a bracelet lost by someone: gold, enameled, bonny (look, they say, the wind in the field!). The prince shows a masquerade “trophy” to Arbenin. He saw somewhere similar, but where, he does not remember. And not to Zvezdich, to him, someone Unknown, having uttered insolence, just predicted misfortune to Eugene, and not at all, namely on this festive winter night. Agree that after such a stormy day, Mr. Arbenin has reason to be nervous, waiting for a late wife! But the storm, never turning into a storm, raced off. Well, from the fact that Nina loves differently than he, – it is unconscious, with feelings playing, so in fact he loves! Touched, in a burst of tenderness, Eugene kisses his wife’s fingers and involuntarily draws attention to her bracelet: a few hours ago exactly the same, gold and enamel, boasted Zvezdich! And here you are! There is no bracelet on the right wrist, and they are paired, and Nina, following the fashion, wears them on both hands! No, it can not be! “Where, Nina, is your second bracelet?” – “Lost”. Lost? Of course, they do not find the loss, according to the order of Arbenin, naturally they do not find, in the process of searching it turns out: Nina was delayed until two o’clock in the morning, not at a ball in a respectable family, but at a public masquerade at Engelhardt, where a decent woman, alone, without satellites, it’s shameful to go. Struck by the strange, inexplicable (really just a child’s curiosity?) Act of his wife, Arbenin begins to suspect that Nina – an affair with the prince. Suspicion, however, is not yet certain. It is not possible for the angel-Nina to prefer him, to a mature husband, an empty, handsome boy! Where more (for now) Arbenin is indignant prince – to amorous pranks it would be this “cupidon”, if he, Arbenin, did not play his card loss with generosity! Charter half to death from the clarification of relations, the wife of Arbenina, in the worst of spirits, diverge in their rooms.
Next day, Nina goes to the jewelry store; she naively hopes that the husband will change his anger at mercy if he can find the exact same thing in return for the lost trinkets. Without buying anything (bracelets – piece work), Madame Arbenina calls in a secular friend of the young widow Baroness Shtral and, meeting Zwezdich in the living room, tells him unconcerningly about his trouble. Deciding that the mysterious lady in the mask and Nina Arbenina are one and the same person, and the “fairy tale” about the supposedly lost bracelet – with a hint, Zvezdich is instantly transformed from a bored bovivan into a fiery lover. Cooling his ardor with a “baptismal cold”, Nina hastily withdraws, and the frustrated prince lays out the “entire history” of the baroness. The widow is horrified, for it is she who was not recognized, under the mask of mask, she found and gave Ninin a bracelet!
Rescuing her reputation, she leaves Zvezdic in error, and the one, in the hope of confusing Nina and thereby achieving her, sends her a prefaced letter to her home address: they say that she will die sooner than refuse, after notifying her about half of the secular Petersburg. As a result of the multi-stage intrigue, the scandalous message falls into Arbenin’s hands. Now Eugene is not only convinced that he is cruelly deceived. Now he sees in the incident also a certain prophetic sign: they say, it’s not for someone who has experienced “all the sweetness of vice and villainy” – to dream of peace and carelessness! Well, which of it, the player, the husband? And the more so the virtuous father of the family! However, take revenge on the insidious “seducer” in the same way that a “genius of villainy” and vice, that is, to strangle Zvezdich like a kitten, – sleeping, Arbenin can not: “
Meanwhile Baroness Shtral, frightened for the life of the prince, who, despite everything, loves, for which – not knowing, “perhaps, so, from boredom, from vexation, from jealousy”, decides to open to Arbenin the truth and thereby prevent the inevitable, according to her, a duel. Arbenin, scrolling through his mind variants of revenge, does not listen to her, rather, listening, does not hear. Mistress Shtral is desperate, although she worries in vain: the duel is not included in Eugene’s plans; he wants to take away from the lucky beggar and the darling of fate is not life – why should he live a “red tape”, but something more: honor and respect for society. The clever enterprise manages completely. Taking the spineless prince into a card battle, he cares at trifles, publicly accuses him of fraud: “You are a shamer and a scoundrel,” he slaps.
So, Zvezdich is punished. The queue for Nina. But Nina is not an immoral and godless prince; Nina is Nina, and Arbenin, superstitious like all the players, hesitates, waiting for him to say what fate will tell him, her old and faithful slave. The fate of “behaving” is very insidious: unraveling the intrigue, immediately and confusing it! Mistress Shtral, after an unsuccessful attempt to explain herself frankly with her friend’s husband and realizing that at any turn of events her secular career is hopelessly ruined, decides to retire to her village estate, and before leaving Zvezdich explains the “clue to this charade.” The prince, already translated, at his own request, to the Caucasus, lingers in Petersburg to return the ill-fated trinket to her real owner, and most importantly, to warn Nina, who is sympathetic to him: beware that your husband is a villain! Without thinking up another way to talk privately with Madame Arbenina, he very carelessly approaches her at another glorious ball. The prince does not dare to call names by their proper names, and Nina decisively does not understand his hints. Her Evgeny is a villain? Is the husband going to take revenge on her? What nonsense? She also does not know what decision Arbenin observes from this scene from afar (“I will find the execution to her… She will die, I can not share a life with her”). Flushed with dancing, having long forgotten about the ridiculous officer, Nina asks her husband to bring her ice cream. Eugene obediently paddles into the pantry and before serving a saucer with ice cream to his wife, pours poison there. Poison – fast, true, the same night, in terrible agony, Nina dies. To say goodbye to the body of the deceased come friends and acquaintances. Giving the visitors grief to the servants, Arbenin wanders around the deserted house in gloomy solitude. In one of the distant rooms he is found by Zvezdich and that same unknown gentleman who, a few days ago, at Engelhardt’s masquerade, predicted to Arbenin “misfortune”. This is his longtime acquaintance, whom Yevgeny Alexandrovich once beat and let, as they say, around the world. Having learned, in his bitter experience, what this man is capable of, Unknown, confident that Madame Arbenina died not with her own death, declares openly, under Zvezdic: “You killed your wife.” Arbenin – in horror, for a while the shock deprives him of the gift of speech. Taking advantage of the pause, Zvezdich, in detail, sets out the true story of the fatal bracelet and as evidence passes Evgeny a written certificate of the Baroness. Arbenin is going crazy.
The unknown triumphs: he is completely avenged. But Zvezdich is inconsolable: a duel under the present condition of Arbenin is impossible, and, therefore, he, young, full of strength and hope, handsome, forever deprived of peace and honor.