“Listen, Valerian,” said the hussar lieutenant colonel Gremin to his friend Major Strelinsky, “do you remember that black-eyed lady who drove all the young people crazy at the ball with the French envoy three years ago?”
This conversation took place in 182 … on the day of winter Nikola, not far from Kiev, where officers of the ** hussar regiment celebrated the name-day of their beloved squadron commander, the quick-tempered and stubborn but kind and generous Nikolay Petrovich Gremin.
Of course, Strelinsky remembers the unknown beauty, she even dreamed him for two whole nights, but his passion, as a respectable noble hussar, passed in a week; but Gremin seems to be in love?
Yes, three years ago Alina took possession of his heart. She reciprocated, but lovers had to eat only “sparkles of views and a smoke of hope,” for, unfortunately, by the prudence of relatives, Alina was the wife of the seventy-year-old Count Zvezdich. Doctors advised the old man to go abroad, to the waters, his wife should accompany him. Having exchanged rings and vows of invariable fidelity, the young people parted. From the first station she sent Gremina a letter, then another one – since then neither of her, nor about her, there have been no news. And it was only yesterday, with the St. Petersburg mail, the lieutenant-colonel learned that the Countess Zvezdich had returned to the capital, that she had become
But the changeability of human nature is such that the bell of the bell for Strelinsky left had not yet stopped, as doubt and jealousy had penetrated the soul of Gremin. And the next morning he sends an orderly to the brigade commander with a request for dismissal on leave, intending to overtake Strelinsky and before him to see the beautiful Alina.
On Christmas Eve, when in the streets of St. Petersburg there is a bustle and a cheerful pre-holiday crush, when Sennaya Square is filled with all sorts of food, and Nevsky seems to be burning from carriages and sleighs, in which Guards officers jump to buy newfangled aiguillettes, epaulettes, hats and uniforms, and ladies deliver hurried visits to fashion shops, seamstresses and gold embroidered shirts, – on the eve of the holiday through the Moscow outpost, a troika drove into St. Petersburg, in which one of our hussars was sitting. Who is this Gremin or Strelinsky?
The brilliant masquerade ball given by Prince O *** three days after Christmas was in full swing when a mask in a magnificent Spanish suit approached Countess Zvezdic and invited her to a dance. In the sounds of the voice and brilliance of Don Alonzo’s wit Fuentes e Colibrados, as the stranger introduced himself, it seemed to the Countess something familiar. And when he took off his glove from his left hand, involuntary “ah!” burst out from her – the sparkling ring was the same one that she gave to Gremina three years ago! Promising to come to her to explain the riddle the next day, the stranger disappeared like a dream.
In a strange excitement waiting for the countess of the visit – almost forgotten love seemed to return to the heart. Here are reports of the arrival of a Guards officer! Now she will see him again! Alina goes into the drawing-room… but before her is not at all Prince Gremin, but an unknown blond hussar!
The riddle of the ring was revealed simply: two years ago, after seeing a ring he liked, Strelinsky ordered a similar one. But how to explain the other secret: from the first minutes of the meeting, Strelinsky and Alina were candid and trusting, like old friends, and maybe even more than friends. And from that day on, in the theater, at balls, at musical evenings and dinner parties, on skating and dancing breakfasts – everywhere Alina seems to meet Valerian by chance. Alina is in love, there is no doubt! And our hero? He only fulfills Gremin’s request? By no means! And the evidence for that is the changes that have taken place with him. He, in the opinion of friends, is an idler, now he is seriously thinking about the future, about marriage, and the family happiness of love with a sweet friend joins in his thoughts with the duty of a citizen: he will retire, will go to the countryside and in cares about the well-being of the peasants and about the improvement of the economy, it will be useful and happy to spend his life. But will Alina agree to this? Go to the village – a victim for a young, beautiful and rich woman! In three days she will give the final answer.
And while the sad and troubled Valerian is waiting for the decision of his fate, Nikolai Gremin returns to St. Petersburg. The affairs of service that had detained him in the regiment forced him to forget about his previous plans and hopes, and, fervent only for a day, he did not recall the trial entrusted to his friend, and, probably, would not have come to Petersburg if the death of his grandfather did not call him to obtain an inheritance. But the news of the close marriage of Strelinsky and the countess Zvezdich, like the waterfall that flooded him, awakened the jealousy that had fallen asleep in his soul, and, throwing vengeance, he rushed into the house of his former friend to pour out the rage of his indignation. How could Strelinsky meet his friend’s unfair reproaches? He tries to recall that he urged Gremin to abandon the insane plan that he predicted everything that could happen – in vain! Resentment does not tolerate reasoning.
Sister Valeriana Olga Strelinskaya, a young girl recently released after training in the Smolny monastery, tormented by forebodings about the fate of her brother, decides to overhear the conversation in their house of men. Seconds discuss the quality of the “finest grains” of gunpowder, the design of pistols, the problem of inviting a healer. Old servant Valerian helps to cast bullets. You can be sure that nothing will be lost.
Olga is in despair. How to save my brother? On the clock, precious minutes run! She is so fond of Gremin, and now he will be the killer of Valerian! Olga turns to God, and it helps her to decide…
A typical tavern on the second verst on the way to Pargolovo, a place where duelists constantly gather in the winter. Suddenly Gremin is informed that a lady wants to see him under a veil. “Olga, are you here?!” “Prince, you know, you will not be able to reach my brother, otherwise pierced my heart!”
Gremin, who has long regretted his vain fervor, is now ready for a thousand apologies. His ardent and impressionable heart is already completely occupied by another: “Olga, be my wife!”
Reconciliation took place. Immediately Strelinsky receives a letter from Alina. How stupid were the doubts! Alina selflessly belongs to him. His gloomy mood was dispelled. He blesses Olga and Gremina: “I present you, Nikolai, the best pearl of my being!”
The Lords of seconds are invited to wash past recklessness and in the future to change their failed roles in the role of best man at two weddings.
“Even the stupidity of a man is sometimes unusually successful!” – the skeptical doctor present at the same time judged.