A Riverside Inn (Bunin)

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A Riverside Inn
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A military doctor shared a story about a mysterious woman he encountered twice in one day, once in a church and later in a tavern, expressing regret for intervening in her life.

A military doctor and his friend were dining at a bustling restaurant in Prague, reminiscing about the State Duma and enjoying the spring night.

The Military Doctor — narrator; strong, powerful build, ginger-haired with silver on the temples; tranquil, dry, and sensitive; interested in old Russian icons.

The doctor, feeling melancholic, began to share a memory from his past. He recalled a day, twenty years prior, when he was walking through a town on the Volga. He noticed a young woman rushing towards a church.

The Mysterious Woman — young, smartly dressed, with an olive-green gloved hand; slender waist, lyre-shaped backside; beautiful, tearful eyes expressing terrible fright.

Intrigued, he followed her and watched as she prayed fervently before leaving abruptly.

Later that evening, he unexpectedly encountered the same woman at a riverside inn. She was in the company of a disreputable man, a known drunkard and libertine. Outraged, the doctor confronted them and demanded that the woman leave with him. She complied, and they left the inn together. On their way home, she defended the man's character and asked to be let go.

I never saw her again, and I still don’t know to this day who she was, what she was…

The doctor never saw her again and remained ignorant of her identity.

Reflecting on this memory, the doctor expressed regret for his interference.

But why, permit me to ask, did I interfere? Isn’t it all the same what makes a person happy and how?

He pondered the nature of happiness and the lasting impact of memories, particularly those of joyous times.