from the Collection «The Little Trilogy»
Pavel Konstantinovich Alyokhin, an old bachelor, was receiving guests at his estate.
At breakfast they spoke of the cook who served at Alyokhin's. The beautiful maid was in love with the cook, but she would not marry him. The cook was pious, did not want to live with a woman out of wedlock, and often got drunk and beat her.
This story prompted the guests to start speculating on love. Alyokhin thought that no one knew how love was born. He did not understand why this beautiful woman had fallen in love with such an unpleasant man, and believed that the Russians complicated love by "fatal questions" - good or bad, fair or unfair, and to what it would all lead. Such questions hinder love and put insurmountable obstacles in the way of the strongest feeling.
As an example, Alyokhin told his life story.
People who live alone always have something on their souls that they would gladly tell.
Alyokhin's father had a lot of debt, partly also because he spent a lot on his son's education. Therefore, after graduating from university, Alyokhin returned to his native estate, determined to work off the debt.
By nature, Alyokhin was a squirrel and at first did not want to part with "his cultural habits". He settled in the front rooms, drank coffee and liqueurs in the morning and read the Herald of Europe at night. But such a life did not last long. Alyokhin got involved in work, which he did not like at all; he ate in the man's room and often slept in the barn, in a sleigh or somewhere in a forest gatehouse instead of in his bed.
Early on, Alyokhin became an honorary justice of the peace, and his only amusement became "to go to town and take part in the sessions of the congress and the district court." In early spring, during one of these trips, Alyokhin met Dmitry Luganovich, a fellow chairman of the district court, and his lovely wife, Anna Alexeyevna.
Alyokhin had never yet met such a lovely, kind and intelligent woman. It was obvious that the family of Luganovich lived amicably - the spouses did everything together, they had a daughter. All summer Alyokhin thought of blond Anna Alexeyevna, but saw her again only late fall.
They met at a charity play, and from then on Alyokhin became an insider in their house. He came uninvited, played with the child, talked at length with Anna Alexeyevna. The Luganovichs knew about the plight of Alyokhin, constantly worried about him, believed that such an educated man should engage in science, and tried to lend him money. The Luganovichs were wealthy people, but Alyokhin tried not to borrow money from them, and then they simply gave him valuable things.
Unhappy Alyokhin, in love with Anna Alexeyevna, could not understand what made her become the wife of an unjuvenile, uninteresting and too simple for her Luganovich. Arriving in the city, Alyokhin understood that Anna Alexeevna was waiting for him, but they did not have the courage to confess their love for each other.
Alyokhin thought that he could not give Anna Alexeyevna anything, and therefore he had no right to destroy her happy family. She thought of her husband and children, and thought that her love would not bring Alyokhin happiness - it seemed to her that she was not young and energetic enough.
The years went by. Anna Alexeevna gave birth to a second child. Children called Alyokhin an uncle, and adults considered him a "noble creature". Anna Alexeevna began to realize that her life was ruined, and was treated for a nervous breakdown. Alyokhin irritated her, and in public she constantly contradicted him.
Luganovich was appointed chairman in the western province. While her husband sold his property, Anna Alexeevna decided to go to the Crimea to cure her nerves. A large crowd saw her off. Before the departure of the train Alyokhin noticed that she had forgotten one of the baskets, and ran into the carriage.
Left alone, at this last moment they declared their love for each other, and Alyokhin realized how petty everything that prevented them from loving was.
... when one loves, one must proceed in one's reasoning about this love from a higher, from something more important than happiness or misfortune, sin or virtue... or one must not reason at all.
They kissed and parted for good.
After listening to the story, the guests went out on the balcony, admiring the view, pitying such an educated man, who was not engaged in science, but was spinning like a squirrel in a wheel, and thinking of the mournful scene of farewell. One of the guests was even acquainted with Anna Alexeyevna and "found her beautiful."