Tempting Providence (Kuprin)

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Tempting Providence
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man excitedly anticipates reuniting with his family after five years, but tragically dies in a train accident just before reaching his destination.

An old man, who had experienced a wide range of life events, loved to ponder upon life and its mysteries. He believed that there was an inexorable law governing the happenings of life, and that everything passed and returned again, like a spiral of spirals. He also believed in the existence of a mysterious, godlike power that played tricks on people, causing absurd and cruel events to occur.

I am old, and solitary as well, and you can’t think how long the nights are to us old folk.

One day, while traveling by train, the old man met a young civil engineer who was returning home after five years of working in the Far East. The engineer was full of happiness and excitement, eagerly anticipating his reunion with his wife and daughter.

The Engineer — narrator's companion; short, stout, good-natured; loving husband and father; excited to reunite with his family.

He constantly sent telegrams to his family, updating them on his progress and receiving messages of love and anticipation in return.

As the train neared its destination, the engineer's agitation grew. He paced the train, unable to contain his excitement. When they finally arrived at the station, the engineer spotted his wife and daughter on the platform.

Sannochka — the engineer's wife; loving and supportive; mother of Yurochka.
Yurochka — the engineer's daughter; a young girl who has grown up during her father's absence.

In his haste to greet them, he accidentally fell under the train, suffering a gruesome and tragic death.

The old man, who had witnessed the entire event, was struck by the cruel irony of the situation. The engineer's joy and anticipation had been met with a senseless and absurd death. The old man couldn't help but feel that this was the work of the mysterious godlike power he had pondered upon, playing a cruel trick on the engineer and his family.