from the Collection « The Tales of Belkin»
The division of the retelling into chapters is conditional.
The narrator's attitude toward the station keepers
Many travelers cursed the station keepers, but A. G. N. considered them martyrs, whom everyone could humiliate, scold, and even beat.
The duties of the station keeper were a bondage, at any time of the day or night he had to be ready to serve the wayfarer, who usually took out on the poor man all the annoyance accumulated during the boring journey. Travelers believed that the stationmaster was obliged to give them fresh horses, even if an important general passed through the station and took them all away.
For twenty years the narrator had traveled through Russia and had become acquainted with many station keepers. He listened to their stories much more readily than to the speeches of any high-ranking official he met on the way. The memory of one of the station rangers is particularly dear to the narrator.
Two meetings of the narrator with Samson Vyrin
The narrator met Samson Vyrin on a hot summer day in 1816.
The station master's cottage was poor, but neat and cozy: a bed behind a motley curtain, flowers on the windowsill. The walls were decorated with cheap pictures depicting the story of the prodigal son. In the first picture, a good-looking old man released the troubled young man and gave him a bag of money. In the second, the young man squandered the money he received. Then the same young man was pictured in a tattered shirt, herding pigs. In the last picture, a stately old man forgave the prodigal son. All the pictures were accompanied by "decent German verses.
Dunya met the narrator and treated him to tea.
On leaving, the narrator asked Dunya for a kiss, and the girl agreed. The narrator remembered that kiss for a very long time.
Four years later, business brought the narrator back to the same postal station. He was struck by the changes that had taken place there. All the things in Vyrin's cottage remained in the same place, but there were no flowers, and the room looked neglected. Vyrin himself had grown old and hunched over, his face unshaven for a long time, covered with wrinkles. The narrator asked him about Dunya, and the station master replied that he did not know where she was. Later, after drinking his punch, the old man told him what had happened.
The Story of Samson Vyrin
The beautiful Dunya was known to everyone. Many rich gentlemen stopped for lunch on purpose to admire her, and gave her expensive trinkets. The girl was always cheerful and friendly, able to calm down the most grumpy gentleman. She kept the house going, and Vyrin never missed his beloved daughter.
One day an angry traveler named Minsky came to the station and demanded horses.
At the sight of Dunya, his anger subsided, and he stayed for lunch. After dinner, Minsky became ill, and he stayed the night. Dunya nursed him back to health. In the morning the Hussar felt worse and Vyrin sent for a doctor. Feeling unwell did not prevent Minsky from drinking two cups of coffee and having a hearty lunch with the doctor.
Within two days, Minsky had grown so fond of Vyrin that he did not want to part with him. At last the hussar recovered and prepared to leave. Dunya at this time was going to church, and Minsky offered to give her a lift.
"What are you afraid of? - said her father," for his highness is not a wolf and will not eat you: take a ride to church. Dunya sat down in the carriage beside the hussar... the coachman whistled, and the horses galloped away.
After half an hour Vyrin had a bad feeling and went to church and found out that Dunya was not at the service. In the evening the coachman who had taken Minsky away returned and told him that Dunya had left willingly with the hussar, even though she had cried all the way to the next station. Only now did the station master realise that Minsky was only pretending to be ill.
Vyrin came down with a severe fever. The doctor who treated him confirmed that the hussar was perfectly healthy. Vyrin knew that the hussar had gone to St. Petersburg. Having recovered, the inspector begged his superiors for leave and went to fetch his daughter.
In St. Petersburg Vyrin stayed with a fellow officer, quickly learned where Minsky lived, went to him and asked for his daughter because he was already fed up with her. The hussar understood that he was guilty before the inspector and begged his pardon, but he did not give Dunya back, saying that she loved him and had long since fallen out of the old life. Then Minsky promised Vyrin that he would make his daughter happy, tucked something up his sleeve and sent him out of the house.
In the street Vyrin found money up his sleeve. With tears in his eyes he threw it on the ground, trampled it with his heel, and left. Then he came back, saw a well-dressed young man running away with the money, but did not catch up with him.
Vyrin decided to return to the station. Before he left he wanted to see Dunya and went to see Minsky again, but the footman would not let him in. In the evening, on his way back from church, he saw the hussar's carriage, which had stopped outside a rich house. Saying that he had brought a note for Dunya, he went in and saw his daughter. The luxuriously dressed Dunya was "looking at Minsky with tenderness, wrapping his black curls around her sparkling fingers.
The station master was delighted with his daughter. Suddenly Dunya looked up, saw her father and fell on the carpet shouting. An enraged Minsky threw him out. The inspector did not complain about Minsky to his superiors and returned home. He never saw Dunya again and did not know what happened to her.
It wasn't her first one... a passing hustler lured her away and left her there. There are many of them in St. Petersburg, young girls, today in satin and velvet, and tomorrow, you'll see, they're sweeping the streets together with the tavern wench.
Vyrin's story touched the narrator and he could not forget the old station master for a long time.
The Return of the Prodigal Daughter
Several years later the narrator learns that the station where Vyrin worked has been abolished. One rainy autumn, driving through that area, he decided to visit the old man, but some brewer lived in his cabin. The brewer's wife told him that Vyrin had been drunk and had been dead for a year.
The storyteller was accompanied to Vyrin's grave by the brewmaster's son. The boy told him that a beautiful and kind young lady, with three children and a nurse, had come in a luxury carriage that summer. She asked to see the keeper's grave and wept over it for a long time.
The retelling is based on edition of the story prepared by B. V. Tomashevsky (L.: Nauka, 1978).