Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Raina is in her bedroom on the second floor of the Petkoff house in a small town in Bulgaria when her mother enters to tell her that Sergius has just led the Bulgarians to victory in battle with the Serbs. Raina rejoices; her idealistic expectations of war and soldiers are met. Louka enters to tell them that the army orders them to lock all the doors and windows while enemy stragglers are being pursued. Catherine and Louka leave. Shots are heard outside and a man stumbles into the room. He is a Serbian artillery officer, exhausted, nervous, and hungry. When soldiers appear at the door, demanding to search the room, Raina on impulse hides the man and tells them no one else is there.
Raina and the man talk. She expresses her contempt for his being a coward and for his stuffing his pockets with chocolate instead of ammunition. He tries to explain to her the realities of battle and identifies her portrait of Sergius as the man who led the charge that won the battle; the Bulgarians won only because the Serbians had the wrong-size ammunition. The man describes Sergius as a romantic fool who won by doing the professionally wrong thing. Raina objects strongly to this, but when the man decides to leave, Raina says she will save him and goes in search of her mother; they return to find him fast asleep on the bed.
Four months later, Nicola and Louka are arguing in the Petkoffs’ garden. Nicola wants Louka to be more polite to the Petkoffs because he intends to set up a shop and is counting on the Petkoffs as his principal customers. Major Petkoff returns from the war and is greeted by his wife, Catherine. Sergius is shown in. Bitter because the army refuses to promote him, he declares his intention to resign. Sergius and Petkoff speak of a tale they heard of a Swiss officer being rescued by two Bulgarian women. At this point, Raina leaves, and when Louka enters, Sergius attempts to flirt with her. Louka tells him that she knows a secret about Raina and a strange man. When they are alone, Raina and...
(The entire section is 821 words.)
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It is November 1885, during the Serbo-Bulgarian War. Raina Petkoff, a young Bulgarian woman, is in her bedchamber when her mother, Catherine, enters and announces there has been a battle close by and that Raina’s fiancé, Major Sergius Saranoff, was the hero of a cavalry charge. The women rejoice that Sergius has proven to be as heroic as they expected, but they soon turn to securing the house because of fighting in the streets. Nonetheless, a Serbian officer gains entry through Raina’s shutters. Raina decides to hide him and she denies having seen anyone when she is questioned by a Russian officer who is hunting for a man seen climbing the water pipe to Raina’s balcony. Raina covers well, and the Russian leaves without noticing the pistol on Raina’s bed.
When Raina hands the gun to the Serbian after the Russian leaves, the Serbian admits that the gun is not loaded because he carries chocolates in his cartridge belt instead of ammunition. He explains that he is a Swiss mercenary fighting for the Serbs because it is his profession to be a soldier and the Serbian war was close by. He adds that old, experienced soldiers carry food while only the young soldiers carry weapons. Shocked by this attitude, Raina criticizes him for being a poor soldier. He counters by describing what makes a real fool, not knowing that his version of the day’s cavalry charge makes fun of her betrothed. She is incensed but agrees to let him stay once he impresses upon her the danger of going back out into the street. She tries to impress him with her family’s wealth and position, saying that they have the nobility to give refuge to an enemy. He pledges her safety and advises her to tell her mother about his presence, to keep matters proper. While she is gone, he falls into a deep sleep on her bed and he cannot be roused by a shocked Catherine. Raina takes pity on him and asks that they let him sleep.
On March 6, 1886, Raina’s father, Major Paul Petkoff, comes home and announces the end of the war. Catherine is upset that the Serbians have agreed to a peace treaty, believing that her side should have a glorious victory. Major Saranoff arrives just after Petkoff makes comments indicating that Saranoff is not a talented military leader. Catherine praises Saranoff, but he announces that he is resigning from the army. Raina joins the conversation just before the discussion turns to a Swiss officer who bested the men in a horse trade and who had been, according to a friend’s story, rescued by two Bulgarian ladies after a battle. Catherine and Raina pretend to be shocked by such unpatriotic behavior.
Catherine and Major Petkoff leave the two young people to have some time to alone. Raina and Sergius exchange all the silly platitudes expected of lovers about how much...
(The entire section is 1164 words.)