(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Marya Gavrilovna, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a wealthy landowner in provincial Russia, has formed her ideas of romance by reading French romantic novels. She develops an infatuation for Vladimir Nikolayevitch, a poor army subaltern, who returns her love. Her parents consider him unacceptable for their daughter and forbid them to see each other. They continue, however, to meet in secret. When winter comes and their secret meetings become impossible, they agree to a secret wedding, planning to return later and throw themselves at her parents’ feet, confident of receiving their forgiveness.

The night before her elopement, Marya writes letters to be delivered to her parents and a sentimental young girlfriend after the wedding. That night, her sleep is troubled by dreams foreboding her separation from Vladimir. The next day, she is restless and leaves the dinner table early to await the hour of her departure. In the meantime, a violent blizzard has arisen. At the appointed hour, she slips quietly from the house and goes to the end of the garden, where a sledge and Vladimir’s coachman, Tereshka, await to take her to the little church in Zhadrino for the wedding.

During the day, Vladimir has arranged for a priest to officiate at the wedding and selected three witnesses. Two hours before the wedding, he sends his coachman to get Marya and leaves alone in his one-horse sledge for the twenty-minute ride to the church. Almost immediately, the blizzard begins. Unable to see through the raging, swirling storm, he loses all direction. Soon his sledge is off the road. Many times it turns over and has to be righted. As the hours pass, he grows desperate until he sees a small village and learns that he has overshot Zhadrino by a great distance. Hiring a guide, he retraces his steps and arrives at the village church just at dawn. The church is locked and empty. Alexander Pushkin adds, “And what news awaited him!”

The next morning, back at...

(The entire section is 807 words.)