(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The unnamed narrator of the story (probably meant to be Leo Tolstoy himself) and his manservant Alyeshka start on an evening trip by sledge from Novocherkassk in the Caucasus to a destination in central Russia. As they ride, a winter storm begins, and soon the road becomes covered with heavy, thick snow. The narrator becomes concerned about getting lost and queries his driver about their chances of making it safely to the next post station. The driver is somewhat vague and fatalistic concerning the rest of the journey, suggesting that they may or may not get through. The narrator has little confidence in the driver, who seems inexperienced and sullen.

A few minutes later, the driver stops the sledge, gets down, and starts searching for the road that they have lost. Disturbed by this situation, the narrator orders the phlegmatic driver to turn back, giving the horses their head to seek out the post station from which they started out. To add to the anxiety, the driver tells a story of some recent travelers who got lost and froze to death in a similar storm.

Soon they hear the bells of three mail-express sledges coming toward them and going in the opposite direction. The narrator orders his driver to turn around and follow the fresh tracks of the mail sledges. The tracks and road markers quickly disappear in the drifting snow. The narrator himself now gets out of the sledge to look for the road, but soon loses sight of even the sledge. After finding his driver and sledge, a decision is again made to turn back and return to the station from which they started out.

Again they hear the bells of the mail express, which is now returning to their original starting point, having delivered the mail and changed horses. The...

(The entire section is 715 words.)