(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This work takes its title from the long twilight periods that, during the warm months of the year, last nearly until midnight in northern lands, including some parts of Russia. The unnamed narrator has lived in St. Petersburg for nearly eight years and knows very few people in the capital city. During bright, clear spring nights, he has habitually walked down major streets and alongside the canals; recently, he has been troubled by vague misgivings he cannot entirely identify. Quite by chance one night, he happens on a fetching young well-dressed girl leaning against an embankment. She is preoccupied; from time to time muffled sobs escape from her. She is set on by an older gentleman in formal evening attire, evidently with dubious intentions. Stricken with fear, the girl takes flight instantly; the narrator quickly interposes himself between them and drives back the assailant by brandishing his thick, knotted walking stick. When the girl returns, her eyes still moist from weeping, the narrator takes her arm and awkwardly asks her indulgence for his shyness. He confides in her at some length and confesses that, although he is twenty-six years old, heretofore he has only dreamed of women; he has not known any of them apart from two or three old landladies. Before they part, he extracts from her a promise to meet again the next night. He declares that he is overwhelmed with happiness. Throughout their conversation, he is moved and fascinated by her small, delicate hands and gentle laughter.

On the second night, the girl receives the narrator warmly; she apologizes for being overly sentimental and asks him to tell her the whole history of his life. To encourage him, she introduces herself as Nastenka and tells him that she lives with her old, blind grandmother, who is perpetually knitting stockings and is invariably solicitous about the young girl’s acquaintances and whereabouts. The narrator unabashedly confesses that he is a...

(The entire section is 792 words.)