Some time elapsed, but the health of the stricken Doubrovsky showed no signs of improvement. It is true that the fits of madness did not recur, but his strength became visibly less. He forgot his former occupations, rarely left his room, and for days together remained absorbed in his own reflections. Egorovna, a kind-hearted old woman who had once tended his son, now became his nurse. She waited upon him like a child, reminded him when it was time to eat and sleep, fed him and even put him to bed. Andrei Gavrilovitch obeyed her, and had no intercourse with anybody else. He was not in a condition to think about his affairs or to look after his property, and Egorovna saw the necessity of informing young Doubrovsky, who was then serving in one of the regiments of Foot Guards stationed in St. Petersburg, of everything that had happened. And so, tearing a leaf from the account-book, she dictated to Khariton the cook, the only literate person in Kistenevka, a letter, which she sent off that same day to the town post.
But it is time for the reader to become acquainted with the real hero of this story.
Vladimir Doubrovsky had been educated at the cadet school and, on leaving it, had entered the Guards as sub-lieutenant. His father spared nothing that was necessary to enable him to live in a becoming manner, and the young man received from home a great deal more than he had any right to expect. Being imprudent and ambitious, he indulged in extravagant habits, ran into debt, and troubled himself very little about the future. Occasionally the thought crossed his mind that sooner or later he would be obliged to take to himself a rich bride.
One evening, when several officers were spending a few hours with him, lolling on the couches and smoking pipes with amber mouth-pieces, Grisha, his valet, handed him a letter, the address and seal of which immediately attracted the young man's attention. He hastily opened it and read the following:
"Our Lord Vladimir Andreivitch, I, your old nurse, venture to inform you of the health of your papa. He is very poorly, sometimes he wanders in his talk, and the whole day long he sits like a stupid child—but life and death are in the hands of God. Come to us, my bright little falcon, and, we will send horses to meet you at Pesotchnoe. We hear that the Court is going to hand us over to Kirila Petrovitch Troekouroff, because it is said that we belong to him, although we have always belonged to you, and have always heard so ever since we can remember. You might, living in St. Petersburg, inform our Father the Czar of this, and he will not allow us to be wronged. It has been raining here for the last fortnight, and the shepherd Rodia died about Michaelmas Day. I send my maternal blessing to Grisha. Does he serve you well? I remain your faithful nurse,
"ARINA EGOROVNA BOUZIREVA."
Vladimir Doubrovsky read these somewhat unintelligible lines several times with great agitation. He had lost his mother during his childhood, and, hardly knowing his father, had been taken to St. Petersburg when he was eight years of age. In spite of that, he was romantically attached to his father, and having had but little opportunity of enjoying the pleasures of family life, he loved it all the more in consequence.
The thought of losing his father pained him exceedingly, and the condition of the poor invalid, which he guessed from his nurse's letter, horrified him. He imagined his father, left in an out-of-the-way village, in the hands of a stupid old woman and her fellow servants, threatened by some misfortune, and expiring without help in the midst of tortures both mental and physical. Vladimir Andreivitch reproached himself with criminal neglect. Not having received any news of his father for a long time, he had not even thought of making inquiries about him, supposing him to be travelling about or engaged in the management of his estate. That same evening he began to take the necessary steps for obtaining leave of absence, and two days afterwards he set out in the stage coach, accompanied by his faithful Grisha.
Vladimir Andreivitch neared the post station at which he was to take the turning for Kistenevka. His heart was filled with sad forebodings; he feared that he would no longer find his father alive. He pictured to himself the dreary kind of life that "awaited him in the village: the loneliness, solitude, poverty and cares of business of which he knew nothing. Arriving at the station, he went to the postmaster and asked for fresh horses. The postmaster, having inquired where he was going, informed him that horses sent from Kistenevka had been waiting for him for the last four days. Soon appeared before Vladimir Andreivitch the old coachman Anton, who used formerly to take him over the stables and look after his pony. Anton's eyes filled with tears on seeing his young master, and bowing to the ground, he told him that his old master was still alive, and then hastened to harness the horses. Vladimir Andreivitch declined the proffered breakfast, and hastened to depart. Anton drove him along the cross country roads, and conversation began between them.
"Tell me, if you please, Anton, what is this business between my father and Troekouroff?"
"God knows, my little father Vladimir Andreivitch; our master, they say, had a dispute with Kirila Petrovitch, and the latter summoned him before the judge, though very often he himself is the judge. It is not the business of servants to discuss the affairs of their masters, but it was useless of your father to contend against Kirila Petrovitch: better had it been if he had not opposed him."
"It seems, then, that this Kirila Petrovitch does just what he pleases among you?"
"He certainly does, master: he does not care a rap for the assessor, and the chief of police runs on errands for him. The nobles repair to his house to do homage to him, for as the proverb says: 'Where there is a trough, there will the pigs be also.'"
"Is it true that he wants to take our estate from us?"
"Oh, master, that is what we have heard. A few days ago, the sexton from Pokrovskoe said at the christening held at the house of our overseer: 'You do well to enjoy yourselves while you are able, for you'll not have much chance of doing so when Kirila Petrovitch takes you in hand;' and Nikita the blacksmith said to him: 'Savelitch, don't distress your fellow sponsor, don't disturb the guests. Kirila Petrovitch is what he is, and Andrei Gavrilovitch is the same—and we are all God's and the Czar's.' But you cannot sew a button upon another person's mouth."
"Then you do not wish to pass into the possession of Troekouroff?"
"Into the possession of Kirila Petrovitch! The Lord save and preserve us! His own people fare badly enough, and if he got possession of strangers, he would strip off, not only their skin, but their flesh also. No, may God grant long life to Andrei Gavrilovitch; and if God should take him to Himself, we want nobody but you, our benefactor. Do not give us up, and we will stand by you."
With these words, Anton flourished his whip, shook the reins, and the horses broke into a brisk trot.
Touched by the devotion of the old coachman, Doubrovsky became silent and gave himself up to his own reflections. More than an hour passed; suddenly Grisha roused him by exclaiming: "There is Pokrovskoe!" Doubrovsky raised his head. They were just then driving along the bank of a broad lake, out of which flowed a small stream winding among the hills. On one of these, above a thick green wood, rose the green roof and belvedere of a. huge stone house, together with a five-domed church with an ancient belfry; round about were scattered the village huts with their gardens and wells. Doubrovsky recognized these places; he remembered that on that very hill he had played with little Masha Troekouroff, who was two years younger than he, and who even then gave promise of being very beautiful. He wanted to make inquiries of Anton about her, but a certain bashfulness restrained him.
On approaching the castle, he perceived a white dress flitting among the trees in the garden. At that moment Anton whipped the horses, and impelled by that vanity, common to village coachmen as to drivers in general, he drove at full speed over the bridge and past the garden. On emerging from the village, they ascended the hill, and Vladimir perceived the little wood of birch trees, and to the left, in an open place, a small grey house with a red roof. His heart began to beat—before him was Kistenevka, the humble abode of his father.
About ten minutes afterwards he drove into the courtyard He looked around him with indescribable emotion: twelve years had elapsed since he last saw 'his native place. The little birches, which had just then been planted near the wooden fence, had now become tall trees with long branches. The courtyard, formerly ornamented with three regular flower-beds, between which ran a broad path carefully swept, had been converted into a meadow, in which was grazing a tethered horse. The dogs began to bark, but recognizing Anton, they became silent and commenced wagging their shaggy tails. The servants came rushing out of the house and surrounded the young master with loud manifestations of joy. It was with difficulty that he was able to make his way through the enthusiastic crowd. He ran up the well-worn steps; in the vestibule he was met by Egorovna, who tearfully embraced him.
"How do you do, how do you do, nurse?" he repeated, pressing the good old woman to his heart. "And my father? Where is he? How is he?"
At that moment a tall old man, pale and thin, in a dressing-gown and cap, entered the room, dragging one foot after the other with difficulty.
"Where is Volodka?" said he in a weak voice, and Vladimir embraced his father with affectionate emotion.
The joy proved too much for the sick man; he grew weak, his legs gave way beneath him, and he would have fallen, if his son had not held him up.
"Why did you get out of bed?" said Egorovna to him. "He cannot stand upon his feet, and yet he wants to do the same as other people."
The old man was carried back to his bedroom. He tried to converse with his son, but he could not collect his thoughts, and his words had no connection with each other. He became silent and fell into a kind of somnolence. Vladimir was struck by his condition. He installed himself in the bedroom and requested to be left alone with his father. The household obeyed, and then all turned towards Grisha and led him away to the servants' hall, where they gave him a hearty welcome according to the rustic custom, the while they wearied him with questions and compliments.
 Diminutive of Gregory.