Some time elapsed without anything remarkable happening. But at the beginning of the following summer, many changes occurred in the family arrangements of Kirila Petrovitch.
About thirty versts from Pokrovskoe was the wealthy estate of Prince Vereisky. The Prince had lived abroad for a long time, and his estate was managed by a retired major. No intercourse existed between Pokrovskoe and Arbatova. But at the end of the month of May, the Prince returned from abroad and took up his abode in his own village, which he had never seen since he was born. Accustomed to social pleasures, he could not endure solitude, and the third day after his arrival, he set out to dine with Troekouroff, with whom he had formerly been acquainted. The Prince was about fifty years of age, but he looked much older. Excesses of every kind had ruined his health, and had placed upon him their indelible stamp. In spite of that, his appearance was agreeable and distinguished, and his having always been accustomed to society gave him a certain affability of demeanour, especially towards ladies. He had a constant need of amusement, and he was a constant victim to ennui.
Kirila Petrovitch was exceedingly gratified by this visit, which he regarded as a mark of respect from a man who knew the world. In accordance with his usual custom, he began to entertain his visitor by conducting him to inspect his establishments and kennels. But the Prince could hardly breathe in the atmosphere of the dogs, and he hurried out, holding a scented handkerchief to his nose. The old garden, with its clipped limes, square pond and regular walks, did not please him; he did not like the English gardens and the so-called natural style, but he praised them and went into ecstasies over everything. The servant came to announce that dinner was served, and they repaired to the dining-room. The Prince limped, being fatigued after his walk, and already repenting for having paid his visit.
But in the dining-hall Maria Kirilovna met them—and the old sensualist was struck by her beauty. Troekouroff placed his guest beside her. The Prince was resuscitated by her presence; he became quite cheerful, and succeeded several times in arresting her attention by the recital of some of his curious stories. After dinner Kirila Petrovitch proposed a ride on horseback, but the Prince excused himself, pointing to his velvet boots and joking about his gout. He proposed a drive in a carriage, so that he should not be separated from his charming neighbour. The carriage was got ready. The two old men and the beautiful young girl took their seats in it, and they started off. The conversation did not flag. Maria Kirilovna listened with pleasure to the flattering compliments and witty remarks of the man of the world, when suddenly Vereisky, turning to Kirila Petrovitch, said to him: "What is the meaning of that burnt building—does it belong to you?"
Kirila Petrovitch frowned: the memories awakened by the burnt manor-house were disagreeable to him. He replied that the land was his now, but that formerly it had belonged to Doubrovsky.
"To Doubrovsky?" repeated Vereisky. "What! to the famous brigand?"
"To his father," replied Troekouroff: "and the father himself was a true brigand."
"And what has become of our Rinaldo? Have they caught him? Is he still alive?"
"He is still alive and at liberty. By the way, Prince, Doubrovsky paid you a visit at Arbatova."
"Yes, last year, I think, he burnt or plundered something or other. Don't you think, Maria Kirilovna, that it would be very interesting to make a closer acquaintance with this romantic hero?"
"Interesting!" said Troekouroff: "she knows him already. He taught her music for three whole weeks, and thank God, took nothing for his lessons."
Then Kirila Petrovitch began to relate the story of the pretended French tutor. Maria Kirilovna felt as if she were sitting upon needles. Vereisky, listening with deep attention, found it all very strange, and changed the subject of conversation. On returning from the drive, he ordered his carriage to be brought, and in spite of the earnest requests of Kirila Petrovitch to stay for the night, he took his departure immediately after tea. Before setting out, however, he invited Kirila Petrovitch to pay him a visit and to bring Maria Kirilovna with him, and the proud Troekouroff promised to do so'; for taking into consideration his princely dignity, his two stars, and the three thousand serfs belonging to his estate, he regarded Prince Vereisky in some degree as his equal.