I enjoyed this short story when I first read it many years ago. I loved it because it’s so sentimental and (spoiler ahead!) the ending is emotionally painful. I was a hopeless romantic, and I could identify with protagonists who are heart-broken.
I read this a few days ago and I still like it. I still find it well-written, romantic, and sad.
What is the story about? (More spoilers ahead!)
The protagonist is unnamed. He is a loner. One night, while walking along the streets of St Petersburg, he sees a very pretty girl all alone. She is crying. Wanting to help her, and drawn by her beauty, he approaches her. But the young girl is alarmed (naturally), so she walks away. Luckily for him (and unluckily for her), another stranger follows and threatens her. He comes to her rescue and the girl is grateful.
They quickly become friends and, for a series of nights, engage in animated conversation about their lives, loves, and hopes.
The protagonist never imagined that he will someday meet a “princess” in real life. All he ever did was daydream about imaginary adventures and romances.
The young girl’s name is Nastenka, and the protagonist soon falls passionately in love with her.
But Nastenka is in love with some other guy. He was a lodger in their apartment and a year ago he went away to take care of some business in another city. But he promised her that he will return in one year, and if she still loves him then, marry her.
When the guy failed to show up a year later, she became miserable and thought he has abandoned her.
The protagonist becomes a willing listener. He helps her cope with depression. However, he also confesses that he’s deeply in love with her. Nastenka becomes confused and reluctantly professes that she loves him, too.
Eventually, Nastenka’s first love shows up, and, without second thoughts, flings herself in his arms.
Thus, the protagonist’s nights of bliss ends. His world crashes, and he’s back in his lonely and miserable existence.
Near the end of the story, Nastenka apologizes to the protagonist for hurting him. She tells him that she still wants him to be her friend. Then she informs him that she’s getting married in a week or two. But he didn’t write back.
I was so affected by this that I wrote a response of my own. I imagined that I was the protagonist:
My Dear Nastenka,
To tell you the truth, I am deeply saddened and depressed right now. But I know that I shouldn’t act like this. It’s selfish and childish. I know that I should be happy for you — and I am! Believe me, deep in my heart, I am glad, that finally he has returned to you, and as you said, “full of love”. You deserve that love, and he deserves you.
You know how much I love you, my dear Nastenka. It is more than words can ever express. The extent of my love for you is as deep as the hurt that I feel now — please permit me to say that! I only want to be truthful to you.
So please, please understand, that as much as I love you, I can’t ever come to see you again. I will only be adding more pain to my already great torment. Wouldn’t you understand? Please forgive me. You must understand that I can’t bear to be hurt any further — this is just me. I can’t change myself. I can’t pretend. Again, please forgive me. But I have to do this. Oh, I am being so selfish now! But I have a very fragile heart! Please understand? Please allow me this as a gesture of your love?
Farewell, my dear Nastenka.
My Rating: 4/5
Date Read: October 29-31, 2012