Horses dash across the slopes,
Trampling snow deep-drifted...
By the wayside stands a church,
Lonely cross uplifted.
Suddenly a snowstorm flings
Tufted flakes about us,
O'er the sledge with whistling wing
Flies a crow to flout us.
Weird his cry, foreboding grief!
Gathering their forces,
Manes upraised, toward the dark
Peer the speeding horses...
The story begins near the end of the winter of 1811. The wealthy, kindhearted and hospitable Gavrilovich family was popular in the district of Nenaradovo. Gavrila Gavrilovich, his wife, Praskovya Petrovna and their lovely, seventeen-year old daughter Marya had constant visitors. Some came to eat and drink, while others visited Praskovya to play cards, and still others came to admire and vie for the attention of Marya.
Alas, Marya's heart already belonged to one man. A poor sub-lieutenant, named Vladimir, was able to return her passion and adoration with equal fervor. Unfortunately, Marya's parents did not approve of their daughter's choice, and made it clearly known to both of them. After many secret meetings in the woods filled with plans for the future and vows of undying love, followed by daily letters of the same during the winter months, they made plans to elope. Even though the thoughts of leaving her family and girlhood behind forever caused her great sadness and anxiety, she and her maid set off into the blustery, snowy night with a sledge, horses and driver that had been sent by her beloved Vladimir
Meanwhile, Vladimir made arrangements for the wedding with the village priest and three witnesses. Upon setting out for the church the snowy night became a furious snowstorm. Vladimir lost sight of the road and got lost. A twenty minute ride turned into hours, until finally he came upon a village and asked for a guide to get him to the village of Zahdrino, where his lovely bride had been waiting now for some time.
By the following events, one realizes that something else went wrong that evening. The very next morning, we find Marya back in her parent's home and by evening she had become delirious with a fever. Through her delirium, Marya let her secret slip, although in incoherent terms, and professed her continued eternal love for Vladimir. Finally, Marya's mother understood the depth of her daughter's love. Upon discussing the morality of the situation, Gavrila and Praskovya decided to accept Vladamir as their daughter's choice and sent him a letter that expressed their consent to marriage. To their surprise, Vladimir refused to set foot in their house again, and begged forgiveness. He rejoined the Army and was eventually killed in Moscow on the eve of the French invasion. Shortly there after, Gavrila Gavrilovich also died, leaving Marya an heiress.
Marya and her mother moved to another estate. Once again, Marya had many suitors. Still, she seemed to pine for her lost Vladimir, and would not chose another much to her mother's exhortations and dismay. It was only the introduction of a Colonel Burmin of the Hussars to Marya that she became interested in love again. For the first time, Praskovya saw Marya relax and lose her usual pensiveness, when she was around the colonel. Everyone noticed Marya's attentiveness to the colonel and his long, desiring gazes in her direction. The entire village anticipated their wedding. Marya also saw the admiration he had for her and, yet he said nothing to her about his feelings. His silence intrigued her. Finally, the day came when the Colonel found Marya alone in the garden, and professed his love for her. He also presented her with the terrible secret that had created a barrier between the two.
Marya too, tried to profess her knowledge of quite another barrier that would always prevent her from being his wife. The colonel continued with his explanation, thinking she was referring to the loss of her once beloved Vladimir and her period of mourning. He admitted that he was already married, but did not even know to whom! He told a story of getting lost one night during a snowstorm in the winter of 1812, and how he found a church, where he was immediately ushered in and obviously mistaken for the bridegroom. Without knowing why, he stood before the priest and took the vows with this feeble young lady, who barely looked in his direction. Upon the kiss, she realized the mistake and fainted again. He ran out of the church, not knowing for all those years to whom he had gotten married, nor even in what town he had been! Upon hearing this story, Marya cried " My God, my God! Then it was you! And you do not recognize me?"
Summary of Pushkin's, "The Snowstorm"
By Inga Eanes