Olga Plemyannikov sits on the steps of her house musing in the heat of the day. The theater owner Mr. Kukin, who lives in a wing of Olga's house, worries that the coming rain will drive away more of his customers. As the days pass Kukin grows pessimistic about the fact that he is ruined. A "deep and genuine feeling" arises in Olga, and she falls in love with her fretful neighbor. The narrator describes how Olga has always been in love with someone—starting with her father as a young child—and that she inspires mutual affection from most of the people she meets. Even Olga's female friends will exclaim in the middle of conversation "Oh, you darling!" as a way of conveying their fondness for her. [pic]Olga's father dies, bequeathing his daughter their large townhouse, and she marries Kukin. Although the couple are happy, the narrator notes that "it never stopped raining," which meant that an "expression of despair" never left Kukin's face. As his wife, Olga helps Kukin in the box office, keeps his accounts, and manages his business. She adopts his attitudes, shares his complaints, and worries about the size of their audiences. Although Olga and her husband live well, Kukin grows increasingly thin in concern over their livelihood. Kukin leaves to hire actors in Moscow, and Olga is woken one night by a loud hammering "boom! boom! boom!" on her gate. A messenger delivers a telegram informing her of Kukin's death. Although devastated by this event, Olga spends only three months in mourning before befriending Vasily Pustovalov, the merchant of a local timber yard. The narrator notes simply that Olga "liked him very much." After a courtship lasting only a few days, during which time an old woman visits Olga and convinces her of Vasily's allure, the friends marry. Soon enough, Olga is working in her husband's office and regaling her friends with tales of timber prices as though she had worked in the business for...
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