Tales of Belkin

The Squire's Daughter

This story was also told to Belkin by Miss K.I.T., who again does not play a part in the story. The story is also translated under the name "Mistress into Maid." (The original title, Барышня-крестьянка, literally means "The Noblewoman-Peasant".) The story involves two young people, Lizaveta Muromsky and Alexei Berestov, whose fathers are both wealthy landowners who dislike each because of the way the other runs his estate. Berestov accuses Muromsky of being an Anglophile, and ignoring the traditional Russian way of doing things. Muromsky levels accusations against Berestov of not realizing how inefficient the traditional ways are.

The story opens with Lizaveta Muromsky's maid Nastya informing her that she is going to the Berestov's estate to celebrate a name day party being held there for one of her friends, a servant on the Berestov estate. Later in the evening, Nastya returns, and tells tales of the goings-on at the Berestov's name day festival. Nastya tells Lizaveta (whose father tiresomely insists on calling her Betsy) of Alexei's behavior at the name day festival, relating how energetic and entertaining he was, even joining in the peasants' games. Lizaveta questions Nastya about this further. Lizaveta already knew Alexei through society, and held little opinion of him, namely because he acted in a melancholy manner, as was common among young, upper-class early 19th century Russians. Lizaveta considered this to be a shame, as she found him quite attractive. After hearing that he acted in such a manner at the name-day festival, she resolved to meet him in a peasant's costume collecting mushrooms in a forest Alexei frequents while hunting.

Lizaveta meets Alexei in the forest as planned, and begins to talk to him in the guise and dialect of the peasant girl Akulina. Berestov is enchanted with the girl, and soon teaches her to write so the two may correspond, and is amazed when Akulina becomes completely literate within two weeks. This continues for some time, until one morning, the elder Muromsky is injured in a hunting accident and is taken in by Berestov. The two reconcile their differences, and the Berestovs are invited over to the Muromsky estate for dinner. Lizaveta is terrified by this prospect and begs her father to allow her to conceal her identity during the dinner. Because Lizaveta has a reputation as a prankster, her father allows her to do so, and the dinner passes without her identity being revealed, thanks to her rich clothing and liberal use of make-up. A short time after, the Berestov family encounters financial difficulties, and Berestov commands Alexei to marry Lizaveta Muromsky, the only suitable heiress in the area. At first, he is hesitant, and runs to the Muromsky's house to explain to Lizaveta that his father wishes that they marry, but he cannot marry her because he loves Akulina. Alexei enters the Muromsky's kitchen, only to find Lizaveta reading one of Alexei's letters. The story ends as Alexei realises Lizaveta/Akulina's true identity.

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