The Count stands in an orchard in the Nizhny Novgorod province. As he walks along an overgrown road, he hears a voice from one of the trees. A young brother and sister jump down, asking if the Count is going to the local mansion. They lead him to it, but it has been burned to the ground—reduced to two chimneys. Though many stories counsel that it is unwise for a person to return home after decades of absence, the narrator relays that the Count is able to revisit the past quite pleasantly.
For all of the events that have transpired over the past several decades, and all of the ways the Count has adapted to the changes in society, he finds that he loves Russia too much to leave it. He is also in many ways a man of the past, and so he takes comfort in returning to his childhood province.
Leaving the two children, the Count goes to the local village about five miles away, seeking an inn at the edge of town. He heads into the tavern, and finds a little room with an old Russian stove at the back. There in the corner, at a table for two, a “willowy woman” (Anna) sits, waiting.