Captain Snegiryov invites Alexei to walk with him in the fresh air because his “castle” isn’t clean, “not in any sense.” He says that his “whiskbroom” was thicker just a week ago—that is, until Dmitri dragged him out of the tavern and into the square by his beard. Just then, the schoolboys were getting out of school and Ilyusha, his outraged son, was with them. Alexei assures the captain that Dmitri will sincerely repent for this; otherwise, he’ll disown his older brother.
The thing man is often most proud of—his house, which is a sign of his wealth and social status—is representative of the captain’s failure. Furthermore, it isn’t his house because he can only afford to rent rooms. Snegiryov seems to recognize how embarrassing his thin beard is.
Captain Snegiryov says that he won’t challenge Dmitri to a duel because, if he’s killed, there would be no one to feed his family. The captain also thought of suing Dmitri, but he’s not sure that he’d get much compensation for “a personal offense.” Then, Grushenka summoned the captain and told him that, if he sues, she’ll tell everyone that he got beat up for cheating and then she will “turn him out” and tell Samsonov to turn him out, so that the captain can never again earn money from them. As a result, the captain decided to remain quiet on the matter.
The captain can’t address his dishonor in court and, even if he does, it wouldn’t be worth it to him financially. It isn’t clear what the captain does to earn a wage from Samsonov and Grushenka. Given his willingness to participate with Fyodor in a scheme to ruin Dmitri, and Grushenka and Samsonov’s reputations as people of ill-repute, it’s implied that Snegiryov makes money by scheming.
Alexei expresses his wish to make peace with Ilyusha but announces that he’s come to the house “with an errand.” Alexei tells Captain Snegiryov how Dmitri’s fiancée, Katerina Ivanovna, heard about the incident outside of the tavern and asked that the captain accept two hundred roubles as compensation for his injuries. The bills make “a terrible impression” on the captain, who’s astonished to receive them. He talks about how much the money will mean for his family, how he can get treatments for his wife, Arina, and his hunchbacked daughter, Nina. He describes his daughter as “God’s angel” who suffers from being “rheumatic all over.” Varvara, he says, is also “an angel” who brought home the sixteen roubles that she earned from giving lessons and set aside to go back to St. Petersburg. The family ended up living off of this income. Now, she can’t return to the city.
The “terrible impression” seems to be that the captain is surprised that anyone cares enough about his suffering to compensate him for a wrong. The captain initially seems to see the money as an opportunity to relieve some of his family’s suffering and to restore his pride in himself. His mention of Nina, often called “Ninotchka,” as an “angel” correlates with how Alexei is often described. Those who are described as angelic in the novel also suffer greatly, sometimes in their effort to assist others, as Alexei does. Varvara is an angel because she had to give up her dream to look after her family.
Alexei is glad to see that he’s caused such happiness for Captain Snegiryov. The captain says that, if he could pay off “one miserable debt,” he’d buy a horse and a covered cart and take his family out of town. Alexei assures him that Katerina Ivanovna will send him more money, if he needs it, and Alexei can give him some, too. Alexei goes to embrace the captain.
The captain lives in poverty and is unable to escape the debt that remains unmentioned. He wants to start over, but he lacks the means to do so. Alexei, not understanding the value of money or the amount of the captain’s debt, makes a lofty promise.
Suddenly, Captain Snegiryov starts moving his lips, saying something but emitting no sound. Then, the captain offers to show Alexei a “little trick.” He then crumples up the bills and throws them “with all his might on the sand.” He tramples them with his right heel before leaping back and straightening up to form “a picture of inexplicable pride.” He tells Alexei to report to those who sent him that he won’t sell his honor. He could never tell Ilyusha that he accepted money for his disgrace. The captain then runs off, leaving Alexei to pick up the bills, smooth them, and put them in his pocket before returning to Katerina Ivanovna to tell her the result of her errand.
Like his son Ilyusha, pride and honor matter more to the captain than his well-being. This is ironic because Snegiryov was willing to accept money from Fyodor to contribute to Dmitri’s ruin, so the reader knows that he’s not averse to dishonor. Instead, he’s a very prideful man, and takes an “inexplicable” pleasure in denying the charity of others.