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A winter day at a Polish castle, half owned by a fatalistic notary and half by a volcanic old soldier's niece. The old soldier, Cupbearer, and the notary are sworn enemies, which may doom the love between the niece, Klara, and the notary's son, Waclaw. On this day, the tongue-tied Cupbearer asks a braggart courtier, Papkin, to sue on his behalf for the hand of the widow Hanna. Papkin succeeds and the wedding is set for the next day. In response, the notary plots to marry Waclaw to the widow to upend Cupbearer's plans. When Cupbearer learns of this perfidy, he responds with his own plot. Will there be poison, a duel, kidnapping, and imprisonment; or, will fate bring another solution?