Pelageya, beautiful maid Alekhina, in love with cooks Nikanor, a drunkard and a bully, but, nevertheless, so pious person that he does not agree to live with Pelagia, without concluding a legal marriage. The maid herself does not want to marry Nikanor, he is angry with her and even beats.
Alyokhin argues that everything is in love individually, that some general laws do not work here, and that Russians have a habit of not just loving, but constantly complicating their own lives, asking themselves a lot of unnecessary questions.
Alekhine tells the story of his love. At the end of the university, he settled in his estate Sofino, on which after the death of his father was a big debt. Alekhine decides to work until he manages the estate and repays his debts. His “cultural habits” look out of place here. He stops reading newspapers, often falls asleep not in the bedroom, but in the hayloft.
Alekhine is elected to the honorary world judges. He is pleased to go to the city, he likes the local society, from new acquaintances Alekhine is especially close to Luganovichi: the husband is a comrade of the court chairman, his wife, Anna Alekseevna, a young, kind, intelligent woman. Alyokhin falls in love with her, begins to visit the Luganovichs more often. There he is always welcome: if Alyokhin is absent for a long time, he is asked if anything happened. Alyokhin becomes a man in the house, enters without a report. Spouses touchingly care about him: they treat from the heart, give gifts, periodically ask to borrow from...them (Alekhina is constantly oppressed by creditors), but he always refuses.
Alyokhin suffers, does not understand what Anna Alexeyevna brought to such an elderly and uninteresting person as Luganovic, predicts her boring monotonous life. Unfortunately, he himself can not offer her anything better in return, and so the years go by, the Luganovichs have children, and Alyokhin and Anna still do not admit to each other in their love and hide it from themselves and others. Together they often go to the theater, in the city they are gossiped, which have no basis.
Gradually Anna becomes more and more nervous, irritable and sarcastic, in her consciousness is strengthened, that her life did not take place. Finally, the Luganovichi decide to move – the husband is appointed chairman in one of the western provinces. Anna leaves first (the doctors prescribe treatment in the Crimea). Alyokhin sees her off. At the last moment before the departure of the train, he brings the basket forgotten by Anna to the compartment. They embrace, kiss, cry, talk about their feelings and understand “how petty and how deceptive was all that prevented love… that when you love, then in your reasoning about this love you need to proceed from the higher, from the more important, than happiness or misfortune, sin or virtue in their walking sense, or do not have to argue at all. “
Alyokhin goes with Anna to the next station, leaves and goes on foot to Sofiyino. Since then, he lives as before, spinning like a squirrel in a wheel, not doing science or anything else that would make his life more pleasant.