From the county town of the N-provincial province, a battered britzka departs in the July morning, in which the merchant Ivan Ivanovich Kuzmichev, the rector of the N-th church of Fr. Christopher of Syria and nephew of Kuzmichev Egorushka, a boy of nine, sent by his mother, Olga Ivanovna, the widow of the college secretary and sister Kuzmicheva, go to the gymnasium in a big city. Kuzmichev and Fr. Christopher goes to sell wool, Yegorushka seized along the way. He is sad to leave his native places and part with his mother. He’s crying, but oh. Christopher comforts him, saying the usual words that learning is light, and ignorance is darkness. Sam oh. Christopher was formed: “I was not yet fifteen years old, and I already said the verses were written in Latin anyway as in Russian.” He could have made a good church career, but his parents were not blessed for further studies. Kuzmichev is opposed to excess education and considers sending Yegorushka to the city as a sister’s whim. He could have put Yegorushka to work without teaching.
Kuzmichev and Fr. Christopher tries to overtake the convoy and a certain Varlamov, a merchant famous in the district who is richer than many landlords. They come to the inn, whose owner, the Jew Moses Moiseych, babbles before the guests and even the boy. He is a “little man,” for whom Kuzmichev and the priest are real “gentlemen.” In addition to his wife and children, his brother Solomon, a proud and offended man, lives in his house. He burned his money, inherited, and now he turned out to be the brother’s survivor, which causes him suffering and the likeness of masochistic pleasure. Moses Moiseich scolds him, about. Christopher regrets, but Kuzmichev despises.
While the guests are drinking tea and counting the money, Countess Dranitskaya, a very beautiful, noble, rich woman who Kuzmichev says, “is robbed” by some Pole Kazimir Mihailich, arrives at the inn: “… young and stupid. and walks “.
They caught up with the train. Kuzmichev leaves the boy with the porters and leaves with Fr. Christopher for business. Gradually Yegorushka gets acquainted with new people for him: Pantelei, the Old Believer and a very sedate person who eats separately from everyone by a cypress spoon with a cross on the handle and drinks water from the lamp; Emelian, an old and innocuous man; Smoke, a young unmarried guy, whom his father sends with a baggage so that he does not spoil at home; Vasya, a former chorister, a cold with a throat and suffering from the inability to sing anymore; Kirill, nothing particularly notable peasant… From their conversations in the halts, the boy understands that all of them used to live better and went to work for a convoy because of want.
A great place in the story is occupied by a description of the steppe, reaching... an artistic apotheosis in the scene of a thunderstorm, and conversations of porters. Pantelei at night at a fire tells terrible stories, ostensibly from the life in northern part of Russia where he worked as the coachman at different merchants and always got with them in adventures in inns. There, of course, the bandits lived and cut the merchants with long knives. Even the boy understands that all these stories are semi-invented, and perhaps not even by Pantelei himself, but for some reason he prefers to tell them, and not real events from his clearly uneasy life. In general, as the train travels to the city, the boy re-acquires familiarity with the Russian people, and very much seems strange to him. For example, Vasya is so keenly aware that he can see animals and how they behave far from people; he eats alive “
Approaching the city, they finally meet “the very same” Varlamov, about whom so much was mentioned before and which by the end of the story acquired a certain mythological connotation. In fact – this is an elderly merchant, business and domineering. He knows how to deal with both peasants and landlords; very confident in themselves and their money. Against his background, Uncle Ivan Ivanovich seems to Yegorushka “a little man”, as Moses Moiseyich seemed against the backdrop of Kuzmichev himself.
On the way during the storm Yegorushka caught a cold and fell ill. O. Christopher is treating him in the city, and his uncle is very unhappy that all care is added to caring for the nephew’s device. They are with Fr. Khristofor profitable sold the wool to the merchant Tcherepakhin, and now Kuzmichev regrets that part of the wool sold at home at a lower price. He thinks only about money and this is very different from about. Christopher, who can combine the necessary practicality with thoughts about God and the soul, love of life, knowledge, almost fatherly tenderness for the boy, and so on. Of all the characters in the story, he is the most harmonious.
Yegorushka is attached to the old friend of his mother, Nastasya Petrovna Toskunova, who wrote the private house to her son-in-law and lives with her little granddaughter Katya in an apartment with “many images and flowers.” Kuzmichev will pay her ten rubles a month for the boy’s maintenance. He had already applied to the gymnasium, soon there were to be admission exams. Presenting Yegorushka for a dime, Kuzmichev and Fr. Christopher leave. The boy for some reason feels that about. Christopher he will not see again. “Egorushka felt that with these people for him disappeared for ever, like smoke, all that had been experienced so far, he sank into exhaustion on the bench and bitter tears greeted a new, unknown life that was now beginning for him… What is What will this life be like? “