In the family of the steppe landlords, Sasha’s daughter grows like a field flower. Her parents are nice old men, honest in their cordiality, “flattery disgusts them, but arrogance is unknown.” Parents tried in childhood to give their daughter everything that their small means allowed; However, science and books seemed superfluous to them. In the steppe wilderness Sasha preserves the freshness of the swarthy blush, the shine of the black laughing eyes and the “original clarity of the soul.”
Until the age of sixteen, Sasha does not know any passions or worries, she freely breathes in the open fields, among the steppe and freedom. Alerts and doubts are also unfamiliar to Sasha: the exultation of life, poured out in nature itself, is for her the guarantee of God’s mercy. The only slave she has to see is a river, bubbling at the mill without the hope of breaking free. And, watching the barren rage of the river, Sasha thinks that rattling against fate is insanely…
The girl admires the friendly work of the villagers, in which he sees the keepers of simple life. She likes running around among the fields, collecting flowers and singing simple songs. Admiring the way a daughter’s head flashes in the ripe rye, her parents are making her a good groom for her. In the winter, Sasha listens to the nanny of a fairy tale or, full of happiness, flies from the mountain on a sled. It happens to her to know and sorrow: “Sasha cried, as the wood was cut down.” She can not remember without tears how the corpses of trees lay motionless, as the yellow mouths dropped from the nest of the galax. But in the upper branches of the pine trees of Sasha remaining after cutting down, there are nests of heat birds, in which new nestlings are just about to appear. Morning Sasha’s dream is quiet and strong. And although the “first dawns of young passions” already blush her cheeks, in her vague heart troubles there is still no pain.
Soon the host, Lev Alekseevich Agarin, came to the neighboring large estate, which for forty years now stands empty. He is thin and pale, looks at the lorgnette, affectionately talks to the servants and calls himself a migratory bird. Agarin traveled all over the world, and on his return home, as he says, the eagle was circling over him, as if he was predicting a great share.
Agarin is more often at neighbors, teases over steppe nature and talks a lot with Sasha:
reads books to her, teaches French, talks about distant countries and talks about why a person is poor, unhappy and angry. For a glass of domestic ashberry, he announces to Sasha and her simple-hearted old parents that the sun of truth is about to rise above them.
At the beginning of winter, Agarin bids farewell to his neighbors and, asking him to bless him for the cause, leaves. With the departure of Sasha’s neighbor, former activities-songs, fairy tales, fortune-telling, are boring. Now the girl reads books, feeds and treats the poor. But at the same time she secretly cries and thinks of some strange thought, than casts down her parents. However, they are happy with the unexpectedly developed mind of his daughter and her constant kindness.
As soon as Sasha is nineteen years old, Agarin returns to his estate. He, who has grown pale and bald, than before, is shocked by the beauty of Sasha. They are still talking, but now Agarin like spitefully contradicts the girl. He no longer talks about the coming sun of truth – on the contrary, assures that the human race is low and angry. Sasha’s lessons with the poor are considered by Agarin as an empty toy. On the seventeenth day after the arrival of a neighbor, Sasha looks like a shadow. She rejects books sent to Agarin, does not want to see him. Soon he sends Sasha a letter with a proposal of marriage. Sasha refuses to Agarin, explaining this by the fact that she is unworthy of him, then by the fact that he is not worthy of it, because he became angry and lost heart.
Simple parents can not understand what kind of person met in the way of their daughter, and they suspect in him a warlock-destroyer. They do not know that Agarin belongs to the strange, sophisticated tribe of people who were created by the new time. The modern hero reads books and picks around the world in search of a gigantic matter – “the blessing of the heritage of rich fathers / freed from small labors / Good to go on the road beaten / laziness prevented and intelligence developed.” He wants to make the world happy, and at the same time, in passing and without intent, destroys what lies beneath his hands. Love does not excite his heart and blood, but only his head. The hero of time does not have his own faith, but because “the book will tell him the last, / That’s on his soul from above and will lie down.” If such a person takes up the job, he is at any moment ready to announce the futility of efforts,
Sasha’s blessing is that she guessed at the right time that she should not give herself to Agharin; “and the rest will make time.” Moreover, his conversations nevertheless aroused in her untouched forces that would only grow stronger under thunder and storm; grain, fallen into good soil, will be born with a magnificent fruit.