The story takes place in 1833 in Moscow, the main character – Volodya – sixteen years old, he lives with his parents at the dacha and is preparing to enter the university. Soon, the family of Princess Zasekin enters the poor outbuilding in the neighborhood. Volodya accidentally sees the princess and very much wants to meet her. The next day his mother receives an illiterate letter from Princess Zasekina asking for her protection. Mother sends Princess Volodya with an oral invitation to her house. There Volodya gets acquainted with the princess – Zinaida Alexandrovna, who is five years older than him. Princess immediately calls him to her room to untangle the wool, coquetting with him, but quickly loses interest in him. On the same day Princess Zasekina visits his mother and makes an extremely unfavorable impression on her. However, despite this, mother invites her along with her daughter for dinner. During dinner, the princess sniffs snufflily, fidgets in a chair, turns, complains of poverty and talks about her endless bills, and the princess, on the contrary, is majestic – she talks all her dinner with Volodin’s father in French, but looks at him hostilely. She does not pay attention to Volodya, however, when she leaves she whispers to him that he should come to them in the evening.
Appearing to Zasekin, Volodya gets acquainted with the admirers of the princess: Dr. Lushin, poet Maidanov, Count Malevsky, retired captain Nirmatsky and hussar
In the absence of Zinaida, he languishes, but in her presence he does not feel any better, he is jealous, offended, but can not live without her. Zinaida easily guessed that he was in love with her. Zinaida rarely goes to the house of her parents Volodya: she does not like my mother, her father does not speak much to her, but somehow she is especially clever and significant.
Suddenly Zinaida is changing a lot. She leaves to walk alone and walks for a long time, sometimes the guest does not show at all: she sits for hours in her room. Volodya realizes that she is in love, but does not understand – in whom.
Once Volodya sits on the wall of a dilapidated conservatory. Below, Zinaida appears on the road. Seeing him, she orders him to jump onto the road if he really loves her. Volodya immediately jumps and for a moment loses his feelings. Disturbed Zinaida takes care of him and suddenly starts kissing him, but realizing that he came to himself, he gets up and, after forbidding him to follow him, leaves. Volodya is happy, but the next day, when he meets with Zinaida, she keeps very simply, as if nothing happened.
Once they meet in the garden: Volodya wants to pass by, but Zinaida stops him himself. She is nice, quiet and kind with him, invites him to be her friend and complains of the title of her page.