Winter, the French city of Rouen. There is a Franco-Prussian war. The Prussian army occupies the city. The Germans allow several merchants to leave the city for Le Havre on business.
Early in the morning, ten people leave Rouen in the Normandy carriage. Among them: the wholesale wine merchant with his wife, the owner of the paper spinning factories with his wife, the count with his wife, two nuns, the Democrat Kornude and a prostitute nicknamed Pyschka. Men, adherents of the conservative party, unite against Kornude, and women begin to discuss the prostitute Pyschka.
The crew rides very slowly, constantly stuck in the snowdrifts. Expecting to arrive quickly, the passengers did not have enough provisions, and soon they were terribly hungry, but neither the tavern, nor the farm,
Pyschka tells that she can not see the Prussians on the streets of Rouen and left her native city out of a sense of patriotism. The night is coming. The journey lasts 13 hours. Soon the police stop the crew to check documents, after which all decide to spend the night in the “Commercial Hotel”. The owner of the hotel tells Pyschke that the Prussian policeman wants to talk with her. She goes and returns indignant, but she does not tell anyone what happened. Everyone is having supper. At night, Kornuda pestered Pyschka, but she does not want to provide him with services, while Prussian soldiers live in the hotel.
In the morning it turns out that the coachman disappeared. When they find him, he explains that the Prussian officer forbade him to harness the crew. Soon it turns out that the policeman will not release them until Pyshka does not surrender to him. At first, everyone is angered by the officer’s impudence, but the next day
On the third day, having gathered in the tavern, everyone starts to think out how to get Pyshka to fulfill the condition, scold her and despise her because they got stuck because of her. Even nuns participate in persuasion and sophistry suggest to Pyschke that her sacrifice will be pleasing to God.
By the middle of the fourth day the servant reports that Pyshka agreed and will not come out for dinner. Everyone celebrates, releases greasy jokes, drinks champagne. Only Kornude believes that they have committed an abomination.
The next morning everyone is waiting for a harnessed carriage. The outgoing Pyschka is ignored and set off from her, as from a leper. When it’s time for lunch, everyone takes out the stored food, only Pyshka has nothing – she did not have time to take care of the food. Full of resentment and fury, Pyshka remembers about his basket with three-day provisions, which these hypocrites did not disdain, and begins to cry. Everyone turns away. Kornude sings, and to the end of the road sobbing Pyschki alternate with the stanzas of the “Marseillaise”.