In the village, where in the evening on the thresholds sit Circassians and talk about their battles, there is a rider dragging on the lasso of the Russian prisoner, who seems to have died from wounds. But at noon the prisoner comes to himself, remembers that with him, where he is, and finds shackles on his feet. He’s a slave!
Mechetu he flies to Russia, where he spent his youth and left for the sake of freedom. She dreamed of finding him in the Caucasus, but gained slavery. Now he only wants death.
At night, when the aul calmed down, a young Circassian came to the prisoner and brought him a cool koumiss for quenching his thirst. The virgin with the captive is sitting for a long time, crying and not being able to tell about his feelings.
For many days a knotted captive herds a herd in the mountains, and every night a Circassian comes to him, brings koumiss, wine, honey and millet, shares his meal with him and sings mountains songs, teaches the prisoner of his native language. She fell in love with a captive with her first love, but he is unable to reciprocate, fearing to disturb the dream of forgotten love.
Gradually, the prisoner got used to a dull life, melting deep in his heart. His eyes were amazed by the majestic mountains of the Caucasus and Elbrus in the icy wreath. He often found a special joy in the storms that raged on the mountain slopes, not reaching the heights where he was.
His attention is drawn to the customs and mores of the mountaineers, he likes the simplicity of their lives, hospitality, militancy. He could admire for hours how the Circassians jiggle, accustoming themselves to war; He liked their outfit, and the weapons that the Circassian decorates, and the horses that are the main wealth of Circassian warriors. He admires the military prowess of the Circassians and their formidable raids on the Cossack villages. In their own homes, near the hearths, the Circassians are hospitable and welcome tired travelers, caught in the mountains by night or sometimes by foul weather.
The captive watches Chechen warriors playing hostile games, admires their strength and power, even their bloody amusements do not confuse him when they kill the heads of slaves in the heat of the game. He himself, who knew the military joys, looked into the eyes of death, he hides... the movements of his heart from the Circassians and amazes them with careless boldness and equanimity. The Circassians are even proud of him as their prey.
The enamored Circassian, who recognized the delights of the heart, persuades the captive to forget his country and freedom. She is ready to despise the will of her father and brother, who want to sell her unloved in another aul, persuade them or commit suicide. She loves only the captive. But her words and caresses do not awaken the captive’s souls. He surrenders to recollections and one day, weeping, opens his soul to him, he begs the Circassian to forget him, who became a victim of passions, which deprived him of raptures and desires. He laments that he recognized her so late, when there is no hope and dream and he is not able to respond to her love, his soul is cold and unfeeling, and in it there lives another image, eternally sweet, but unattainable.
In response to the confessions of a captive, the Circassian reproaches him and says that he could at least pity her inexperience out of pity. She asks him to be condescending to her mental anguish. The captive responds to her that their fates are similar, that he, too, did not know the reciprocity in love and suffered in solitude. At dawn, sad and silent, they part, and from this time the captive spends time alone in dreams of freedom.
Once he hears a noise and sees that Circassians are going to raid. Only women, children and elders remain in the village. The captive dreams of escaping, but a heavy chain and a deep river are insurmountable obstacles. And then, when it was dark, she came to the prisoner, holding a saw and a dagger in her hands. She herself saws the chain. The excited young man invites her to flee with him, but the Circassian refuses, knowing that he loves another. She says goodbye to him, and the prisoner rushes into the river and floats to the opposite shore. Suddenly he hears behind the sound of the waves and a distant groan. Having got to the shore, he turns around and does not find a look at the left bank of the Circassian.
The prisoner understands what this splash and groan meant. He looks farewell at the abandoned aul, on the field where he herds herd, and goes to where the Russian bayonets glitter and the advanced Cossacks call to him.