The action of the “story” takes place in Moscow.
Drunken guests disperse on an early summer morning. The owner, Eletskaya, “with a grimy eye” looks at the traces of “rampant binge” in his once magnificent, but neglected master’s house. Opening the window, Eletskaya “with sincere hatred” looks at the “magnificent capital” rising from a dream; everything in his life is connected with Moscow, but he is more alien to her than anyone.
Eletskaya orphaned in her youth. Secular life soon seemed to him boring and stupid, and he “healed in the open” “between the brawlers and the rake.” In revelry Yeletsky was more “riot of thought” than cardiac depravity; the sooner he restored the general opinion against himself.
After having gone abroad, Eletskaya settled in Moscow and took the gypsy to her house; it finally destroyed his connection with the light.
One day in the holy week, at the festivities near Novinka Eletskaya meets a beautiful and chaste girl, and she reminded him of the “vision” of “his legible spring”. Eletskaya learns that she is a girl from a society prejudiced against him.
Not imagining Vera, Eletskaya, “loving her suffering,” constantly tries to see her – on walks and at the theater. On Tverskoi Boulevard, he lifts the glove dropped by her, alarming the girl’s imagination. But “doubtful happiness / of the Moment, poor of these encounters” is interrupted by autumn rainy and winter.
Faith should be in one famous masquerade, where Eletskaya rides with hope. Guests “tormented by no hoaxes,” but none but Eletsky lacks the imagination for mystifications: Eletskoy intrigues Vera, having had time to explore about it those little things, “in which the mysteries fatal / girls see the young.” In conversation with Vera Eletskaya she calls herself “spirit”, who always accompanies the Faith, and recalls that summer evening in Tver, when the twilight allowed him to take the image of a mortal. Already leaving the hall, Eletskaya, obeying Vera’s insistent request, removes the mask. At that moment a “different face” is shown on the ball, glistening with anger and threatening Vera.
The next morning Eletskaya is unusually restless and joyful. Suddenly he notices the anguish and malice of his girlfriend, the gypsy Sarah, and asks about the reason. Sarah says that she knows about Yeletsky’s love for “a noble lady,” reproaches Yeletsky. Eletskaya reminds her that when they agreed, they promised not to embarrass each other’s freedom, Sarah complains about the fate of the gypsies: “We are offended for the insults!” / To whip the whims / To be drunk we must. ” Eletskaya tries to comfort her: he, cast out by the light, himself in this is like a gypsy, and the stronger his connection with Saroy.
Meanwhile, relations with Sarah have long ceased to satisfy Yeletsky: she misses talking with him, yawns, interrupts Yeletsky with a “foreign joke”, etc. True, not understanding Eletsky’s “unintelligible speeches,” the language of “educated feeling,” the gypsy still understands their “voice”, “vaguely moved” to them and becomes attached to Eletsky more and more – while he is increasingly cooling towards her.
Eletskaya often meets Vera at balls and soon, encouraged by her attention, already openly tells her about her... love. Vera, who saw Sarah at the masquerade, asks Yeletsky about her. Eletskaya explains to Vera her rapprochement with the gypsy as a mistake: “I was not friendly with her! / I do not need her for the soul, – / I need another for mine.”
Vera does not respond to Eletsky, but his words are very important to her. She is capable of strong passions and for the first time in love, she is happy with Eletsky’s love, “happy with the soul” and does not suspect about a close “death thunder”.
A great post is coming when Eletskaya can no longer see Vera in theaters and balls; the thought of the impending separation is difficult for both, although Vera is trying, but unsuccessfully, to hide her feelings. Eletskaya decided to immediately marry Vera.
To explain, Eletskaya chooses the time when Vera stays alone at home. The unexpected arrival of the hero frightens the girl; she drives him away; he reproaches her for coquetry. This rebuke disarms the Faith; she advises Yeletsky to ask her for her uncle who replaced her father. Eletskaya assures her that a strict old man will not agree to extradite her for a man of such a bad reputation; the only way out is to run and get married without the consent of relatives. Faith can not dare at once; Eletskaya assures that the separation will kill him, threatens to interrupt his acquaintance with Vera; finally she agrees.
Eletskaya returns home cheerful, but at the threshold his mood changes: he thought of Sarah.
He thought everything over beforehand: in order not to insult Vera with a new meeting with Sarah, he would leave Moscow that same night and be married in a remote village. Sarah and her love – “calculating”, corrupt – Yeletsky is not sorry. And suddenly a “reproach in his soul appeared” …
One evening, Sarah is especially bad. An old gypsy brought her a love potion. Eletskaya comes and tells her that she marries that they must part today and that he will ensure her future. Sarah answers him with apparent calm, refuses “hateful favors” and asks for the last drink for her health. Serenity of Sarah pleasantly surprises Yeletsky, he again is kind and cheerful and drinks to the bottom. Sarah becomes more frank: she doubts the happy family life Yeletsky – “Will you pester a decent life” – and finally confesses that he hopes to regain his love. Eletskaya is surprised; the gypsy woman asks why the bride is better than her, complains that Eletskaya tortured her: “Did I get that kind of you?” / The eyes faded from tears; / The face wilted, the chest dried up / / I just did not die yet! ” Here Eletskaya says,
Vera waited in vain for Yeletsky at night on the street. After that, she left Moscow and returned only two years later, cold to everything; she is either true to the memory of the past, indifferent to the present, or repents of her frivolity. Sarah went mad and lives in the camp; consciousness to her, it seems, comes back only when she sings with the gypsy choir.