“My mother died when I was six years old” – so the hero of the story, the boy Vasya begins the story. His father-judge grieved over his wife, paying attention only to his daughter Sonia, as she resembled her mother. And the son “grew up like a wild tree in the field”, left to himself, without love and care.
The town of Knyazh-Gorodok, where Vasya lives – “stink, dirt, heaps of children crawling in the street dust” – surrounded the ponds. On one of them was an island, on the island – an old castle, the horror of which “reigned over the whole city.”
In the ruins of the castle lived beggars and other “dark personalities.” Between them there were strife and part of the “unfortunate cohabitants”
The leader of the outlaws was Tyburcy Drab, who has a terrible monkey appearance. In his eyes “acute sharpness and intelligence shone,” and the past “was covered with the darkness of uncertainty.”
He occasionally saw two children: a seven-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl.
One day, Vasya and his friends get into the chapel on the hill near the castle. Friends were frightened of “devils” in the darkness of the chapel and fled, leaving him alone. So Vasya gets acquainted with Valek and little Marusya. They became friends. Later, Vasya falls into the dungeon, where “two streams of light were pouring from above, the stone slabs of the floor, the walls were also made of stone, completely drowned in the dark.” Here live his new friends.
Vasya often went to the children from the “bad society”. Marousia was of the same age as his sister, but looked painful: thin, pale, sad. Her favorite game was to go through flowers. Valek said that “a gray stone sucked life out of it.”
Washuu is tormented by doubts about his father’s love, but Valek replied that Vasya’s father was a very fair judge-he was not afraid even to
On the friendship of Vasya with Valenk and Marusya he recognizes Tyburcy – he is angry, but he allows the judge’s son to go to the dungeon, because his children are happy with the boy. Vasya realizes that often the dungeon lives by theft, but with contempt for hungry friends his “affection has not disappeared.” He feels sorry for the sick, always hungry Marusya. He wears her toys.
In autumn the girl withers from illness. Vasya talks about the sick unhappy Marus sister, persuades to give for the time her best doll, presented by her late mother. And “the little doll did almost a miracle” – Marusya cheered up and began to walk.
Houses are found to be missing a toy. The father forbids the boy to leave the house. Vasya and Valek decide to return the doll, but when the boys took her away, Marousia opened her eyes and cried silently, quietly, plaintively. Vasya realizes that he wanted to deprive his “little friend of the first and last joy of the joy of her short life” and leaves the doll.
Father interrogates Vasily in the office, forcing to confess to theft.
His face was terrible with anger: “You stole it and carried it down.” “Who did you take it to? Tell it!”
The boy confesses that he took the doll, but does not say anything else. Tears dripped from the eyes, but inside “the burning love” was rising to those who had warmed it in the old chapel.
Suddenly Tyburcy appears, gives the doll and tells the judge everything. The father understands that his son is not a thief, but a kind and sympathetic person. He asks Vasya to forgive him. Tyburcy reports that Marusya died and his father lets Vasya say goodbye to the girl. He gives him money for the poor.
After these events Tyburcy and Valek “suddenly disappeared” from the city, like all “dark personalities.”
Every year, in the spring, Vasya and Sonya wore flowers at the grave of Marousi – here they read, thought, shared youthful thoughts and plans. And, leaving the city forever, “pronounced their little vows over a small grave.”