The narrator (the narrative is a first-person narrator) remembers how six or seven years ago he lived in Belokurov’s estate in one of the counties of the T-g province. The owner “got up very early, walked in a podevke, in the evenings he drank beer and all complained to me that he did not find sympathy anywhere in anyone.” The narrator is an artist, but in the summer he got so lazy that he wrote almost nothing. “Sometimes I left home and until late evening wandered somewhere.” So he wandered into an unfamiliar estate. Near the gate stood two girls: one “older, thin, pale, very beautiful” and the second – “very young – she was seventeen or eighteen years old, no more – also thin and pale, with a big mouth and big eyes.”
Soon, there was a carriage in the estate of Belokurov, in which sat one of the girls, the eldest. She came with a signature sheet to ask for money for the villagers. Having subscribed to the sheet, the narrator was invited to see, according to the expression of the girl, “how do admirers of his talent live.” Belokurov said that her name is Lidia Volchaninova, she lives in the village of Shelkovka together with her mother and sister. Her father once occupied a prominent place in Moscow and died in the rank of secret counselor. Despite the good facilities, the Voltchaninovs lived in the countryside without leaving, Lida worked as a teacher, receiving twenty-five rubles a month.
On one of the holidays they went to the Volchaninovs. Mother and daughters were at home. “Mother, Ekaterina Pavlovna, once, apparently, beautiful, now crude not by age, sick with shortness of breath, sad, distracted, tried to engage me in conversation about painting.” Lida told Belokurov that the chairman of the council, Balagan, “handed all his posts in the district to his nephews and sons-in-law and does what he wants.” “Young people should form a strong party,” she said, “but you see how young we are.” It’s a shame, Pyotr Petrovich! ” Younger sister Zhenya (I’m afraid, because when she was a child she called her “Miss,” her governess), she seemed like a child. During dinner Belokurov, gesticulating, overturned the sauceboat with his sleeve, but no one, except the narrator, seemed to notice this. When they returned, Belokurov said: ” A good upbringing is not that you will not spill sauce on a tablecloth, but that you will not notice if someone else does it. Yes, a wonderful, intelligent family. “
Kazchik began to visit the Voltchaninovs. He liked Misya, she also sympathized with him. “We walked together, tore cherries for jam, skated in a boat Or I wrote an etude, and she stood by and looked with admiration.” He was especially attracted by the fact that in the eyes of a young provincial he looked like a talented artist, a famous person. Lida disliked him. She despised idleness and considered herself a labor person. She did not like his landscapes because the people’s needs did not appear in them. In turn, Lida did not like him. Somehow he started a dispute with her and said that her charitable work with peasants not only does not bring benefits, but is harmful. “You come to them to help with hospitals and schools, but this does not set them free from bondage, but, on the contrary, they enslave you even more, for by bringing new prejudices into their lives,
Finally, the narrator confessed to Genet in love in the evening, when she accompanied him to the gate of the manor. She answered him in kind, but then she ran off to tell her mother and sister. “We do not have secrets from each other.” When the next day he came to the Voltchaninovs, Lida announced dryly that Ekaterina Pavlovna and Zhenya had gone to her aunt’s place in the Penza province, so that she could then probably go abroad. On the way back he was caught up by a boy with a note from Myshyu: “I told my sister everything and she demands that I part with you.” I was not able to upset her by my disobedience, God will give you happiness, forgive me. If you knew, how I and my mother weep bitterly! ” He did not see the Volchaninovs anymore. Once, on the way to the Crimea, he met Belokurov in the car, and he reported that Lida still lives in Shelkovo and teaches children. She managed to rally around her “strong party” of young people, and in the last Zemsky elections they “rolled” Balagin. “About Zhenya Belokurov reported only that she did not live at home and was unknown where.” Gradually the narrator begins to forget about the “house with the mezzanine”, about the Voltchaninovs, and only in moments of loneliness he remembers them and: “Little by little, for some reason, it seems to me that they are also remembering me, waiting for me and that we will meet. I’m afraid, where are you? “