In a nutshell: Handsome engineer is losing a lot. A girl in love with him gets money for the player, but, feeling its fineness, runs away into the night and dies of the fever. Who loved her more than life, the rich man drinks poison.
A young engineer, handsome Alarin is going home. With him in the compartment – a nondescript girl and a Caucasian. After some time, the Caucasian begins to insolently pester her. Alarin stands up for the girl. An engineer grabs a Caucasian by the collar and throws him out of the train at a stop. Alarin involuntarily admires his “frenzied quick temper.” The girl, smiling, thanks her savior. “This smile lit up and made her pretty handsome.”
They get acquainted. The girl’s name is Zinaida Pavlovna, after the institute she goes to work as a governess to the daughter of the factory owner Kashperov, a wealthy widower. He lives in the same city as Alarin. The engineer knows the industrialist and talks about him
a little: “Kashperov himself is unquestionably honest and handsome, so the ladies are still behind him: imagine gray hair and a black beard, he does not hide his money and does a lot of good for them.”
Having woken up in the morning already at Kashperov’s house, Zinaida Pavlovna remembers Alarin. In her dreams she dreams of a happy life with him, thinks how she would surround the beloved with cares.
At breakfast, the governess meets Kashperov. “He looked about forty-five years old, but if he had put on his hat and concealed his gray hair, no one would have given him more than thirty-five or six years.” However, Zinaida Pavlovna did not like his prominent appearance, her tender, painful taste was unpleasant in a man of predominance of brute force and health. “
He introduces the governess to her daughter, a wild girl of fourteen. She immediately takes Zinaida Pavlovna. From the girl the governess finds out that her mother did not die, but left. The girl immediately mentally accuses the breeder of this, the unpleasant impression is intensified.
her dislike, he now speaks politely with the governess, at the rest of the time he does not remember about her existence.
One evening he accidentally hears Zinaida Pavlovna singing excerpts from “Faust” to her pupil. Kashperov is struck by her magnificent silvery voice. The intonations and depth of the feeling invested in music suggest that she has her Faust, and he does not hope for reciprocity.
Next time, listening to the singing behind the door, the breeder betrays himself. Zinaida Pavlovna immediately stops singing and leaves, despite the attempts of the man to eliminate misunderstandings between them.
Kashperov falls in love. “In front of him was a gentle image of a pale girl, with blue transparent eyes and a captivating voice, and he did not know how to get down to him.”
Zinaida Pavlovna is traveling with Kashperov and his daughter to the ball. She is happy for the pupil: the girl is constantly invited to dance. Alarin approaches her without warning. He talks passionately about gambling. The girl in horror asks to forget about these terrible passions. An engineer invites her to a dance. Zinaida Pavlovna is happy. After they talk, and the girl talks about Kashperova: she completely does not understand his behavior. Only the pupil keeps Zinaida Pavlovna. Alarin advises her to leave as soon as possible. Appears Kashperov and guesses that talking about him. The breeder has already taken his daughter, now he is waiting for the governess.
On the way home, he throws himself at the girl with kisses and hugs. Kashperov threatens, promises money and fame, if only she did not repel him. At home, only the appearance of the daughter makes the breeder stop.
This evening, Alarin loses a huge amount of state money. He tries to take them from the usurer, but he, guessing about what happened, refuses. On the street Zinaida Pavlovna approaches him. The engineer annoyedly voices the reason for his depression: he will be declared a thief, he is disgraced. He rudely speaks to the girl and leaves.
Zinaida Pavlovna decides to sacrifice herself for the sake of his salvation and asks Kashperov for the right amount, in return offering himself. At first the breeder wants to take revenge on her. While speaking in a harsh manner, he gives her money. The governess falls to her knees and kisses his hand. Kashperov feels unbearable shame for his behavior. He guesses why the girl has money: “You are holy, this is a great feat, which the woman has ever decided.” Both “for the first time boldly and amicably looked each other in the eye.”
Alarin then puts a revolver to his temple, then lowers it. The engineer understands that he breaks the comedy: in fact, he clings convulsively to life. Appears Zinaida Pavlovna and holds out the money. Feeling that he was saved, Alarin looks at them with a greedy and brutal look: everything in life has depreciated, except for this pack. The governess watches him with horror. In her soul arises contempt, destroying love for “her idol.”
She walks home in unconsciousness. On the threshold of the girl falls on the hands of Kashperov, drenched and trembling. “Only at this terrible moment, feeling the touch of her cold cheek on her neck, Kashperov realized that this girl is more dear to him than her own life, more precious than the life of her beloved daughter.” The doctor does not give any guarantees that Zinaida Pavlovna will survive.
Gray-haired and gray-haired Alarin is on the train. From the newspaper, he learns that Kashperov drank cyanide acid. Further Alarin does not read: he knows the reason for suicide.