The most long-awaited event for the seminary is vacancies when bursaks (kazennokoshtnye seminarians) are dismissed to their homes. Groups they are sent from Kiev along the high road, earning livelihood with a spiritual hymn to well-to-do farms.
Three bursaks: the theologian Freebies, the philosopher Homa Brutus and the rhetorician Tiberius Horobets, – straying into the night from the road, go out to the farm. The old woman mistress lets bursakov spend the night with the condition that he will put everyone in different places. Homa Brutus is already going to fall asleep dead in an empty sheep’s barn, when suddenly the old woman enters. Glancing up, she catches Khoma and jumps up onto his shoulders. “Eh, yes it’s a witch,” the bursak guessed, but already rushing over the ground, sweat rolling from him with hail. He begins to remember all the prayers and feels that the witch is weakening. With rapidity of lightning, Homa manages to jump out from under the old woman, jumps on her back, picks up a log and starts courting the witch. There are wild cries, the old woman falls exhausted to the ground – and now a beautiful young woman lies with her last moans.
Khomu is summoned to himself by the rector and orders him to go to a remote farmstead to the richest hundredty-one – to read the departed prayers for his daughter, who returned from a walk beaten. The dying wish of the pannochka: a three-night retreat
Over dinner, the bursak listens to Kozakov’s stories about the tricks of a witch panther. By night, they lock him in the church, where the coffin stands. Khoma goes to the choir and begins to read the prayers. The witch rises from the coffin, but stumbles upon a circle surrounded by Homa. She returns to the coffin, flies through the church, but loud prayers and circle protect Khoma. The coffin falls, the greenish corpse rises from it, but the distant cry of the rooster is heard. The witch falls into the coffin, and the lid closes.
In the daytime the bursak sleeps, drinks gorilka, hangs around the village, and by the evening it’s getting more thoughtful. He is taken to church again. He draws a lifeline, reads aloud and raises his head. The corpse stands already close, gazing at him with dead, green eyes. The terrible words of witch incantations are carried by the wind through the church, the incalculable unclean force breaks through the doors. The rooster
crow again stops the demonic activity. A homeless Homo is found barely alive in the morning. He asks the centurion to release him, but he faces a terrible punishment for disobedience. Homa tries to escape, but he is caught.
The silence of the third hell of a night inside the church explodes with a crash of the iron lid of the coffin. The witches’ teeth clatter, spells are screaming, the doors are torn from their hinges, and the immense strength of the monsters fills the room with the noise of wings and the scratching of claws. Homa is already singing prayers from the last strength. “Bring Viya!” cried the witch. A stocky clumsy monster with an iron face, leader of evil forces, enters the church with heavy strides. He orders to lift his eyelids. “Do not look!” – hears Homa’s inner voice, but does not hold back and looks. “Here he is!” Vii points at him with an iron finger. The impure force rushes to the philosopher, and the spirit flies out of him. The cock crowed for the second time, the first listened to the perfume. They rush away, but do not have time. So it remains to stand forever with a church with monsters stuck in the doors and windows,
Learning about the fate of Khoma, Tiberius Gorobets and Freebie remember in Kiev his soul, concluding after the third circle: the philosopher disappeared because he was afraid.