Afanasy Ivanovich Tovstogub and his wife Pulcheria Ivanovna live alone in one of the remote villages, called Old Rus in the Little Russia. Their life is so quiet that a guest who has unexpectedly come to a low bar-house, drowning in the greenery of the garden, the passions and unsettling worries of the outside world do not seem to exist at all. The small rooms of the house are filled with all sorts of things, the doors are sung in different ways, the storerooms are filled with supplies, the preparation of which is constantly occupied by courtyards run by Pulcheria Ivanovna. Despite the fact that the farm is stealing from the clerks and lackeys, the blessed land produces only so much that Afanasy Ivanovich and Pulcheria Ivanovna do not notice theft at all.
The old people never had children, and all their affection concentrated on them. You can not look without participation in their mutual love, when with unusual care in their voice they
turn to each other for “you”, warning every desire and even not yet said affectionate word. They like to treat – and if not for the special properties of the Little Russian air, which helps digestion, then the guest, no doubt, after dinner would be instead of the bed lying on the table. Old people like to eat and themselves – and from early morning until late at night you can hear Pulcheria Ivanovna guessing the desires of her husband, tenderly offering one or the other dish. Sometimes Afanasii Ivanovich loves to play a trick on Pulcheria Ivanovna and will suddenly start talking about a fire or a war, forcing her spouse to be frightened of a joke and baptized, so that her husband’s speech could never come true. But after a minute unpleasant thoughts are forgotten, the old people decide that it’s time to have a snack, and suddenly a tablecloth and the dishes that Athanasius Ivanovich chooses at the suggestion of the spouse appear on the table. And quietly, calmly, in extraordinary harmony of two loving hearts, days go by in days.
A sad event changes forever the life of this peaceful
corner. Pulcheria Ivanovna’s favorite cat, usually lying at her feet, disappears in the big forest behind the garden, where she is tortured by wild cats. Three days later, having lost her legs in search of a kitty, Pulcheria Ivanovna meets her favorite in the garden, which came out with a miserable meow from the weeds. Pulcheria Ivanovna feeds the feral and lean fugitive, wants to pat her, but the ungrateful creature throws herself into the window and disappears forever. From this day the old woman becomes thoughtful, boring and suddenly tells Afanasy Ivanovich that it was her death to come to her and they are soon destined to meet in the next world. The only thing the old woman regrets about is that there will be nobody to look after her husband. She asks the housekeeper Yavdokha to take care of Afanasy Ivanovich, threatening her whole family with God’s punishment if she does not fulfill the punishment of the lady.
Pulcheria Ivanovna is dying. At the funeral, Athanasius Ivanovich looks strange, as if he does not understand all the wildness of what happened. When he returns to his house and sees how empty his room has become, he weeps heavily and inconsolably, and tears, like a river, flow from his dim eyes.
Five years have passed since that time. The house is decrepit without its mistress, Athanasius Ivanovich is weakened and doubled up against the former. But his longing does not fade with time. In all the objects surrounding him, he sees the deceased, tries to pronounce her name, but in half the word cramps twist his face, and the cry of a child breaks out from an already chilling heart.
Strange, but the circumstances of the death of Athanasius Ivanovich are similar to the death of his beloved wife. When he slowly walks along the path of the garden, suddenly he hears someone behind say in a clear voice: “Athanasius Ivanovich!” For a moment his face is quickened, and he says: “This Pulcheria Ivanovna is calling me!” This is his conviction, he obeys the will of an obedient child. “Put me near Pulcheria Ivanovna” – that’s all he says before his death. Desire fulfilled it. The lordly house was emptied, the goods were robbed by the peasants and finally brought into the wind by a distant relative who was heir.