The action takes place in Mexico in the late XVIII – early XIX century. The novel opens with a description of the holiday in honor of the day of St. John in the small Mexican town of San Ildefonso. Here all the layers of society are having fun. Among the aristocrats stands Catalina de Cruces, daughter of the wealthy owner of the mines of Don Ambrosio. There is also a candidate for her hand, Captain Roblado, a serf garrison officer, and the commandant of the fortress, forty-year-old Colonel Viscarra.
The main participant in the competition, which is an integral part of the holiday, is Carlos, a buffalo hunter. He, his elderly mother, who has the glory of a sorceress, and the beautiful sister of Rosita are Americans. They are fair-skinned and fair-haired, besides they do not attend
During the holiday, Carlos, a wonderful rider, manages to accomplish many feats – he stops an angry bull, almost jumped on the crowd, on horseback, rides a horse, lifts a coin from the ground and, to top it off, keeps it on the edge deep gorge. As a result, the commandant of Viscarra, who argued for a large sum with young rich cattle breeder don Juan, Carlos’s friend, is at a loss.
He hates Carlos and would give it dearly to take him out of the way, because he even noticed Rosita at the festival, which he wants to make his mistress. He hates Carlos and Captain Roblado, who has noticed how his beloved Catalina and the buffalo hunter exchange secret signs.
A week after the holiday, Carlos leaves to hunt buffalo. Hunting is developing successfully, as well as trade: Carlos successfully exchanges taken specifically for this purpose goods for mules from the Wako Indians. However, at night, he is plundered by an uncovered Indian detachment. Carlos sins on wako, but it soon becomes clear that his hostile waco tribe of Pan was robbed. At Carlos there is a hope to return stolen by means of wako. He goes to their camp, appears there in the midst of a fierce battle and witnesses an unequal
While Carlos is hunting, Viscarra tries to win Rosita’s heart, but the girl gives him a decisive rebuff. Then Roblado offers the commandant a cunning plan: in the guise of the Indians, they kidnap Rosita, and Carlos’s house is set on fire. A miserable mother, stunned by a blow to the head, takes don Juan to her place.
Carlos returns home in the hope that now that he is rich, he will be able to marry Catalina, and Rosita – to marry don Juan. However, on the site of the house there was only one ashes. Once there, don Juan tells of the Indian raid and the courage of garrisoned lancers who have made every effort to catch them.