In the early autumn, a steamboat named Goncharov was sailing down the Volga river. The boat was almost empty, except for a group of peasants and three individuals on the upper deck. One of them was a famous writer in his thirties, who was walking alone on the deck.
He noticed a woman, who he had met the previous evening, coming up from the lower deck.
They greeted each other and went to have lunch together in the first-class dining room. The writer had been attracted to the woman since their first meeting. He was moved by her simplicity and naivety. They had a conversation about their lives and dreams.
And what is your husband? A civil servant? Oh, a very good and kind but unfortunately completely uninteresting man… The secretary of our District Land Board…
The woman revealed her dream of having her own calling cards, which she found silly. The writer, feeling a mix of passion and love, took her to his cabin.
In the cabin, the woman experienced a level of shamelessness that was completely out of character for her. This only aroused the writer more.
Shall I take everything off? she asked in a whisper, utterly like a little girl. Everything, everything, he said, growing ever more gloomy.
After their intimate encounter, the woman lay on the bunk, looking youthful and peaceful. When the steamboat reached her destination, she disembarked without looking back.
Just before evening, when the steamboat moored at the place where she needed to disembark, she stood beside him, quiet, with lowered eyelashes.
The writer was left with a feeling of love that he knew would stay with him for the rest of his life.