A young man, whose name is later revealed to be Petrusha, finds himself embroiled in a passionate relationship with Tanya, an 18-year old housemaid employed by a relative named Kazakova.
She quickly adapts to the new, unexpected liaison and begins to see it as good luck rather than misfortune. She becomes increasingly attached to Petrusha, who regards their relationship casually and with relative indifference.
Their relationship intensifies, marked by stolen moments of intimacy and passionate conversations. Petrusha assures Tanya he had been pretending to be indifferent when he first arrived at Kazakova’s estate, where he spends a significant amount of time. However, he confesses that the casual affair has caught him by surprise too. One night, he gently forces himself on her, later wondering if she had been truly asleep during their encounter.
I can’t stay here for ever… I can’t take you with me… Because I was just born that way.
Petrusha realizes he must leave for Moscow and breaks the news to Tanya, promising her that he would return. When he finally goes, the house and the estate fall into an mournful silence. Although the news affected her greatly, Tanya tries to keep busy by diving deeper into her work. Despite the separation, Tanya, unaware of her impending disappointment, eagerly awaits his promised return.
He did not come for Christmas. What days they were! In what a torment of unresolved expectation, in what pitiful pretence to herself, as if there were no expectation at all, did the time pass from morning till evening!
Petrusha eventually returned in February, surprising Tanya. Yet the reunion takes a bitter turn when he reveals that he has to depart soon again. He tries to console her, repeating his earlier promise of returning during the summer. The narrative ends in a somber note as we learn that Petrusha never came back, the year of his departure marking 1917, a tumultuous time in Russia.