The story opens with narrator recalling a young man called Savka, whom he used to visit in the kitchen gardens of Dubovo. Savka is described as a young, strong, handsome man, however, ‘not worth a farthing’, as he is very lazy and unable to keep a job. The narrator looks back to one May night when the two men rest together after fishing. They talk about the bird migration and Savka suddenly remembers he invited a young woman to visit him. The narrator is familiar with the woman. It is a young girl called Agafya, wife of signalman Yakov. The narrator remarks that Savka will end up badly because of all the women, but Savka replies that it does not matter to him and that he is unable to do anything about it anyways, with all the women throwing themselves at him. Afterwards the two men eat their supper. Savka reveals that all the food is brought to him by women out of pity. The dog signals Agafya’s arrival. When the girls notices there is another man, she tries to come up with excuses and reasons why her husband sent her there. Savka tells her to stop, as the other gentleman is perfectly aware of the reasons of her visit. In a while a nightingale starts to sing and Savka disappears into the night to chase the bird.
Meanwhile, the narrator and Agafya stay alone together. The narrator promises the girl he will keep her secret and asks her whether she is not afraid that her husband will find out. Agafya answers that she has a way of knowing when he will return, so she can come home before him. The time passes and Savka is still preoccupied with pursuing the bird. Agafya starts to worry that the last train that is supposed to bring her husband home, will arrive soon. However, she cannot bring herlself to leave. Shortly Savka returns and admits he did not manage to catch the bird. The narrator decides to go for a walk and give the two lovers some privacy. Upon his arrival, he finds the girl still there and drunk. He reminds her it is time to leave, and the girl rushes away. When the narrator goes to sit on a riverbank he can already hear Yakov calling for his wife.
In the morning the two man watch Agafya cross the stream. When she crosses the stream, she walks through the fields ‘fairly boldly’, but then she gets scared and stops to take a breath. Eventually, the girl ‘plucks up her courage’ and takes a step forward to her husband.