The action occurs in Sweden, in the count’s house in the kitchen on Saint John’s night, when, according to the folk tradition, all class boundaries are temporarily canceled among all people, who celebrate this religious and magical holiday. Kristin, who is a cook of thirty-five years old, is standing by the stove, preparing a potion for the sick dog of a lady. Jean, who is a thirty-year-old valet in livery, enters the kitchen. He is not a Frenchman, he is a Swede, but he can speak French, because some time he worked in a large Swiss hotel in Lucerne.
Jean just came from dancing, which was arranged in the threshing floor by the nobles and peasants: he danced with Miss Julie, the count’s daughter. She, apparently, lost her head: otherwise, she would not have danced with the valet even on Saint John’s night. Lately the young lady does not seem to be out of her mind because of a break with her fiancé. Jean saw how Julie forced her fiancé to jump over the whip in the stables like a dog. Moreover, today it is unclear why Julie does not go with the Count to their relatives and stays at home alone.
Julie enters the kitchen and asks if the dog food is ready. Jean is also here, but Kristin is not afraid that Julie can try to take Jean away, because he is Kristin’s fiancé. Julie and Jean leave and after a while come back. Julie praises the dexterity of the valet, because he dances quite well. Jean got some education: he can speak French, visits the theater and reads books. His father worked as a delivery man and Jean saw Julie, when she was a little girl, although then she did not pay attention to him. Jean must tell Julie, where and when he saw her, because he is he servant and must obey.
It is terribly hot in the kitchen and Jean offers Julie a beer. Will he not drink with her? Nobody thinks of them badly, because the lady and the valet are unthinkable. In addition, Kristin is in the kitchen, but she fell asleep. Julie wakes Kristin up, touching her nose, and the drowsy cook rises and goes to her room. Jean is indignant, because you cannot make fun of people, who are sleeping.
Julie is interested if Jean can imagine that she can fall in love with a valet. He really behaves like an aristocrat with his manners, but Julie always wants to be in the lower class. Julie has often the same dream: she is standing on a high column and her head is spinning – she feels that she should be down on the ground, but she does not have the nerve to jump, and when she is on the ground, something pulls her even deeper – under the ground.
There is a confidence tone between Jean and Julie. Sometimes, Julie frankly flirts with the valet, while the same time she pushes him away. Jean stubbornly tells her again that she behaves too freely. His position obliges to obey, but Julie should remember that he is a man and he has his pride.
Jean and Julie hear how the nobles and peasants sing and go to the kitchen. They urgently need to hide somewhere until they are seen together. Jean begs Julie on his knees: they cannot go to Kristin’s room and the only spare room is Jean’s one. However, he does not promise that he will behave wisely…
Jean and Julie come back to the kitchen and they both have the same idea – they need to leave this place immediately. They plan to move to Switzerland and open their own hotel. Julie goes to change her clothes and packs the suitcase. Kristin understands that something happened between him and the young lady, most likely, “great stupidity”. Now Kristin and Jean have to look for a new place: you cannot serve people, whom you do not respect.
Julie persuades Kristin to run away together, but Kristin is not a stupid woman and she is sure that Julie only thinks about herself and Jean. Kristin, seeing that her fiancé decides to run away, goes to the church and on the way goes to the groom and tells him that today he should not give somebody horses. Julie is in utter confusion and she is ready to do whatever Jean says. In the kitchen, a bell rang and it means that the count has already arrived. Julie is so tired that she cannot do anything anymore – she cannot run or stay, she even does not want to live. Julie describes her condition of hypnotic sleep and imperceptibly falls into trance. She is waiting for the order, but Jean hesitates. Finally, in the kitchen, there are two short calls and Jean says to Julie that it is terrible, but there is no other way and Julie should go. Countess Julie goes out resolutely.