The action takes place in the Russian Empire, in the Cherny uyezd of Tula province. The narration is in the first person. The division of the retelling into chapters is conventional.
"A Beautiful July Day"
Summer days, when the weather settles in, are beautiful. Mornings are clear, radiant. By noon the sky is covered with light golden-gray clouds, from which a small warm rain occasionally descends. Before evening dawn, the clouds disappear, and the sun sets as calmly as it rose in the sky.
The hunter is lost
It was on a day like this that the narrator hunted grouse.
In the evening he was returning home and was unexpectedly lost.
"Where in the world am I?" I repeated out loud again, stopped for the third time, and looked questioningly at my English yellow-pedigree dog, Dianca.
As he ascended a high, abruptly precipitous hill, he saw below him a vast plain, which was flanked by a broad river. The narrator finally recognized the area - in the neighborhood it was called Bezhin Meadow.
By the fire in the night
Right under the precipice, two campfires were burning in the dark, by which five peasant children with two dogs were guarding the horses. The heat during the day and flies and gadflies did not give the horses any rest, so in summer they were herded at night.
To drive the herd out before evening and bring them in at dawn was a great feast for the peasant boys.
A tired hunter went down to the fires, said he was lost, and asked to spend the night. He lay down under a bush nearby, pretended to be asleep and listened to what the boys were saying.
The boys were boiling potatoes and telling stories about evil spirits.
Most of the stories were told by twelve-year-old Ilyusha, with a hunched, elongated and blinded face, on which was frozen a dull, concerned expression.
The boy was dressed cleanly and neatly, but poorly. Ilyusha's large family was evidently not wealthy, so the boy and his two brothers worked from an early age at a paper factory. Ilyusha "knew all the village beliefs better than anyone else" and sincerely believed in them.
The Ghost in the Paper Mill
The first story was about how the clerk told Ilyusha and a group of boys to spend the night at the paper factory. Upstairs, someone unexpectedly stomped, went down the stairs, and came to the door. The door swung open and there was no one behind it. Suddenly someone coughs! The housekeeper frightened the boys.
The Talking Lamb on the Drowned Man's Grave
Then Ilyusha told of a broken dam, an unclean place where a drowned man had once been buried. One day the clerk sent a scribe to the post office. He was returning across the dam late at night. Suddenly he saw a little white lamb sitting on the drowned man's grave. The dog decided to take it with him. The lamb does not tear itself out of his hands, but stares intently into his eyes. The dog became frightened, stroked the lamb and whispered: "Byasha, byasha!" And the ram gritted his teeth and said: "Byasha, byasha!"
The late Barin, looking for the bursting-grass
Then Ilyusha told about the dead barin he met at the same dam. The deceased was looking for bursting herbs in an "unclean place" and complained that the grave was pressing on him.
Ilyusha was sure that "you can see the dead at any time," and on Parents' Sabbath you can find out who will die this year, if you just sit on the porch and look at the church road - who will die if you pass by. He told about a woman, who decided to find out who will die this year, went to the porch on Parents Sabbath and recognized in a passing by woman herself.
The solar eclipse and Trishka
When they talked about the recent "celestial foreknowledge", a solar eclipse, Ilyusha told the legend about a wonderful man Trishka, who will come during the solar eclipse. This Trishka is amazing in his ability to free himself from any fetters and to get out of any prison.
Then Pavlusha also remembered the solar eclipse.
When the sun disappeared, the peasants were frightened, and the bar's cook smashed all the pots in the oven, believing that the end of the world had come, and there would be no one to eat the soup. Everyone believed that "white wolves will run across the land, people will be eaten, a bird of prey will fly, or even Trishka himself will be seen".
The peasants went to the field to meet Trishka. Suddenly they see a "wise man" with a strange head. All rushed to hide, but it was not Trishka, but the village beaver, who bought a new jug and put it on his head to make it easier to carry. Pavlushin's story amused the boys.
Suddenly, in the midst of the conversation, dogs barked and rushed away. Pavlusha rushed after them. When he came back, he said that the dogs smelled a wolf.
Without a twig in his hand, at night, he did not hesitate, he rode alone against the wolf... "What a nice boy!" - I thought, looking at him.
Kostya, a small, puny, very poorly dressed and timid boy of about ten with a pensive and sad look, told two stories.
Carpenter's encounter with the mermaid
The first is about a carpenter who got lost in the woods and stumbled upon a mermaid. She was sitting on a tree branch, calling to him and laughing. The carpenter took it and crossed himself. The mermaid wept pitifully, and then cursed him: the carpenter will grieve for the rest of his days. He has not been happy ever since.
Kostin's second story was about a boy who was dragged under the water by a waterman, and his mother went mad with grief.
The eldest of the boys, Fedya, a slender, handsome teenager of about fourteen, belonged, judging by his clothes, to a wealthy family, and was a "choirboy" in this company: he treated his friends patronizingly, but kindly, occasionally interrupting them with a good-natured sneer.
Fedya recalled a woman living in his village who had been abandoned by her lover. She went to drown herself, and the waterman dragged her to the bottom and "spoiled" her there. The woman was pulled out, but she did not come to her senses, so she remained a fool.
The youngest of them, seven-year-old boy Vanya, spent the whole night sleeping under the fringe, "and only occasionally put out from under it his fair-haired, curly head.
The rest of the kids fell asleep when the fires went out. The hunter dozed off, too. He went away from the fires when "morning began." The hunter only managed to say goodbye to Pavlusha: he woke up as he was leaving.
The narrator reports with regret that in the same year the 'nice fellow' Pavel died: he crashed when he fell from his horse.
The retelling is based on edition of the story from Turgenev's Collected Works in 30 Volumes (M.: Nauka, 1979).