Prince Neckludjov is called to jury duty for the trial of a young prostitute called Katjusha Maslova,charged with having robbed and poisoned a client.
As soon as she enters the courtroom, the Prince recognises her as his aunt's maid, with whom he had a passionate affair and then abandoned in favour of a brilliant military career in Moscow. The jury rules in Katiuscia's favour when they learn that she was seduced, made pregnant and then abandoned by an unnamed member of the aristocracy... However, a legal formality means Katiuscia is sentenced to several years of hard labour in Siberia- Neckludjov does everything in his considerable power to save her and leaves his world of privilege and comfort to help her. He even offers to marry Katjusha. But she turns him down.
Neckludjov realises there is nothing more he can do and leaves for Siberia on the same train as Katiuscia. She is fully aware that she can never marry the Prince despite her overwhelming love for him. The class differences between them are unbridgeable so she marries Simonson, a fellow prisoner because that is the only way to release Neckludjov from his promise to help her.
From the novel by Leon Tolstoj.