Scene 1 – The Farmyard: Lise, the only daughter of Simone, is in love with Colas, a young farmer. However, her mother, a widow and owner of a prosperous farm, has a more ambitious plan in mind for her daughter.
The dawn of a busy day on the farm is heralded by the cock and his attendant hens. Lise, disappointed at not seeing Colas, leaves a ribbon tied in a lovers’ knot, as a token of her devotion. Colas finds it and binds it to his staff. The lovers meet, but are interrupted by Simone, who sets her daughter a task churning butter. Colas, who is hiding in the loft, joins her. The work is, at first, shared by them but is soon forgotten as they declare their love for each other.
A little later, some farm girls summon Lise to play, but her mind is elsewhere. Her suspicious and ever-watchful mother catches hold of her and chastises her. Just then Thomas, the pompous and wealthy proprietor of a vineyard, arrives with his son Alain. Simone, aware of the purpose of their mission, dismisses Lise. Thomas is there to ask for Lise’s hand in marriage to his son, and when Lise returns, Alain, coy and clumsy, shows off his paces. She is amused and a little shocked by his antics, but definitely not interested. They all set off for the harvest.
Scene 2 – The Cornfield: After a day working in the fields, the harvesters, led by Colas, relax in a joyful dance. Lise and Alain dance, but Colas intervenes, and Lise makes it clear where her preference lies. One of the harvesters plays the flute to the general merriment of all. Alain decides to take a turn playing the flute but the harvesters mock him and he is rescued from their horseplay by his indignant father. The field is now left clear for the triumphant Colas, who dances with Lise. Simone joins the merriment just as a storm begins and everyone runs to shelter from the rain.
Act II – Interior of the Farmhouse
Mother and daughter, soaked by the storm, return to the farmhouse. They sit down beside a spinning wheel and begin to spin; work, thinks the mother, should keep Lise out of mischief. But Simone is overcome by sleep and Lise, who has seen Colas through the gate, tries to take the key from her. Simone wakes, and in order to remain watchful, plays the tambourine for Lise to dance. But the taps grow feebler, she begins to nod, and soon she is fast asleep. Lise then runs to the door and makes love to Colas through the unfriendly bars. The knocking of the harvesters, coming for their pay, awakens Simone who tells her daughter to get on with her chores as she leaves to attend to the harvesters. Lise, thinking she is alone, dreams of the delights of married life. Colas cannot resist, and comes out from hiding. She is bashful at having been taken by surprise, but once again they declare their love, exchanging scarves as a token.
As Simone reappears, Lise hustles Colas into her bedroom. The ever-suspicious mother realizes that the lovers have been meeting, and in her turn, hustles Lise into the bedroom, locking the door. Alain and his father now arrive with a notary to complete the marriage contract. When it is signed, Simone hands Alain the bedroom key. After a moment of idiotic indecision he opens the door, and to everyone’s dismay, Colas and Lise ermerge. The lovers fall on their knees to ask Simone for forgiveness and a blessing. In spite of the fury of Thomas and Alain, she finally gives in and everyone rejoices in the celebration.