While James, a young Scotsman, restlessly dozes in a chair on the morning of his wedding, he dreams of a beautiful, ethereal sylph. Suddenly awakened, he is surprised to see the woodland fairy, but she mysteriously vanishes.
Rousing James from his daydream, his friend Gurn enters, followed by Effie, James’ bride-to-be, for whom Gurn also pines. They are soon joined by their friends who surround the couple and wish them well. James is startled to discover the village sorceress, Madge, warming herself on the hearth. James wants to throw her out, but Effie begs her to stay and tell her fortune. Madge gleefully tells Effie she will be happily married, but to Gurn, not James. Angrily, James forces Madge to leave.
The guests depart and James, left alone, is again overtaken by visions of the elusive sylph. He is enraptured as the sylph playfully dances about the room. Gurn discovers James with the magical creature and attempts to expose them, but she vanishes into thin air before he has the chance.
As the wedding festivities begin, the guests dance a Scottish reel. James is about to give Effie her wedding ring when the sylph snatches it from his hands and places it on her own finger. She beckons James to follow her to the forest and they dash out of the room, leaving Effie bewildered and sobbing.