In the story, Pahom has made a deal with the Bashkirs. For a thousand rubles a day, Pahom can have as much land as he wants as long as he can cover the necessary ground on foot. At intervals, Pahom is to dig up portions of soil as markers for his territory. Unfortunately, Pahom's greed overwhelms his common sense, and he tries to cover as much ground as he can despite his limited time and energy. When he realizes that time is almost up, he takes to running instead of walking. As he approaches the spot where he initially started, Pahom can hear the Bashkirs yelling and shouting at him.
The Bashkirs' cries inflame Pahom's heart because he thinks that they are yelling at him to urge him on to his goal. Having spent the better part of the day trying to map out as much land as he can for himself, Pahom's vanity refuses to concede defeat or to allow himself to possibly appear as a fool before the Bashkirs. So, with the last of his energy, he tries to run for it. Alas, the exertion proves too much for him, and Pahom keels over dead.