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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The climax of "The Bet" is reached when the banker reads the letter in which the lawyer renounces the two million roubles he was entitled to receive for spending fifteen years in solitary confinement. The banker is humiliated because he was seriously planning to murder his prisoner in order to get out of paying the money. Then, true to his word, the lawyer disappears. There are witnesses to prove that he escaped voluntarily, and the banker keeps the letter locked in his fireproof safe as evidence that he was not responsible for the lawyer's disappearance. 

Next morning the watchmen ran in with pale faces, and told him they had seen the man who lived in the lodge climb out of the window into the garden, go to the gate, and disappear. The banker went at once with the servants to the lodge and made sure of the flight of his prisoner. To avoid arousing unnecessary talk, he took from the table the writing in which the millions were renounced, and when he got home locked it up in the fireproof safe.

The bet has had a strong effect on the characters of both men. Fifteen years of solitude during which the lawyer spent much time reading and meditating have turned him into a sort of holy man and prophet. These same fifteen years, during which the banker was losing most of his fortune and becoming gradually more anxious about having to pay his stubborn prisoner two million roubles, have made the banker lose his self-confidence and even his own self-respect. The moral of Anton Chekhov's story might have been drawn from the New Testament. In the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 6, Jesus says:

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.