At the end of the story, the banker decides that he will kill the lawyer, now prisoner, with whom he has made the bet. The banker had bet the lawyer that he, the lawyer, could not willingly remain in self-isolation for fifteen years. The banker puts up two million rubles as a potential prize, should the lawyer be able to endure self-isolation for this period of time. At the end of the story, the lawyer looks set to win the bet, being only a few hours from the fifteen-year period being over. The banker decides that he cannot afford to lose the bet, and so he resolves to kill the prisoner.
However, when the banker enters the prisoner's cell, he finds a note on the table and the man asleep. In the note the prisoner says that he has come to the realization that he no longer wants the money. He has learned to despise money, to despise life, and he describes both as "worthless, fleeting, illusory, and deceptive." The prisoner says that he has resolved to leave his self-isolation just five minutes before the fifteen-year period will expire and thus forfeit the bet. The banker is of course extremely relieved.
This climax to the story is effective because it is so surprising. It is surprising that the lawyer should give up the bet when he is so close to winning. The climax is also rather sad. It is sad that the lawyer has given up fifteen years of his life, ostensibly for no gain. There is also perhaps a moral in this climax, and that moral is that a life lived for money, or in pursuit of money, is a life wasted.