At a party, the banker and the lawyer initially argue over capital punishment. The lawyer insists that any life, even a life spent in prison, is better than no life at all. This statement enrages the banker, who bets him two million rubles that he couldn't stay in solitary confinement for even five years. The lawyer insists that he could remain there for fifteen years, and the two men agree on the bet.
There are many rules to ensure that the lawyer has no contact with the outside world. He must remain in the garden wing of the banker's house, and a watchman will oversee the property to ensure he remains there. He cannot cross the threshold of his room and cannot see any living person. The lawyer is forbidden from receiving letters of any kind and is also banned from reading newspapers, effectively cutting him off from all events happening in the world around him.
The lawyer is given some means of entertainment while in confinement, however. He is allowed all the books he wishes to read. He can also request and use musical instruments and can write letters. He is allowed to enjoy both wine and tobacco and can receive any of these items through a written request which he slips through a little window in his room.
If the lawyer attempts to violate the terms of these established rules in any way, the banker is freed from the obligation to pay him two million rubles.