The end of XIX century. Countryside in Russia. Mironositskoe village. The veterinarian Ivan Ivanovich Chimsh-Himalayan and the teacher of the grammar school of Burkin, after having spent the whole day, are staying for the night in the barn of the village elder. Burkin tells Ivan Ivanych the story of the teacher of the Greek language Belikov, whom they taught at the same gymnasium.
Belikov was known for the fact that “even in good weather, he went out wearing galoshes and with an umbrella and certainly in a warm coat on cotton wool.” A clock, an umbrella, a penknife of Belikov were packed in cases. He walked in dark glasses, and at home he locked himself to all the locks. Belikov sought to create a “case” for himself, which would protect him from “external influences”. Clear for him were only circulars in which something was forbidden. Any deviations from the norm caused confusion in him. With his “case” considerations, he oppressed not only the gymnasium, but the whole city. But once with Belikov a strange story happened: he almost got married.
It happened that a new teacher of history and geography was appointed to the gymnasium, Mikhail Savichovich Kovalenko, a man of young, merry, from khokhlov. With him came his sister Varenka, about thirty. She was very pretty, tall, blush, merry, sang and danced endlessly. Varenka charmed everyone in the gymnasium, and even Belikova. Then the thought occurred to the teachers to marry Belikov and Varenka. Belikova became convinced of the need to marry. Varenka began to give him “obvious favor,” and he went with her to walk and kept saying that “marriage is a serious thing.”
Belikov often visited Kovalenok and eventually made Varenka a proposal, if not for one incident. Some mischievous drew a caricature of Belikov, where he was portrayed with an umbrella in arm with Varenka. Copies of the picture were sent to all teachers. It made a very difficult impression on Belikova.
Soon Belikov met on the street Kovalenok, riding a bicycle. He was extremely indignant at this spectacle, because, according to his ideas, the gymnasium teacher and a woman should not ride a bicycle. The next day Belikov went to the Kovalenka “to ease the soul.” Varenka was not at home. His brother, being a freedom-loving man, disliked Belikov from the first day. Not tolerating his teachings about riding on bicycles, Kovalenko simply lowered Belikov from the stairs. At that moment Varenka was entering the entrance with two acquaintances. When she saw Belikov running down the stairs, she laughed loudly. The thought that the whole city would find out about the incident led Belikov to such horror that he went home, went to bed and died a month later.
When he lay in the coffin, his expression was happy. It seemed that he had reached his ideal, “he was put in a case from which he will never leave.” Belikov was buried with a pleasant feeling of liberation, but a week later, the old life began to flow: “a tedious, stupid life not forbidden by a circular, but not completely resolved “.
Burkin finishes the story. Reflecting on what he has heard, Ivan Ivanych says: “Is it that we live in a city in stuffiness, in crowded places, writing unnecessary papers, playing a screw – is this not a case?”