The narrator tells the story of a man he met during his student days, whom he refers to as the Black Roach. The Roach was a small, dark man with a large black beard and a fiery spirit. He was always full of complaints and plans for inventions, and would often burst into the narrator's student quarters to share his latest outrage.
One day, the Black Roach bursts into the narrator's quarters, expressing his outrage about the candle industry's dishonest practices.
It’s an outrage! How is it that nobody surmises that candle factories nowadays really represent something in the nature of a swindling American Trust.
Over the years, the narrator would lose track of the Roach, only to encounter him again in various situations. The Roach served in the cavalry, participated in gentlemanly races, and even worked as a horticulturist, editor, and boatswain. He was also involved in the Russo-Japanese War and the Russian Revolution, always passionately fighting for what he believed in.
The Black Roach is discussing the injustice of outdated government promissory notes not being accepted, causing financial loss for the common people.
These bills cannot be accepted. What are we to see in that? Isn’t it an attempt upon the drawstring purse of the good old fifty-million population?
The narrator eventually received a postcard from the Roach, who had decided to become a monk and take a vow of silence. The Roach asked the narrator to distribute his library among those who remembered him and prayed for their well-being. The narrator was deeply moved by the Roach's decision and saw him as a symbol of the restless Russian spirit, always searching for something unknown.