Tschubukov has a daughter named Natalia. She is twenty-five, but unmarried. In fact, he has come with a proposal to marry Natalia. He is so nervous that he finds it very difficult to tell Tschubukov the purpose of his visit. He says that he has come to ask him for a favor, though he does not deserve it. Tschubukov thinks that he has come to borrow money, and asks him not to beat about the bush. After much hesitation and stammering, Lomov tells him that he has come to ask for the hand of his daughter, Natalia. Tschubukov naturally feels very happy and kisses him. He says that he will go to call his daughter and assures Lomov that she will at once accept this proposal. When Lomov is left alone, he feels that he is cold and his whole body is trembling. He thinks that Natalia is an excellent housekeeper, not at all bad-looking, well-educated - what more he should ask. Moreover, if he does not marry now, he will never get married. He has been already thirty-five. He has a weak heart, and he suffers from palpitation. The worst of all is the way he sleeps. He hardly lies down and begins to doze when he gets a pull in his left side and something begins to hammer in his left shoulder and in his head. He walks about a little, lies down again and feels the same way again. This continues the whole night. Only a well-regulated life can help him in this respect. Marriage alone can bring this much-needed peace and regularity in his life.
Natalia comes and is surprised to see Lomov, because her father has told her that there is a dealer who has come to buy something. She begs to be excused for wearing an apron and an old dress. She asks if he would like to have something to eat. Then she offers him smoke, and talks about the weather. She is also surprised to find him in a formal dress, and tells him that he seems to be looking better. She thinks that perhaps he is on his way to a ball. Lomov gets excited. He is unable to express the purpose of his visit. He wants to be brief, but in his excitement he starts beating about the bush. He speaks of the old relations of the Lomovs and the Tschubukovs. He tells her that his late aunt and his late uncle had a great regard for her father and her late mother, and furthermore his property adjoins hers; his Oxen meadows touch her birch woods.
Natalia is shocked to hear that the Oxen Meadows belong to Lomov. She claims that the meadows are hers, and not his. Poor Lomov feels all the more excited. He tries to explain that once there was a dispute over the Oxen Meadows, but now everybody knows that they belong to him. His aunt's grandmother put the meadows, free from all costs, into the hands of the peasants of her father's grandfather for a certain time while they were laying bricks for his grandmother. These people used the meadows free of cost for about forty years and began to consider the land as theirs. Natalia, however, does not believe it. Lomov is prepared to show the papers, but of no use. She tells him that they have owned the property for nearly three hundred years; the meadows are not worth much, but she cannot stand injustice.
If he keeps explaining it for two days, she will not be convinced. She does not want to take his property, and she refuses to give up what belongs to her. The discussion turns into a quarrel and the marriage proposal is forgotten. Natalia tells him that she will immediately send her reapers to the meadows. Lomov promises to turn them out. They shout at each other.
In the course of their quarrel, Tschubukov enters. When he is arguing about the Oxen Meadows, he sides with his daughter. Lomov again tries to explain, but Tschubukov does not listen. He tells Lomov that the latter cannot prove anything by yelling. He would rather give them to the peasants than let him claim them. Lomov becomes rude. Tschubukov begs him to address him respectfully for he is not used to have people address him in that tone of a rude person. Lomov calls him a land-grabber, and tells him that he will prove in the court. Tschubukov gets furious, calls him an intriguer and accuses his whole family. In this way, they start to pull each other's family. Lomov says the entire race of the Lomov has always been honorable, and never has one been brought to trial for embezzlement as Tschubukov's uncle has been. Tschubukov tells Lomov that the latter's grandfather was a drunkard and that his aunt had eloped with an architect. Lomov say that Tschubukov's mother was humpbacked. So they drag their ancestors in their foolish quarrel.
Now Lomov gets much excited. The palpitation of his heart becomes unbearable. His eyes are blurred. His foot goes numb. It seems as though he were dying. He takes his hat, and staggers out of the room. Tschubukov warns him not to come into his house again. The father and the daughter curse him and tell him all sorts of dirty names.
After Lomov has gone, Tschubukov says that the fool had the courage to come to him with a marriage proposal. When Natalia hears that he had come to propose to her for marriage and that is why he was dressed in evening clothes, she begins to weep and falls into an armchair. She blames her father for not telling her that before. She goes into hysterics, and asks her father to bring him back immediately. The poor father feels embarrassed: they have insulted him and thrown him out of their house; and now he should call him back. How ridiculous! He feels like shooting himself. Natalia blames her father and calls him brutal. She thinks if it were not for him, Lomov would not have gone. Her behavior, indeed, is very funny. Tschubukov rushes out and calls him back.
Lomov returns; he is in a wretched state. His heart is beating terribly; his side is hurting him; his leg is lamed. Natalia feels sorry for her mistake, and admits that the Oxen Meadows belong to him. She suggests that they should talk about something else. She wants to avoid every possibility of dispute, and wishes Lomov to make the proposal straight away. She asks him if he is going on hunting soon. Lomov replies that he expects to begin after the harvest. His dog, Guess, has gone lame: perhaps it is a dislocation, or maybe he has been bitten by some other dog.
Lomov is very proud of his dog; he has bought him for a hundred and twenty five roubles and thinks it is very cheap. Natalia however, does not agree. Her dog, Leap, cost more than eighty five roubles, and he is in every way better than Guess. They are again dragged into an argument over the superiority of each other's dogs. In his opinion Leap is over-short; he has a short lower jaw, and therefore he cannot catch his prey. Natalia cannot stand this. She thinks that her dog is pure-bred, whereas his dog is old, ugly and skinny and nobody can figure out his pedigree. She does not like when a person does not say what he really thinks. In the course of hot discussion, Lomov again gets excited; he feels the palpitation of heart, and his heart is bursting.
The father again enters the room. Both turn to him for opinion. He says Guess certainly has his good points. He is from a good breed, has a good stride, strong haunches, and so forth. But he has two faults he is old and he has a short lower jaw. Lomov tells Tschubukov that on a hunting expedition his dog, Guess, had run neck to neck with the Count's dog. But Leap was left behind. Tschubukov says that the Count struck his dog with a whip; that is why he was left behind. Lomov reminds him that his dog was whipped because instead of running after the fox, he bit the sheep. Tschubukov, however, does not agree. He requests Lomov to stop that argument. But that does not seem possible. Tschubukov gets angry. He tells Lomov to stay at home with his palpitation; he is not fit for hunting. They again abuse each other and call names. Lomov begins to see stars; every part of his body is bursting. He falls into a chair and faints.
Seeing Lomov faint, Natalia thinks that he is dead. She starts weeping and crying, and requests her father to call in the doctor. The poor father feels miserable. He holds a glass of water to Lomov's lips, but the latter does not drink water. The father finds himself in a terrible situation. He is so mad with desperation that he wants to shoot himself. In the meantime, Lomov comes to senses. He sees mist before his eyes. Tschubukov does not want to take any more chance by leaving them alone. He at once speaks out that his daughter is willing to marry. He thrusts Lomov's hand into his daughter's hand and gives them his blessings. He just wants to be left in peace. Lomov is still dazed. He is not able to understand what is going on. At last they kiss each other and are reconciled. But they again start quarrelling over their dogs. Natalia says, "Guess is worse than Leap. Lomov says, "Better". Amid their shouting, the poor old father shouts, "Champagne, Champagne".