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One morning, a barber and his wife are munching on some breakfast when he finds a nose in his bread roll. He recognizes the nose—it belongs to one of his clients, Collegiate Assessor Kovalev. Neither of them is particularly grossed out by this. Still, the barber's wife gets mad at her husband's carelessness, drunkenness, and general crappiness, and she demands that he take the nose away. After some misadventures in the streets, the barber ends up throwing it away into the river.
That same day, Collegiate Assessor Kovalev wakes up and realizes that his nose is gone. He is embarrassed about having to go outside like this and covers his face with a handkerchief. Suddenly, on the street, he sees a highly decorated civil servant get out of a carriage and go into a mansion, and is shocked to realize—it's his nose.
Kovalev follows the nose, but when he gets close enough to talk to him (it?), he gets all stressy about speaking to someone so much higher ranking. The nose denies being his nose and goes about its day like a total weirdo. Kovalev first tries to get the police involved and then tries to put an announcement in the paper, but all he gets for his troubles is a lot of social awkwardness and rudeness.
Finally, he decides that this is obviously the work of the mother of a girl he's been flirting with but not actually proposing to. He gives up and goes home, but just then a policeman shows up with the nose. Kovalev can't get the nose to stick on his face and a doctor he summons refuses to help… because the doctor is actually the nose in disguise, making its escape. Um, okay?
Depressed, Kovalev writes an angry letter to the girl's mom, but she writes back that she has no idea what he's talking about and is more than psyched for him to marry her daughter. Meanwhile, the nose is making TMZ-style headlines wherever it goes.
Two weeks later, Kovalev wakes up and discovers… the nose is back on his face. He goes outside, feeling all smug about the size of his nose compared to the noses of the other men he sees. Life is good, and he decides not to marry that girl after all. Then the narrator pops into the story to say that it all kind of sounds like nonsense, and who would publish this kind of thing anyway?