Download PDF
Ward No. 6
Anton Chekhov
In the hospital yard there stands a small lodge surrounded by a perfect forest of burdocks,
nettles, and wild hemp. Its roof is rusty, the chimney is tumbling down, the steps at the
front-door are rotting away and overgrown with grass, and there are only traces left of the
stucco. The front of the lodge faces the hospital; at the back it looks out into the open
country, from which it is separated by the grey hospital fence with nails on it. These nails,
with their points upwards, and the fence, and the lodge itself, have that peculiar, desolate,
God-forsaken look which is only found in our hospital and prison buildings.
If you are not afraid of being stung by the nettles, come by the narrow footpath that leads to
the lodge, and let us see what is going on inside. Opening the first door, we walk into the
entry. Here along the walls and by the stove every sort of hospital rubbish lies littered
about. Mattresses, old tattered dressing-gowns, trousers, blue striped shirts, boots and shoes
no good for anything -- all these remnants are piled up in heaps, mixed up and crumpled,
mouldering and giving out a sickly smell.
The porter, Nikita, an old soldier wearing rusty good-conduct stripes, is always lying on the
litter with a pipe between his teeth. He has a grim, surly, battered-looking face, overhanging
eyebrows which give him the expression of a sheep-dog of the steppes, and a red nose; he is
short and looks thin and scraggy, but he is of imposing deportment and his fists are
vigorous. He belongs to the class of simple-hearted, practical, and dull-witted people,
prompt in carrying out orders, who like discipline better than anything in the world, and so
are convinced that it is their duty to beat people. He showers blows on the face, on the
chest, on the back, on whatever comes first, and is convinced that there would be no order
in the place if he did not.
Next you come into a big, spacious room which fills up the whole lodge except for the
entry. Here the walls are painted a dirty blue, the ceiling is as sooty as in a hut without a
chimney -- it is evident that in the winter the stove smokes and the room is full of fumes.
The windows are disfigured by iron gratings on the inside. The wooden floor is grey and
full of splinters. There is a stench of sour cabbage, of smouldering wicks, of bugs, and of
ammonia, and for the first minute this stench gives you the impression of having walked
into a menagerie.
There are bedsteads screwed to the floor. Men in blue hospital dressing-gowns, and wearing
nightcaps in the old style, are sitting and lying on them. These are the lunatics.
There are five of them in all here. Only one is of the upper class, the rest are all artisans.
The one nearest the door -- a tall, lean workman with shining red whiskers and tear-stained
eyes -- sits with his head propped on his hand, staring at the same point. Day and night he
grieves, shaking his head, sighing and smiling bitterly. He takes a part in conversation and
usually makes no answer to questions; he eats and drinks mechanically when food is offered
him. From his agonizing, throbbing cough, his thinness, and the flush on his cheeks, one
Livros Grátis
Milhares de livros grátis para download.
may judge that he is in the first stage of consumption. Next to him is a little, alert, very
lively old man, with a pointed beard and curly black hair like a negro's. By day he walks up
and down the ward from window to window, or sits on his bed, cross-legged like a Turk,
and, ceaselessly as a bullfinch whistles, softly sings and titters. He shows his childish gaiety
and lively character at night also when he gets up to say his prayers -- that is, to beat
himself on the chest with his fists, and to scratch with his fingers at the door. This is the
Jew Moiseika, an imbecile, who went crazy twenty years ago when his hat factory was
burnt down.
And of all the inhabitants of Ward No. 6, he is the only one who is allowed to go out of the
lodge, and even out of the yard into the street. He has enjoyed this privilege for years,
probably because he is an old inhabitant of the hospital -- a quiet, harmless imbecile, the
buffoon of the town, where people are used to seeing him surrounded by boys and dogs. In
his wretched gown, in his absurd night-cap, and in slippers, sometimes with bare legs and
even without trousers, he walks about the streets, stopping at the gates and little shops, and
begging for a copper. In one place they will give him some kvass, in another some bread, in
another a copper, so that he generally goes back to the ward feeling rich and well fed.
Everything that he brings back Nikita takes from him for his own benefit. The soldier does
this roughly, angrily turning the Jew's pockets inside out, and calling God to witness that he
will not let him go into the street again, and that breach of the regulations is worse to him
than anything in the world.
Moiseika likes to make himself useful. He gives his companions water, and covers them up
when they are asleep; he promises each of them to bring him back a kopeck, and to make
him a new cap; he feeds with a spoon his neighbour on the left, who is paralyzed. He acts in
this way, not from compassion nor from any considerations of a humane kind, but through
imitation, unconsciously dominated by Gromov, his neighbour on the right hand.
Ivan Dmitritch Gromov, a man of thirty-three, who is a gentleman by birth, and has been a
court usher and provincial secretary, suffers from the mania of persecution. He either lies
curled up in bed, or walks from corner to corner as though for exercise; he very rarely sits
down. He is always excited, agitated, and overwrought by a sort of vague, undefined
expectation. The faintest rustle in the entry or shout in the yard is enough to make him raise
his head and begin listening: whether they are coming for him, whether they are looking for
him. And at such times his face expresses the utmost uneasiness and repulsion.
I like his broad face with its high cheek-bones, always pale and unhappy, and reflecting, as
though in a mirror, a soul tormented by conflict and long-continued terror. His grimaces are
strange and abnormal, but the delicate lines traced on his face by profound, genuine
suffering show intelligence and sense, and there is a warm and healthy light in his eyes. I
like the man himself, courteous, anxious to be of use, and extraordinarily gentle to everyone
except Nikita. When anyone drops a button or a spoon, he jumps up from his bed quickly
and picks it up; every day he says good-morning to his companions, and when he goes to
bed he wishes them good-night.
Besides his continually overwrought condition and his grimaces, his madness shows itself
in the following way also. Sometimes in the evenings he wraps himself in his dressing-
gown, and, trembling all over, with his teeth chattering, begins walking rapidly from corner
to corner and between the bedsteads. It seems as though he is in a violent fever. From the
way he suddenly stops and glances at his companions, it can be seen that he is longing to
say something very important, but, apparently reflecting that they would not listen, or
would not understand him, he shakes his head impatiently and goes on pacing up and down.
But soon the desire to speak gets the upper hand of every consideration, and he will let
himself go and speak fervently and passionately. His talk is disordered and feverish like
delirium, disconnected, and not always intelligible, but, on the other hand, something
extremely fine may be felt in it, both in the words and the voice. When he talks you
recognize in him the lunatic and the man. It is difficult to reproduce on paper his insane
talk. He speaks of the baseness of mankind, of violence trampling on justice, of the glorious
life which will one day be upon earth, of the window-gratings, which remind him every
minute of the stupidity and cruelty of oppressors. It makes a disorderly, incoherent
potpourri of themes old but not yet out of date.
Some twelve or fifteen years ago an official called Gromov, a highly respectable and
prosperous person, was living in his own house in the principal street of the town. He had
two sons, Sergey and Ivan. When Sergey was a student in his fourth year he was taken ill
with galloping consumption and died, and his death was, as it were, the first of a whole
series of calamities which suddenly showered on the Gromov family. Within a week of
Sergey's funeral the old father was put on trial for fraud and misappropriation, and he died
of typhoid in the prison hospital soon afterwards. The house, with all their belongings, was
sold by auction, and Ivan Dmitritch and his mother were left entirely without means.
Hitherto in his father's lifetime, Ivan Dmitritch, who was studying in the University of
Petersburg, had received an allowance of sixty or seventy roubles a month, and had had no
conception of poverty; now he had to make an abrupt change in his life. He had to spend his
time from morning to night giving lessons for next to nothing, to work at copying, and with
all that to go hungry, as all his earnings were sent to keep his mother. Ivan Dmitritch could
not stand such a life; he lost heart and strength, and, giving up the university, went home.
Here, through interest, he obtained the post of teacher in the district school, but could not
get on with his colleagues, was not liked by the boys, and soon gave up the post. His mother
died. He was for six months without work, living on nothing but bread and water; then he
became a court usher. He kept this post until he was dismissed owing to his illness.
He had never even in his young student days given the impression of being perfectly
healthy. He had always been pale, thin, and given to catching cold; he ate little and slept
badly. A single glass of wine went to his head and made him hysterical. He always had a
craving for society, but, owing to his irritable temperament and suspiciousness, he never
became very intimate with anyone, and had no friends. He always spoke with contempt of
his fellow-townsmen, saying that their coarse ignorance and sleepy animal existence
seemed to him loathsome and horrible. He spoke in a loud tenor, with heat, and invariably
either with scorn and indignation, or with wonder and enthusiasm, and always with perfect
sincerity. Whatever one talked to him about he always brought it round to the same subject:
that life was dull and stifling in the town; that the townspeople had no lofty interests, but
lived a dingy, meaningless life, diversified by violence, coarse profligacy, and hypocrisy;
that scoundrels were well fed and clothed, while honest men lived from hand to mouth; that
they needed schools, a progressive local paper, a theatre, public lectures, the co-ordination
of the intellectual elements; that society must see its failings and be horrified. In his
criticisms of people he laid on the colours thick, using only black and white, and no fine
shades; mankind was divided for him into honest men and scoundrels: there was nothing in
between. He always spoke with passion and enthusiasm of women and of love, but he had
never been in love.
In spite of the severity of his judgments and his nervousness, he was liked, and behind his
back was spoken of affectionately as Vanya. His innate refinement and readiness to be of
service, his good breeding, his moral purity, and his shabby coat, his frail appearance and
family misfortunes, aroused a kind, warm, sorrowful feeling. Moreover, he was well
educated and well read; according to the townspeople's notions, he knew everything, and
was in their eyes something like a walking encyclopedia.
He had read a great deal. He would sit at the club, nervously pulling at his beard and
looking through the magazines and books; and from his face one could see that he was not
reading, but devouring the pages without giving himself time to digest what he read. It must
be supposed that reading was one of his morbid habits, as he fell upon anything that came
into his hands with equal avidity, even last year's newspapers and calendars. At home he
always read lying down.
One autumn morning Ivan Dmitritch, turning up the collar of his greatcoat and splashing
through the mud, made his way by side-streets and back lanes to see some artisan, and to
collect some payment that was owing. He was in a gloomy mood, as he always was in the
morning. In one of the side-streets he was met by two convicts in fetters and four soldiers
with rifles in charge of them. Ivan Dmitritch had very often met convicts before, and they
had always excited feelings of compassion and discomfort in him; but now this meeting
made a peculiar, strange impression on him. It suddenly seemed to him for some reason that
he, too, might be put into fetters and led through the mud to prison like that. After visiting
the artisan, on the way home he met near the post office a police superintendent of his
acquaintance, who greeted him and walked a few paces along the street with him, and for
some reason this seemed to him suspicious. At home he could not get the convicts or the
soldiers with their rifles out of his head all day, and an unaccountable inward agitation
prevented him from reading or concentrating his mind. In the evening he did not light his
lamp, and at night he could not sleep, but kept thinking that he might be arrested, put into
fetters, and thrown into prison. He did not know of any harm he had done, and could be
certain that he would never be guilty of murder, arson, or theft in the future either; but was
it not easy to commit a crime by accident, unconsciously, and was not false witness always
possible, and, indeed, miscarriage of justice? It was not without good reason that the
agelong experience of the simple people teaches that beggary and prison are ills none can be
safe from. A judicial mistake is very possible as legal proceedings are conducted nowadays,
and there is nothing to be wondered at in it. People who have an official, professional
relation to other men's sufferings
for instance, judges, police officers, doctors -- in course of time, through habit, grow so
callous that they cannot, even if they wish it, take any but a formal attitude to their clients;
in this respect they are not different from the peasant who slaughters sheep and calves in the
back-yard, and does not notice the blood. With this formal, soulless attitude to human
personality the judge needs but one thing -- time -- in order to deprive an innocent man of
all rights of property, and to condemn him to penal servitude. Only the time spent on
performing certain formalities for which the judge is paid his salary, and then -- it is all
over. Then you may look in vain for justice and protection in this dirty, wretched little town
a hundred and fifty miles from a railway station! And, indeed, is it not absurd even to think
of justice when every kind of violence is accepted by society as a rational and consistent
necessity, and every act of mercy -- for instance, a verdict of acquittal -- calls forth a perfect
outburst of dissatisfied and revengeful feeling?
In the morning Ivan Dmitritch got up from his bed in a state of horror, with cold
perspiration on his forehead, completely convinced that he might be arrested any minute.
Since his gloomy thoughts of yesterday had haunted him so long, he thought, it must be that
there was some truth in them. They could not, indeed, have come into his mind without any
grounds whatever.
A policeman walking slowly passed by the windows: that was not for nothing. Here were
two men standing still and silent near the house. Why were they silent? And agonizing days
and nights followed for Ivan Dmitritch. Everyone who passed by the windows or came into
the yard seemed to him a spy or a detective. At midday the chief of the police usually drove
down the street with a pair of horses; he was going from his estate near the town to the
police department; but Ivan Dmitritch fancied every time that he was driving especially
quickly, and that he had a peculiar expression: it was evident that he was in haste to
announce that there was a very important criminal in the town. Ivan Dmitritch started at
every ring at the bell and knock at the gate, and was agitated whenever he came upon
anyone new at his landlady's; when he met police officers and gendarmes he smiled and
began whistling so as to seem unconcerned. He could not sleep for whole nights in
succession expecting to be arrested, but he snored loudly and sighed as though in deep
sleep, that his landlady might think he was asleep; for if he could not sleep it meant that he
was tormented by the stings of conscience -- what a piece of evidence! Facts and common
sense persuaded him that all these terrors were nonsense and morbidity, that if one looked
at the matter more broadly there was nothing really terrible in arrest and imprisonment -- so
long as the conscience is at ease; but the more sensibly and logically he reasoned, the more
acute and agonizing his mental distress became. It might be compared with the story of a
hermit who tried to cut a dwelling-place for himself in a virgin forest; the more zealously he
worked with his axe, the thicker the forest grew. In the end Ivan Dmitritch, seeing it was
useless, gave up reasoning altogether, and abandoned himself entirely to despair and terror.
He began to avoid people and to seek solitude. His official work had been distasteful to him
before: now it became unbearable to him. He was afraid they would somehow get him into
trouble, would put a bribe in his pocket unnoticed and then denounce him, or that he would
accidentally make a mistake in official papers that would appear to be fraudulent, or would
lose other people's money. It is strange that his imagination had never at other times been so
agile and inventive as now, when every day he thought of thousands of different reasons for
being seriously anxious over his freedom and honour; but, on the other hand, his interest in
the outer world, in books in particular, grew sensibly fainter, and his memory began to fail
In the spring when the snow melted there were found in the ravine near the cemetery two
half-decomposed corpses -- the bodies of an old woman and a boy bearing the traces of
death by violence. Nothing was talked of but these bodies and their unknown murderers.
That people might not think he had been guilty of the crime, Ivan Dmitritch walked about
the streets, smiling, and when he met acquaintances he turned pale, flushed, and began
declaring that there was no greater crime than the murder of the weak and defenceless. But
this duplicity soon exhausted him, and after some reflection he decided that in his position
the best thing to do was to hide in his landlady's cellar. He sat in the cellar all day and then
all night, then another day, was fearfully cold, and waiting till dusk, stole secretly like a
thief back to his room. He stood in the middle of the room till daybreak, listening without
stirring. Very early in the morning, before sunrise, some workmen came into the house.
Ivan Dmitritch knew perfectly well that they had come to mend the stove in the kitchen, but
terror told him that they were police officers disguised as workmen. He slipped stealthily
out of the flat, and, overcome by terror, ran along the street without his cap and coat. Dogs
raced after him barking, a peasant shouted somewhere behind him, the wind whistled in his
ears, and it seemed to Ivan Dmitritch that the force and violence of the whole world was
massed together behind his back and was chasing after him.
He was stopped and brought home, and his landlady sent for a doctor. Doctor Andrey
Yefimitch, of whom we shall have more to say hereafter, prescribed cold compresses on his
head and laurel drops, shook his head, and went away, telling the landlady he should not
come again, as one should not interfere with people who are going out of their minds. As he
had not the means to live at home and be nursed, Ivan Dmitritch was soon sent to the
hospital, and was there put into the ward for venereal patients. He could not sleep at night,
was full of whims and fancies, and disturbed the patients, and was soon afterwards, by
Andrey Yefimitch's orders, transferred to Ward No. 6.
Within a year Ivan Dmitritch was completely forgotten in the town, and his books, heaped
up by his landlady in a sledge in the shed, were pulled to pieces by boys.
Ivan Dmitritch's neighbour on the left hand is, as I have said already, the Jew Moiseika; his
neighbour on the right hand is a peasant so rolling in fat that he is almost spherical, with a
blankly stupid face, utterly devoid of thought. This is a motionless, gluttonous, unclean
animal who has long ago lost all powers of thought or feeling. An acrid, stifling stench
always comes from him.
Nikita, who has to clean up after him, beats him terribly with all his might, not sparing his
fists; and what is dreadful is not his being beaten -- that one can get used to -- but the fact
that this stupefied creature does not respond to the blows with a sound or a movement, nor
by a look in the eyes, but only sways a little like a heavy barrel.
The fifth and last inhabitant of Ward No. 6 is a man of the artisan class who had once been
a sorter in the post office, a thinnish, fair little man with a good-natured but rather sly face.
To judge from the clear, cheerful look in his calm and intelligent eyes, he has some pleasant
idea in his mind, and has some very important and agreeable secret. He has under his pillow
and under his mattress something that he never shows anyone, not from fear of its being
taken from him and stolen, but from modesty. Sometimes he goes to the window, and
turning his back to his companions, puts something on his breast, and bending his head,
looks at it; if you go up to him at such a moment, he is overcome with confusion and
snatches something off his breast. But it is not difficult to guess his secret.
"Congratulate me," he often says to Ivan Dmitritch; "I have been presented with the
Stanislav order of the second degree with the star. The second degree with the star is only
given to foreigners, but for some reason they want to make an exception for me," he says
with a smile, shrugging his shoulders in perplexity. "That I must confess I did not expect."
"I don't understand anything about that," Ivan Dmitritch replies morosely.
"But do you know what I shall attain to sooner or later?" the former sorter persists,
screwing up his eyes slyly. "I shall certainly get the Swedish 'Polar Star.' That's an order it is
worth working for, a white cross with a black ribbon. It's very beautiful."
Probably in no other place is life so monotonous as in this ward. In the morning the
patients, except the paralytic and the fat peasant, wash in the entry at a big tab and wipe
themselves with the skirts of their dressing-gowns; after that they drink tea out of tin mugs
which Nikita brings them out of the main building. Everyone is allowed one mugful. At
midday they have soup made out of sour cabbage and boiled grain, in the evening their
supper consists of grain left from dinner. In the intervals they lie down, sleep, look out of
window, and walk from one corner to the other. And so every day. Even the former sorter
always talks of the same orders.
Fresh faces are rarely seen in Ward No. 6. The doctor has not taken in any new mental cases
for a long time, and the people who are fond of visiting lunatic asylums are few in this
world. Once every two months Semyon Lazaritch, the barber, appears in the ward. How he
cuts the patients' hair, and how Nikita helps him to do it, and what a trepidation the lunatics
are always thrown into by the arrival of the drunken, smiling barber, we will not describe.
No one even looks into the ward except the barber. The patients are condemned to see day
after day no one but Nikita.
A rather strange rumour has, however, been circulating in the hospital of late.
It is rumoured that the doctor has begun to visit Ward No. 6.
A strange rumour!
Dr. Andrey Yefimitch Ragin is a strange man in his way. They say that when he was young
he was very religious, and prepared himself for a clerical career, and that when he had
finished his studies at the high school in 1863 he intended to enter a theological academy,
but that his father, a surgeon and doctor of medicine, jeered at him and declared point-blank
that he would disown him if he became a priest. How far this is true I don't know, but
Andrey Yefimitch himself has more than once confessed that he has never had a natural
bent for medicine or science in general.
However that may have been, when he finished his studies in the medical faculty he did not
enter the priesthood. He showed no special devoutness, and was no more like a priest at the
beginning of his medical career than he is now.
His exterior is heavy -- coarse like a peasant's, his face, his beard, his flat hair, and his
coarse, clumsy figure, suggest an overfed, intemperate, and harsh innkeeper on the
highroad. His face is surly-looking and covered with blue veins, his eyes are little and his
nose is red. With his height and broad shoulders he has huge hands and feet; one would
think that a blow from his fist would knock the life out of anyone, but his step is soft, and
his walk is cautious and insinuating; when he meets anyone in a narrow passage he is
always the first to stop and make way, and to say, not in a bass, as one would expect, but in
a high, soft tenor: "I beg your pardon!" He has a little swelling on his neck which prevents
him from wearing stiff starched collars, and so he always goes about in soft linen or cotton
shirts. Altogether he does not dress like a doctor. He wears the same suit for ten years, and
the new clothes, which he usually buys at a Jewish shop, look as shabby and crumpled on
him as his old ones; he sees patients and dines and pays visits all in the same coat; but this
is not due to niggardliness, but to complete carelessness about his appearance.
When Andrey Yefimitch came to the town to take up his duties the "institution founded to
the glory of God" was in a terrible condition. One could hardly breathe for the stench in the
wards, in the passages, and in the courtyards of the hospital. The hospital servants, the
nurses, and their children slept in the wards together with the patients. They complained
that there was no living for beetles, bugs, and mice. The surgical wards were never free
from erysipelas. There were only two scalpels and not one thermometer in the whole
hospital; potatoes were kept in the baths. The superintendent, the housekeeper, and the
medical assistant robbed the patients, and of the old doctor, Andrey Yefimitch's
predecessor, people declared that he secretly sold the hospital alcohol, and that he kept a
regular harem consisting of nurses and female patients. These disorderly proceedings were
perfectly well known in the town, and were even exaggerated, but people took them calmly;
some justified them on the ground that there were only peasants and working men in the
hospital, who could not be dissatisfied, since they were much worse off at home than in the
hospital -- they couldn't be fed on woodcocks! Others said in excuse that the town alone,
without help from the Zemstvo, was not equal to maintaining a good hospital; thank God
for having one at all, even a poor one. And the newly formed Zemstvo did not open
infirmaries either in the town or the neighbourhood, relying on the fact that the town
already had its hospital.
After looking over the hospital Andrey Yefimitch came to the conclusion that it was an
immoral institution and extremely prejudicial to the health of the townspeople. In his
opinion the most sensible thing that could be done was to let out the patients and close the
hospital. But he reflected that his will alone was not enough to do this, and that it would be
useless; if physical and moral impurity were driven out of one place, they would only move
to another; one must wait for it to wither away of itself Besides, if people open a hospital
and put up with having it, it must be because they need it; superstition and all the nastiness
and abominations of daily life were necessary, since in process of time they worked out to
something sensible, just as manure turns into black earth. There was nothing on earth so
good that it had not something nasty about its first origin.
When Andrey Yefimitch undertook his duties he was apparently not greatly concerned
about the irregularities at the hospital. He only asked the attendants and nurses not to sleep
in the wards, and had two cupboards of instruments put up; the superintendent, the
housekeeper, the medical assistant, and the erysipelas remained unchanged.
Andrey Yefimitch loved intelligence and honesty intensely, but he had no strength of will
nor belief in his right to organize an intelligent and honest life about him. He was
absolutely unable to give orders, to forbid things, and to insist. It seemed as though he had
taken a vow never to raise his voice and never to make use of the imperative. It was
difficult for him to say. "Fetch" or "Bring"; when he wanted his meals he would cough
hesitatingly and say to the cook, "How about tea?. . ." or "How about dinner? . . ." To
dismiss the superintendent or to tell him to leave off stealing, or to abolish the unnecessary
parasitic post altogether, was absolutely beyond his powers. When Andrey Yefimitch was
deceived or flattered, or accounts he knew to be cooked were brought him to sign, he would
turn as red as a crab and feel guilty, but yet he would sign the accounts. When the patients
complained to him of being hungry or of the roughness of the nurses, he would be confused
and mutter guiltily: "Very well, very well, I will go into it later. . . . Most likely there is
some misunderstanding. . ."
At first Andrey Yefimitch worked very zealously. He saw patients every day from morning
till dinner-time, performed operations, and even attended confinements. The ladies said of
him that he was attentive and clever at diagnosing diseases, especially those of women and
children. But in process of time the work unmistakably wearied him by its monotony and
obvious uselessness. To-day one sees thirty patients, and to-morrow they have increased to
thirty-five, the next day forty, and so on from day to day, from year to year, while the
mortality in the town did not decrease and the patients did not leave off coming. To be any
real help to forty patients between morning and dinner was not physically possible, so it
could but lead to deception. If twelve thousand patients were seen in a year it meant, if one
looked at it simply, that twelve thousand men were deceived. To put those who were
seriously ill into wards, and to treat them according to the principles of science, was
impossible, too, because though there were principles there was no science; if he were to
put aside philosophy and pedantically follow the rules as other doctors did, the things above
all necessary were cleanliness and ventilation instead of dirt, wholesome nourishment
instead of broth made of stinking, sour cabbage, and good assistants instead of thieves; and,
indeed, why hinder people dying if death is the normal and legitimate end of everyone?
What is gained if some shop-keeper or clerk lives an extra five or ten years? If the aim of
medicine is by drugs to alleviate suffering, the question forces itself on one: why alleviate
it? In the first place, they say that suffering leads man to perfection; and in the second, if
mankind really learns to alleviate its sufferings with pills and drops, it will completely
abandon religion and philosophy, in which it has hitherto found not merely protection from
all sorts of trouble, but even happiness. Pushkin suffered terrible agonies before his death,
poor Heine lay paralyzed for several years; why, then, should not some Andrey Yefimitch
or Matryona Savishna be ill, since their lives had nothing of importance in them, and would
have been entirely empty and like the life of an amoeba except for suffering?
Oppressed by such reflections, Andrey Yefimitch relaxed his efforts and gave up visiting
the hospital every day.
His life was passed like this. As a rule he got up at eight o'clock in the morning, dressed,
and drank his tea. Then he sat down in his study to read, or went to the hospital. At the
hospital the out-patients were sitting in the dark, narrow little corridor waiting to be seen by
the doctor. The nurses and the attendants, tramping with their boots over the brick floors,
ran by them; gaunt-looking patients in dressing-gowns passed; dead bodies and vessels full
of filth were carried by; the children were crying, and there was a cold draught. Andrey
Yefimitch knew that such surroundings were torture to feverish, consumptive, and
impressionable patients; but what could be done? In the consulting-room he was met by his
assistant, Sergey Sergeyitch -- a fat little man with a plump, well-washed shaven face, with
soft, smooth manners, wearing a new loosely cut suit, and looking more like a senator than
a medical assistant. He had an immense practice in the town, wore a white tie, and
considered himself more proficient than the doctor, who had no practice. In the corner of
the consulting-room there stood a large ikon in a shrine with a heavy lamp in front of it, and
near it a candle-stand with a white cover on it. On the walls hung portraits of bishops, a
view of the Svyatogorsky Monastery, and wreaths of dried cornflowers. Sergey Sergeyitch
was religious, and liked solemnity and decorum. The ikon had been put up at his expense;
at his instructions some one of the patients read the hymns of praise in the consulting-room
on Sundays, and after the reading Sergey Sergeyitch himself went through the wards with a
censer and burned incense.
There were a great many patients, but the time was short, and so the work was confined to
the asking of a few brief questions and the administration of some drugs, such as castor-oil
or volatile ointment. Andrey Yefimitch would sit with his cheek resting in his hand, lost in
thought and asking questions mechanically. Sergey Sergeyitch sat down too, rubbing his
hands, and from time to time putting in his word.
"We suffer pain and poverty," he would say, "because we do not pray to the merciful God
as we should. Yes!"
Andrey Yefimitch never performed any operation when he was seeing patients; he had long
ago given up doing so, and the sight of blood upset him. When he had to open a child's
mouth in order to look at its throat, and the child cried and tried to defend itself with its
little hands, the noise in his ears made his head go round and brought tears to his eyes. He
would make haste to prescribe a drug, and motion to the woman to take the child away.
He was soon wearied by the timidity of the patients and their incoherence, by the proximity
of the pious Sergey Sergeyitch, by the portraits on the walls, and by his own questions
which he had asked over and over again for twenty years. And he would go away after
seeing five or six patients. The rest would be seen by his assistant in his absence.
With the agreeable thought that, thank God, he had no private practice now, and that no one
would interrupt him, Andrey Yefimitch sat down to the table immediately on reaching
home and took up a book. He read a great deal and always with enjoyment. Half his salary
went on buying books, and of the six rooms that made up his abode three were heaped up
with books and old magazines. He liked best of all works on history and philosophy; the
only medical publication to which he subscribed was The Doctor, of which he always read
the last pages first. He would always go on reading for several hours without a break and
without being weary. He did not read as rapidly and impulsively as Ivan Dmitritch had done
in the past, but slowly and with concentration, often pausing over a passage which he liked
or did not find intelligible. Near the books there always stood a decanter of vodka, and a
salted cucumber or a pickled apple lay beside it, not on a plate, but on the baize table-cloth.
Every half-hour he would pour himself out a glass of vodka and drink it without taking his
eyes off the book. Then without looking at it he would feel for the cucumber and bite off a
At three o'clock he would go cautiously to the kitchen door; cough, and say, "Daryushka,
what about dinner? . ."
After his dinner -- a rather poor and untidily served one -- Andrey Yefimitch would walk up
and down his rooms with his arms folded, thinking. The clock would strike four, then five,
and still he would be walking up and down thinking. Occasionally the kitchen door would
creak, and the red and sleepy face of Daryushka would appear.
"Andrey Yefimitch, isn't it time for you to have your beer?" she would ask anxiously.
"No, it's not time yet . . ." he would answer. "I'll wait a little. . . . I'll wait a little. . ."
Towards the evening the postmaster, Mihail Averyanitch, the only man in town whose
society did not bore Andrey Yefimitch, would come in. Mihail Averyanitch had once been a
very rich landowner, and had served in the calvary, but had come to ruin, and was forced by
poverty to take a job in the post office late in life. He had a hale and hearty appearance,
luxuriant grey whiskers, the manners of a well-bred man, and a loud, pleasant voice. He
was good-natured and emotional, but hot-tempered. When anyone in the post office made a
protest, expressed disagreement, or even began to argue, Mihail Averyanitch would turn
crimson, shake all over, and shout in a voice of thunder, "Hold your tongue!" so that the
post office had long enjoyed the reputation of an institution which it was terrible to visit.
Mihail Averyanitch liked and respected Andrey Yefimitch for his culture and the loftiness
of his soul; he treated the other inhabitants of the town superciliously, as though they were
his subordinates.
"Here I am," he would say, going in to Andrey Yefimitch. "Good evening, my dear fellow!
I'll be bound, you are getting sick of me, aren't you?"
"On the contrary, I am delighted," said the doctor. "I am always glad to see you."
The friends would sit on the sofa in the study and for some time would smoke in silence.
"Daryushka, what about the beer?" Andrey Yefimitch would say.
They would drink their first bottle still in silence, the doctor brooding and Mihail
Averyanitch with a gay and animated face, like a man who has something very interesting
to tell. The doctor was always the one to begin the conversation.
"What a pity," he would say quietly and slowly, not looking his friend in the face (he never
looked anyone in the face) -- "what a great pity it is that there are no people in our town
who are capable of carrying on intelligent and interesting conversation, or care to do so. It is
an immense privation for us. Even the educated class do not rise above vulgarity; the level
of their development, I assure you, is not a bit higher than that of the lower orders."
"Perfectly true. I agree."
"You know, of course," the doctor went on quietly and deliberately, "that everything in this
world is insignificant and uninteresting except the higher spiritual manifestations of the
human mind. Intellect draws a sharp line between the animals and man, suggests the
divinity of the latter, and to some extent even takes the place of the immortality which does
not exist. Consequently the intellect is the only possible source of enjoyment. We see and
hear of no trace of intellect about us, so we are deprived of enjoyment. We have books, it is
true, but that is not at all the same as living talk and converse. If you will allow me to make
a not quite apt comparison: books are the printed score, while talk is the singing."
"Perfectly true."
A silence would follow. Daryushka would come out of the kitchen and with an expression
of blank dejection would stand in the doorway to listen, with her face propped on her fist.
"Eh!" Mihail Averyanitch would sigh. "To expect intelligence of this generation!"
And he would describe how wholesome, entertaining, and interesting life had been in the
past. How intelligent the educated class in Russia used to be, and what lofty ideas it had of
honour and friendship; how they used to lend money without an IOU, and it was thought a
disgrace not to give a helping hand to a comrade in need; and what campaigns, what
adventures, what skirmishes, what comrades, what women! And the Caucasus, what a
marvellous country! The wife of a battalion commander, a queer woman, used to put on an
officer's uniform and drive off into the mountains in the evening, alone, without a guide. It
was said that she had a love affair with some princeling in the native village.
"Queen of Heaven, Holy Mother..." Daryushka would sigh.
"And how we drank! And how we ate! And what desperate liberals we were!"
Andrey Yefimitch would listen without hearing; he was musing as he sipped his beer.
"I often dream of intellectual people and conversation with them," he said suddenly,
interrupting Mihail Averyanitch. "My father gave me an excellent education, but under the
influence of the ideas of the sixties made me become a doctor. I believe if I had not obeyed
him then, by now I should have been in the very centre of the intellectual movement. Most
likely I should have become a member of some university. Of course, intellect, too, is
transient and not eternal, but you know why I cherish a partiality for it. Life is a vexatious
trap; when a thinking man reaches maturity and attains to full consciousness he cannot help
feeling that he is in a trap from which there is no escape. Indeed, he is summoned without
his choice by fortuitous circumstances from non-existence into life . . . what for? He tries to
find out the meaning and object of his existence; he is told nothing, or he is told absurdities;
he knocks and it is not opened to him; death comes to him -- also without his choice. And
so, just as in prison men held together by common misfortune feel more at ease when they
are together, so one does not notice the trap in life when people with a bent for analysis and
generalization meet together and pass their time in the interchange of proud and free ideas.
In that sense the intellect is the source of an enjoyment nothing can replace."
"Perfectly true."
Not looking his friend in the face, Andrey Yefimitch would go on, quietly and with pauses,
talking about intellectual people and conversation with them, and Mihail Averyanitch
would listen attentively and agree: "Perfectly true."
"And you do not believe in the immortality of the soul?" he would ask suddenly.
"No, honoured Mihail Averyanitch; I do not believe it, and have no grounds for believing
"I must own I doubt it too. And yet I have a feeling as though I should never die. Oh, I think
to myself: 'Old fogey, it is time you were dead!' But there is a little voice in my soul says:
'Don't believe it; you won't die.' "
Soon after nine o'clock Mihail Averyanitch would go away. As he put on his fur coat in the
entry he would say with a sigh:
"What a wilderness fate has carried us to, though, really! What's most vexatious of all is to
have to die here. Ech! . ."
After seeing his friend out Andrey Yefimitch would sit down at the table and begin reading
again. The stillness of the evening, and afterwards of the night, was not broken by a single
sound, and it seemed as though time were standing still and brooding with the doctor over
the book, and as though there were nothing in existence but the books and the lamp with the
green shade. The doctor's coarse peasant-like face was gradually lighted up by a smile of
delight and enthusiasm over the progress of the human intellect. Oh, why is not man
immortal? he thought. What is the good of the brain centres and convolutions, what is the
good of sight, speech, self-consciousness, genius, if it is all destined to depart into the soil,
and in the end to grow cold together with the earth's crust, and then for millions of years to
fly with the earth round the sun with no meaning and no object? To do that there was no
need at all to draw man with his lofty, almost godlike intellect out of non-existence, and
then, as though in mockery, to turn him into clay. The transmutation of substances! But
what cowardice to comfort oneself with that cheap substitute for immortality! The
unconscious processes that take place in nature are lower even than the stupidity of man,
since in stupidity there is, anyway, consciousness and will, while in those processes there is
absolutely nothing. Only the coward who has more fear of death than dignity can comfort
himself with the fact that his body will in time live again in the grass, in the stones, in the
toad. To find one's immortality in the transmutation of substances is as strange as to
prophesy a brilliant future for the case after a precious violin has been broken and become
When the clock struck, Andrey Yefimitch would sink back into his chair and close his eyes
to think a little. And under the influence of the fine ideas of which he had been reading he
would, unawares, recall his past and his present. The past was hateful -- better not to think
of it. And it was the same in the present as in the past. He knew that at the very time when
his thoughts were floating together with the cooling earth round the sun, in the main
building beside his abode people were suffering in sickness and physical impurity: someone
perhaps could not sleep and was making war upon the insects, someone was being infected
by erysipelas, or moaning over too tight a bandage; perhaps the patients were playing cards
with the nurses and drinking vodka. According to the yearly return, twelve thousand people
had been deceived; the whole hospital rested as it had done twenty years ago on thieving,
filth, scandals, gossip, on gross quackery, and, as before, it was an immoral institution
extremely injurious to the health of the inhabitants. He knew that Nikita knocked the
patients about behind the barred windows of Ward No. 6, and that Moiseika went about the
town every day begging alms.
On the other hand, he knew very well that a magical change had taken place in medicine
during the last twenty-five years. When he was studying at the university he had fancied
that medicine would soon be overtaken by the fate of alchemy and metaphysics; but now
when he was reading at night the science of medicine touched him and excited his wonder,
and even enthusiasm. What unexpected brilliance, what a revolution! Thanks to the
antiseptic system operations were performed such as the great Pirogov had considered
impossible even in spe. Ordinary Zemstvo doctors were venturing to perform the resection
of the kneecap; of abdominal operations only one per cent. was fatal; while stone was
considered such a trifle that they did not even write about it. A radical cure for syphilis had
been discovered. And the theory of heredity, hypnotism, the discoveries of Pasteur and of
Koch, hygiene based on statistics, and the work of Zemstvo doctors!
Psychiatry with its modern classification of mental diseases, methods of diagnosis, and
treatment, was a perfect Elborus in comparison with what had been in the past. They no
longer poured cold water on the heads of lunatics nor put strait-waistcoats upon them; they
treated them with humanity, and even, so it was stated in the papers, got up balls and
entertainments for them. Andrey Yefimitch knew that with modern tastes and views such an
abomination as Ward No. 6 was possible only a hundred and fifty miles from a railway in a
little town where the mayor and all the town council were half-illiterate tradesmen who
looked upon the doctor as an oracle who must be believed without any criticism even if he
had poured molten lead into their mouths; in any other place the public and the newspapers
would long ago have torn this little Bastille to pieces.
"But, after all, what of it?" Andrey Yefimitch would ask himself, opening his eyes. "There
is the antiseptic system, there is Koch, there is Pasteur, but the essential reality is not altered
a bit; ill-health and mortality are still the same. They get up balls and entertainments for the
mad, but still they don't let them go free; so it's all nonsense and vanity, and there is no
difference in reality between the best Vienna clinic and my hospital." But depression and a
feeling akin to envy prevented him from feeling indifferent; it must have been owing to
exhaustion. His heavy head sank on to the book, he put his hands under his face to make it
softer, and thought: "I serve in a pernicious institution and receive a salary from people
whom I am deceiving. I am not honest, but then, I of myself am nothing, I am only part of
an inevitable social evil: all local officials are pernicious and receive their salary for doing
nothing. . . . And so for my dishonesty it is not I who am to blame, but the times.... If I had
been born two hundred years later I should have been different. . ."
When it struck three he would put out his lamp and go into his bedroom; he was not sleepy.
Two years before, the Zemstvo in a liberal mood had decided to allow three hundred
roubles a year to pay for additional medical service in the town till the Zemstvo hospital
should be opened, and the district doctor, Yevgeny Fyodoritch Hobotov, was invited to the
town to assist Andrey Yefimitch. He was a very young man -- not yet thirty -- tall and dark,
with broad cheek-bones and little eyes; his forefathers had probably come from one of the
many alien races of Russia. He arrived in the town without a farthing, with a small
portmanteau, and a plain young woman whom he called his cook. This woman had a baby
at the breast. Yevgeny Fyodoritch used to go about in a cap with a peak, and in high boots,
and in the winter wore a sheepskin. He made great friends with Sergey Sergeyitch, the
medical assistant, and with the treasurer, but held aloof from the other officials, and for
some reason called them aristocrats. He had only one book in his lodgings, "The Latest
Prescriptions of the Vienna Clinic for 1881." When he went to a patient he always took this
book with him. He played billiards in the evening at the club: he did not like cards. He was
very fond of using in conversation such expressions as "endless bobbery," "canting soft
soap," "shut up with your finicking. . ."
He visited the hospital twice a week, made the round of the wards, and saw out-patients.
The complete absence of antiseptic treatment and the cupping roused his indignation, but he
did not introduce any new system, being afraid of offending Andrey Yefimitch. He regarded
his colleague as a sly old rascal, suspected him of being a man of large means, and secretly
envied him. He would have been very glad to have his post.
On a spring evening towards the end of March, when there was no snow left on the ground
and the starlings were singing in the hospital garden, the doctor went out to see his friend
the postmaster as far as the gate. At that very moment the Jew Moiseika, returning with his
booty, came into the yard. He had no cap on, and his bare feet were thrust into goloshes; in
his hand he had a little bag of coppers.
"Give me a kopeck!" he said to the doctor, smiling, and shivering with cold. Andrey
Yefimitch, who could never refuse anyone anything, gave him a ten-kopeck piece.
"How bad that is!" he thought, looking at the Jew's bare feet with their thin red ankles.
"Why, it's wet."
And stirred by a feeling akin both to pity and disgust, he went into the lodge behind the
Jew, looking now at his bald head, now at his ankles. As the doctor went in, Nikita jumped
up from his heap of litter and stood at attention.
"Good-day, Nikita," Andrey Yefimitch said mildly. "That Jew should be provided with
boots or something, he will catch cold."
"Certainly, your honour. I'll inform the superintendent."
"Please do; ask him in my name. Tell him that I asked."
The door into the ward was open. Ivan Dmitritch, lying propped on his elbow on the bed,
listened in alarm to the unfamiliar voice, and suddenly recognized the doctor. He trembled
all over with anger, jumped up, and with a red and wrathful face, with his eyes starting out
of his head, ran out into the middle of the road.
"The doctor has come!" he shouted, and broke into a laugh. "At last! Gentlemen, I
congratulate you. The doctor is honouring us with a visit! Cursed reptile!" he shrieked, and
stamped in a frenzy such as had never been seen in the ward before. "Kill the reptile! No,
killing's too good. Drown him in the midden-pit!"
Andrey Yefimitch, hearing this, looked into the ward from the entry and asked gently:
"What for?"
"What for?" shouted Ivan Dmitritch, going up to him with a menacing air and convulsively
wrapping himself in his dressing-gown. "What for? Thief!" he said with a look of repulsion,
moving his lips as though he would spit at him. "Quack! hangman!"
"Calm yourself," said Andrey Yefimitch, smiling guiltily. "I assure you I have never stolen
anything; and as to the rest, most likely you greatly exaggerate. I see you are angry with me.
Calm yourself, I beg, if you can, and tell me coolly what are you angry for?"
"What are you keeping me here for?"
"Because you are ill."
"Yes, I am ill. But you know dozens, hundreds of madmen are walking about in freedom
because your ignorance is incapable of distinguishing them from the sane. Why am I and
these poor wretches to be shut up here like scapegoats for all the rest? You, your assistant,
the superintendent, and all your hospital rabble, are immeasurably inferior to every one of
us morally; why then are we shut up and you not? Where's the logic of it?"
"Morality and logic don't come in, it all depends on chance. If anyone is shut up he has to
stay, and if anyone is not shut up he can walk about, that's all. There is neither morality nor
logic in my being a doctor and your being a mental patient, there is nothing but idle
"That twaddle I don't understand. . ." Ivan Dmitritch brought out in a hollow voice, and he
sat down on his bed.
Moiseika, whom Nikita did not venture to search in the presence of the doctor, laid out on
his bed pieces of bread, bits of paper, and little bones, and, still shivering with cold, began
rapidly in a singsong voice saying something in Yiddish. He most likely imagined that he
had opened a shop.
"Let me out," said Ivan Dmitritch, and his voice quivered.
"I cannot."
"But why, why?"
"Because it is not in my power. Think, what use will it be to you if I do let you out? Go.
The townspeople or the police will detain you or bring you back."
"Yes, yes, that's true," said Ivan Dmitritch, and he rubbed his forehead. "It's awful! But
what am I to do, what?"
Andrey Yefimitch liked Ivan Dmitritch's voice and his intelligent young face with its
grimaces. He longed to be kind to the young man and soothe him; he sat down on the bed
beside him, thought, and said:
"You ask me what to do. The very best thing in your position would be to run away. But,
unhappily, that is useless. You would be taken up. When society protects itself from the
criminal, mentally deranged, or otherwise inconvenient people, it is invincible. There is
only one thing left for you: to resign yourself to the thought that your presence here is
"It is no use to anyone."
"So long as prisons and madhouses exist someone must be shut up in them. If not you, I. If
not I, some third person. Wait till in the distant future prisons and madhouses no longer
exist, and there will be neither bars on the windows nor hospital gowns. Of course, that
time will come sooner or later."
Ivan Dmitritch smiled ironically.
"You are jesting," he said, screwing up his eyes. "Such gentlemen as you and your assistant
Nikita have nothing to do with the future, but you may be sure, sir, better days will come! I
may express myself cheaply, you may laugh, but the dawn of a new life is at hand; truth and
justice will triumph, and -- our turn will come! I shall not live to see it, I shall perish, but
some people's great-grandsons will see it. I greet them with all my heart and rejoice, rejoice
with them! Onward! God be your help, friends!"
With shining eyes Ivan Dmitritch got up, and stretching his hands towards the window,
went on with emotion in his voice:
"From behind these bars I bless you! Hurrah for truth and justice! I rejoice!"
"I see no particular reason to rejoice," said Andrey Yefimitch, who thought Ivan Dmitritch's
movement theatrical, though he was delighted by it. "Prisons and madhouses there will not
be, and truth, as you have just expressed it, will triumph; but the reality of things, you
know, will not change, the laws of nature will still remain the same. People will suffer pain,
grow old, and die just as they do now. However magnificent a dawn lighted up your life,
you would yet in the end be nailed up in a coffin and thrown into a hole."
"And immortality?"
"Oh, come, now!"
"You don't believe in it, but I do. Somebody in Dostoevsky or Voltaire said that if there had
not been a God men would have invented him. And I firmly believe that if there is no
immortality the great intellect of man will sooner or later invent it."
"Well said," observed Andrey Yefimitch, smiling with pleasure; its a good thing you have
faith. With such a belief one may live happily even shut up within walls. You have studied
somewhere, I presume?"
"Yes, I have been at the university, but did not complete my studies."
"You are a reflecting and a thoughtful man. In any surroundings you can find tranquillity in
yourself. Free and deep thinking which strives for the comprehension of life, and complete
contempt for the foolish bustle of the world -- those are two blessings beyond any that man
has ever known. And you can possess them even though you lived behind threefold bars.
Diogenes lived in a tub, yet he was happier than all the kings of the earth."
"Your Diogenes was a blockhead," said Ivan Dmitritch morosely. "Why do you talk to me
about Diogenes and some foolish comprehension of life?" he cried, growing suddenly angry
and leaping up. "I love life; I love it passionately. I have the mania of persecution, a
continual agonizing terror; but I have moments when I am overwhelmed by the thirst for
life, and then I am afraid of going mad. I want dreadfully to live, dreadfully!"
He walked up and down the ward in agitation, and said, dropping his voice:
"When I dream I am haunted by phantoms. People come to me, I hear voices and music,
and I fancy I am walking through woods or by the seashore, and I long so passionately for
movement, for interests. . . . Come, tell me, what news is there?" asked Ivan Dmitritch;
"what's happening?"
"Do you wish to know about the town or in general?"
"Well, tell me first about the town, and then in general."
"Well, in the town it is appallingly dull. . . . There's no one to say a word to, no one to listen
to. There are no new people. A young doctor called Hobotov has come here recently."
"He had come in my time. Well, he is a low cad, isn't he?"
"Yes, he is a man of no culture. It's strange, you know. . . . Judging by every sign, there is
no intellectual stagnation in our capital cities; there is a movement -- so there must be real
people there too; but for some reason they always send us such men as I would rather not
see. It's an unlucky town!"
"Yes, it is an unlucky town," sighed Ivan Dmitritch, and he laughed. "And how are things in
general? What are they writing in the papers and reviews?"
It was by now dark in the ward. The doctor got up, and, standing, began to describe what
was being written abroad and in Russia, and the tendency of thought that could be noticed
now. Ivan Dmitritch listened attentively and put questions, but suddenly, as though
recalling something terrible, clutched at his head and lay down on the bed with his back to
the doctor.
"What's the matter?" asked Andrey Yefimitch.
"You will not hear another word from me," said Ivan Dmitritch rudely. "Leave me alone."
"Why so?"
"I tell you, leave me alone. Why the devil do you persist?"
Andrey Yefimitch shrugged his shoulders, heaved a sigh, and went out. As he crossed the
entry he said: "You might clear up here, Nikita . . . there's an awfully stuffy smell."
"Certainly, your honour."
"What an agreeable young man!" thought Andrey Yefimitch, going back to his flat. "In all
the years I have been living here I do believe he is the first I have met with whom one can
talk. He is capable of reasoning and is interested in just the right things."
While he was reading, and afterwards, while he was going to bed, he kept thinking about
Ivan Dmitritch, and when he woke next morning he remembered that he had the day before
made the acquaintance of an intelligent and interesting man, and determined to visit him
again as soon as possible.
Ivan Dmitritch was lying in the same position as on the previous day, with his head
clutched in both hands and his legs drawn up. His face was not visible.
"Good-day, my friend," said Andrey Yefimitch. "You are not asleep, are you?"
"In the first place, I am not your friend," Ivan Dmitritch articulated into the pillow; "and in
the second, your efforts are useless; you will not get one word out of me."
"Strange," muttered Andrey Yefimitch in confusion. "Yesterday we talked peacefully, but
suddenly for some reason you took offence and broke off all at once. . . . Probably I
expressed myself awkwardly, or perhaps gave utterance to some idea which did not fit in
with your convictions. . . ."
"Yes, a likely idea!" said Ivan Dmitritch, sitting up and looking at the doctor with irony and
uneasiness. His eyes were red. "You can go and spy and probe somewhere else, it's no use
your doing it here. I knew yesterday what you had come for."
"A strange fancy," laughed the doctor. "So you suppose me to be a spy?"
"Yes, I do. . . . A spy or a doctor who has been charged to test me -- it's all the same ---"
"Oh excuse me, what a queer fellow you are really!"
The doctor sat down on the stool near the bed and shook his head reproachfully.
"But let us suppose you are right," he said, "let us suppose that I am treacherously trying to
trap you into saying something so as to betray you to the police. You would be arrested and
then tried. But would you be any worse off being tried and in prison than you are here? If
you are banished to a settlement, or even sent to penal servitude, would it be worse than
being shut up in this ward? I imagine it would be no worse. . . . What, then, are you afraid
These words evidently had an effect on Ivan Dmitritch. He sat down quietly.
It was between four and five in the afternoon -- the time when Andrey Yefimitch usually
walked up and down his rooms, and Daryushka asked whether it was not time for his beer.
It was a still, bright day.
"I came out for a walk after dinner, and here I have come, as you see," said the doctor. "It is
quite spring."
"What month is it? March?" asked Ivan Dmitritch.
"Yes, the end of March."
"Is it very muddy?"
"No, not very. There are already paths in the garden."
"It would be nice now to drive in an open carriage somewhere into the country," said Ivan
Dmitritch, rubbing his red eyes as though he were just awake, "then to come home to a
warm, snug study, and . . . and to have a decent doctor to cure one's headache. . . . It's so
long since I have lived like a human being. It's disgusting here! Insufferably disgusting!"
After his excitement of the previous day he was exhausted and listless, and spoke
unwillingly. His fingers twitched, and from his face it could be seen that he had a splitting
"There is no real difference between a warm, snug study and this ward," said Andrey
Yefimitch. "A man's peace and contentment do not lie outside a man, but in himself."
"What do you mean?"
"The ordinary man looks for good and evil in external things -- that is, in carriages, in
studies -- but a thinking man looks for it in himself."
"You should go and preach that philosophy in Greece, where it's warm and fragrant with the
scent of pomegranates, but here it is not suited to the climate. With whom was it I was
talking of Diogenes? Was it with you?"
"Yes, with me yesterday."
"Diogenes did not need a study or a warm habitation; it's hot there without. You can lie in
your tub and eat oranges and olives. But bring him to Russia to live: he'd be begging to be
let indoors in May, let alone December. He'd be doubled up with the cold."
"No. One can be insensible to cold as to every other pain. Marcus Aurelius says: 'A pain is a
vivid idea of pain; make an effort of will to change that idea, dismiss it, cease to complain,
and the pain will disappear.' That is true. The wise man, or simply the reflecting, thoughtful
man, is distinguished precisely by his contempt for suffering; he is always contented and
surprised at nothing."
"Then I am an idiot, since I suffer and am discontented and surprised at the baseness of
"You are wrong in that.
Livros Grátis
( )
Milhares de Livros para Download:
Baixar livros de Administração
Baixar livros de Agronomia
Baixar livros de Arquitetura
Baixar livros de Artes
Baixar livros de Astronomia
Baixar livros de Biologia Geral
Baixar livros de Ciência da Computação
Baixar livros de Ciência da Informação
Baixar livros de Ciência Política
Baixar livros de Ciências da Saúde
Baixar livros de Comunicação
Baixar livros do Conselho Nacional de Educação - CNE
Baixar livros de Defesa civil
Baixar livros de Direito
Baixar livros de Direitos humanos
Baixar livros de Economia
Baixar livros de Economia Doméstica
Baixar livros de Educação
Baixar livros de Educação - Trânsito
Baixar livros de Educação Física
Baixar livros de Engenharia Aeroespacial
Baixar livros de Farmácia
Baixar livros de Filosofia
Baixar livros de Física
Baixar livros de Geociências
Baixar livros de Geografia
Baixar livros de História
Baixar livros de Línguas
Baixar livros de Literatura
Baixar livros de Literatura de Cordel
Baixar livros de Literatura Infantil
Baixar livros de Matemática
Baixar livros de Medicina
Baixar livros de Medicina Veterinária
Baixar livros de Meio Ambiente
Baixar livros de Meteorologia
Baixar Monografias e TCC
Baixar livros Multidisciplinar
Baixar livros de Música
Baixar livros de Psicologia
Baixar livros de Química
Baixar livros de Saúde Coletiva
Baixar livros de Serviço Social
Baixar livros de Sociologia
Baixar livros de Teologia
Baixar livros de Trabalho
Baixar livros de Turismo