The Death of Ivan Ilych
by Leo Tolstoy
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude
During an interval in the Melvinski trial in the large
building of the Law Courts the members and public prosecutor met in
Ivan Egorovich Shebek's private room, where the conversation turned
on the celebrated Krasovski case. Fedor Vasilievich warmly
maintained that it was not subject to their jurisdiction, Ivan
Egorovich maintained the contrary, while Peter Ivanovich, not
having entered into the discussion at the start, took no part in it
but looked through the *Gazette* which had just been handed in.
"Gentlemen," he said, "Ivan Ilych has died!"
"You don't say so!"
"Here, read it yourself," replied Peter Ivanovich, handing
Fedor Vasilievich the paper still damp from the press. Surrounded
by a black border were the words: "Praskovya Fedorovna Golovina,
with profound sorrow, informs relatives and friends of the demise
of her beloved husband Ivan Ilych Golovin, Member of the Court of
Justice, which occurred on February the 4th of this year 1882. the
funeral will take place on Friday at one o'clock in the afternoon."
Ivan Ilych had been a colleague of the gentlemen present and
was liked by them all. He had been ill for some weeks with an
illness said to be incurable. His post had been kept open for him,
but there had been conjectures that in case of his death Alexeev
might receive his appointment, and that either Vinnikov or Shtabel
would succeed Alexeev. So on receiving the news of Ivan Ilych's
death the first thought of each of the gentlemen in that private
room was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among
themselves or their acquaintances.
"I shall be sure to get Shtabel's place or Vinnikov's,"
thought Fedor Vasilievich. "I was promised that long ago, and the
promotion means an extra eight hundred rubles a year for me besides
"Now I must apply for my brother-in-law's transfer from
Kaluga," thought Peter Ivanovich. "My wife will be very glad, and
then she won't be able to say that I never do anything for her
"I thought he would never leave his bed again," said Peter
Ivanovich aloud. "It's very sad."
"But what really was the matter with him?"
"The doctors couldn't say -- at least they could, but each of
them said something different. When last I saw him I though he was
"And I haven't been to see him since the holidays. I always
meant to go."
"Had he any property?"
"I think his wife had a little -- but something quiet
"We shall have to go to see her, but they live so terribly far
"Far away from you, you mean. Everything's far away from your
"You see, he never can forgive my living on the other side of
the river," said Peter Ivanovich, smiling at Shebek. Then, still
talking of the distances between different parts of the city, they
returned to the Court.
Besides considerations as to the possible transfers and
promotions likely to result from Ivan Ilych's death, the mere fact
of the death of a near acquaintance aroused, as usual, in all who
heard of it the complacent feeling that, "it is he who is dead and
Each one thought or felt, "Well, he's dead but I'm alive!"
But the more intimate of Ivan Ilych's acquaintances, his so-called
friends, could not help thinking also that they would now have to
fulfil the very tiresome demands of propriety by attending the
funeral service and paying a visit of condolence to the widow.
Fedor Vasilievich and Peter Ivanovich had been his nearest
acquaintances. Peter Ivanovich had studied law with Ivan Ilych and
had considered himself to be under obligations to him.
Having told his wife at dinner-time of Ivan Ilych's death, and
of his conjecture that it might be possible to get her brother
transferred to their circuit, Peter Ivanovich sacrificed his usual
nap, put on his evening clothes and drove to Ivan Ilych's house.
At the entrance stood a carriage and two cabs. Leaning
against the wall in the hall downstairs near the cloakstand was a
coffin-lid covered with cloth of gold, ornamented with gold cord
and tassels, that had been polished up with metal powder. Two
ladies in black were taking off their fur cloaks. Peter Ivanovich
recognized one of them as Ivan Ilych's sister, but the other was a
stranger to him. His colleague Schwartz was just coming
downstairs, but on seeing Peter Ivanovich enter he stopped and
winked at him, as if to say: "Ivan Ilych has made a mess of things
-- not like you and me."
Schwartz's face with his Piccadilly whiskers, and his slim
figure in evening dress, had as usual an air of elegant solemnity
which contrasted with the playfulness of his character and had a
special piquancy here, or so it seemed to Peter Ivanovich.
Peter Ivanovich allowed the ladies to precede him and slowly
followed them upstairs. Schwartz did not come down but remained
where he was, and Peter Ivanovich understood that he wanted to
arrange where they should play bridge that evening. The ladies
went upstairs to the widow's room, and Schwartz with seriously
compressed lips but a playful looking his eyes, indicated by a
twist of his eyebrows the room to the right where the body lay.
Peter Ivanovich, like everyone else on such occasions, entered
feeling uncertain what he would have to do. All he knew was that
at such times it is always safe to cross oneself. But he was not
quite sure whether one should make obseisances while doing so. He
therefore adopted a middle course. On entering the room he began
crossing himself and made a slight movement resembling a bow. At
the same time, as far as the motion of his head and arm allowed, he
surveyed the room. Two young men -- apparently nephews, one of
whom was a high-school pupil -- were leaving the room, crossing
themselves as they did so. An old woman was standing motionless,
and a lady with strangely arched eyebrows was saying something to
her in a whisper. A vigorous, resolute Church Reader, in a frock-
coat, was reading something in a loud voice with an expression that
precluded any contradiction. The butler's assistant, Gerasim,
stepping lightly in front of Peter Ivanovich, was strewing
something on the floor. Noticing this, Peter Ivanovich was
immediately aware of a faint odour of a decomposing body.
The last time he had called on Ivan Ilych, Peter Ivanovich had
seen Gerasim in the study. Ivan Ilych had been particularly fond of
him and he was performing the duty of a sick nurse.
Peter Ivanovich continued to make the sign of the cross
slightly inclining his head in an intermediate direction between
the coffin, the Reader, and the icons on the table in a corner of
the room. Afterwards, when it seemed to him that this movement of
his arm in crossing himself had gone on too long, he stopped and
began to look at the corpse.
The dead man lay, as dead men always lie, in a specially heavy
way, his rigid limbs sunk in the soft cushions of the coffin, with
the head forever bowed on the pillow. His yellow waxen brow with
bald patches over his sunken temples was thrust up in the way
peculiar to the dead, the protruding nose seeming to press on the
upper lip. He was much changed and grown even thinner since Peter
Ivanovich had last seen him, but, as is always the case with the
dead, his face was handsomer and above all more dignified than when
he was alive. the expression on the face said that what was
necessary had been accomplished, and accomplished rightly. Besides
this there was in that expression a reproach and a warning to the
living. This warning seemed to Peter Ivanovich out of place, or at
least not applicable to him. He felt a certain discomfort and so
he hurriedly crossed himself once more and turned and went out of
the door -- too hurriedly and too regardless of propriety, as he
himself was aware.
Schwartz was waiting for him in the adjoining room with legs
spread wide apart and both hands toying with his top-hat behind his
back. The mere sight of that playful, well-groomed, and elegant
figure refreshed Peter Ivanovich. He felt that Schwartz was above
all these happenings and would not surrender to any depressing
influences. His very look said that this incident of a church
service for Ivan Ilych could not be a sufficient reason for
infringing the order of the session -- in other words, that it
would certainly not prevent his unwrapping a new pack of cards and
shuffling them that evening while a footman placed fresh candles on
the table: in fact, that there was no reason for supposing that
this incident would hinder their spending the evening agreeably.
Indeed he said this in a whisper as Peter Ivanovich passed him,
proposing that they should meet for a game at Fedor Vasilievich's.
But apparently Peter Ivanovich was not destined to play bridge that
evening. Praskovya Fedorovna (a short, fat woman who despite all
efforts to the contrary had continued to broaden steadily from her
shoulders downwards and who had the same extraordinarily arched
eyebrows as the lady who had been standing by the coffin), dressed
all in black, her head covered with lace, came out of her own room
with some other ladies, conducted them to the room where the dead
body lay, and said: "The service will begin immediately. Please
Schwartz, making an indefinite bow, stood still, evidently
neither accepting nor declining this invitation. Praskovya
Fedorovna recognizing Peter Ivanovich, sighed, went close up to
him, took his hand, and said: "I know you were a true friend to
Ivan Ilych..." and looked at him awaiting some suitable response.
And Peter Ivanovich knew that, just as it had been the right thing
to cross himself in that room, so what he had to do here was to
press her hand, sigh, and say, "Believe me..." So he did all this
and as he did it felt that the desired result had been achieved:
that both he and she were touched.
"Come with me. I want to speak to you before it begins," said
the widow. "Give me your arm."
Peter Ivanovich gave her his arm and they went to the inner
rooms, passing Schwartz who winked at Peter Ivanovich
"That does for our bridge! Don's object if we find another
player. Perhaps you can cut in when you do escape," said his
Peter Ivanovich sighed still more deeply and despondently, and
Praskovya Fedorovna pressed his arm gratefully. When they reached
the drawing-room, upholstered in pink cretonne and lighted by a dim
lamp, they sat down at the table -- she on a sofa and Peter
Ivanovich on a low pouffe, the springs of which yielded
spasmodically under his weight. Praskovya Fedorovna had been on
the point of warning him to take another seat, but felt that such
a warning was out of keeping with her present condition and so
changed her mind. As he sat down on the pouffe Peter Ivanovich
recalled how Ivan Ilych had arranged this room and had consulted
him regarding this pink cretonne with green leaves. The whole room
was full of furniture and knick-knacks, and on her way to the sofa
the lace of the widow's black shawl caught on the edge of the
table. Peter Ivanovich rose to detach it, and the springs of the
pouffe, relieved of his weight, rose also and gave him a push. The
widow began detaching her shawl herself, and Peter Ivanovich again
sat down, suppressing the rebellious springs of the pouffe under
him. But the widow had not quite freed herself and Peter Ivanovich
got up again, and again the pouffe rebelled and even creaked. When
this was all over she took out a clean cambric handkerchief and
began to weep. The episode with the shawl and the struggle with
the pouffe had cooled Peter Ivanovich's emotions and he sat there
with a sullen look on his face. This awkward situation was
interrupted by Sokolov, Ivan Ilych's butler, who came to report
that the plot in the cemetery that Praskovya Fedorovna had chosen
would cost tow hundred rubles. She stopped weeping and, looking at
Peter Ivanovich with the air of a victim, remarked in French that
it was very hard for her. Peter Ivanovich made a silent gesture
signifying his full conviction that it must indeed be so.
"Please smoke," she said in a magnanimous yet crushed voice,
and turned to discuss with Sokolov the price of the plot for the
Peter Ivanovich while lighting his cigarette heard her
inquiring very circumstantially into the prices of different plots
in the cemetery and finally decide which she would take. when that
was done she gave instructions about engaging the choir. Sokolov
then left the room.
"I look after everything myself," she told Peter Ivanovich,
shifting the albums that lay on the table; and noticing that the
table was endangered by his cigarette-ash, she immediately passed
him an ash-tray, saying as she did so: "I consider it an
affectation to say that my grief prevents my attending to practical
affairs. On the contrary, if anything can -- I won't say console
me, but -- distract me, it is seeing to everything concerning him."
She again took out her handkerchief as if preparing to cry, but
suddenly, as if mastering her feeling, she shook herself and began
to speak calmly. "But there is something I want to talk to you
Peter Ivanovich bowed, keeping control of the springs of the
pouffe, which immediately began quivering under him.
"He suffered terribly the last few days."
"Did he?" said Peter Ivanovich.
"Oh, terribly! He screamed unceasingly, not for minutes but
for hours. for the last three days he screamed incessantly. It
was unendurable. I cannot understand how I bore it; you could hear
him three rooms off. Oh, what I have suffered!"
"Is it possible that he was conscious all that time?" asked
"Yes," she whispered. "To the last moment. He took leave of
us a quarter of an hour before he died, and asked us to take
The thought of the suffering of this man he had known so
intimately, first as a merry little boy, then as a schoolmate, and
later as a grown-up colleague, suddenly struck Peter Ivanovich with
horror, despite an unpleasant consciousness of his own and this
woman's dissimulation. He again saw that brow, and that nose
pressing down on the lip, and felt afraid for himself.
"Three days of frightful suffering and the death! Why, that
might suddenly, at any time, happen to me," he thought, and for a
moment felt terrified. But -- he did not himself know how -- the
customary reflection at once occurred to him that this had happened
to Ivan Ilych and not to him, and that it should not and could not
happen to him, and that to think that it could would be yielding to
depressing which he ought not to do, as Schwartz's expression
plainly showed. After which reflection Peter Ivanovich felt
reassured, and began to ask with interest about the details of Ivan
Ilych's death, as though death was an accident natural to Ivan
Ilych but certainly not to himself.
After many details of the really dreadful physical sufferings
Ivan Ilych had endured (which details he learnt only from the
effect those sufferings had produced on Praskovya Fedorovna's
nerves) the widow apparently found it necessary to get to business.
"Oh, Peter Ivanovich, how hard it is! How terribly, terribly
hard!" and she again began to weep.
Peter Ivanovich sighed and waited for her to finish blowing
her nose. When she had don so he said, "Believe me..." and she
again began talking and brought out what was evidently her chief
concern with him -- namely, to question him as to how she could
obtain a grant of money from the government on the occasion of her
husband's death. She made it appear that she was asking Peter
Ivanovich's advice about her pension, but he soon saw that she
already knew about that to the minutest detail, more even than he
did himself. She knew how much could be got out of the government
in consequence of her husband's death, but wanted to find out
whether she could not possibly extract something more. Peter
Ivanovich tried to think of some means of doing so, but after
reflecting for a while and, out of propriety, condemning the
government for its niggardliness, he said he thought that nothing
more could be got. Then she sighed and evidently began to devise
means of getting rid of her visitor. Noticing this, he put out his
cigarette, rose, pressed her hand, and went out into the anteroom.
In the dining-room where the clock stood that Ivan Ilych had
liked so much and had bought at an antique shop, Peter Ivanovich
met a priest and a few acquaintances who had come to attend the
service, and he recognized Ivan Ilych's daughter, a handsome young
woman. She was in black and her slim figure appeared slimmer than
ever. She had a gloomy, determined, almost angry expression, and
bowed to Peter Ivanovich as though he were in some way to blame.
Behind her, with the same offended look, stood a wealthy young man,
and examining magistrate, whom Peter Ivanovich also knew and who
was her fiance, as he had heard. He bowed mournfully to them and
was about to pass into the death-chamber, when from under the
stairs appeared the figure of Ivan Ilych's schoolboy son, who was
extremely like his father. He seemed a little Ivan Ilych, such as
Peter Ivanovich remembered when they studied law together. His
tear-stained eyes had in them the look that is seen in the eyes of
boys of thirteen or fourteen who are not pure-minded. When he saw
Peter Ivanovich he scowled morosely and shamefacedly. Peter
Ivanovich nodded to him and entered the death-chamber. The service
began: candles, groans, incense, tears, and sobs. Peter Ivanovich
stood looking gloomily down at his feet. He did not look once at
the dead man, did not yield to any depressing influence, and was
one of the first to leave the room. There was no one in the
anteroom, but Gerasim darted out of the dead man's room, rummaged
with his strong hands among the fur coats to find Peter Ivanovich's
and helped him on with it.
"Well, friend Gerasim," said Peter Ivanovich, so as to say
something. "It's a sad affair, isn't it?"
"It's God will. We shall all come to it some day," said
Gerasim, displaying his teeth -- the even white teeth of a healthy
peasant -- and, like a man in the thick of urgent work, he briskly
opened the front door, called the coachman, helped Peter Ivanovich
into the sledge, and sprang back to the porch as if in readiness
for what he had to do next.
Peter Ivanovich found the fresh air particularly pleasant
after the smell of incense, the dead body, and carbolic acid.
"Where to sir?" asked the coachman.
"It's not too late even now....I'll call round on Fedor
He accordingly drove there and found them just finishing the
first rubber, so that it was quite convenient for him to cut in.
Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and
therefore most terrible.
He had been a member of the Court of Justice, and died at the
age of forty-five. His father had been an official who after
serving in various ministries and departments in Petersburg had
made the sort of career which brings men to positions from which by
reason of their long service they cannot be dismissed, though they
are obviously unfit to hold any responsible position, and for whom
therefore posts are specially created, which though fictitious
carry salaries of from six to ten thousand rubles that are not
fictitious, and in receipt of which they live on to a great age.
Such was the Privy Councillor and superfluous member of
various superfluous institutions, Ilya Epimovich Golovin.
He had three sons, of whom Ivan Ilych was the second. The
eldest son was following in his father's footsteps only in another
department, and was already approaching that stage in the service
at which a similar sinecure would be reached. the third son was a
failure. He had ruined his prospects in a number of positions and
was not serving in the railway department. His father and
brothers, and still more their wives, not merely disliked meeting
him, but avoided remembering his existence unless compelled to do
so. His sister had married Baron Greff, a Petersburg official of
her father's type. Ivan Ilych was *le phenix de la famille* as
people said. He was neither as cold and formal as his elder
brother nor as wild as the younger, but was a happy mean between
them -- an intelligent polished, lively and agreeable man. He had
studied with his younger brother at the School of Law, but the
latter had failed to complete the course and was expelled when he
was in the fifth class. Ivan Ilych finished the course well. Even
when he was at the School of Law he was just what he remained for
the rest of his life: a capable, cheerful, good-natured, and
sociable man, though strict in the fulfillment of what he
considered to be his duty: and he considered his duty to be what
was so considered by those in authority. Neither as a boy nor as
a man was he a toady, but from early youth was by nature attracted
to people of high station as a fly is drawn to the light,
assimilating their ways and views of life and establishing friendly
relations with them. All the enthusiasms of childhood and youth
passed without leaving much trace on him; he succumbed to
sensuality, to vanity, and latterly among the highest classes to
liberalism, but always within limits which his instinct unfailingly
indicated to him as correct.
At school he had done things which had formerly seemed to him
very horrid and made him feel disgusted with himself when he did
them; but when later on he saw that such actions were done by
people of good position and that they did not regard them as wrong,
he was able not exactly to regard them as right, but to forget
about them entirely or not be at all troubled at remembering them.
Having graduated from the School of Law and qualified for the
tenth rank of the civil service, and having received money from his
father for his equipment, Ivan Ilych ordered himself clothes at
Scharmer's, the fashionable tailor, hung a medallion inscribed
*respice finem* on his watch-chain, took leave of his professor and
the prince who was patron of the school, had a farewell dinner with
his comrades at Donon's first-class restaurant, and with his new
and fashionable portmanteau, linen, clothes, shaving and other
toilet appliances, and a travelling rug, all purchased at the best
shops, he set off for one of the provinces where through his
father's influence, he had been attached to the governor as an
official for special service.
In the province Ivan Ilych soon arranged as easy and agreeable
a position for himself as he had had at the School of Law. He
performed his official task, made his career, and at the same time
amused himself pleasantly and decorously. Occasionally he paid
official visits to country districts where he behaved with dignity
both to his superiors and inferiors, and performed the duties
entrusted to him, which related chiefly to the sectarians, with an
exactness and incorruptible honesty of which he could not but feel
In official matters, despite his youth and taste for frivolous
gaiety, he was exceedingly reserved, punctilious, and even severe;
but in society he was often amusing and witty, and always good-
natured, correct in his manner, and *bon enfant*, as the governor
and his wife -- with whom he was like one of the family -- used to
say of him.
In the province he had an affair with a lady who made advances
to the elegant young lawyer, and there was also a milliner; and
there were carousals with aides-de-camp who visited the district,
and after-supper visits to a certain outlying street of doubtful
reputation; and there was too some obsequiousness to his chief and
even to his chief's wife, but all this was done with such a tone of
good breeding that no hard names could be applied to it. It all
came under the heading of the French saying: *"Il faut que
jeunesse se passe."* It was all done with clean hands, in clean
linen, with French phrases, and above all among people of the best
society and consequently with the approval of people of rank.
So Ivan Ilych served for five years and then came a change in
his official life. The new and reformed judicial institutions were
introduced, and new men were needed. Ivan Ilych became such a new
man. He was offered the post of examining magistrate, and he
accepted it though the post was in another province and obliged him
to give up the connexions he had formed and to make new ones. His
friends met to give him a send-off; they had a group photograph
taken and presented him with a silver cigarette-case, and he set
off to his new post.
As examining magistrate Ivan Ilych was just as *comme il faut*
and decorous a man, inspiring general respect and capable of
separating his official duties from his private life, as he had
been when acting as an official on special service. His duties now
as examining magistrate were fare more interesting and attractive
than before. In his former position it had been pleasant to wear
an undress uniform made by Scharmer, and to pass through the crowd
of petitioners and officials who were timorously awaiting an
audience with the governor, and who envied him as with free and
easy gait he went straight into his chief's private room to have a
cup of tea and a cigarette with him. But not many people had then
been directly dependent on him -- only police officials and the
sectarians when he went on special missions -- and he liked to
treat them politely, almost as comrades, as if he were letting them
feel that he who had the power to crush them was treating them in
this simple, friendly way. There were then but few such people.
But now, as an examining magistrate, Ivan Ilych felt that everyone
without exception, even the most important and self-satisfied, was
in his power, and that he need only write a few words on a sheet of
paper with a certain heading, and this or that important, self-
satisfied person would be brought before him in the role of an
accused person or a witness, and if he did not choose to allow him
to sit down, would have to stand before him and answer his
questions. Ivan Ilych never abused his power; he tried on the
contrary to soften its expression, but the consciousness of it and
the possibility of softening its effect, supplied the chief
interest and attraction of his office. In his work itself,
especially in his examinations, he very soon acquired a method of
eliminating all considerations irrelevant to the legal aspect of
the case, and reducing even the most complicated case to a form in
which it would be presented on paper only in its externals,
completely excluding his personal opinion of the matter, while
above all observing every prescribed formality. The work was new
and Ivan Ilych was one of the first men to apply the new Code of
On taking up the post of examining magistrate in a new town,
he made new acquaintances and connexions, placed himself on a new
footing and assumed a somewhat different tone. He took up an
attitude of rather dignified aloofness towards the provincial
authorities, but picked out the best circle of legal gentlemen and
wealthy gentry living in the town and assumed a tone of slight
dissatisfaction with the government, of moderate liberalism, and of
enlightened citizenship. At the same time, without at all altering
the elegance of his toilet, he ceased shaving his chin and allowed
his beard to grow as it pleased.
Ivan Ilych settled down very pleasantly in this new town. The
society there, which inclined towards opposition to the governor
was friendly, his salary was larger, and he began to play *vint* [a
form of bridge], which he found added not a little to the pleasure
of life, for he had a capacity for cards, played good-humouredly,
and calculated rapidly and astutely, so that he usually won.
After living there for two years he met his future wife,
Praskovya Fedorovna Mikhel, who was the most attractive, clever,
and brilliant girl of the set in which he moved, and among other
amusements and relaxations from his labours as examining
magistrate, Ivan Ilych established light and playful relations with
While he had been an official on special service he had been
accustomed to dance, but now as an examining magistrate it was
exceptional for him to do so. If he danced now, he did it as if to
show that though he served under the reformed order of things, and
had reached the fifth official rank, yet when it came to dancing he
could do it better than most people. So at the end of an evening
he sometimes danced with Praskovya Fedorovna, and it was chiefly
during these dances that he captivated her. She fell in love with
him. Ivan Ilych had at first no definite intention of marrying,
but when the girl fell in love with him he said to himself:
"Really, why shouldn't I marry?"
Praskovya Fedorovna came of a good family, was not bad
looking, and had some little property. Ivan Ilych might have
aspired to a more brilliant match, but even this was good. He had
his salary, and she, he hoped, would have an equal income. She was
well connected, and was a sweet, pretty, and thoroughly correct
young woman. to say that Ivan Ilych married because he fell in
love with Praskovya Fedorovna and found that she sympathized with
his views of life would be as incorrect as to say that he married
because his social circle approved of the match. He was swayed by
both these considerations: the marriage gave him personal
satisfaction, and at the same time it was considered the right
thing by the most highly placed of his associates.
So Ivan Ilych got married.
The preparations for marriage and the beginning of married
life, with its conjugal caresses, the new furniture, new crockery,
and new linen, were very pleasant until his wife became pregnant --
so that Ivan Ilych had begun to think that marriage would not
impair the easy, agreeable, gay and always decorous character of
his life, approved of by society and regarded by himself as
natural, but would even improve it. But from the first months of
his wife's pregnancy, something new, unpleasant, depressing, and
unseemly, and from which there was no way of escape, unexpectedly
His wife, without any reason -- *de gaiete de coeur* as Ivan
Ilych expressed it to himself -- began to disturb the pleasure and
propriety of their life. She began to be jealous without any
cause, expected him to devote his whole attention to her, found
fault with everything, and made coarse and ill-mannered scenes.
At first Ivan Ilych hoped to escape from the unpleasantness of
this state of affairs by the same easy and decorous relation to
life that had served him heretofore: he tried to ignore his wife's
disagreeable moods, continued to live in his usual easy and
pleasant way, invited friends to his house for a game of cards, and
also tried going out to his club or spending his evenings with
friends. But one day his wife began upbraiding him so vigorously,
using such coarse words, and continued to abuse him every time he
did not fulfil her demands, so resolutely and with such evident
determination not to give way till he submitted -- that is, till he
stayed at home and was bored just as she was -- that he became
alarmed. He now realized that matrimony -- at any rate with
Praskovya Fedorovna -- was not always conducive to the pleasures
and amenities of life, but on the contrary often infringed both
comfort and propriety, and that he must therefore entrench himself
against such infringement. And Ivan Ilych began to seek for means
of doing so. His official duties were the one thing that imposed
upon Praskovya Fedorovna, and by means of his official work and the
duties attached to it he began struggling with his wife to secure
his own independence.
With the birth of their child, the attempts to feed it and the
various failures in doing so, and with the real and imaginary
illnesses of mother and child, in which Ivan Ilych's sympathy was
demanded but about which he understood nothing, the need of
securing for himself an existence outside his family life became
still more imperative.
As his wife grew more irritable and exacting and Ivan Ilych
transferred the center of gravity of his life more and more to his
official work, so did he grow to like his work better and became
more ambitious than before.
Very soon, within a year of his wedding, Ivan Ilych had
realized that marriage, though it may add some comforts to life, is
in fact a very intricate and difficult affair towards which in
order to perform one's duty, that is, to lead a decorous life
approved of by society, one must adopt a definite attitude just as
towards one's official duties.
And Ivan Ilych evolved such an attitude towards married life.
He only required of it those conveniences -- dinner at home,
housewife, and bed -- which it could give him, and above all that
propriety of external forms required by public opinion. For the
rest he looked for lighthearted pleasure and propriety, and was
very thankful when he found them, but if he met with antagonism and
querulousness he at once retired into his separate fenced-off world
of official duties, where he found satisfaction.
Ivan Ilych was esteemed a good official, and after three years
was made Assistant Public Prosecutor. His new duties, their
importance, the possibility of indicting and imprisoning anyone he
chose, the publicity his speeches received, and the success he had
in all these things, made his work still more attractive.
More children came. His wife became more and more querulous
and ill-tempered, but the attitude Ivan Ilych had adopted towards
his home life rendered him almost impervious to her grumbling.
After seven years' service in that town he was transferred to
another province as Public Prosecutor. They moved, but were short
of money and his wife did not like the place they moved to. Though
the salary was higher the cost of living was greater, besides which
two of their children died and family life became still more
unpleasant for him.
Praskovya Fedorovna blamed her husband for every inconvenience
they encountered in their new home. Most of the conversations
between husband and wife, especially as to the children's
education, led to topics which recalled former disputes, and these
disputes were apt to flare up again at any moment. There remained
only those rare periods of amorousness which still came to them at
times but did not last long. These were islets at which they
anchored for a while and then again set out upon that ocean of
veiled hostility which showed itself in their aloofness from one
another. This aloofness might have grieved Ivan Ilych had he
considered that it ought not to exist, but he now regarded the
position as normal, and even made it the goal at which he aimed in
family life. His aim was to free himself more and more from those
unpleasantness and to give them a semblance of harmlessness and
propriety. He attained this by spending less and less time with
his family, and when obliged to be at home he tried to safeguard
his position by the presence of outsiders. The chief thing however
was that he had his official duties. The whole interest of his
life now centered in the official world and that interest absorbed
him. The consciousness of his power, being able to ruin anybody he
wished to ruin, the importance, even the external dignity of his
entry into court, or meetings with his subordinates, his success
with superiors and inferiors, and above all his masterly handling
of cases, of which he was conscious -- all this gave him pleasure
and filled his life, together with chats with his colleagues,
dinners, and bridge. So that on the whole Ivan Ilych's life
continued to flow as he considered it should do -- pleasantly and
so things continued for another seven years. His eldest
daughter was already sixteen, another child had died, and only one
son was left, a schoolboy and a subject of dissension. Ivan Ilych
wanted to put him in the School of Law, but to spite him Praskovya
Fedorovna entered him at the High School. The daughter had been
educated at home and had turned out well: the boy did not learn
So Ivan Ilych lived for seventeen years after his marriage.
He was already a Public Prosecutor of long standing, and had
declined several proposed transfers while awaiting a more desirable
post, when an unanticipated and unpleasant occurrence quite upset
the peaceful course of his life. He was expecting to be offered
the post of presiding judge in a University town, but Happe somehow
came to the front and obtained the appointment instead. Ivan Ilych
became irritable, reproached Happe, and quarrelled both him and
with his immediate superiors -- who became colder to him and again
passed him over when other appointments were made.
This was in 1880, the hardest year of Ivan Ilych's life. It
was then that it became evident on the one hand that his salary was
insufficient for them to live on, and on the other that he had been
forgotten, and not only this, but that what was for him the
greatest and most cruel injustice appeared to others a quite
ordinary occurrence. Even his father did not consider it his duty
to help him. Ivan Ilych felt himself abandoned by everyone, and
that they regarded his position with a salary of 3,500 rubles as
quite normal and even fortunate. He alone knew that with the
consciousness of the injustices done him, with his wife's incessant
nagging, and with the debts he had contracted by living beyond his
means, his position was far from normal.
In order to save money that summer he obtained leave of
absence and went with his wife to live in the country at her
In the country, without his work, he experienced *ennui* for
the first time in his life, and not only *ennui* but intolerable
depression, and he decided that it was impossible to go on living
like that, and that it was necessary to take energetic measures.
Having passed a sleepless night pacing up and down the
veranda, he decided to go to Petersburg and bestir himself, in
order to punish those who had failed to appreciate him and to get
transferred to another ministry.
Next day, despite many protests from his wife and her brother,
he started for Petersburg with the sole object of obtaining a post
with a salary of five thousand rubles a year. He was no longer
bent on any particular department, or tendency, or kind of
activity. All he now wanted was an appointment to another post
with a salary of five thousand rubles, either in the
administration, in the banks, with the railways in one of the
Empress Marya's Institutions, or even in the customs -- but it had
to carry with it a salary of five thousand rubles and be in a
ministry other than that in which they had failed to appreciate
And this quest of Ivan Ilych's was crowned with remarkable and
unexpected success. At Kursk an acquaintance of his, F. I. Ilyin,
got into the first-class carriage, sat down beside Ivan Ilych, and
told him of a telegram just received by the governor of Kursk
announcing that a change was about to take place in the ministry:
Peter Ivanovich was to be superseded by Ivan Semonovich.
The proposed change, apart from its significance for Russia,
had a special significance for Ivan Ilych, because by bringing
forward a new man, Peter Petrovich, and consequently his friend
Zachar Ivanovich, it was highly favourable for Ivan Ilych, since
Sachar Ivanovich was a friend and colleague of his.
In Moscow this news was confirmed, and on reaching Petersburg
Ivan Ilych found Zachar Ivanovich and received a definite promise
of an appointment in his former Department of Justice.
A week later he telegraphed to his wife: "Zachar in Miller's
place. I shall receive appointment on presentation of report."
Thanks to this change of personnel, Ivan Ilych had
unexpectedly obtained an appointment in his former ministry which
placed him two states above his former colleagues besides giving
him five thousand rubles salary and three thousand five hundred
rubles for expenses connected with his removal. All his ill humour
towards his former enemies and the whole department vanished, and
Ivan Ilych was completely happy.
He returned to the country more cheerful and contented than he
had been for a long time. Praskovya Fedorovna also cheered up and
a truce was arranged between them. Ivan Ilych told of how he had
been feted by everybody in Petersburg, how all those who had been
his enemies were put to shame and now fawned on him, how envious
they were of his appointment, and how much everybody in Petersburg
had liked him.
Praskovya Fedorovna listened to all this and appeared to
believe it. She did not contradict anything, but only made plans
for their life in the town to which they were going. Ivan Ilych
saw with delight that these plans were his plans, that he and his
wife agreed, and that, after a stumble, his life was regaining its
due and natural character of pleasant lightheartedness and decorum.
Ivan Ilych had come back for a short time only, for he had to
take up his new duties on the 10th of September. Moreover, he
needed time to settle into the new place, to move all his
belongings from the province, and to buy and order many additional
things: in a word, to make such arrangements as he had resolved
on, which were almost exactly what Praskovya Fedorovna too had
Now that everything had happened so fortunately, and that he
and his wife were at one in their aims and moreover saw so little
of one another, they got on together better than they had done
since the first years of marriage. Ivan Ilych had thought of
taking his family away with him at once, but the insistence of his
wife's brother and her sister-in-law, who had suddenly become
particularly amiable and friendly to him and his family, induced
him to depart alone.
So he departed, and the cheerful state of mind induced by his
success and by the harmony between his wife and himself, the one
intensifying the other, did not leave him. He found a delightful
house, just the thing both he and his wife had dreamt of.
Spacious, lofty reception rooms in the old style, a convenient and
dignified study, rooms for his wife and daughter, a study for his
son -- it might have been specially built for them. Ivan Ilych
himself superintended the arrangements, chose the wallpapers,
supplemented the furniture (preferably with antiques which he
considered particularly *comme il faut*), and supervised the
upholstering. Everything progressed and progressed and approached
the ideal he had set himself: even when things were only half
completed they exceeded his expectations. He saw what a refined
and elegant character, free from vulgarity, it would all have when
it was ready. On falling asleep he pictured to himself how the
reception room would look. Looking at the yet unfinished drawing
room he could see the fireplace, the screen, the what-not, the
little chairs dotted here and there, the dishes and plates on the
walls, and the bronzes, as they would be when everything was in
place. He was pleased by the thought of how his wife and daughter,
who shared his taste n this matter, would be impressed by it. They
were certainly not expecting as much. He had been particularly
successful in finding, and buying cheaply, antiques which gave a
particularly aristocratic character to the whole place. But in his
letters he intentionally understated everything in order to be able
to surprise them. All this so absorbed him that his new duties --
though he liked his official work -- interested him less than he
had expected. Sometimes he even had moments of absent-mindedness
during the court sessions and would consider whether he should have
straight or curved cornices for his curtains. He was so interested
in it all that he often did things himself, rearranging the
furniture, or rehanging the curtains. Once when mounting a step-
ladder to show the upholsterer, who did not understand, how he
wanted the hangings draped, he mad a false step and slipped, but
being a strong and agile man he clung on and only knocked his side
against the knob of the window frame. The bruised place was
painful but the pain soon passed, and he felt particularly bright
and well just then. He wrote: "I feel fifteen years younger."
He thought he would have everything ready by September, but it
dragged on till mid-October. But the result was charming not only
in his eyes but to everyone who saw it.
In reality it was just what is usually seen in the houses of
people of moderate means who want to appear rich, and therefore
succeed only in resembling others like themselves: there are
damasks, dark wood, plants, rugs, and dull and polished bronzes --
all the things people of a certain class have in order to resemble
other people of that class. His house was so like the others that
it would never have been noticed, but to him it all seemed to be
quite exceptional. He was very happy when he met his family at the
station and brought them to the newly furnished house all lit up,
where a footman in a white tie opened the door into the hall
decorated with plants, and when they went on into the drawing-room
and the study uttering exclamations of delight. He conducted them
everywhere, drank in their praises eagerly, and beamed with
pleasure. At tea that evening, when Praskovya Fedorovna among
others things asked him about his fall, he laughed, and showed them
how he had gone flying and had frightened the upholsterer.
"It's a good thing I'm a bit of an athlete. Another man might
have been killed, but I merely knocked myself, just here; it hurts
when it's touched, but it's passing off already -- it's only a
So they began living in their new home -- in which, as always
happens, when they got thoroughly settled in they found they were
just one room short -- and with the increased income, which as
always was just a little (some five hundred rubles) too little, but
it was all very nice.
Things went particularly well at first, before everything was
finally arranged and while something had still to be done: this
thing bought, that thing ordered, another thing moved, and
something else adjusted. Though there were some disputes between
husband and wife, they were both so well satisfied and had so much
to do that it all passed off without any serious quarrels. When
nothing was left to arrange it became rather dull and something
seemed to be lacking, but they were then making acquaintances,
forming habits, and life was growing fuller.
Ivan Ilych spent his mornings at the law court and came home
to diner, and at first he was generally in a good humour, though he
occasionally became irritable just on account of his house. (Every
spot on the tablecloth or the upholstery, and every broken window-
blind string, irritated him. He had devoted so much trouble to
arranging it all that every disturbance of it distressed him.) But
on the whole his life ran its course as he believed life should do:
easily, pleasantly, and decorously.
He got up at nine, drank his coffee, read the paper, and then
put on his undress uniform and went to the law courts. there the
harness in which he worked had already been stretched to fit him
and he donned it without a hitch: petitioners, inquiries at the
chancery, the chancery itself, and the sittings public and
administrative. In all this the thing was to exclude everything
fresh and vital, which always disturbs the regular course of
official business, and to admit only official relations with
people, and then only on official grounds. A man would come, for
instance, wanting some information. Ivan Ilych, as one in whose
sphere the matter did not lie, would have nothing to do with him:
but if the man had some business with him in his official capacity,
something that could be expressed on officially stamped paper, he
would do everything, positively everything he could within the
limits of such relations, and in doing so would maintain the
semblance of friendly human relations, that is, would observe the
courtesies of life. As soon as the official relations ended, so
did everything else. Ivan Ilych possessed this capacity to
separate his real life from the official side of affairs and not
mix the two, in the highest degree, and by long practice and
natural aptitude had brought it to such a pitch that sometimes, in
the manner of a virtuoso, he would even allow himself to let the
human and official relations mingle. He let himself do this just
because he felt that he could at any time he chose resume the
strictly official attitude again and drop the human relation. and
he did it all easily, pleasantly, correctly, and even artistically.
In the intervals between the sessions he smoked, drank tea, chatted
a little about politics, a little about general topics, a little
about cards, but most of all about official appointments. Tired,
but with the feelings of a virtuoso -- one of the first violins who
has played his part in an orchestra with precision -- he would
return home to find that his wife and daughter had been out paying
calls, or had a visitor, and that his son had been to school, had
done his homework with his tutor, and was surely learning what is
taught at High Schools. Everything was as it should be. After
dinner, if they had no visitors, Ivan Ilych sometimes read a book
that was being much discussed at the time, and in the evening
settled down to work, that is, read official papers, compared the
depositions of witnesses, and noted paragraphs of the Code applying
to them. This was neither dull nor amusing. It was dull when he
might have been playing bridge, but if no bridge was available it
was at any rate better than doing nothing or sitting with his wife.
Ivan Ilych's chief pleasure was giving little dinners to which he
invited men and women of good social position, and just as his
drawing-room resembled all other drawing-rooms so did his enjoyable
little parties resemble all other such parties.
Once they even gave a dance. Ivan Ilych enjoyed it and
everything went off well, except that it led to a violent quarrel
with his wife about the cakes and sweets. Praskovya Fedorovna had
made her own plans, but Ivan Ilych insisted on getting everything
from an expensive confectioner and ordered too many cakes, and the
quarrel occurred because some of those cakes were left over and the
confectioner's bill came to forty-five rubles. It was a great and
disagreeable quarrel. Praskovya Fedorovna called him "a fool and
an imbecile," and he clutched at his head and made angry allusions
But the dance itself had been enjoyable. The best people were
there, and Ivan Ilych had danced with Princess Trufonova, a sister
of the distinguished founder of the Society "Bear My Burden".
The pleasures connected with his work were pleasures of
ambition; his social pleasures were those of vanity; but Ivan
Ilych's greatest pleasure was playing bridge. He acknowledged that
whatever disagreeable incident happened in his life, the pleasure
that beamed like a ray of light above everything else was to sit
down to bridge with good players, not noisy partners, and of course
to four-handed bridge (with five players it was annoying to have to
stand out, though one pretended not to mind), to play a clever and
serious game (when the cards allowed it) and then to have supper
and drink a glass of wine. after a game of bridge, especially if
he had won a little (to win a large sum was unpleasant), Ivan Ilych
went to bed in a specially good humour.
So they lived. they formed a circle of acquaintances among
the best people and were visited by people of importance and by
young folk. In their views as to their acquaintances, husband,
wife and daughter were entirely agreed, and tacitly and unanimously
kept at arm's length and shook off the various shabby friends and
relations who, with much show of affection, gushed into the
drawing-room with its Japanese plates on the walls. Soon these
shabby friends ceased to obtrude themselves and only the best
people remained in the Golovins' set.
Young men made up to Lisa, and Petrishchev, an examining
magistrate and Dmitri Ivanovich Petrishchev's son and sole heir,
began to be so attentive to her that Ivan Ilych had already spoken
to Praskovya Fedorovna about it, and considered whether they should
not arrange a party for them, or get up some private theatricals.
So they lived, and all went well, without change, and life
They were all in good health. It could not be called ill
health if Ivan Ilych sometimes said that he had a queer taste in
his mouth and felt some discomfort in his left side.
But this discomfort increased and, though not exactly painful,
grew into a sense of pressure in his side accompanied by ill
humour. And his irritability became worse and worse and began to
mar the agreeable, easy, and correct life that had established
itself in the Golovin family. Quarrels between husband and wife
became more and more frequent, and soon the ease and amenity
disappeared and even the decorum was barely maintained. Scenes
again became frequent, and very few of those islets remained on
which husband and wife could meet without an explosion. Praskovya
Fedorovna now had good reason to say that her husband's temper was
trying. With characteristic exaggeration she said he had always
had a dreadful temper, and that it had needed all her good nature
to put up with it for twenty years. It was true that now the
quarrels were started by him. His bursts of temper always came
just before dinner, often just as he began to eat his soup.
Sometimes he noticed that a plate or dish was chipped, or the food
was not right, or his son put his elbow on the table, or his
daughter's hair was not done as he liked it, and for all this he
blamed Praskovya Fedorovna. At first she retorted and said
disagreeable things to him, but once or twice he fell into such a
rage at the beginning of dinner that she realized it was due to
some physical derangement brought on by taking food, and so she
restrained herself and did not answer, but only hurried to get the
dinner over. She regarded this self-restraint as highly
praiseworthy. Having come to the conclusion that her husband had
a dreadful temper and made her life miserable, she began to feel
sorry for herself, and the more she pitied herself the more she
hated her husband. She began to wish he would die; yet she did not
want him to die because then his salary would cease. And this
irritated her against him still more. She considered herself
dreadfully unhappy just because not even his death could save her,
and though she concealed her exasperation, that hidden exasperation
of hers increased his irritation also.
After one scene in which Ivan Ilych had been particularly
unfair and after which he had said in explanation that he certainly
was irritable but that it was due to his not being well, she said
that he was ill it should be attended to, and insisted on his going
to see a celebrated doctor.
He went. Everything took place as he had expected and as it
always does. There was the usual waiting and the important air
assumed by the doctor, with which he was so familiar (resembling
that which he himself assumed in court), and the sounding and
listening, and the questions which called for answers that were
foregone conclusions and were evidently unnecessary, and the look
of importance which implied that "if only you put yourself in our
hands we will arrange everything -- we know indubitably how it has
to be done, always in the same way for everybody alike." It was
all just as it was in the law courts. The doctor put on just the
same air towards him as he himself put on towards an accused
The doctor said that so-and-so indicated that there was so-
and-so inside the patient, but if the investigation of so-and-so
did not confirm this, then he must assume that and that. If he
assumed that and that, then...and so on. To Ivan Ilych only one
question was important: was his case serious or not? But the
doctor ignored that inappropriate question. From his point of view
it was not the one under consideration, the real question was to
decide between a floating kidney, chronic catarrh, or appendicitis.
It was not a question the doctor solved brilliantly, as it seemed
to Ivan Ilych, in favour of the appendix, with the reservation that
should an examination of the urine give fresh indications the
matter would be reconsidered. All this was just what Ivan Ilych
had himself brilliantly accomplished a thousand times in dealing
with men on trial. The doctor summed up just as brilliantly,
looking over his spectacles triumphantly and even gaily at the
accused. From the doctor's summing up Ivan Ilych concluded that
things were bad, but that for the doctor, and perhaps for everybody
else, it was a matter of indifference, though for him it was bad.
And this conclusion struck him painfully, arousing in him a great
feeling of pity for himself and of bitterness towards the doctor's
indifference to a matter of such importance.
He said nothing of this, but rose, placed the doctor's fee on
the table, and remarked with a sigh: "We sick people probably
often put inappropriate questions. But tell me, in general, is
this complaint dangerous, or not?..."
The doctor looked at him sternly over his spectacles with one
eye, as if to say: "Prisoner, if you will not keep to the
questions put to you, I shall be obliged to have you removed from
"I have already told you what I consider necessary and proper.
The analysis may show something more." And the doctor bowed.
Ivan Ilych went out slowly, seated himself disconsolately in
his sledge, and drove home. All the way home he was going over
what the doctor had said, trying to translate those complicated,
obscure, scientific phrases into plain language and find in them an
answer to the question: "Is my condition bad? Is it very bad? Or
is there as yet nothing much wrong?" And it seemed to him that the
meaning of what the doctor had said was that it was very bad.
Everything in the streets seemed depressing. The cabmen, the
houses, the passers-by, and the shops, were dismal. His ache, this
dull gnawing ache that never ceased for a moment, seemed to have
acquired a new and more serious significance from the doctor's
dubious remarks. Ivan Ilych now watched it with a new and
He reached home and began to tell his wife about it. She
listened, but in the middle of his account his daughter came in
with her hat on, ready to go out with her mother. She sat down
reluctantly to listen to this tedious story, but could not stand it
long, and her mother too did not hear him to the end.
"Well, I am very glad," she said. "Mind now to take your
medicine regularly. Give me the prescription and I'll send Gerasim
to the chemist's." And she went to get ready to go out.
While she was in the room Ivan Ilych had hardly taken time to
breathe, but he sighed deeply when she left it.
"Well," he thought, "perhaps it isn't so bad after all."
He began taking his medicine and following the doctor's
directions, which had been altered after the examination of the
urine. but then it happened that there was a contradiction between
the indications drawn from the examination of the urine and the
symptoms that showed themselves. It turned out that what was
happening differed from what the doctor had told him, and that he
had either forgotten or blundered, or hidden something from him.
He could not, however, be blamed for that, and Ivan Ilych still
obeyed his orders implicitly and at first derived some comfort from
From the time of his visit to the doctor, Ivan Ilych's chief
occupation was the exact fulfillment of the doctor's instructions
regarding hygiene and the taking of medicine, and the observation
of his pain and his excretions. His chief interest came to be
people's ailments and people's health. When sickness, deaths, or
recoveries were mentioned in his presence, especially when the
illness resembled his own, he listened with agitation which he
tried to hide, asked questions, and applied what he heard to his
The pain did not grow less, but Ivan Ilych made efforts to
force himself to think that he was better. And he could do this so
long as nothing agitated him. But as soon as he had any
unpleasantness with his wife, any lack of success in his official
work, or held bad cards at bridge, he was at once acutely sensible
of his disease. He had formerly borne such mischances, hoping soon
to adjust what was wrong, to master it and attain success, or make
a grand slam. But now every mischance upset him and plunged him
into despair. He would say to himself: "there now, just as I was
beginning to get better and the medicine had begun to take effect,
comes this accursed misfortune, or unpleasantness..." And he was
furious with the mishap, or with the people who were causing the
unpleasantness and killing him, for he felt that this fury was
killing him but he could not restrain it. One would have thought
that it should have been clear to him that this exasperation with
circumstances and people aggravated his illness, and that he ought
therefore to ignore unpleasant occurrences. But he drew the very
opposite conclusion: he said that he needed peace, and he watched
for everything that might disturb it and became irritable at the
slightest infringement of it. His condition was rendered worse by
the fact that he read medical books and consulted doctors. The
progress of his disease was so gradual that he could deceive
himself when comparing one day with another -- the difference was
so slight. But when he consulted the doctors it seemed to him that
he was getting worse, and even very rapidly. Yet despite this he
was continually consulting them.
That month he went to see another celebrity, who told him
almost the same as the first had done but put his questions rather
differently, and the interview with this celebrity only increased
Ivan Ilych's doubts and fears. A friend of a friend of his, a very
good doctor, diagnosed his illness again quite differently from the
others, and though he predicted recovery, his questions and
suppositions bewildered Ivan Ilych still more and increased his
doubts. A homeopathist diagnosed the disease in yet another way,
and prescribed medicine which Ivan Ilych took secretly for a week.
But after a week, not feeling any improvement and having lost
confidence both in the former doctor's treatment and in this one's,
he became still more despondent. One day a lady acquaintance
mentioned a cure effected by a wonder-working icon. Ivan Ilych
caught himself listening attentively and beginning to believe that
it had occurred. This incident alarmed him. "Has my mind really
weakened to such an extent?" he asked himself. "Nonsense! It's
all rubbish. I mustn't give way to nervous fears but having chosen
a doctor must keep strictly to his treatment. That is what I will
do. Now it's all settled. I won't think about it, but will follow
the treatment seriously till summer, and then we shall see. From
now there must be no more of this wavering!" this was easy to say
but impossible to carry out. The pain in his side oppressed him
and seemed to grow worse and more incessant, while the taste in his
mouth grew stranger and stranger. It seemed to him that his breath
had a disgusting smell, and he was conscious of a loss of appetite
and strength. There was no deceiving himself: something terrible,
new, and more important than anything before in his life, was
taking place within him of which he alone was aware. Those about
him did not understand or would not understand it, but thought
everything in the world was going on as usual. That tormented Ivan
Ilych more than anything. He saw that his household, especially
his wife and daughter who were in a perfect whirl of visiting, did
not understand anything of it and were annoyed that he was so
depressed and so exacting, as if he were to blame for it. Though
they tried to disguise it he saw that he was an obstacle in their
path, and that his wife had adopted a definite line in regard to
his illness and kept to it regardless of anything he said or did.
Her attitude was this: "You know," she would say to her friends,
"Ivan Ilych can't do as other people do, and keep to the treatment
prescribed for him. One day he'll take his drops and keep strictly
to his diet and go to bed in good time, but the next day unless I
watch him he'll suddenly forget his medicine, eat sturgeon -- which
is forbidden -- and sit up playing cards till one o'clock in the
"Oh, come, when was that?" Ivan Ilych would ask in vexation.
"Only once at Peter Ivanovich's."
"And yesterday with shebek."
"Well, even if I hadn't stayed up, this pain would have kept
"Be that as it may you'll never get well like that, but will
always make us wretched."
Praskovya Fedorovna's attitude to Ivan Ilych's illness, as she
expressed it both to others and to him, was that it was his own
fault and was another of the annoyances he caused her. Ivan ilych
felt that this opinion escaped her involuntarily -- but that did
not make it easier for him.
At the law courts too, Ivan Ilych noticed, or thought he
noticed, a strange attitude towards himself. It sometimes seemed
to him that people were watching him inquisitively as a man whose
place might soon be vacant. Then again, his friends would suddenly
begin to chaff him in a friendly way about his low spirits, as if
the awful, horrible, and unheard-of thing that was going on within
him, incessantly gnawing at him and irresistibly drawing him away,
was a very agreeable subject for jests. Schwartz in particular
irritated him by his jocularity, vivacity, and *savoir-faire*,
which reminded him of what he himself had been ten years ago.
Friends came to make up a set and they sat down to cards.
They dealt, bending the new cards to soften them, and he sorted the
diamonds in his hand and found he had seven. His partner said "No
trumps" and supported him with two diamonds. What more could be
wished for? It ought to be jolly and lively. They would make a
grand slam. But suddenly Ivan Ilych was conscious of that gnawing
pain, that taste in his mouth, and it seemed ridiculous that in
such circumstances he should be pleased to make a grand slam.
He looked at his partner Mikhail Mikhaylovich, who rapped the
table with his strong hand and instead of snatching up the tricks
pushed the cards courteously and indulgently towards Ivan Ilych
that he might have the pleasure of gathering them up without the
trouble of stretching out his hand for them. "Does he think I am
too weak to stretch out my arm?" thought Ivan Ilych, and forgetting
what he was doing he over-trumped his partner, missing the grand
slam by three tricks. And what was most awful of all was that he
saw how upset Mikhail Mikhaylovich was about it but did not himself
care. And it was dreadful to realize why he did not care.
They all saw that he was suffering, and said: "We can stop if
you are tired. Take a rest." Lie down? No, he was not at all
tired, and he finished the rubber. All were gloomy and silent.
Ivan Ilych felt that he had diffused this gloom over them and could
not dispel it. They had supper and went away, and Ivan Ilych was
left alone with the consciousness that his life was poisoned and
was poisoning the lives of others, and that this poison did not
weaken but penetrated more and more deeply into his whole being.
With this consciousness, and with physical pain besides the
terror, he must go to bed, often to lie awake the greater part of
the night. Next morning he had to get up again, dress, go to the
law courts, speak, and write; or if he did not go out, spend at
home those twenty-four hours a day each of which was a torture.
And he had to live thus all alone on the brink of an abyss, with no
one who understood or pitied him.
So one month passed and then another. Just before the New
Year his brother-in-law came to town and stayed at their house.
Ivan Ilych was at the law courts and Praskovya Fedorovna had gone
shopping. When Ivan Ilych came home and entered his study he found
his brother-in-law there -- a healthy, florid man -- unpacking his
portmanteau himself. He raised his head on hearing Ivan Ilych's
footsteps and looked up at him for a moment without a word. That
stare told Ivan Ilych everything. His brother-in-law opened his
mouth to utter an exclamation of surprise but checked himself, and
that action confirmed it all.
"I have changed, eh?"
"Yes, there is a change."
And after that, try as he would to get his brother-in-law to
return to the subject of his looks, the latter would say nothing
about it. Praskovya Fedorovna came home and her brother went out
to her. Ivan Ilych locked to door and began to examine himself in
the glass, first full face, then in profile. He took up a portrait
of himself taken with his wife, and compared it with what he saw in
the glass. The change in him was immense. Then he bared his arms
to the elbow, looked at them, drew the sleeves down again, sat down
on an ottoman, and grew blacker than night.
"No, no, this won't do!" he said to himself, and jumped up,
went to the table, took up some law papers and began to read them,
but could not continue. He unlocked the door and went into the
reception-room. The door leading to the drawing-room was shut. He
approached it on tiptoe and listened.
"No, you are exaggerating!" Praskovya Fedorovna was saying.
"Exaggerating! Don't you see it? Why, he's a dead man! Look
at his eyes -- there's no life in them. But what is it that is
wrong with him?"
"No one knows. Nikolaevich [that was another doctor] said
something, but I don't know what. And Seshchetitsky [this was the
celebrated specialist] said quite the contrary..."
Ivan Ilych walked away, went to his own room, lay down, and
began musing; "The kidney, a floating kidney." He recalled all
the doctors had told him of how it detached itself and swayed
about. And by an effort of imagination he tried to catch that
kidney and arrest it and support it. So little was needed for
this, it seemed to him. "No, I'll go to see Peter Ivanovich
again." [That was the friend whose friend was a doctor.] He rang,
ordered the carriage, and got ready to go.
"Where are you going, Jean?" asked his wife with a specially
sad and exceptionally kind look.
This exceptionally kind look irritated him. He looked
morosely at her.
"I must go to see Peter Ivanovich."
He went to see Peter Ivanovich, and together they went to see
his friend, the doctor. He was in, and Ivan Ilych had a long talk
Reviewing the anatomical and physiological details of what in
the doctor's opinion was going on inside him, he understood it all.
There was something, a small thing, in the vermiform appendix.
It might all come right. Only stimulate the energy of one organ
and check the activity of another, then absorption would take place
and everything would come right. He got home rather late for
dinner, ate his dinner, and conversed cheerfully, but could not for
a long time bring himself to go back to work in his room. At last,
however, he went to his study and did what was necessary, but the
consciousness that he had put something aside -- an important,
intimate matter which he would revert to when his work was done --
never left him. When he had finished his work he remembered that
this intimate matter was the thought of his vermiform appendix.
But he did not give himself up to it, and went to the drawing-room
for tea. There were callers there, including the examining
magistrate who was a desirable match for his daughter, and they
were conversing, playing the piano, and singing. Ivan Ilych, as
Praskovya Fedorovna remarked, spent that evening more cheerfully
than usual, but he never for a moment forgot that he had postponed
the important matter of the appendix. At eleven o'clock he said
goodnight and went to his bedroom. Since his illness he had slept
alone in a small room next to his study. He undressed and took up
a novel by Zola, but instead of reading it he fell into thought,
and in his imagination that desired improvement in the vermiform
appendix occurred. There was the absorption and evacuation and the
re-establishment of normal activity. "Yes, that's it!" he said to
himself. "One need only assist nature, that's all." He remembered
his medicine, rose, took it, and lay down on his back watching for
the beneficent action of the medicine and for it to lessen the
pain. "I need only take it regularly and avoid all injurious
influences. I am already feeling better, much better." He began
touching his side: it was not painful to the touch. "There, I
really don't feel it. It's much better already." He put out the
light and turned on his side ... "The appendix is getting better,
absorption is occurring." Suddenly he felt the old, familiar,
dull, gnawing pain, stubborn and serious. There was the same
familiar loathsome taste in his mouth. His heart sand and he felt
dazed. "My God! My God!" he muttered. "Again, again! And it
will never cease." And suddenly the matter presented itself in a
quite different aspect. "Vermiform appendix! Kidney!" he said to
himself. "It's not a question of appendix or kidney, but of life
and...death. Yes, life was there and now it is going, going and I
cannot stop it. Yes. Why deceive myself? Isn't it obvious to
everyone but me that I'm dying, and that it's only a question of
weeks, days...it may happen this moment. There was light and now
there is darkness. I was here and now I'm going there! Where?" A
chill came over him, his breathing ceased, and he felt only the
throbbing of his heart.
"When I am not, what will there be? There will be nothing.
Then where shall I be when I am no more? Can this be dying? No,
I don't want to!" He jumped up and tried to light the candle, felt
for it with trembling hands, dropped candle and candlestick on the
floor, and fell back on his pillow.
"What's the use? It makes no difference," he said to himself,
staring with wide-open eyes into the darkness. "Death. Yes,
death. And none of them knows or wishes to know it, and they have
no pity for me. Now they are playing." (He heard through the door
the distant sound of a song and its accompaniment.) "It's all the
same to them, but they will die too! Fools! I first, and they
later, but it will be the same for them. And now they are
Anger choked him and he was agonizingly, unbearably miserable.
"It is impossible that all men have been doomed to suffer this
awful horror!" He raised himself.
"Something must be wrong. I must calm myself -- must think it
all over from the beginning." And he again began thinking. "Yes,
the beginning of my illness: I knocked my side, but I was still
quite well that day and the next. It hurt a little, then rather
more. I saw the doctors, then followed despondency and anguish,
more doctors, and I drew nearer to the abyss. My strength grew
less and I kept coming nearer and nearer, and now I have wasted
away and there is no light in my eyes. I think of the appendix --
but this is death! I think of mending the appendix, and all the
while here is death! Can it really be death?" Again terror seized
him and he gasped for breath. He leant down and began feeling for
the matches, pressing with his elbow on the stand beside the bed.
It was in his way and hurt him, he grew furious with it, pressed on
it still harder, and upset it. Breathless and in despair he fell
on his back, expecting death to come immediately.
Meanwhile the visitors were leaving. Praskovya Fedorovna was
seeing them off. She heard something fall and came in.
"What has happened?"
"Nothing. I knocked it over accidentally."
She went out and returned with a candle. He lay there panting
heavily, like a man who has run a thousand yards, and stared
upwards at her with a fixed look.
"What is it, Jean?"
"No...o...thing. I upset it." ("Why speak of it? She won't
understand," he thought.)
And in truth she did not understand. She picked up the stand,
lit his candle, and hurried away to see another visitor off. When
she came back he still lay on his back, looking upwards.
"What is it? Do you feel worse?"
She shook her head and sat down.
"Do you know, Jean, I think we must ask Leshchetitsky to come
and see you here."
This meant calling in the famous specialist, regardless of
expense. He smiled malignantly and said "No." She remained a
little longer and then went up to him and kissed his forehead.
While she was kissing him he hated her from the bottom of his
soul and with difficulty refrained from pushing her away.
"Good night. Please God you'll sleep."
Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual
In the depth of his heart he knew he was dying, but not only
was he not accustomed to the thought, he simply did not and could
not grasp it.
The syllogism he had learnt from Kiesewetter's Logic: "Caius
is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal," had always
seemed to him correct as applied to Caius, but certainly not as
applied to himself. That Caius -- man in the abstract -- was
mortal, was perfectly correct, but he was not Caius, not an
abstract man, but a creature quite, quite separate from all others.
He had been little Vanya, with a mamma and a papa, with Mitya and
Volodya, with the toys, a coachman and a nurse, afterwards with
Katenka and will all the joys, griefs, and delights of childhood,
boyhood, and youth. What did Caius know of the smell of that
striped leather ball Vanya had been so fond of? Had Caius kissed
his mother's hand like that, and did the silk of her dress rustle
so for Caius? Had he rioted like that at school when the pastry
was bad? Had Caius been in love like that? Could Caius preside at
a session as he did? "Caius really was mortal, and it was right
for him to die; but for me, little Vanya, Ivan Ilych, with all my
thoughts and emotions, it's altogether a different matter. It
cannot be that I ought to die. That would be too terrible."
Such was his feeling.
"If I had to die like Caius I would have known it was so. An
inner voice would have told me so, but there was nothing of the
sort in me and I and all my friends felt that our case was quite
different from that of Caius. and now here it is!" he said to
himself. "It can't be. It's impossible! But here it is. How is
this? How is one to understand it?"
He could not understand it, and tried to drive this false,
incorrect, morbid thought away and to replace it by other proper
and healthy thoughts. But that thought, and not the thought only
but the reality itself, seemed to come and confront him.
And to replace that thought he called up a succession of
others, hoping to find in them some support. He tried to get back
into the former current of thoughts that had once screened the
thought of death from him. But strange to say, all that had
formerly shut off, hidden, and destroyed his consciousness of
death, no longer had that effect. Ivan Ilych now spent most of his
time in attempting to re-establish that old current. He would say
to himself: "I will take up my duties again -- after all I used to
live by them." And banishing all doubts he would go to the law
courts, enter into conversation with his colleagues, and sit
carelessly as was his wont, scanning the crowd with a thoughtful
look and leaning both his emaciated arms on the arms of his oak
chair; bending over as usual to a colleague and drawing his papers
nearer he would interchange whispers with him, and then suddenly
raising his eyes and sitting erect would pronounce certain words
and open the proceedings. But suddenly in the midst of those
proceedings the pain in his side, regardless of the stage the
proceedings had reached, would begin its own gnawing work. Ivan
Ilych would turn his attention to it and try to drive the thought
of it away, but without success. *It* would come and stand before
him and look at him, and he would be petrified and the light would
die out of his eyes, and he would again begin asking himself
whether *It* alone was true. And his colleagues and subordinates
would see with surprise and distress that he, the brilliant and
subtle judge, was becoming confused and making mistakes. He would
shake himself, try to pull himself together, manage somehow to
bring the sitting to a close, and return home with the sorrowful
consciousness that his judicial labours could not as formerly hide
from him what he wanted them to hide, and could not deliver him
from *It*. And what was worst of all was that *It* drew his
attention to itself not in order to make him take some action but
only that he should look at *It*, look it straight in the face:
look at it and without doing anything, suffer inexpressibly.
And to save himself from this condition Ivan Ilych looked for
consolations -- new screens -- and new screens were found and for
a while seemed to save him, but then they immediately fell to
pieces or rather became transparent, as if *It* penetrated them and
nothing could veil *It*.
In these latter days he would go into the drawing-room he had
arranged -- that drawing-room where he had fallen and for the sake
of which (how bitterly ridiculous it seemed) he had sacrificed his
life -- for he knew that his illness originated with that knock.
He would enter and see that something had scratched the polished
table. He would look for the cause of this and find that it was
the bronze ornamentation of an album, that had got bent. He would
take up the expensive album which he had lovingly arranged, and
feel vexed with his daughter and her friends for their untidiness -
- for the album was torn here and there and some of the photographs
turned upside down. He would put it carefully in order and bend
the ornamentation back into position. Then it would occur to him
to place all those things in another corner of the room, near the
plants. He would call the footman, but his daughter or wife would
come to help him. They would not agree, and his wife would
contradict him, and he would dispute and grow angry. But that was
all right, for then he did not think about *It*. *It* was
But then, when he was moving something himself, his wife would
say: "Let the servants do it. You will hurt yourself again." And
suddenly *It* would flash through the screen and he would see it.
It was just a flash, and he hoped it would disappear, but he would
involuntarily pay attention to his side. "It sits there as before,
gnawing just the same!" And he could no longer forget *It*, but
could distinctly see it looking at him from behind the flowers.
"What is it all for?"
"It really is so! I lost my life over that curtain as I might
have done when storming a fort. Is that possible? How terrible
and how stupid. It can't be true! It can't, but it is."
He would go to his study, lie down, and again be alone with
*It*: face to face with *It*. And nothing could be done with *It*
except to look at it and shudder.
How it happened it is impossible to say because it came about
step by step, unnoticed, but in the third month of Ivan Ilych's
illness, his wife, his daughter, his son, his acquaintances, the
doctors, the servants, and above all he himself, were aware that
the whole interest he had for other people was whether he would
soon vacate his place, and at last release the living from the
discomfort caused by his presence and be himself released from his
He slept less and less. He was given opium and hypodermic
injections of morphine, but this did not relieve him. The dull
depression he experienced in a somnolent condition at first gave
him a little relief, but only as something new, afterwards it
became as distressing as the pain itself or even more so.
Special foods were prepared for him by the doctors' orders,
but all those foods became increasingly distasteful and disgusting
For his excretions also special arrangements had to be made,
and this was a torment to him every time -- a torment from the
uncleanliness, the unseemliness, and the smell, and from knowing
that another person had to take part in it.
But just through his most unpleasant matter, Ivan Ilych
obtained comfort. Gerasim, the butler's young assistant, always
came in to carry the things out. Gerasim was a clean, fresh
peasant lad, grown stout on town food and always cheerful and
bright. At first the sight of him, in his clean Russian peasant
costume, engaged on that disgusting task embarrassed Ivan Ilych.
Once when he got up from the commode to weak to draw up his
trousers, he dropped into a soft armchair and looked with horror at
his bare, enfeebled thighs with the muscles so sharply marked on
Gerasim with a firm light tread, his heavy boots emitting a
pleasant smell of tar and fresh winter air, came in wearing a clean
Hessian apron, the sleeves of his print shirt tucked up over his
strong bare young arms; and refraining from looking at his sick
master out of consideration for his feelings, and restraining the
joy of life that beamed from his face, he went up to the commode.
"Gerasim!" said Ivan Ilych in a weak voice.
"Gerasim started, evidently afraid he might have committed
some blunder, and with a rapid movement turned his fresh, kind,
simple young face which just showed the first downy signs of a
"That must be very unpleasant for you. You must forgive me.
I am helpless."
"Oh, why, sir," and Gerasim's eyes beamed and he showed his
glistening white teeth, "what's a little trouble? It's a case of
illness with you, sir."
And his deft strong hands did their accustomed task, and he
went out of the room stepping lightly. five minutes later he as
Ivan Ilych was still sitting in the same position in the
"Gerasim," he said when the latter had replaced the freshly-
washed utensil. "Please come here and help me." Gerasim went up
to him. "Lift me up. It is hard for me to get up, and I have sent
Gerasim went up to him, grasped his master with his strong
arms deftly but gently, in the same way that he stepped -- lifted
him, supported him with one hand, and with the other drew up his
trousers and would have set him down again, but Ivan Ilych asked to
be led to the sofa. Gerasim, without an effort and without
apparent pressure, led him, almost lifting him, to the sofa and
placed him on it.
"That you. How easily and well you do it all!"
Gerasim smiled again and turned to leave the room. But Ivan
Ilych felt his presence such a comfort that he did not want to let
"One thing more, please move up that chair. No, the other one
-- under my feet. It is easier for me when my feet are raised."
Gerasim brought the chair, set it down gently in place, and
raised Ivan Ilych's legs on it. It seemed to Ivan Ilych that he
felt better while Gerasim was holding up his legs.
"It's better when my legs are higher," he said. "Place that
cushion under them."
Gerasim did so. He again lifted the legs and placed them, and
again Ivan Ilych felt better while Gerasim held his legs. When he
set them down Ivan Ilych fancied he felt worse.
"Gerasim," he said. "Are you busy now?"
"Not at all, sir," said Gerasim, who had learnt from the
townsfolk how to speak to gentlefolk.
"What have you still to do?"
"What have I to do? I've done everything except chopping the
logs for tomorrow."
"Then hold my legs up a bit higher, can you?"
"Of course I can. Why not?" and Gerasim raised his master's
legs higher and Ivan Ilych thought that in that position he did not
feel any pain at all.
"And how about the logs?"
"Don't trouble about that, sir. There's plenty of time."
Ivan Ilych told Gerasim to sit down and hold his legs, and
began to talk to him. And strange to say it seemed to him that he
felt better while Gerasim held his legs up.
After that Ivan Ilych would sometimes call Gerasim and get him
to hold his legs on his shoulders, and he liked talking to him.
Gerasim did it all easily, willingly, simply, and with a good
nature that touched Ivan Ilych. Health, strength, and vitality in
other people were offensive to him, but Gerasim's strength and
vitality did not mortify but soothed him.
What tormented Ivan Ilych most was the deception, the lie,
which for some reason they all accepted, that he was not dying but
was simply ill, and the only need keep quiet and undergo a
treatment and then something very good would result. He however
knew that do what they would nothing would come of it, only still
more agonizing suffering and death. This deception tortured him --
their not wishing to admit what they all knew and what he knew, but
wanting to lie to him concerning his terrible condition, and
wishing and forcing him to participate in that lie. Those lies --
lies enacted over him on the eve of his death and destined to
degrade this awful, solemn act to the level of their visitings,
their curtains, their sturgeon for dinner -- were a terrible agony
for Ivan Ilych. And strangely enough, many times when they were
going through their antics over him he had been within a
hairbreadth of calling out to them: "Stop lying! You know and I
know that I am dying. Then at least stop lying about it!" But he
had never had the spirit to do it. The awful, terrible act of his
dying was, he could see, reduced by those about him to the level of
a casual, unpleasant, and almost indecorous incident (as if someone
entered a drawing room defusing an unpleasant odour) and this was
done by that very decorum which he had served all his life long.
He saw that no one felt for him, because no one even wished to
grasp his position. Only Gerasim recognized it and pitied him.
And so Ivan Ilych felt at ease only with him. He felt comforted
when Gerasim supported his legs (sometimes all night long) and
refused to go to bed, saying: "Don't you worry, Ivan Ilych. I'll
get sleep enough later on," or when he suddenly became familiar and
exclaimed: "If you weren't sick it would be another matter, but as
it is, why should I grudge a little trouble?" Gerasim alone did
not lie; everything showed that he alone understood the facts of
the case and did not consider it necessary to disguise them, but
simply felt sorry for his emaciated and enfeebled master. Once
when Ivan Ilych was sending him away he even said straight out:
"We shall all of us die, so why should I grudge a little trouble?"
-- expressing the fact that he did not think his work burdensome,
because he was doing it for a dying man and hoped someone would do
the same for him when his time came.
Apart from this lying, or because of it, what most tormented
Ivan Ilych was that no one pitied him as he wished to be pitied.
At certain moments after prolonged suffering he wished most of all
(though he would have been ashamed to confess it) for someone to
pity him as a sick child is pitied. He longed to be petted and
comforted. he knew he was an important functionary, that he had a
beard turning grey, and that therefore what he long for was
impossible, but still he longed for it. and in Gerasim's attitude
towards him there was something akin to what he wished for, and so
that attitude comforted him. Ivan Ilych wanted to weep, wanted to
be petted and cried over, and then his colleague Shebek would come,
and instead of weeping and being petted, Ivan Ilych would assume a
serious, severe, and profound air, and by force of habit would
express his opinion on a decision of the Court of Cassation and
would stubbornly insist on that view. This falsity around him and
within him did more than anything else to poison his last days.
It was morning. He knew it was morning because Gerasim had
gone, and Peter the footman had come and put out the candles, drawn
back one of the curtains, and begun quietly to tidy up. Whether it
was morning or evening, Friday or Sunday, made no difference, it
was all just the same: the gnawing, unmitigated, agonizing pain,
never ceasing for an instant, the consciousness of life inexorably
waning but not yet extinguished, the approach of that ever dreaded
and hateful Death which was the only reality, and always the same
falsity. What were days, weeks, hours, in such a case?
"Will you have some tea, sir?"
"He wants things to be regular, and wishes the gentlefolk to
drink tea in the morning," thought ivan Ilych, and only said "No."
"Wouldn't you like to move onto the sofa, sir?"
"He wants to tidy up the room, and I'm in the way. I am
uncleanliness and disorder," he thought, and said only:
"No, leave me alone."
The man went on bustling about. Ivan Ilych stretched out his
hand. Peter came up, ready to help.
"What is it, sir?"
Peter took the watch which was close at hand and gave it to
"Half-past eight. Are they up?"
"No sir, except Vladimir Ivanovich" (the son) "who has gone to
school. Praskovya Fedorovna ordered me to wake her if you asked
for her. Shall I do so?"
"No, there's no need to." "Perhaps I's better have some tea,"
he thought, and added aloud: "Yes, bring me some tea."
Peter went to the door, but Ivan Ilych dreaded being left
alone. "How can I keep him here? Oh yes, my medicine." "Peter,
give me my medicine." "Why not? Perhaps it may still do some
good." He took a spoonful and swallowed it. "No, it won't help.
It's all tomfoolery, all deception," he decided as soon as he
became aware of the familiar, sickly, hopeless taste. "No, I can't
believe in it any longer. But the pain, why this pain? If it
would only cease just for a moment!" And he moaned. Peter turned
towards him. "It's all right. Go and fetch me some tea."
Peter went out. Left alone Ivan Ilych groaned not so much
with pain, terrible thought that was, as from mental anguish.
Always and for ever the same, always these endless days and nights.
If only it would come quicker! If only *what* would come quicker?
Death, darkness?...No, no! anything rather than death!
when Peter returned with the tea on a tray, Ivan Ilych stared
at him for a time in perplexity, not realizing who and what he was.
Peter was disconcerted by that look and his embarrassment brought
Ivan Ilych to himself.
"Oh, tea! All right, put it down. Only help me to wash and
put on a clean shirt."
And Ivan Ilych began to wash. With pauses for rest, he washed
his hands and then his face, cleaned his teeth, brushed his hair,
looked in the glass. He was terrified by what he saw, especially
by the limp way in which his hair clung to his pallid forehead.
While his shirt was being changed he knew that he would be
still more frightened at the sight of his body, so he avoided
looking at it. Finally he was ready. He drew on a dressing-gown,
wrapped himself in a plaid, and sat down in the armchair to take
his tea. For a moment he felt refreshed, but as soon as he began
to drink the tea he was again aware of the same taste, and the pain
also returned. He finished it with an effort, and then lay down
stretching out his legs, and dismissed Peter.
Always the same. Now a spark of hope flashes up, then a sea
of despair rages, and always pain; always pain, always despair, and
always the same. When alone he had a dreadful and distressing
desire to call someone, but he knew beforehand that with others
present it would be still worse. "Another dose of morphine--to
lose consciousness. I will tell him, the doctor, that he must
think of something else. It's impossible, impossible, to go on
An hour and another pass like that. But now there is a ring
at the door bell. Perhaps it's the doctor? It is. He comes in
fresh, hearty, plump, and cheerful, with that look on his face that
seems to say: "There now, you're in a panic about something, but
we'll arrange it all for you directly!" The doctor knows this
expression is out of place here, but he has put it on once for all
and can't take it off -- like a man who has put on a frock-coat in
the morning to pay a round of calls.
The doctor rubs his hands vigorously and reassuringly.
"Brr! How cold it is! There's such a sharp frost; just let
me warm myself!" he says, as if it were only a matter of waiting
till he was warm, and then he would put everything right.
"Well now, how are you?"
Ivan Ilych feels that the doctor would like to say: "Well,
how are our affairs?" but that even he feels that this would not
do, and says instead: "What sort of a night have you had?"
Ivan Ilych looks at him as much as to say: "Are you really
never ashamed of lying?" But the doctor does not wish to
understand this question, and Ivan Ilych says: "Just as terrible
as ever. The pain never leaves me and never subsides. If only
something ... "
"Yes, you sick people are always like that.... There, now I
think I am warm enough. Even Praskovya Fedorovna, who is so
particular, could find no fault with my temperature. Well, now I
can say good-morning," and the doctor presses his patient's hand.
Then dropping his former playfulness, he begins with a most
serious face to examine the patient, feeling his pulse and taking
his temperature, and then begins the sounding and auscultation.
Ivan Ilych knows quite well and definitely that all this is
nonsense and pure deception, but when the doctor, getting down on
his knee, leans over him, putting his ear first higher then lower,
and performs various gymnastic movements over him with a
significant expression on his face, Ivan Ilych submits to it all as
he used to submit to the speeches of the lawyers, though he knew
very well that they were all lying and why they were lying.
The doctor, kneeling on the sofa, is still sounding him when
Praskovya Fedorovna's silk dress rustles at the door and she is
heard scolding Peter for not having let her know of the doctor's
She comes in, kisses her husband, and at once proceeds to
prove that she has been up a long time already, and only owing to
a misunderstanding failed to be there when the doctor arrived.
Ivan Ilych looks at her, scans her all over, sets against her
the whiteness and plumpness and cleanness of her hands and neck,
the gloss of her hair, and the sparkle of her vivacious eyes. He
hates her with his whole soul. And the thrill of hatred he feels
for her makes him suffer from her touch.
Her attitude towards him and his diseases is still the same.
Just as the doctor had adopted a certain relation to his patient
which he could not abandon, so had she formed one towards him --
that he was not doing something he ought to do and was himself to
blame, and that she reproached him lovingly for this -- and she
could not now change that attitude.
"You see he doesn't listen to me and doesn't take his medicine
at the proper time. And above all he lies in a position that is no
doubt bad for him -- with his legs up."
She described how he made Gerasim hold his legs up.
The doctor smiled with a contemptuous affability that said:
"What's to be done? These sick people do have foolish fancies of
that kind, but we must forgive them."
When the examination was over the doctor looked at his watch,
and then Praskovya Fedorovna announced to Ivan Ilych that it was of
course as he pleased, but she had sent today for a celebrated
specialist who would examine him and have a consultation with
Michael Danilovich (their regular doctor).
"Please don't raise any objections. I am doing this for my own
sake," she said ironically, letting it be felt that she was doing
it all for his sake and only said this to leave him no right to
refuse. He remained silent, knitting his brows. He felt that he
was surrounded and involved in a mesh of falsity that it was hard
to unravel anything.
Everything she did for him was entirely for her own sake, and
she told him she was doing for herself what she actually was doing
for herself, as if that was so incredible that he must understand
At half-past eleven the celebrated specialist arrived. Again
the sounding began and the significant conversations in his
presence and in another room, about the kidneys and the appendix,
and the questions and answers, with such an air of importance that
again, instead of the real question of life and death which now
alone confronted him, the question arose of the kidney and appendix
which were not behaving as they ought to and would now be attached
by Michael Danilovich and the specialist and forced to amend their
The celebrated specialist took leave of him with a serious
though not hopeless look, and in reply to the timid question Ivan
Ilych, with eyes glistening with fear and hope, put to him as to
whether there was a chance of recovery, said that he could not
vouch for it but there was a possibility. The look of hope with
which Ivan Ilych watched the doctor out was so pathetic that
Praskovya Fedorovna, seeing it, even wept as she left the room to
hand the doctor his fee.
The gleam of hope kindled by the doctor's encouragement did
not last long. The same room, the same pictures, curtains, wall-
paper, medicine bottles, were all there, and the same aching
suffering body, and Ivan Ilych began to moan. They gave him a
subcutaneous injection and he sank into oblivion.
It was twilight when he came to. They brought him his dinner
and he swallowed some beef tea with difficulty, and then everything
was the same again and night was coming on.
After dinner, at seven o'clock, Praskovya Fedorovna came into
the room in evening dress, her full bosom pushed up by her corset,
and with traces of powder on her face. She had reminded him in the
morning that they were going to the theatre. Sarah Bernhardt was
visiting the town and they had a box, which he had insisted on
their taking. Now he had forgotten about it and her toilet
offended him, but he concealed his vexation when he remembered that
he had himself insisted on their securing a box and going because
it would be an instructive and aesthetic pleasure for the children.
Praskovya Fedorovna came in, self-satisfied but yet with a
rather guilty air. She sat down and asked how he was, but, as he
saw, only for the sake of asking and not in order to learn about
it, knowing that there was nothing to learn -- and then went on to
what she really wanted to say: that she would not on any account
have gone but that the box had been taken and Helen and their
daughter were going, as well as Petrishchev (the examining
magistrate, their daughter's fiance) and that it was out of the
question to let them go alone; but that she would have much
preferred to sit with him for a while; and he must be sure to
follow the doctor's orders while she was away.
"Oh, and Fedor Petrovich" (the fiance) "would like to come in.
May he? And Lisa?"
Their daughter came in in full evening dress, her fresh young
flesh exposed (making a show of that very flesh which in his own
case caused so much suffering), strong, healthy, evidently in love,
and impatient with illness, suffering, and death, because they
interfered with her happiness.
Fedor petrovich came in too, in evening dress, his hair curled
*a la Capoul*, a tight stiff collar round his long sinewy neck, an
enormous white shirt-front and narrow black trousers tightly
stretched over his strong thighs. He had one white glove tightly
drawn on, and was holding his opera hat in his hand.
Following him the schoolboy crept in unnoticed, in a new
uniform, poor little fellow, and wearing gloves. Terribly dark
shadows showed under his eyes, the meaning of which Ivan Ilych knew
His son had always seemed pathetic to him, and now it was
dreadful to see the boy's frightened look of pity. It seemed to
Ivan Ilych that Vasya was the only one besides Gerasim who
understood and pitied him.
They all sat down and again asked how he was. A silence
followed. Lisa asked her mother about the opera glasses, and there
was an altercation between mother and daughter as to who had taken
them and where they had been put. This occasioned some
Fedor Petrovich inquired of Ivan Ilych whether he had ever
seen Sarah Bernhardt. Ivan Ilych did not at first catch the
question, but then replied: "No, have you seen her before?"
"Yes, in *Adrienne Lecouvreur*."
Praskovya Fedorovna mentioned some roles in which Sarah
Bernhardt was particularly good. Her daughter disagreed.
Conversation sprang up as to the elegance and realism of her acting
-- the sort of conversation that is always repeated and is always
In the midst of the conversation Fedor Petrovich glanced at
Ivan Ilych and became silent. The others also looked at him and
grew silent. Ivan Ilych was staring with glittering eyes straight
before him, evidently indignant with them. This had to be
rectified, but it was impossible to do so. The silence had to be
broken, but for a time no one dared to break it and they all became
afraid that the conventional deception would suddenly become
obvious and the truth become plain to all. Lisa was the first to
pluck up courage and break that silence, but by trying to hide what
everybody was feeling, she betrayed it.
"Well, if we are going it's time to start," she said, looking
at her watch, a present from her father, and with a faint and
significant smile at Fedor Petrovich relating to something known
only to them. She got up with a rustle of her dress.
They all rose, said good-night, and went away.
When they had gone it seemed to Ivan Ilych that he felt
better; the falsity had gone with them. But the pain remained --
that same pain and that same fear that made everything monotonously
alike, nothing harder and nothing easier. Everything was worse.
Again minute followed minute and hour followed hour.
Everything remained the same and there was no cessation. And the
inevitable end of it all became more and more terrible.
"Yes, send Gerasim here," he replied to a question Peter
His wife returned late at night. She came in on tiptoe, but
he heard her, opened his eyes, and made haste to close them again.
She wished to send Gerasim away and to sit with him herself, but he
opened his eyes and said: "No, go away."
"Are you in great pain?"
"Always the same."
"Take some opium."
He agreed and took some. She went away.
Till about three in the morning he was in a state of stupefied
misery. It seemed to him that he and his pain were being thrust
into a narrow, deep black sack, but though they were pushed further
and further in they could not be pushed to the bottom. And this,
terrible enough in itself, was accompanied by suffering. He was
frightened yet wanted to fall through the sack, he struggled but
yet co-operated. And suddenly he broke through, fell, and regained
consciousness. Gerasim was sitting at the foot of the bed dozing
quietly and patiently, while he himself lay with his emaciated
stockinged legs resting on Gerasim's shoulders; the same shaded
candle was there and the same unceasing pain.
"Go away, Gerasim," he whispered.
"It's all right, sir. I'll stay a while."
"No. Go away."
He removed his legs from Gerasim's shoulders, turned sideways
onto his arm, and felt sorry for himself. He only waited till
Gerasim had gone into the next room and then restrained himself no
longer but wept like a child. He wept on account of his
helplessness, his terrible loneliness, the cruelty of man, the
cruelty of God, and the absence of God.
"Why hast Thou done all this? Why hast Thou brought me here?
Why, why dost Thou torment me so terribly?"
He did not expect an answer and yet wept because there was no
answer and could be none. The pain again grew more acute, but he
did not stir and did not call. He said to himself: "Go on!
Strike me! But what is it for? What have I done to Thee? What is
Then he grew quiet and not only ceased weeping but even held
his breath and became all attention. It was as though he were
listening not to an audible voice but to the voice of his soul, to
the current of thoughts arising within him.
"What is it you want?" was the first clear conception capable
of expression in words, that he heard.
"What do you want? What do you want?" he repeated to himself.
"What do I want? To live and not to suffer," he answered.
And again he listened with such concentrated attention that
even his pain did not distract him.
"To live? How?" asked his inner voice.
"Why, to live as I used to -- well and pleasantly."
"As you lived before, well and pleasantly?" the voice
And in imagination he began to recall the best moments of his
pleasant life. But strange to say none of those best moments of
his pleasant life now seemed at all what they had then seemed --
none of them except the first recollections of childhood. There,
in childhood, there had been something really pleasant with which
it would be possible to live if it could return. But the child who
had experienced that happiness existed no longer, it was like a
reminiscence of somebody else.
as soon as the period began which had produced the present
Ivan Ilych, all that had then seemed joys now melted before his
sight and turned into something trivial and often nasty.
And the further he departed from childhood and the nearer he
came to the present the more worthless and doubtful were the joys.
This began with the School of Law. A little that was really good
was still found there -- there was light-heartedness, friendship,
and hope. But in the upper classes there had already been fewer of
such good moments. Then during the first years of his official
career, when he was in the service of the governor, some pleasant
moments again occurred: they were the memories of love for a
woman. Then all became confused and there was still less of what
was good; later on again there was still less that was good, and
the further he went the less there was. His marriage, a mere
accident, then the disenchantment that followed it, his wife's bad
breath and the sensuality and hypocrisy: then that deadly official
life and those preoccupations about money, a year of it, and two,
and ten, and twenty, and always the same thing. And the longer it
lasted the more deadly it became. "It is as if I had been going
downhill while I imagined I was going up. And that is really what
it was. I was going up in public opinion, but to the same extent
life was ebbing away from me. And now it is all done and there is
"Then what does it mean? Why? It can't be that life is so
senseless and horrible. But if it really has been so horrible and
senseless, why must I die and die in agony? There is something
"Maybe I did not live as I ought to have done," it suddenly
occurred to him. "But how could that be, when I did everything
properly?" he replied, and immediately dismissed from his mind
this, the sole solution of all the riddles of life and death, as
something quite impossible.
"Then what do you want now? To live? Live how? Live as you
lived in the law courts when the usher proclaimed 'The judge is
coming!' The judge is coming, the judge!" he repeated to himself.
"Here he is, the judge. But I am not guilty!" he exclaimed
angrily. "What is it for?" And he ceased crying, but turning his
face to the wall continued to ponder on the same question: Why,
and for what purpose, is there all this horror? But however much
he pondered he found no answer. And whenever the thought occurred
to him, as it often did, that it all resulted from his not having
lived as he ought to have done, he at once recalled the correctness
of his whole life and dismissed so strange an idea.
Another fortnight passed. Ivan Ilych now no longer left his
sofa. He would not lie in bed but lay on the sofa, facing the wall
nearly all the time. He suffered ever the same unceasing agonies
and in his loneliness pondered always on the same insoluble
question: "What is this? Can it be that it is Death?" And the
inner voice answered: "Yes, it is Death."
"Why these sufferings?" And the voice answered, "For no
reason -- they just are so." Beyond and besides this there was
From the very beginning of his illness, ever since he had
first been to see the doctor, Ivan Ilych's life had been divided
between two contrary and alternating moods: now it was despair and
the expectation of this uncomprehended and terrible death, and now
hope and an intently interested observation of the functioning of
his organs. Now before his eyes there was only a kidney or an
intestine that temporarily evaded its duty, and now only that
incomprehensible and dreadful death from which it was impossible to
These two states of mind had alternated from the very
beginning of his illness, but the further it progressed the more
doubtful and fantastic became the conception of the kidney, and the
more real the sense of impending death.
He had but to call to mind what he had been three months
before and what he was now, to call to mind with what regularity he
had been going downhill, for every possibility of hope to be
Latterly during the loneliness in which he found himself as he
lay facing the back of the sofa, a loneliness in the midst of a
populous town and surrounded by numerous acquaintances and
relations but that yet could not have been more complete anywhere -
- either at the bottom of the sea or under the earth -- during that
terrible loneliness Ivan ilych had lived only in memories of the
past. Pictures of his past rose before him one after another.
they always began with what was nearest in time and then went back
to what was most remote -- to his childhood -- and rested there.
If he thought of the stewed prunes that had been offered him that
day, his mind went back to the raw shrivelled French plums of his
childhood, their peculiar flavour and the flow of saliva when he
sucked their stones, and along with the memory of that taste came
a whole series of memories of those days: his nurse, his brother,
and their toys. "No, I mustn't thing of that....It is too
painful," Ivan Ilych said to himself, and brought himself back to
the present -- to the button on the back of the sofa and the
creases in its morocco. "Morocco is expensive, but it does not
wear well: there had been a quarrel about it. It was a different
kind of quarrel and a different kind of morocco that time when we
tore father's portfolio and were punished, and mamma brought us
some tarts...." And again his thoughts dwelt on his childhood, and
again it was painful and he tried to banish them and fix his mind
on something else.
Then again together with that chain of memories another series
passed through his mind -- of how his illness had progressed and
grown worse. There also the further back he looked the more life
there had been. There had been more of what was good in life and
more of life itself. The two merged together. "Just as the pain
went on getting worse and worse, so my life grew worse and worse,"
he thought. "There is one bright spot there at the back, at the
beginning of life, and afterwards all becomes blacker and blacker
and proceeds more and more rapidly -- in inverse ration to the
square of the distance from death," thought Ivan Ilych. And the
example of a stone falling downwards with increasing velocity
entered his mind. Life, a series of increasing sufferings, flies
further and further towards its end -- the most terrible suffering.
"I am flying...." He shuddered, shifted himself, and tried to
resist, but was already aware that resistance was impossible, and
again with eyes weary of gazing but unable to cease seeing what was
before them, he stared at the back of the sofa and waited --
awaiting that dreadful fall and shock and destruction.
"Resistance is impossible!" he said to himself. "If I could
only understand what it is all for! But that too is impossible.
An explanation would be possible if it could be said that I have
not lived as I ought to. But it is impossible to say that," and he
remembered all the legality, correctitude, and propriety of his
life. "That at any rate can certainly not be admitted," he
thought, and his lips smiled ironically as if someone could see
that smile and be taken in by it. "There is no explanation!
Agony, death....What for?"
Another two weeks went by in this way and during that
fortnight an even occurred that Ivan Ilych and his wife had
desired. Petrishchev formally proposed. It happened in the
evening. The next day Praskovya Fedorovna came into her husband's
room considering how best to inform him of it, but that very night
there had been a fresh change for the worse in his condition. She
found him still lying on the sofa but in a different position. He
lay on his back, groaning and staring fixedly straight in front of
She began to remind him of his medicines, but he turned his
eyes towards her with such a look that she did not finish what she
was saying; so great an animosity, to her in particular, did that
"For Christ's sake let me die in peace!" he said.
She would have gone away, but just then their daughter came in
and went up to say good morning. He looked at her as he had done
at his wife, and in reply to her inquiry about his health said
dryly that he would soon free them all of himself. They were both
silent and after sitting with him for a while went away.
"Is it our fault?" Lisa said to her mother. "It's as if we
were to blame! I am sorry for papa, but why should we be
The doctor came at his usual time. Ivan Ilych answered "Yes"
and "No," never taking his angry eyes from him, and at last said:
"You know you can do nothing for me, so leave me alone."
"We can ease your sufferings."
"You can't even do that. Let me be."
The doctor went into the drawing room and told Praskovya
Fedorovna that the case was very serious and that the only resource
left was opium to allay her husband's sufferings, which must be
It was true, as the doctor said, that Ivan Ilych's physical
sufferings were terrible, but worse than the physical sufferings
were his mental sufferings which were his chief torture.
His mental sufferings were due to the fact that that night, as
he looked at Gerasim's sleepy, good-natured face with it prominent
cheek-bones, the question suddenly occurred to him: "What if my
whole life has been wrong?"
It occurred to him that what had appeared perfectly impossible
before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have
done, might after all be true. It occurred to him that his
scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was
considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely
noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have
been the real thing, and all the rest false. And his professional
duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family, and
all his social and official interests, might all have been false.
He tried to defend all those things to himself and suddenly felt
the weakness of what he was defending. There was nothing to
"But if that is so," he said to himself, "and i am leaving
this life with the consciousness that I have lost all that was
given me and it is impossible to rectify it -- what then?"
He lay on his back and began to pass his life in review in
quite a new way. In the morning when he saw first his footman,
then his wife, then his daughter, and then the doctor, their every
word and movement confirmed to him the awful truth that had been
revealed to him during the night. In them he saw himself -- all
that for which he had lived -- and saw clearly that it was not real
at all, but a terrible and huge deception which had hidden both
life and death. This consciousness intensified his physical
suffering tenfold. He groaned and tossed about, and pulled at his
clothing which choked and stifled him. And he hated them on that
He was given a large dose of opium and became unconscious, but
at noon his sufferings began again. He drove everybody away and
tossed from side to side.
His wife came to him and said:
"Jean, my dear, do this for me. It can't do any harm and
often helps. Healthy people often do it."
He opened his eyes wide.
"What? Take communion? Why? It's unnecessary! However..."
She began to cry.
"Yes, do, my dear. I'll send for our priest. He is such a
"All right. Very well," he muttered.
When the priest came and heard his confession, Ivan Ilych was
softened and seemed to feel a relief from his doubts and
consequently from his sufferings, and for a moment there came a ray
of hope. He again began to think of the vermiform appendix and the
possibility of correcting it. He received the sacrament with tears
in his eyes.
When they laid him down again afterwards he felt a moment's
ease, and the hope that he might live awoke in him again. He began
to think of the operation that had been suggested to him. "To
live! I want to live!" he said to himself.
His wife came in to congratulate him after his communion, and
when uttering the usual conventional words she added:
"You feel better, don't you?"
Without looking at her he said "Yes."
Her dress, her figure, the expression of her face, the tone of
her voice, all revealed the same thing. "This is wrong, it is not
as it should be. All you have lived for and still live for is
falsehood and deception, hiding life and death from you." And as
soon as he admitted that thought, his hatred and his agonizing
physical suffering again sprang up, and with that suffering a
consciousness of the unavoidable, approaching end. And to this was
added a new sensation of grinding shooting pain and a feeling of
The expression of his face when he uttered that "Yes" was
dreadful. Having uttered it, he looked her straight in the eyes,
turned on his face with a rapidity extraordinary in his weak state
"Go away! Go away and leave me alone!"
From that moment the screaming began that continued for three
days, and was so terrible that one could not hear it through two
closed doors without horror. At the moment he answered his wife
realized that he was lost, that there was no return, that the end
had come, the very end, and his doubts were still unsolved and
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" he cried in various intonations. he had begun
by screaming "I won't!" and continued screaming on the letter "O".
For three whole days, during which time did not exist for him,
he struggled in that black sack into which he was being thrust by
an invisible, resistless force. He struggled as a man condemned to
death struggles in the hands of the executioner, knowing that he
cannot save himself. And every moment he felt that despite all his
efforts he was drawing nearer and nearer to what terrified him. he
felt that his agony was due to his being thrust into that black
hole and still more to his not being able to get right into it. He
was hindered from getting into it by his conviction that his life
had been a good one. That very justification of his life held him
fast and prevented his moving forward, and it caused him most
torment of all.
Suddenly some force struck him in the chest and side, making
it still harder to breathe, and he fell through the hole and there
at the bottom was a light. What had happened to him was like the
sensation one sometimes experiences in a railway carriage when one
thinks one is going backwards while one is really going forwards
and suddenly becomes aware of the real direction.
"Yes, it was not the right thing," he said to himself, "but
that's no matter. It can be done. But what *is* the right thing?
he asked himself, and suddenly grew quiet.
This occurred at the end of the third day, two hours before
his death. Just then his schoolboy son had crept softly in and
gone up to the bedside. The dying man was still screaming
desperately and waving his arms. His hand fell on the boy's head,
and the boy caught it, pressed it to his lips, and began to cry.
At that very moment Ivan Ilych fell through and caught sight
of the light, and it was revealed to him that though his life had
not been what it should have been, this could still be rectified.
He asked himself, "What *is* the right thing?" and grew still,
listening. Then he felt that someone was kissing his hand. He
opened his eyes, looked at his son, and felt sorry for him. His
wife camp up to him and he glanced at her. She was gazing at him
open-mouthed, with undried tears on her nose and cheek and a
despairing look on her face. He felt sorry for her too.
"Yes, I am making them wretched," he thought. "They are
sorry, but it will be better for them when I die." He wished to
say this but had not the strength to utter it. "Besides, why
speak? I must act," he thought. with a look at his wife he
indicated his son and said: "Take him away...sorry for him...sorry
for you too...." He tried to add, "Forgive me," but said "Forego"
and waved his hand, knowing that He whose understanding mattered
And suddenly it grew clear to him that what had been
oppressing him and would not leave his was all dropping away at
once from two sides, from ten sides, and from all sides. He was
sorry for them, he must act so as not to hurt them: release them
and free himself from these sufferings. "How good and how simple!"
he thought. "And the pain?" he asked himself. "What has become of
it? Where are you, pain?"
He turned his attention to it.
"Yes, here it is. Well, what of it? Let the pain be."
"And death...where is it?"
He sought his former accustomed fear of death and did not find
it. "Where is it? What death?" There was no fear because there
was no death.
In place of death there was light.
"So that's what it is!" he suddenly exclaimed aloud. "What
To him all this happened in a single instant, and the meaning
of that instant did not change. For those present his agony
continued for another two hours. Something rattled in his throat,
his emaciated body twitched, then the gasping and rattle became
less and less frequent.
"It is finished!" said someone near him.
He heard these words and repeated them in his soul.
"Death is finished," he said to himself. "It is no more!"
He drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched
out, and died.