READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapter V
So one month passed and then another. Just before the New
Year his brother-in-law came to town and stayed at their house.
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."