One day Mihail Averyanitch came after dinner when Andrey
Yefimitch was lying on the sofa. It so happened that Hobotov
arrived at the same time with his bromide. Andrey Yefimitch got
up heavily and sat down, leaning both arms on the sofa.
"You have a much better colour to-day than you had yesterday, my
dear man," began Mihail Averyanitch. "Yes, you look jolly. Upon
my soul, you do!"
"It's high time you were well, dear colleague," said Hobotov,
yawning. "I'll be bound, you are sick of this bobbery."
"And we shall recover," said Mihail Averyanitch cheerfully. "We
shall live another hundred years! To be sure!"
"Not a hundred years, but another twenty," Hobotov said
reassuringly. "It's all right, all right, colleague; don't lose
heart. . . . Don't go piling it on!"
"We'll show what we can do," laughed Mihail Averyanitch, and he
slapped his friend on the knee. "We'll show them yet! Next
summer, please God, we shall be off to the Caucasus, and we will
ride all over it on horseback -- trot, trot, trot! And when we
are back from the Caucasus I shouldn't wonder if we will all
dance at the wedding." Mihail Averyanitch gave a sly wink.
"We'll marry you, my dear boy, we'll marry you. . . ."
Andrey Yefimitch felt suddenly that the rising disgust had
mounted to his throat, his heart began beating violently.
"That's vulgar," he said, getting up quickly and walking away to
the window. "Don't you understand that you are talking vulgar
He meant to go on softly and politely, but against his will he
suddenly clenched his fists and raised them above his head.
"Leave me alone," he shouted in a voice unlike his own, blushing
crimson and shaking all over. "Go away, both of you!"
Mihail Averyanitch and Hobotov got up and stared at him first
with amazement and then with alarm.
"Go away, both!" Andrey Yefimitch went on shouting. "Stupid
people! Foolish people! I don't want either your friendship or
your medicines, stupid man! Vulgar! Nasty!"
Hobotov and Mihail Averyanitch, looking at each other in
bewilderment, staggered to the door and went out. Andrey
Yefimitch snatched up the bottle of bromide and flung it after
them; the bottle broke with a crash on the door-frame.
"Go to the devil!" he shouted in a tearful voice, running out
into the passage. "To the devil!"
When his guests were gone Andrey Yefimitch lay down on the sofa,
trembling as though in a fever, and went on for a long while
repeating: "Stupid people! Foolish people!"
When he was calmer, what occurred to him first of all was the
thought that poor Mihail Averyanitch must be feeling fearfully
ashamed and depressed now, and that it was all dreadful. Nothing
like this had ever happened to him before. Where was his
intelligence and his tact? Where was his comprehension of things
and his philosophical indifference?
The doctor could not sleep all night for shame and vexation with
himself, and at ten o'clock next morning he went to the post
office and apologized to the postmaster.
"We won't think again of what has happened," Mihail Averyanitch,
greatly touched, said with a sigh, warmly pressing his hand.
"Let bygones be bygones. Lyubavkin," he suddenly shouted so loud
that all the postmen and other persons present started, "hand a
chair; and you wait," he shouted to a peasant woman who was
stretching out a registered letter to him through the grating.
"Don't you see that I am busy? We will not remember the past,"
he went on, affectionately addressing Andrey Yefimitch; "sit
down, I beg you, my dear fellow."
For a minute he stroked his knees in silence, and then said:
"I have never had a thought of taking offence. Illness is no
joke, I understand. Your attack frightened the doctor and me
yesterday, and we had a long talk about you afterwards. My dear
friend, why won't you treat your illness seriously? You can't go
on like this. . . . Excuse me speaking openly as a friend,"
whispered Mihail Averyanitch. "You live in the most unfavourable
surroundings, in a crowd, in uncleanliness, no one to look after
you, no money for proper treatment. . . . My dear friend, the
doctor and I implore you with all our hearts, listen to our
advice: go into the hospital! There you will have wholesome food
and attendance and treatment. Though, between ourselves, Yevgeny
Fyodoritch is mauvais ton, yet he does understand his work, you
can fully rely upon him. He has promised me he will look after
Andrey Yefimitch was touched by the postmaster's genuine
sympathy and the tears which suddenly glittered on his cheeks.
"My honoured friend, don't believe it!" he whispered, laying his
hand on his heart; "don't believe them. It's all a sham. My
illness is only that in twenty years I have only found one
intelligent man in the whole town, and he is mad. I am not ill
at all, it's simply that I have got into an enchanted circle
which there is no getting out of. I don't care; I am ready for
"Go into the hospital, my dear fellow."
"I don't care if it were into the pit."
"Give me your word, my dear man, that you will obey Yevgeny
Fyodoritch in everything."
"Certainly I will give you my word. But I repeat, my honoured
friend, I have got into an enchanted circle. Now everything,
even the genuine sympathy of my friends, leads to the same thing
-- to my ruin. I am going to my ruin, and I have the manliness
to recognize it."
"My dear fellow, you will recover."
"What's the use of saying that?" said Andrey Yefimitch, with
irritation. "There are few men who at the end of their lives do
not experience what I am experiencing now. When you are told
that you have something such as diseased kidneys or enlarged
heart, and you begin being treated for it, or are told you are
mad or a criminal -- that is, in fact, when people suddenly turn
their attention to you -- you may be sure you have got into an
enchanted circle from which you will not escape. You will try to
escape and make things worse. You had better give in, for no
human efforts can save you. So it seems to me."
Meanwhile the public was crowding at the grating. That he might
not be in their way, Andrey Yefimitch got up and began to take
leave. Mihail Averyanitch made him promise on his honour once
more, and escorted him to the outer door.
Towards evening on the same day Hobotov, in his sheepskin and
his high top-boots, suddenly made his appearance, and said to
Andrey Yefimitch in a tone as though nothing had happened the
"I have come on business, colleague. I have come to ask you
whether you would not join me in a consultation. Eh?"
Thinking that Hobotov wanted to distract his mind with an
outing, or perhaps really to enable him to earn something,
Andrey Yefimitch put on his coat and hat, and went out with him
into the street. He was glad of the opportunity to smooth over
his fault of the previous day and to be reconciled, and in his
heart thanked Hobotov, who did not even allude to yesterday's
scene and was evidently sparing him. One would never have
expected such delicacy from this uncultured man.
"Where is your invalid?" asked Andrey Yefimitch.
"In the hospital. . . . I have long wanted to show him to you. A
very interesting case."
They went into the hospital yard, and going round the main
building, turned towards the lodge where the mental cases were
kept, and all this, for some reason, in silence. When they went
into the lodge Nikita as usual jumped up and stood at attention.
"One of the patients here has a lung complication." Hobotov said
in an undertone, going into the yard with Andrey Yefimitch. "You
wait here, I'll be back directly. I am going for a stethoscope."
And he went away.