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Ward Six



Next morning his head ached, there was a droning in his ears and a feeling of utter weakness all over. He was not ashamed at recalling his weakness the day before. He had been cowardly, had even been afraid of the moon, had openly expressed thoughts and feelings such as he had not expected in himself before; for instance, the thought that the paltry people who philosophized were really dissatisfied. But now nothing mattered to him.

He ate nothing; he drank nothing. He lay motionless and silent.

"It is all the same to me," he thought when they asked him questions. "I am not going to answer. . . . It's all the same to me."

After dinner Mihail Averyanitch brought him a quarter pound of tea and a pound of fruit pastilles. Daryushka came too and stood for a whole hour by the bed with an expression of dull grief on her face. Dr. Hobotov visited him. He brought a bottle of bromide and told Nikita to fumigate the ward with something.

Towards evening Andrey Yefimitch died of an apoplectic stroke. At first he had a violent shivering fit and a feeling of sickness; something revolting as it seemed, penetrating through his whole body, even to his finger-tips, strained from his stomach to his head and flooded his eyes and ears. There was a greenness before his eyes. Andrey Yefimitch understood that his end had come, and remembered that Ivan Dmitritch, Mihail Averyanitch, and millions of people believed in immortality. And what if it really existed? But he did not want immortality -- and he thought of it only for one instant. A herd of deer, extraordinarily beautiful and graceful, of which he had been reading the day before, ran by him; then a peasant woman stretched out her hand to him with a registered letter. . . . Mihail Averyanitch said something, then it all vanished, and Andrey Yefimitch sank into oblivion for ever.

The hospital porters came, took him by his arms and legs, and carried him away to the chapel.

There he lay on the table, with open eyes, and the moon shed its light upon him at night. In the morning Sergey Sergeyitch came, prayed piously before the crucifix, and closed his former chief's eyes.

Next day Andrey Yefimitch was buried. Mihail Averyanitch and Daryushka were the only people at the funeral.


provincial secretary: the 12th rank in the Table of Ranks for the Russian Civil Service

gendarmes: the political police

laurel drops: used to calm patients

Stanislav order: most frequently given non-military order; it had an 8-pointed star

Swedish 'Polar Star': Swedish metal established in 1748 and given to both Swedes and non-Swedes

erysipelas: severe skin infection

Zemstvo: a district council with locally elected members

Pushkin: Russia's greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) was killed in a duel and died after two days

Heine: the German poet and wit (1797-1856) was confined to his bed for the last 8 years of his life

senator: the Russian Senate functioned as a Supreme Court and interpreted the laws

white tie: Russian doctors traditionally wore white ties

The Doctor: medical journal published in St. Petersburg

he knocks and it is not opened to him: cf. Matthew 7:7

the great Pirogov: N. I. Pirogov (1810-1881) was a famous surgeon and teacher

in spe: in hope or expectation

stone: kidney stone

Pasteur and of Koch: Louis Pasteur (1822-1910) was a French chemist who developed vaccination techniques; Robert Koch (1843-1910) was a German bacteriologist

Elborus: Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe

strait-waistcoats: straitjacket

Bastille: French royal fortress and prison in Paris; its fall signaled the beginning of the French Revolution

bobbery: dillydallying

cupping: an outdated medical treatment in which blood is removed by placing evacuated glass cups on the skin; bleeding the patient by cupping, applying leeches, or cutting was accepted medical practice from the middle ages until the middle of the 19th century

midden-pit: latrine

Dostoevsky or Voltaire: F. M. Dostoevsky (1821-1881) was a famous Russian novelist; in his novel The Brothers Karamazov, he quotes the phrase from Voltaire about inventing God; Fran?is Voltaire was a major figure in the French Enlightenment; the phrase Chekhov refers to comes from a 1769 work; the exact phrase is "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer"

Diogenes lived in a tub: Diogenes (412 B.C. - 323 B.C.) was a Greek cynic philosopher

Marcus Aurelius: Marcus Aurelius (121 - 180) was a Roman emperor and stoic philosopher

Stoics: a philosophy founded by Zeno around 308 B.C. believing that humans should be free from passion and should calmly accept whatever fate has in store

Garden of Gethsemane: where Judas betrayed Jesus; see Matthew 26:36-42

vanity of vanities: Ecclesiastes 1:1

bromide: bromide of potassium was used in the nineteenth century as a sedative

Poland: Poland at this time was part of the Russian Empire

third-class: the cheapest and most uncomfortable seats

Iversky Madonna: alleged wonder-working icon

Tsar-cannon and Tsar-bell: 40-ton cannon cast in 1586 and 200-ton bell cast in 1735

St. Saviour's and the Rumyantsev museum: Church of the Savior, built to mark victory of Russians over French invaders in 1812; Rumiantsev Museum, built in 1787, housed nearly a million books

Tyestov's: a fancy Moscow restaurant

Austrian spies: at that time part of what is now Poland was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire

rhubarb pills: used as a purgative

mauvais ton: ill-bred, lacking in manners

bone-charring factory: animal bones were burned to produce fertilizer

The best stories:
The Cherry Orchard
Lady with Lapdog
Uncle Vanya
Ward Six
Death of a Government Clerk
The Steppe




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