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Doctor Claudius, A True Story   By: (1854-1909)

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A True Story


Author OF "MR. ISAACS"











"I believe I am old," said the Doctor, pushing his straight backed wooden chair from the table, and turning from his books to look out of his small window. "Yes, I am certainly very old," he said again, rapping absently on the arm of the chair with the pen he held. But the fingers that held the instrument were neither thin nor withered, and there was no trembling in the careless motion of the hand. The flaxen hair, long and tangled, was thick on the massive head, and the broad shoulders were flat and square across. Whatever Dr. Claudius might say of himself, he certainly did not look old.

And yet he said to himself that he was, and he probably knew. He said to himself, as he had said every day for many long months, that this was the secret of the difference he felt between his life and the life of his companions such companions as he had, between his thoughts and their thoughts, between his ways and their ways. Of late the fancy had gained a stronger hold on his imagination, excited by solitude and an undue consumption of the midnight oil, and as he turned his face to the evening light, an observer, had there been one, might have felt half inclined to agree with him. His face was pale, and the high aquiline nose looked drawn. Moreover, the tangled hair and beard contrasted strangely with his broad, spotless collar, and his dressing gown of sober black. The long habit of neatness in dress survived any small vanity of personal looks.

He rose, and throwing the pen impatiently on the table, went to the little window and looked out. His shoulders overlapped the opening on both sides as he thrust his yellow head out into the evening sunshine, and Master Simpelmayer, the shoemaker down in the street, glanced up, and seeing that the Herr Doctor was taking his evening sniff of the Neckar breeze, laid down his awl and went to "vespers," a "maas" of cool beer and a "pretzel." For the Herr Doctor was a regular man, and always appeared at his window at the same hour, rain or shine. And when Simpelmayer mended the well worn shoes that came to him periodically from across the way, he was sure that the flaxen haired student would not call over to know if they were finished until the sun was well down and the day far spent. On this particular evening, however, there was no mending in hand for the Herr Doctor, and so the crooked little shoemaker filled himself a pipe, and twisted his apron round his waist, and stumped leisurely down the street to the beer shop at the corner, where he and his fellows took their pots and their pipes, undisturbed by the playful pranks of the students.

But the Doctor remained at his window, and neither vouchsafed look nor greeting to Master Simpelmayer. He was not thinking of shoes or shoemakers just then, though, to judge by his face, he was thinking very intently of something. And well he might, for he had been reading serious stuff. The walls of his little chamber were lined with books, and there was a small sliding rack on the table, presumably for those volumes he immediately required for his work. A rare copy of Sextus Empiricus , with the Greek and Latin side by side, lay open on an inclined desk at one end, and the table was strewn with papers, on which were roughly drawn a variety of mathematical figures, margined all around with odd looking equations and algebraically expressed formulæ. Well thumbed volumes of mathematical works in English, German, and French, lay about, opened in various places, and there was a cracked old plate, half full of tobacco ashes and the ends of cigarettes. The remaining furniture of the room was simple and poor: a neat camp bedstead, a boot jack, and a round mirror, not more than four inches in diameter; a tin tub and an iron washing stand; a much battered old "schläger," with the colours at the hilt all in rags, hung over the iron stove; and that was all the room contained besides books and the working table and chair... Continue reading book >>

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