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Prof. Poirier's Dream

Prof. Poirier's Dream image
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Last Sunday afternoon, mj maidfiervant having gone out to vespers, and the heat of the day toward three o'clock being overpowering, I feil asleep reading Darwin. My window opened upon the Charterhouse gardeu; the rustling of the leaves vaguely to my ears; a ligbt breath of jiir pHTficcpii Vnv oheeks. Siulcïonlv, in u ureain, I saw mygnlf ( i..,rii'..l to the banks of the Ganges, not far from Henares. I was sitting in the shado of a gi-eat tamai-ind tree; the sacred rivcr rolled before me like a lake, wliite with lio-ht, and upon iu banki an immense forest of palms, bananas, and other exotic plants spread itself, whose lances, parasols, and fans mingled togetber as far as the eye eould reacb. And while I contemplated in wonderment tliis splendid landseape, a slight noise in the leaves over my liead draw my attention. I looked up and saw - guess what I saw! I saw myself, NicJiolas Poirier, professor of philosophy at the College of Saint Suzamie, in the form of a ehimpanzee, hanging by one of my paws to the lower branca of the tamarind tree, and makins faces at mvself. Judge of my astonisiiment! Comprehendmg directly that rav botfy had dissevered itselí f rom vaj soúl, ai d was eapering abóut in the lonely forest, I was in consternation. "If it wanders oft' into the dcpths of the wood," I said to myself, "it will never return, and I shall reniain here alone, with my metaphysics and nothing else to console me." The thoughta made me shuddcr. I wanted to summon my Notóme to resume immediately its accustomed place, but the fear of frightening it modilled my ideas, and with a conciliatory tone, I said to it: 'Come! como! my dear ïïïcholas, consider does that posture Buit the dignity of your ebaraeter? Ought a professor of philosophy to suspend himself f rom the branch of a tree? Is it proper? Come, my friend, come back to propriety!" But the chimpanzee, after replying to me by two or tliree grimaces, said: "Ah! now, do you take me for a fooi, proud and stupid spirit? I descent from my tree to seat myself again in your old arm-chair, and wear out niy eyes in dociphering silly storics! Ah, j'ou know me littie if you recfcon on that. No, no! I am veiy well on my tree, and here I stay uiiül Lbo takes m Ui flret down and munch a few almonds or treat myself to a cocoanut. That's what suits me. You! do whatyou like, diseuss, dream, babble; that is your affair. I have liad enough of it." At this impertinent answer I had a mind to be angry, but for the second time reflecting that this would not be a good w;iy to bring baok the Not-me, I resolved to convince it by the force of logic, and in softened accènts cried: "i eoniprehend, my dear Nicholas, the wish tor liberty which has taken possession of you; the desire to stretch yourself wan natural enough, after being thirty years at rest. But this once is enough. You should listen to reason. Come, my friend, come," "Hear me," interrupted the chimpanzee. "For a long time I have known what you keep in store for me; thatyou distinguish betwoen yourself and me; who are your own body and your own life; that you propose to survive me, after haring made me work and sweat to satisfy your vanity. You have told me so a hundred times, while we were together ander the same envelope. You liave said to me, 'You, body, shall die; you shall turn to durf, after being buried ceremoniously; but I, spirit, I am of anothcr essence than yours; my essence is one and indivisible; it is immortal, outside of space and time; time eannot affect it. You, you were made to be eaten by worms.' Is it true? Did you say so?" I eould not deny it, my body havinnlived with me fifty years in the' most iii tímate confidente, and, besides, I had taught the thing professionally ín the lecture-room, aooording to the program rue of the univer.sitV. I could not, therefore, dispute the" f act, and the chimpanzee, secirrg me embarasscd, recommenced making faces at me, fortli peals of laughter with an air of triumph. I lost patience. "Are you comino; down direotly?" I cried. "I am tired of all tlii.s talk. It is I who command, I the spirit; and matter ought to obey." "You iiuve told mo so a hundred times," said the ape, sneerinjrly, "and I was slupid enough to bclieve you. I5ut times are changedi Stay in youf arm-ehair. I am going to skip away, swing on the vines, and try to ünd some pretty monkey to beautify my exista ence." At this tlireat a slmdder of horror seized me; and, softeniug iuy voice, I said: "Well. tlicn, vos! I havo said what has been repeated for six thousand years: lt is elear that the body taras to dust, but that it is aot my fuult; it is a fnct, and eveiy reasonable animal must submit to positivo material faets. What is the use of strugglingP That is evident to the senses. But the spirit, invisible, impalpable, is necossarily inmortal.'' On liearinir this, my chimpajizee burst nto endless ronre of laughter, eliatturing; hls teeth and repeating: 'i'lie spirits is immortal! immortaU [ia! ba! ha! that's a ruod joke! iimuortal!" He slapped his thighs and went into such convulsions that I was afraid of seeing hiin fall from the tree, and began to cry out: "Ilook yourself on, animal! Hold yourself f aster. With your extravaganees you will end by breaking your neek, and I - I here, -without a body, what will become of me? How shalí Í get up before my scbolars and make them recognize me?" These reasons appeared to affect the ape, for he was interested in bis perservation as much as I. Then, haviug calmed himself, he continued: "You are immortal, and I must disappear! Yet we have but one 'I.' For fifty years we have been working together for the development of this 'I,' both of us. I have suffered, as well as you, the privations whieh were needed for your greatness. Haven' t we had to pass day and night digging into Latin. Greek, Hebrew, and Sanscrit, without speaking of living languages, to get your ehair of philosophy. And now I must perish, while you will survive me in existenee of unalterable satisfaction and felicity for ever and ever? Come, now, that is contrary to common sense. Where would be the eterna] justice of which you are always talking?" My spirit, having no other answer to make, tried: "sluit up!" But, directly, feeling the neeessily of wheedling this subtle animal by some sort of reasoning, I added: "Your physical sufferings were nothing in comparison with my intellectual and moral sufferings. Besides, they were compensated by a host of pleasures suited to your nature. I never refused jou anything. As soon as my meana permitted, I put on you a line brown suit of clotlies, patent-leather slioe.s, according to the taste you have always shown; waist coats, fashionable cravats, the latest trowsers were not lacking to you - for vanity was as great as mine. You had to have white buen, ornamenta to watch-chain tbi t 11111 J. (Juunj Uuub niuuuta, lill for you. And your love of good living. - I never saw the like. Haven' t we shouted and sung and feasted at the Prado, at the ChaumiereP How many sausagea witb sourkrout, slices of ham, and crawfish haven' t you swallowed at the Strasburg Brewery, La Harpe Street? Have I ever reproaehed you in the least? Even when my pockets vvere empty, and I had to go on tick, did I besitáte? I do not speak of the innumerable pinta of beer which have gone down your throat; thcy would make tliousands of kegs if you would reckon them up. And the gara, and the rnusie, and the theatre - and all the rest." My ehimpauzee half sluit bis eyes impatiently. "Good!" said he, "you nover refused anytbing to yourself, eiüier, and a thousund times you have deprived me of the greatest necessaries in order to adora your library with Borne new book and satisfy your vain curiosity. Iu the early days, especially, I had to pass winters without a fire; gers numb with eold and my stomaeh empty." "I sufferod from it more than you. - Your privations eníeebled me, ;uid the fear of losing you gave me a fever." "Ah!'' cried the rascally a)e, "to be so afraid you must have been not quite sure of survivíng me. Say what yon will, we shall end together; you siíall not survive me a second. When I sleep, we both lose the sense of the 'I;' when I begin to wake up, you dream, you babble; when; I open my eyes, you revive; when I am siek and you suspect the slighest dangerous injury to me, you do not know what saint to pray to. - Go! your case s as olear as mine; soothe yourself with your darling illusions, we shall none the less depart arm-in-arm." He stopped, and seeing me reduced to silence, the animal weiit on with redoubled insolence: "Formerh', in tlie time of the Kgyptian.s, I was embalmed after ray death, and remained hundreds of vears in the condition of a mummy. It was a just tribute to my services; the honor of being cnvulopud in eonsecrated banaw uiij Munvii uil pare pértumes consoled me a little for the loss of Ufe. But at present you disdain me; yon think to elévate yourself by despising your body. For all that it is on'y a comedy on your part. Do you remember our rheumatism in the stomach, when Dr. Boniface gave us both up? í could bardly help laughing, in spite of the sadncss of the moment, at your looka when you received the last consolations of thia terrestial world; the big Latín words served out to you liad not the appearanoe of reaasunng you much as to your iinal lot, and for the sake of keeping me two or three yeara more you would not have hesitated a minute to saorifioe your eternal life. Come, ownup; behonesttoyourself. Isittrue?" I was confounded at his impudence; then, with a movement of indignation and as a last resource, and striking my breast, I cried: "1 think; therefore, I am." And the chimpanzee imitating my gesture and caressing Uis Btomaob, jeeringly cried: "I digest; therefore I am. One can doubt everything cxcept that one digests; for to doubt one must digest, doubt being a phase of good digestión." So much audacity deserved ehastisement. I rose to bring the rascal to his senses, when I perceived in the deep shadow of the leaves a moving object. Looking closer, I reoognized the flat head of one of those enormous serpents of the Ganges marshe, with whom apes are a favorite dainty. His tail loosened itself from the tip of the the taniarind tree, and his scaly belly glided undulating in silence down to the lowor branches. A cry of horror burst froxn my very bowels: "Look out!" 1 And the chimpanzee, perceiving from the corner of bis eye the fearful reptile, made a prodigious iëap. K was too late; the python bad followed hlm likt; a dart, and I heard his bonea cracking, when my maid-servant rel urn ing from vespers.opened tbe door, askine: "Did yon cali, rirP" Wbat íuck! 1 seemed to feel all the hairs on my body stand ou eüd, and I Btammered: "Nothing, Jcannette, nothing; I only sneezed. " "See, for all that, the emolions to which a man is exposed in reading Darwin.


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