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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The German Professor
By Gustav Freytag (1816–1895)
 
From ‘The Lost Manuscript’

PROFESSORS’ wives also have trouble with their husbands. Sometimes when Ilse was seated in company with her intimate friends—with Madame Raschke, Madame Struvelius, or little Madame Günther—at one of those confidential coffee parties which they did not altogether despise, many things would come to light.  1
  The conversation with these intellectual women was certainly very interesting. It is true the talk sometimes passed lightly over the heads of the servants, and sometimes housekeeping troubles ventured out of the pond of pleasant talk like croaking frogs. To Ilse’s surprise, she found that even Flaminia Struvelius could discourse seriously about preserving little gherkins, and that she sought closely for the marks of youth in a plucked goose. The merry Madame Günther aroused horror and laughter in more experienced married women, when she asserted that she could not endure the crying of little children, and that from the very first she would force her child (which she had not yet got) to proper silence by chastisement. Thus conversation sometimes left greater subjects to stray into this domain. And when unimportant subjects were reviewed, it naturally came about that the men were honored by a quiet discussion. At such times it was evident that although the subject under consideration was men in general, each of the wives was thinking of her own husband, and that each silently carried about a secret bundle of cares, and justified the conclusion of her hearers that that husband too must be difficult to manage.  2
  Madame Raschke’s troubles could not be concealed; the whole town knew them. It was notorious that one market day her husband had gone to the university in his dressing-gown—in a brilliant dressing-gown, blue and orange, with a Turkish pattern. His students, who loved him dearly and were well aware of his habits, could not succeed in suppressing a loud laugh; and Raschke had calmly hung the dressing-gown over his pulpit, held his lecture in his shirt-sleeves, and returned home in one of the students’ overcoats. Since that time Madame Raschke never let her husband go out without herself inspecting him. It also appeared that all these ten years he had not been able to learn his way about the town, and she dared not change her residence, because she was quite sure that her professor would never remember it, and always return to his old home. Struvelius also occasioned much anxiety. Ilse knew about the last and greatest cause; but it also came to light that he expected his wife to read Latin proof-sheets, as she knew something of that language. Besides, he was quite incapable of refusing commissions to amiable wine merchants. At her marriage Madame Struvelius had found a whole cellar full of large and small wine casks, none of which had been drawn off, while he complained bitterly that no wine was ever brought into his cellar. Even little Madame Günther related that her husband could not give up night work; and that once, when he wandered with a lamp among his books, he came too near the curtain, which caught fire. He tore it off, and in so doing burnt his hands, and burst into the bedroom with blackened fingers in great alarm, and resembling Othello more than a mineralogist….  3
  Raschke was wandering about in the ante-room. Here too was confusion. Gabriel had not yet returned from his distant errand; the cook had left the remains of the meal standing on a side-table till his return; and Raschke had to find his greatcoat by himself. He rummaged among the clothes, and seized hold of a coat and a hat. As he was not so absent-minded as usual to-day, a glance at the despised supper reminded him just in time that he was to eat a fowl; so he seized hold of the newspaper which Gabriel had laid ready for his master, hastily took one of the chickens out of the dish, wrapped it in the journal, and thrust it in his pocket, agreeably surprised at the depth and capaciousness it revealed. Then he rushed past the astonished cook, and out of the house. When he opened the door of the étage he stumbled against something that was crouching on the threshold. He heard a horrible growling behind him, and stormed down the stairs and out of doors.  4
  The words of the friend whom he had left now came into his mind. Werner’s whole bearing was very characteristic; and there was something fine about it. It was strange that in a moment of anger Werner’s face had acquired a sudden resemblance to a bull-dog’s. Here the direct chain of the philosopher’s contemplations was crossed by the remembrance of the conversation on animals’ souls.  5
  “It is really a pity that it is still so difficult to determine an animal’s expression of soul. If we could succeed in that, science would gain. For if we could compare in all their minutiæ the expression and gestures of human beings and higher animals, we might make most interesting deductions from their common peculiarities and their particular differences. In this way the natural origin of their dramatic movements, and perhaps some new laws, would be discovered.”  6
  While the philosopher was pondering thus, he felt a continued pulling at his coat-tails. As his wife was in the habit of giving him a gentle pull when he was walking next her absorbed in thought and they met some acquaintance, he took no further notice of it, but took off his hat, and bowing politely towards the railing of the bridge, said “Good-evening.”  7
  “These common and original elements in the mimic expression of human beings and higher animals might, if rightly understood, even open out new vistas into the great mystery of life.” Another pull. Raschke mechanically took off his hat. Another pull. “Thank you, dear Aurelia, I did bow.” As he spoke, the thought crossed his mind that his wife would not pull at his coat so low down. It was not she, but his little daughter Bertha who was pulling; for she often walked gravely next him, and like her mother, pulled at the bell for bows. “That will do, my dear,” said he, as Bertha continued to snatch and pull at his coat-tails. “Come here, you little rogue!” and he absently put his hand behind him to seize the little tease. He seized hold of something round and shaggy; he felt sharp teeth on his fingers, and turned with a start. There he saw in the lamplight a reddish monster with a big head, shaggy hair, and a little tassel that fell back into its hind legs in lieu of a tail. His wife and daughter were horribly transformed; and he gazed in surprise on this indistinct creature which seated itself before him, and glared at him in silence.  8
  “A strange adventure!” exclaimed Raschke. “What are you, unknown creature? Presumably a dog. Away with you!” The animal retreated a few steps. Raschke continued his meditations: “If we trace back the expression and gestures of the affections to their original forms in this manner, one of the most active laws would certainly prove to be the endeavor to attract or repel the extraneous. It would be instructive to distinguish, by means of these involuntary movements of men and animals, what is essential and what conventional. Away, dog! Do me a favor and go home. What does he want with me? Evidently he belongs to Werner’s domain. The poor creature will assuredly lose itself in the town under the dominion of an idée fixe.”  9
  Meantime Speihahn’s attacks were becoming more violent; and now he was marching in a quite unnatural and purely conventional manner on his hind legs, while his fore paws were leaning against the professor’s back, and his teeth were actually biting into the coat.  10
  A belated shoemaker’s boy stood still and beat his leathern apron. “Is not the master ashamed to let his poor apprentice push him along like that?” In truth, the dog behind the man looked like a dwarf pushing a giant along the ice.  11
  Raschke’s interest in the dog’s thoughts increased. He stood still near a lantern, examined and felt his coat. This coat had developed a velvet collar and very long sleeves, advantages that the philosopher had never yet remarked in his greatcoat. Now the matter became clear to him: absorbed in thought, he had chosen a wrong coat, and the worthy dog insisted on saving his master’s garment, and making the thief aware that there was something wrong. Raschke was so pleased with this sagacity that he turned round, addressed some kind words to Speihahn, and made an attempt to stroke his shaggy hair. The dog again snapped at his hand. “You are quite right to be angry with me,” replied Raschke; “I will prove to you that I acknowledge my fault.” He took off the coat and hung it over his arm. “Yes, it is much heavier than my own.” He walked on cheerfully in his thin coat, and observed with satisfaction that the dog abandoned the attacks on his back. But instead, Speihahn sprang upon his side, and again bit at the coat and the hand, and growled unpleasantly.  12
  The professor got angry with the dog, and when he came to a bench on the promenade he laid down the coat, intending to face the dog seriously and drive him home. In this manner he got rid of the dog, but also of the coat. For Speihahn sprang upon the bench with a mighty bound, placed himself astride the coat, and met the professor, who tried to drive him away, with hideous growling and snarling.  13
  “It is Werner’s coat,” said the professor, “and it is Werner’s dog: it would be wrong to beat the poor creature because it is becoming violent in its fidelity, and it would be wrong to leave the dog and the coat.” So he remained standing before the dog and speaking kindly to him: but Speihahn no longer took any notice of the professor; he turned against the coat itself, which he scratched, rummaged, and bit. Raschke saw that the coat could not long endure such rage. “He is frantic or mad,” said he suspiciously. “I shall have to use force against you after all, poor creature;” and he considered whether he should also jump upon the seat and push the mad creature by a violent kick into the water, or whether it would be better to open the inevitable attack from below. He resolved on the latter course, and looked round to see whether he could anywhere discover a stone or stick to throw at the raging beast. As he looked, he observed the trees and the dark sky above him, and the place seemed quite unfamiliar. “Has magic been at work here?” he exclaimed, with amusement. He turned politely to a solitary wanderer who was passing that way: “Would you kindly tell me in what part of the town we are? And could you perhaps lend me your stick for a moment?”  14
  “Indeed,” angrily replied the person addressed, “those are very suspicious questions. I want my stick myself at night. Who are you, sir?” The stranger approached the professor menacingly.  15
  “I am peaceable,” replied Raschke, “and by no means inclined to violent attacks. A quarrel has arisen between me and the animal on this seat for the possession of a coat, and I should be much obliged to you if you would drive the dog away from the coat. But I beg you not to hurt the animal any more than is absolutely necessary.”  16
  “Is that your coat there?” asked the man.  17
  “Unfortunately I cannot give you an affirmative answer,” replied Raschke conscientiously.  18
  “There must be something wrong here,” exclaimed the stranger, again eyeing the professor suspiciously.  19
  “There is, indeed,” replied Raschke. “The dog is out of his mind; the coat is exchanged, and I do not know where we are.”  20
  “Close to the valley gate, Professor Raschke,” answered the voice of Gabriel, who hastily joined the group. “Excuse me, but what brings you here?”  21
  “Capital!” exclaimed Raschke joyously. “Pray take charge of this coat and this dog.”  22
  Gabriel gazed in amazement at Speihahn, who was now lying on the coat and bending his head before his friend. Gabriel threw down the dog and seized the coat. “Why, that is our greatcoat!” exclaimed he.  23
  “Yes, Gabriel,” said the professor, “that was my mistake, and the dog has shown marvelous fidelity to the coat.”  24
  “Fidelity!” exclaimed Gabriel indignantly, as he drew a parcel out of the coat pocket. “It was greedy selfishness, sir; there must be some food in this pocket.”  25
  “Yes, true,” exclaimed Raschke; “it is all the chicken’s fault. Give me the parcel, Gabriel; I must eat the fowl myself; and we might bid each other good-night now with mutual satisfaction, if you would just show me my way a little among these trees.”  26
  “But you must not go home in the night air without an overcoat,” said Gabriel considerately. “We are not far from our house; the best way would really be for you to come back with me, sir.”  27
  Raschke considered and laughed.  28
  “You are right, Gabriel; my departure was awkward; and to-day an animal’s soul has restored a man’s soul to order.”  29
  “If you mean this dog,” said Gabriel, “it would be the first time he ever did anything good. I see he must have followed you from our door; for I put little bones there for him of an evening.”  30
  “Just now he seemed not to be quite in his right mind,” said the professor.  31
  “He is cunning enough when he pleases,” continued Gabriel mysteriously; “but if I were to speak of my experiences with this dog—”  32
  “Do speak, Gabriel,” eagerly exclaimed the philosopher. “There is nothing so valuable concerning animals as a truthful statement from those who have carefully observed them.”  33
  “I may say that I have done so,” confirmed Gabriel, with satisfaction; “and if you want to know exactly what he is, I can assure you that he is possessed of the devil, he is a thief, he is embittered, and he hates all mankind.”  34
  “Ah, indeed!” replied the professor, somewhat disconcerted. “I see it is much more difficult to look into a dog’s heart than into a professor’s.”  35
  Speihahn crept along silent and suppressed, and listened to the praises that fell to his lot; while Professor Raschke, conducted by Gabriel, returned to the house by the park. Gabriel opened the sitting-room door, and announced:—  36
  “Professor Raschke.”  37
  Ilse extended both her hands to him.  38
  “Welcome, welcome, dear Professor Raschke!” and led him to her husband’s study.  39
  “Here I am again,” said Raschke cheerfully, “after wandering as in a fairy tale. What has brought me back were two animals, who showed me the right way,—a roast fowl and an embittered dog.”  40
  Felix sprang up; the men greeted one another warmly, shaking hands, and after all misadventures, spent a happy evening.  41
  When Raschke had gone home late, Gabriel said sadly to his mistress, “This was the new coat; the fowl and the dog have put it in a horrible plight.”  42
 
 
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