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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 245 pages of information about The Last Leaf.

CHAPTER IX

MEN OF SCIENCE

In England, in the fall of 1870, I missed an opportunity to see the great scientific men of the time.  Faraday was still active, and in the full ripeness of his fame.  Huxley, Tyndall, Darwin, Sir Joseph Hooker, Joule, Lyell, Murchison were in the midst of their best work, and probably all or most of them were present at the meeting of the British Association, which took place that year somewhere in the west of England.  Miss Frances Power Cobbe, with whom I had for some time maintained a correspondence, growing out of the interest I felt in her Intuitive Morals, and other writings, invited me to accompany her to the meeting, at which, introduced by her, I might have had interesting interviews.  I let the chance go by, and feel to-day that my memory stands impoverished in that it holds no first-hand knowledge of the lights, who in their century were the glory of their country and the world.

In Germany I was more fortunate.  Arriving at Heidelberg at a time before its high prestige had suffered much diminution, I found in all the four Faculties men of great distinction.  One hears that in the stern centralising to which since 1870 Germany has been subjected the outer universities have suffered, their strength, their able teachers, namely, being drawn away for a brilliant concentration at Berlin.  In the little university town of those days students and professors rubbed closely and great men were sometimes found in odd environments.  Expressing once a desire to see a certain venerable theologian of wide fame, I was told he was sure to be found on such and such evenings in a well-known bier locale, and there I had opportunity to observe him, an aged and withered figure, with a proper stein of the amber fluid frothing at his side, and a halo from an active pipe enwreathing his grey hair, as he joked and gossiped familiarly with his fellow-loiterers about the heavy oak table.  At another time I was among surroundings less rough, the guest-room of a club of the finer world, curtained and carpeted, and made attractive with pictures, flowers, and music.  A company of ladies and gentlemen sat sipping Maiwein and Mark graefler, while a conjurer entertained them with his tricks.  During one of these, desiring a confederate from the lookers-on, he approached a slender and refined-looking man, who was following the necromancer’s proceedings with as much interest as anybody.  The wizard’s air of deference, and the respectful looks of the company led me to infer that he was a man above the common, but he took part affably in what was going on, helped out the trick, and laughed and wondered with the rest when it succeeded.  I presently learned to my surprise and amusement that the amiable confederate of the conjurer was no other than the physicist Kirchoff, then in fresh and brilliant fame as the inventor of the spectroscope and the initiator

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