The Magic Mountain Humaniora

HANS CASTORP and Joachim Ziemssen, arrayed in white trousers and blue blazers, were sitting in the garden after dinner. It was another of those much-lauded October days: bright without being heavy, hot and yet with a tang in the air. The sky above the valley was a deep southern blue and the pastures beneath, with the cattle tracks running across and across them, still a lively green. From the rugged slopes came the sound of cowbells; the peaceful, simple, melodious tintinnabulation came floating unbroken through the quiet, thin, empty air, enhancing the mood of solemnity that broods over the valley heights.

The cousins were sitting on a bench at the end of the garden, in front of a semicircle of young firs. The small open space lay at the north-west of the hedged-in platform, which rose some fifty yards above the valley, and formed the foundations of the Berghof building. They were silent. Hans Castorp was smoking. He was also wrangling inwardly with Joachim, who had not wanted to join the society on the verandah after luncheon, and had drawn his cousin against his will into the stillness and seclusion of the garden, until such time as they should go up to their balconies. That was behaving like a tyrant—when it came to that, they were not Siamese twins, it was possible for them to separate, if their inclinations took them in opposite directions. Hans Castorp was not up here to be company for Joachim, he was a patient himself. Thus he grumbled on, and could endure to grumble, for had he not Maria? He sat, his hands in his blazer pockets, his feet in brown shoes stretched out before him, and held the long, greyish cigar between his lips, precisely in the centre of his mouth, and drooping a little. It was in the first stages of consumption, he had not yet knocked off the ash from its blunt tip; its aroma was peculiarly grateful after the heavy meal just enjoyed. It might be true that in other respects getting used to life up here had mainly consisted in getting used to not getting used to it. But for the chemistry of his digestion, the nerves of his mucous membrane, which had been parched and tender, inclined to bleeding, it seemed that the process of adjustment had completed itself. For imperceptibly, in the course of these nine or ten weeks, his organic satisfaction in that excellent brand of vegetable stimulant or narcotic had been entirely restored. He rejoiced in a faculty regained, his mental satisfaction heightened the physical. During his time in bed he had saved on the supply of two hundred cigars which he had brought with him, and some of these were still left; but at the same time with his winter clothing from below, there had arrived another five hundred of the Bremen make, which he had ordered through Schalleen to make quite sure of not running out. They came in beautiful little varnished boxes, ornamented in gilt with a globe, several medals, and an exhibition building with a flag floating above it.

As they sat, behold, there came Hofrat Behrens through the garden. He had taken his midday meal in the dining-hall to-day, folding his gigantic hands before his place at Frau Salomon’s table. After that he had probably been on the terrace, making the suitable personal remark to each and everybody, very likely displaying his trick with the bootlaces for such of the guests as had not seen it. Now he came lounging through the garden, wearing a check tail-coat, instead of his smock, and his stiff hat on the back of his head. He too had a cigar in his mouth, a very black one, from which he was puffing great white clouds of smoke. His head and face, with the over-heated purple cheeks, the snub nose, watery blue eyes, and little clipped moustache, looked small in proportion to the lank, rather warped and stooping figure, and the enormous hands and feet. He was nervous; visibly started when he saw the cousins, and seemed embarrassed over the necessity of passing them. But he greeted them in his usual picturesque and expansive fashion, with “Behold, behold, Timotheus!” going on to invoke the usual blessings on their metabolisms, while he prevented their rising from their seats, as they would have done in his honour.

“Sit down, sit down. No formalities with a simple man like me. Out of place too, you being my patients, both of you. Not necessary. No objection to the status quo,”

and he remained standing before them, holding the cigar between the index and middle fingers of his great right hand.

“How’s your cabbage-leaf, Castorp? Let me see, I’m a connoisseur. That’s a good ash—what sort of brown beauty have you there?”

“Maria Mancini, Postre de Banquett, Bremen, Herr Hofrat. Costs little or nothing, nineteen pfennigs in plain colours—but a bouquet you don’t often come across at the price. Sumatra-Havana wrapper, as you see. I am very wedded to them. It is a medium mixture, very fragrant, but cool on the tongue. Suits it to leave the ash long, I don’t knock it off more than a couple of times. She has her whims, of course, has Maria; but the inspection must be very thorough, for she doesn’t vary much, and draws perfectly even. May I offer you one?”

“Thanks, we can exchange.” And they drew out their cases.

“There’s a thorough-bred for you,” the Hofrat said, as he displayed his brand.

“Temperament, you know, juicy, got some guts to it. St. Felix, Brazil—I’ve always stuck to this sort. Regular ‘begone, dull care,’ burns like brandy, has something fulminating toward the end. But you need to exercise a little caution—can’t light one from the other, you know—more than a fellow can stand. However, better one good mouthful than any amount of nibbles.”

They twirled their respective offerings between their fingers, felt connoisseur-like the slender shapes that possessed, or so one might think, some organic quality of life, with their ribs formed by the diagonal parallel edges of the raised, here and there porous wrapper, the exposed veins that seemed to pulsate, the small inequalities of the skin, the play of light on planes and edges.

Hans Castorp expressed it: “A cigar like that is alive—it breathes. Fact. Once, at home, I had the idea of keeping Maria in an air-tight tin box, to protect her from damp. Would you believe it, she died! Inside of a week she perished—nothing but leathery corpses left.”

They exchanged experiences upon the best way to keep cigars—particularly imported ones. The Hofrat loved them, he would have smoked nothing but heavy Havanas, but they did not suit him. He told Hans Castorp about two little Henry Clays he had once taken to his heart, in an evening company, which had come within an ace of putting him under the sod.

“I smoked them with my coffee,” he said, “and thought no more of’it. But after a while it struck me to wonder how I felt—and I discovered it was like nothing on earth. I don’t know how I got home—and once there, well, this time, my son, I said to myself, you’re a goner. Feet and legs like ice, you know, reeking with cold sweat, white as a table-cloth, heart going all ways for Sunday—sometimes just a thread of a pulse, sometimes pounding like a trip-hammer. Cerebration phenomenal. I made sure I was going to toddle off—that is the very expression that occurred to me, because at the time I was feeling as jolly as a sand-boy. Not that I wasn’t in a funk as well, because I was—I was just one large blue funk all over. Still, funk and felicity aren’t mutually exclusive, everybody knows that. Take a chap who’s going to have a girl for the first time in his life; he is in a funk too, and so is she, and yet both of them are simply dissolving with felicity. I was nearly dissolving too—my bosom swelled with pride, and there I was, on the point of toddling off; but the Mylendonk got hold of me and persuaded me it was a poor idea. She gave me a camphor injection, applied icecompresses and friction—and here I am, saved for humanity.”

The Hofrat’s large, goggling blue eyes watered as he told this story. Hans Castorp, seated in his capacity of patient, looked up at him with an expression that betrayed mental activity.

“You paint sometimes, don’t you, Herr Hofrat?” he asked suddenly.

The Hofrat pretended to stagger backwards. “What the deuce! What do you take me for, youngster?”

“I beg your pardon. I happened to hear somebody say so, and it just crossed my mind.”

“Well, then, I won’t trouble to lie about it. We’re all poor creatures. I admit such a thing has happened. Anch’ io sono pittore, as the Spaniard used to say.”

“Landscape?” Hans Castorp asked him succinctly, with the air of a connoisseur, circumstances betraying him to this tone.

“As much as you like,” the Hofrat answered, swaggering out of sheer selfconsciousness. “Landscape, still life, animals—chap like me shrinks from nothing.”

“No portraits?”

“I’ve even thrown in a portrait or so. Want to give me an order?”

“Ha ha! No, but it would be very kind of you to show us your pictures some time— we should enjoy it.”

Joachim looked blankly at his cousin, but then hastened to add his assurances that it would be very kind indeed of the Hofrat.

Behrens was enchanted at the flattery. He grew red with pleasure, his tears seemed this time actually on the point of falling.

“With the greatest pleasure,” he cried. “On the spot if you like. Come on, come along with me, I’ll brew us a Turkish coffee in my den.”

He pulled both young men from the bench and walked between them arm in arm, down the gravel path which led, as they knew, to his private quarters in the north-west wing of the building.

“I’ve dabbled a little in that sort of thing myself,” Hans Castorp explained.

“You don’t say! Gone in for it properly—oils?”

“Oh, no, I never went further than a water-colour or so. A ship, a sea-piece, childish efforts. But I’m fond of painting, and so I took the liberty—”

Joachim in particular felt relieved and enlightened by this explanation of his cousin’s startling curiosity; it was in fact more on his account than on the Hofrat’s that Hans Castorp had offered it. They reached the entrance, a much simpler one than the impressive portal on the drive, with its flanking lanterns. A pair of curving steps led up to the oaken house door, which the Hofrat opened with a latch-key from his heavy bunch. His hand trembled, he was plainly in a nervous state. They entered an antechamber with clothes-racks, where Behrens hung his bowler on a hook, and thence passed into a short corridor, which was separated by a glass door from that of the main building. On both sides of this corridor lay the rooms of the small private dwelling. Behrens called a servant and gave an order; then to a running

accompaniment of whimsical remarks ushered them through a door on the right. They saw a couple of rooms furnished in banal middle-class taste, facing the valley and opening one into another through a doorway hung with portières. One was an

“old-German” dining-room, the other a living-and working-room, with woollen carpets, bookshelves and sofa, and a writing-table above which hung a pair of crossed swords and a student’s cap. Beyond was a Turkish smoking-cabinet. Everywhere were paintings, the work of the Hofrat. The guests went up to them at once on entering, courteously ready to praise. There were several portraits of his departed wife, in oil; also, standing on the writing-table, photographs of her. She was a thin, enigmatic blonde, portrayed in flowing garments, with her hands, their finger-tips just lightly enlaced, against her left shoulder, and her eyes either directed toward heaven or else cast upon the ground, shaded by long, thick, obliquely outstanding eyelashes. Never once was the departed one shown looking directly ahead of her toward the observer. The other pictures were chiefly mountain landscapes, mountains in snow and

mountains in summer green, mist-wreathed mountains, mountains whose dry, sharp outline was cut out against a deep-blue sky—these apparently under the influence of Segantini. Then there were cowherds’ huts, and dewlapped cattle standing or lying in sun-drenched high pastures. There was a plucked fowl, with its long writhen neck hanging down from a table among a setting of vegetables. There were flower-pieces, types of mountain peasantry, and so on—all painted with a certain brisk dilettantism, the colours boldly dashed on to the canvas, and often looking as though they had been squeezed on out of the tube. They must have taken a long time to dry—but were sometimes effective by way of helping out the other shortcomings.

They passed as they would along the walls of an exhibition, accompanied by the master of the house, who now and then gave a name to some subject or other, but was chiefly silent, with the proud embarrassment of the artist, tasting the enjoyment of looking on his own works with the eyes of strangers. The portrait of Clavdia Chauchat hung on the window wall of the living-room—Hans Castorp spied it out with a quick glance as he entered, though the likeness was but a distant one. Purposely he avoided the spot, detaining his companions in the dining-room, where he affected to admire a fresh green glimpse into the valley of the Serbi, with ice-blue glaciers in the background. Next he passed of his own accord into the Turkish cabinet, and looked at all it had to show, with praises on his lips; thence back to the living-room, beginning with the entrance wall, and calling upon Joachim to second his encomiums. But at last he turned, with a measured start, and said: “But surely that is a familiar face?”

“You recognize her?” the Hofrat wanted to know.

“It is not possible I am mistaken. The lady at the ‘good’ Russian table, with the French name—”

“Right! Chauchat. Glad you think it’s like her.”

“Speaking,” Hans Castorp lied. He did so less from insincerity than in the consciousness that, on the face of things, he ought not to have been able to recognize her. Joachim could never have done so—good Joachim, who saw the whole affair now in its true light, after the false one Hans Castorp had first cast upon it; saw how the wool had been pulled over his eyes; and with a murmured recognition applied himself to help look at the painting. His cousin had paid him out for not going into society after luncheon.

It was a bust-length, in half profile, rather under life-size, in a wide, bevelled frame, black, with an inner beading of gilt. Neck and bosom were bare or veiled with a soft drapery laid about the shoulders. Frau Chauchat appeared ten years older than her age, as often happens in amateur portraiture where the artist is bent on making a character study. There was too much red all over the face, the nose was badly out of drawing, the colour of the hair badly hit off, too straw-colour; the mouth was distorted, the peculiar charm of the features ungrasped or at least not brought out, spoiled by the exaggeration of their single elements. The whole was a rather botched performance, and only distantly related to its original. But Hans Castorp was not particular about the degree of likeness, the relation of this canvas to Frau Chauchat’s person was close enough for him. It purported to represent her, in these very rooms she had sat for it, that was all he needed; much moved he reiterated: “The very image of her!”

“Oh, no,” the Hofrat demurred. “It was a pretty clumsy piece of work, I don’t flatter myself I hit her off very well, though we had, I suppose, twenty sittings. What can you do with a rum sort of face like that? You might think she would be easy to capture, with those hyperborean cheek-bones, and eyes like cracks in a loaf of bread. Yes, there’s something about her—if you get the detail right, you botch the ensemble. Riddle of the sphinx. Do you know her? It would probably be better to paint her from memory, instead of having her sit. Did you say you knew her?”

“No; that is, only superficially, the way one knows people up here.”

“Well, I know her under her skin—subcutaneously, you see: blood pressure, tissue tension, lymphatic circulation, all that sort of thing. I’ve good reason to. It’s the superficies makes the difficulty. Have you ever noticed her walk? She slinks. It’s characteristic, shows in her face—take the eyes, for example, not to mention the complexion, though that is tricky too. I don’t mean their colour, I am speaking of the cut, and the way they sit in the face. You’d say the eye slit was cut obliquely, but it only looks so. What deceives you is the epicanthus, a racial variation, consisting in a sort of ridge of integument that runs from the bridge of the nose to the eyelid, and comes down over the inside corner of the eye. If you take your finger and stretch the skin at the base of the nose, the eye looks as straight as any of ours. Quite a taking little dodge—but as a matter of fact, the epicanthus can be traced back to an atavistic vestige—it’s a developmental arrest.”

“So that’s it.” Hans Castorp said. “I never knew that—but I’ve wondered for a long time what it is about eyes like that.”

“Vanity,” said the Hofrat, “and vexation of spirit. If you simply draw them in slanting, you are lost. You must bring about the obliquity the same way nature does, you must add illusion to illusion—and for that you have to know about the epicanthus. What a man knows always comes in handy. Now look at the skin—the epidermis. Do you find I’ve managed to make it lifelike, or not?”

“Enormously,” said Hans Castorp. “Simply enormously. I’ve never seen skin painted anything like so well. You can fairly see the pores.” And he ran the edge of his hand lightly over the bare neck and shoulders, the skin of which, especially by contrast with the exaggerated red of the face, was very white, as though seldom exposed. Whether this effect was premeditated or not, it was rather suggestive. And still Hans Castorp’s praise was deserved. The pale shimmer of this tender, though not emaciated, bosom, losing itself in the bluish shadows of the drapery, was very like life. It was obviously painted with feeling; a sort of sweetness emanated from it, yet the artist had been successful in giving it a scientific realism and precision as well. The roughness of the canvas texture, showing through the paint, had been dexterously employed to suggest the natural unevennesses of the skin—this especially in the neighbourhood of the delicate collar-bones. A tiny mole, at the point where the breasts began to divide, had been done with care, and on their rounding surfaces one thought to trace the delicate blue veins. It was as though a scarcely perceptible shiver of sensibility beneath the eye of the beholder were passing over this nude flesh, as though one might see the perspiration, the invisible vapour which the life beneath threw off; as though, were one to press one’s lips upon this surface, one might perceive, not the smell of paint and fixative, but the odour of the human body. Such, at least, were Hans Castorp’s impressions, which we here reproduce—and he, of course, was in a peculiarly susceptible state. But it is none the less true that Frau Chauchat’s portrait was by far the most telling piece of painting in the room. Hofrat Behrens rocked back and forth on his heels and the balls of his feet, his hands in this trouser pockets, as he gazed at his work in company with the cousins.

“Delighted,” he said. “Delighted to find favour in the eyes of a colleague. If a man knows a bit about what goes on under the epidermis, that does no harm either. In other words, if he can paint a little below the surface, and stands in another relation to nature than just the lyrical, so to say. An artist who is a doctor, physiologist, and anatomist on the side, and has his own little way of thinking about the under sides of things—it all comes in handy too, it gives you the pas, say what you like. That birthday suit there is painted with science, it is organically correct, you can examine it under the microscope. You can see not only the horny and mucous strata of the epidermis, but I’ve suggested the texture of the corium underneath, with the oil-and sweat-glands, the blood-vessels and tubercles—and then under that still the layer of fat, the upholstering, you know, full of oil ducts, the underpinning of the lovely female form. What is in your mind as you work runs into your hand and has its influence—it isn’t really there, and yet somehow or other it is, and that is what gives the lifelike effect.”

All this was fuel to Hans Castorp’s fire. His brow was flushed, his eyes fairly sparkled, he had so much to say he knew not where to begin. In the first place, he had it in mind to remove the picture of Frau Chauchat from the window wall, where it hung somewhat in shadow, and place it to better advantage; next, he was eager to take up the Hofrat’s remarks about the constitution of the skin, which had keenly interested him; and finally, he wanted to make some remarks of his own, of a general and philosophical nature, which interested him no less mightily.

Laying his hands upon the painting to unhook it, he eagerly began: “Yes, yes indeed, that is all very important. What I’d like to say is—I mean, you said, Herr Hofrat, if I understood rightly, you said: ‘In another relation.’ You said it was good when there was some other relation besides the lyric—I think that was the word you used—the artistic, that is; in short, when one looked at the thing from another point of view—the medical, for example. That’s all so enormously to the point, you know—I do beg your pardon, Herr Hofrat, but what I mean is that it is so exactly and precisely right, because after all it is not a question of any fundamentally different relations or points of view, but at bottom just variations of one and the same, just shadings of it, so to speak, I mean: variations of one and the same universal interest, the artistic impulse itself being a part and a manifestation of it too, if I may say so. Yes, if you will pardon me, I will take down this picture, there’s positively no light here where it hangs, permit me to carry it over to the sofa, we shall see if it won’t look entirely— what I meant to say was: what is the main concern of the study of medicine? I know nothing about it, of course—but after all isn’t its main concern with human beings?

And jurisprudence—making laws, pronouncing judgment—its main concern is with human beings too. And philology, which is nearly always bound up with the profession of pedagogy? And theology, with the care of souls, the office of spiritual shepherd? All of them have to do with human beings, all of them are degrees of one and the same important, the same fundamental interest, the interest in humanity. In other words, they are the humanistic callings, and if you go in for them you have to study the ancient languages by way of foundation, for the sake of formal training, as they say. Perhaps you are surprised at my talking about them like that, being only a practical man and on the technical side. But I have been thinking about these questions lately, in the rest-cure; and I find it wonderful, I find it a simply priceless arrangement of things, that the formal, the idea of form, of beautiful form, lies at the bottom of every sort of humanistic calling. It gives it such nobility, I think, such a sort of disinterestedness, and feeling, too, and—and—courtliness—it makes a kind of chivalrous adventure out of it. That is to say—I suppose I am expressing myself very ridiculously, but—you can see how the things of the mind and the love of beauty come together, and that they always really have been one and the same—in other words, science and art; and that the calling of being an artist surely belongs with the others, as a sort of fifth faculty, because it too is a humanistic calling, a variety of humanistic interest, in so far as its most important theme or concern is with man—you will agree with me on that point. When I experimented in that line in my youth, I never painted anything but ships and water, of course. But notwithstanding, in my eyes the most interesting branch of painting is and remains portraiture, because it has man for its immediate object—that was why I asked at once if you had done anything in that field.—Wouldn’t this be a far more favourable place for it to hang?”

Both of them, Behrens no less than Joachim, looked at him amazed—was he not ashamed of this confused, impromptu harangue? But no, Hans Castorp was far too preoccupied to feel self-conscious. He held the painting against the sofa wall, and demanded to know if it did not get a much better light. Just then the servant brought a tray, with hot water, a spirit-lamp, and coffee-cups.

Behrens motioned them into the cabinet, saying: “Then you must have been more interested in sculpture, originally, than in painting, I should think. Yes, of course, it gets more light there; if you think it can stand it. I should suppose so, because sculpture concerns itself more purely and exclusively with the human form. But we mustn’t let the water boil away.”

“Quite right, sculpture,” Hans Castorp said, as they went. He forgot either to hang up or put down the picture he had been holding, but tugged it with him into the neighbouring room. “Certainly a Greek Venus or athlete is more humanistic, it is probably at bottom the most humanistic of all the arts, when one comes to think about it!”

“Well, as far as little Chauchat goes, she is a better subject for painting than sculpture. Phidias, or that other chap with the Mosaic ending to his name, would have stuck up their noses at her style of physiognomy.—Hullo, where are you going with the ham?”

“Pardon me, I’ll just lean it here against the leg of my chair, that will do very well for the moment. The Greek sculptors did not trouble themselves about the head and face, their interest was more with the body, I suppose that was their humanism.—And the plasticity of the female form—so that is fat, is it?”

“That is fat,” the Hofrat said concisely. He had opened a hanging cabinet, and taken thence the requisites for his coffee-making: a cylindrical Turkish mill, a long-handled pot, a double receptacle for sugar and ground coffee, all in brass. “Palmitin, stearin, olein,“ he went on, shaking the coffee berries from a tin box into the mill, which he began to turn. “You see I make it all myself, it tastes twice as good.—Did you think it was ambrosia?”

“No, of course I knew. Only it sounds strange to hear it like that,” Hans Castorp said.

They were seated in the corner between door and window, at a bamboo tabouret which held an oriental brass tray, upon which Behrens had set the coffee-machine, among the smoking utensils. Joachim was next Behrens on the Ottoman, overflowing with cushions; Hans Castorp sat in a leather arm-chair on castors, against which he had leaned Frau Chauchat’s picture. A gaily-coloured carpet was beneath their feet. The Hofrat ladled coffee and sugar into the long-handled pot, added water, and let the brew boil up over the flame of the lamp. It foamed brownly in the little onion-pattern cups, and proved on tasting both strong and sweet.

“Your own as well,” Behrens said. “Your ‘plasticity’—so far as you have any—is fat too, though of course not to the same extent as with a woman. With us fat is only about five per cent of the body weight, in females it is one sixteenth of the whole. Without that subcutaneous cell structure of ours, we should all be nothing but fungoid growths. It disappears, with time, and then come the unæsthetic wrinkles in the drapery. The layer is thickest on the female breast and belly, on the front of the thighs, everywhere, in short, where there is a little something for heart and hand to take hold of. The soles of the feet are fat and ticklish.”

Hans Castorp turned the cylindrical coffee-mill about in his hands. It was, like the rest of the set, Indian or Persian rather than Turkish; the style of the engraving showed that, with the bright surface of the pattern standing out against the purposely dulled background. He looked at the design, without immediately seeing what it was. When he did, he blushed unawares.

“Yes, that is a set for single gentlemen,” Behrens said. “I keep it locked up, you see, my kitchen queen might hurt her eyes looking at it. It won’t do you gentlemen any harm, I take it. It was given to me by a patient, an Egyptian princess who once honoured us with a year or so of her presence. You see, the pattern repeats itself on the whole set. Pretty roguish, what?”

“Yes, it is quite unusual,” Hans Castorp answered. “Ha ha! No, it doesn’t trouble me. But one can take it perfectly seriously; solemnly, in fact—only then it is rather out of place on a coffee-machine. The ancients are said to have used such motifs on their sarcophagi. The sacred and the obscene were more or less the same thing to them.”

“I should say the princess was more for the second,” Behrens said. “Anyhow she still sends me the most wonderful cigarettes, superfinissimos, you know, only sported on “first-class occasions.” He fetched the garish-coloured box from the cupboard and offered them. Joachim drew his heels together as he received his cigarette. Hans Castorp helped himself to his; it was unusually large and thick, and had a gilt sphinx on it. He began to smoke—it was wonderful, as Behrens had said.

“Tell us some more about the skin,” he begged the Hofrat; “that is, if you will be so kind.” He had taken Frau Chauchat’s portrait on his knee, and was gazing at it, leaning back in his chair, the cigarette between his lips. “Not about the fat-layer, we know about that now. About the human skin in general, that you know so well how to paint.”

“About the skin. You are interested in physiology?”

“Very much. Yes, I’ve always felt a good deal of interest in it. The human body— yes, I’ve always had an uncommon turn for it. I’ve sometimes asked myself whether I ought not to have been a physician—it wouldn’t have been a bad idea, in a way. Because if you are interested in the body, you must be interested in disease—specially interested, isn’t that so? But it doesn’t signify, I might have been such a lot of things—for example, a clergyman.”


“Yes, I’ve sometimes had the idea I should have been decidedly in my element there.”

“How did you come to be an engineer, then?”

“I just happened to—it was more or less outward circumstances that decided the matter.”

“Well, about the skin. What do you want to hear about your sensory sheath? You know, don’t you, that it is your outside brain—ontogenetically the same as that apparatus of the so-called higher centres up there in your cranium? The central nervous system is nothing but a modification of the outer skin-layer; among the lower animals the distinction between central and peripheral doesn’t exist, they smell and taste with their skin, it is the only sensory organ they have. Must be rather nice—if you can put yourself in their place. On the other hand, in such highly differentiated forms of life as you and I are, the skin has fallen from its high estate; it has to confine itself to feeling ticklish; that is to say, to being simply a protective and registering apparatus—but devilishly on the qui vive for anything that tries to come too close about the body. It even puts out feelers—the body hairs, which are nothing but hardened skin cells—and they get wind of the approach of whatever it is, before the skin itself is touched. Just between ourselves, it is quite possible that this protecting and defending function of the skin extends beyond the physical. Do you know what makes you go red and pale?”

“Not very precisely.”

“Well, neither do we, ‘very precisely,’ to be frank—at least, as far as blushing is concerned. The situation is not quite clear; for the dilatory muscles which are presumably set in action by the vasomotor nerves haven’t yet been demonstrated in relation to the blood-vessels. How the cock really swells his comb, or any of the other well-known instances come about, is still a mystery, particularly where it is a question of emotional influences in play. We assume that a connexion subsists between the outer rind of the cerebrum and the vascular centre in the medulla. Certain stimuli—for instance, let us say, like your being powerfully embarrassed, set up the connexion, and the nerves that control the blood-vessels function toward the face, and they expand and fill, and you get a face like a turkey-cock, all swelled up with blood so you can’t see out of your eyes. On the other hand, suppose you are in suspense, something is going to happen—it may be something tremendously beautiful, for aught I care—the blood-vessels that-feed the skin contract, it gets pale and cold and sunken, you look like a dead man, with big, lead-coloured eye-sockets and a peaked nose. But the Sympathicus makes your heart thump away like a good fellow.”

“So that is how it happens,” Hans Castorp said. ‘

“Something like that. Those are reactions, you know. But it is the nature of reactions and reflexes to have a reason for happening; we are beginning to suspect, we physiologists, that the phenomena accompanying emotion are really defence

mechanisms, protective reflexes of the system. Goose-flesh, now. Do you know how you come to have goose-flesh?”

“Not very clearly either, I’m afraid.”

“That is a little contrivance of the sebaceous glands, which secrete the fatty, albuminous substance that oils your skin and keeps it supple, and pleasant to feel of. Not very appetizing, maybe, but without it the skin would be all withered and cracked. Without the cholesterin, it is hard to imagine touching the human skin at all. These sebaceous glands have little erector-muscles that act upon them, and when they do so, then you are like the lad when the princess poured the pail of minnows over him. Your skin gets like a file, and if the stimulus is very powerful, the hair ducts are erected too, the hair on your head bristles up and the little hairs on your body, like quills upon the fretful porcupine—and you can say, like the youth in the story, that now you know how to shiver and shake.”

“Oh,” said Hans Castorp, “I know how already. I shiver rather easily, on all sorts of provocation. Only what surprises me is that the glands are erected for such different reasons. It gives one goose-flesh to hear a slate-pencil run across a pane of glass; but when you hear particularly beautiful music you suddenly find you have it too, and when I was confirmed and took my first communion, I had one shiver after another, it seemed as though the prickling and stickling would never leave off. Imagine those little muscles acting for such different reasons!”

“Oh,” Behrens said, “tickling’s tickling. The body doesn’t give a hang for the content of the stimulus. It may be minnows, it may be the Holy Ghost, the sebaceous glands are erected just the same.”

Hans Castorp regarded the picture on his knee.

“Herr Hofrat,“ he said, “I wanted to come back to something you said a moment ago, about internal processes, lymphatic action, and that sort of thing. Tell us about it—particularly about the lymphatic system, it interests me tremendously.”

“I believe you,” Behrens responded. “The lyrnph is the most refined, the most rarefied, the most intimate of the body juices. I dare say you had an inkling of the fact in your mind when you asked. People talk about the blood, and the mysteries of its composition, and what an extraordinary fluid it is. But it is the lymph that is the juice of juices, the very essence, you understand, ichor, blood-milk, crème de la crème; as a matter of fact, after a fatty diet it does look like milk.” And he went on, in his lively and whimsical phraseology, to gratify Hans Castorp’s desire. And first he characterized the blood, a serum composed of fat, albumen, iron, sugar and salt, crimson as an opera-cloak, the product of respiration and digestion, saturated with gases, laden with waste products, which was pumped at 98.4° of heat from the heart through the blood-vessels, and kept up metabolism and animal warmth throughout the body—in other words, sweet life itself. But, he said, the blood did not come into immediate contact with the body cells. What happened was that the pressure at which it was pumped caused a milky extract of it to sweat through the walls of the bloodvessels, and so into the tissues, so that it filled every tiny interstice and cranny, and caused the elastic cell-tissue to distend. This distension of the tissues, or turgor, pressed the lymph, after it had nicely swilled out the cells and exchanged matter with them, into the vasa lymphatica, the lymphatic vessels, and so back into the blood again, at the rate of a litre and a half a day. He went on to speak of the lymphatic tubes and absorbent vessels; described the secretion of the breast milk, which collected lymph from legs, abdomen, and breast, one arm, and one side of the head; described the very delicately constructed filters called lymphatic glands which were placed at certain points in the lymphatic system, in the neck, the arm-pit, and the elbow-joint, the hollow under the knee, and other soft and intimate parts of the body.

“Swellings may occur in these places,” Behrens explained. “Indurations of the lymphatic glands, let us say, in the knee-pan or the arm-joint, dropsical tumours here and there, and we base our diagnosis on them—they always have a reason, though not always a very pretty one. Under such circumstances there is more than a suspicion of tubercular congestion of the lymphatic vessels.”

Hans Castorp was silent a little space.

“Yes,” he said, then, in a low voice, “it is true, I might very well have been a doctor. The flow of the breast milk—the lymph of the legs—all that interests me very, very much. What is the body?” he rhapsodically burst forth. “What is the flesh? What is the physical being of man? What is he made of? Tell us this afternoon, Herr Hofrat, tell us exactly, and once and for all, so that we may know!”

“Of water,” answered Behrens. “So you are interested in organic chemistry too?

The human body consists, much the larger part of it, of water. No more and no less than water, and nothing to get wrought up about. The solid parts are only twenty-five per cent of the whole, and of that twenty are ordinary white of egg, protein, if you want to use a handsomer word. Besides that, a little fat and a little salt, that’s about all.”

“But the white of egg—what is that?”

“Various primary substances: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur.

Sometimes phosphorus. Your scientific curiosity is running away with itself. Some albumens are in composition with carbohydrates; that is to say, grape-sugar and starch. In old age the flesh becomes tough, that is because the collagen increases in the connective tissue—the lime, you know, the most important constituent of the bones and cartilage. What else shall I tell you? In the muscle plasma we have an albumen called fibrin; when death occurs, it coagulates in the muscular tissue, and causes the rigor mortis.”

“Right-oh, I see, the rigor mortis,” Hans Castorp said blithely. “Very good, very good. And then comes the general analysis—the anatomy of the grave.”

“Yes, of course. But how well you put it! Yes, the movement becomes general, you flow away, so to speak—remember all that water! The remaining constituents are very unstable; without life, they are resolved by putrefaction into simpler combinations, anorganic.”

“Dissolution, putrefaction,” said Hans Castorp. “They are the same thing as combustion: combination with oxygen—am I right?”

“To a T. Oxidization.”

“And life?”

“Oxidization too. The same. Yes, young man, life too is principally oxidization of the cellular albumen, which gives us that beautiful animal warmth, of which we sometimes have more than we need. Tut, living consists in dying, no use mincing the matter— une destruction organique, as some Frenchman with his native levity has called it. It smells like that, too. If we don’t think so, our judgment is corrupted.”

“And if one is interested in life, one must be particularly interested in death, mustn’t one?”

“Oh, well, after all, there is some sort of difference. Life is life which keeps the form through change of substance.”

“Why should the form remain?” said Hans Castorp.

“Why? Young man, what you are saying now sounds far from humanistic.”

“Form is folderol.”

“Well, you are certainly in great form to-day—you’re regularly kicking over the traces. But I must drop out now,” said the Hofrat. “I am beginning to feel

melancholy,” and he laid his huge hand over his eyes. “I can feel it coming on. You see, I’ve drunk coffee with you, and it tasted good to me, and all of a sudden it comes over me that I am going to be melancholy. You gentlemen must excuse me. It was an extra occasion, I enjoyed it no end—”

The cousins had sprung up. They reproached themselves for having taxed the Hofrat’s patience so long. He made proper protest. Hans Castorp hastened to carry Frau Chauchat’s portrait into the next room and hang it once more on the wall. They did not need to re-traverse the garden to arrive at their own quarters; Behrens directed them through the building, and accompanied them to the dividing glass door. In the mood that had come over him so unexpectedly, his goggling eyes blinked, and the bone of his neck stuck out, both more than ever; his upper lip, with the clipped, onesided moustache, had taken on a querulous expression. As they went along the corridors Hans Castorp said to his cousin: “Confess that it was a good idea of mine.”

“It was a change, at least,” responded Joachim. “And you certainly took occasion to air your views on a good many subjects. It was a bit complicated for me. It is high time now that we went in to the rest-cure, we shall have at least twenty minutes before tea. You probably think it is folderol to pay so much attention to it, now you’ve taken to kicking over the traces. But you don’t need it so much as I do, after all.”