The Magic Mountain Mental Gymnastic

JOACHIM’S reply came impeded and incoherent. He had taken a small thermometer from a red leather, velvet-lined case on his table, and put the mercury-filled end under his tongue on the left side, so that the glass instrument stuck slantingly upwards out of his mouth. Then he changed into indoor clothes, put on shoes and a braided jacket, took a printed form and pencil from his table, also a book, a Russian grammar—for he was studying Russian with the idea that it would be of advantage to him in the service—and, thus equipped, took his place in the reclining-chair on his balcony, throwing his camel’s-hair rug lightly across his feet.

It was scarcely needed. During the last quarter-hour the layer of cloud had grown steadily thinner, and now the sun broke through in summerlike warmth, so dazzlingly that Joachim protected his head with a white linen shade which was fastened to the arm of his chair, and furnished with a device by means of which it could be adjusted to the position of the sun. Hans Castorp praised this contrivance. He wished to await the result of Joachim’s measurement, and meanwhile looked about to see how

everything was done: observed the fur-lined sleeping-sack that stood against the wall in a corner of the loggia, for Joachim to use on cold days; and gazed down into the garden, with his elbows on the balustrade. The general rest-hall was populated by reclining patients, reading, writing, or conversing. He could see only a part of the interior, some four or five chairs.

“How long does that go on?” he asked, turning round.

Joachim raised seven fingers.

“Seven minutes! But they must be up!”

Joachim shook his head. A little later he took the thermometer out of his mouth, looked at it, and said: “Yes, when you watch it, the time, it goes very slowly. I quite like the measuring, four times a day; for then you know what a minute—or seven of them actually amounts to, up here in this place, where the seven days of the week whisk by the way they do!”

“You say ‘actually,’ ” Hans Castorp answered. He sat with one leg flung over the balustrade, and his eyes looked bloodshot. “But after all, time isn’t ‘actual.’ When it seems long to you, then it is long; when it seems short, why, then it is short. But how long, or how short, it actually is, that nobody knows.” He was unaccustomed to philosophize, yet somehow felt an impulse to do so.

Joachim gainsaid him. “How so?—we do measure it. We have watches and calendars for the purpose; and when a month is up, why, then up it is, for you, and for me, and for all of us.”

“Wait,” said Hans Castorp. He held up his forefinger, close to his tired eyes. “A minute, then, is as long as it seems to you when you measure yourself?”

“A minute is as long—it lasts as long—as it takes the second hand of my watch to complete a circuit.”

“But it takes such a varied length of time—to our senses! And as a matter of fact—I say taking it just as a matter of fact,” he repeated, pressing his forefinger so hard against his nose that he bent the end of it quite round, “it is motion, isn’t it, motion in space? Wait a minute! That means that we measure time by space. But that is no better than measuring space by time, a thing only very unscientific people do. From Hamburg to Davos is twenty hours—that is, by train. But on foot how long is it? And in the mind, how long? Not a second!”

“I say,” Joachim said, “what’s the matter with you? Seems to me it goes to your head to be up here with us!”

“Keep quiet! I’m very clear-headed to-day. Well, then, what is time?” asked Hans Castorp, and bent the tip of his nose so far round that it became white and bloodless.

“Can you answer me that? Space we perceive with our organs, with our senses of sight and touch. Good. But which is our organ of time—tell me that if you can. You see, that’s where you stick. But how can we possibly measure anything about which we actually know nothing, not even a single one of its properties? We say of time that it passes. Very good, let it pass. But to be able to measure it—wait a minute: to be susceptible of being measured, time must flow evenly, but who ever said it did that?

As far as our consciousness is concerned it doesn’t, we only assume that it does, for the sake of convenience; and our units of measurement are purely arbitrary, sheer conventions—”

“Good,” Joachim said. “Then perhaps it is pure convention that I have five points too much here on my thermometer. But on account of those lines I have to drool about here instead of joining up, which is a disgusting fact.”

“Have you 99.3°?”

“It’s going down already,” and Joachim made the entry on his chart. “Last night it was almost 100°—that was your arrival. A visit always makes it go up. But it is a good thing, notwithstanding.”

“I’ll go now,” said Hans Castorp. “I’ve still a great many ideas in my head about the time—a whole complex, if I may say so. But I won’t excite you with them now, you’ve too many degrees as it is. I’ll keep them all and return to them later, perhaps after breakfast. You will call me when it is time, I suppose. I’ll go now and lie down; it won’t hurt me, thank goodness.” With which he passed round the glass partition into his loggia, where stood his own reclining-chair and side-table. He fetched Ocean Steamships and his beautiful, soft, dark-red and green plaid from within the room, which had already been put into perfect order, and sat himself down.

Soon he too had to put up the little sunshade; the heat became unbearable as he lay. But he was uncommonly comfortable, he decided, with distinct satisfaction. He did not recall in all his experience so acceptable an easy-chair. The frame—a little oldfashioned, perhaps, a mere matter of taste, for the chair was obviously new—was of polished red-brown wood, and the mattress was covered in a soft cotton material; or rather, it was not a mattress, but three thick cushions, extending from the foot to the very top of the chair-back. There was a head-roll besides, neither too hard nor too yielding, with an embroidered linen cover, fastened on by a cord to the chair, and wondrously agreeable to the neck. Hans Castorp supported his elbow on the broad, smooth surface of the chair-arm, blinked, and reposed himself. The landscape, rather severe and sparse, though brightly sunny, looked like a framed painting as viewed through the arch of the loggia. Hans Castorp gazed thoughtfully at it. Suddenly he thought of something, and said aloud in the stillness: “That was a dwarf, wasn’t it, that waited on us at breakfast?”

“Sh-h,” went Joachim. “Don’t speak loud. Yes, a dwarf. Why?”

“Nothing. We hadn’t mentioned it.”

He mused on. It had been ten o’clock when he lay down. An hour passed. It was an ordinary hour, not long, not short. At its close a bell sounded through the house and garden, first afar, then near, then from afar again.

“Breakfast,” Joachim said and could be heard getting up.

Hans Castorp too finished with his cure for the time and went into his room to put himself to rights a little. The cousins met in the corridor and descended the stair. Hans Castorp said: “Well, the lying-down is great! What sort of chairs are they? If they are to be had here, I’ll buy one and take it to Hamburg with me; they are heavenly to lie in. Or do you think Behrens had them made to his design?”

Joachim did not know. They entered the dining-room, where the meal was again in full swing.

At every place stood a large glass, probably a half litre of milk; the room shimmered white with it.

“No,” Hans Castorp said, when he was once more in his seat between the seamstress and the Englishwoman, and had docilely unfolded his serviette, though still heavy with the earlier meal; “no, God help me, milk I never could abide, and least of all now! Is there perhaps some porter?” He applied himself to the dwarf and put his question with the gentlest courtesy, but alas, there was none. She promised to bring Kulmbacher beer, and did so. It was thick, dark, and foaming brownly; it made a capital substitute for the porter. Hans Castorp drank it thirstily from a half-litre glass, and ate some cold meat and toast. Again there was oatmeal porridge and much butter and fruit. He let his eyes dwell upon them, incapable of more. And he looked at the guests as well; the groups began to break up for him, and individuals to stand out. His own table was full, except the place at the top, which, he learned, was “the doctor’s place.” For the doctors, when their work allowed, ate at the common table, sitting at each of the seven in turn; at each one a place was kept free. But just now neither was present; they were operating, it was said. The young man with the moustaches came in again, sank his chin once for all on his breast, and sat down, with his self-absorbed, care-worn mien. The lean, light blonde was in her seat, and spooned up yogurt as though it formed her sole article of diet. Next her appeared a lively little old dame, who addressed the silent young man in Russian; he regarded her uneasily, and answered only by nodding his head, looking as though he had a bad taste in his mouth. Opposite him, on the other side of the elderly lady, there was another young girl—pretty, with a blooming complexion and full bosom, chestnut hair that waved agreeably, round, brown, childlike eyes, and a little ruby on her lovely hand. She laughed often, and spoke Russian. Hans Castorp learned that her name was Marusja. He noticed further that when she laughed and talked, Joachim sat with eyes cast sternly down upon his plate.

Settembrini appeared through the side door, and, curling his moustaches, strode to his place at the end of the table diagonally in front of that where Hans Castorp sat. His table-mates burst out in peals of laughter as he sat down; he had probably said something cutting. Hans Castorp recognized the members of the Half-Lung Club. Hermine Kleefeld, heavy-eyed, slid into her place at the table in front of one of the verandah doors, speaking as she did so to the thick-lipped youth who had worn his coat in the unseemly fashion that had struck Hans Castorp. The ivory-coloured Levi and the fat, freckled Iltis sat side by side at a table at right angles to Hans Castorp—he did not know any of their table-mates.

“There are your neighbours,” Joachim said in a low voice to his cousin, bending forward as he spoke. The pair passed close beside Hans Castorp to the last table on the right, the “bad” Russian table, apparently, where there already sat a whole family, one of whom, a very ugly boy, was gobbling great quantities of porridge. The man was of slight proportions, with a grey, hollow-cheeked face. He wore a brown leather jacket; on his feet he had clumsy felt boots with buckled clasps. His wife, likewise small and slender, walked with tripping steps in her tiny, high-heeled Russia leather boots, the feathers swaying on her hat. Around her neck she wore a soiled feather boa. Hans Castorp looked at them with a ruthless stare, quite foreign to his usual manner—he himself was aware of its brutality, yet at the same time conscious of relishing that very quality. His eyes felt both staring and heavy. At that moment the glass door on the left slammed shut, with a rattle and ringing of glass; he did not start as he had on the first occasion, but only made a grimace of lazy disgust; when he wished to turn his head, he found the effort too much for him—it was really not worth while. And thus, for the second time, he was unable to fix upon the person who was guilty of behaving in that reckless way about a door.

The truth was that the breakfast beer, as a rule only mildly obfuscating to the young man’s sense, had this time completely stupefied and befuddled him. He felt as though he had received a blow on the head. His eyelids were heavy as lead; his tongue would not shape his simple thoughts when out of politeness he tried to talk to the Englishwoman. Even to alter the direction of his gaze he was obliged to conquer a great disinclination; and, added to all this, the hateful burning in his face had reached the same height as yesterday, his cheeks felt puffy with heat, he breathed with difficulty; his heart pounded dully, like a hammer muffled in cloth. If all these sensations caused him no high degree of suffering, that was only because his head felt as though he had inhaled a few whiffs of chloroform. He saw as in a dream that Dr. Krokowski appeared at breakfast and took the place opposite to his; the doctor, however, repeatedly looked him sharply in the eye, while he conversed in Russian with the ladies on his right. The young girls—the blooming Marusja and the lean consumer of yogurt—cast down their eyes modestly as the doctor spoke. Hans

Castorp did not, of course, bear himself otherwise than with dignity. In silence, since his tongue refused its office, but managing his knife and fork with particular propriety. When his cousin nodded to him and got up, he rose too, bowed blindly to the rest of the table, and with cautious steps followed Joachim out.

“When do we lie down again?” he asked, as they left the house. “It’s the best thing up here, so far as I can see. I wish I were back again in my comfortable chair. Do we take a long walk?”