been overcome by some poisonous gas, but why I should retain
"Of the fact," he answered, "that sooner or later, one fine morning, I shall die."
"I am better off than you," I said. "In addi- tion to that, I have a further conviction, namely, that, one very nasty evening, I had the misfor- tune to be born."
All the others considered that we were talking nonsense, but indeed not one of them said any- thing more sensible. From that moment we singled each other out amongst the crowd. We used frequently to meet and discuss abstract subjects in a very serious manner, until each observed that the other was throwing dust in his eyes. Then, looking significantly at each other -- as, according to Cicero, the Roman augurs used to do -- we would burst out laughing heartily and, having had our laugh, we would separate, well content with our evening.
I was lying on a couch, my eyes fixed upon the ceiling and my hands clasped behind my head, when Werner entered my room. He sat down in an easy chair, placed his cane in a corner, yawned, and announced that it was getting hot out of doors. I replied that the flies were bothering me -- and we both fell silent.
"Observe, my dear doctor," I said, "that, but for fools, the world would be a very dull place. Look! Here are you and I, both sensible men! We know beforehand that it is possible to dispute ad infinitum about everything -- and so we do not dispute. Each of us knows almost all the other's secret thoughts: to us a single word is a whole history; we see the grain of every one of our feelings through a threefold husk. What is sad, we laugh at; what is laughable, we grieve at; but, to tell the truth, we are fairly indifferent, generally speaking, to everything except our- selves. Consequently, there can be no inter- change of feelings and thoughts between us; each of us knows all he cares to know about the other, and that knowledge is all he wants. One expedient remains -- to tell the news. So tell me some news."
Fatigued by this lengthy speech, I closed my eyes and yawned. The doctor answered after thinking awhile:
"There is an idea, all the same, in that non- sense of yours."
"Tell me one, and I will tell you the other."