Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/271

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259
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF PROFESSOR DUMAS.

of seeing you.' Throwing on my coat, I hastily reiterated my apologies. I had only one chair. My visitor was pleased to accept it, while I resumed my elevated perch on the drawing-stool. Baron Humboldt had read the papers published by M. Prévost and myself on blood, which had just appeared in the "Bibliothèque Universelle," and was anxious to see the preparations I had by me. His wish was soon gratified. 'I am going to the Congress at Verona,' said he, 'and I intend to spend some days at Geneva, to see old friends and to make new ones, and more especially to become acquainted with young people who are beginning their career. Will you act as my cicerone? I warn you, however, that my rambles begin early and end late. Now, could you be at my disposal, say, from six in the morning till midnight?' This proposal, which was of course accepted with alacrity, proved to me a source of unexpected pleasure. Baron Humboldt was fond of talking; he passed from one subject to another without stopping. He obviously liked being listened to, and there was no fear of his being interrupted by a young man who for the first time heard Laplace, Berthollet, Gay-Lussac, Arago, Thenard, Cuvier, and many others of the Parisian celebrities, spoken of with familiarity. I listened with a strange delight; a new horizon began to dawn upon me. Save the time devoted to some visits, I was allowed to remain the whole day with Humboldt, who darted from point to point over the vast range of his recollections, while I endeavored to keep pace with the uninterrupted flow of his narrative. Sometimes the mountain scenery would remind him of the Cordilleras, though it must be confessed he did not think much even of Mont Blanc. Sometimes he turned to science, and then astronomy and physics, chemistry, and the natural history branches would, in rapid succession, come in for their share in the dialogue, or rather monologue, which, spoken in a low, somewhat monotonous tone, would have scarcely appeared impressive had it not been for some waggish pleasantry which now and then escaped, as it were, involuntarily. But, at any rate, if his voice failed to be effective, the glance of his eye was sufficient to rivet his hearers' attention.

"At the end of a few days Baron Humboldt left Geneva. After his departure the town seemed empty to me. I felt as if spellbound. The memorable hours I had spent with that irresistible enchanter had opened a new world to my mind. I had been more especially impressed with what he had told me of Parisian life, of the happy collaboration of men of science, and of the unlimited facilities which the French capital offered to young men wishing to devote themselves to scientific pursuits. I began to think that Paris was the only place where, under the auspices of the leaders of physical and chemical science, with whom I had no doubt I should soon become acquainted, I might hope to find the advice and assistance which would enable me to carry out the labors over which I had been pondering for some time. My mind was soon made up—'I must go to Paris.' "