Page:Auerbach-Spinozanovel.djvu/143

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121
TALMUD AND LATIN.

him that he had that day deciphered one of the most difficult passages in Cicero's "Orator." The commentators and the later philologists had always given the easier reading, which would naturally be more convenient; but it was the sacred duty of all true philologists to regard the more difficult reading—just because it was the more difficult, and not so easily understood by every one—as the correct and original.

"That is strange," said Baruch; "it seems to me as though, if I were crossing a barley field, and saw some sheaves lying there, I must say, Ay, those are oat sheaves that have been brought from another field, for to allow they were barley sheaves would not evince skill."

Magister Nigritius started; this application of Talmudistic sophistry to a foreign, if not wholly unkindred subject, disgusted him. He assured Baruch that the transcriber of a difficult passage would of course be willing to find an easier turn for it; it was therefore his duty, if there were sense in the more difficult reading, to prefer it.

Baruch was satisfied by this representation: the acuteness of reasoning that thereby came into play attracted him, but still unsatisfied he felt the longing for that new world of serene beauty which should have been opened to him. The increasing chest disease of the Magister, and the secret dissatisfaction between him and Baruch, made the in-