Page:Auerbach-Spinozanovel.djvu/263

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241
HANDICRAFT.

a man cannot win from society respect and power, it is as well to avoid it, and in seclusion lose all care for it. So it seemed to the father; and again we see the loosened foundations and singular mixture of circumstances that awoke the powers of Spinoza to their full bloom.

"As far as I am concerned," the father agreed at last, "having thought over all the trades, I can think of none better if one has no great capital."

Father and son went to the skilful and well-known master. Christian Huyghens, an uncle of the mathematical scholar of that name, but who seemed to have neither the poetical genius of his brother, nor that of his nephew.

Spinoza explained to the master, in the course of conversation, that he already knew the laws of optics, and had also considerable acquaintance with mathematics; he then inquired if it were possible to learn the handiwork in half a year. The master, who, till then, had listened quietly to all remarks, sprang up at this so violently that his spectacles dropped from his nose.

"The deuce you can! May I turn Catholic, what maggots the youth of this day have In their heads!" he cried. "I have been seven and forty years in the business, and I may say I understand it, and can teach it to others; but I have people in the workshop who have already been five and seven years at it, and if I lay a microscope down there may I eat