- CHAPTER XIV. THE ASTRONOMICAL CALCULATION.
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THE ASTRONOMICAL CALCULATION.
MARK, I wish I was as calm and equable as you are," exclaimed Victor, after he had been spending an hour in trying to read a French novel, in restlessly marching up and down the room, in snapping his fingers by pulling the knuckle-bones out suddenly, and then allowing them to relapse into their joints, in whistling and humming snatches of favorite arias, and in watching Natika's white hands as they moved lightly and gracefully over her embroidery frame, for this morning Natika had been seized with a fit of industry and domesticity.
"I really should like you to be a little less restless, Victor," replied Mark, with a good-humored smile; "at least until I complete this calculation for grandpapa--an astronomical one that goes into dif- | | 158 ferential calculus, and is not so very easy for me to make."
"Easy enough for grandpapa," said Natika. "Why don't he make it himself?"
"He has not time to-day," said Mark, quietly. "I like to aid him, and it is very good in him to accept of my poor help sometimes."
Natika glanced at her cousin with a flash in her eye, then smiled as she said merrily
"'Get thee behind nee, Satan!' I wish would not always be so irreproachable, Mark. It is really fatiguing to have to keep up with so much virtue and goodness."
"'And the Athenians grew weary of hearing Aristides called the Just,'" sententiously quoted Victor from Grecian history.
"Behold Saul among the Prophets!" retorted Natika.
"Natika," said Victor, gravely, "you are a very exhausting person. You are worse than quicksilver. You are never at rest. You arc an incarnated kaleidoscope; you can convene on any subject with an awful Greek loquacity. You inherit all this from your ancestors. Why don't you imbibe tranquillity from Mark or--Panola?"
"Panola!" exclaimed Natika, scornfully; "Panola! am I to take lessons in deportment from a--" Natika hesitated; she caught Mark's eye fixed gravely upon her. "Well; you are part Indian, yourself, Mark," she concluded, half apologetically.| | 159
"Yes," said Mark, "I have no doubt Panola and I both owe much of our power of self-control to our aboriginal forefathers. I, for one, am very thankful to them for the quality--even if I appear somewhat stolid and impassive."
"It is a good coating of armor against the 'stings and arrows of outrageous fortune,'" said Victor; "or even against Natika's shafts of Attic wit and sarcasm."
"Don't be silly," said Natika; "it bores me!"
"Why do you 'bore' Natika?" exclaimed Docteur Canonge, emerging from his laboratory with an open book in his outstretched hand. "Good-morning, my dearest children. You are well and happy to-day, I trust?" The old man embraced his granddaughter and kissed her; then in his affectionate French way he kissed his grandsons each upon the forehead, as was his morning custom in greeting them. "I am rather late this morning," he continued, "but I was up nearly all night watching the transit of a star, and I overslept myself; but I have gained something! I have discovered a mistake of five seconds in Moedler's calculations. I shall proceed immediately to acquaint him with it. You have finish the calculation, Mark? I did wish to verify mine with yours."
Mark handed the paper he had been calculating to his grandfather. The old man cast his eye rapidly over the columns of figures: his face glowed. | | 160 "It is correc'; I have right; it is full five seconds zat Moedler was wrong! I zank you ver' much, Mark!"
"Pshaw! grandpapa! " said Natika, biting off the end of her floss to thread her needle. "What great difference would five seconds make anyhow?"
"Five seconds of time in a transit!" exclaimed Docteur Canonge. "Five seconds--zat is a great deal! It make difference of many zousand miles in de distance of a star!"
Natika put up her red lips and smiled. "If it pleases you, grand papa," she said, softly, in flute-like tones, "it is well!"
"You do not care so much for science, Natika," said Docteur Canonge.
"I care for you, dear grandpapa," replied the siren in her gentlest dove-notes--there were exquisite cadences in Natika's voice when she chose to use them.
"What book have you got there in your hand?" she continued, wishing to please her grandfather.
"Zis is de 'Bhagrat Gita,' the great hymn of god of ze Hindoos--zat is de meaning of Bhagrat: Bhaga, god--gita, poem or song. It is do Bible of ze Hindoo. An' ver' good Bible, I zink."
"Grandpapa!" exclaimed Natika, holding up her hands, "grandpapa, what will the curá say to that?"
Docteur Canonge shrugged his shoulders. "I | | 161 care not for what he will say; I zink what I zink! In zis book I find ze germs of most modern theology. It is not less ze truth because it was also known to zose Hindoos before ze day of Moise. I have great respek for Moise, but I zink he learn much from ze Egyptians, who did also learn all zey did know from zose Hindoos."
Natika laughed and clapped her hands. "Grandpapa, you would have been excommunicated and burnt up by the good Catholics of the middle ages!"
"Probablement; but I zink I keep ze true essence of ze Christian faith; so I care not for ze mint and ze cumin of small dogmas. I shall tell you a story, Natika."
"Why don't you say 'narrative,' grandpapa?" said Victor, gayly laughing. "You never heard that story, Natika. Grandpapa had a French friend here who wished to learn English, and grandpapa undertook to teach him. Grandpapa explained to him that a story, a tale, and a narrative meant all the same thing. So the pupil undertook one day to tell an anecdote of a long-tailed monkey; and he called it a 'very much narratived monkey,' so we got the joke on grandpapa!"
Docteur Canonge laughed merrily. "It is all true, Natika. Zis shall be, however, not 'a very much narrative,' but a short tale of my monkey."
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