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HOME > Short Stories > The Disagreeable Woman > CHAPTER III. PROF. POPPENDORF.
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Dinner was nearly over. The dessert had been succeeded by a dish of withered russet apples, when Mrs. Gray, leaning forward a little, said: "If the boarders will kindly remain a short time, Prof. Poppendorf has an interesting communication to make."

The learned professor cleared his throat, removed his goggles for an instant, and after wiping them carefully with a red silk handkerchief, replaced them on a nose of large proportions.

"My friends," he said, "on Thursday next I am to deliver a lecture at Schiller Hall, on Second Avenue, and I hope I[Pg 20] may have the honor of seeing you all present. The tickets are fifty cents."

"May I ask the subject of your lecture, Professor?" asked Mrs. Wyman, with an appearance of interest.

"I shall lecture on 'The Material and the Immaterial,'" answered the Professor, in a deep bass voice.

The boarders looked puzzled. The announcement of the subject did not seem to excite interest.

"Shall you treat the subject in a popular manner, Prof. Poppendorf?" asked the Disagreeable Woman, in a tone that did not necessarily suggest sarcasm.

Prof. Poppendorf seemed puzzled.

"I do not know!" he answered, "if it will be popular—I hope it will be instructive."

"Will there be any jokes in it, Professor?" asked Sam Lindsay, a vocalist from an uptown Dime Museum.

"Jokes!" repeated the Professor, evidently scandalized. "It would not be[Pg 21] appropriate. The subject is metaphysical. If you want jokes you must go to the variety theatre."

"True," said Lindsay, "or to the Dime Museums. We've got a man at our place who will make you split your sides laughing."

"I have here some tickets," continued the Professor, "some tickets which I shall be glad to dispose of in advance," and he drew out a package of perhaps twenty-five. "Miss Blagden, I hope you will patronize me."

"You may give me two," said the Disagreeable Woman, drawing a dollar bill from her pocket, and passing it to the Professor.

"You take two tickets?" said Mrs. Wyman, with a knowing smile. "I suppose there is a gentleman in the case."

"You are mistaken," said the Disagreeable Woman, quietly.

"You don't want both tickets for yourself, surely?"

[Pg 22]

"No, I shall use neither of them."

"You will give them away, then?"

"I do not think so."

"Why, then—"

"Why then do I buy them? Out of compliment to our friend, Prof. Poppendorf, who, I hope, will win a success."

"I thank you," said the Professor, "but I should be glad to have you honor my lecture with your presence."

"I feel no particular interest in 'The Material and the Immaterial,'" said Mrs. Blagden. "Besides I am not sure whether I should get any clearer ideas respecting them from attending your lecture."

"You do not flatter the Professor," said Mrs. Wyman, appearing shocked.

"No, I never flatter any one. Why should I?" returned the Disagreeable Woman.

"I like to be flattered," said the widow, simpering. "I like to be told that I am young and charming."

"Even if you are not."

[Pg 23]

Mrs. Wyman colored, and looked annoyed. She evidently did not care to continue her conversation with the Disagreeable Woman.

"Professor Poppendorf," she said, "will you allow me to suggest something which will enable you to sell a good many tickets?"

"I should be very glad to hear," said the Professor, eagerly.

"Get Chauncey M. Depew to preside, and introduce you to the audience."

"I did ask him, but he could not come. He is engaged to preside at a dinner given to the Yale Football Team."

"Does Mr. Depew kick football?" asked the young woman from Macy's.

"I think not," I ventured to say. "Gentlemen over forty seldom indulge in athletics."

"I am so sorry you can't get Mr. Depew," said Mrs. Wyman. "I should so like to hear him."

"You will hear me," said Prof. [Pg 24]Poppendorf, with dignity, "if you will kindly buy a ticket."

Mrs. Wyman looked embarrassed. She had a fair income, but carried economy to a fine point.

"Perhaps," she said, with a hesitating glance at the person of whom she spoke, "Miss Blagden will give me one of her tickets, as she does not intend to use either."

"That wouldn't help the Professor," said Miss Blagden, quietly. "You had better buy one of him."

The Professor evidently approved this suggestion.

Mrs. Wyman reluctantly drew from her pocket forty-five cents in change, and tendered it to the Professor.

"I will owe you a nickel," she said.

"You can pay it any time, my dear lady," said the Professor, politely, as he passed a ticket to the widow.

Nearly all at the table took tickets, but the young woman from Macy's was not[Pg 25] of the number. The price was small, but she needed gloves, and could not spare even fifty cents.

"Prof. Poppendorf," said a young man, who was attached as a reporter to one of the great morning dailies, "did I not hear you say once that you knew Bismarck?"

"Ah! yes," said the Professor, "I was at the University with Bismarck."

"How nice!" said Mrs. Wyman, with girlish enthusiasm. "It must have been a great privilege."

"I don't know," said Prof. Poppendorf, deliberately. "Bismarck was not a great student. He would not study. Bismarck was wild."

"Did he drink beer?" asked the widow.

"Of course," answered the Professor, surprised; "why should he not? I drank beer myself."

"Is it possible? I would not have believed it. Fie, Professor!"

"Beer is a very good thing," said the[Pg 26] Professor, gravely. "There were not many of the students who could drink as much as Bismarck."

"And did Bismarck care for young ladies?"

"I should think so. I had a duel with Bismarck myself about a young m?dchen."

More than one of the boarders smiled. It was so difficult to associate the gray old Professor with anything that savored of gallantry.

"Oh, yes," he continued, "Bismarck was the devil among the girls."

"Oh, Professor, I am shocked! You should not use such a word as devil at the table."

"What, then, do you call him?" asked Prof. Poppendorf.

"He is not mentioned in polite society. But tell us about the duel—were you wounded?"

"You see that scar," said the Professor, pointing to a slight disfigurement of his[Pg 27] left cheek. "That was given me by Bismarck."

"Oh, how interesting! It is almost like seeing Bismarck himself."

"Prof. Poppendorf," said the Disagreeable Woman, "why do you not lecture on Bismarck, instead of the dry subject you have announced?"

"You admire Bismarck, then, my dear lady?"

"Not at all."

"But I don't understand."

"The people are interested in him. They don't care for the 'Material and the Immaterial.'"

"That is a good suggestion, Professor," said the widow. "I would much rather hear about Bismarck. I admire him. Why do you not, Miss Blagden?"

"Because he was a second-hand autocrat," said the Disagreeable Woman.

"Again I do not understand," said the Professor.

"He was the servant of the Emperor.[Pg 28] His authority did not come from the people."

There was some further conversation, and Prof. Poppendorf promised that his next lecture should be upon Bismarck.

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