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Dr. Faust’s Last Day
by [?]

The Doctor got up at dawn, as was his wont, and as soon as he was dressed he sat down at his desk in his library overlooking the sea, and immersed himself in the studies which were the lodestar of his existence. His hours were mapped out with rigid regularity like those of a school-boy, and his methodical life worked as though by clockwork. He rose at dawn and read without interruption until eight o’clock. He then partook of some light food (he was a strict vegetarian), after which he walked in the garden of his house, overlooking the Bay of Naples, until ten. From ten to twelve he received sick people, peasants from the village, or any visitors that needed his advice or his company. At twelve he ate a frugal meal. From one o’clock until three he enjoyed a siesta. At three he resumed his studies, which continued without interruption until six when he partook of a second meal. At seven he took another stroll in the village or by the seashore and remained out of doors until nine. He then withdrew into his study, and at midnight went to bed.

It was, perhaps, the extreme regularity of his life, combined with the strict diet which he observed, that accounted for his good health. This day was his seventieth birthday, and his body was as vigorous and his mind as alert as they had been in his fortieth year. His thick hair and beard were scarcely grey, and the wrinkles on his white, thoughtful face were rare. Yet the Doctor, when questioned as to the secret of his youthfulness, being like many learned men fond of a paradox, used to reply that diet and regularity had nothing to do with it, and that the Southern sun and the climate of the Neapolitan coast, which he had chosen among all places to be the abode of his old age, were in reality responsible for his excellent health.

“I lead a regular life,” he used to say, “not in order to keep well, but in order to get through my work. Unless my hours were mapped out regularly I should be the prey of every idler in the place and I should never get any work done at all.”

On this day, as it was his seventieth birthday, the Doctor had asked a few friends to share his mid-day meal, and when he returned from his morning stroll he sent for his housekeeper to give her a few final instructions. The housekeeper, who was a voluble Italian peasant-woman, after receiving his orders, handed him a piece of paper on which a few words were scrawled in reddish-brown ink, saying it had been left by a Signore.

“What Signore?” asked the Doctor, as he perused the document, which consisted of words in the German tongue to the effect that the writer regretted his absence from the Doctor’s feast, but would call at midnight. It was not signed.

“He was a Signore, like all Signores,” said the housekeeper; “he just left the letter and went away.”

The Doctor was puzzled, and in spite of much cross-examination he was unable to extract anything more beyond the fact that he was a “Signore.”

“Shall I lay one place less?” asked the housekeeper.

“Certainly not,” said the Doctor. “All my guests will be present.” And he threw the piece of paper on the table.

The housekeeper left the room, but she had not been gone many minutes before she returned and said that Maria, the wife of the late Giovanni, the baker, wished to speak to him. The Doctor nodded, and Maria burst into the room, sobbing.

When her tears had somewhat subsided she told her story in broken sentences. Her daughter, Margherita, who was seventeen years old, had been allowed to spend the summer at Sorrento with her late father’s sister. There, it appeared, she had met a “Signore,” who had given her jewels, made love to her, promised her marriage, and held clandestine meetings with her. Her aunt professed now to have been unaware of this; but Maria assured the Doctor that her sister-in-law, who had the evil eye and had more than once trafficked with Satan, must have had knowledge of the business, even if she were not directly responsible, which was highly probable. In the meantime Margherita’s brother Anselmo had returned from the wars in the North, and, discovering the truth, had sworn to kill the Signore unless he married Margherita.