MODEST HAPPINESS (Theodor Mommsen)
The bent old man with a mop of dishevelled grey hair on his head, wearing a black academic cloak over the strict tail-coat, has been slowly shuffling through the lobby of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. His road was not easy, as he was moving through a boiling crowd of journalists, policemen, high officials, representatives of the European aristocracy and academic circles. Through the slightly blurred eyeglasses, the old man was staring intently at the people’s faces. Many of them tried to ask him some questions, shake his hand, suggest something or present a gift. However, the old man was too tired to react to these manifestations of public attention. He held a golden laureate medal close to his chest and with great difficulties maneuvered through the crowd, trying to find his grandson William, who had accompanied his grandfather in the exhausting journey from Berlin to Stockholm.
- There he is! Theodor Mommsen! The one who has recently glorified Germany! - With these exclamations a jauntily dressed young man jumped out of the crowd offhandedly towards the old man. He was pulling a beautiful blond girl in a luxurious evening dress by hand. - The King of Sweden has just awarded the Nobel Prize to Mr. Mommsen, who is my favourite teacher!
- So, you are my student, aren’t you? – Mr. Mommsen asked wearily, and confidently handed a medal of the Nobel Prize winner to the young man without waiting for an answer. – You must help me leave this noisy place immediately and find my grandson William! Where did you attend my lectures?
- I had the honour to listen to your lectures on history and law of Ancient Rome at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin in 1878-79! - Answered the young man proudly. He looked around and asked with anxiety: - Aren’t you going to visit the Nobel banquet at the Blue Chamber of the City Hall? This will be an incredible event! Members of the royal family and leaders of different countries will be there! World-famous people! It’s going to be a great concert! To be honest, when I heard about your triumph, I dared to hope that you would consider it possible to take me to this event, for old times' sake...
- I’ll be honest with you - I do not remember you at all... But your dedication surely fascinates me. If only I could have at least some of your energy!" - With these words, Mommsen leaned against the young man’s shoulder with relief and pointed to the exit from the building. - What is your name and what grade did you get at my examination? By the way, you haven’t introduced me to this young lady!
"My name is Klaus and this is Monica. And believe me, she knows a lot about you! As for the exam, there were two of them: the history of ancient Rome and the Roman Law. I got the highest mark in both subjects. At the same time, I was studying Latin and Italian. And I also read your works "Römische Geschichte" and "Römisches Staatsrecht", - answered the young man, taking his teacher down the stairs together with the silent blonde. - And I remember your grandson William. At that time he was studying at junior grades. And now I see him there, on the first floor by the window. He is densely surrounded by German journalists who heard about your success and immediately started interviewing the first person related to you they were able to find! What will happen there once you appear?
"You know, dear Klaus, I will be pleased to give you both of my invitation cards to the Nobel banquet. But in turn you will have to get my grandson out of that trouble and hide me from the eyes of our curious compatriots!" - With these words, smiling Mommsen friendly tapped Klaus on the shoulder and turned to his companion. - Dear Fräulein Monica, I sincerely apologize for the quirks of the old grumbler! "
- Of course, I'll do it, Mr. Mommsen! And I'm very grateful to you for the generosity!" – Klaus seemed very happy, but a moment later he thought of something and turned to his teacher, - Let me ask you a question. You have conducted a great number of excellent studies in the field of history, law and philology. You have achieved great success in science! But yet you don’t seem to be pleased with the deserved awards and honours, do you?
- Well, first of all, I'm too old to paint the town red. In addition, I consider any form of pride disgusting. - Mommsen carefully examined the rooms of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences crowded with people and smoothed his ruffled hair.
- Secondly, I am of course grateful for high acknowledgement of the results of my work. But I have lived a happy life, and it was happy because I was doing my favourite work. Ancient Rome is incredible. Its history is amazing and crucial for the mankind. Thus I have been studying it not in anticipation of some reward. I would be willing to exchange many things for the opportunity to obtain this knowledge!