Saturday, July 30, 2005

Hanique, Part II

(Part I)

When I returned home I continued to be haunted by the events at the conference; so I did what any academic would do under such circumstances. I went to the library and began wading through books.

For days I researched fruitlessly, poring over tome after tome in a futile attempt to find traces of this Bl. Catharine of Hanique. I did find three small bits of evidence in an author named Daniel Livingston Montgomery. The first was a fragment from a Latin poem (author, unidentified; date, unidentified; provenance, the margin of an unidentified manuscript) that mentioned the phrase, radix Hanicae. The second was the identification of Bl. Catharine of Hanique's feast-day as May 9. The third was the attribution to her of the following statement:

En mathématique on ne doit regarder que le principe, en morale que la conséquence. L' une est une vérité simple, l' autre une vérité complexe.


But, as I am sure you can see, it is all no good. The passage is not from Catharine of Hanique at all; it is from Chateaubriand. May 9 is the holiday of St. Catharine of Bologna, and no liturgical calendar gives any day at all for Catharine of Hanique. I know nothing further about the Latin phrase; even assuming it is not mere fiction, I have no real context within which to place it. Three minor bits of evidence, three dead ends.

I did, however, make an interesting discovery on the side: none of the liturgical calendars I had consulted mentioned the feast-day of St. Catharine of Boulagnon, either. The day I had usually heard given was the solemnity of another St. Catharine, St. Catharine of Alexandria.

Sitting back, I puzzled over this new and unexpected problem. Who was this Catharine who kept stealing what belonged to other Catharines? And how had such an obvious error such as that of her feast-day go unnoticed for so long?

I did not have long to think, however, for my peace was soon disturbed by two thugs bursting into the room. I recognized them as a professor of mathematics and a professor of biology.

"Well, Dan," said the professor of mathematics, "it's time for your appointment."

"I am busy," I replied.

"Now, Dan," said the professor of biology, "let's not do this the hard way."

Sighing, I rose, and, flanked by the Dean's minions, walked to the Dean's office.

When I entered, the short, arid-looking man who was the Dean rose and said, "Good morning, Dr. Montgomery. I trust you are feeling well today."

Part III of the short story Hanique will follow soon!

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