Back to Methuselah eBook

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BARNABAS [harsh and querulous] I wish to make a protest.

BURGE-LUBIN [good-humored and mocking] What!  Another protest!  Whats wrong now?

BARNABAS.  If you only knew all the protests I havnt made, you would be surprised at my patience.  It is you who are always treating me with the grossest want of consideration.

BURGE-LUBIN.  What have I done now?

BARNABAS.  You have put me down to go to the Record Office today to receive that American fellow, and do the honors of a ridiculous cinema show.  That is not the business of the Accountant General:  it is the business of the President.  It is an outrageous waste of my time, and an unjustifiable shirking of your duty at my expense.  I refuse to go.  You must go.

BURGE-LUBIN.  My dear boy, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to take the job off your hands—­

BARNABAS.  Then do it.  Thats all I want [he is about to switch off].

BURGE-LUBIN.  Dont switch off.  Listen.  This American has invented a method of breathing under water.

BARNABAS.  What do I care?  I don’t want to breathe under water.

BURGE-LUBIN.  You may, my dear Barnabas, at any time.  You know you never look where you are going when you are immersed in your calculations.  Some day you will walk into the Serpentine.  This man’s invention may save your life.

BARNABAS [angrily] Will you tell me what that has to do with your putting your ceremonial duties on to my shoulders?  I will not be trifled [he vanishes and is replaced by the blank screen]—­

BURGE-LUBIN [indignantly holding down his button] Dont cut us off, please:  we have not finished.  I am the President, speaking to the Accountant General.  What are you dreaming of?

A WOMAN’S VOICE.  Sorry. [The screen shews Barnabas as before].

BURGE-LUBIN.  Since you take it that way, I will go in your place.  It’s a pity, because, you see, this American thinks you are the greatest living authority on the duration of human life; and—­

BARNABAS [interrupting] The American thinks!  What do you mean?  I am the greatest living authority on the duration of human life.  Who dares dispute it?

BURGE-LUBIN.  Nobody, dear lad, nobody.  Dont fly out at me.  It is evident that you have not read the American’s book.

BARNABAS.  Dont tell me that you have, or that you have read any book except a novel for the last twenty years; for I wont believe you.

BURGE-LUBIN.  Quite right, dear old fellow:  I havnt read it.  But I have read what The Times Literary Supplement says about it.

BARNABAS.  I don’t care two straws what it says about it.  Does it say anything about me?


BARNABAS.  Oh, does it?  What?

BURGE-LUBIN.  It points out that an extraordinary number of first-rate persons like you and me have died by drowning during the last two centuries, and that when this invention of breathing under water takes effect, your estimate of the average duration of human life will be upset.

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