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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 333 pages of information about Back to Methuselah.

CONFUCIUS.  So early?  If the Minister of Health rings you up, what shall I tell her?

BURGE-LUBIN.  Tell her to go to the devil. [He goes out].

CONFUCIUS [shaking his head, shocked at the President’s impoliteness] No.  No, no, no, no, no.  Oh, these English! these crude young civilizations!  Their manners!  Hogs.  Hogs.

PART IV

Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman

ACT I

Burrin pier on the south shore of Galway Bay in Ireland, a region of stone-capped hills and granite fields.  It is a fine summer day in the year 3000 A.D.  On an ancient stone stump, about three feet thick and three feet high, used for securing ships by ropes to the shore, and called a bollard or holdfast, an elderly gentleman sits facing the land with his head bowed and his face in his hands, sobbing.  His sunburnt skin contrasts with his white whiskers and eyebrows.  He wears a black frock-coat, a white waistcoat, lavender trousers, a brilliant silk cravat with a jewelled pin stuck in it, a tall hat of grey felt, and patent leather boots with white spats.  His starched linen cuffs protrude from his coat sleeves; and his collar, also of starched white linen, is Gladstonian.  On his right, three or four full sacks, lying side by side on the flags, suggest that the pier, unlike many remote Irish piers, is occasionally useful as well as romantic.  On his left, behind him, a flight of stone steps descends out of sight to the sea level.

A woman in a silk tunic and sandals, wearing little else except a cap with the number 2 on it in gold, comes up the steps from the sea, and stares in astonishment at the sobbing man.  Her age cannot be guessed:  her face is firm and chiselled like a young face; but her expression is unyouthful in its severity and determination._

THE WOMAN.  What is the matter?

The elderly gentleman looks up; hastily pulls himself together; takes out a silk handkerchief and dries his tears lightly with a brave attempt to smile through them; and tries to rise gallantly, but sinks back.

THE WOMAN.  Do you need assistance?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  No.  Thank you very much.  No.  Nothing.  The heat. [He punctuates with sniffs, and dabs with his handkerchief at his eyes and nose.] Hay fever.

THE WOMAN.  You are a foreigner, are you not?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  No.  You must not regard me as a foreigner.  I am a
Briton.

THE WOMAN.  You come from some part of the British Commonwealth?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [amiably pompous] From its capital, madam.

THE WOMAN.  From Baghdad?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Yes.  You may not be aware, madam, that these islands were once the centre of the British Commonwealth, during a period now known as The Exile.  They were its headquarters a thousand years ago.  Few people know this interesting circumstance now; but I assure you it is true.  I have come here on a pious pilgrimage to one of the numerous lands of my fathers.  We are of the same stock, you and I. Blood is thicker than water.  We are cousins.

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