Back to Methuselah eBook

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THE WOMAN.  I do not understand.  You say you have come here on a pious pilgrimage.  Is that some new means of transport?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [again shewing signs of distress] I find it very difficult to make myself understood here.  I was not referring to a machine, but to a—­a—­a sentimental journey.

THE WOMAN.  I am afraid I am as much in the dark as before.  You said also that blood is thicker than water.  No doubt it is; but what of it?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Its meaning is obvious.

THE WOMAN.  Perfectly.  But I assure you I am quite aware that blood is thicker than water.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [sniffing:  almost in tears again] We will leave it at that, madam.

THE WOMAN [going nearer to him and scrutinizing him with some concern] I am afraid you are not well.  Were you not warned that it is dangerous for shortlived people to come to this country?  There is a deadly disease called discouragement, against which shortlived people have to take very strict precautions.  Intercourse with us puts too great a strain on them.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [pulling himself together huffily] It has no effect on me, madam.  I fear my conversation does not interest you.  If not, the remedy is in your own hands.

THE WOMAN [looking at her hands, and then looking inquiringly at him] Where?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [breaking down] Oh, this is dreadful.  No understanding, no intelligence, no sympathy—­[his sobs choke him].

THE WOMAN.  You see, you are ill.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [nerved by indignation] I am not ill.  I have never had a day’s illness in my life.

THE WOMAN.  May I advise you?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  I have no need of a lady doctor, thank you, madam.

THE WOMAN [shaking her head] I am afraid I do not understand.  I said nothing about a butterfly.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Well, I said nothing about a butterfly.

THE WOMAN.  You spoke of a lady doctor.  The word is known here only as the name of a butterfly.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [insanely] I give up.  I can bear this no longer.  It is easier to go out of my mind at once. [He rises and dances about, singing]

    I’d be a butterfly, born in a bower,
    Making apple dumplings without any flour.

THE WOMAN [smiling gravely] It must be at least a hundred and fifty years since I last laughed.  But if you do that any more I shall certainly break out like a primary of sixty.  Your dress is so extraordinarily ridiculous.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [halting abruptly in his antics] My dress ridiculous!  I may not be dressed like a Foreign Office clerk; but my clothes are perfectly in fashion in my native metropolis, where yours—­pardon my saying so—­would be considered extremely unusual and hardly decent.

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