Back to Methuselah eBook

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THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Good Lord!  Cuts his throat, do you mean?

ZOO.  No:  why should he cut his throat?  He simply dies.  He wants to.  He is out of countenance, as we call it.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Well!!!  But suppose he is depraved enough not to want to die, and to settle the difficulty by killing all the rest of you?

ZOO.  Oh, he is one of the thoroughly degenerate shortlivers whom we occasionally produce.  He emigrates.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  And what becomes of him then?

ZOO.  You shortlived people always think very highly of him.  You accept him as what you call a great man.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  You astonish me; and yet I must admit that what you tell me accounts for a great deal of the little I know of the private life of our great men.  We must be very convenient to you as a dumping place for your failures.

ZOO.  I admit that.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Good.  Then if you carry out your plan of colonization, and leave no shortlived countries in the world, what will you do with your undesirables?

ZOO.  Kill them.  Our tertiaries are not at all squeamish about killing.


ZOO [glancing up at the sun] Come.  It is just sixteen o’clock; and you have to join your party at half-past in the temple in Galway.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [rising] Galway!  Shall I at last be able to boast of having seen that magnificent city?

ZOO.  You will be disappointed:  we have no cities.  There is a temple of the oracle:  that is all.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Alas! and I came here to fulfil two long-cherished dreams.  One was to see Galway.  It has been said, ’See Galway and die.’  The other was to contemplate the ruins of London.

ZOO.  Ruins!  We do not tolerate ruins.  Was London a place of any importance?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [amazed] What!  London!  It was the mightiest city of antiquity. [Rhetorically] Situate just where the Dover Road crosses the Thames, it—­

ZOO [curtly interrupting] There is nothing there now.  Why should anybody pitch on such a spot to live?  The nearest houses are at a place called Strand-on-the-Green:  it is very old.  Come.  We shall go across the water. [She goes down the steps].

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Sic transit gloria mundi!

ZOO [from below] What did you say?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [despairingly] Nothing.  You would not understand. [He goes down the steps].


A courtyard before the columned portico of a temple.  The temple door is in the middle of the portico.  A veiled and robed woman of majestic carriage passes along behind the columns towards the entrance.  From the opposite direction a man of compact figure, clean-shaven, saturnine, and self-centred:  in short, very like Napoleon I, and wearing a military uniform of Napoleonic cut, marches with measured steps; places his hand in his lapel in the traditional manner; and fixes the woman with his eye.  She stops, her attitude expressing haughty amazement at his audacity.  He is on her right:  she on his left.

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