Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

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

NAPOLEON [impressively] I am the Man of Destiny.

THE VEILED WOMAN [unimpressed] How did you get in here?

NAPOLEON.  I walked in.  I go on until I am stopped.  I never am stopped.  I tell you I am the Man of Destiny.

THE VEILED WOMAN.  You will be a man of very short destiny if you wander about here without one of our children to guide you.  I suppose you belong to the Baghdad envoy.

NAPOLEON.  I came with him; but I do not belong to him.  I belong to myself.  Direct me to the oracle if you can.  If not, do not waste my time.

THE VEILED WOMAN.  Your time, poor creature, is short.  I will not waste it.  Your envoy and his party will be here presently.  The consultation of the oracle is arranged for them, and will take place according to the prescribed ritual.  You can wait here until they come [she turns to go into the temple].

NAPOLEON.  I never wait. [She stops].  The prescribed ritual is, I believe, the classical one of the pythoness on her tripod, the intoxicating fumes arising from the abyss, the convulsions of the priestess as she delivers the message of the God, and so on.  That sort of thing does not impose on me:  I use it myself to impose on simpletons.  I believe that what is, is.  I know that what is not, is not.  The antics of a woman sitting on a tripod and pretending to be drunk do not interest me.  Her words are put into her mouth, not by a god, but by a man three hundred years old, who has had the capacity to profit by his experience.  I wish to speak to that man face to face, without mummery or imposture.

THE VEILED WOMAN.  You seem to be an unusually sensible person.  But there is no old man.  I am the oracle on duty today.  I am on my way to take my place on the tripod, and go through the usual mummery, as you rightly call it, to impress your friend the envoy.  As you are superior to that kind of thing, you may consult me now. [She leads the way into the middle of the courtyard].  What do you want to know?

NAPOLEON [following her] Madam:  I have not come all this way to discuss matters of State with a woman.  I must ask you to direct me to one of your oldest and ablest men.

THE ORACLE.  None of our oldest and ablest men or women would dream of wasting their time on you.  You would die of discouragement in their presence in less than three hours.

NAPOLEON.  You can keep this idle fable of discouragement for people credulous enough to be intimidated by it, madam.  I do not believe in metaphysical forces.

THE ORACLE.  No one asks you to.  A field is something physical, is it not.  Well, I have a field.

NAPOLEON.  I have several million fields.  I am Emperor of Turania.

THE ORACLE.  You do not understand.  I am not speaking of an agricultural field.  Do you not know that every mass of matter in motion carries with it an invisible gravitational field, every magnet an invisible magnetic field, and every living organism a mesmeric field?  Even you have a perceptible mesmeric field.  Feeble as it is, it is the strongest I have yet observed in a shortliver.

Follow Us on Facebook