Back to Methuselah eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 408 pages of information about Back to Methuselah.

ZOO.  Come.  The oracle is ready.

Zozim motions them to the threshold with a wave of his staff.  The Envoy and the Elderly Gentleman take off their hats and go into the temple on tiptoe, Zoo leading the way.  The Wife and Daughter, frightened as they are, raise their heads uppishly and follow flatfooted, sustained by a sense of their Sunday clothes and social consequence.  Zozim remains in the portico, alone.

ZOZIM [taking off his wig, beard, and robe, and bundling them under his arm] Ouf! [He goes home].


Inside the temple.  A gallery overhanging an abyss.  Dead silence.  The gallery is brightly lighted; but beyond is a vast gloom, continually changing in intensity.  A shaft of violet light shoots upward; and a very harmonious and silvery carillon chimes.  When it ceases the violet ray vanishes.

Zoo comes along the gallery, followed by the Envoy’s daughter, his wife, the Envoy himself, and the Elderly Gentleman.  The two men are holding their hats with the brims near their noses, as if prepared to pray into them at a moment’s notice.  Zoo halts:  they all follow her example.  They contemplate the void with awe.  Organ music of the kind called sacred in the nineteenth century begins.  Their awe deepens.  The violet ray, now a diffused mist, rises again from the abyss.

THE WIFE [to Zoo, in a reverent whisper] Shall we kneel?

ZOO [loudly] Yes, if you want to.  You can stand on your head if you like. [She sits down carelessly on the gallery railing, with her back to the abyss].

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [jarred by her callousness] We desire to behave in a becoming manner.

ZOO.  Very well.  Behave just as you feel.  It doesn’t matter how you behave.  But keep your wits about you when the pythoness ascends, or you will forget the questions you have come to ask her.

THE ENVOY} {[[very nervous, takes out a paper to]
} [[simul-] {[refresh his memory]] Ahem! 
THE DAUGHTER} [taneously]]{[[alarmed]] The pythoness?  Is she
} {a snake?

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  Tch-ch!  The priestess of the oracle.  A sybil.  A prophetess.  Not a snake.

THE WIFE.  How awful!

ZOO.  I’m glad you think so.

THE WIFE.  Oh dear!  Dont you think so?

ZOO.  No.  This sort of thing is got up to impress you, not to impress me.

THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  I wish you would let it impress us, then, madam. 
I am deeply impressed; but you are spoiling the effect.

ZOO.  You just wait.  All this business with colored lights and chords on that old organ is only tomfoolery.  Wait til you see the pythoness.

The Envoy’s wife falls on her knees, and takes refuge in prayer.

THE DAUGHTER [trembling] Are we really going to see a woman who has lived three hundred years?

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Back to Methuselah from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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