ZOO. Stuff! Youd drop dead if a tertiary as much as looked at you. The oracle is only a hundred and seventy; and you’ll find it hard enough to stand her.
THE DAUGHTER [piteously] Oh! [she falls on her knees].
THE ENVOY. Whew! Stand by me, Poppa. This is a little more than I bargained for. Are you going to kneel; or how?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. Perhaps it would be in better taste.
The two men kneel.
The vapor of the abyss thickens; and a distant roll of thunder seems to come from its depths. The pythoness, seated on her tripod, rises slowly from it. She has discarded the insulating robe and veil in which she conversed with Napoleon, and is now draped and hooded in voluminous folds of a single piece of grey-white stuff. Something supernatural about her terrifies the beholders, who throw themselves on their faces. Her outline flows and waves: she is almost distinct at moments, and again vague and shadowy: above all, she is larger than life-size, not enough to be measured by the flustered congregation, but enough to affect them with a dreadful sense of her supernaturalness.
ZOO. Get up, get up. Do pull yourselves together, you people.
The Envoy and his family, by shuddering negatively, intimate that it is impossible. The Elderly Gentleman manages to get on his hands and knees.
ZOO. Come on, Daddy: you are not afraid. Speak to her. She wont wait here all day for you, you know.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [rising very deferentially to his feet] Madam: you will excuse my very natural nervousness in addressing, for the first time in my life, a—a—a—a goddess. My friend and relative the Envoy is unhinged. I throw myself upon your indulgence—
ZOO [interrupting him intolerantly] Dont throw yourself on anything belonging to her or you will go right through her and break your neck. She isnt solid, like you.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. I was speaking figuratively—
ZOO. You have been told not to do it. Ask her what you want to know; and be quick about it.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [stooping and taking the prostrate Envoy by the shoulders] Ambrose: you must make an effort. You cannot go back to Baghdad without the answers to your questions.
THE ENVOY [rising to his knees] I shall be only too glad to get back alive on any terms. If my legs would support me I’d just do a bunk straight for the ship.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. No, no. Remember: your dignity—
THE ENVOY. Dignity be damned! I’m terrified. Take me away, for God’s sake.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [producing a brandy flask and taking the cap off] Try some of this. It is still nearly full, thank goodness!
THE ENVOY [clutching it and drinking eagerly] Ah! Thats better. [He tries to drink again. Finding that he has emptied it, he hands it back to his father-in-law upside down].