AEsculapius spoke with all the passion of a mortal, and I was embarrassed. "I did not mean to say anything unpleasant, doctor," said I.
"That's all right, my lad," said AEsculapius, patting me on the back. "I knew that. If I hadn't known it, you'd have been on the table by this time. And now, good-bye. Curb your imagination. Think about others. Don't worry about yourself without cause, and never send for a doctor unless you know there's something wrong. If I had my way you mortals would be deprived of imagination. That is your worst disease, and if at any time you wish yours amputated, come to me and I'll fix you out."
"Thanks, doctor," I replied; "but I don't think I'll accept your offer, because I need my imagination in my business."
And then, realizing that I had received my conge, I prepared to depart.
"How much do I owe you, doctor?" I asked, putting my hand into the pocket of my gown, confident of finding whatever I should need.
"Nothing," said he. "The real physician can never be paid. He either restores your health or he does not. If he restores your health, he saves your life, and he is entitled to what your life is worth. If he does not restore your health—he has failed, and is entitled to nothing. All you have will never pay your doctor for what he does for you. Therefore, go in peace."
I stood abashed in the presence of this wise man, and, as I went forth from his office, I realized the truth of what he had said. In our own world we place a value upon the service of the man who carries us over the hard and the dark places. Yet who can really repay him for all that he does for us when by his skill alone we are rescued from peril?
I re-entered my sedan-chair and set the blackies off again, with something potent in my mind—how much I truly owed to the good man who has taken at times the health of my children, of my wife, of myself, in his hands and has seen us safely through to port. I have not yet been able to estimate it, but if ever he reads these lines, he will know that I pay him in gratitude that which the world with all its wealth cannot give.
"Now for the Zoo, boys," I cried. "AEsculapius has fixed me up."
And we scampered on.
At the Zoo
We had not travelled far from the office of AEsculapius when my little carriers turned from the broad and beautiful corridor into a narrow passage, through which they proceeded with some difficulty until we reached the other side of this strangely constructed home of the gods. As we emerged into the light of day, the view that presented itself was indescribably beautiful. I have looked from our own hills at home upon many a scene of grandeur. From the mountain peaks of New Hampshire, with the sun streaming down upon me, I have looked upon the valleys beneath through rifts in clouds that had not ventured so high, and were drenching the glorious green below with refreshing rains, and have stood awed in the presence of one of the simplest moods of nature. But the sight that greeted my eyes as I passed along that exterior road of Olympus, under the genial auspices of those wonderful gods, appealed to something in my soul which had never before been awakened, and which I shall never be able adequately to describe. The mere act of seeing seemed to be uplifting, and, from the moment I looked downward upon the beloved earth, I ceased to wonder that gods were godlike—indeed, my real wonder was that they were not more so. It seemed difficult to believe that there was anything earthly about earth. The world was idealized even to myself, who had never held it to be a bad sort of place. There were rich pastures, green to the most soul-satisfying degree, upon which cattle fed and lived their lives of content; here and there were the great cities of earth seen through a haze that softened all their roughness; nothing sordid appeared; only the fair side of life was visible.
And I began to see how it came about that these Olympian gods had lost control over man. If the world, with all its joys and all its miseries, presents to the controlling power merely its joyous side, what sympathy can one look for in one's deity? There was Paris and Notre Dame in the sunlight. But the Morgue at the back of Notre Dame—in the shadow of its sunlit towers—that was not visible to the eye of the casual god who drove his blackamoors along that entrancing roadway. There was London and the inspiring pile of Westminster showing up its majestic top, lit by the wondrous light of the sun—but still undiscovered of the gods there rolled on its farther side the Thames, dark as the Styx, a very grave of ambition, yet the last solace of many a despairing soul. London Bridge may tell the gods of much that may not be seen from that glorious driveway along the exterior of Olympus.
I found myself growing maudlin, and I pulled myself together.
"Magnificent view, Sammy," said I.
"Yassir," he replied, trotting along faithfully. "Dass what dey all says. I 'ain't nebber seen it. 'Ain't got time to look at it."
"Well, stop a moment and look," said I. "Isn't it magnificent?"
The blackies stopped and looked.
"Putty good," said Sammy, "but I doan' care fo' views," he added. "Dey makes me dizzy."
I gave Sammy up from that moment. He was well carved, a work of art, in fact, but he was essentially modern, and I was living in the antique.
"Hustle along to the Zoo," I cried, with some impatience, and I was truly "hustled."
"Here we is," said Sammy, settling down on his haunches at the end of a five-mile trot. "Dis is it."
We had stopped before a gate not entirely unlike those the Japanese erect before popular places of amusement they frequent.
I descended from the chair and was greeted by an attendant who demanded to know what I wished to see.
"The animals," said I.
He laughed. "Well," he said, "I'll show you what I've got, but truly most of them have gone off on vacation."
"Is the Trojan Horse here?" I demanded.
"No," said he. "He's in the repair shop. One of his girders is loose, and the hinges on his door rusted and broke last week. His interior needs painting, and his left hind-leg has been wobbly for a long time. It was really dangerous to keep him longer without repairs."
I was much disappointed. In visiting the Olympian Zoo I was largely impelled by a desire to see the Trojan Horse and compare him with the Coney Island Elephant, which, with the summer hotels of New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty, at that time dominated the minor natural glories of the American coast in the eyes of passengers on in-coming steamships. I think I should even have ventured a ride in his capacious interior despite what Sammy had said of his friskiness and the peril of his action to persons susceptible to sea-sickness.
"Too bad," said I, swallowing my disappointment as best I could. "Still, you have other attractions. How about the Promethean vulture? Is he still living?"
"Unfortunately, no," said the attendant. "He was taken out last year and killed. Got too proud to live. He put in a complaint about his food. Said Prometheus was a very interesting man, but as a diet he was monotonous and demanded a more diversified menu. Said he'd like to try Apollo and a Muse or two, for a little while, and preferred Cupids on toast for Sunday-night tea."
"What a vulturian vulture!" said I.
"Wasn't he?" laughed the attendant. "We replied by wringing his neck, and served him up in a chicken salad to a party of tourists from Hades."
This struck me as reasonable, and I said so.
"Well, whatever you happen to have on hand will satisfy me," I added. "Just let me see what animals you have and I'll be content."
"Very well," replied the attendant. "Step this way."
He took me along a charming pathway bordered with many a beautiful tree and adorned with numerous flowers of wondrous fragrance.
"This path is not without interest," he said; "all the trees and shrubs have a history. That laurel over there, for instance, used to be a Daphne. She and Jupiter had a row and he planted her over there. Makes a very pretty tree, eh?"
"Extremely," said I. "Have you many similar ventures?"
"Oh yes. Our botanical gardens are full of them," he replied. "Those trees to the right are Baucis and Philemon. That lotos plant on the left used to be Dryope, and when Adonis isn't busy valeting at the hotel, he comes down here and blooms as an anemone, into which, as you are probably aware, he was changed by Venus. That pink thing by the fountain is Hyacinthus, and over there by the pond is where Narcissus blooms. He's a barber in his off hours."
I had already learned that, so expressed no surprise.
"That's a stunning sunflower you have," I ventured, pointing to a perfect specimen thereof directly ahead of us.
"Yes," said the attendant. "That's Clytie. She's only potted. We don't set her out permanently, because the royal family like to have her on the table at state dinners. And she, poor girl, rather enjoys it. Apollo is generally to be found at these dinners either as a guest or playing a zither or a banjo behind a screen. Wherever he is, the sunflower turns and it affords considerable amusement among Jupiter's guests to watch it. Jupiter has christened Clytie the Sherlock Holmes of Olympus, because wherever Apollo is she spots him. Sometimes when he isn't present, he has to be very careful in his statements about where he has been, for long habit has made Clytie unerring in her instinct."
This seemed to me to be a rather good revenge on Apollo for his very ungodlike treatment of Clytie, and if half the attendant told me that day at the Zoo is true, this excessively fickle Olympian is probably sorry by this time that he treated her originally with such uncalled for disdain.
"Come over here and see the bear-pit," said the guide. I obeyed with alacrity, and, leaning over the rail, had the pleasure of seeing the most beautiful bruin my eyes had ever rested upon. She was as glossy as a new silk hat; her eyes were as soft and timid as those of a frightened deer, and, when she moved, she was the perfection of grace.
"Good-morning, Callisto," said my guide.
"Same to you, my dear Cephalus," the bear returned, in a sweet feminine voice that entranced me.
"How are things with you to-day?" asked Cephalus, with a kindly smile.
"Oh, I can't growl," laughed Callisto—it was evident that the unfortunate woman was not taking her misfortune too seriously. "Only I wish you'd tell people who come here that while I undoubtedly am a bear, I have not yet lost my womanly taste, and I don't want to be fed all the time on buns. If anybody asks you what you think I'd like, tell them that an occasional omelette soufflee, or an oyster pate, or a platter of petits fours would please me greatly."
"I shall do it, Callisto," said the keeper, as he started to move away. "Meanwhile, here's a stick of chewing-gum for you." Callisto received it with a manifestation of delight which moved me greatly, and I bethought myself of the magic properties of my coat, and plunging my hand into its capacious pockets, I found there an oyster pate that made my mouth water, and an omelette soufflee that looked as if it had been made by a Parisian milliner, it was so dainty.
"If madam will permit me," said I, with a bow to Callisto.
"Thank you kindly," the bear replied, in that same thrillingly sweet voice, and dancing with joy. "You are a dear, good man, and if you ever have an enemy, let me know and I'll hug him to death."
As we again turned to go, Cephalus laughed. "Queer case that!" he said. "You'd have thought Juno would let up on that poor woman, but she doesn't for a little bit."
"Well—a jealous woman, my dear Cephalus—"
"True," said he. "That's all true enough, but, great Heavens, man, Juno ought to be used to it by this time with a husband like Jupiter. She's overstocked this Zoo a dozen times already with her jealous freaks, and Jupiter hasn't reformed once. What good does it do?"
"Doesn't she ever let 'em off?" I asked. "Doesn't Callisto ever have a Sunday out, for instance?"
"Yes, but always as a bear, and the poor creature doesn't dare take her chance with the other wild beasts—the real ones. She's just as afraid of bears as she ever was, and if she sees a plain, every-day cow coming towards her, she runs shrieking back to her pit again."
"Poor Callisto," said I. "And Actaeon? How about him?"
"He's here—but he's a holy terror," replied Cephalus, shaking his head. "He gets loose once in a while, and then everybody has to look out for himself, and frankly," Cephalus added, his voice sinking to a whisper, "I don't blame him. Diana treated him horribly."
"I always thought so," said I. "He really wasn't to blame."
"Certainly not," observed Cephalus. "If people will go in swimming out-of-doors, it's their own fault if chance wayfarers stumble upon them. To turn a man into a stag and then set his own dogs on him for a thing he couldn't help strikes me as rank injustice."
"Wonder to me that Jupiter doesn't interfere in this business," said I. "He could help Callisto out without much trouble."
"The point about that is that he's afraid," Cephalus explained. "Juno has threatened to sue him for divorce if he does, and he doesn't dare brave the scandal."
We had by this time reached a long, low building that looked like a stable, and, as we entered, Cephalus observed:
"This is our fire-proof building where we keep our inflammable beasts. That big, sleeping creature that looks like a mastodon lizard is the dragon that your friend St. George, of London, got the best of, and sent here with his compliments. I'll give the beast a prod and let you see how he works."
Cephalus was as good as his word, and for a moment I wished he wasn't. Such a din as that which followed the dragon's awakening I never heard before, and every time the horrible beast opened his jaws it was as if a fire-works factory had exploded.
"Very dangerous creature that," said Cephalus. "But he is splendid for fetes. Shows off beautifully in the dark. I'll prod him again and just you note the prismatic coloring of his flames. Get up there, Fido," he added, poking the dragon with his stick a second time. "Wake up, and give the gentleman an illumination."
The scene of the moment before was repeated, only with greater intensity, and even in the sunlight I could see that the various hues his fiery breathings took on were gorgeous beyond description. A bonfire built of red, pink, green, and yellow lights, backed up by driftwood in a fearful state of combustion, about describes it.
"Superb," said I, nearly overcome by the grandeur of the scene.
"Well, just imagine it on a dark night!" cried Cephalus, enthusiastically. "Fido is very popular as a living firework, but he's a costly luxury."
I laughed. "Costly?" said I. "I don't see why. Fireworks as grand as that must cost a deal more than he does."
"You don't know," said Cephalus, pressing his lips together. "Why, that dragon eats ten tons of cannel coal a day, and it takes the combined efforts of six stokers, under the supervision of an expert engineer, to keep his appetite within bounds. You never saw such an eater, and as for drinking—well, he's awful. He drinks sixteen gallons of kerosene at luncheon."
I eyed Cephalus narrowly, but beyond a wink at the dragon, I saw no reason to believe that he was deceiving me.
"Then he sets fire to things, and altogether he's an expensive beast Aren't you, Fido?"
"Yep," barked the dragon.
"Now, over there," continued the guide, patting the dragon on the head, whereat the fearful beast wagged his tail and breathed a thousand pounds of steam from his nostrils to express his pleasure. "Over there are the fire-breathing bulls—all the animals here are fire-breathing. The bulls give us a lot of trouble. You can't feed 'em on coal, because their teeth are not strong enough to chew it; and you can't feed 'em on hay, because they'd set fire to it the minute they breathed on it; and you can't put 'em out to pasture because they'd wither up a sixty-acre lot in ten minutes. It's an actual fact that we have to send for Jason three times a day to come here and feed them. He's the only person about who can do it, and how he does it no one knows. He pats them on the neck, and they stop breathing fire. That's all we know."
"But they must eat something. What does Jason give them?" I demanded.
"We've had to invent a food for them," said Cephalus. "Dr. AEsculapius did it. It's a solution of hay, clover, grass, and paraffine mixed with asbestos."
"Paraffine?" I cried. "Why, that's extremely inflammable."
"So are the bulls," was Cephalus's rejoinder. "They counteract each other." I gazed at the animals with admiration. They were undoubtedly magnificent beasts, and they truly breathed fire. Their nostrils suggested the flames that are emitted from the huge naphtha jets that are used to light modern circuses in country towns, and as for their mouths, any one who can imagine a bull with a pair of gas-logs illuminating his reflective smile, instead of teeth, may gain a comprehensive idea of the picture that confronted me.
I had hardly finished looking at these, when Cephalus, impatient to be through with me, as guides often are with tourists, observed:
"There is the ph[oe]nix."
I turned instantly. I have always wished to see the ph[oe]nix. A bird having apparently the attractive physique of a broiler deliberately sitting on a bonfire had appealed strongly to my interest as well as to my appetite.
"Dear me!" said I. "He's not handsome, is he?"
He was not; resembling an ordinary buzzard with wings outstretched sitting upon that kind of emberesque fire that induces a man in a library to think mournfully about the past, and convinces him—alas!—that if he had the time he could write immortal poetry.
"Not very!" Cephalus acquiesced. "Still, he's all right in a Zoo. He's queer. Look at his nest, if you don't believe it."
"I never believed otherwise, my dear Cephalus," said I. "He seems to me to be a unique thing in poultry. If he were a chicken he would be hailed with delight in my country. A self-broiling broiler—!"
The idea was too ecstatic for expression.
"Well, he isn't a chicken, so your rhapsody doesn't go," said Cephalus. "He's little short of a buzzard. Useful, but not appetizing. If I were a profane mortal, I should call him a condemned nuisance. Most birds build their own nests, and a well-built nest lasts them a whole season. This infernal bird has to have a furnace-man to make his bed for him night and morning, and if, by some mischance, the fire goes out, as fires will do in the best-regulated families, he begins to squawk, and he squawks, and he squawks, and he squawks until the keeper comes and sets his nest a-blazing again. He has a voice like a sick fog-horn that drives everybody crazy."
"Why don't you fool him sometimes?" I suggested. "Make a nest out of a mustard-plaster and see what he would do."
"He's too old a bird to be caught that way," said Cephalus. "He's a confounded old ass, but he's a brainy one."
At this moment a blare of the most heavenly trumpets sounded, and Cephalus and I left the building and emerged into the garden to see what had caused it. There a dazzling spectacle met my gaze. A regiment of Amazons was drawn up on the green of the parade and a superb gilded coach, drawn by six milk-white horses, stood before them, while two gorgeously apparelled heralds sounded a fanfare. Cephalus immediately became deeply agitated.
"It is his Majesty's own carriage and guard," he cried.
"Whose?" said I.
"Jupiter's," said he. "I fancy they have come for you."
And it so transpired. One of the heralds advanced to where I was standing, saluted me as though I were an emperor, and, through his golden trumpet, informed me that eleven o'clock was approaching; that his Majesty deigned to grant me the desired audience, and had sent a carriage and guard of honor.
I returned the salute, thanked Cephalus for his attentions, and entered the carriage. A brass band of a hundred and twenty pieces struck up an inspiring march, and, preceded and followed by the Amazons, I was conveyed in state to the palatial quarters of Zeus himself.
It suggested comic opera with a large number of pretty chorus girls, but I could not help being impressed in spite of this thought with the fact that Jupiter knew how to do a thing up in style. I was indeed so awed with it all that I did not dare wink at a single Amazon while en route, although strongly tempted to do so several times.
Some Account of the Palace of Jupiter
So dazzled was I by all that went on about me, by the gorgeousness of my equipage and by the extraordinary richness of the costumes worn by my escort, that for the moment I forgot that I was not myself clad in suitable garments for so ultra-royal a function. The streets, the houses, even the throngs that peopled the way, seemed to be of the most lustrous gold, and it became necessary for me from time to time as we progressed to close my eyes and shut out the too brilliant vision. Fancy a bake-shop built of solid gold nuggets, its large plate windows composed each of one huge, flashing diamond; imagine an exquisitely wrought golden drug-store, whose colored jars in the windows are made of rubies, emeralds, and sapphires; conjure up in your mind's eye a sequence of city blocks whose sides are lined by massive and exquisitely proportioned buildings, every inch of whose facade was fashioned, not by stone-cutters and sculptors, but by goldsmiths, whose genius a Cellini might envy; picture to yourself a street paved with golden asphalt, and a sidewalk built from huge slabs of rolled silver, the curb and gutters being of burnished copper, and you'll gain some idea of the thoroughfare along which I passed. And oh, the music that the band gave forth to which the populace timed their huzzas—I nearly went mad with the seductiveness of it all. If it hadn't been for the ache the brilliance of it gave to my eyes, I really think I should have swooned.
And then we came to the palace grounds. These, I must confess, I found far from pleasing, for even as the avenue along which I had passed was all gold and silver and gems, so too was the park, in the heart of which stood Jupiter's own apartments made of similar stuff. The trees were golden, and the leaves rustling in the breeze, catching and reflecting the light of the sun, were blinding. The soft greenness of the earthly grass was superseded by the glistening yellow of golden spears, and here and there, where a drop of dew would have fallen, were diamonds of purest ray. The paths were of silken rugs of richest texture, and the palace, as it burst upon my vision, fashioned out of undreamed-of blocks of onyx, resembled more a massive opal filled with flashing, living, fire, than the mere home of a splendid royalty.
I was glad when the procession stopped before the gorgeous entrance to the palace. Another minute of such splendor would have blinded me. A fanfare of trumpets sounded, and I descended, so dizzy with what I had seen that, as my feet touched the ground, I staggered like a drunken man, and then I heard my name sounded and passed from one flunky to another up the magnificent staircase into the blue haze of the hallway, and gradually sounding fainter and fainter until it was lost in the distance of the mysterious corridor. I still staggered as I mounted the steps, and the Major Domo approached me.
"I trust you are not ill," he whispered in my ear.
"No—not ill," I replied. "Only somewhat flabbergasted by all this magnificence, and my eyes hurt like the very deuce."
"It is perhaps too much for mortal eyes," he said; and then, turning to a gilded Ethiopian who stood close at hand, he observed, quietly, "Rhadamus, run over to the Argus and ask him if he can spare this gentleman a pair of blue goggles for an hour or two."
"Better get me a dozen pairs," I put in. "I don't think one pair will be enough. It may strain my nose to hold them, but I'd rather sacrifice my nose than my eyes any day."
But the boy was off, and ere I reached the presence of Jupiter I was very kindly provided with the very essential article, and I must confess that I found great relief in them. They were so densely blue that an ordinary bit of splendor could not have been discerned through their opaque depths, any more than Thisbe could have been seen by her doting lover, Pyramus, through the wall that separated them, but nothing known to man could have shut out the supreme gloriousness of the interior of Jupiter's palace. Even with the goggles of the Argus regulated to protect one thousand eyes upon my nose, it made my dazzled optics blink.
I do not know what the proportions of the palace were. I regret to say that I forgot to ask, but I am quite confident that I walked at least eight miles along that corridor, and never was a mansion designed that was better equipped in the matter of luxuries. I suspect I shall be charged with exaggerating, but it is none the less true that within that spacious building were appliances of every sort known to man. One door opened upon an in-door golf-links, upon which the royal family played whenever they lacked the energy or the disposition to seek out that on Mars. There were high bunkers, the copse of which was covered with richest silk plush, stuffed, I was told, with spun silk, while, in place of sand, tons of powdered sugar and grated nutmegs filled the bunkers themselves. The eighteen holes were laid out so that no two of them crossed, and, inasmuch as the turf was constructed of rubber instead of grass and soil, neither a bad lie nor a dead ball was possible through the vast extent of the fair green. The water hazards, four in number, were nothing more nor less than huge tanks of Burgundy, champagne, iced tea, and Scotch—which I subsequently learned often resulted in a bad caddie service—and an open brook along whose dashing descent a constant stream of shandygaff went merrily bubbling onward to an in-door sea upon which Jupiter exercised his yacht when sailing was the thing to suit his immediate whim.
This sea was a marvel. Since all the water hazards above described emptied into it, it was little more than a huge expanse of punch, one swallow of which, thanks to these ingredients and the sugar and nutmeg from the bunkers, would make a man forget an eternity of troubles until he woke up again, if he ever did. Here Jupiter sported every variety of pleasure craft, and, by an ingenious system of funnels arranged about its sixty-square-mile area, could at a moment's notice produce any variety of breeze he chanced to wish; and its submarine bottom was so designed that if a heavy sea were wanted to make the yacht pitch and toss, a simple mechanical device would cause it to hump itself into such corrugations, large or small, as were needed to bring about the desired conditions.
"Do they allow bathing in that?" I asked, as the Major Domo explained the peculiar feature of this in-door sea to me.
My companion laughed. "Only one person ever tried it with any degree of success, and it nearly cost him his reputation. Old Bacchus undertook to swim on a wager from Chambertin Inlet to Glenlivet Bay, but he had to give up before he got as far as Pommery Point. It took him a year to get rid of his headache, and it actually required three-quarters of the Treasury Reserve to provide gold enough to cure him."
"It must be a terrible place to fall overboard in," I suggested.
"It is, if you fall head first," said the Major Domo, "and my observation is that most people do."
"I should admire to sail upon it," I said, gazing back through the door that opened upon Jupiter's yachting parlors, and realizing on a sudden a powerful sense of thirst.
"I have no doubt you can do so," said the Major Domo. "Indeed, I understand that his Majesty contemplates taking you for a sail to the lost island of Atlantis before you return to earth."
"What?" I cried. "The lost island of Atlantis here?"
"Of course," said my guide. "Why not? It was too beautiful for earth, so Jupiter had it transported to his own private yachting pond, and it has been here ever since. It is marvellously beautiful."
Hardly had I recovered from my amazement over the Major Domo's announcement when he pointed to another open door.
"The Royal Arena," he said, simply. "That is where we have our Olympian Games. There was a football game there yesterday. Too bad you were not there. It was the liveliest game of the season. All Hades played the Olympian eleven for the championship of the universe. We licked 'em four hundred to nothing; but of course we had an exceptional team. When Hercules is in shape there isn't a man-jack in all Hades that can withstand him. He's rush-line, centre, full-back, half-back, and flying wedge, all rolled into one. Then the Hades chaps made the bad mistake of sending a star team. When you have an eleven made up of Hannibal and Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and Achilles and other fellows like that you can't expect any team-play. Each man is thinking about himself all the time. Hercules could walk right through 'em, and, when they begin to pose, it's mere child's play for him. The only chap that put up any game against us at all was Samson, and I tell you, now that his hair's grown again, he's a demon on the gridiron. But we divided up our force to meet that difficulty. Hercules put the rest of our eleven on to Samson, while he took care, personally, of all the other Hadesians. And you should have seen how he handled them! It was beautiful, all through. He nearly got himself ruled off in the second half. He became so excited at one time towards the end that he mistook Pompey for the ball and kicked him through the goal-posts from the forty-yard line. Of course, it didn't count, and Hercules apologized so gracefully to the rest of the visitors that they withdrew their protest and let him play on."
"I should think he would have apologized to Pompey," said I.
"He will when Pompey recovers consciousness," said my guide, simply.
So interested was I in the Royal Arena and its recent game that I forgot all about Jupiter.
"I never thought of Hercules as a football player before," I said, "but it is easy to see how he might become the champion of Olympus."
"Oh, is it!" laughed the Major Domo. "Well, you'd better not tell Jupiter that. Jupiter'd be pleased, he would. Why, my dear friend, he'd pack you back to earth quicker than a wink. He brooks only one champion of anything here, and that's himself. Hercules threw him in a wrestling-match once, and the next day Jupiter turned him into a weeping-willow, and didn't let up on him for five hundred years afterwards."
By this time we had reached one of the most superbly vaulted chambers it has ever been my pleasure to look upon. Above me the ceiling seemed to reach into infinity, and on either side were huge recesses and alcoves of almost unfathomable depth, lit by great balls of fire that diffused their light softly and yet brilliantly through all parts and corners of the apartment.
"The library," said the Major Domo, pointing to tier upon tier of teeming shelves, upon which stood a wonderful array of exquisitely bound volumes to a number past all counting.
I was speechless with the grandeur of it all.
"It is sublime," said I. "How many volumes?"
"Unnumbered, and unnumberable by mortals, but in round, immortal figures just one jovillion."
"One jovillion, eh?" said I. "How many is that in mortal figures?"
"A jovillion is the supreme number," explained the guide. "It is the infinity of millions, and therefore cannot be expressed in mortal terms."
"Then," said I, "you can have no more books."
"No," said he. "But what of that? We have all there are and all that are to be. You see, the library is divided into three parts. On the right-hand side are all the books that ever have been written; here to the left you see all the books that are being written; and farther along, beginning where that staircase rises, are all the books that ever will be written."
I gasped. If this were true, this wonderful collection must contain my own complete works, some of which I have doubtless not even thought of as yet. How easy it would be for me, I thought, to write my future books if Jupiter would only let me loose here with a competent stenographer to copy off the pages of manuscript as yet undreamed of! I suggested this to the Major Domo.
"He wouldn't let you," he said. "It would throw the whole scheme out of gear."
"I don't see why," I ventured.
"It is simple," rejoined the Major Domo. "If you were permitted to read the books that some day will be identified with your name, as a sensible man, observing beforehand how futile and trivial they are to be, some of them, you wouldn't write them, and so you would be able to avoid a part, at least, of your destiny. If mortals were able to do that—well, they'd become immortals, a good many of them."
I realized the justice of this precaution, and we passed on in silence.
"Now," said the Major Domo, after we had traversed the length of the library, "we are almost there. That gorgeous door directly ahead of you is the entrance to Jupiter's reception-room. Before we enter, however, we must step into the office of Midas, on the left."
"Midas?" I said. "And what, pray, is his function? Is he the registrar?"
"No, indeed," laughed the Major Domo. "I presume down where you live he would be called the Court Tailor. The sartorial requirements of Jupiter are so regal that none of his guests, invited or otherwise, could afford, even with the riches of Cr[oe]sus, to purchase the apparel which he demands. Hence he keeps Midas here to supply, at his expense, the garments in which his visitors may appear before him. You didn't think you were going into Jupiter's presence in those golf duds, did you?"
"I never thought anything about it," said I. "But how long will it take Midas to fit me out?"
"He touches your garments, that's all," said my guide, "and in that instant they are changed to robes of richest gold. We then place a necklace of gems about your neck, composed of rubies, emeralds, amethysts, and sapphires, alternating with pearls, none smaller than a hen's egg; next we place a jewelled staff of ebony in your hand; a golden helmet, having at either side the burnished wings of the imperial eagles of Jove, and bearing upon its crest an opal that glistens like the sun through the slight haze of a translucent cloud, will be placed upon your head; richly decorated sandals of cloth of gold will adorn your feet, and about your waist a girdle of linked diamonds—beside which the far-famed Orloff diamond of the Russian treasury is an insignificant bit of glass—will be clasped."
"And—wha—wha—what becomes of all this when I get back home?" I gasped, a vision of future ease rising before my tired eyes.
"You take it with you, if you can," laughed the Major Domo, with a sly wink at one of the Amazons who accompanied him as a sort of aide.
It was all as he said. In two minutes I had entered the room of Midas; in three minutes, my golf-coat having been removed, a flowing gown of silk, touched by his magic hand and turned to glittering gold, rested upon my shoulders. It was pretty heavy, but I bore up under it; the helmet and the necklace, the shoes and the girdle were adjusted; the staff was placed in my hand, and with beating heart I emerged once more into the corridor and stood before the door leading into the audience-chamber.
"Remove the goggles," whispered the Major Domo.
"Never!" I cried. "I shall be blinded."
"Nonsense!" said he, quickly. "Off with them," and he flicked them from my nose himself.
A great blare of trumpets sounded, the door was thrown wide, and with a cry of amazement I stepped backward, awed and afraid; but one glance was reassuring, for truly a wonderful sight confronted me, and one that will prove as surprising to him who reads as it was to me upon that marvellous day.
An Extraordinary Interview
I had expected to witness a scene of grandeur, and my fancy had conjured up, as the central figure thereof, the majestic form of Jove himself, clad in imperial splendor. But it was the unexpected that happened, for, as the door closed behind me, I found myself in a plain sort of workshop, such as an ordinary man would have in his own house, at one end of which stood a rolling-top desk, and, instead of the dazzling throne I had expected to see, there stood in front of it an ordinary office-chair that twirled on a pivot. Books and papers were strewn about the floor and upon the tables; the pictures on the walls were made up largely of colored sporting prints of some rarity, and in a corner stood a commonplace globe such as is to be found in use in public schools to teach children geography. As I glanced about me my first impression was that by some odd mischance I had got into the wrong room, which idea was fortified by the fact that, instead of an imperial figure clad in splendid robes, a quiet-looking old gentleman, who, except for his dress, might have posed for a cartoon of the accepted American Populist, stood before me. He was dressed in a plain frock-coat, four-in-hand tie, high collar, dark-gray trousers, and patent-leather boots, and was brushing up a silk hat as I entered.
"Excuse me, sir," I said, "but I—I fear I have stumbled into the wrong room. I—ah—I have had the wholly unexpected honor to be granted an audience with Jupiter, and I was told that this was the audience-chamber."
"Don't apologize. Sit down," he replied, taking me by the hand and shaking it cordially. "You are all right; I'm glad to see you. How goes the world with you?"
"Very well indeed, sir," I replied, rather embarrassed by the old fellow's cordiality. "But I really can't sit down, because, you know, I—I don't want to keep his Majesty waiting, and if you'll excuse me, I'll—"
"Oh, nonsense!" he retorted. "Let the old man wait. Sit down and talk to me. I don't get a chance to talk with mortals very often. This is your first visit to Olympus?"
"Yes, sir," I said, still standing. "And it is wholly unexpected. I stumbled upon the place by the merest chance last night—but you must let me go, sir. I'll come back later very gladly and talk with you if I get a chance. It will never do for me to keep his Majesty waiting, you know."
"Oh, the deuce with his Majesty," said the old gentleman, testily. "What do you want to see him for? He's an old fossil."
"Granted," said I. "Still, I'm interested in old fossils."
The old gentleman roared with laughter at this apparently simple remark. I didn't see the fun of it myself, and his mirth irritated me.
"Excuse me, my dear sir," I said, trying to control my impatience. "But you don't seem to understand my position. I can't stay here and talk to you while the ruler of Olympus waits. Can't you see that?"
"No, I can't," he replied. "Can't see it at all, and I'm a pretty good seer as a general thing, too. If you didn't wish to see me, you had no business to come into my room. Now that you are here, I'm going to keep you for a little while. Take off that absurd-looking tile and sit down."
At this I grew angry. I wasn't responsible for the helmet I wore, and I had felt all along that I looked like an ass in it.
"I'll do nothing of the sort, you confounded old meddler," I cried. "I've come here on invitation, and, if I've got into the wrong room, it isn't my fault. That jackass of a Major Domo told me this was the place. Let me out."
I strode to the doorway, and the old gentleman turned to his desk and opened a drawer.
"Cigar or cigarette?" he said, calmly.
"Neither, you old fool," I retorted, turning the knob and tugging upon it. "I have no time for a smoke."
The door was locked. The old gentleman settled back in his twirling chair and regarded me with a twinkle in his eye as I vainly tried to pull the door open, and I realized that I was helpless.
"Better sit down and enjoy a quiet smoke with me," he said, calmly. "Take off that absurd-looking tile and talk to me."
"I haven't anything to say to you," I replied. "Not a word. Do you intend to let me out of this or not?"
"All in good time—all in good time," he said. "Let's talk it over. Why do you wish to go? Don't you find me good company?"
"You're a stupid old idiot!" I shouted, almost weeping with rage. "Locking me up in your rotten old den here when you must realize what you are depriving me of. What earthly good it does you I can't see."
"It does me lots of good," he said, with a chuckle. "Really, sir, it gives me a new sensation—first new sensation I have had in a long, long time. Let me see now, just how many names have you called me in the three minutes I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance?"
"Give me time, and I'll call you a lot more," I retorted, sullenly.
"Good—I'll give you the time," he said. "Go ahead. I'll listen to you for a whole hour. What am I besides a meddler, and a stupid old idiot, and an old fool?"
"You're a gray-headed maniac, and a—a zinc-fastened Zany. A doddering dotard and a chimerical chump," I said.
"Splendid!" roared he, with a spasm of laughter that seemed nearly to rend him. "Go on. Keep it up. I am enjoying myself hugely."
"You're a sneak-livered poltroon to treat me this way," I added, indignantly.
"That's the best yet," he interrupted, slapping his knee with delight. "Sneak-livered poltroon, eh? Well, well, well. Go on. Go on."
"If you'll give me a copy of Roget's Thesaurus, I'll tell you what else you are," I retorted, with a note of sarcasm in my voice. "It will require a reference to that book to do you justice. I can't begin to carry all that you are in my mind."
"With pleasure," said he, and reaching over to his bookcase he took thence the desired volume and handed it to me. "Proceed," he added. "I am all ears."
"Most jackasses are," I returned, savagely.
"Magnificent," he cried, ecstatically. "You are a genius at epithet. But there's the book. Let me light a cigar for you and then you can begin. Only do take off that absurd tile. You don't know how supremely unbecoming it is."
There was nothing for it, so I resolved to make the best of it by meeting the disagreeable old pantaloon on his own ground. I lit one of his cigars and sat down to tell the curious old freak what I thought of him. Ordinarily I would have avoided doing this, but his tyrannical exercise of his temporary advantage made me angry to the very core of my being.
"Ready?" said I.
"Quite," said he. "Don't stint yourself. Just behave as if you'd known me all your life. I sha'n't mind."
And I began: "Well, after referring to the word 'idiot' in the index, just to get a lead," I said, "I shall begin by saying that you are evidently a hebetudinous imbecile, an indiscriminate stult—"
"Hold on!" he cried. "What's that last? I never heard the term before."
"Stult—an indiscriminate stult," I said, scornfully. "I invented the word myself. Real words won't describe you. Stult is a new term, meaning all kinds of a fool, plus two. And I've got a few more if you want them."
"Want them?" he cried. "By Vulcan, I dote upon them! They are nectar to my thirsty ears. Go on."
"You are a senseless frivoler, a fugacious gid, an infamous hoddydoddy; you are a man with the hoe with the emptiness of ages in your face; you are a brother to the ox, with all the dundering niziness of a plain, ordinary buzzard added to your shallow-brained asininity. Now will you let me go?"
"Not I," said he, shaking his head as if he relished a situation which was gradually making a madman of me. "I'd like to oblige you, but I really can't. You are giving me too much pleasure. Is there nothing more you can call me?"
"You're a dizzard!" I retorted. "And a noodle and a jolt-head; you're a jobbernowl and a doodle, a maundering mooncalf and a blockheaded numps, a gaby and a loon; you're a Hatter!" I shrieked the last epithet.
"Heavens!" he cried, "A Hatter! Am I as bad as that?"
"Oh, come now," I said, closing the Thesaurus with a bang. "Have some regard for my position, won't you?"
I had resolved to appeal to his better nature. "I don't know who the dickens you are. You may be the three wise men of Gotham who went to sea in a bowl rolled into one, for all I know. You may be any old thing. I don't give a tinker's cuss what you are. Under ordinary circumstances I've no doubt I should find you a very pleasant old gentleman, but under present conditions you are a blundering old bore."
"That's not bad—indeed, a blundering old bore is pretty good. Let me see," he continued, looking up the word "bore" in the index of the Thesaurus, "What else am I? Maybe I'm an unmitigated nuisance, an exasperating and egregious glum, a carking care, and a pestiferous pill, eh?"
"You are all of that," I said, wearily. "Your meanness surpasseth all things. I've met a good many tough characters in my day, but you are the first I have ever encountered without a redeeming feature. You take advantage of a mistake for which I am not at all responsible, and what do you do?"
"Tell me," he replied. "What do I do? I shall be delighted to hear. I've been asking myself that question for years. What do I do? Go on, I implore you."
"You rub it in, that's what," I retorted. "You take advantage of me. You bait me; you incommode me. You—you—"
"Here, take the Thesaurus," he said, as I hesitated for the word. "It will help you. I provoke you, I irritate you, I make you mad, I sour your temper, I sicken, disgust, revolt, nauseate, repel you. I rankle your soul. I jar you—is that it?"
"Give me the book," I cried, desperately. "Yes!" I added, referring to the page. "You tease, irk, harry, badger, infest, persecute. You gall, sting, and convulse me. You are a plain old beast, that's what you are. You're a conscienceless sneak and a wherret—you mean-souled blot on the face of nature!"
Here I broke down and wept, and the old gentleman's sides shook with laughter. He was, without exception, the most extraordinary old person I had ever encountered, and in my tears I cursed the English language because it was inadequate properly to describe him.
For a time there was silence. I was exhausted and my tormentor was given over to his own enjoyment of my discomfiture. Finally, however, he spoke.
"I'm a pretty old man, my dear fellow," he said. "I shouldn't like to tell you how old, because if I did you'd begin on the Thesaurus again with the word 'liar' for your lead. Nevertheless, I'm pretty old; but I want to say to you that in all my experience I have never had so diverting a half-hour as you have given me. You have been so outspoken, so frank—"
"Oh, indeed—I've been frank, have I?" I interrupted. "Well, what I have said isn't a marker to what I'd like to have said and would have said if language hadn't its limitations. You are the infinity of the unmitigated, the supreme of the superfluous. In unqualified, inexcusable, unsurpassable meanness you are the very IT!"
"Sir," said the old gentleman, rising and bowing, "you are a man of unusual penetration, and I like you. I should like to see more of you, but your hour has expired. I thank you for your pleasant words, and I bid you an affectionate good-morning."
A deep-toned bell struck the hour of twelve. A fanfare of trumpets sounded outside, and the huge door flew open, and without a word in reply, glad of my deliverance, I turned and fled precipitately through it. The sumptuous guard stood outside to receive me, and as the door closed behind me the band struck up a swelling measure that I shall not soon forget.
"Well," said the Major Domo, as we proceeded back to my quarters, "did he receive you nicely?"
"Who?" said I.
"Jupiter, of course," he said.
"I didn't see him," I replied, sadly. "I fell in with a beastly old bore who wouldn't let go of me. You showed me into the wrong room. Who was that old beggar, anyhow?"
"Beggar?" he cried. "Wrong room? Beggar?"
"Certainly," said I. "Beggar is mild, I admit. But he's all that and much more. Who is he?"
"I don't know what you mean," replied the Major Domo. "But you have been for the last hour with his Majesty himself."
"What?" I cried. "I—that old man—we—"
"The old gentleman was Jupiter. Didn't he tell you? He made a special effort to make you feel at home—put himself on a purely mortal basis—"
I fell back, limp and nerveless.
"What will he think of me?" I moaned, as I realized what had happened.
"He thinks you are the best yet," said the Major Domo. "He has sent word by his messenger, Mercury, that the honors of Olympus are to be showered upon you to their fullest extent. He says you are the only frank mortal he ever met."
And with this I was escorted back to my rooms at the hotel, impressed with the idea that all is not lead that doesn't glitter, and when I thought of my invention of the word "stult," I began to wish I had never been born.
A Royal Outing
As may be imagined after my untoward interview with Jupiter, the state of my mind was far from easy. It is not pleasant to realize that you have applied every known epithet of contempt to a god who has an off-hand way of disposing of his enemies by turning them into apple-trees, or dumb beasts of one kind or another, and upon retiring to my room I sat down and waited in great dread of what should happen next. I couldn't really believe that the Major Domo's statement as to my having been forgiven was possible. It predicated too great a magnanimity to be credible.
"I hope to gracious he won't make a pine-tree of me," I groaned, visions of a future in which woodmen armed with axes, and sawmills, played a conspicuous part, rising up before me. "I'd hate like time to be sawed up into planks and turned into a Georgia pine floor somewhere."
It was a painful line of thought and I strove to get away from it, but without success, although the variations were interesting when I thought of all the things I might be made into, such as kitchen tables, imitation oak bookcases, or perhaps—horror of horrors—a bundle of toothpicks! I was growing frantic with fear, when on a sudden my reveries of dread were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"It has come at last!" I said, and I opened the door, nerving myself up to sustain the blow which I believed was impending. Mercury stood without, flapping the wings that sprouted from his ankles impatiently.
"The skitomobile is ready, sir," he said.
I gazed at him earnestly.
"The skitomobile, to take you to the links. Jupiter has already gone on ahead, and he has commanded me to follow, bringing you along with me."
"Oh—I'm to go to the links, eh? What's he going to do with me when he gets me there? Turn me into a golf-ball and drive me off into space?" I inquired.
My heart sank at the very idea, but I was immediately reassured by Mercury's hearty laugh.
"Of course not—why should he? He's going to play you an eighteen-hole match. You've made a great impression on the old gentleman."
"Thank Heaven!" I said. "I'll hurry along and join him before he changes his mind."
In a brief while I was ready, and, escorted by Mercury, I was taken to the skitomobile which stood at the exit from the hall to the outer roadway nearest my room. Seated in front of this, and acting as chauffeur, was a young man whom I recognized at once as Phaeton. Alongside of him sat Jason, polishing up the most beautiful set of golf-clubs I ever saw. The irons were of wrought gold, and the shafts of the most highly polished and exquisite woods.
"To the links," said Mercury, and with a sudden chug-chug, and a jerk which nearly threw me out of the conveyance, we were off. And what a ride it was! At first the sensation was that of falling, and I clutched nervously at the sides of the skitomobile, but by slow degrees I got used to it, and enjoyed one of the most exhilarating hours that has ever entered into my experience.
Planet after planet was passed as we sped on and on upward, and as my delight grew I gave utterance to it.
"Jove! But this is fine!" I said. "I never knew anything like it, except looping the loop."
Phaeton grinned broadly and winked at Jason.
"How would you like to loop the loop out here?" the latter asked.
"What? In a machine like this?" I cried.
"Certainly," said Jason. "It's great sport. Give him the twist, Phaeton."
I began to grow anxious again, for I recalled the past careless methods of Phaeton, and I had no wish to go looping the loop through the empyrean with one of his known adventurous disposition, to be hurled unceremoniously sooner or later perhaps into the sun itself.
"Perhaps we'd better leave it until some other day," I ventured, timidly.
"No time like the present," Jason retorted. "Only hang on to yourself. All ready, Phaety!"
The chauffeur grasped the lever, and, turning it swiftly to one side, there in the blue vault of heaven, a thousand miles from anywhere, that machine began executing the most remarkable flip-flaps the mind of man ever conceived. Not once or twice, but a hundred times did we go whirling round and round through the skies, until finally I got so that I could not tell if I were right side up or upside down. It was great sport, however, and but for the fact that on the third trial I lost my grip and would have fallen head over heels through space had not Mercury, who was flying alongside of the machine, swooped down and caught me by the leg as I fell out, I found it as exhilarating as it was novel. I could have kept it up forever, had we not shortly hove in sight of the links, which, as I have already told you, were located on the planet Mars; and such gorgeousness as I there encountered was unparalleled on earth. Much that we earth-folk have wondered at became clear at once. The great canals, as we call them, for instance, turned out to be vast sand-bunkers that glistened like broad rivers of silver in the wondrous sheen of the planet, while the dark greenish spots, concerning which our astronomers have speculated so variously, were nothing more nor less than putting-greens. It is extraordinary that until my visit to the planet as the guest of Jupiter, this perfectly simple solution of the various Martian problems was not even guessed.
As we drew up at the pretty little club-house, Jupiter emerged from the door and greeted me cordially. My eyes fell before his smiling gaze, for I must confess I was mighty shamefaced over my experience of the morning, but his manner restored my self-possession. It was very genial and forgiving.
"Glad to see you again," he said. "If you play golf as well as you do synonyms you're a scratch man. You didn't foozle a syllable."
"I should have, had I known as much as I do now," said I.
"Well, I'm glad you didn't know," Jupiter returned majestically, "for I can use that word stult in my business. Now suppose we have a bit of luncheon and then start out."
After eating sparingly we began our game. I was provided with a caddie that looked like one of Raphael's angels, and Jupiter himself handed me a driver from his own bag.
"You'll have to be careful how you use it," he said; "it has properties which may astonish you."
I teed up my ball, swung back, and then with all the vigor at my command whacked the ball square and true. It sprang from the tee like a bird let loose and flew beyond my vision, and while I was trying with my eye to keep up with it in its flight, I received a stinging blow on the back of my head which felled me to the ground.
"Thunderation!" I roared. "What was that?"
Jupiter laughed. "It was your own ball," he said. "You put too much muscle into that stroke, and, as a consequence, the ball flew all the way round the planet and clipped you from behind."
"You don't mean to say—" I began.
"Yes, I do," said Jupiter. "That is a special long-distance driver made for me. Only had it two days. It is not easy to use, because it has such wonderful force. Hercules drove a ball three times around the planet at one stroke with it yesterday. To use it properly requires judgment. Up here you have to play golf with your head, as well as with your clubs."
"Well, I played it with mine all right," I put in, rubbing the lump on the back of my head ruefully. "Shall I play two?"
"Certainly," said Jupiter. "You've a good brassey lie behind the tee there. Play gently now, for this hole isn't more than three hundred miles long."
My brassey stroke is one of my best, and I did myself proud. The ball flew about one hundred and seventy-nine miles in a straight line, but landed in a sand-bunker. Jupiter followed with a good clean drive for two hundred miles, breaking all the records previously stated to me by Adonis, whereupon we entered the skitomobile and were promptly transported to the edge of the bunker, where my ball reposed upon the glistening sand. It took three to get out, owing to the height of the cop, which rose a trifle higher in the air than Mount Blanc, but the niblick Jason had brought along for my use, as soon as I got used to the titanic quality of the game I was playing, was finally equal to the loft. My ball landed just short of the green, one hundred and sixteen miles away. Jupiter foozled his approach, and we both reached the edge of the green in four.
"Bully distance for a putt," said Jupiter, taking the line from his ball to the hole.
"About how far is it?" I asked, for I couldn't see anything resembling a hole within a mile of me.
"Oh, five miles, I imagine," was the answer. "Put on these glasses and you'll see the disk."
My courteous host handed me a pair of spectacles which I put upon my nose, and there, seemingly two inches away, but in reality five and a quarter miles, was the hole. The glasses were a revelation, but I had seen too much that was wonderful to express surprise.
"Dead easy," I said, referring to the putt, now that I had the glasses on.
"Looks so," said Jupiter, "but be careful. You can't hope to putt until you know your ball."
At the moment I did not understand, but a minute after I had a shock. Putting perfectly straight, the ball rolled easily along and then made a slight hitch backward, as if I had put a cut on it, and struck off ahead, straight as an arrow but to the left of the disk. This it continued to do in its course, zigzagging more and more out of the straight line until it finally stopped, quite two and a half miles from the cup.
"Now watch me," said Jupiter. "You'll get an idea of how the ball works."
I obeyed, and was surprised to see him aim at a point at least a mile aside of the mark, but the results were perfect, for the gutty, acting precisely as mine did, zigzagged along until it reached the rim of the cup and then dropped gently in.
"One up," said Jupiter, with a broad smile as he watched my ill-repressed wonderment.
As we were transported to the next tee by Phaeton and his machine, I looked at my ball, and the peculiarity of its make became clear at once. It was called "The Vulcan," and in action had precisely the same movement as that of a thunder-bolt—thus:
"Great ball, eh?" said Jupiter. "Adds a lot to the science of the game. A straight putt is easy, but the zigzag is no child's play."
"I think I shall like it," I said, "if I ever get used to it."
The second hole reached, I was astonished to see a huge apparatus like a cannon on the tee, and in fact that is what it turned out to be.
"We call this the Cannon Hole," said Jupiter. "It lends variety to the game. It's a splendid test of your accuracy, and if you don't make it in one you lose it. If you will put on those glasses you will see the hole, which is in the middle of a target. You've got to go through it at one stroke."
"That isn't golf, is it?" I asked. "It's marksmanship."
"I call it so," said Jupiter, calmly. "And what I say goes. Moreover, it requires much skill to offset the effect of the wind."
"But there is none," said I.
"There will be," said Jupiter, putting his ball in the cannon's breach and making ready to drive. "You see those huge steel affairs on either side of the course, that look like the ventilators on an ocean steamer?"
"Yes," said I, for as I looked I perceived that this part of the course was studded with them.
"Well, they supply the wind," said Jupiter. "I just ring a bell and AEolus sets his bellows going, and I tell you the winds you get are cyclonic, and, best of all, they blow in all directions. From the first ventilator the wind is northeast by south; from the second it is southwest by north-northeast; from the third it is straight north, and so on. Winds are blowing at the moment of play from all possible points of the compass. Fore!"
A bell rang, and never in a wide experience in noises had I ever before heard such a fearful din as followed. A hurricane sprang from one point, a gale from another, a cyclone from a third—such an aeolian purgatory was never let loose in my sight before, but Jupiter, gauging each and all, fired his ball from the cannon, and it sped on, buffeted here and there, now up, now down, like a bit of fluff in the chance zephyrs of the spring-tide, but ultimately passing through the hole in the target, and landing gently in a basket immediately behind the bull's-eye. The winds immediately died down, and all was quiet again.
"Perfectly great!" I said, with enthusiasm, for it did seem marvellous. "But I don't think I can do it. You win, of course."
"Not at all," said Jupiter. "If you hit the bull's-eye, as I did, you win."
"And you lose in spite of that splendid—er—stroke?" I asked.
"Oh no—not at all," said Jupiter. "We both win."
Again the bell rang, and the winds blew, and the cannon shot, but my ball, under the excitement of the moment of aiming, was directed not towards the bull's-eye—or the hole—but at the skitomobile. It hit it fairly and hard, and it smashed the engine by which the machine was propelled, much to the consternation of Jason and Phaeton.
"Unfortunate," said Jupiter. "Very. But never mind. We don't have to walk home."
"I'm awfully sorry," said I. "I—er—"
"Never mind," said Jupiter. "It is easily repaired, but we cannot go on with the game. The next hole is eight thousand miles long. Twice around the planet, and we couldn't possibly walk it, so we'll have to quit. We've got all we can manage trudging back to the club-house. Here, caddies, take our clubs back to the club-house, and tell 'em to have two nectar high-balls ready at six-thirty. Phaeton, you and Jason will have to get back the best way you can. I've told you a half-dozen times to bring two machines with you, but you never seem to understand. Come along, Higgins, we'll go back. Shut your eyes."
I closed my optics, as ordered, although my name is not Higgins, and I didn't like to have even Jupiter so dub me.
"Now open them again," was the sharp order.
I did so, and lo and behold! by some supernatural power we had been transported back to the club-house.
"I am sorry, Jupiter," said I "to have spoiled your game," as we sat, later, sipping that delicious concoction, the nectar high-ball, which we supplemented with a "Pegasus's neck."
"Nonsense," said he, grandly. "You haven't spoiled my game. You have merely, without meaning to do so, spoiled your own afternoon. My game is all right and will remain so. It would have been a great pleasure to me to show you the other sixteen holes, but circumstances were against us. Take your nectar and let us trot along. You dine with Juno and myself to-night. Let's see, I was two up, wasn't I?"
"Two up, and sixteen to play."
"Then I win," said he. It was an extraordinary score, but then it was an extraordinary occasion.
And we entered his chariot, and were whirled back to Olympus. The ride home was not as exciting as the ride out, but it was interesting. It lasted about a half of a millionth of a second, and for the first time in my life I knew how a telegram feels when it travels from New York to San Francisco, and gets there apparently three hours before it is sent by the clock.
I am Dismissed
It was a very interesting programme for my further entertainment that Jupiter mapped out on our way back from the links, and I deeply regret that an untoward incident that followed later, for which I was unintentionally responsible, prevented its being carried out. I was to have been taken off on a cruise on the inland sea, to where the lost island of Atlantis was to be found; a special tournament at ping-pong was to be held in my honor, in which minor planets were to be used instead of balls, and the players were to be drawn from among the Titans, who were retained to perform feats of valor, skill, and strength for Jupiter. The forge of Vulcan was to be visited, and many of the mysteries of the centre of the earth were to be revealed, and, best of all, Jupiter himself had promised to give me an exhibition of his own skill as a marksman in the hurling of thunder-bolts, and I was to select the objects to be hit! Think of it! What a chance lay here for a man to be rid of certain things on earth that he did not like! What a vast amount of ugly American architecture one could be rid of in the twinkling of an eye! What a lot of enemies and eyesores it was now in my power to have removed by an electrical process availed of in the guise of sport! I spent an hour on that list of targets, and if only I had been allowed to prolong my stay in the home of the gods, the world itself would have benefited, for I was not altogether personal in my selection of things for Jupiter to aim at. There was Tammany Hall, for instance, and the Boxers of China—these led my list. There were four or five sunlight-destroying, sky-scraping office buildings in New York and elsewhere; nuisances of every kind that I could think of were put down—the headquarters of the Beef Trust and a few of its sponsors; the editorial offices of the peevish and bilious newspapers, which deny principles and right motives to all save themselves; a regiment of alleged humorists who make jokes about the mother-in-law and other sacred relations of life; an opera-box full of the people who hum every number of Wagner and Verdi through, and keep other people from hearing the singers; row after row of theatre-goers who come in late and trample over the virtuous folk who have arrived punctually; any number of theatrical managers who mistake gloom for amusement; three or four smirking matinee idols, whose talents are measured by the fit of their clothes, the length of their hair, and their ability to spit supernumeraries with a tin sword; cab-drivers who had overcharged me; insolent railway officials; the New York Central Tunnel—indeed, the completed list stretches on to such proportions that it would require more pages than this book contains to present them in detail. I even thought of including Hippopopolis in the list, but when I realized that it was entirely owing to his villany that I had enjoyed the delightful privilege of visiting the gods in their own abode, I spared him. And to think that because of an unintentional error this great opportunity to rid the world, and incidentally myself, of much that is vexatious was wholly lost is a matter of sincere grief to myself.
It happened in this way: Hardly had I returned to my delightful apartment at the hotel, when a messenger arrived bearing a superbly engraved command from Jupiter to dine with himself and Juno en famille. It was a kind, courteous, and friendly note, utterly devoid of formality, and we were to spend the evening at cards. Jupiter had indicated in the afternoon that he would like to learn bridge, and, inasmuch as I never travel anywhere without a text-book upon that fascinating subject, I had volunteered to teach him. The dinner was given largely to enable me to do this, and, moreover, Jupiter was quite anxious to have me meet his family, and promised me that before the evening was over I should hear some music from the lyre of Apollo, meet all the muses, and enjoy a chafing-dish snack prepared by the fair hand of Juno herself.
"I'll have Polyphemus up to give us a few coon songs if you like them," he added, "and altogether I can promise you a delightful evening. We drop all our state at these affairs, and I know you'll enjoy yourself."
"I shall feel a trifle embarrassed in the presence of so many gods and goddesses, I am afraid," I put in.
"I'll fix you out as to that," Jupiter replied. "I'll change you for the time being into a god yourself, if you wish."
I laughed at the idea.
"A high old god I'd make," said I.
"You'd pass," he observed, quietly. "I'll call you Pencillius, god of Chirography—or would you rather come as Nonsensius, the newly discovered deity of Jocosity?"
"I think I'd rather be Zero, god of Nit," said I, and it was so ordained.
Of course, I accepted the invitation and was on hand at the palace, as I thought, promptly. As a matter of fact, my watch having in some mysterious fashion been affected by the excitement of the adventure, got galloping away just as my own heart had done more than once. The result was that, instead of arriving at the palace at eight o'clock, as I was expected to do, I got there at seven. Of course, my exalted hosts were not ready to receive me, and there were no other guests to bear me company and keep me out of mischief in the drawing-room, where for an hour I was compelled to wait. At first all went well. I found much entertainment in the room, and on the centre-table, a beautiful bit of furniture, carved out of one huge amethyst, I discovered a number of books and magazines, which kept me tolerably busy for a half-hour. There was a finely bound copy of Don'ts for the Gods, or Celestial Etiquette, in which I found many valuable hints on the procedure of Olympian society—notably one injunction as to the use of finger-bowls, from which I learned that the gods in their lavishness have a bowl for each finger; and a little volume by Bacchus on Intemperance, which I wish I might publish for the benefit of my fellow-mortals. All I remember about it at the moment of writing is that the author seriously enjoins upon his readers the wickedness of drinking more than sixty cocktails a day, and utterly deprecates the habit of certain Englishmen of drinking seven bottles of port at a sitting. Bacchus seemed to think that, with the other wines incidental to a dinner, no one, not even an Englishman, should attempt to absorb more than five bottles of port over his coffee. It struck me as being rather good advice.
Wearying of the reading at the end of a half-hour, I began a closer inspection of the room and its contents. It was full of novelties, and, naturally, gorgeous past all description; but what most excited my curiosity was a small cabinet, not unlike a stereoscope in shape, which stood in one corner of the room. It had a button at one side, over which was a gilt tablet marked "Push." On its front was the legend, "Drop a Nickel in the Slot, Push the Button, and See the Future." I followed the instructions eagerly. The nickel was dropped, the button pushed, and, putting my eyes before the lenses, I gazed into the remotest days to come. I had come across the Futuroscope, otherwise a kinetoscope with the gift of prophecy. The coming year passed rapidly, and I saw what fate had in store for the world for the twelve months immediately ahead of me; then followed a decade, then a century, and then others, until, just as I was approaching the dread cataclysm which is to mark the end of all mortal things, I heard a quick, startled voice back of me.
It was that of Jupiter, and his tone was a strange mixture of wrath and regret.
"What on earth have you done?" he cried.
"Nothing, your Majesty," said I, shaking all over as with the ague at the revelations I had just witnessed, "except getting a bird's-eye view of what is to come."
"I am sorry," said he, gravely. "It is not well that mortals should know the future, and your imprudent act is destructive of all the plans I have had for you. You must leave us instantly, for that instrument is for the gods alone. Moreover, the knowledge of that which you have seen—"
Here his voice positively thundered, and the frown that came upon his brow filled me with awe and terror.
"All knowledge of what you have seen must be removed from your brain," he added, grimly.
I was speechless with fear as the ruler of Olympus touched an electric button at the side of the room, and the two huge slaves, Gog and Magog, appeared.
"Seize him!" Jupiter commanded, sternly.
In an instant I was bound hand and foot.
"To the office of Dr. AEsculapius!" he commanded, and I was unceremoniously removed to the room wherein I had had my interview with the great doctor, where I was immediately etherized and my brain operated upon. Precisely what was done to me I shall probably never know, but what I do know is that from that time to this all that I saw in that marvellous Futuroscope is a blank, although on all other subjects pertaining to my visit to the gods my recollection is perfectly clear. It suffices to say that I lay for a long time in a stupor, and when finally I came to my senses again I found myself comfortably ensconced in my own bed, in my own home; not in Greece, but in America; suffering from a dull headache from which I did not escape for at least three hours. Again and again and again have I tried to recall that wonderful picture of a marvellous future seen by my mortal eyes that night upon Olympus, that I might set it upon paper for others to read, but with each effort the dreadful pain in the top of my head returns and I find myself compelled to abandon the project.
So was my brief visit to Olympus begun and ended. In its results it has perhaps been neither elevating nor remarkably instructive, but it has given me a better understanding of, and a better liking for, that great company of mythological beings who used to preside over the destinies of the Greeks. They appeared more human than godlike to my eyes. They were companionable to a degree, and for a time, at least, would prove congenial associates for a summer outing, but as a steady diet—well, I am not at all surprised that, as men waxed more mature in years and in experience, these titanic members of the Olympian four hundred lost their power and became no greater factor in the life of the large society of mankind than any other group of people, equal in number and of seeming importance, whose days and nights are given over solely to pleasure and the morbid pursuit of notoriety.
Transcriber's Note: The author refers to a type of golf club as a "brassey" and also as a "brassie". Both spellings have been maintained in this document.