Transcriber's Note: Text that was printed in italics in the original document is shown between underscore characters and the oe ligature is shown as [oe].
JOHN KENDRICK BANGS
Author of "A House-Boat on the Styx" "The Pursuit of the House-Boat" "The Enchanted Type-writer" Etc. Etc.
New York and London Harper & Brothers Publishers
HARPER & BROTHERS.
Published June, 1902.
I. I REACH MOUNT OLYMPUS 1
II. I SEEK SHELTER AND FIND IT 17
III. THE ELEVATOR BOY 33
IV. I SUMMON A VALET 53
V. THE OLYMPIAN LINKS 70
VI. IN THE DINING-ROOM 88
VII. AESCULAPIUS, M.D. 110
VIII. AT THE ZOO 131
IX. SOME ACCOUNT OF THE PALACE OF JUPITER 155
X. AN EXTRAORDINARY INTERVIEW 175
XI. A ROYAL OUTING 192
XII. I AM DISMISSED 212
BRANCH OFFICE OF MAMMON & CO. Frontispiece
HIPPOPOPOLIS EXPLAINS Facing p. 8
A DREAM OF BRIGANDAGE " 22
IN THE ELEVATOR " 30
"'THE GODDESS OF THE MOTHER-IN-LAW'" " 42
"ANYTHING COULD BE GOT FOR THE RINGING" " 60
"JUPITER HURLED A THUNDER-BOLT AT HIM" " 64
THE OLYMPIAN LINKS " 84
CARING FOR THE CALVES " 104
"'THEN YOU MUST DIE'" " 112
I VISIT AESCULAPIUS " 118
CALLISTO " 140
I MEET THE PH[OE]NIX " 150
"'THE CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE UNIVERSE'" " 166
"THE DOOR WAS LOCKED" " 180
"'WHAT?' I CRIED. 'I—THAT OLD MAN—WE'" " 190
I Reach Mount Olympus
While travelling through the classic realms of Greece some years ago, sincerely desirous of discovering the lurking-place of a certain war which the newspapers of my own country were describing with some vividness, I chanced upon the base of the far-famed Mount Olympus. Night was coming on apace and I was tired, having been led during the day upon a wild-goose chase by my guide, who had assured me that he had definitely located the scene of hostilities between the Greeks and the Turks. He had promised that for a consideration I should witness a conflict between the contending armies which in its sanguinary aspects should surpass anything the world had yet known. Whether or not it so happened that the armies had been booked for a public exhibition elsewhere, unknown to the talented bandit who was acting as my courier, I am not aware, but, as the event transpired, the search was futile, and another day was wasted. Most annoying, too, was the fact that I dared not manifest the impatience which I naturally felt. I am not remarkable as a specimen of the strong man; quite the reverse indeed, for, while I am by no means a weakling, I am no adept in the fistic art. Hence, when my guide, Hippopopolis by name, as the sun sank behind the western hills, informed me that I was again to be disappointed, the fact that he stands six feet two in his stockings, when he wears them, and has a pleasing way of bending crowbars as a pastime, led me to conceal the irritation which I felt.
"It's all right, Hippopopolis," I said, swallowing my wrath. "It's all right. We've had a good bit of exercise, anyhow, and that, after all, is the chief desideratum to a man of a sedentary occupation. How many miles have we walked?"
"Oh, about forty-three," he said, calmly. "A short distance, your Excellency."
"Very—very short," said I, rubbing my aching calves. "In my own country I make a practice of walking at least a hundred every day. It's quite a pleasing stroll from my home in New York over to Philadelphia and back. I hope I shall be able to show it you some day."
"It will be altogether charming, Excellency," said he. "Shall we—ah—walk back to Athens now, or would you prefer to rest here for the night?"
"I—I guess I'll stay here, Hippopopolis," I replied. "This seems to be a very comfortable sort of a mountain in front of us, and the air is soft. Suppose we rest in the soothing shade for the night? It would be quite an adventure."
"As your Excellency wishes," he replied, tossing a bowlder into the air and catching it with ease as it came down. "It is not often done, but it is for you to say."
"What mountain is it, Hippopopolis?" I asked, turning and gazing at the eminence before us.
"It is Mount Olympus," he answered.
"What?" I cried. "Not the home of the gods?"
"The very same, your Excellency," he acquiesced. "At least, that is the report. It is commonly stated hereabouts that the god-trust has its headquarters here. As for myself, I have explored its every nook and cranny, but I never saw any gods on it. It's my private opinion that they've moved away; though there be those who claim that it is still occupied by the former rulers of destiny living incog. like other well-born rogues who desire to avoid notoriety."
Hippopopolis is a decided democrat in his views, and has less respect for the King than he has for the peasant.
"I shouldn't call them rogues exactly," I ventured. "Some of 'em were a pretty respectable lot. There was Apollo and old Jupiter himself, and—"
"Oh, you can't tell me anything about them," retorted Hippopopolis. "I haven't been born and bred in this country for nothing, your Excellency. They were a bad lot all through. Shall I prepare your supper?"
"If you please, Hippopopolis," said I, throwing myself down beneath a huge tree and giving myself up to the reveries of the moment. I did not deem it well to interpose too strongly between Hippopopolis and his views of the immortals just then. He had always a glitter in his eye when any one ventured to controvert his assertions which made a debate with him a thing to be apprehended. Still, I did not exactly like to yield, for, to tell the truth, the Olympian folk have always interested me hugely, and, while I would not of course endorse any one of them for a high public trust in these days, I have admired them for their many remarkable qualities.
"Of course," said I, reverting to the question a few moments later, as Hippopopolis opened a box of sardines and set the bread a-toasting on the fire he had made. "Of course, I should not venture to say that I, a stranger, know as much about the private habits of the gods as do you, who have been their neighbor; but that they are rogues is news to me."
"That may be, too," said Hippopopolis. "People are often thought more of by strangers than by their own fellow-townsmen. Even you, sir, I might suspect, who are by these simple Greeks supposed to be a sort of reigning sovereign in your own country, are not at home, perhaps, so large a hill of potatoes. So with Jupiter and Apollo and Mercury, and the ladies of the court. I haven't a doubt that in the United States you think Jupiter a remarkably great man, and Apollo a musician, and Mercury a gentleman of some business capacity, but we Greeks know better. And as for the ladies—hum—well, your Excellency, they are not received. They are too bold and pushing. They lack the refinements, and as for their beauty and accomplishments—"
Hippopopolis here indulged in a gesture which betokened excessive scorn of the beauty and accomplishments of the ladies of Olympus.
"You have never seen these people, Hippopopolis?" I asked.
"I have been spared that necessity," said he, "but I know all about them, and I assert to you upon my honor as a courier and the best guide in the Archipelago that Jupiter is the worst old roue a country ever had saddled upon it; Apollo's music would drive you mad and make you welcome a xylophone duet; and as for Mercury's business capacity, that is merely a capacity for getting away from his creditors. Why shouldn't a man wax rich if, after floating a thousand bogus corporations, selling the stock at par and putting the money into his own pocket, he could unfold his wings and fly off into the empyrean, leaving his stock and bond holders to mourn their loss?"
"Excuse me, Hippopopolis," I put in, interrupting him fearlessly for the moment, "pray don't try to deceive me by any such statement as that. I don't know very much, but I know something about Mercury, and when you say he puts other people's money into his pockets, I am in a position to prove otherwise. From five years of age up to the present time I have been brought up in a home where a bronze statue of Mercury, said to be the most perfect resemblance in all the statuary of the world, classic or otherwise, has been the most conspicuous ornament. At ten I could reproduce on paper with my pencil every line, every shade, every curve, every movement of the effigy in so far as my artistic talent would permit, and I know that Mercury not only had no pocket, but wore no garments in which even so little as a change pocket could have been concealed. Wherefore there must be some mistake about your charge."
"Humph!" he said. "It is very evident that you people over the sea have very superficial notions of things here. When Mercury posed for that statue, like most of you people who have your photographs taken, he posed in full evening dress. That is why there is so little of it in evidence. But in his business suit, Mercury is a very different sort of a person. Even in Olympus he'd have been ruled off the stock exchange if he'd ventured to appear there as scantily attired as he is in most of his statuary appearances. You certainly are not so green as to suppose that that suit he wears in his statues is the whole extent of his wardrobe?"
"I had supposed so," I confessed. "It's a trifle unconventional; but, then, he's one of the gods, and, I presumed, could dress as he pleased. Your gods are independent, I should imagine, of the mere decrees of fashion."
"The more exalted one's position, the greater the sartorial obligation," retorted Hippopopolis, who, for a Greek and a guide, had, as will be seen, a vocabulary of most remarkable range. "Just as it happens that our King here, like H. R. H. the Prince of Wales, has to be provided with seven hundred and sixty-eight suits of clothes so as to be properly clad at the variety of functions he is required to grace, so does a god have to be provided with a wardrobe of rare quality and extent. For drawing-room tables, mantel-pieces, and pedestals, otherwise for statuary, Mercury can go about clad in just about half as much stuff as it would require to cover a fairly sized sofa-cushion and not arouse drastic criticism; but when he goes to business he is as well provided with pockets as any other speculator."
"Another idol shattered!" I cried, in mock grief. "But Apollo, Hippopopolis—Apollo! Do not tell me he is not a virtuoso of rare technique on the lyre!"
"His technique is more than rare," sneered Hippopopolis. "It is excessively raw. It has been said by men who have heard both that Nero of Hades can do more to move an audience with his fiddle with two strings broken and his bow wrist sprained than Apollo can do with the aid of his lyre and a special dispensation of divine inspiration from Zeus himself."
"There are various ways of moving audiences, Hippopopolis," I ventured. "Now Nero, I should say, could move an audience—out of the hall—in a very few moments. In fact, I have always believed that that is why he fiddled when Rome was burning: so that people would run out of the city limits before they perished."
"It's a very droll view," laughed Hippopopolis, "and I dare say holds much of the truth; but Nero's faulty execution is not proof of Apollo's virtuosity. For a woodland musicale given by the Dryads, say, to their friends, the squirrels and moles and wild-cats, and other denizens of the forest, Apollo will suffice. The musical taste of a kangaroo might find the strumming of his lyre by Apollo to its liking, but for cultivated people who know a crescendo andante-arpeggio from the staccato tones of a penny whistle, he is inadequate."
"You speak as if you had heard the god," said I.
"I have not," retorted Hippopopolis, "but I have heard playing by people, generally beginners, of whom the rural press has said that he—or more often she—has the touch of an Apollo, and, if that is true, as are all things we read in the newspapers, particularly the rural papers, which are not so sophisticated as to lie, then Apollo would better not attempt to play at one of our Athenian Courier Association Smokers. I venture to assert that if he did he would have to be carried home with a bandage about his brow instead of a laurel, and his cherished lyre would become but a memory."
I turned sadly to my supper. I had found the mundane things of Greece disappointing enough, but my sorrow over Hippopopolis's expert testimony as to the shortcoming of the gods was overwhelming. It was to be expected that the country would fall into a decadent state sooner or later, but that the Olympians themselves were not all that they were cracked up to be by the mythologies had never suggested itself to me. As a result of my courier's words, I lapsed into a moody silence, which by eight o'clock developed into an irresistible desire to sleep.
"I'll take a nap, Hippopopolis," said I, rolling my coat into a bundle and placing it under my head. "You will, I trust, be good enough to stand guard lest some of these gods you have mentioned come and pick my pockets?" I added, satirically.
"I will see that the gods do not rob you," he returned, dryly, with a slight emphasis on the word "gods," the significance of which I did not at the moment take in, but which later developments made all too clear.
Three minutes later I slept soundly.
At ten o'clock, about, I awoke with a start. The fire was out and I was alone. Hippopopolis had disappeared and with him had gone my watch, the contents of my pocket-book, my letter of credit, and everything of value I had with me, with the exception of my shirt-studs, which, I presume, would have gone also had they not been fastened to me in such a way that, in getting them, Hippopopolis would have had to wake me up.
To add to my plight, the rain was pouring down in torrents.
I Seek Shelter and Find It
"This is a fine piece of business," I said to myself, springing to my feet. And then I called as loudly as my lungs would permit for Hippopopolis. It was really exhilarating to do so. The name lends itself so readily to a sonorous effect. The hills fairly echoed and re-echoed with the name, but no answer came, and finally I gave up in disgust, seeking meanwhile the very inadequate shelter of a tree, to keep the rain off. A more woe-begone picture never presented itself, I am convinced. I was chilled through, shivering in the dampness of the night, a steady stream of water pouring upon and drenching my clothing, void of property of an available nature, and lost in a strange land. To make matters worse, I was familiar only with classic Greek, which language is utterly unknown in those parts to-day, being spoken only by the professors of the American school at Athens and the war correspondents of the New York Sunday newspapers—a fact, by the way, which probably accounts for the latter's unfamiliarity with classic English. It is too much in these times to expect a man to speak or write more than one language at a time. Even if I survived the exposure of the night, a horrid death by starvation stared me in the face, since I had no means of conveying to any one who might appear the idea that I was hungry.
Still, if starvation was to be my lot, I preferred to starve dryly and warmly; so, deserting the tree which was now rather worse as a refuge than no refuge at all, since the limbs began to trickle forth steady streams of water, which, by some accursed miracle of choice, seemed to consider the back of my neck their inevitable destination, I started in to explore as best I could in the uncanny light of the night for some more sheltered nook. Feeling, too, that, having robbed me, Hippopopolis would become an extremely unpleasant person to encounter in my unarmed and exhausted state, I made my way up the mountainside, rather than down into the valley, where my inconsiderate guide was probably even then engaged in squandering my hard-earned wealth, in company with the peasants of that locality, who see real money so seldom that they ask no unpleasant questions as to whence it has come when they do see it.
"Under the circumstances," thought I, "I sincerely hope that the paths of Hippopopolis and myself may lie as wide as the poles apart. If so be we do again tread the same path, I trust I shall see him in time to be able to ignore his presence."
With this reflection I made my way with difficulty up the side of Olympus. Several times it seemed to me that I had found the spot wherein I might lie until the sun should rise, but quite as often an inconsiderate leak overhead through the leaves of the trees, or an undiscovered crack in the rocks above me, sent me travelling upon my way. Physical endurance has its limits, however, and at the end of a two hours' climb, wellnigh exhausted, I staggered into an opening between two walls of rock, and fell almost fainting to the ground. The falling rain revived me, and on my hands and knees I crawled farther in, and, to my great delight, shortly found myself in a high-ceiled cavern, safe from the storm, a place in which one might starve comfortably, if so be one had to pass through that trying ordeal.
"He might have left me my flask," I groaned as I thought over the pint of warming liquid which Hippopopolis had taken from me. It was of a particular sort, and I liked it whether I was thirsty or not. "If he'd only left me that, he might have had my letter of credit, and no questions asked. These Greeks are apparently not aware that there is consideration even among thieves."
Huddling myself together, I tried to get warm after the fashion of the small boy when he jumps into his cold-sheeted bed on a winter's night, a process which makes his legs warm the upper part of his body, and vice versa. It was moderately successful. If I could have wrung the water out of my clothes, it might have been wholly so. Still, matters began to look more cheerful, and I was about to drop off into a doze, when at the far end of the cavern, where all had hitherto been black as night, there suddenly burst forth a tremendous flood of light.
"Humph!" thought I, as the rays pierced through the blackness of the cavern even to where I lay shivering. "I'm in for it now. In all probability I have stumbled upon a bandits' cave."
Pleasing visions of the ways of bandits began to flit through my mind.
"In all likelihood," thought I, "there are seventeen of them. As I have read my fiction, there are invariably seventeen bandits to a band. It's like sixteen ounces to the pound, or three feet to the yard, or fifty-three cents to the dollar. It never varies. What hope have I to escape unharmed from seventeen bandits, even though five of them are discontented—as is always the case in books—and are ready to betray their chief to the enemy? I am the enemy, of course, but I'll be hanged if I wish the chief betrayed into my hands. He could probably thrash me single-handed. My hands are full anyhow, whether I get the chief or not."
My heart sank into my boots; but as these were very wet, it promptly returned to my throat, where it had rested ever since Hippopopolis had deserted me. My heart is a very sane sort of an organ. I gazed towards the light intently, expecting to see dark figures of murderous mould loom up before me, but in this I was agreeably disappointed. Nothing of the sort happened, and I grew easier in my mind, although my curiosity was by no means appeased.
"I know what I will do," I said to myself. "I'll make friends with the chief himself. That's the best plan. If he is responsive, my family will be spared the necessity of receiving one of my ears by mail with a delicate request for $20,000 ransom, accompanied by a P. S. enclosing the other ear to emphasize the importance of the complication."
By way of diversion, let me say here that, while slicing off the victim's ear is a staple situation among novelists who write of bandits, in all my experience with bandits—and I have known a thousand, most of 'em in Wall Street—I have never known it done, and I challenge those who write of South European highway-robbers to produce any evidence to prove that the habit is prevalent. The idea is, on the face of it, invalid. The ears of mankind, despite certain differences which are acknowledged, are, after all, very much alike. The point that differentiates one ear from another is the angle at which it is set from the head. The angle, according to the most scientific students of the organ of hearing, is the basis of the estimate of the individual. Therefore, to convince the wealthy persons at home that large sums of money are expected of them to preserve the life of the father of the family, the truly expert bandit must send something besides the ear itself, which, when cut off, has no angle whatsoever. If I, who am no bandit, and who have not studied the art of the banditti, may make a suggestion which may prove valuable to the highwaymen of Italy and Greece, the only sure method of identifying the individual lies in the cutting off of the head of the victim, by which means alone the identity of the person to be ransomed may be settled beyond all question. As one who has suffered, I will say that I would not send a check for $20,000 to a bandit on the testimony of one ear any more than I would lend a man ten dollars on his own representation as to the meals he had not had, the drinks he wanted, or the date upon which he would pay it back.
All these ideas flashed across my mind as I lay there worn in spirit and chilled to the bone. At last, however, after a considerable effort, I gathered myself together and resolved to investigate. I rose up, stood uncertainly on my feet, and was about to make my way towards the sources of the unexpected light, when a dark figure rushed past me. I tried to speak to it.
"Hello, there!" said I, hoping to gain its attention and ask its advice, since it came into the cavern in that breezy fashion which betokens familiarity with surroundings. The being, whatever it really was, and I was soon to find this out, turned a scornful and really majestic face upon me, as much as to say, "Who are you that should thus address a god?" The rushing thing wore a crown and flowing robes. Likewise it had a gray beard and an air of power which made me, a mere mortal, seem weak even in my own estimation. Furthermore, there was a divine atmosphere following in his wake. It suggested the most brilliant of brilliantine.
"Here," he cried as he passed. "I haven't time to listen to your story, but here is my card. I have no change about me. Call upon me to-morrow and I will attend to your needs."
The card fluttered to my side, and, not being a mendicant, I paid little attention to it, preferring to watch this fast-disappearing figure until I should see whither it was going. Arriving at the far end of the cavern, the hurrying figure stopped and apparently pushed a button at the side of the wall. Immediately an iron door, which I had not before perceived, was pushed aside. The dark figure disappeared into what seemed to be a well-lighted elevator, and was promptly lifted out of sight. All became dark again, and I was frankly puzzled. This was a situation beyond my ken. What it could mean I could not surmise, and in the hope of finding a clew to the mystery I groped about in the darkness for the card which the hurried individual had cast at me with his words of encouragement. Ultimately I found it, but was unable to decipher its inscription, if perchance it had one. Nevertheless, I managed to keep my spirits up. This, I think, was a Herculean task, considering the darkness and my extreme lonesomeness. I can be happy under adverse circumstances, if only I have congenial company. But to lie alone, in a black cavern, prey only to the thoughts of my environment, thoughts suggesting all things apart from life, thoughts which send the mind over the past a thousand centuries removed—these are not comforting, and these were the only thoughts vouchsafed to me.
A half-hour was thus passed in the darkness, and then the light appeared again, and I resolved, though little strength was left to me, to seek out its source. I stood up and staggered towards it, and as I drew nearer observed that the illumination came from nothing more nor less than an elevator at the bottom of a shaft, the magnitude of which I could not, of course, at the moment determine.
The boy in charge was a pretty little chap, and, if I may so state it, was absolutely unclad, but about his shoulders was slung a strap which in turn held a leathern bag, which, to my eyes, suggested a golf-bag more than anything else, except that it was filled with arrows instead of golf-clubs.
"How do you do?" said I, politely. "Whose caddy are you?"
"Very well," said the little lad. "Not much to brag of, however. Merely bobbish, pretty bobbish. In answer to your second question, I take pleasure in informing you," he added, "that I am everybody's caddy."
"You are—the elevator boy?" I queried, with some hesitation.
"That is my present position," said he.
"And, ah, whither do you elevate, my lad?"
"Up!" said he, after the manner of one who does not wish to commit himself, like most elevator boys. "But whom do you wish to see?" he demanded, trying hard to frown and succeeding only in making a ludicrous exhibition of himself.
Frankly, I did not know, but under the impulse of the moment I handed out the card which the stranger had thrown to me.
"I forget the gentleman's name," said I, "but here is his card. He asked me to call."
The elevator boy glanced at it, and his manner immediately changed.
"Oh, indeed. Very well, sir," he said. "I'll take you up right away. Step lively, please."
I stepped into the elevator, and the lad turned a wheel which set us upon our upward journey at once.
"I am sorry to have been so rude to you, sir," said the boy. "I didn't really know you were a friend of his."
"Of whom?" I demanded.
"The old man himself," he replied, with which he handed me back the card I had given him, upon reading which I ascertained the name of the individual who had rushed past me so unceremoniously.
The card was this:
MR. JUPITER JOVE ZEUS MOUNT OLYMPUS GREECE
"Top floor, sir," said the elevator boy, obsequiously.
The Elevator Boy
"Known the old man long, sir?" queried the boy as we ascended.
"By reputation," said I.
"Humph!" said the lad. "Can't have a very good opinion of him, then. It's a good thing you are going to have a little personal experience with him. He's not a bad lot, after all. Rotten things said of him, but then—you know, eh?"
"Oh, as for that," said I, "I don't think his reputation is so dreadful. To be sure, there have been one or two little indiscretions connected with his past, and at times he has seemed a bit vindictive in chucking thunder-bolts at his enemies, but, on the whole, I fancy he's behaved himself pretty well."
"True," said the boy. "And then you've got to take his bringing-up into consideration. Things which would be altogether wrong in the son of a Presbyterian clergyman would not be unbecoming in a descendant of old Father Time. Jupiter is, after all, a self-made immortal, and the fact that his parents, old Mr. and Mrs. Cronos, let him grow up sort of wild, naturally left its impress on his character."
"Of course," said I, somewhat amused to hear the Thunderer's character analyzed by a mere infant. "But how about yourself, my laddie? Are you anybody in particular? You look like a cherub."
"Some folks call me Dan," said the boy, "and I am somebody in particular. Fact is, sir, if it hadn't been for me there wouldn't have been anybody in particular anywhere. I'm Cupid, sir, God of Love, favorite son of Venus, at your service."
"And husband of the delectable Psyche?" I cried, recalling certain facts I had learned. "You look awfully young to be married."
"Hum—well, I was, and I am, but we've separated," the boy replied, with a note of sadness in his voice. "She was a very nice little person, that Psyche—one of the best ever, I assure you—but she was too much of a butterfly to be the perpetual confidante of a person charged with such important matters as I am. Besides, she didn't get on with mother."
"Seems to me that I have heard that Madame Venus did not approve of the match," I vouchsafed.
"No. She didn't from the start," said Cupid. "Psyche was too pretty, and ma rather wanted to corner all the feminine beauty in our family; but I had my way in the end. I generally do," the little chap added, with a chuckle.
"But the separation, my dear boy?" I put in. "I am awfully sorry to hear of that. I, in common with most mortals, supposed that the marriage was idyllic."
"It was," said Cupid, "and therefore not practical enough to be a good investment. You see, sir, there was a time when the love affairs of the universe were intrusted to my care. Lovers everywhere came to me to confide their woes, and I was doing a great business. Everybody was pleased with my way of conducting my department. I seemed to have a special genius for managing a love affair. Even persons who were opposed to the administration conceded that the Under Secretary of Home Affairs—myself—was assured of a cabinet office for life, whatever party was in power. If Pluto had been able to get elected, the force of public opinion would have kept me in office. Then I married, myself, and things changed. Like a dutiful husband, I had no secrets from my wife. I couldn't have had if I had wanted to. Psyche's curiosity was a close second to Pandora's, and, if she wanted to know anything, there was never any peace in the family until she found out all about it. Still, I didn't wish to have any secrets from her. As a scientific expert in Love, I knew that the surest basis of a lasting happiness lay in mutual confidence. Hence, I told Psyche all I knew, and it got her into trouble right away."
"She—ah—couldn't keep a secret?" I asked.
"At first she could," said Cupid. "That was the cause of the first row between her and Venus. Mother got mad as a hatter with her one morning after breakfast because Psyche could keep a secret. There was a little affair on between Jupiter and a certain person whose name I shall not mention, and I had charge of it. Of course, I told Psyche all about it, and in some way known only to woman she managed to convey to Venus the notion that she knew all about it, but couldn't tell, and, still further, wouldn't tell. I'd gone down-town to business, leaving everything peaceful and happy, but when I got back to luncheon—Great Chaos, it was awful! The two ladies were not on speaking terms, and I had to put on a fur overcoat to keep from freezing to death in the atmosphere that had arisen between them. It was six inches below zero—and the way those two would sniff and sneer at each other was a caution."
"I quite understand the situation," I said, sympathetically.
"No doubt," said Cupid. "You can also possibly understand how a quarrel between the only two women you ever loved could incapacitate you for your duties. For ten days after that I was simply incapable of directing the love affairs of the universe properly. Persons I'd designed for each other were given to others, and a great deal of unhappiness resulted. There were nine thousand six hundred and seventy-six divorces as the result of that week's work. It's a terrible situation for a well-meaning chap to have to decide between his wife and his mother."
"Never had it," said I; "but I can imagine it."
"Don't think you can," sighed Cupid. "There are situations in real life, sir, which surpass the wildest flights of the imagination. That is why truth is stranger than fiction. However," he added, his face brightening, "it was a useful experience to me in my professional work. I learned for the first time that when a mother-in-law comes in at the door, intending to remain indefinitely, love flies out at the window. Or, as Solomon—I believe it was Solomon. He wrote Proverbs, did he not?"
"Yes," said I. "He and Josh Billings."
"Well," vouchsafed Cupid, "I can't swear as to the authorship of the proverb, but some proverbialist said 'Two is company and three is a crowd.' I'd never known that before, but I learned it then, and began to stay away from home a little myself, so that we should not be crowded."
I commended the young man for his philosophy.
"Nevertheless, my dear Dan," I added, "you ought to be more autocratic. Knowing that two is company and three otherwise, you have been guilty of allowing many a young couple who have trusted in you to begin house-keeping with an inevitable third person. We see it every day among the mortals."
"What has been good enough for me, sir," the boy returned, with a comical assumption of sternness—he looked so like a fat baby of three just ready for his bath—"is good enough for mortals. When I married Psyche, I brought her home to my mother's house, and for some nineteen thousand years we lived together. If Love can stand it, mortals must."
"Excuse me," said I, apologetically. "I have not suffered. However, in all my study of you mythologians, it has never occurred to me before this that Venus was the goddess of the mother-in-law."
"You mustn't blame me for that," said Cupid, dryly. "I'm the god of Love; wisdom is out of my province. For what you don't know and haven't learned you must blame Pallas, who is our Superintendent of Public Instruction. She knows it all—and she got it darned easy, too. She sprang forth from the head of Jove with a Ph.D. already conferred upon her. She looks after the education of the world. I don't—but I'll wager you anything you please to put up that man gains more real experience under my management than he does from Athena's department, useful as her work is."
I could not but admit the truth of all that the boy said, and of course I told him so. To change the subject, which, if pursued, might lead to an exposure of my own ignorance, I said:
"But, Dan, what interests me most, and pains me most as well, is to hear that you are separated from Psyche. I do not wish to seem inquisitive on the subject of a—ah—of a man's family affairs"—I hesitated in my speech because he seemed such a baby and it was difficult to take him seriously, as is always the way with Love, unless we are directly involved—"but you have told me of the separation, and as a man, a newspaper-man, I am interested. Couldn't you reconcile your mother, Madame Venus, to Psyche—or, rather, Mrs. Dan?"
"Not for a moment," replied the boy. "Not for a millionth part of a tenth of a quarter of a second by a stop-watch. Their irreconcilability was copper-fastened, and I found myself compelled to choose between them. My mother developed a gray hair the day after the first trouble, and my wife began to go out to afternoon teas and sewing-circles and dances. The teas and dances were all right. You can't talk at either. But the sewing-circle was ruin. At this particular time the circle was engaged in making winter garments for the children of the mother of the Gracchi. I presume that as a student and as a father you realize all that this meant. You also know that a sewing-circle needs four things: first, an object; second, a needle and thread; third, a garment; fourth, a subject for conversation. These things are constitutionally required, and Psyche joined what she called 'The Immortal Dorcas.' The result was that all Olympus and half of Hades were shortly acquainted with the confidential workings of my department—all told under the inviolate bond of secrecy, however, which requires that each member confided in shall not communicate what she has heard to more—or to less—than ten people."
"I know," said I. "The Dorcas habit has followers among my own people."
"But see where it placed me!" cried the little creature. "There was me, or I—I don't know whether Greek or English is preferable to you—charged with the love affairs of the universe. Confiding all I knew, like a dutiful husband, to my wife, and having her letting it all out to the public through the society. Why, my dear fellow, it wasn't long before the immortals began to accuse me of being in the pay of the Sunday newspapers, and you must know as well as anybody else that Love has nothing to do with them. Even the affairs of my sovereign began to creep out, and innuendoes connecting Jupiter with people prominent in society were printed in the opposition organs."
"Poor chap!" said I, sympathetically. "I did not realize that you had to contend against the Sunday-newspaper nuisance as we mortals have."
"We have," he said, quickly, almost resignedly; "and they are ruining even Olympus itself. Still, I made a stand. Told Psyche she talked too much, and from that time on confided in her no more."
"And how did she take it?" I asked.
"She declined to take it at all," said Cupid, with a sigh. "She demanded that I should tell her everything on penalty of losing her—and I lost her. She left me a little over a thousand years ago, and my mother for the same reason sent me adrift fifteen hundred or more years ago. That is why I am eking out a living running an elevator," he added, sadly. "Still, I'm happy here. I go up when I feel sad, and go down when I feel glad. On the whole, I am as happy as any of the gods."
"However, Dan," I cried, sympathetically, slapping him on the back, "you have your official position, and that will keep you in—ah—well, you don't seem to need 'em, but it would keep you in clothes if you could be persuaded to wear them."
"No," said the little elevator boy, sadly. "I don't want 'em in this climate—nor are they necessary in any other. All over the world, my dear fellow, true love is ever warm."
There was a decided interval. I felt sorry for the little lad who had been a god and who had become an elevator boy, so I said to him:
"Never mind, Danny, you are sure of your office always."
"I wish it were so," said he, sadly. "But really, sir, it isn't. You may think that love rules all things nowadays, but that is a fallacy. Of late years a rival concern has sprung up. I have found my office subjected to a most annoying competition which has attracted away from me a large number of my closest followers. In the days when we acknowledged ourselves to be purely heathen, love was regarded with respect, but now all that is changed. Opposite my office in the government building there is a matrimonial corporation doing a very large business, by which the fees of my position are greatly reduced. Possibly after you have had your audience with Jove to-morrow you will take a turn about the city, in which event you will see this trust's big brazen sign. You can't miss it if you walk along Mercury Avenue. It reads:
MAMMON & CO. Matchmakers FORTUNES GUARANTEED: HAPPINESS EXTRA GEO. W. MAMMON President HORACE GREED Gen'l Manager BRANCH OFFICE 67 Gehenna Ave., Hades
"Dear me!" I cried. "Poor Love!"
"I don't need your sympathy," said the boy, quickly, drawing himself up proudly. "It can't last, this competition. Man and god kind will soon see the difference in the permanence of our respective output. This is only a temporary success they are having, and it often happens that the spurious articles put forth by Mammon & Company are brought over to me to be repaired. My sun will dawn again. You can't put out the fires in my furnaces as long as men and women are made from the old receipt."
Here the elevator stopped, and a rather attractive young woman appeared at the door.
"Here is where you get out, sir," said the elevator boy.
"You are Mr.——" began the girl.
"I am," I replied.
"I have orders to show you to number 609," she said. "The proprietor will see you to-morrow at eleven."
"Thank you very much," I replied, somewhat overcome by the cordiality of my reception. It is not often that mere beggars are so hospitably received.
"Good-night, Cupid," I added, turning to the little chap in the elevator. "I trust we shall meet again."
"Oh, I guess we will," he replied, with a wink at the maid. "I generally do meet most men two or three times in their lives. So au revoir to you. Treat the gentleman well, Hebe," he concluded, pulling the rope to send the elevator back. "He doesn't know much, but he is sympathetic."
"I will, Danny, for your sake," said the little maid, archly.
The boy laughed and the car faded from sight. Hebe, even more lovely than has been claimed, with a charmingly demure glance at my costume, which was wofully bedraggled and wet, said:
"This way, sir. I will have your luggage sent to your room at once."
"But I haven't any luggage, my dear," said I. "I have only what is on my back."
"Ah, but you have," she replied, sweetly. "The proprietor has attended to that. There are five trunks, a hat-box, and a Gladstone bag already on their way up."
And with this she showed me into a magnificent apartment, and, even as she had said, within five minutes my luggage arrived, a valet appeared, unpacked the trunks and bag, brushed off the hat that had lain in the hat-box, and vanished, leaving me to my own reflections.
Surely Olympus was a great place, where one who appeared in the guise of a beggar was treated like a regiment of prodigal sons, furnished with a gorgeous apartment, and supplied with a wardrobe that would have aroused the envy of a reigning sovereign.
I Summon a Valet
The room to which I was assigned was regal in its magnificence, and yet comfortable. Few modern hotels afforded anything like it, and, tired as I was, I could not venture to rest until I had investigated it and its contents thoroughly. It was, I should say, about twenty by thirty feet in its dimensions, and lighted by a soft, mellow glow that sprang forth from all parts without any visible source of supply. At the far end was a huge window, before which were drawn portieres of rich material in most graceful folds. Pulling these to one side, so that I might see what the outlook from the window might be, I staggered back appalled at the infinite grandeur of what lay before my eyes. It seemed as if all space were there, and yet within the compass of my vision. Planets which to my eye had hitherto been but twinkling specks of light in the blackness of the heavens became peopled worlds, which I could see in detail and recognize. Mars with its canals, Saturn with its rings—all were there before me, seemingly within reach of my outstretched hand. The world in which I lived appeared to have been removed from the middle distance, and those things which had rested beyond the ken of the mortal mind brought to my very feet, to be seen and touched and comprehended.
Then I threw the window open, and all was changed. The distant objects faded, and a beautiful golden city greeted my eyes—the city of Olympus, in which I was to pass so many happy hours. For the instant I was puzzled. Why at one moment the treasures of the universe of space had greeted my vision, and how all that had faded and the immediate surroundings of a celestial city lay before me, were not easy to understand. I drew back and closed the window again, and at once all became clear; the window-glass held the magic properties of the magnifying-lens, developed to an intensity which annihilated all space, and I began to see that the development of mortals in scientific matters was puny beside that of the gods in whose hands lay all the secrets of the universe, although the principles involved were in our full possession.
The situation overwhelmed me somewhat, and I drew the portieres together again. The feelings that came over me were similar to those that come to one standing on the edge of a great precipice gazing downward into the vast, black depths yawning at his feet. The giddiness that once, many years before, came upon me as I stood on the brink of the Niagaran cataract, which seemed irresistibly impelling me to join the mad rush of the waters, surged over me again, and I forced myself backward into the room, shutting out the sight, lest I should cast myself forth into the infinite space beyond. I threw myself down upon a couch and covered my eyes with my hands and tried to realize the situation. I was drunk with awe at all that was about me, and should, I think, have gone mad trying to comprehend its grandeur, had not my spirit been soothed by soft strains of music that now fell upon my ears.
I opened my eyes to discover whence the sounds had come, and even as the light streamed from unknown and unseen sources, so it was with the harmonies which followed, harmonies surpassing in beauty and swelling glory anything I had ever heard before.
And to these magnificent but soft and soothing strains I yielded myself up and slept. How long my sleep continued I have no means of knowing. It seemed to last but an instant, but when I opened my eyes once more I felt absolutely renewed in body and in spirit. The damp garments which I had worn when I fell back upon the couch had in some wise been removed, and when I stood up to indulge in the usual stretching of my limbs I found myself clad in an immaculate flowing robe of white, soft of texture, fastened at the neck with a jewelled brooch, and at the waist its fulness restrained by a girdle of gold. Furthermore, I had apparently been put through a process of ablution which left me with the cockles of my heart as warm as toast, and my whole being permeated with a glow of health which I had not known for many years. The aches in my bones, which I had feared on waking to find intensified, were gone; and if I could have retained permanently the aspect of vigor and beauty which was returned to me by the mirror when I stood before it, I should be in imminent danger of becoming conceited.
"I wonder," said I, as I gazed at myself in the mirror, "if this is the correct costume for breakfast. It's a slight drawback to know nothing of the customs of the locality in which you find yourself. Possibly an investigation of my new wardrobe will help me to decide."
I looked over the rich garments which had been provided, and found nothing which, according to my simple bringing up, suggested the idea that it was a good thing to wear at the morning meal.
"They ought to send me a valet," I murmured. "Perhaps they will if I ring for one. Where the deuce is the bell, I wonder?"
A search of the room soon divulged the resting-place of this desirable adjunct to the tourist's comfort. The dial system which has proved so successful in American hotels was in vogue here, except that it manifested a willingness on the part of the proprietor to provide the guest with a range of articles utterly beyond anything to be found in the purely mundane caravansary. I found that anything under the canopy that the mind of man could conceive of could be had by the mere pushing of a button. The disk of the electrical apparatus was divided off into many sections, calling respectively for saddle-horses, symphony concerts, ocean steamships, bath-towels, stenographers; cocktails of all sorts, and some sorts of which I had never before heard, and all of which I resolved to try in discreet sequence; manicures, chiropodists, astrologers, prophets, clergymen of all denominations, plots for novelists—indeed, anything that any person in any station of life might chance to desire could be got for the ringing.
My immediate need, however, was for a valet. Puzzled as to the manners and customs of the gods, I did not wish to make a bad appearance in the dining-room in a costume which should not be appropriate. I did think of ordering breakfast served in my room, but that seemed a very mortal and not a particularly godlike thing to do. Hence, I rang for a valet.
"I will tell him to get out my morning-suit, and no doubt he will select the thing I ought to wear," I said as I pressed the button.
The response was instant. My fingers had hardly left the button when a superb creature stood before me. Whence he sprang I do not know. There were no opening of doors, no traps or false panels, that I could see. The individual simply materialized.
"At your service, sir," said he, with a graceful obeisance.
"Pardon me," I replied, overcome once more by what was going on. "I—ah—think there must be some mistake. I—ah—I didn't ring for a god, I rang for a valet."
"I am the valet of Olympus, sir," he replied, gracefully flicking a speck of dust from the calf of his leg, the contour of which was beautiful to look upon, clad in superbly fitting silken tights. "Adonis, at your service. What can I do for you?"
"Well, I declare!" I cried, lost now in admiration of the way the gods were ordering things on Olympus. "So they've made you a valet, have they?"
"Yes," replied Adonis. "I hold office for the six months that I am here. You know that I am a resident of Olympus only half the time. The balance I live in Hades."
"It's a common custom," said I. "Even with us, our swellest people go south for the winter."
"Hum—yes," said Adonis, somewhat confused. "It's very good of you to draw that parallel. Your construction of the situation does credit to your sense of what is polite, sir. Unfortunately for me, however, my position is more like that of the habitual criminal who is sent to the penitentiary periodically. I have to go, whether I want to or not."
"Still, it must be a pleasant variation," I observed, forgetting that it is bad form to converse with a servant, and remembering only that I was addressing an old flame of Madame Venus. "Hades isn't a bad place for a little while, I should fancy."
"True," sighed Adonis. "But the society there is very mixed. It's full of self-made immortals, whereas we are all immortals by birth."
"And who, pray," I queried, "takes your place while you are below?"
"Narcissus," he replied; "but there's generally a lot of complaint about him. He takes more pains dressing himself than he does in looking after guests, the result of which is that after my departure things get topsy-turvy, and by the time I get back, with the exception of Narcissus, there isn't a well-dressed god in all Olympus."
"I wonder, where such perfection is possible," said I, "that they tolerate that."
"They're not going to very much longer," said Adonis, and then he laughed. "Narcissus queered himself last season at the palace. Jove sent for him to trim his beard, and he nearly cut one of the old man's ears off. Investigation showed that instead of keeping his eye on what he was doing, he was looking at himself in the glass all the time. Jupiter in his anger hurled a thunderbolt at him, but, fortunately for Narcissus, he hurled it at the mirrored and not at the real Narcissus, and he escaped. The result is the rumor that he will be made head-waiter in the dining-room instead of valet next season, in which event I shall probably be allowed to remain here all through the year, or else they'll put Jason on."
"And which would you prefer?" I asked.
"I think I'd rather have Jason put on," said Adonis. "While I don't care much for the climate of Hades, I am received there with much consideration socially, whereas up here I am only the valet. One doesn't mind being a nabob once in a while, you know. Besides—ah—don't say anything about it to anybody up here, but I'm getting a trifle tired of Venus. She is still beautiful, but you can't get over the idea that she's over four thousand years old. Furthermore, I met a little Fury down below last season who is simply ravishing." Here Adonis gave me a wink which made me rather curious to see the little Fury.
"Ah, Adonis, Adonis!" I cried, shaking my finger at him; "still up to your old tricks, are you?"
"Why not?" he demanded. "My character is formed. Noblesse oblige is a good motto for us all, only when one is born with faiblesse instead of noblesse, it becomes faiblesse oblige. Furthermore, sir, if I am to have the reputation, I must insist upon the perquisites."
What I replied to this bit of moralizing I shall not put down here, since I have no wish to commit myself thus publicly. I will say, however, that I did not blame the youthful-looking person unreservedly.
"Moreover, I have very fine apartments in Hades," he added, "and I should hate to give them up. I live at the select home for gods and gentlemen, kept by Madame Persephone. When she takes an interest in one of her boarders she is a mighty fine landlady, and, like most ladies, if I may say it with all due modesty, she has taken an interest in me. The result is that I have the best suite in the house, overlooking the Styx, and as fine a table as any one could want. But I must ask your pardon, sir, for taking up so much of your time with my personal affairs. We both seem to have forgotten that I am here to wait upon you."
"It has been very interesting, Adonis," I said. "And if it's anybody's fault, it is mine. What I wished of you was that you should get out my breakfast-suit, so that I might dress and go to the dining-room."
"Certainly, sir," he replied, walking to the clothes-closet. "Pardon me, but—ah—what is your profession when at home?"
"Why do you ask?" I queried. "Not that I am unwilling to tell you, but—"
"I merely wished to guide my selection of your garments. If you are a naval officer, I will put out your admiral's uniform. If you are a professional golfer, I'll get out your red coat."
"I am a literary man," I said.
"Ah!" he observed, lifting his eyebrows. "Then, of course, you won't mind wearing these."
And he hauled forth a pair of black-and-white trousers with checks as large as the squares of a chessboard, a blue cloth vest with white polka dots, and a long, gray Prince Albert coat, with mauve satin lapels. The shirt was pink and blue, stripes of each alternating, running cross-ways, a white collar, and a flaring red four-in-hand tie!
"Great Scott, Adonis!" I cried. "Must I wear those?"
"You're under no compulsion to do so," said he. "But I thought you said you were a literary man."
"Well—literary men never care what they wear so long as they attract attention, do they?"
I laughed. "We are not all built that way, Adonis," said I. "Some of us are modest and have a little taste."
"Well, it's news to me," said he. "I guess it must be among the minor lights."
"It is—generally," said I. "And if you don't mind, I'd rather wear the golf clothes."
And I did.
The Olympian Links
"There," said Adonis, as he put the finishing touch to my costume. "You look like a champion. Do you play golf, sir?"
"There's a difference of opinion about that, Adonis," I replied, my mind reverting to the number of handicap matches I hadn't won. "Some people who have observed my game say I don't. Have you links here?"
"Have we links?" he cried. "Well, rather. They're said to be the best in the universe."
"And are they handy?"
"Very—in the season."
"I don't quite catch the idea," I said.
"Oh, sometimes the course is nearer than it is at others. Come here a minute," he said, "and I'll point it out to you."
He drew me to the wonderful window of which I have already spoken, and through the powerful glass pointed in the direction of Mars.
"See that?" he said.
"Yes," I replied. "That is Mars."
"Exactly," said Adonis. "Mars is the Olympian links. His distance from here varies, as you are probably aware. When Mars is near aphelion he is 61,800,000 miles away, but in his perihelion he gets it down to 33,800,000. That's why we have our golf season while Mars is in his perihelion. It saves us 28,000,000 miles in getting there."
I laughed. "You call that handy, do you?" I said.
"Why not?" he asked. "It's a matter of five minutes on a bike, ten minutes in the automobile, and twenty minutes if you walk."
"Of course, Adonis," said I, "I'm not so green as to swallow all that. How the dickens can you walk through space?"
"You're vastly greener than you think you are," he retorted, rather uncivilly, perhaps, for a valet, but I paid no attention to that, preferring to take him, despite his menial capacity, in his godlike personality. "I might even say, sir, that your greenness is spacious. You judge us from your own mean, limited, mundane point of view. But you needn't think because you earth people cannot walk on air we Olympians are equally incapacitated. You can walk there in two ways. One of these is to fasten a pair of ankle-wings on your legs; the other is to purchase a pair of sky-scrapers. These are simple, consisting merely of boots with gas soles. You inflate the soles with gas and walk along. It's simple and easy, doesn't require any practice, and as long as you keep up in the air and don't step on church steeples or weather-vanes it's perfectly safe. Of course, if you stepped on a sharp-pointed weather-vane, or a lightning-rod, and punctured your sole, there's no telling what would happen."
"And how about the wings?" I asked.
"They're much more exhilarating, but a little dangerous if you don't know how to use them," Adonis replied. "Flying isn't any easier than roller-skating, and if you upset and get your head below your feet it's extremely difficult to right yourself again. If you try to go out there with ankle-wings, take my advice and wear a pair of small balloons about your chest to hold you right-end upward."
"I'll remember," said I, somewhat awed at the prospect of trying to walk through space with the aid of ankle-wings. "And how about the bicycle?" I added.
"If you can ride a bicycle on an ordinary road you'll have no trouble," he replied. "Keep your tires well filled with gas and avoid headers. If I were you, though, at first I'd go out on the automobile. It makes six round trips a day and it's absolutely safe. Being so high up in the air might make you dizzy, and you might find the bicycling too much for your nerves. After a little while you'll get used to enormous heights, and then, of course, you can go any old way you choose. The fare for the round trip is only fifteen hundred dollars."
"The automobile is in competent hands, eh?"
"Yes," said Adonis. "Phaeton has charge of it."
"Humph!" I sneered. "He's your idea of a competent driver, eh? He hasn't that reputation on earth. Was it an untruth that credits him with a fine smash-up when he tried to drive the chariot of the sun?"
"Not a bit of it," said Adonis. "That's all of it simple truth. I happen to know, because I saw the finish of the whole thing myself, and was one of the fellows who turned a fire-extinguisher on him and saved him from being a total loss to the insurance companies. But he learned his lesson. There's nothing like experience to teach caution, and that little episode gave Phaeton caution to burn, if I may indulge in mundane slang. He was guyed so unmercifully by everybody for his carelessness that the first thing he did when he recovered was to learn how to drive, and it wasn't six cycles before he was the most expert whip in Olympus. He finally made a profession of it and established a livery-stable. Then, when the automobile came in and horses went out of fashion, he kept up with the times, and is to-day in charge of all our rapid transit—he owns the franchises for the Jupiter and Dipper Trolley Road, he is the largest stockholder in the Metropolitan Traction Company of Neptune, Saturn, and Venus, and is said to be the moving spirit back of the new underground electric in Hades."
"I guess he'll do," said I, reflecting with admiration upon the wonderful self-rehabilitation of one I had previously regarded as a foolish incompetent.
"You won't have to guess again in this case," said Adonis, dryly. "You've hit it right the very first time."
"Well, tell me about the links, Adonis," said I. "Getting there seems to be an easy matter, but after you get there, how about the course? Is it eighteen holes?"
"It is," said Adonis, "and of proper length, too, and splendidly arranged. You start at the club-house right near the landing-stage and play right around the planet, so that when you're through you're back at the club-house again. At the ninth hole there is a half-way house, where you can get nectar, and ambrosia, and sarsaparilla, and any other soft drink you want."
"No hard drinks, eh?" I queried.
"Not at the half-way house," said Adonis. "We gods have too much sense to indulge in hard drinks in the middle of a game. If you want hard drinks you have to wait till you get back to the club-house."
"That is rather sensible," I said, as I thought of how a Martini cocktail taken at the ninth hole had ruined my chances in the Noodleport Annual Handicap last autumn. "But I say, Adonis," I added, "did I understand you to say that you played all around Mars?"
"Yes—why not?" said he.
"Pretty long holes, I should say," said I. "Mars is four thousand miles round, isn't it?"
"You are an earth-worm," he retorted, forgetting his place wholly in his scorn for my picayune ideas. "Calling a paltry four thousand miles long—why, you can play around that links in two hours and a half."
"Indeed?" said I. "And how long may your hours be? Everything here is on such a magnificent scale, I suppose one of your hours is about equal to one of our decades."
"Oh no," said Adonis. "It isn't that way at all. Fact is, we make our hours to suit ourselves. I am merely reckoning on a basis that you would comprehend. I meant two and a half of your hours. Any moderately expert player can play the Mars links in that time. Take the first hole, for instance—it's only two hundred and fifty miles long."
"Really—is that all!" I ejaculated, growing sarcastic. "A drive, two brassies, an approach, and forty puts, I presume?"
"For a duffer, perhaps," retorted Adonis. "Willie Ph[oe]bus does it in six. A seventy-five-mile drive, a seventy-mile brassie, a loft over the canal for twenty-five miles, a forty-five-mile cleak, a thirty-mile approach, and—"
"A dead easy put of five miles!" I put in, making a pretence of being no longer astonished.
"That's the idea," said Adonis. "Of course, everybody can't do it," he added. "And bogie for that hole is really seven. Willie Ph[oe]bus played too well for a gentleman, so we made him a professional. He'll give you lessons for a thousand dollars an hour, if you want him to."
"Thanks," said I. "I'll think about it. Can he teach me how to drive a ball seventy-five miles?"
"That depends on your capacity," said Adonis. "Some of the best players frequently drive seventy-five miles—the record is ninety-six miles, made by Jove himself. Willie taught him."
"For Heaven's sake!" I cried, losing my self-poise for an instant. "What do you drive with? Olympian Gatling guns?"
"Not at all," replied Adonis. "We use one of our regular drivers—the best is called the 'celestial catapult.' Ph[oe]bus sells 'em at the Caddie House for five hundred dollars apiece. If you strike a ball fair and square with the 'celestial catapult,' and neither pull nor slice, it can't help going forty miles, anyhow."
"And how, may I ask, do the caddies find a ball that goes seventy-five miles?"
"They don't have to. All our balls are self-finding," said Adonis. "The ball in use now is a recent invention of Vulcan's. They cost twelve hundred dollars a dozen. They are made of liquefied electricity. We take the electric current, liquefy it, then solidify it, then mould it into the form of a sphere. Inside we place a little gong, that begins to ring as soon as the ball lands. The electricity in it is what makes it fly so rapidly and so far, and even you mortals know the principle of the electric bell."
"Oh, indeed we do," said I, pulling at my mustache nervously. I was beginning to get excited over this celestial golf. On earth I have all of the essentials of a first-class golf maniac, except the ability to play the game. But this so far surpassed anything I had ever seen or imagined before that I was growing too keen over it for comfort. I was in real need of having my spirits curbed, so I ventured to inquire after a phase of the game that has always dampened my ardor in the past—the caddie service. I did not expect that this could attain perfection even in Olympus, and I was not far wrong.
"You must have pretty lively caddies," I threw out.
Adonis sighed. "You'd think so, but that's where we are always in trouble. We've tried various schemes, but they haven't any of 'em worked well. At first we took our own Olympian boys. We got the mother of the Gracchi to lend us her offspring, but they weren't worth a rap. Then we hired forty little devils from Hades, and we had to send them back inside of a week. They were regular little imps. They were cutting up monkey shines all the time, and waggled their horrid little tails so constantly that Jove himself couldn't keep his eye on the ball—and the language they used was something frightful. You couldn't trust them to clean your clubs, because there wasn't any power anywhere that could keep them from running off with 'em; and in the matter of balls, they'd steal every blessed one they could lay their hands on. We finally had to employ cherubs. We've about sixty of 'em on hand now all the time, and they come as near being perfect as you could expect. Ever see a cherub?"
"Only in pictures," said I. "They're just heads with wings, aren't they?"
"Yes," said Adonis, "and, having no bodies, they're seldom in the way, and some of the best of 'em can fly almost as fast as the ball."
"How do they carry the bags?" I asked, much interested.
"They hang 'em about their necks, just above their wings," Adonis explained, "but even they are not perfect. They fly very carelessly, and often, in swooping about the sky, drop your clubs out of the bag and smash 'em; and they all look so infernally alike that you can never tell your own caddy from the other fellow's, which is sometimes very confusing."
"Still," I put in, "a caddie with no pockets is a very safe person to intrust with golf balls."
"That's very true," said Adonis, "and I suppose the cherubs make as good caddies as we can expect. Caddies will be caddies, and that's the end of it. You can't expect a caddie to do just right any more than you can expect water to flow uphill. There are certain immutable laws of the universe which are as unchangeable in Olympus as on earth or in Hades. Ice is cold, fire is hot, water is wet, and caddies are caddies."
"Very true," said I, reflecting upon the ways of "Some Caddies I have Met." "What do you pay them a round?"
"One hundred and twenty-five dollars," said Adonis.
"Cheap enough," said I. "But tell me, Adonis," I continued, "who is your amateur champion?"
"Jupiter, of course," said Adonis, with an impatient shake of his head. "He's champion of everything. It's one of his prerogatives. We don't any of us dare win a cup from him for fear he'll use his power to destroy us. That is one of the features of this Olympian life that is not pleasant—though, for goodness' sake, don't say I told you! He'd send me into perpetual exile if he knew I'd spoken that way. He's threatened to make me Governor-General of the Dipper half a dozen times already for things I've said, and I have to be very careful, or he'll do it."
"An unpleasant post, that?"
"Well," he said, "I don't exactly know how to compare it so that you would understand precisely. I should say, however, it would be about as agreeable as being United States ambassador to Borneo."
"I'll never tell, Adonis," said I, "and I'm very much obliged to you for our pleasant chat. Your description of the links has interested me hugely. If I could afford a game at your prices, I think I'd play."
"Oh, as for that," said Adonis, laughing, "don't let that bother you. Whenever you want to pay a bill here all you have to do is to press the cash button on the teleseme over there, and they'll send the money up from the office."
"But how shall I ever repay the office?" I cried.
"Press the button to the left of it, and they'll send you up a receipt in full," he replied.
"You mean to say that this hotel is run—" I began.
"On the Olympian plan," interrupted the valet with a low bow. "All bills here are of that pleasing variety known as 'Self-paying.'"
With which comforting assurance Adonis left me, and I started for the dining-room, my appetite considerably whetted by the idea of a game of golf over links four thousand miles in length with balls that could be driven fifty or sixty miles, and cherubs for caddies, at no cost to myself whatsoever.
In the Dining-Room
As I emerged from the door of my room into the hall, I found a small sedan-chair, of highly ornamental make, awaiting my convenience, carried upon the shoulders of two diminutive boys, who were as black, and shone as lustrously, as a bit of highly polished ebony. I had never seen their like before, save in an occasional bit of statuary in Italy, wherein marbles of differing hue and shade had been ingeniously used by the sculptor to give color to his work. The boys themselves, as I have said, were of polished ebony hue, while the breech-cloths which formed their sole garment were of purest alabaster white. Upon their heads were turbans of pink. They grinned broadly as I came out, and opened the door of the chair for me.
"Dis way fo' de dinin'-room, sah," said one of them, showing a set of ivory teeth that dazzled my eyes.
I thanked him and entered the chair. When I was seated, I turned to the little chap.
"What particular god do you happen to be, Sambo?" I asked. It was probably not the most reverent way to put it, but in a community like Olympus gods are really at a discount, and the black particle was so like a small pickaninny I used to know in Savannah that I could not address him as if he were Jupiter himself.
"Massy me, massa," he returned, his smile nearly cutting the top of his head off, reaching as it did around to the back of his ears. "I ain' no gord. I'se jess one o' dese low-down or'nary toters. Me an' him totes folks roun' de hotel."
"A very useful function that, Sambo; and where were you born?" I asked. "North Carolina, or Georgia?"
"Me?" he replied, looking at me quizzically. "I guess yo's on'y foolin', massa. Me? Why, I 'ain't never been borned at all, sah—"
"Jess growed, eh—like Topsy?" I asked.
"Who dat, Topsy?" he demanded.
"Oh, she was a little nigger girl that became very famous," I explained.
"Doan' know nuffin' 'bout no Topsy," he said, shaking his head. "We ain' niggers, eider, yo' know, me an' him ain't. We's statulary."
"What?" I cried. The word seemed new.
"Statulary," he continued. "We was carved, we was. There ain't nothin' borned 'bout us. Never knowed who pap was. Man jess took a lot o' mahble, he did, an' chiselled me an' him out."
I eyed both boys closely and perceived that in all probability he spoke the truth. His flesh and dress had all of the texture of marble, but now the question came up as to the gift of speech and movement and the marvellous and graceful flexibility of their limbs.
"You can't fool me, Sambo," said I. "You're nothing but a very good-looking little nigger. You can't make me believe that you are another Galatea."
"Doan' no nuffin' 'bout no gal's tears," he returned instantly. "But I done tole yo' de truf. Me an' him was chiselled out o' brack marble by pap. Ef we'd been borned we'd been niggahs sho' nuff, but bein' carvin's, like I tole yuh, we's statulary."
"But how does it come that if you are only statuary, you can move about, and talk, and breathe?" I demanded.
"Yo'll have to ask mistah Joop'ter 'bout dat," the boy answered. "He done gave us dese gif's, an' we's a-usin' ob 'em. De way it happened was like o' dis. Me an' him was a standin' upon a petterstal down in one o' dem mahble yards what dey calls gall'ries in Paris. We'd been sent dah by de man what done chiselled us, an' Joop'ter he came 'long wid Miss' Juno an' when he seed us he said: 'Dare you is, Juno! Dem boys'll make mighty good buttonses foh de hotel.' Juno she laffed, an' said dat was so, on'y she couldn't see as we had many buttons. 'Would you like to have 'em?' Joop'ter ast, and she said 'suttinly.' So he tu'ned hisself into a 'Merican millionaire an' bought me an' him off 'n de manager, an' he had us sent here. All dat time we was nuffin' but mahble figgers, but soon's we arrived here, Joop'ter sent us up-stairs to de lab'ratory, an' fust ting me an' him knowed we was livin' bein's."
I admired Jupiter's taste, not failing either to marvel at the wonderful power which only once before, as far as I knew, he had exerted to give to a bit of sculpture all the flush and glory of life, as in the case set forth in the pathetic tale of Pygmalion and Galatea.
"And does he do this sort of thing often?" I inquired.
"Yass indeedy," said Sambo. "He's doin' it all de time. Mos' ob de help in dis hotel is statulary, an' ef yo' wants to see a reel lively time 'foh yo' goes back home, go to de Zoo an' see 'em feed de Trojan Hoss, an' de Cardiff Giant. He brang bofe dem freaks to life, an' now he can't get rid ob 'em. Dat Trojan Hoss suttinly am a berry debbil. He stans up gentle as a lamb tell he gets about a hundred an' fifty people inside o' him, an' den he p'tends like he's gwine to run away, an' he cyanters, an' cyanters aroun', tell ebberybody's dat seasick dey can't res'."
I resolved then and there to see the Trojan Horse, but not to get inside of him. I never before had suspected that the famous beast had a sense of humor in his makeup. I was about to make some further inquiry when a bell above us began to sound forth sonorously.
"Massy me!" cried little Sambo, springing to his place in front of the chair. "Dat's de third an' lass call for breakfas'. We done spent too much time talkin'."
With which observation, he and his companion, shouldering their burden, trotted along the richly furnished hall to the dining-room. I then observed a charming feature of life in the Olympian Hotel, and I presume it obtains elsewhere in that favored spot. There are no such things as stairs within its walls. From the magnificent office on the ground floor to the glorious dining-room on the forty-eighth, the broad corridor runs round and round and round again with an upward incline that is barely perceptible—indeed, not perceptible at all either to the eye or to the muscles of the leg. And while there are the most speedy elevators connecting all the various floors, one can, if one chooses, walk from cellar to roof of this marvellous place without realizing that he is mounting to an unusual elevation. And in the evening these corridors form a magnificent parade, brilliantly lighted, upon which are to be met all the wealth, beauty, and fashion of Olympus—alas! that I have no means of returning there with certain of my friends with whom I would share the good things that have come into my life!
But to return to the story. Sambo and his brother soon "toted" me to the entrance of the dining-room—graceful little beggars they were, too.
"Your breakfast is ready, sir," said the head waiter, bowing low.
What impelled me to do so I shall never know, but it was an inspiration. I seemed to recognize the man at once, and, as I had frequently done on earth to my own advantage, I addressed him by name.
"Having a good season, Memnon?" I said, slipping a silver dollar into his hand.
It worked. Whether I should have found the same excellent service had I not spoken pleasantly to him I, of course, cannot say, but I have never been so well cared for elsewhere. The captious reader may ask how anything so essentially worldly as a silver dollar ever crept into Olympus. I can only say that one of the magic properties of the garment I wore was that whatever I put my hand into my pocket for, I got. As a travelled American, realizing the potency under similar conditions of that heavy and ugly coin, I instinctively sought for it in my pocket and it was there. I do not attempt to explain the process of its getting there. It suffices to say that, as the guest of the gods, my every wish was met with speedy attainment. I could not help but marvel, too, at the appropriateness of everything. What better than that the King of the Ethiopians should be head waiter to the gods!
"Things are never dull here, sir," said Memnon, pocketing my dollar and escorting me to my table. "We do not often have visitors like yourself, however, and we are very glad to see you."
I sat down before a magnificent window which seemed to open out upon a universe hitherto undreamed of.
"Do you wish the news, sir?" Memnon asked, respectfully.
"Yes," said I. "Ah—news from home, Memnon," I added.
"Political or merely family?" said he.
"Family," said I.
Memnon busied himself about the window and in a moment, gazing through it, I had the pleasure of seeing my two boys eating their supper and challenging each other to mortal combat over a delinquent strawberry resting upon the tablecloth.
"Give me a little politics, Memnon," said I, as the elder boy thrashed the younger, not getting the strawberry, however, which in a quick moment, between blows, the younger managed to swallow. "They seem to be about as usual at home."
And I was immediately made aware of the intentions of the administration at Washington merely by looking through a window. There were the President and his cabinet and—some others who assist in making up the mind of the statesman.
"Now a dash of crime," said I.
"High or low?" asked Memnon, fingering the push-button alongside of the window.
"The highest you've got," said I.
I shall not describe what I saw. It was not very horrible. It was rather discouraging. It dealt wholly with the errors of what is known as Society. It showed the mistakes of persons for whom I had acquired a feeling of awe. It showed so much that I summoned Memnon to shut the glass off. I was really afraid somebody else might see. And I did not wish to lose my respect for people who were leaders in the highest walks of social life. Still, a great many things that have happened since in high life have not been wholly surprising to me. I have furthermore so ordered my own goings and comings since that time that I have no fear of what the Peeping Toms of Olympus may see. If mankind could only be made to understand that this window of Olympus opens out upon every act of their lives, there might be radical reforms in some quarters where it would do a deal of good, although to the general public there seems to be no need for it.
At this point a waiter put a small wafer about as large as a penny upon the table.
"H'm—what's that, Memnon?" I asked.
"Essence of melon," said he.
"Good, is it?" I queried.
"You might taste it and see, sir," he said, with a smile. "It is one of a lot especially prepared for Jupiter."
I put the thing in my mouth, and oh, the sensation that followed! I have eaten melons, and I have dreamed melons, but never in either experience was there to be found such an ecstasy of taste as I now got.
"Another, Memnon—another!" I cried.
"If you wish, sir," said he. "But very imprudent, sir. That wafer was constructed from six hundred of the choicest—"
"Quite right," said I, realizing the situation; "quite right. Six hundred melons are enough for any man. What do you propose to give me now?"
"Oeufs Midas," said Memnon.
"Sounds rather rich," I observed.
"It would cost you 4,650,000 francs for a half portion at a Paris cafe, if you could get it there—which you can't."
"And what, Memnon," said I, "is the peculiarity of eggs Midas?"
"It's nothing but an omelet, sir," he replied; "but it is made of eggs laid by the goose of whom you have probably read in the Personal Recollections of Jack the Giant-Killer. They are solid gold."
"Heavens!" I cried. "Solid gold! Great Scott, Memnon, I can't digest a solid gold omelet. What do you think I am—an assay office?"
Memnon grinned until every tooth in his head showed, making his mouth look like the keyboard of a grand piano.
"It is perfectly harmless the way it is prepared in the kitchen, sir," he explained. "It isn't an eighteen-karat omelet, as you seem to think. The eggs are solid, but the omelet is not. It is, indeed, only six karats fine. The alloy consists largely of lactopeptine, hydrochloric acid, and various other efficient digestives which render it innocuous to the most delicate digestion."
"Very well, Memnon," I replied, making a wry face, "bring it on. I'll try a little of it, anyhow." I must confess it did not sound inviting, but a guest should never criticise the food that is placed before him. My politeness was well repaid, for nothing more delicate in the way of an omelet has ever titillated my palate. There was a slight metallic taste about it at first, but I soon got over that, just as I have got used to English oysters, which, when I eat them, make me feel for a moment as if I had bitten off the end of a brass door-knob; and had I not calculated the cost, I should have asked for a second helping.
Memnon then brought me a platter containing a small object that looked like a Hamburg steak, and a most delicious cup of cafe au lait.
"Filet Olympus," he observed, "and coffee direct from the dairy of the gods."
Both were a joy.
"Never tasted such a steak!" I said, as the delicate morsel actually melted like butter in my mouth.
"No, sir, you never did," Memnon agreed. "It is cut from the steer bred for the sole purpose of supplying Jupiter and his family with tenderloin. We take the calf when it is very young, sir, and surround it with all the luxuries of a bovine existence. It is fed on the most delicate fodder, especially prepared by chemists under the direction of AEsculapius. The cattle, instead of toughening their muscles by walking to pasture, are waited upon by cow-boys in livery. A gentle amount of exercise, just enough to keep them in condition, is taken at regular hours every day, and at night they are put to sleep in feather beds and covered with eiderdown quilts at seven o'clock."
"Don't they rebel?" I asked. "I should think a moderately active calf would be hard to manage that way."
"Oh, at first a little, but after a while they come to like it, and by the time they are ready for killing they are as tender as humming birds' tongues," said Memnon. "If you take him young enough, you can do almost anything you like with a calf."
It seemed like a marvellous scheme, and far more humane than that of fattening geese for the sale of their livers.
"And this coffee, Memnon? You said it was fresh from the dairy of the gods. You get your coffee from the dairy?" I asked.
"The breakfast coffee—yes, sir," replied Memnon. "Fresh every morning. You must ask the steward to let you see the cafe-au-lait herd—"
"The what?" I demanded.
"The cafe-au-lait herd," repeated Memnon. "A special permit is required to go through the coffee pasture where these cows are fed. Some one, who had a grudge against Pales, who is in charge of the dairymaids, got into the field one night and sowed a lot of chicory in with the coffee, and the result was that the next season we got the worst coffee from those cows you ever tasted. So they made a rule that no one is allowed to go there any more without a card from the steward."
"You don't mean to say—" I began.
"Yes, I do," said Memnon. "It is true. We pasture our cows on a coffee farm, and, instead of milk, we get this that you are drinking."
"Wonderful idea!" said I.
"It is, indeed," said Memnon; "that is, from your point of view. From ours, it does not seem so strange. We are used to marvels here, sir," he continued. "Would you care for anything more, sir?"
"No, Memnon," said I. "I have fared sumptuously—my—ah—my appetite is somewhat taken away by all these tremendous things."
"I will have an appetite up for you, if you wish," he replied, simply, as if it were the easiest thing in the world.
"No, thank you," said I. "I think I'll wait until I am acclimated. I never eat heavily for the first twenty-four hours when I am in a strange place."
And with this I went to the door, feeling, I must confess, a trifle ill. The steak and coffee were all right, but there was a suggestion of pain in my right side. I could not make up my mind if it were the six hundred melons or whether a nugget from the omelet had got caught in my vermiform appendix.
At any rate, I didn't wish to eat again just then.
At the door the sedan-chair and the two little blackamoors were awaiting me.
"We have orders to take you to the Zoo, sah," said Sambo.
"All right, Sambo," said I. "I'm all ready. A little air will do me good."
And we moved along.
I forgot to mention that, as he closed the chair door upon me, Memnon handed me back the silver dollar I had given him.
"What is this, Memnon?" said I.
"The dollar you wished me to keep for you, sir," he replied.
"But I intended it for you," said I.
His face flushed.
"I am just as much obliged, sir, but, really, I couldn't, you know. We don't take tips in Olympus, sir."
"Indeed?" said I. "Well—I'm sorry to have offended you, Memnon. I meant it all right. Why didn't you tell me when I gave it you?"
"I should have given you a check for it, sir. I supposed you didn't wish to carry anything so heavy about with you."
"Ah!" said I, replacing the dollar in my pocket. "Thank you for your care of it, Memnon. No offence, I hope?"
"None at all, sir," he replied, again showing his wonderful ivory teeth. "I don't take offence at anything so trifling. Had you handed me a billion dollars, I should have declined to wait on you."
And he bowed me away in a fashion which made me feel keenly the narrowness of my escape.
We had not gone very far along when the pain in my side became poignant and I called out of the window to Sambo:
"Sammy, is there a doctor anywhere on the way out to the Zoo?" I asked.
"Yassir," he replied, slowing down a trifle. "We gotter go right by de doh ob Dr. Skilapius."
"Doctor who?" I asked—the name was new to me.
"'Tain't Skill-apius," growled the boy behind, who seemed rather jealous that I had taken no notice of him. "It's Eee-skill-apius."
"Oh," said I, beginning to catch their drift. "Dr. AEsculapius. Is that what you are trying to say?"
"Yassir," said both boys. "Dass de man."
"Well, stop at his office a moment," said I. "I'm feeling a trifle ill."
In a few minutes we drew up before a large door to the right of the corridor before which there hung a shingle marked in large gilt letters:
- AESCULAPIUS, M.D. Office Hours: 10 to 12. Tuesdays. -
I knocked at the door and was promptly admitted.
"I wish to see the doctor," said I.
"This is Monday, sir," the maid replied—I couldn't quite place her, but she seemed rather above her station and was stunningly beautiful.
"What of that?" I demanded, as fiercely as I could, considering how pretty the maid was.
"The doctor can only be seen on Tuesdays," said she. "It's on the door."
"But I'm sick," I cried. "Very sick, indeed."
"No doubt," she replied, with a shrug of her shoulders that I found very fetching. "Else you would not have come. But you are not so sick that you can't wait until to-morrow, or if you are, you might as well die, because the doctor won't take a case he can't think over a week."
"Nice arrangement, that," said I, scornfully. "It may do very well for immortals, but for a mortal it's pretty poor business."
The maid's manner underwent an immediate change.
"Excuse me, sir," she said, making me a courtesy. "I did not know you were a mortal. I presumed you were a minor god. The doctor will see you at once."
I was ushered into the consulting-room immediately—in fact, too quickly. I wanted to thank the pretty maid for taking me for an immortal. There was no time for this, however, for in a moment AEsculapius himself appeared.
"You must pardon Alcestis," he said, after the first greetings were over. "She is new to the business and doesn't know a god from a hole in the ground. She presumed you were immortal and did not realize the emergency."
"That's all right, doctor," said I, glad to learn who the entrancing person at the door was. "I've called to see you because—"
"Pray be silent," the doctor interrupted, holding his hand up in admonition. "Let me discover your symptoms for myself. It is the surer method. Physicians in your world are frequently led astray by placing too much reliance upon what their patients tell them. I have devised a new system. Believe nothing the patient says. See? If a man tells me he has a headache, I send him to a chiropodist. If his ankle pains him, I send him to an oculist. If he says his chest is oppressed, I have him treated for spinal meningitis; and an alleged pain in the back my assistants cure by placing a mustard plaster on the throat."
"Then your medical principles are based on what, doctor?" I asked, somewhat amused.
"A simple motto which prevails among you mortals: 'All men are liars'—'Omnes homines mendaces sunt.' It is safer than your accepted methods below. A sick man is the last man in the universe to describe his symptoms accurately. The mere fact that he is ill distorts his judgment. Therefore, I never allow it. If I can't find out for myself what is the matter with a patient, I give up the case."
"And the patient dies?" I suggested.
"Not if he is an immortal," he replied, quietly. "Come over here," he added, indicating a spot near the window where there was a strong light. I went, and AEsculapius, taking a pair of eye-glasses from a cabinet in one corner of his apartment, placed them on the bridge of his nose.
"Now look out of the window," said he. "To the left."
I obeyed at once. What I saw may not be described. I shrank back in horror, for I saw so much real suffering that my own trouble grew less in intensity.
"Now look me straight in the eye," said AEsculapius, an amused smile playing about his lips.
I turned my vision straight upon his glasses and was abashed. I averted my glance.
"Nonsense," said he, taking me by the shoulders. "Look at my pupils—straight—don't be afraid—there! That's it. These glasses won't hurt you, and, after all, I'm not very terrible," he added, genially.
It required an effort, but I made it, although, in so doing, I seemed to be turning my soul inside out for his inspection.
"H'm," breathed AEsculapius. "Rather serious. You think you have appendicitis."
"Have I?" I cried.
AEsculapius laughed. "Have you?" he asked. "What do you think you think?"
"I think I have," said I, my heart growing faint at the very thought I thought I was thinking.
"You are at least sure of your convictions," said AEsculapius. "Now, as a matter of fact, the thoughts your thoughtful nature has induced you to think are utterly valueless. You have a pain in your side?"
"Yes," said I. "And a very painful pain in my side—and I am not putting on any side in my pain either," I added.
"No doubt," said AEsculapius. "But are you sure it is in your side, or isn't it your chest that aches a trifle, eh?"
"Not much," said I, growing doubtful on the subject.
"Still it aches," said he.
"Yes," I answered, the pain in my side weakening in favor of one in my chest. "It does." And it really did, like the deuce.
"Now about that pain in your chest," said AEsculapius. "Isn't it rather higher up—in your throat, instead of your chest?"
My throat began to hurt, and abominably. Every particle of it throbbed with pain, and my chest was immediately relieved.
"I think," said I, weakly, "that the pain is rather in my throat than in my chest."
"But your side doesn't ache at all?" suggested AEsculapius.
I had forgotten my side altogether.
"Not a bit," said I; and it didn't.
"So far, so good," said the doctor. "Now, my friend, about this throat trouble of yours. Do you think you have diphtheria, or merely toothache?"
I hadn't thought of toothache before, but as soon as the doctor mentioned it, a pang went through my lower jaw, and my larynx seemed all right again.
"Well, doctor," said I, "as a matter of fact, the pain does seem to be in my wisdom teeth."
"So-called," said he, quietly. "More tooth than wisdom, generally. And not in your throat?" continued the doctor.
"Not a bit of it," said I. My throat seemed strong enough for a political campaign in which I was principal speaker. "It's all in my teeth."
"Upper or lower?" he asked, with a laugh, and then he gazed fixedly at me.
I had not realized that I had upper teeth until he spoke, and a shudder went through me as a semicircle of pain shot through my upper jaw.
"Upper," I retorted, with some surliness.
"Verging a trifle on your cheekbones, and thence to the optic nerve," he said, calmly, still gazing into my soul. "I'll try your sight. Look at that card over there, and tell me—"
"What nonsense is this, doctor?" I cried, angry at his airy manner and manifest control over my symptoms. "There is nothing the matter with my eyes. They're as good as any one of the million eyes of your friend the Argus."
"Then what, in the name of Jupiter, is the matter with you?" he ejaculated, elevating his eyebrows.
"Nothing at all," said I, sulkily.
AEsculapius threw himself on the sofa and roared with laughter.
"Perfectly splendid!" he said, when he had recovered from his mirth. "Perfectly splendid! You are the best example of the value of my system I've had in a long time. Now let me show you something," he added. "Put these glasses on."
He took the glasses from his nose and put them astride of mine, and lead me before a mirror—a cheval-glass arrangement that stood in one corner of the room.
"Now look yourself straight in the eye," said he.
I did so, and truly it was as if I looked upon the page of a book printed in the largest and clearest type. I hesitate to say what I saw written there, since the glass was strong enough to reach not only the mind itself, but further into the very depths of my subself-consciousness. On the surface, man thinks well of himself; this continues in modified intensity to his self-consciousness, but the fool does not live who, in his subself-consciousness, the Holy of Holies of Realization, does not know that he is a fool.
"Take 'em off," I cried, for they seemed to burn into the very depths of my soul.
"That isn't necessary," said AEsculapius, kindly. "Just turn your eyes away from the glass a moment and they won't bother you. I want to cure this trouble of yours."
I stopped looking at myself in the mirror and the tense condition of my nerves was immediately relieved.
"Feel better right away, eh?" he asked.
"Yes," I admitted.
"So I thought," he said. "You've momentarily given up self-contemplation. Now lower your gaze. Look at your chest a moment."
Just what were the properties of the glass I do not know, nor do I know how one's chest should look, but, as I looked down, I found that just as I could penetrate to the depths of my mind through my eyes, so was it possible for me to inspect myself physically.
"Nothing the matter there, eh?" said AEsculapius.
"Not that I can see," said I.
"Nor I," said he. "Now, if you think there is anything the matter with you anywhere else," he added, "you are welcome to use the glasses as long as you see fit."
I took a sneaking glance at my right side and was immediately made aware of the fact that all was well with me there, and that all my trouble had come from my ill-advised "wondering" whether that Midas omelet would bother me or not.
"These glasses are wonderful," said I.
"They are a great help," said AEsculapius.
"And do you always permit your patients to put them on?" I asked.
"Not always," said he. "Sometimes people really have something the matter with them. More often, of course, they haven't. It would never do to let a really sick man see his condition. If they are ill, I can see at once what is the matter by means of these spectacles, and can, of course, prescribe. If they are not, there is no surer means of effecting a cure than putting these on the patient's nose and letting him see for himself that he is all right."
"They have all the quality of the X-ray light," I suggested, turning my gaze upon an iron safe in the corner of the room, which immediately disclosed its contents.
"They are X-ray glasses," said AEsculapius. "In a good light you can see through anything with 'em on. I have lenses of the same kind in my window, and when you came up I looked at you through the window-pane and saw at once that there was nothing the matter with you."
"I wish our earthly doctors had glasses like these," I ventured, taking them off, for truly I was beginning to fancy a strain.
"They have—or at least they have something quite as good," said AEsculapius. "They are all my disciples, and in the best instances they can see through the average patient without them. They have insight. You don't believe you deceive your physician, do you?"
"I have sometimes thought so," said I, not realizing the trap the doctor was setting.
"How foolish!" he cried. "Why should you wish to?"
I was covered with confusion.
"Never mind," said AEsculapius, smiling pleasantly. "You are only human and cannot help yourself. It is your imagination leads you astray. Half the time when you send for your physician there is nothing the matter with you."
"He always prescribes," I retorted.
"That is for your comfort, not his," said AEsculapius, firmly.
"And sometimes they operate when it isn't necessary," I put in, persistently.
"True," said AEsculapius. "Very true. Because if they didn't, the patient would die of worry."
"Humph!" said I, incredulous. "I never knew that the operation for appendicitis was a mind cure."
"It is—frequently," observed the doctor. "There are more people, my friend, who have appendicitis on their minds than there are those who have it in their vermiforms. Don't forget that."
It was a revelation, and, to tell the truth, it has been a revelation of comfort ever since.
"I fancy, doctor," said I, after a pause, "that you are a Christian Scientist. All troubles are fanciful and indicative of a perverse soul."
"If one of the gods had said that," he replied, "I should have operated upon him. As a mortal, you are privileged to say unpleasant things, just as a child may say things to his elders with impunity which merit extreme punishment. Christian Science is all right when you are truly well—in good physical condition. It is a sure cure for imaginary troubles, but when you are really sick, it is not of Olympus, but of Hades."