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12 - I am Dismissed

It was a very interesting programme for my further entertainment that
Jupiter mapped out on our way back from the links, and I deeply regret
that an untoward incident that followed later, for which I was
unintentionally responsible, prevented its being carried out. I was to
have been taken off on a cruise on the inland sea, to where the lost
island of Atlantis was to be found; a special tournament at ping-pong
was to be held in my honor, in which minor planets were to be used
instead of balls, and the players were to be drawn from among the
Titans, who were retained to perform feats of valor, skill, and
strength for Jupiter. The forge of Vulcan was to be visited, and many
of the mysteries of the centre of the earth were to be revealed, and,
best of all, Jupiter himself had promised to give me an exhibition of
his own skill as a marksman in the hurling of thunder-bolts, and _I
was to select the objects to be hit!_ Think of it! What a chance lay
here for a man to be rid of certain things on earth that he did not
like! What a vast amount of ugly American architecture one could be
rid of in the twinkling of an eye! What a lot of enemies and eyesores
it was now in my power to have removed by an electrical process
availed of in the guise of sport! I spent an hour on that list of
targets, and if only I had been allowed to prolong my stay in the home
of the gods, the world itself would have benefited, for I was not
altogether personal in my selection of things for Jupiter to aim at.
There was Tammany Hall, for instance, and the Boxers of China--these
led my list. There were four or five sunlight-destroying, sky-scraping
office buildings in New York and elsewhere; nuisances of every kind
that I could think of were put down--the headquarters of the Beef
Trust and a few of its sponsors; the editorial offices of the peevish
and bilious newspapers, which deny principles and right motives to all
save themselves; a regiment of alleged humorists who make jokes about
the mother-in-law and other sacred relations of life; an opera-box
full of the people who hum every number of Wagner and Verdi through,
and keep other people from hearing the singers; row after row of
theatre-goers who come in late and trample over the virtuous folk who
have arrived punctually; any number of theatrical managers who mistake
gloom for amusement; three or four smirking matin�e idols, whose
talents are measured by the fit of their clothes, the length of their
hair, and their ability to spit supernumeraries with a tin sword;
cab-drivers who had overcharged me; insolent railway officials; the
New York Central Tunnel--indeed, the completed list stretches on to
such proportions that it would require more pages than this book
contains to present them in detail. I even thought of including
Hippopopolis in the list, but when I realized that it was entirely
owing to his villany that I had enjoyed the delightful privilege of
visiting the gods in their own abode, I spared him. And to think that
because of an unintentional error this great opportunity to rid the
world, and incidentally myself, of much that is vexatious was wholly
lost is a matter of sincere grief to myself.

It happened in this way: Hardly had I returned to my delightful
apartment at the hotel, when a messenger arrived bearing a superbly
engraved command from Jupiter to dine with himself and Juno _en
famille_. It was a kind, courteous, and friendly note, utterly devoid
of formality, and we were to spend the evening at cards. Jupiter had
indicated in the afternoon that he would like to learn bridge, and,
inasmuch as I never travel anywhere without a text-book upon that
fascinating subject, I had volunteered to teach him. The dinner was
given largely to enable me to do this, and, moreover, Jupiter was
quite anxious to have me meet his family, and promised me that before
the evening was over I should hear some music from the lyre of Apollo,
meet all the muses, and enjoy a chafing-dish snack prepared by the
fair hand of Juno herself.

"I'll have Polyphemus up to give us a few coon songs if you like
them," he added, "and altogether I can promise you a delightful
evening. We drop all our state at these affairs, and I know you'll
enjoy yourself."

"I shall feel a trifle embarrassed in the presence of so many gods and
goddesses, I am afraid," I put in.

"I'll fix you out as to that," Jupiter replied. "I'll change you for
the time being into a god yourself, if you wish."

I laughed at the idea.

"A high old god I'd make," said I.

"You'd pass," he observed, quietly. "I'll call you Pencillius, god of
Chirography--or would you rather come as Nonsensius, the newly
discovered deity of Jocosity?"

"I think I'd rather be Zero, god of Nit," said I, and it was so
ordained.

Of course, I accepted the invitation and was on hand at the palace,
as I thought, promptly. As a matter of fact, my watch having in some
mysterious fashion been affected by the excitement of the adventure,
got galloping away just as my own heart had done more than once. The
result was that, instead of arriving at the palace at eight o'clock,
as I was expected to do, I got there at seven. Of course, my exalted
hosts were not ready to receive me, and there were no other guests to
bear me company and keep me out of mischief in the drawing-room, where
for an hour I was compelled to wait. At first all went well. I found
much entertainment in the room, and on the centre-table, a beautiful
bit of furniture, carved out of one huge amethyst, I discovered a
number of books and magazines, which kept me tolerably busy for a
half-hour. There was a finely bound copy of _Don'ts for the Gods, or
Celestial Etiquette_, in which I found many valuable hints on the
procedure of Olympian society--notably one injunction as to the use of
finger-bowls, from which I learned that the gods in their lavishness
have a bowl for each finger; and a little volume by Bacchus on
_Intemperance_, which I wish I might publish for the benefit of my
fellow-mortals. All I remember about it at the moment of writing is
that the author seriously enjoins upon his readers the wickedness of
drinking more than sixty cocktails a day, and utterly deprecates the
habit of certain Englishmen of drinking seven bottles of port at a
sitting. Bacchus seemed to think that, with the other wines incidental
to a dinner, no one, not even an Englishman, should attempt to absorb
more than five bottles of port over his coffee. It struck me as being
rather good advice.

Wearying of the reading at the end of a half-hour, I began a closer
inspection of the room and its contents. It was full of novelties,
and, naturally, gorgeous past all description; but what most excited
my curiosity was a small cabinet, not unlike a stereoscope in shape,
which stood in one corner of the room. It had a button at one side,
over which was a gilt tablet marked "Push." On its front was the
legend, "Drop a Nickel in the Slot, Push the Button, and See the
Future." I followed the instructions eagerly. The nickel was dropped,
the button pushed, and, putting my eyes before the lenses, I gazed
into the remotest days to come. I had come across the Futuroscope,
otherwise a kinetoscope with the gift of prophecy. The coming year
passed rapidly, and I saw what fate had in store for the world for the
twelve months immediately ahead of me; then followed a decade, then a
century, and then others, until, just as I was approaching the dread
cataclysm which is to mark the end of all mortal things, I heard a
quick, startled voice back of me.

It was that of Jupiter, and his tone was a strange mixture of wrath
and regret.

"What on earth have you done?" he cried.

"Nothing, your Majesty," said I, shaking all over as with the ague at
the revelations I had just witnessed, "except getting a bird's-eye
view of what is to come."

"I am sorry," said he, gravely. "It is not well that mortals should
know the future, and your imprudent act is destructive of all the
plans I have had for you. You must leave us instantly, for that
instrument is for the gods alone. Moreover, the knowledge of that
which you have seen--"

Here his voice positively thundered, and the frown that came upon his
brow filled me with awe and terror.

"All knowledge of what you have seen must be removed from your brain,"
he added, grimly.

I was speechless with fear as the ruler of Olympus touched an electric
button at the side of the room, and the two huge slaves, Gog and
Magog, appeared.

"Seize him!" Jupiter commanded, sternly.

In an instant I was bound hand and foot.

"To the office of Dr. �sculapius!" he commanded, and I was
unceremoniously removed to the room wherein I had had my interview
with the great doctor, where I was immediately etherized and my brain
operated upon. Precisely what was done to me I shall probably never
know, but what I do know is that from that time to this all that I
saw in that marvellous Futuroscope is a blank, although on all other
subjects pertaining to my visit to the gods my recollection is
perfectly clear. It suffices to say that I lay for a long time in a
stupor, and when finally I came to my senses again I found myself
comfortably ensconced in my own bed, in my own home; not in Greece,
but in America; suffering from a dull headache from which I did not
escape for at least three hours. Again and again and again have I
tried to recall that wonderful picture of a marvellous future seen by
my mortal eyes that night upon Olympus, that I might set it upon paper
for others to read, but with each effort the dreadful pain in the top
of my head returns and I find myself compelled to abandon the project.

So was my brief visit to Olympus begun and ended. In its results it
has perhaps been neither elevating nor remarkably instructive, but it
has given me a better understanding of, and a better liking for, that
great company of mythological beings who used to preside over the
destinies of the Greeks. They appeared more human than godlike to my
eyes. They were companionable to a degree, and for a time, at least,
would prove congenial associates for a summer outing, but as a steady
diet--well, I am not at all surprised that, as men waxed more mature
in years and in experience, these titanic members of the Olympian four
hundred lost their power and became no greater factor in the life of
the large society of mankind than any other group of people, equal in
number and of seeming importance, whose days and nights are given over
solely to pleasure and the morbid pursuit of notoriety.

THE END


Transcriber's Note: The author refers to a type of golf club
as a "brassey" and also as a "brassie". Both spellings have
been maintained in this document.


John Kendrick Bangs

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