Chapter XI: As to Saurians and Others
It was Noah who spoke.
"I'm glad," he said, "that when I embarked at the time
of the heavy rains that did so much damage in the old
days, there weren't any dogs like that fellow Cerberus
about. If I'd had to feed a lot of three-headed beasts
like him the Ark would have run short of provisions inside
of ten days."
"That's very likely true," observed Mr. Barnum; "but
I must confess, my dear Noah, that you showed a lamentable
lack of the showman's instinct when you selected the animals
you did. A more commonplace lot of beasts were never gathered
together, and while Adam is held responsible for the introduction
of sin into the world, I attribute most of my offences
to none other than yourself."
The members of the club drew their chairs a little closer.
The conversation had opened a trifle spicily, and, furthermore,
they had retained enough of their mortality to be interested
in animal stories. Adam, who had managed to settle his
back dues and delinquent house-charges, and once more
acquired the privileges of the club, nodded his head gratefully
at Mr. Barnum.
"I'm glad to find some one," said he, "who places the
responsibility for trouble where it belongs. I'm round-shouldered
with the blame I've had to bear. I didn't invent sin any
more than I invented the telephone, and I think it's rather
rough on a fellow who lived a quiet, retiring, pastoral
life, minding his own business and staying home nights,
to be held up to public reprobation for as long a time
as I have."
"It'll be all right in time," said Raleigh; "just wait — be
patient, and your vindication will come. Nobody thought
much of the plays Bacon and I wrote for Shakespeare until
Shakespeare 'd been dead a century."
"Humph!" said Adam, gloomily. "Wait! What have I been
doing all this time? I've waited all the time there's
been so far, and until Mr. Barnum spoke as he did I haven't
observed the slightest inclination on the part of anybody
to rehabilitate my lost reputation. Nor do I see exactly
how it's to come about even if I do wait."
"You might apply for an investigating committee to look
into the charges," suggested an American politician, just
over. "Get your friends on it, and you'll be all right."
"Better let sleeping dogs lie," said Blackstone.
"I intend to," said Adam. "The fact is, I hate to give
any further publicity to the matter. Even if I did bring
the case into court and sue for libel, I've only got one
witness to prove my innocence, and that's my wife. I'm
not going to drag her into it. She's got nervous prostration
over her position as it is, and this would make it worse.
Queen Elizabeth and the rest of these snobs in society
won't invite her to any of their functions because they
say she hadn't any grandfather; and even if she were received
by them, she'd be uncomfortable going about. It isn't
pleasant for a woman to feel that every one knows she's
the oldest woman in the room."
"Well, take my word for it," said Raleigh, kindly. "It'll
all come out all right. You know the old saying, 'History
repeats itself.' Some day you will be living back in Eden
again, and if you are only careful to make an exact record
of all you do, and have a notary present, before whom
you can make an affidavit as to the facts, you will be
able to demonstrate your innocence."
"I was only condemned on hearsay evidence, anyhow," said
"Nonsense; you were caught red-handed," said Noah; "my
grandfather told me so. And now that I've got a chance
to slip in a word edgewise, I'd like mightily to have
you explain your statement, Mr. Barnum, that I am responsible
for your errors. That is a serious charge to bring against
a man of my reputation."
"I mean simply this: that to make a show interesting,"
said Mr. Barnum, "a man has got to provide interesting
materials, that's all. I do not mean to say a word that
is in any way derogatory to your morality. You were a
surprisingly good man for a sea-captain, and with the
exception of that one occasion when you — ah — you allowed
yourself to be stranded on the bar, if I may so put it,
I know of nothing to be said against you as a moral, temperate
"That was only an accident," said Noah, reddening. "You
can't expect a man six hundred odd years of age—"
"Certainly not," said Raleigh, soothingly, "and nobody
thinks less of you for it. Considering how you must have
hated the sight of water, the wonder of it is that it
didn't become a fixed habit. Let us hear what it is that
Mr. Barnum does criticise in you."
"His taste, that's all," said Mr. Barnum. "I contend
that, compared to the animals he might have had, the ones
he did have were as ant-hills to Alps. There were more
magnificent zoos allowed to die out through Noah's lack
of judgment than one likes to think of. Take the Proterosaurus,
for instance. Where on earth do we find his equal to-day?"
"You ought to be mighty glad you can't find one like
him," put in Adam. "If you'd spent a week in the Garden
of Eden with me, with lizards eight feet long dropping
out of the trees on to your lap while you were trying
to take a Sunday-afternoon nap, you'd be willing to dispense
with things of that sort for the balance of your natural
life. If you want to get an idea of that experience let
somebody drop a calf on you some afternoon."
"I am not saying anything about that," returned Barnum.
"It would be unpleasant to have an elephant drop on one
after the fashion of which you speak, but I am glad the
elephant was saved just the same. I haven't advocated
the Proterosaurus as a Sunday-afternoon surprise, but
as an attraction for a show. I still maintain that a lizard
as big as a cow would prove a lodestone, the drawing powers
of which the pocket-money of the small boy would be utterly
unable to resist. Then there was the Iguanadon. He'd have
brought a fortune to the box-office—"
"Which you'd have immediately lost," retorted Noah, "paying
rent. When you get a reptile of his size, that reaches
thirty feet up into the air when he stands on his hind-legs,
the ordinary circus wagon of commerce can't be made to
hold him, and your menagerie-room has to have ceilings
so high that every penny he brought to the box-office
would be spent storing him."
"Mischievous, too," said Adam, "that Iguanadon. You couldn't
keep anything out of his reach. We used to forbid animals
of his kind to enter the garden, but that didn't bother
him; he'd stand up on his hind-legs and reach over and
steal anything he'd happen to want."