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Apollonius of Tyana reads your future

From The Circus of Dr. Lao, Charles G. Finney, 1935.

The widow Mrs. Howard T. Cassan came to the circus in her flimsey brown dress and her low shoes and went direct to the fortuneteller's tent. She paid her mite and sat down to hear her future. Apollonius warned her she was going to be disappointed.

"Not if you tell me the truth," said Mrs. Cassan. "I particularly want to know how soon oil is going to be found on that twenty acres of mine in New Mexico."

"Never," said the seer.

"Well, then, when shall I be married again?"

"Never," said the seer.

"Very well. What sort of man will next come into my life?"

"There will be no more men in your life," said the seer.

"Well, what in the world is the use of my living then, if I'm not going to be rich, not going to be married again, not going to know any more men?"

"I don't know," confessed the prophet. "I only read futures. I don't evaluate them."

"Well, I paid you. Read my future."

"Tomorrow will be like today, and day after tomorrow will be like the day before yesterday," said Apollonius. "I see your remaining days each as quiet, tedious collections of hours. You will not travel anywhere. You will think no new thoughts. You will experience no new passions. Older you will become but not wiser. Stiffer but not more dignified. Childless you are, and childless you shall remain. Of that suppleness you once commanded in your youth, of that strange simplicity which once attracted a few men to you, neither endures, nor shall you recapture any of them any more. People will talk to you and visit with you out of sentiment or pity, not because you have anything to offer them. Have you ever seen an old cornstalk turning brown, dying, but refusing to fall over, upon which stray birds alight now and then, hardly remarking what it is they perch on? That is you. I cannot fathom your place in life's economy. A living thing should either create or destroy according to its capacity and caprice, but you, you do neither. You only live on dreaming of the nice things you would like to have happen to you but which never happen; and you wonder vaguely why the young lives about you which you occasionally chide for a fancied impropriety never listen to you and seem to flee at your approach. When you die you will be buried and forgotton, and that is all. The morticians will enclose you in a worm-proof casket, thus sealing even unto eternity the clay of your uselessness. And for all the good or evil, creation or destruction, that your living might have accomplished, you might just as well have never lived at all. I cannot see the purpose in such a life. I can see in it only vulgar, shocking waste."

"I thought you said you didn't evaluate lives," snapped Mrs. Cassan.

"I'm not evaluating; I'm only wondering. Now you dream of an oil well to be found on twenty acres of land you own in New Mexico. There is no oil there. You dream of some tall, dark, handsome man to come wooing you. There is no man coming, dark, tall, or otherwise. And yet you will dream on in spite of all I tell you; dream on through your little round of hours, sewing and rocking and gossiping and dreaming; and the world spins and spins and spins. Children are born, grow up, accomplish, sicken, and die; you sit and rock and sew and gossip and live on. And you have a voice in the government, and enough people voting the same way you vote could change the face of the world. There is something terrible in that thought. But your individual opinion on any subject in the world is absolutely worthless. No, I cannot fathom the reason for your existence."

"I didn't pay you to fathom me. Just tell me my future and let it go at that."

I have been telling you your future! Why don't you listen? Do you want to know how many more times you will eat lettuce or boiled eggs? Shall I enumerate the instances you will yell good-morning to your neighbor across the fence? Must I tell you how many more times you will buy stockings, attend church, go to moving picture shows? Shall I make a list showing how many more gallons of water in the future you will boil making tea, how many more combinations of cards will fall to you at auction bridge, how often the telephone will ring in your remaining years? Do you want to know how many more times you will scold the paper-carrier for not leaving your copy in the spot that irks you the least? Must I tell you how many more times you will become annoyed at the weather because it rains of fails to rain according to your wishes? Shall I compute the pounds of pennies you will save shopping at bargain centers? Do you want to know all that? For that is your future, doing the same small futile things you have done for the last fifty-eight years. You face a repetition of your past, a recapitulation of the digits in the adding machine of your days. Save only one bright numeral, perhaps: there was love of a sort in your past; there is none in your future."

"Well, I must say, you are the strangest fortuneteller I ever visited."

"It is my misfortune only to be able to tell the truth."

"Were you ever in love?"

"Of course. But why do you ask?"

"There is a strange fascination about your brutal frankness. I could imagine a girl, or an experienced woman, rather, throwing herself at your feet."

"There was a girl, but she never threw herself at my feet. I threw myself at hers."

"What did she do?"

"She laughed."

"Did she hurt you?"

"Yes. But nothing has hurt me very much since."

"I knew it! I knew a man of your terrible intenseness had been hurt by some woman sometime. Women can do that to a man, can't they?"

"I suppose so."

"You poor, poor man! You are not so very much older than I am, are you? I, too, have been hurt. Why couldn't we be friends, or more than friends, perhaps, and together patch up the torn shreds of our lives? I think I could understand you and comfort and care fir you."

"Madam, I am nearly two thousand years old., and all that time I have been a bachelor. It is too late to start over again."

"Oh, you are being so delightfully foolish! I love whimsical talk! We would get on splendidly, you and I; I am sure of it!"

"I'm not. I told you there were no more men in your life. Don't try to make me eat my own words, please. The consultation is ended. Good afternoon."

She started to say more, but there was no longer anyone to talk to. Apollonius had vanished with that suddenness commanded by only the most practiced magicians. Mrs. Cassan went out into the blaze of sunshine. There she encountered Luther and Kate. It was then precisely ten minutes before Kate's petrification.

"My dear," said Mrs. Cassan to Kate, "that fortuneteller is the most magnetic man I ever met in my whole life. I am going to see him again this evening."

"What did he say about the oil?" asked Luther.

"Oh, he was frightfully encouraging," said Mrs. Cassan.

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