Please go through to the waiting room.’
The uniformed angel said;
'Only the Victorians are still taking tea,
And the twentieth century is dead.'
I walked through the door
And could not believe my eyes.
Thousands it appeared were before me;
And some I seemed to recognize.
Not much room I'm afraid!'
Said a man who stood by the door.
I turned and looked into a face
That I felt I had seen before.
'Quite a runcible crowd, in fact!'
He whispered in my ear.
The hair stirred on the back of my neck.
Could he really be Edward Lear?
'I see you're a writer;' he said;
'Of ridiculous nonsense, like me!
Charmed to meet you, I'm sure;
I do hope you are successful,- like me!
He left before I could answer,
And another stepped into his place;
This was a little old lady,
Grey haired and wizened of face.
'You don't want to listen to him!'
She said; 'He is sicker than most;
'He thinks he's the King from Shakespeare
And tells limericks when he's a ghost.
He's a tragic case I'm afraid;
There's a war going on in his head,
And like many in here who must wait,
He cannot accept that he's dead.
A chill ran down my spine.
I stared at the old womans face;
I don't understand!' I said;
'Where am I? What is this place?'
Her wrinkled face cracked in laughter;
'You mean that you do not know?
Why, this is the Final Waiting-Room;
Where we wait before we can go.'
'Go where!' I cried; 'What do you mean?
Where can we go from here?'
'Who knows?' the old woman replied;
'We must await the results my dear,
Of that great debate between men
As to whether or not there's a God,
And if Heaven will open,- and when.'
I thought; 'I must be dreaming this!'
(Perhaps it was something I ate).
I looked again at the old womans face
And said; 'I don't think I need to wait.
I'm only here because of dizzy spells
And occasional pains in my head.'
She smiled; 'Not another who thinks he is mad
Before he can accept that he's dead!
'Let me introduce myself;
She said in an impish way;
'My name is Mrs. Mallowan;
(A writer myself in my day).
Allow me to give you the guided tour,
And introduce you to others who wait.
I am sure there are some you'll love to meet
Amongst those you are bound to hate.
That tall man there with spectacles
And the very loud Irish voice;
Well, he is arguing with Bernard-Shaw,
And his name, of course, is Joyce.
They, and Yeats and Oscar Wilde
Have been at it like dogs for years;
It's like having the Irish Rebellion
Continually storming your ears.
And over there in the corner
Is one you may recognize;
It's dear old Samuel Beckett;
Still clutching his Nobel Prize.'
Mrs. Mallowan took my hand
An led me into the crowd.
I felt somehow dazed and distant;
'I AM DREAMING!' I said aloud.
Mrs. Mallowan turned to me quickly
And in a sharp whisper she said;
'You really must not say that dear;
We don't want to waken the dead.'
As we slowly made our way through
The throng of so many voices'
I was amazed at the contrast of all
The clothing and echoing noises.
'Of course, this is the literary quarter!'
Mrs. Mallowan had to shout;
'Dickens is around here somewhere,
And Shakespeare is often about!'
I was feeling claustrophobic,
And as I glanced from left to right,
My senses were sent reeling
At each uncanny sight.
Here was Percy Shelley
With Nietzshe, affably chatting;
And there stood Great Tom Eliot,
Aloof and quietly waiting.
Rumbustuous Samuel Johnson;
Large and puffing and red,
Stood holding forth so loudly
Over Thomas Hardy's head.
And wasn't that Charlotte Bronte
Laughing and flirting between
A flamboyant Salvadore Dali
And a conservative Grahame Greene?
Mrs. Mallowan Took my arm;
'Philosophers congregate here' she said;
And over there the artists
Are always at loggerheads.'
I glimpsed one who looked like Rembrandt
With his hands around the neck
Of a screaming diminutive Frenchman
Who was surely Toulouse Lautrec.
'I say! Are'nt you a new arrival?'
Said a man suddenly blocking my way.
He wore a frock coat and pince-nez,
And a wig that had seen better days.
'Is there any news from the Vatican?
A statement, perchance from the Pope?
Has anything been said in Parliament?
Does Canterbury hold any hope?'
Mrs. Mallowan returned into view;
'Oh it's you Mr. Pepys!' she smiled;
'No, sorry;- we've heard nothing new.
He frowned like a petulant child;
'Must we tarry here for eternity?'
He cried, stamping a buckled shoe;
'Hast thou heard of these new-fangled physics?
Such balderdash cannot be true?
'But surely;' Mrs Mallowan said;
'When you were a famed London resident,
Did not the Royal Society
Give you honour by electing you President?
And were you not a major sponsor
Of Sir Isaac Newton's research?
Why, you must be as at home with science
As you are with the Holy Church!'
'But that was different!' Pepys replied;
'Newton kept Holy our Trinity.
There's a weird fellow here called Einstein
Who has renamed it - Relativity!'
Mrs. Mallowan shrieked with laughter
And, pushing me on before,
Manoeuvred me out of his company
Into the crowd once more.
'Aha! The famed Mrs. Mallowan!'
A stentorian voice rang aloud,
As a tall bespectacled man
Emerged from the jostling crowd.
'Why Carl! How are you my dear?'
Mrs. Mallowan said, taking his hand.
'I am vell.' he laughed; 'But still vaiting
To enter ze promised land!'
I stared in vague recognition,
Then suddenly all the bells rung;
This was the great psychoanalyst:
Carl Gustav Jung!
'Vot an interesting place!' he said;
'And ze people I enjoy immensly.
Just now I vas talking vith Van Gogh,
And an American who vas called Presley!'
'Oh yes;' smiled Mrs. Mallowan;
I can see that you are having a ball.
For you this is Heaven already;-
The greatest case-history of all!'
I was feeling dizzy again,
And Jung stared closely at me;
'And vot is your name may I ask?'
He bellowed ferociously.
Mrs. Mallowan gripped my arm;
'Yes!' she said, causing me pain;
'Who are you? You never did say.'
I opened my mouth in vain;
I tried to speak but nothing came out
And I felt very weak at the knees.
'I think he is sick!' I heard Jung say;
'Vill somebody help here please?'
I felt myself spiralling down
Beneath a sea of anxious faces.
An overwhelming swell of the dead;
All colours, creeds and races.
Rasputin and Mrs. Beeton,
Nero and Kandinsky;
Ghenghis Khan and Rupert Brooke,
Darwin and Nijinsky.
Virginia Woolf and Plato,
Stalin and Sir Francis Drake;
Marie Antoinette and Gandhi,
Walt Disney and William Blake.
Caligula and Bing Crosby,
Doctor Crippen and Bernini;
George the Third and Hemingway,
John Wayne and Toscanini.
All watched as I sunk into the void;
All merged into one single head.
The head of Mrs. Mallowan!
`How are you feeling?' she said.
The mists lifted and I saw her clear,
She was wearing a uniform now,
And standing beside her in a white coat
Stood Jung with his hand to his brow;
As I focused, Mrs. Mallowan grew younger
and said; 'I think he's coming round.'
The doctor peered over her shoulder,
And his voice lost its Jungian sound;
'You gave us quite a turn.' he said;
'You collapsed;- spark out on the floor.'
'Yes!' said the uniformed angel;
Just by the Waiting-Room door.
• Mallowan was the married name of Agatha Christie.