Me. I can understand your turning into water, you know, Proteus, because you are a sea-god. I can even pass the tree; and the lion is not wholly beyond the bounds of belief. But the idea of your being able to turn into fire, living under water as you do,--this excites my surprise, not to say my incredulity.
Pro. Don't let it; because I can.
Me. I have seen you do it. But (to be frank with you) I think there must be some deception; you play tricks with one's eyes; you don't really turn into anything of the kind?
Pro. Deception? What deception can there possibly be? Everything is above-board. Your eyes were open, I suppose, and you saw me change into all these things? If that is not enough for you, if you think it is a fraud, an optical illusion, I will turn into fire again, and you can touch me with your hand, my sagacious friend. You will then be able to conclude whether I am only visible fire, or have the additional property of burning.
Me. That would be rash.
Pro. I suppose you have never seen such a thing as a polypus, nor observed the proceedings of that fish?
Me. I have seen them; as to their proceedings, I shall be glad of your information.
Pro. The polypus, having selected his rock, and attached himself by means of his suckers, assimilates himself to it, changing his colour to match that of the rock. By this means he
hopes to escape the observation of fishermen: there is no contrast of colour to betray his presence; he looks just like stone.
Me. So I have heard. But yours is quite another matter, Proteus.
Pro. I don't know what evidence would satisfy you, if you reject that of your own eyes.
Me. I have seen it done, but it is an extraordinary business; fire and water, one and the same person!