The Sleeper Awakes
Part 2 out of 5
world. But this thing before him was not a book as he understood it. He
puzzled out the titles of two adjacent cylinders. "The Heart of Darkness"
he had never heard of before nor "The Madonna of the Future"--no doubt if
they were indeed stories, they were by post-Victorian authors.
He puzzled over this peculiar cylinder for some time and replaced it.
Then he turned to the square apparatus and examined that. He opened a
sort of lid and found one of the double cylinders within, and on the
upper edge a little stud like the stud of an electric bell. He pressed
this and a rapid clicking began and ceased. He became aware of voices and
music, and noticed a play of colour on the smooth front face. He suddenly
realised what this might be, and stepped back to regard it.
On the flat surface was now a little picture, very vividly coloured, and
in this picture were figures that moved. Not only did they move, but they
were conversing in clear small voices. It was exactly like reality viewed
through an inverted opera glass and heard through a long tube. His
interest was seized at once by the situation, which presented a man
pacing up and down and vociferating angry things to a pretty but petulant
woman. Both were in the picturesque costume that seemed so strange to
Graham. "I have worked," said the man, "but what have you been doing?"
"Ah!" said Graham. He forgot everything else, and sat down in the chair.
Within five minutes he heard himself, named, heard "when the Sleeper
wakes," used jestingly as a proverb for remote postponement, and passed
himself by, a thing remote and incredible. But in a little while he knew
those two people like intimate friends.
At last the miniature drama came to an end, and the square face of the
apparatus was blank again.
It was a strange world into which he had been permitted to see,
unscrupulous, pleasure seeking, energetic, subtle, a world too of dire
economic struggle; there were allusions he did not understand, incidents
that conveyed strange suggestions of altered moral ideals, flashes of
dubious enlightenment. The blue canvas that bulked so largely in his
first impression of the city ways appeared again and again as the costume
of the common people. He had no doubt the story was contemporary, and its
intense realism was undeniable. And the end had been a tragedy that
oppressed him. He sat staring at the blankness.
He started and rubbed his eyes. He had been so absorbed in the latter-day
substitute for a novel, that he awoke to the little green and white room
with more than a touch of the surprise of his first awakening.
He stood up, and abruptly he was back in his own wonderland. The
clearness of the kinetoscope drama passed, and the struggle in the vast
place of streets, the ambiguous Council, the swift phases of his waking
hour, came back. These people had spoken of the Council with suggestions
of a vague universality of power. And they had spoken of the Sleeper; it
had not really struck him vividly at the time that he was the Sleeper. He
had to recall precisely what they had said....
He walked into the bedroom and peered up through the quick intervals of
the revolving fan. As the fan swept round, a dim turmoil like the noise
of machinery came in rhythmic eddies. All else was silence. Though the
perpetual day still irradiated his apartments, he perceived the little
intermittent strip of sky was now deep blue--black almost, with a dust of
He resumed his examination of the rooms. He could find no way of opening
the padded door, no bell nor other means of calling for attendance. His
feeling of wonder was in abeyance; but he was curious, anxious for
information. He wanted to know exactly how he stood to these new things.
He tried to compose himself to wait until someone came to him. Presently
he became restless and eager for information, for distraction, for fresh
He went back to the apparatus in the other room, and had soon puzzled out
the method of replacing the cylinders by others. As he did so, it came
into his mind that it must be these little appliances had fixed the
language so that it was still clear and understandable after two hundred
years. The haphazard cylinders he substituted displayed a musical
fantasia. At first it was beautiful, and then it was sensuous. He
presently recognised what appeared to him to be an altered version of the
story of Tannhauser. The music was unfamiliar. But the rendering was
realistic, and with a contemporary unfamiliarity. Tannhauser did not go
to a Venusberg, but to a Pleasure City. What was a Pleasure City? A
dream, surely, the fancy of a fantastic, voluptuous writer.
He became interested, curious. The story developed with a flavour of
strangely twisted sentimentality. Suddenly he did not like it. He liked
it less as it proceeded.
He had a revulsion of feeling. These were no pictures, no idealisations,
but photographed realities. He wanted no more of the twenty-second
century Venusberg. He forgot the part played by the model in nineteenth
century art, and gave way to an archaic indignation. He rose, angry and
half ashamed at himself for witnessing this thing even in solitude. He
pulled forward the apparatus, and with some violence sought for a means
of stopping its action. Something snapped. A violet spark stung and
convulsed his arm and the thing was still. When he attempted next day to
replace these Tannhauser cylinders by another pair, he found the
He struck out a path oblique to the room and paced to and fro, struggling
with intolerable vast impressions. The things he had derived from the
cylinders and the things he had seen, conflicted, confused him. It seemed
to him the most amazing thing of all that in his thirty years of life he
had never tried to shape a picture of these coming times. "We were making
the future," he said, "and hardly any of us troubled to think what future
we were making. And here it is!"
"What have they got to, what has been done? How do I come into the midst
of it all?" The vastness of street and house he was prepared for, the
multitudes of people. But conflicts in the city ways! And the
systematised sensuality of a class of rich men!
He thought of Bellamy, the hero of whose Socialistic Utopia had so oddly
anticipated this actual experience. But here was no Utopia, no
Socialistic state. He had already seen enough to realise that the ancient
antithesis of luxury, waste and sensuality on the one hand and abject
poverty on the other, still prevailed. He knew enough of the essential
factors of life to understand that correlation. And not only were the
buildings of the city gigantic and the crowds in the street gigantic, but
the voices he had heard in the ways, the uneasiness of Howard, the very
atmosphere spoke of gigantic discontent. What country was he in? Still
England it seemed, and yet strangely "un-English." His mind glanced at
the rest of the world, and saw only an enigmatical veil.
He prowled about his apartment, examining everything as a caged animal
might do. He was very tired, with that feverish exhaustion that does not
admit of rest. He listened for long spaces under the ventilator to catch
some distant echo of the tumults he felt must be proceeding in the city.
He began to talk to himself. "Two hundred and three years!" he said to
himself over and over again, laughing stupidly. "Then I am two hundred
and thirty-three years old! The oldest inhabitant. Surely they haven't
reversed the tendency of our time and gone back to the rule of the
oldest. My claims are indisputable. Mumble, mumble. I remember the
Bulgarian atrocities as though it was yesterday. 'Tis a great age! Ha
ha!" He was surprised at first to hear himself laughing, and then laughed
again deliberately and louder. Then he realised that he was behaving
foolishly. "Steady," he said. "Steady!"
His pacing became more regular. "This new world," he said. "I don't
understand it. _Why_? ... But it is all _why_!"
"I suppose they can fly and do all sorts of things. Let me try and
remember just how it began."
He was surprised at first to find how vague the memories of his first
thirty years had become. He remembered fragments, for the most part
trivial moments, things of no great importance that he had observed. His
boyhood seemed the most accessible at first, he recalled school books and
certain lessons in mensuration. Then he revived the more salient features
of his life, memories of the wife long since dead, her magic influence
now gone beyond corruption, of his rivals and friends and betrayers, of
the decision of this issue and that, and then of his last years of
misery, of fluctuating resolves, and at last of his strenuous studies. In
a little while he perceived he had it all again; dim perhaps, like metal
long laid aside, but in no way defective or injured, capable of
re-polishing. And the hue of it was a deepening misery. Was it worth
re-polishing? By a miracle he had been lifted out of a life that had
He reverted to his present condition. He wrestled with the facts in vain.
It became an inextricable tangle. He saw the sky through the ventilator
pink with dawn. An old persuasion came out of the dark recesses of his
memory. "I must sleep," he said. It appeared as a delightful relief from
this mental distress and from the growing pain and heaviness of his
limbs. He went to the strange little bed, lay down and was presently
He was destined to become very familiar indeed with these apartments
before he left them, for he remained imprisoned for three days. During
that time no one, except Howard, entered the rooms. The marvel of his
fate mingled with and in some way minimised the marvel of his survival.
He had awakened to mankind it seemed only to be snatched away into this
unaccountable solitude. Howard came regularly with subtly sustaining and
nutritive fluids, and light and pleasant foods, quite strange to Graham.
He always closed the door carefully as he entered. On matters of detail
he was increasingly obliging, but the bearing of Graham on the great
issues that were evidently being contested so closely beyond the
sound-proof walls that enclosed him, he would not elucidate. He evaded,
as politely as possible, every question on the position of affairs in the
And in those three days Graham's incessant thoughts went far and wide.
All that he had seen, all this elaborate contrivance to prevent him
seeing, worked together in his mind. Almost every possible interpretation
of his position he debated--even as it chanced, the right interpretation.
Things that presently happened to him, came to him at last credible, by
virtue of this seclusion. When at length the moment of his release
arrived, it found him prepared....
Howard's bearing went far to deepen Graham's impression of his own
strange importance; the door between its opening and closing seemed to
admit with him a breath of momentous happening. His enquiries became
more definite and searching. Howard retreated through protests and
difficulties. The awakening was unforeseen, he repeated; it happened
to have fallen in with the trend of a social convulsion. "To explain
it I must tell you the history of a gross and a half of years,"
"The thing is this," said Graham. "You are afraid of something I shall
do. In some way I am arbitrator--I might be arbitrator."
"It is not that. But you have--I may tell you this much--the automatic
increase of your property puts great possibilities of interference in
your hands. And in certain other ways you have influence, with your
eighteenth century notions."
"Nineteenth century," corrected Graham.
"With your old world notions, anyhow, ignorant as you are of every
feature of our State."
"Am I a fool?"
"Do I seem to be the sort of man who would act rashly?"
"You were never expected to act at all. No one counted on your
awakening. No one dreamt you would ever awake. The Council had surrounded
you with antiseptic conditions. As a matter of fact, we thought that you
were dead--a mere arrest of decay. And--but it is too complex. We dare
not suddenly---while you are still half awake."
"It won't do," said Graham. "Suppose it is as you say--why am I not being
crammed night and day with facts and warnings and all the wisdom of the
time to fit me for my responsibilities? Am I any wiser now than two days
ago, if it is two days, when I awoke?"
Howard pulled his lip.
"I am beginning to feel--every hour I feel more clearly--a system of
concealment of which you are the face. Is this Council, or committee, or
whatever they are, cooking the accounts of my estate? Is that it?"
"That note of suspicion--" said Howard.
"Ugh!" said Graham. "Now, mark my words, it will be ill for those who
have put me here. It will be ill. I am alive. Make no doubt of it, I am
alive. Every day my pulse is stronger and my mind clearer and more
vigorous. No more quiescence. I am a man come back to life. And I want
Howard's face lit with an idea. He came towards Graham and spoke in an
easy confidential tone.
"The Council secludes you here for your good. You are restless.
Naturally--an energetic man! You find it dull here. But we are anxious
that everything you may desire--every desire--every sort of desire ...
There may be something. Is there any sort of company?"
He paused meaningly.
"Yes," said Graham thoughtfully. "There is."
"Ah! _Now_! We have treated you neglectfully."
"The crowds in yonder streets of yours."
"That," said Howard, "I am afraid--But--"
Graham began pacing the room. Howard stood near the door watching him.
The implication of Howard's suggestion was only half evident to Graham.
Company? Suppose he were to accept the proposal, demand some sort of
_company_? Would there be any possibilities of gathering from the
conversation of this additional person some vague inkling of the struggle
that had broken out so vividly at his waking moment? He meditated again,
and the suggestion took colour. He turned on Howard abruptly.
"What do you mean by company?"
Howard raised his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. "Human beings," he
said, with a curious smile on his heavy face. "Our social ideas," he
said, "have a certain increased liberality, perhaps, in comparison with
your times. If a man wishes to relieve such a tedium as this--by feminine
society, for instance. We think it no scandal. We have cleared our minds
of formulae. There is in our city a class, a necessary class, no longer
Graham stopped dead.
"It would pass the time," said Howard. "It is a thing I should perhaps
have thought of before, but, as a matter of fact, so much is happening--"
He indicated the exterior world.
Graham hesitated. For a moment the figure of a possible woman dominated
his mind with an intense attraction. Then he flashed into anger.
"_No_!" he shouted.
He began striding rapidly up and down the room. "Everything you say,
everything you do, convinces me--of some great issue in which I am
concerned. I do not want to pass the time, as you call it. Yes, I know.
Desire and indulgence are life in a sense--and Death! Extinction! In my
life before I slept I had worked out that pitiful question. I will not
begin again. There is a city, a multitude--. And meanwhile I am here like
a rabbit in a bag."
His rage surged high. He choked for a moment and began to wave his
clenched fists. He gave way to an anger fit, he swore archaic curses. His
gestures had the quality of physical threats.
"I do not know who your party may be. I am in the dark, and you keep me
in the dark. But I know this, that I am secluded here for no good
purpose. For no good purpose. I warn you, I warn you of the consequences.
Once I come at my power--"
He realised that to threaten thus might be a danger to himself. He
stopped. Howard stood regarding him with a curious expression.
"I take it this is a message to the Council," said Howard.
Graham had a momentary impulse to leap upon the man, fell or stun him. It
must have shown upon his face; at any rate Howard's movement was quick.
In a second the noiseless door had closed again, and the man from the
nineteenth century was alone.
For a moment he stood rigid, with clenched hands half raised. Then he
flung them down. "What a fool I have been!" he said, and gave way to his
anger again, stamping about the room and shouting curses.... For a long
time he kept himself in a sort of frenzy, raging at his position, at his
own folly, at the knaves who had imprisoned him. He did this because he
did not want to look calmly at his position. He clung to his
anger--because he was afraid of fear.
Presently he found himself reasoning with himself. This imprisonment
was unaccountable, but no doubt the legal forms--new legal forms--of
the time permitted it. It must, of course, be legal. These people were
two hundred years further on in the march of civilisation than the
Victorian generation. It was not likely they would be less--humane. Yet
they had cleared their minds of formulae! Was humanity a formula as
well as chastity?
His imagination set to work to suggest things that might be done to him.
The attempts of his reason to dispose of these suggestions, though for
the most part logically valid, were quite unavailing. "Why should
anything be done to me?"
"If the worst comes to the worst," he found himself saying at last, "I
can give up what they want. But what do they want? And why don't they ask
me for it instead of cooping me up?"
He returned to his former preoccupation with the Council's possible
intentions. He began to reconsider the details of Howard's behaviour,
sinister glances, inexplicable hesitations. Then, for a time, his mind
circled about the idea of escaping from these rooms; but whither could he
escape into this vast, crowded world? He would be worse off than a Saxon
yeoman suddenly dropped into nineteenth century London. And besides, how
could anyone escape from these rooms?
"How can it benefit anyone if harm should happen to me?"
He thought of the tumult, the great social trouble of which he was so
unaccountably the axis. A text, irrelevant enough, and yet curiously
insistent, came floating up out of the darkness of his memory. This also
a Council had said:
"It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people."
THE ROOF SPACES
As the fans in the circular aperture of the inner room rotated and
permitted glimpses of the night, dim sounds drifted in thereby. And
Graham, standing underneath, was startled by the sound of a voice.
He peered up and saw in the intervals of the rotation, dark and dim, the
face and shoulders of a man regarding him. Then a dark hand was extended,
the swift vane struck it, swung round and beat on with a little brownish
patch on the edge of its thin blade, and something began to fall
therefrom upon the floor, dripping silently.
Graham looked down, and there were spots of blood at his feet. He looked
up again in a strange excitement. The figure had gone.
He remained motionless--his every sense intent upon the flickering patch
of darkness. He became aware of some faint, remote, dark specks floating
lightly through the outer air. They came down towards him, fitfully,
eddyingly, and passed aside out of the uprush from the fan. A gleam of
light flickered, the specks flashed white, and then the darkness came
again. Warmed and lit as he was, he perceived that it was snowing within
a few feet of him.
Graham walked across the room and came back to the ventilator again. He
saw the head of a man pass near. There was a sound of whispering. Then a
smart blow on some metallic substance, effort, voices, and the vanes
stopped. A gust of snowflakes whirled into the room, and vanished before
they touched the floor. "Don't be afraid," said a voice.
Graham stood under the vane. "Who are you?" he whispered.
For a moment there was nothing but a swaying of the fan, and then the
head of a man was thrust cautiously into the opening. His face
appeared nearly inverted to Graham; his dark hair was wet with
dissolving flakes of snow upon it. His arm went up into the darkness
holding something unseen. He had a youthful face and bright eyes, and
the veins of his forehead were swollen. He seemed to be exerting
himself to maintain his position.
For several seconds neither he nor Graham spoke.
"You were the Sleeper?" said the stranger at last.
"Yes," said Graham. "What do you want with me?"
"I come from Ostrog, Sire."
The man in the ventilator twisted his head round so that his profile was
towards Graham. He appeared to be listening. Suddenly there was a hasty
exclamation, and the intruder sprang back just in time to escape the
sweep of the released fan. And when Graham peered up there was nothing
visible but the slowly falling snow.
It was perhaps a quarter of an hour before anything returned to the
ventilator. But at last came the same metallic interference again; the
fans stopped and the face reappeared. Graham had remained all this time
in the same place, alert and tremulously excited.
"Who are you? What do you want?" he said.
"We want to speak to you, Sire," said the intruder. "We want--I
can't hold the thing. We have been trying to find a way to you--these
"Is it rescue?" whispered Graham. "Escape?"
"Yes, Sire. If you will."
"You are my party--the party of the Sleeper?"
"What am I to do?" said Graham.
There was a struggle. The stranger's arm appeared, and his hand was
bleeding. His knees came into view over the edge of the funnel. "Stand
away from me," he said, and he dropped rather heavily on his hands and
one shoulder at Graham's feet. The released ventilator whirled noisily.
The stranger rolled over, sprang up nimbly and stood panting, hand to a
bruised shoulder, and with his bright eyes on Graham.
"You are indeed the Sleeper," he said. "I saw you asleep. When it was the
law that anyone might see you."
"I am the man who was in the trance," said Graham. "They have imprisoned
me here. I have been here since I awoke--at least three days."
The intruder seemed about to speak, heard something, glanced swiftly at
the door, and suddenly left Graham and ran towards it, shouting quick
incoherent words. A bright wedge of steel flashed in his hand, and he
began tap, tap, a quick succession of blows upon the hinges. "Mind!"
cried a voice. "Oh!" The voice came from above.
Graham glanced up, saw the soles of two feet, ducked, was struck on the
shoulder by one of them, and a heavy weight bore him to the earth. He
fell on his knees and forward, and the weight went over his head. He
knelt up and saw a second man from above seated before him.
"I did not see you, Sire," panted the man. He rose and assisted
Graham to rise. "Are you hurt, Sire?" he panted. A succession of heavy
blows on the ventilator began, something fell close to Graham's face,
and a shivering edge of white metal danced, fell over, and lay fiat
upon the floor.
"What is this?" cried Graham, confused and looking at the ventilator.
"Who are you? What are you going to do? Remember, I understand nothing."
"Stand back," said the stranger, and drew him from under the ventilator
as another fragment of metal fell heavily.
"We want you to come, Sire," panted the newcomer, and Graham glancing at
his face again, saw a new cut had changed from white to red on his
forehead, and a couple of little trickles of blood starting therefrom.
"Your people call for you."
"Come where? My people?"
"To the hall about the markets. Your life is in danger here. We have
spies. We learned but just in time. The Council has decided--this very
day--either to drug or kill you. And everything is ready. The people are
drilled, the Wind-Vane police, the engineers, and half the way-gearers
are with us. We have the halls crowded--shouting. The whole city shouts
against the Council. We have arms." He wiped the blood with his hand.
"Your life here is not worth--"
"But why arms?"
"The people have risen to protect you, Sire. What?"
He turned quickly as the man who had first come down made a hissing with
his teeth. Graham saw the latter start back, gesticulate to them to
conceal themselves, and move as if to hide behind the opening door.
As he did so Howard appeared, a little tray in one hand and his heavy
face downcast. He started, looked up, the door slammed behind him, the
tray tilted side-ways, and the steel wedge struck him behind the ear. He
went down like a felled tree, and lay as he fell athwart the floor of the
outer room. The man who had struck him bent hastily, studied his face for
a moment, rose, and returned to his work at the door.
"Your poison!" said a voice in Graham's ear.
Then abruptly they were in darkness. The innumerable cornice lights had
been extinguished. Graham saw the aperture of the ventilator with ghostly
snow whirling above it and dark figures moving hastily. Three knelt on
the vane. Some dim thing--a ladder--was being lowered through the
opening, and a hand appeared holding a fitful yellow light.
He had a moment of hesitation. But the manner of these men, their swift
alacrity, their words, marched so completely with his own fears of the
Council, with his idea and hope of a rescue, that it lasted not a moment.
And his people awaited him!
"I do not understand," he said. "I trust. Tell me what to do."
The man with the cut brow gripped Graham's arm. "Clamber up the ladder,"
he whispered. "Quick. They will have heard--"
Graham felt for the ladder with extended hands, put his foot on the
lower rung, and, turning his head, saw over the shoulder of the nearest
man, in the yellow flicker of the light, the first-comer astride over
Howard and still working at the door. Graham turned to the ladder again,
and was thrust by his conductor and helped up by those above, and then
he was standing on something hard and cold and slippery outside the
He shivered. He was aware of a great difference in the temperature. Half
a dozen men stood about him, and light flakes of snow touched hands and
face and melted. For a moment it was dark, then for a flash a ghastly
violet white, and then everything was dark again.
He saw he had come out upon the roof of the vast city structure which had
replaced the miscellaneous houses, streets and open spaces of Victorian
London. The place upon which he stood was level, with huge serpentine
cables lying athwart it in every direction. The circular wheels of a
number of windmills loomed indistinct and gigantic through the darkness
and snowfall, and roared with a varying loudness as the fitful wind rose
and fell. Some way off an intermittent white light smote up from below,
touched the snow eddies with a transient glitter, and made an evanescent
spectre in the night; and here and there, low down, some vaguely outlined
wind-driven mechanism flickered with livid sparks.
All this he appreciated in a fragmentary manner as his rescuers stood
about him. Someone threw a thick soft cloak of fur-like texture about
him, and fastened it by buckled straps at waist and shoulders. Things
were said briefly, decisively. Someone thrust him forward.
Before his mind was yet clear a dark shape gripped his arm. "This way,"
said this shape, urging him along, and pointed Graham across the flat
roof in the direction of a dim semicircular haze of light. Graham obeyed.
"Mind!" said a voice, as Graham stumbled against a cable. "Between them
and not across them," said the voice. And, "We must hurry."
"Where are the people?" said Graham. "The people you said awaited me?"
The stranger did not answer. He left Graham's arm as the path grew
narrower, and led the way with rapid strides. Graham followed blindly. In
a minute he found himself running. "Are the others coming?" he panted,
but received no reply. His companion glanced back and ran on. They came
to a sort of pathway of open metal-work, transverse to the direction they
had come, and they turned aside to follow this. Graham looked back, but
the snowstorm had hidden the others.
"Come on!" said his guide. Running now, they drew near a little windmill
spinning high in the air. "Stoop," said Graham's guide, and they avoided
an endless band running roaring up to the shaft of the vane. "This way!"
and they were ankle deep in a gutter full of drifted thawing snow,
between two low walls of metal that presently rose waist high. "I will go
first," said the guide. Graham drew his cloak about him and followed.
Then suddenly came a narrow abyss across which the gutter leapt to the
snowy darkness of the further side. Graham peeped over the side once and
the gulf was black. For a moment he regretted his flight. He dared not
look again, and his brain spun as he waded through the half liquid snow.
Then out of the gutter they clambered and hurried across a wide flat
space damp with thawing snow, and for half its extent dimly translucent
to lights that went to and fro underneath. He hesitated at this unstable
looking substance, but his guide ran on unheeding, and so they came to
and clambered up slippery steps to the rim of a great dome of glass.
Round this they went. Far below a number of people seemed to be dancing,
and music filtered through the dome.... Graham fancied he heard a
shouting through the snowstorm, and his guide hurried him on with a new
spurt of haste. They clambered panting to a space of huge windmills, one
so vast that only the lower edge of its vanes came rushing into sight and
rushed up again and was lost in the night and the snow. They hurried for
a time through the colossal metallic tracery of its supports, and came at
last above a place of moving platforms like the place into which Graham
had looked from the balcony. They crawled across the sloping transparency
that covered this street of platforms, crawling on hands and knees
because of the slipperiness of the snowfall.
For the most part the glass was bedewed, and Graham saw only hazy
suggestions of the forms below, but near the pitch of the transparent
roof the glass was clear, and he found himself looking sheerly down
upon it all. For awhile, in spite of the urgency of his guide, he gave
way to vertigo and lay spread-eagled on the glass, sick and paralysed.
Far below, mere stirring specks and dots, went the people of the
unsleeping city in their perpetual daylight, and the moving platforms
ran on their incessant journey. Messengers and men on unknown
businesses shot along the drooping cables and the frail bridges were
crowded with men. It was like peering into a gigantic glass hive, and
it lay vertically below him with only a tough glass of unknown
thickness to save him from a fall. The street showed warm and lit, and
Graham was wet now to the skin with thawing snow, and his feet were
numbed with cold. For a space he could not move. "Come on!" cried his
guide, with terror in his voice. "Come on!"
Graham reached the pitch of the roof by an effort.
Over the ridge, following his guide's example, he turned about and slid
backward down the opposite slope very swiftly, amid a little avalanche of
snow. While he was sliding he thought of what would happen if some broken
gap should come in his way. At the edge he stumbled to his feet ankle
deep in slush, thanking heaven for an opaque footing again. His guide was
already clambering up a metal screen to a level expanse.
Through the spare snowflakes above this loomed another line of vast
windmills, and then suddenly the amorphous tumult of the rotating wheels
was pierced with a deafening sound. It was a mechanical shrilling of
extraordinary intensity that seemed to come simultaneously from every
point of the compass.
"They have missed us already!" cried Graham's guide in an accent of
terror, and suddenly, with a blinding flash, the night became day.
Above the driving snow, from the summits of the wind-wheels, appeared
vast masts carrying globes of livid light. They receded in illimitable
vistas in every direction. As far as his eye could penetrate the snowfall
"Get on this," cried Graham's conductor, and thrust him forward to a long
grating of snowless metal that ran like a band between two slightly
sloping expanses of snow. It felt warm to Graham's benumbed feet, and a
faint eddy of steam rose from it.
"Come on!" shouted his guide ten yards off, and, without waiting, ran
swiftly through the incandescent glare towards the iron supports of the
next range of wind-wheels. Graham, recovering from his astonishment,
followed as fast, convinced of his imminent capture....
In a score of seconds they were within a tracery of glare and black
shadows shot with moving bars beneath the monstrous wheels. Graham's
conductor ran on for some time, and suddenly darted sideways and vanished
into a black shadow in the corner of the foot of a huge support. In
another moment Graham was beside him.
They cowered panting and stared out.
The scene upon which Graham looked was very wild and strange. The snow
had now almost ceased; only a belated flake passed now and again across
the picture. But the broad stretch of level before them was a ghastly
white, broken only by gigantic masses and moving shapes and lengthy
strips of impenetrable darkness, vast ungainly Titans of shadow. All
about them, huge metallic structures, iron girders, inhumanly vast as it
seemed to him, interlaced, and the edges of wind-wheels, scarcely moving
in the lull, passed in great shining curves steeper and steeper up into a
luminous haze. Wherever the snow-spangled light struck down, beams and
girders, and incessant bands running with a halting, indomitable
resolution, passed upward and downward into the black. And with all that
mighty activity, with an omnipresent sense of motive and design, this
snow-clad desolation of mechanism seemed void of all human presence save
themselves, seemed as trackless and deserted and unfrequented by men as
some inaccessible Alpine snowfield.
"They will be chasing us," cried the leader. "We are scarcely halfway
there yet. Cold as it is we must hide here for a space--at least until it
snows more thickly again."
His teeth chattered in his head.
"Where are the markets?" asked Graham staring out. "Where are all
The other made no answer.
"_Look_!" whispered Graham, crouched close, and became very still.
The snow had suddenly become thick again, and sliding with the whirling
eddies out of the black pit of the sky came something, vague and large
and very swift. It came down in a steep curve and swept round, wide wings
extended and a trail of white condensing steam behind it, rose with an
easy swiftness and went gliding up the air, swept horizontally forward in
a wide curve, and vanished again in the steaming specks of snow. And,
through the ribs of its body, Graham saw two little men, very minute and
active, searching the snowy areas about him, as it seemed to him, with
field glasses. For a second they were clear, then hazy through a thick
whirl of snow, then small and distant, and in a minute they were gone.
"_Now_!" cried his companion. "Come!"
He pulled Graham's sleeve, and incontinently the two were running
headlong down the arcade of iron-work beneath the wind-wheels. Graham,
running blindly, collided with his leader, who had turned back on him
suddenly. He found himself within a dozen yards of a black chasm. It
extended as far as he could see right and left. It seemed to cut off
their progress in either direction.
"Do as I do," whispered his guide. He lay down and crawled to the edge,
thrust his head over and twisted until one leg hung. He seemed to feel
for something with his foot, found it, and went sliding over the edge
into the gulf. His head reappeared. "It is a ledge," he whispered. "In
the dark all the way along. Do as I did."
Graham hesitated, went down upon all fours, crawled to the edge, and
peered into a velvety blackness. For a sickly moment he had courage
neither to go on nor retreat, then he sat and hung his leg down, felt his
guide's hands pulling at him, had a horrible sensation of sliding over
the edge into the unfathomable, splashed, and felt himself in a slushy
gutter, impenetrably dark.
"This way," whispered the voice, and he began crawling along the gutter
through the trickling thaw, pressing himself against the wall. They
continued along it for some minutes. He seemed to pass through a hundred
stages of misery, to pass minute after minute through a hundred degrees
of cold, damp, and exhaustion. In a little while he ceased to feel his
hands and feet.
The gutter sloped downwards. He observed that they were now many feet
below the edge of the buildings. Rows of spectral white shapes like the
ghosts of blind-drawn windows rose above them. They came to the end of a
cable fastened above one of these white windows, dimly visible and
dropping into impenetrable shadows. Suddenly his hand came against his
guide's. "_Still_!" whispered the latter very softly.
He looked up with a start and saw the huge wings of the flying machine
gliding slowly and noiselessly overhead athwart the broad band of
snow-flecked grey-blue sky. In a moment it was hidden again.
"Keep still; they were just turning."
For awhile both were motionless, then Graham's companion stood up, and
reaching towards the fastenings of the cable fumbled with some
"What is that?" asked Graham.
The only answer was a faint cry. The man crouched motionless. Graham
peered and saw his face dimly. He was staring down the long ribbon of
sky, and Graham, following his eyes, saw the flying machine small and
faint and remote. Then he saw that the wings spread on either side, that
it headed towards them, that every moment it grew larger. It was
following the edge of the chasm towards them.
The man's movements became convulsive. He thrust two cross bars into
Graham's hand. Graham could not see them, he ascertained their form by
feeling. They were slung by thin cords to the cable. On the cord were
hand grips of some soft elastic substance. "Put the cross between your
legs," whispered the guide hysterically, "and grip the holdfasts. Grip
Graham did as he was told.
"Jump," said the voice. "In heaven's name, jump!"
For one momentous second Graham could not speak. He was glad afterwards
that darkness hid his face. He said nothing. He began to tremble
violently. He looked sideways at the swift shadow that swallowed up the
sky as it rushed upon him.
"Jump! Jump--in God's name! Or they will have us," cried Graham's guide,
and in the violence of his passion thrust him forward.
Graham tottered convulsively, gave a sobbing cry, a cry in spite of
himself, and then, as the flying machine swept over them, fell forward
into the pit of that darkness, seated on the cross wood and holding the
ropes with the clutch of death. Something cracked, something rapped
smartly against a wall. He heard the pulley of the cradle hum on its
rope. He heard the aeronauts shout. He felt a pair of knees digging into
his back.... He was sweeping headlong through the air, falling through
the air. All his strength was in his hands. He would have screamed but he
had no breath.
He shot into a blinding light that made him grip the tighter. He
recognised the great passage with the running ways, the hanging lights
and interlacing girders. They rushed upward and by him. He had a
momentary impression of a great round mouth yawning to swallow him up.
He was in the dark again, falling, falling, gripping with aching hands,
and behold! a clap of sound, a burst of light, and he was in a brightly
lit hall with a roaring multitude of people beneath his feet. The people!
His people! A proscenium, a stage rushed up towards him, and his cable
swept down to a circular aperture to the right of this. He felt he was
travelling slower, and suddenly very much slower. He distinguished shouts
of "Saved! The Master. He is safe!" The stage rushed up towards him with
rapidly diminishing swiftness. Then--
He heard the man clinging behind him shout as if suddenly terrified, and
this shout was echoed by a shout from below. He felt that he was no
longer gliding along the cable but falling with it. There was a tumult of
yells, screams, and cries. He felt something soft against his extended
hand, and the impact of a broken fall quivering through his arm....
He wanted to be still and the people were lifting him. He believed
afterwards he was carried to the platform and given some drink, but he
was never sure. He did not notice what became of his guide. When his mind
was clear again he was on his feet; eager hands were assisting him to
stand. He was in a big alcove, occupying the position that in his
previous experience had been devoted to the lower boxes. If this was
indeed a theatre.
A mighty tumult was in his ears, a thunderous roar, the shouting of a
countless multitude. "It is the Sleeper! The Sleeper is with us!"
"The Sleeper is with us! The Master--the Owner! The Master is with us.
He is safe."
Graham had a surging vision of a great hall crowded with people. He saw
no individuals, he was conscious of a froth of pink faces, of waving arms
and garments, he felt the occult influence of a vast crowd pouring over
him, buoying him up. There were balconies, galleries, great archways
giving remoter perspectives, and everywhere people, a vast arena of
people, densely packed and cheering. Across the nearer space lay the
collapsed cable like a huge snake. It had been cut by the men of the
flying machine at its upper end, and had crumpled down into the hall. Men
seemed to be hauling this out of the way. But the whole effect was vague,
the very buildings throbbed and leapt with the roar of the voices.
He stood unsteadily and looked at those about him. Someone supported him
by one arm. "Let me go into a little room," he said, weeping; "a little
room," and could say no more. A man in black stepped forward, took his
disengaged arm. He was aware of officious men opening a door before him.
Someone guided him to a seat. He staggered. He sat down heavily and
covered his face with his hands; he was trembling violently, his nervous
control was at an end. He was relieved of his cloak, he could not
remember how; his purple hose he saw were black with wet. People were
running about him, things were happening, but for some time he gave no
heed to them.
He had escaped. A myriad of cries told him that. He was safe. These were
the people who were on his side. For a space he sobbed for breath, and
then he sat still with his face covered. The air was full of the shouting
of innumerable men.
THE PEOPLE MARCH
He became aware of someone urging a glass of clear fluid upon his
attention, looked up and discovered this was a dark young man in a yellow
garment. He took the dose forthwith, and in a moment he was glowing. A
tall man in a black robe stood by his shoulder, and pointed to the half
open door into the hall. This man was shouting close to his ear and yet
what was said was indistinct because of the tremendous uproar from the
great theatre. Behind the man was a girl in a silvery grey robe, whom
Graham, even in this confusion, perceived to be beautiful. Her dark eyes,
full of wonder and curiosity, were fixed on him, her lips trembled apart.
A partially opened door gave a glimpse of the crowded hall, and admitted
a vast uneven tumult, a hammering, clapping and shouting that died away
and began again, and rose to a thunderous pitch, and so continued
intermittently all the time that Graham remained in the little room. He
watched the lips of the man in black and gathered that he was making some
He stared stupidly for some moments at these things and then stood up
abruptly; he grasped the arm of this shouting person.
"Tell me!" he cried. "Who am I? Who am I?"
The others came nearer to hear his words. "Who am I?" His eyes searched
"They have told him nothing!" cried the girl.
"Tell me, tell me!" cried Graham.
"You are the Master of the Earth. You are owner of the world."
He did not believe he heard aright. He resisted the persuasion. He
pretended not to understand, not to hear. He lifted his voice again. "I
have been awake three days--a prisoner three days. I judge there is some
struggle between a number of people in this city--it is London?"
"Yes," said the younger man.
"And those who meet in the great hall with the white Atlas? How does it
concern me? In some way it has to do with me. _Why_, I don't know. Drugs?
It seems to me that while I have slept the world has gone mad. I have
gone mad.... Who are those Councillors under the Atlas? Why should they
try to drug me?"
"To keep you insensible," said the man in yellow. "To prevent your
"Because _you_ are the Atlas, Sire," said the man in yellow. "The world
is on your shoulders. They rule it in your name."
The sounds from the hall had died into a silence threaded by one
monotonous voice. Now suddenly, trampling on these last words, came a
deafening tumult, a roaring and thundering, cheer crowded on cheer,
voices hoarse and shrill, beating, overlapping, and while it lasted the
people in the little room could not hear each other shout.
Graham stood, his intelligence clinging helplessly to the thing he had
just heard. "The Council," he repeated blankly, and then snatched at a
name that had struck him. "But who is Ostrog?" he said.
"He is the organiser--the organiser of the revolt. Our Leader--in
"In my name?--And you? Why is he not here?"
"He--has deputed us. I am his brother--his half-brother, Lincoln. He
wants you to show yourself to these people and then come on to him. That
is why he has sent. He is at the wind-vane offices directing. The people
"In your name," shouted the younger man. "They have ruled, crushed,
tyrannised. At last even--"
"In my name! My name! Master?"
The younger man suddenly became audible in a pause of the outer thunder,
indignant and vociferous, a high penetrating voice under his red
aquiline nose and bushy moustache. "No one expected you to wake. No one
expected you to wake. They were cunning. Damned tyrants! But they were
taken by surprise. They did not know whether to drug you, hypnotise you,
Again the hall dominated everything.
"Ostrog is at the wind-vane offices ready--. Even now there is a rumour
of fighting beginning."
The man who had called himself Lincoln came close to him. "Ostrog has it
planned. Trust him. We have our organisations ready. We shall seize the
flying stages--. Even now he may be doing that. Then--"
"This public theatre," bawled the man in yellow, "is only a contingent.
We have five myriads of drilled men--"
"We have arms," cried Lincoln. "We have plans. A leader. Their police
have gone from the streets and are massed in the--" (inaudible). "It is
now or never. The Council is rocking--They cannot trust even their
"Hear the people calling to you!"
Graham's mind was like a night of moon and swift clouds, now dark and
hopeless, now clear and ghastly. He was Master of the Earth, he was a man
sodden with thawing snow. Of all his fluctuating impressions the dominant
ones presented an antagonism; on the one hand was the White Council,
powerful, disciplined, few, the White Council from which he had just
escaped; and on the other, monstrous crowds, packed masses of
indistinguishable people clamouring his name, hailing him Master. The
other side had imprisoned him, debated his death. These shouting
thousands beyond the little doorway had rescued him. But why these things
should be so he could not understand.
The door opened, Lincoln's voice was swept away and drowned, and a rash
of people followed on the heels of the tumult. These intruders came
towards him and Lincoln gesticulating. The voices without explained their
soundless lips. "Show us the Sleeper, show us the Sleeper!" was the
burden of the uproar. Men were bawling for "Order! Silence!"
Graham glanced towards the open doorway, and saw a tall, oblong picture
of the hall beyond, a waving, incessant confusion of crowded, shouting
faces, men and women together, waving pale blue garments, extended hands.
Many were standing, one man in rags of dark brown, a gaunt figure, stood
on the seat and waved a black cloth. He met the wonder and expectation of
the girl's eyes. What did these people expect from him. He was dimly
aware that the tumult outside had changed its character, was in some way
beating, marching. His own mind, too, changed. For a space he did not
recognise the influence that was transforming him. But a moment that was
near to panic passed. He tried to make audible inquiries of what was
required of him.
Lincoln was shouting in his ear, but Graham was deafened to that. All the
others save the woman gesticulated towards the hall. He perceived what
had happened to the uproar. The whole mass of people was chanting
together. It was not simply a song, the voices were gathered together and
upborne by a torrent of instrumental music, music like the music of an
organ, a woven texture of sounds, full of trumpets, full of flaunting
banners, full of the march and pageantry of opening war. And the feet of
the people were beating time--tramp, tramp.
He was urged towards the door. He obeyed mechanically. The strength of
that chant took hold of him, stirred him, emboldened him. The hall opened
to him, a vast welter of fluttering colour swaying to the music.
"Wave your arm to them," said Lincoln. "Wave your arm to them."
"This," said a voice on the other side, "he must have this." Arms were
about his neck detaining him in the doorway, and a black
subtly-folding mantle hung from his shoulders. He threw his arm free
of this and followed Lincoln. He perceived the girl in grey close to
him, her face lit, her gesture onward. For the instant she became to
him, flushed and eager as she was, an embodiment of the song. He
emerged in the alcove again. Incontinently the mounting waves of the
song broke upon his appearing, and flashed up into a foam of shouting.
Guided by Lincoln's hand he marched obliquely across the centre of the
stage facing the people.
The hall was a vast and intricate space--galleries, balconies, broad
spaces of amphitheatral steps, and great archways. Far away, high up,
seemed the mouth of a huge passage full of struggling humanity. The whole
multitude was swaying in congested masses. Individual figures sprang out
of the tumult, impressed him momentarily, and lost definition again.
Close to the platform swayed a beautiful fair woman, carried by three
men, her hair across her face and brandishing a green staff. Next this
group an old careworn man in blue canvas maintained his place in the
crush with difficulty, and behind shouted a hairless face, a great cavity
of toothless mouth. A voice called that enigmatical word "Ostrog." All
his impressions were vague save the massive emotion of that trampling
song. The multitude were beating time with their feet--marking time,
tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. The green weapons waved, flashed and slanted.
Then he saw those nearest to him on a level space before the stage were
marching in front of him, passing towards a great archway, shouting "To
the Council!" Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. He raised his arm, and the
roaring was redoubled. He remembered he had to shout "March!" His mouth
shaped inaudible heroic words. He waved his arm again and pointed to the
archway, shouting "Onward!" They were no longer marking time, they were
marching; tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. In that host were bearded men, old
men, youths, fluttering robed bare-armed women, girls. Men and women of
the new age! Rich robes, grey rags fluttered together in the whirl of
their movement amidst the dominant blue. A monstrous black banner jerked
its way to the right. He perceived a blue-clad negro, a shrivelled woman
in yellow, then a group of tall fair-haired, white-faced, blue-clad men
pushed theatrically past him. He noted two Chinamen. A tall, sallow,
dark-haired, shining-eyed youth, white clad from top to toe, clambered up
towards the platform shouting loyally, and sprang down again and receded,
looking backward. Heads, shoulders, hands clutching weapons, all were
swinging with those marching cadences.
Faces came out of the confusion to him as he stood there, eyes met his
and passed and vanished. Men gesticulated to him, shouted inaudible
personal things. Most of the faces were flushed, but many were ghastly
white. And disease was there, and many a hand that waved to him was gaunt
and lean. Men and women of the new age! Strange and incredible meeting!
As the broad stream passed before him to the right, tributary gangways
from the remote uplands of the hall thrust downward in an incessant
replacement of people; tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. The unison of the song
was enriched and complicated by the massive echoes of arches and
passages. Men and women mingled in the ranks; tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp.
The whole world seemed marching. Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp; his brain
was tramping. The garments waved onward, the faces poured by more
Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp; at Lincoln's pressure he turned towards the
archway, walking unconsciously in that rhythm, scarcely noticing his
movement for the melody and stir of it. The multitude, the gesture and
song, all moved in that direction, the flow of people smote downward
until the upturned faces were below the level of his feet. He was aware
of a path before him, of a suite about him, of guards and dignities, and
Lincoln on his right hand. Attendants intervened, and ever and again
blotted out the sight of the multitude to the left. Before him went the
backs of the guards in black--three and three and three. He was marched
along a little railed way, and crossed above the archway, with the
torrent dipping to flow beneath, and shouting up to him. He did not know
whither he went; he did not want to know. He glanced back across a
flaming spaciousness of hall. Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp.
THE BATTLE OF THE DARKNESS
He was no longer in the hall. He was marching along a gallery overhanging
one of the great streets of the moving platforms that traversed the city.
Before him and behind him tramped his guards. The whole concave of the
moving ways below was a congested mass of people marching, tramping to
the left, shouting, waving hands and arms, pouring along a huge vista,
shouting as they came into view, shouting as they passed, shouting as
they receded, until the globes of electric light receding in perspective
dropped down it seemed and hid the swarming bare heads. Tramp, tramp,
The song roared up to Graham now, no longer upborne by music, but coarse
and noisy, and the beating of the marching feet, tramp, tramp, tramp,
tramp, interwove with a thunderous irregularity of footsteps from the
undisciplined rabble that poured along the higher ways.
Abruptly he noted a contrast. The buildings on the opposite side of the
way seemed deserted, the cables and bridges that laced across the aisle
were empty and shadowy. It came into Graham's mind that these also should
have swarmed with people.
He felt a curious emotion--throbbing--very fast! He stopped again. The
guards before him marched on; those about him stopped as he did. He saw
anxiety and fear in their faces. The throbbing had something to do with
the lights. He too looked up.
At first it seemed to him a thing that affected the lights simply, an
isolated phenomenon, having no bearing on the things below. Each huge
globe of blinding whiteness was as it were clutched, compressed in a
systole that was followed by a transitory diastole, and again a systole
like a tightening grip, darkness, light, darkness, in rapid alternation.
Graham became aware that this strange behaviour of the lights had to do
with the people below. The appearance of the houses and ways, the
appearance of the packed masses changed, became a confusion of vivid
lights and leaping shadows. He saw a multitude of shadows had sprung into
aggressive existence, seemed rushing up, broadening, widening, growing
with steady swiftness--to leap suddenly back and return reinforced. The
song and the tramping had ceased. The unanimous march, he discovered, was
arrested, there were eddies, a flow sideways, shouts of "The lights!"
Voices were crying together one thing. "The lights!" cried these voices.
"The lights!" He looked down. In this dancing death of the lights the
area of the street had suddenly become a monstrous struggle. The huge
white globes became purple-white, purple with a reddish glow, flickered,
flickered faster and faster, fluttered between light and extinction,
ceased to flicker and became mere fading specks of glowing red in a vast
obscurity. In ten seconds the extinction was accomplished, and there was
only this roaring darkness, a black monstrosity that had suddenly
swallowed up those glittering myriads of men.
He felt invisible forms about him; his arms were gripped. Something
rapped sharply against his shin. A voice bawled in his ear, "It is all
Graham shook off the paralysis of his first astonishment. He struck his
forehead against Lincoln's and bawled, "What is this darkness?"
"The Council has cut the currents that light the city. We must
wait--stop. The people will go on. They will--"
His voice was drowned. Voices were shouting, "Save the Sleeper. Take care
of the Sleeper." A guard stumbled against Graham and hurt his hand by an
inadvertent blow of his weapon. A wild tumult tossed and whirled about
him, growing, as it seemed, louder, denser, more furious each moment.
Fragments of recognisable sounds drove towards him, were whirled away
from him as his mind reached out to grasp them. Voices seemed to be
shouting conflicting orders, other voices answered. There were suddenly a
succession of piercing screams close beneath them.
A voice bawled in his ear, "The red police," and receded forthwith beyond
A crackling sound grew to distinctness, and therewith a leaping of faint
flashes along the edge of the further ways. By their light Graham saw the
heads and bodies of a number of men, armed with weapons like those of his
guards, leap into an instant's dim visibility. The whole area began to
crackle, to flash with little instantaneous streaks of light, and
abruptly the darkness rolled back like a curtain.
A glare of light dazzled his eyes, a vast seething expanse of struggling
men confused his mind. A shout, a burst of cheering, came across the
ways. He looked up to see the source of the light. A man hung far
overhead from the upper part of a cable, holding by a rope the blinding
star that had driven the darkness back.
Graham's eyes fell to the ways again. A wedge of red a little way
along the vista caught his eye. He saw it was a dense mass of red-clad
men jammed on the higher further way, their backs against the pitiless
cliff of building, and surrounded by a dense crowd of antagonists.
They were fighting. Weapons flashed and rose and fell, heads vanished
at the edge of the contest, and other heads replaced them, the little
flashes from the green weapons became little jets of smoky grey while
the light lasted.
Abruptly the flare was extinguished and the ways were an inky darkness
once more, a tumultuous mystery.
He felt something thrusting against him. He was being pushed along the
gallery. Someone was shouting--it might be at him. He was too confused
to hear. He was thrust against the wall, and a number of people
blundered past him. It seemed to him that his guards were struggling
with one another.
Suddenly the cable-hung star-holder appeared again, and the whole scene
was white and dazzling. The band of red-coats seemed broader and nearer;
its apex was half-way down the ways towards the central aisle. And
raising his eyes Graham saw that a number of these men had also appeared
now in the darkened lower galleries of the opposite building, and were
firing over the heads of their fellows below at the boiling confusion of
people on the lower ways. The meaning of these things dawned upon him.
The march of the people had come upon an ambush at the very outset.
Thrown into confusion by the extinction of the lights they were now being
attacked by the red police. Then he became aware that he was standing
alone, that his guards and Lincoln were along the gallery in the
direction along which he had come before the darkness fell. He saw they
were gesticulating to him wildly, running back towards him. A great
shouting came from across the ways. Then it seemed as though the whole
face of the darkened building opposite was lined and speckled with
red-clad men. And they were pointing over to him and shouting. "The
Sleeper! Save the Sleeper!" shouted a multitude of throats.
Something struck the wall above his head. He looked up at the impact and
saw a star-shaped splash of silvery metal. He saw Lincoln near him. Felt
his arm gripped. Then, pat, pat; he had been missed twice.
For a moment he did not understand this. The street was hidden,
everything was hidden, as he looked. The second flare had burned out.
Lincoln had gripped Graham by the arm, was lugging him along the gallery.
"Before the next light!" he cried. His haste was contagious. Graham's
instinct of self-preservation overcame the paralysis of his incredulous
astonishment. He became for a time the blind creature of the fear of
death. He ran, stumbling because of the uncertainty of the darkness,
blundered into his guards as they turned to run with him. Haste was his
one desire, to escape this perilous gallery upon which he was exposed. A
third glare came close on its predecessors. With it came a great shouting
across the ways, an answering tumult from the ways. The red-coats below,
he saw, had now almost gained the central passage. Their countless faces
turned towards him, and they shouted. The white facade opposite was
densely stippled with red. All these wonderful things concerned him,
turned upon him as a pivot. These were the guards of the Council
attempting to recapture him.
Lucky it was for him that these shots were the first fired in anger for
a hundred and fifty years. He heard bullets whacking over his head, felt
a splash of molten metal sting his ear, and perceived without looking
that the whole opposite facade, an unmasked ambuscade of red police, was
crowded and bawling and firing at him.
Down went one of his guards before him, and Graham, unable to stop, leapt
the writhing body.
In another second he had plunged, unhurt, into a black passage, and
incontinently someone, coming, it may be, in a transverse direction,
blundered violently into him. He was hurling down a staircase in absolute
darkness. He reeled, and was struck again, and came against a wall with
his hands. He was crushed by a weight of struggling bodies, whirled
round, and thrust to the right. A vast pressure pinned him. He could not
breathe, his ribs seemed cracking. He felt a momentary relaxation, and
then the whole mass of people moving together, bore him back towards the
great theatre from which he had so recently come. There were moments when
his feet did not touch the ground. Then he was staggering and shoving. He
heard shouts of "They are coming!" and a muffled cry close to him. His
foot blundered against something soft, he heard a hoarse scream under
foot. He heard shouts of "The Sleeper!" but he was too confused to speak.
He heard the green weapons crackling. For a space he lost his individual
will, became an atom in a panic, blind, unthinking, mechanical. He thrust
and pressed back and writhed in the pressure, kicked presently against a
step, and found himself ascending a slope. And abruptly the faces all
about him leapt out of the black, visible, ghastly-white and astonished,
terrified, perspiring, in a livid glare. One face, a young man's, was
very near to him, not twenty inches away. At the time it was but a
passing incident of no emotional value, but afterwards it came back to
him in his dreams. For this young man, wedged upright in the crowd for a
time, had been shot and was already dead.
A fourth white star must have been lit by the man on the cable. Its
light came glaring in through vast windows and arches and showed Graham
that he was now one of a dense mass of flying black figures pressed back
across the lower area of the great theatre. This time the picture was
livid and fragmentary, slashed and barred with black shadows. He saw
that quite near to him the red guards were fighting their way through
the people. He could not tell whether they saw him. He looked for
Lincoln and his guards. He saw Lincoln near the stage of the theatre
surrounded in a crowd of black-badged revolutionaries, lifted up and
staring to and fro as if seeking him. Graham perceived that he himself
was near the opposite edge of the crowd, that behind him, separated by a
barrier, sloped the now vacant seats of the theatre. A sudden idea came
to him, and he began fighting his way towards the barrier. As he reached
it the glare came to an end.
In a moment he had thrown off the great cloak that not only impeded his
movements but made him conspicuous, and had slipped it from his
shoulders. He heard someone trip in its folds. In another he was scaling
the barrier and had dropped into the blackness on the further side. Then
feeling his way he came to the lower end of an ascending gangway. In the
darkness the sound of firing ceased and the roar of feet and voices
lulled. Then suddenly he came to an unexpected step and tripped and fell.
As he did so pools and islands amidst the darkness about him leapt to
vivid light again, the uproar surged louder and the glare of the fifth
white star shone through the vast fenestrations of the theatre walls.
He rolled over among some seats, heard a shouting and the whirring rattle
of weapons, struggled up and was knocked back again, perceived that a
number of black-badged men were all about him firing at the reds below,
leaping from seat to seat, crouching among the seats to reload.
Instinctively he crouched amidst the seats, as stray shots ripped the
pneumatic cushions and cut bright slashes on their soft metal frames.
Instinctively he marked the direction of the gangways, the most plausible
way of escape for him so soon as the veil of darkness fell again.
A young man in faded blue garments came vaulting over the seats. "Hullo!"
he said, with his flying feet within six inches of the crouching
He stared without any sign of recognition, turned to fire, fired, and
shouting, "To hell with the Council!" was about to fire again. Then it
seemed to Graham that the half of this man's neck had vanished. A drop of
moisture fell on Graham's cheek. The green weapon stopped half raised.
For a moment the man stood still with his face suddenly expressionless,
then he began to slant forward. His knees bent. Man and darkness fell
together. At the sound of his fall Graham rose up and ran for his life
until a step down to the gangway tripped him. He scrambled to his feet,
turned up the gangway and ran on.
When the sixth star glared he was already close to the yawning throat of
a passage. He ran on the swifter for the light, entered the passage and
turned a corner into absolute night again. He was knocked sideways,
rolled over, and recovered his feet. He found himself one of a crowd of
invisible fugitives pressing in one direction. His one thought now was
their thought also; to escape out of this fighting. He thrust and struck,
staggered, ran, was wedged tightly, lost ground and then was clear again.
For some minutes he was running through the darkness along a winding
passage, and then he crossed some wide and open space, passed down a long
incline, and came at last down a flight of steps to a level place. Many
people were shouting, "They are coming! The guards are coming. They are
firing. Get out of the fighting. The guards are firing. It will be safe
in Seventh Way. Along here to Seventh Way!" There were women and children
in the crowd as well as men.
The crowd converged on an archway, passed through a short throat and
emerged on a wider space again, lit dimly. The black figures about him
spread out and ran up what seemed in the twilight to be a gigantic series
of steps. He followed. The people dispersed to the right and left.... He
perceived that he was no longer in a crowd. He stopped near the highest
step. Before him, on that level, were groups of seats and a little kiosk.
He went up to this and, stopping in the shadow of its eaves, looked about
Everything was vague and grey, but he recognised that these great steps
were a series of platforms of the "ways," now motionless again. The
platform slanted up on either side, and the tall buildings rose beyond,
vast dim ghosts, their inscriptions and advertisements indistinctly seen,
and up through the girders and cables was a faint interrupted ribbon of
pallid sky. A number of people hurried by. From their shouts and voices,
it seemed they were hurrying to join the fighting. Other less noisy
figures flitted timidly among the shadows.
From very far away down the street he could hear the sound of a struggle.
But it was evident to him that this was not the street into which the
theatre opened. That former fight, it seemed, had suddenly dropped out of
sound and hearing. And they were fighting for him!
For a space he was like a man who pauses in the reading of a vivid book,
and suddenly doubts what he has been taking unquestionably. At that time
he had little mind for details; the whole effect was a huge astonishment.
Oddly enough, while the flight from the Council prison, the great crowd
in the hall, and the attack of the red police upon the swarming people
were clearly present in his mind, it cost him an effort to piece in his
awakening and to revive the meditative interval of the Silent Rooms. At
first his memory leapt these things and took him back to the cascade at
Pentargen quivering in the wind, and all the sombre splendours of the
sunlit Cornish coast. The contrast touched everything with unreality. And
then the gap filled, and he began to comprehend his position.
It was no longer absolutely a riddle, as it had been in the Silent Rooms.
At least he had the strange, bare outline now. He was in some way the
owner of the world, and great political parties were fighting to possess
him. On the one hand was the Council, with its red police, set
resolutely, it seemed, on the usurpation of his property and perhaps his
murder; on the other, the revolution that had liberated him, with this
unseen "Ostrog" as its leader. And the whole of this gigantic city was
convulsed by their struggle. Frantic development of his world! "I do not
understand," he cried. "I do not understand!"
He had slipped out between the contending parties into this liberty of
the twilight. What would happen next? What was happening? He figured the
red-clad men as busily hunting him, driving the black-badged
revolutionists before them.
At any rate chance had given him a breathing space. He could lurk
unchallenged by the passers-by, and watch the course of things. His eye
followed up the intricate dim immensity of the twilight buildings, and it
came to him as a thing infinitely wonderful, that above there the sun was
rising, and the world was lit and glowing with the old familiar light of
day. In a little while he had recovered his breath. His clothing had
already dried upon him from the snow.
He wandered for miles along these twilight ways, speaking to no one,
accosted by no one--a dark figure among dark figures--the coveted man out
of the past, the inestimable unintentional owner of the world. Wherever
there were lights or dense crowds, or exceptional excitement, he was
afraid of recognition, and watched and turned back or went up and down by
the middle stairways, into some transverse system of ways at a lower or
higher level. And though he came on no more fighting, the whole city
stirred with battle. Once he had to run to avoid a marching multitude of
men that swept the street. Everyone abroad seemed involved. For the most
part they were men, and they carried what he judged were weapons. It
seemed as though the struggle was concentrated mainly in the quarter of
the city from which he came. Ever and again a distant roaring, the
remote suggestion of that conflict, reached his ears. Then his caution
and his curiosity struggled together. But his caution prevailed, and he
continued wandering away from the fighting--so far as he could judge. He
went unmolested, unsuspected through the dark. After a time he ceased to
hear even a remote echo of the battle, fewer and fewer people passed him,
until at last the streets became deserted. The frontages of the buildings
grew plain, and harsh; he seemed to have come to a district of vacant
warehouses. Solitude crept upon him--his pace slackened.
He became aware of a growing fatigue. At times he would turn aside and
sit down on one of the numerous benches of the upper ways. But a feverish
restlessness, the knowledge of his vital implication in this struggle,
would not let him rest in any place for long. Was the struggle on his
And then in a desolate place came the shock of an earthquake--a roaring
and thundering--a mighty wind of cold air pouring through the city, the
smash of glass, the slip and thud of falling masonry--a series of
gigantic concussions. A mass of glass and ironwork fell from the remote
roofs into the middle gallery, not a hundred yards away from him, and in
the distance were shouts and running. He, too, was startled to an aimless
activity, and ran first one way and then as aimlessly back.
A man came running towards him. His self-control returned. "What have
they blown up?" asked the man breathlessly. "That was an explosion," and
before Graham could speak he had hurried on.
The great buildings rose dimly, veiled by a perplexing twilight, albeit
the rivulet of sky above was now bright with day. He noted many strange
features, understanding none at the time; he even spelt out many of the
inscriptions in Phonetic lettering. But what profit is it to decipher a
confusion of odd-looking letters resolving itself, after painful strain
of eye and mind, into "Here is Eadhamite," or, "Labour Bureau--Little
Side"? Grotesque thought, that all these cliff-like houses were his!
The perversity of his experience came to him vividly. In actual fact he
had made such a leap in time as romancers have imagined again and again.
And that fact realised, he had been prepared. His mind had, as it were,
seated itself for a spectacle. And no spectacle unfolded itself, but a
great vague danger, unsympathetic shadows and veils of darkness.
Somewhere through the labyrinthine obscurity his death sought him. Would
he, after all, be killed before he saw? It might be that even at the next
corner his destruction ambushed. A great desire to see, a great longing
to know, arose in him.
He became fearful of corners. It seemed to him that there was safety in
concealment. Where could he hide to be inconspicuous when the lights
returned? At last he sat down upon a seat in a recess on one of the
higher ways, conceiving he was alone there.
He squeezed his knuckles into his weary eyes. Suppose when he looked
again he found the dark trough of parallel ways and that intolerable
altitude of edifice gone. Suppose he were to discover the whole story of
these last few days, the awakening, the shouting multitudes, the darkness
and the fighting, a phantasmagoria, a new and more vivid sort of dream.
It must be a dream; it was so inconsecutive, so reasonless. Why were the
people fighting for him? Why should this saner world regard him as Owner
So he thought, sitting blinded, and then he looked again, half hoping in
spite of his ears to see some familiar aspect of the life of the
nineteenth century, to see, perhaps, the little harbour of Boscastle
about him, the cliffs of Pentargen, or the bedroom of his home. But fact
takes no heed of human hopes. A squad of men with a black banner tramped
athwart the nearer shadows, intent on conflict, and beyond rose that
giddy wall of frontage, vast and dark, with the dim incomprehensible
lettering showing faintly on its face.
"It is no dream," he said, "no dream." And he bowed his face upon
THE OLD MAN WHO KNEW EVERYTHING
He was startled by a cough close at hand.
He turned sharply, and peering, saw a small, hunched-up figure sitting a
couple of yards off in the shadow of the enclosure.
"Have ye any news?" asked the high-pitched wheezy voice of a very old
Graham hesitated. "None," he said.
"I stay here till the lights come again," said the old man. "These blue
scoundrels are everywhere--everywhere."
Graham's answer was inarticulate assent. He tried to see the old man but
the darkness hid his face. He wanted very much to respond, to talk, but
he did not know how to begin.
"Dark and damnable," said the old man suddenly. "Dark and damnable.
Turned out of my room among all these dangers."
"That's hard," ventured Graham. "That's hard on you."
"Darkness. An old man lost in the darkness. And all the world gone mad.
War and fighting. The police beaten and rogues abroad. Why don't they
bring some negroes to protect us? ... No more dark passages for me. I
fell over a dead man."
"You're safer with company," said the old man, "if it's company of
the right sort," and peered frankly. He rose suddenly and came
Apparently the scrutiny was satisfactory. The old man sat down as if
relieved to be no longer alone. "Eh!" he said, "but this is a terrible
time! War and fighting, and the dead lying there--men, strong men, dying
in the dark. Sons! I have three sons. God knows where they are to-night."
The voice ceased. Then repeated quavering: "God knows where they are
Graham stood revolving a question that should not betray his ignorance.
Again the old man's voice ended the pause.
"This Ostrog will win," he said. "He will win. And what the world will
be like under him no one can tell. My sons are under the wind-vanes,
all three. One of my daughters-in-law was his mistress for a while.
His mistress! We're not common people. Though they've sent me to
wander to-night and take my chance.... I knew what was going on.
Before most people. But this darkness! And to fall over a dead body
suddenly in the dark!"
His wheezy breathing could be heard.
"Ostrog!" said Graham.
"The greatest Boss the world has ever seen," said the voice.
Graham ransacked his mind. "The Council has few friends among the
people," he hazarded.
"Few friends. And poor ones at that. They've had their time. Eh! They
should have kept to the clever ones. But twice they held election. And
Ostrog--. And now it has burst out and nothing can stay it, nothing can
stay it. Twice they rejected Ostrog--Ostrog the Boss. I heard of his
rages at the time--he was terrible. Heaven save them! For nothing on
earth can now he has raised the Labour Companies upon them. No one else
would have dared. All the blue canvas armed and marching! He will go
through with it. He will go through."
He was silent for a little while. "This Sleeper," he said, and stopped.
"Yes," said Graham. "Well?"
The senile voice sank to a confidential whisper, the dim, pale face came
close. "The real Sleeper--"
"Yes," said Graham.
"Died years ago."
"What?" said Graham, sharply.
"Years ago. Died. Years ago."
"You don't say so!" said Graham.
"I do. I do say so. He died. This Sleeper who's woke up--they changed in
the night. A poor, drugged insensible creature. But I mustn't tell all I
know. I mustn't tell all I know."
For a little while he muttered inaudibly. His secret was too much for
him. "I don't know the ones that put him to sleep--that was before my
time--but I know the man who injected the stimulants and woke him again.
It was ten to one--wake or kill. Wake or kill. Ostrog's way."
Graham was so astonished at these things that he had to interrupt, to
make the old man repeat his words, to re-question vaguely, before he was
sure of the meaning and folly of what he heard. And his awakening had
not been natural! Was that an old man's senile superstition, too, or had
it any truth in it? Feeling in the dark corners of his memory, he
presently came on something that might conceivably be an impression of
some such stimulating effect. It dawned upon him that he had happened
upon a lucky encounter, that at last he might learn something of the new
age. The old man wheezed awhile and spat, and then the piping,
reminiscent voice resumed:
"The first time they rejected him. I've followed it all."
"Rejected whom?" said Graham. "The Sleeper?"
"Sleeper? _No_. Ostrog. He was terrible--terrible! And he was promised
then, promised certainly the next time. Fools they were--not to be more
afraid of him. Now all the city's his millstone, and such as we dust
ground upon it. Dust ground upon it. Until he set to work--the workers
cut each other's throats, and murdered a Chinaman or a Labour policeman
at times, and left the rest of us in peace. Dead bodies! Robbing!
Darkness! Such a thing hasn't been this gross of years. Eh!--but 'tis ill
on small folks when the great fall out! It's ill."
"Did you say--there had not been--what?--for a gross of years?"
"Eh?" said the old man.
The old man said something about clipping his words, and made him repeat
this a third time. "Fighting and slaying, and weapons in hand, and fools
bawling freedom and the like," said the old man. "Not in all my life has
there been that. These are like the old days--for sure--when the Paris
people broke out--three gross of years ago. That's what I mean hasn't
been. But it's the world's way. It had to come back. I know. I know. This
five years Ostrog has been working, and there has been trouble and
trouble, and hunger and threats and high talk and arms. Blue canvas and
murmurs. No one safe. Everything sliding and slipping. And now here we
are! Revolt and fighting, and the Council come to its end."
"You are rather well-informed on these things," said Graham.
"I know what I hear. It isn't all Babble Machine with me."
"No," said Graham, wondering what Babble Machine might be. "And you are
certain this Ostrog--you are certain Ostrog organised this rebellion and
arranged for the waking of the Sleeper? Just to assert himself--because
he was not elected to the Council?"
"Everyone knows that, I should think," said the old man. "Except--just
fools. He meant to be master somehow. In the Council or not. Everyone who
knows anything knows that. And here we are with dead bodies lying in the
dark! Why, where have you been if you haven't heard all about the trouble
between Ostrog and the Verneys? And what do you think the troubles are
about? The Sleeper? Eh? You think the Sleeper's real and woke of his own
"I'm a dull man, older than I look, and forgetful," said Graham. "Lots of
things that have happened--especially of late years--. If I was the
Sleeper, to tell you the truth, I couldn't know less about them."
"Eh!" said the voice. "Old, are you? You don't sound so very old! But
it's not everyone keeps his memory to my time of life--truly. But these
notorious things! But you're not so old as me--not nearly so old as me.
Well! I ought not to judge other men by myself, perhaps. I'm young--for
so old a man. Maybe you're old for so young."
"That's it," said Graham. "And I've a queer history. I know very little.
And history! Practically I know no history. The Sleeper and Julius
Caesar are all the same to me. It's interesting to hear you talk of
"I know a few things," said the old man. "I know a thing or two.
The two men became silent, listening. There was a heavy thud, a
concussion that made their seat shiver. The passers-by stopped, shouted
to one another. The old man was full of questions; he shouted to a man
who passed near. Graham, emboldened by his example, got up and accosted
others. None knew what had happened.
He returned to the seat and found the old man muttering vague
interrogations in an undertone. For a while they said nothing to
The sense of this gigantic struggle, so near and yet so remote, oppressed
Graham's imagination. Was this old man right, was the report of the
people right, and were the revolutionaries winning? Or were they all in
error, and were the red guards driving all before them? At any time the
flood of warfare might pour into this silent quarter of the city and
seize upon him again. It behoved him to learn all he could while there
was time. He turned suddenly to the old man with a question and left it
unsaid. But his motion moved the old man to speech again.
"Eh! but how things work together!" said the old man. "This Sleeper that
all the fools put their trust in! I've the whole history of it--I was
always a good one for histories. When I was a boy--I'm that old--I used
to read printed books. You'd hardly think it. Likely you've seen
none--they rot and dust so--and the Sanitary Company burns them to make
ashlarite. But they were convenient in their dirty way. One learnt a
lot. These new-fangled Babble Machines--they don't seem new-fangled to
you, eh?--they're easy to hear, easy to forget. But I've traced all the
Sleeper business from the first."
"You will scarcely believe it," said Graham slowly, "I'm so
ignorant--I've been so preoccupied in my own little affairs, my
circumstances have been so odd--I know nothing of this Sleeper's history.
Who was he?"
"Eh!" said the old man. "I know, I know. He was a poor nobody, and set
on a playful woman, poor soul! And he fell into a trance. There's the
old things they had, those brown things--silver photographs--still
showing him as he lay, a gross and a half years ago--a gross and a half
"Set on a playful woman, poor soul," said Graham softly to himself, and
then aloud, "Yes--well go on."
"You must know he had a cousin named Warming, a solitary man without
children, who made a big fortune speculating in roads--the first
Eadhamite roads. But surely you've heard? No? Why? He bought all the
patent rights and made a big company. In those days there were grosses of
grosses of separate businesses and business companies. Grosses of
grosses! His roads killed the railroads--the old things--in two dozen
years; he bought up and Eadhamited the tracks. And because he didn't want
to break up his great property or let in shareholders, he left it all to
the Sleeper, and put it under a Board of Trustees that he had picked and
trained. He knew then the Sleeper wouldn't wake, that he would go on
sleeping, sleeping till he died. He knew that quite well! And plump! a
man in the United States, who had lost two sons in a boat accident,
followed that up with another great bequest. His trustees found
themselves with a dozen myriads of lions'-worth or more of property at
the very beginning."
"What was his name?"
"No--I mean--that American's."
"Isbister!" cried Graham. "Why, I don't even know the name."
"Of course not," said the old man. "Of course not. People don't learn
much in the schools nowadays. But I know all about him. He was a rich
American who went from England, and he left the Sleeper even more than
Warming. How he made it? That I don't know. Something about pictures by
machinery. But he made it and left it, and so the Council had its start.
It was just a council of trustees at first."
"And how did it grow?"
"Eh!--but you're not up to things. Money attracts money--and twelve
brains are better than one. They played it cleverly. They worked politics
with money, and kept on adding to the money by working currency and
tariffs. They grew--they grew. And for years the twelve trustees hid the
growing of the Sleeper's estate under double names and company titles and
all that. The Council spread by title deed, mortgage, share, every
political party, every newspaper they bought. If you listen to the old
stories you will see the Council growing and growing. Billions and
billions of lions at last--the Sleeper's estate. And all growing out of a
whim--out of this Warming's will, and an accident to Isbister's sons.
"Men are strange," said the old man. "The strange thing to me is how the
Council worked together so long. As many as twelve. But they worked in
cliques from the first. And they've slipped back. In my young days
speaking of the Council was like an ignorant man speaking of God. We
didn't think they could do wrong. We didn't know of their women and all
that! Or else I've got wiser.
"Men are strange," said the old man. "Here are you, young and
ignorant, and me--sevendy years old, and I might reasonably before
getting--explaining it all to you short and clear.
"Sevendy," he said, "sevendy, and I hear and see--hear better than I
see. And reason clearly, and keep myself up to all the happenings of
"Life is strange. I was twaindy before Ostrog was a baby. I remember him
long before he'd pushed his way to the head of the Wind Vanes Control.
I've seen many changes. Eh! I've worn the blue. And at last I've come to
see this crush and darkness and tumult and dead men carried by in heaps
on the ways. And all his doing! All his doing!"
His voice died away in scarcely articulate praises of Ostrog.
Graham thought. "Let me see," he said, "if I have it right."
He extended a hand and ticked off points upon his fingers. "The Sleeper
has been asleep--"
"Changed," said the old man.
"Perhaps. And meanwhile the Sleeper's property grew in the hands of
Twelve Trustees, until it swallowed up nearly all the great ownership of
the world. The Twelve Trustees--by virtue of this property have become
masters of the world. Because they are the paying power--just as the old
English Parliament used to be--"
"Eh!" said the old man. "That's so--that's a good comparison.
You're not so--"
"And now this Ostrog--has suddenly revolutionised the world by waking the
Sleeper--whom no one but the superstitious, common people had ever dreamt
would wake again--raising the Sleeper to claim his property from the
Council, after all these years."
The old man endorsed this statement with a cough. "It's strange," he
said, "to meet a man who learns these things for the first time
"Aye," said Graham, "it's strange."
"Have you been in a Pleasure City?" said the old man. "All my life I've
longed--" He laughed. "Even now," he said, "I could enjoy a little fun.
Enjoy seeing things, anyhow." He mumbled a sentence Graham did not
"The Sleeper--when did he awake?" said Graham suddenly.
"Three days ago."
"Where is he?"
"Ostrog has him. He escaped from the Council not four hours ago. My
dear sir, where were you at the time? He was in the hall of the
markets--where the fighting has been. All the city was screaming about
it. All the Babble Machines. Everywhere it was shouted. Even the fools
who speak for the Council were admitting it. Everyone was rushing off to
see him--everyone was getting arms. Were you drunk or asleep? And even
then! But you're joking! Surely you're pretending. It was to stop the
shouting of the Babble Machines and prevent the people gathering that
they turned off the electricity--and put this damned darkness upon us.
Do you mean to say--?"
"I had heard the Sleeper was rescued," said Graham. "But--to come back a
minute. Are you sure Ostrog has him?"
"He won't let him go," said the old man.
"And the Sleeper. Are you sure he is not genuine? I have never heard--"
"So all the fools think. So they think. As if there wasn't a thousand
things that were never heard. I know Ostrog too well for that. Did I tell
you? In a way I'm a sort of relation of Ostrog's. A sort of relation.
Through my daughter-in-law."
"I suppose there's no chance of this Sleeper asserting himself. I suppose
he's certain to be a puppet--in Ostrog's hands or the Council's, as soon
as the struggle is over."
"In Ostrog's hands--certainly. Why shouldn't he be a puppet? Look at his
position. Everything done for him, every pleasure possible. Why should he
want to assert himself?"
"What are these Pleasure Cities?" said Graham, abruptly.
The old man made him repeat the question. When at last he was assured of
Graham's words, he nudged him violently. "That's _too_ much," said he.
"You're poking fun at an old man. I've been suspecting you know more than
"Perhaps I do," said Graham. "But no! why should I go on acting? No, I do
not know what a Pleasure City is."
The old man laughed in an intimate way.
"What is more, I do not know how to read your letters, I do not know
what money you use, I do not know what foreign countries there are. I do
not know where I am. I cannot count. I do not know where to get food, nor
drink, nor shelter."
"Come, come," said the old man, "if you had a glass of drink now, would
you put it in your ear or your eye?"
"I want you to tell me all these things."
"He, he! Well, gentlemen who dress in silk must have their fun." A
withered hand caressed Graham's arm for a moment. "Silk. Well, well! But,
all the same, I wish I was the man who was put up as the Sleeper. He'll
have a fine time of it. All the pomp and pleasure. He's a queer looking
face. When they used to let anyone go to see him, I've got tickets and
been. The image of the real one, as the photographs show him, this
substitute used to be. Yellow. But he'll get fed up. It's a queer world.
Think of the luck of it. The luck of it. I expect he'll be sent to Capri.
It's the best fun for a greener."
His cough overtook him again. Then he began mumbling enviously of
pleasures and strange delights. "The luck of it, the luck of it! All my
life I've been in London, hoping to get my chance."
"But you don't know that the Sleeper died," said Graham, suddenly.
The old man made him repeat his words.
"Men don't live beyond ten dozen. It's not in the order of things," said
the old man. "I'm not a fool. Fools may believe it, but not me."
Graham became angry with the old man's assurance. "Whether you are a fool
or not," he said, "it happens you are wrong about the Sleeper."
"You are wrong about the Sleeper. I haven't told you before, but I will
tell you now. You are wrong about the Sleeper."
"How do you know? I thought you didn't know anything--not even about
"You don't know," said the old man. "How are you to know? It's very
"I _am_ the Sleeper."
He had to repeat it.
There was a brief pause. "There's a silly thing to say, sir, if you'll
excuse me. It might get you into trouble in a time like this," said
the old man.
Graham, slightly dashed, repeated his assertion.
"I was saying I was the Sleeper. That years and years ago I did, indeed,
fall asleep, in a little stone-built village, in the days when there were
hedgerows, and villages, and inns, and all the countryside cut up into
little pieces, little fields. Have you never heard of those days? And it
is I--I who speak to you--who awakened again these four days since."
"Four days since!--the Sleeper! But they've _got_ the Sleeper. They have
him and they won't let him go. Nonsense! You've been talking sensibly
enough up to now. I can see it as though I was there. There will be
Lincoln like a keeper just behind him; they won't let him go about alone.
Trust them. You're a queer fellow. One of these fun pokers. I see now why
you have been clipping your words so oddly, but--"
He stopped abruptly, and Graham could see his gesture.
"As if Ostrog would let the Sleeper run about alone! No, you're telling
that to the wrong man altogether. Eh! as if I should believe. What's
your game? And besides, we've been talking of the Sleeper."
Graham stood up. "Listen," he said. "I am the Sleeper."
"You're an odd man," said the old man, "to sit here in the dark, talking
clipped, and telling a lie of that sort. But--"
Graham's exasperation fell to laughter. "It is preposterous," he cried.
"Preposterous. The dream must end. It gets wilder and wilder. Here am
I--in this damned twilight--I never knew a dream in twilight before--an
anachronism by two hundred years and trying to persuade an old fool that
I am myself, and meanwhile--Ugh!"
He moved in gusty irritation and went striding. In a moment the old man
was pursuing him. "Eh! but don't go!" cried the old man. "I'm an old
fool, I know. Don't go. Don't leave me in all this darkness."
Graham hesitated, stopped. Suddenly the folly of telling his secret
flashed into his mind.
"I didn't mean to offend you--disbelieving you," said the old man coming
near. "It's no manner of harm. Call yourself the Sleeper if it pleases
you. 'Tis a foolish trick--"
Graham hesitated, turned abruptly and went on his way.
For a time he heard the old man's hobbling pursuit and his wheezy
cries receding. But at last the darkness swallowed him, and Graham saw
him no more.
Graham could now take a clearer view of his position. For a long time yet
he wandered, but after the talk of the old man his discovery of this
Ostrog was clear in his mind as the final inevitable decision. One thing
was evident, those who were at the headquarters of the revolt had
succeeded very admirably in suppressing the fact of his disappearance.
But every moment he expected to hear the report of his death or of his
recapture by the Council.
Presently a man stopped before him. "Have you heard?" he said.
"No!" said Graham, starting.
"Near a dozand," said the man, "a dozand men!" and hurried on.
A number of men and a girl passed in the darkness, gesticulating and
shouting: "Capitulated! Given up!" "A dozand of men." "Two dozand of
men." "Ostrog, Hurrah! Ostrog, Hurrah!" These cries receded, became
Other shouting men followed. For a time his attention was absorbed in the
fragments of speech he heard. He had a doubt whether all were speaking
English. Scraps floated to him, scraps like Pigeon English, like "nigger"
dialect, blurred and mangled distortions. He dared accost no one with
questions. The impression the people gave him jarred altogether with his
preconceptions of the struggle and confirmed the old man's faith in
Ostrog. It was only slowly he could bring himself to believe that all
these people were rejoicing at the defeat of the Council, that the
Council which had pursued him with such power and vigour was after all
the weaker of the two sides in conflict. And if that was so, how did it
affect him? Several times he hesitated on the verge of fundamental
questions. Once he turned and walked for a long way after a little man of
rotund inviting outline, but he was unable to master confidence to
It was only slowly that it came to him that he might ask for the
"wind-vane offices" whatever the "wind-vane offices" might be. His first
enquiry simply resulted in a direction to go on towards Westminster. His
second led to the discovery of a short cut in which he was speedily lost.
He was told to leave the ways to which he had hitherto confined
himself--knowing no other means of transit--and to plunge down one of the
middle staircases into the blackness of a cross-way. Thereupon came some
trivial adventures; chief of these an ambiguous encounter with a
gruff-voiced invisible creature speaking in a strange dialect that seemed
at first a strange tongue, a thick flow of speech with the drifting
corpses of English Words therein, the dialect of the latter-day vile.
Then another voice drew near, a girl's voice singing, "tralala tralala."
She spoke to Graham, her English touched with something of the same
quality. She professed to have lost her sister, she blundered needlessly
into him he thought, caught hold of him and laughed. But a word of vague
remonstrance sent her into the unseen again.
The sounds about him increased. Stumbling people passed him, speaking
excitedly. "They have surrendered!" "The Council! Surely not the
Council!" "They are saying so in the Ways." The passage seemed wider.
Suddenly the wall fell away. He was in a great space and people were
stirring remotely. He inquired his way of an indistinct figure. "Strike
straight across," said a woman's voice. He left his guiding wall, and in
a moment had stumbled against a little table on which were utensils of
glass. Graham's eyes, now attuned to darkness, made out a long vista with
tables on either side. He went down this. At one or two of the tables he
heard a clang of glass and a sound of eating. There were people then cool
enough to dine, or daring enough to steal a meal in spite of social
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