When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
Part 1 out of 6
WHEN THE SLEEPER WAKES
One afternoon, at low water, Mr. Isbister, a young
artist lodging at Boscastle, walked from that place to
the picturesque cove of Pentargen, desiring to examine
the caves there. Halfway down the precipitous path
to the Pentargen beach he came suddenly upon a man
sitting in an attitude of profound distress beneath
a projecting mass of rock. The hands of this man
hung limply over his knees, his eyes were red and
staring before him, and his face was wet with tears.
He glanced round at Isbister's footfall. Both men
were disconcerted, Isbister the more so, and, to
override the awkwardness of his involuntary pause, he
remarked, with an air of mature conviction, that the
weather was hot for the time of year.
"Very," answered the stranger shortly, hesitated a
second, and added in a colourless tone, "I can't sleep."
Isbister stopped abruptly. "No?" was all he said,
but his bearing conveyed his helpful impulse.
"It may sound incredible," said the stranger, turning
weary eyes to Isbister's face and emphasizing his
words with a languid hand, "but I have had no sleep
-- no sleep at all for six nights."
"Yes. Bad advice for the most part. Drugs. My
nervous system... . They are all very well for
the run of people. It's hard to explain. I dare not
take . . . sufficiently powerful drugs."
"That makes it difficult," said Isbister.
He stood helplessly in the narrow path, perplexed
what to do. Clearly the man wanted to talk. An idea
natural enough under the circumstances, prompted
him to keep the conversation going. "I've never suffered
from sleeplessness myself," he said in a tone of
commonplace gossip, "but in those cases I have
known, people have usually found something --"
"I dare make no experiments."
He spoke wearily. He gave a gesture of rejection,
and for a space both men were silent.
"Exercise?" suggested Isbister diffidently, with a
glance from his interlocutor's face of wretchedness to
the touring costume he wore.
"That is what I have tried. Unwisely perhaps. I
have followed the coast, day after day -- from New
Quay. It has only added muscular fatigue to the mental.
The cause of this unrest was overwork -- trouble.
There was something --"
He stopped as if from sheer fatigue. He rubbed his
forehead with a lean hand. He resumed speech like
one who talks to himself.
"I am a lone wolf, a solitary man, wandering
through a world in which I have no part. I am wifeless --
childless -- who is it speaks of the childless as
the dead twigs on the tree of life? I am wifeless,
I childless -- I could find no duty to do. No desire
even in my heart. One thing at last I set myself to do.
"I said, I will do this, and to do it, to overcome
the inertia of this dull body, I resorted to drugs. Great
God, I've had enough of drugs! I don't know if _you_
feel the heavy inconvenience of the body, its
exasperating demand of time from the mind -- time --
life! Live! We only live in patches. We have
to eat, and then comes the dull digestive complacencies --
or irritations. We have to take the air or else
our thoughts grow sluggish, stupid, run into gulfs
and blind alleys. A thousand distractions arise from
within and without, and then comes drowsiness and
sleep. Men seem to live for sleep. How little of a
man's day is his own -- even at the best! And then
come those false friends, those Thug helpers, the
alkaloids that stifle natural fatigue and kill rest --
black coffee, cocaine --"
"I see," said Isbister.
"I did my work," said the sleepless man with a
"And this is the price?"
For a little while the two remained without speaking.
"You cannot imagine the craving for rest that I
feel -- a hunger and thirst. For six long days, since
my work was done, my mind has been a whirlpool,
swift, unprogressive and incessant, a torrent of
thoughts leading nowhere, spinning round swift and
He paused. "Towards the gulf."
"You must sleep," said Isbister decisively, and
with an air of a remedy discovered. "Certainly you
"My mind is perfectly lucid. It was never clearer.
But I know I am drawing towards the vortex.
"You have seen things go down an eddy? Out of
the light of the day, out of this sweet world of sanity --
"But," expostulated Isbister.
The man threw out a hand towards him, and his
eyes were wild, and his voice suddenly high. "I shall
kill myself. If in no other way -- at the foot of yonder
dark precipice there, where the waves are green,
and the white surge lifts and falls, and that little
thread of water trembles down. There at any rate is
. . . sleep."
"That's unreasonable," said Isbister, startled at the
man's hysterical gust of emotion. "Drugs are better
"There at any rate is sleep," repeated the stranger,
not heeding him.
Isbister looked at him and wondered transitorily if
some complex Providence had indeed brought them
together that afternoon. "It's not a cert, you know,"
he remarked." There's a cliff like that at Lulworth
Cove -- as high, anyhow -- and a little girl fell from
top to bottom. And lives to-day -- sound and well."
"But those rocks there?"
"One might lie on them rather dismally through a
cold night, broken bones grating as one shivered, chill
water splashing over you. Eh?"
Their eyes met. "Sorry to upset your ideals," said
Isbister with a sense of devil-may-careish brilliance.
"But a suicide over that cliff (or any cliff for the matter
of that), really, as an artist --" He laughed.
"It's so damned amateurish."
"But the other thing," said the sleepless man irritably,
"the other thing. No man can keep sane if
night after night --"
"Have you been walking along this coast alone?"
"Silly sort of thing to do. If you'll excuse my
saying so. Alone! As you say; body fag is no cure
for brain fag. Who told you to? No wonder;
walking! And the sun on your head, heat, fag, solitude,
all the day long, and then, I suppose, you go to
bed and try very hard -- eh?"
Isbister stopped short and looked at the sufferer
"Look at these rocks!" cried the seated man with
a sudden force of gesture. "Look at that sea that
has shone and quivered there for ever! See the white
spume rush into darkness under that great cliff. And
this blue vault, with the blinding sun pouring from
the dome of it. It is your world. You accept it, you
rejoice in it. It warms and supports and delights you.
And for me --"
He turned his head and showed a ghastly face,
bloodshot pallid eyes and bloodless lips. He spoke
almost in a whisper. "It is the garment of my misery.
The whole world . . . is the garment of
Isbister looked at all the wild beauty of the sunlit
cliffs about them and back to that face of despair
For a moment he was silent.
He started, and made a gesture of impatient rejection.
"You get a night's sleep," he said, "and you
won't see much misery out here. Take my word
He was quite sure now that this was a providential
encounter. Only half an hour ago he had been feeling
horribly bored. Here was employment the bare
thought of which was righteous self-applause. He
took possession forthwith. It seemed to him that the
first need of this exhausted being was companionship
He flung himself down on the steeply sloping turf
beside the motionless seated figure, and deployed
forthwith into a skirmishing line of gossip.
His hearer seemed to have lapsed into apathy;
he stared dismally seaward, and spoke only in answer
to Isbister's direct questions -- and not to all of those
But he made no sign of objection to this benevolent
intrusion upon his despair.
In a helpless way he seemed even grateful, and
when presently Isbister, feeling that his unsupported
talk was losing vigour, suggested that they should
reascend the steep and return towards Boscastle,
alleging the view into Blackapit, he submitted quietly.
Halfway up he began talking to himself, and abruptly
turned a ghastly face on his helper. "What can be
happening?" he asked with a gaunt illustrative hand.
"What can be happening? Spin, spin, spin, spin. It
goes round and round, round and round for evermore."
He stood with his hand circling
"It's all right, old chap," said Isbister with the air
of an old friend. "Don't worry yourself. Trust to
The man dropped his hand and turned again. They
went over the brow in single file and to the headland
beyond Penally, with the sleepless man gesticulating
ever and again, and speaking fragmentary things
concerning his whirling brain. At the headland they
stood for a space by the seat that looks into the dark
mysteries of Blackapit, and then he sat down. Isbister
had resumed his talk whenever the path had widened
sufficiently for them to walk abreast. He was enlarging
upon the complex difficulty of making Boscastle
Harbour in bad weather, when suddenly and quite
irrelevantly his companion interrupted him again.
"My head is not like what it was," he said, gesticulating
for want of expressive phrases. "It's not like
what it was. There is a sort of oppression, a weight.
No -- not drowsiness, would God it were! It is like
a shadow, a deep shadow falling suddenly and swiftly
across something busy. Spin, spin into the darkness
The tumult of thought, the confusion, the eddy and
eddy. I can't express it. I can hardly keep my mind
on it -- steadily enough to tell you."
He stopped feebly.
"Don't trouble, old chap," said Isbister. "I think
I can understand. At any rate, it don't matter very
much just at present about telling me, you know."
The sleepless man thrust his knuckles into his eyes
and rubbed them. Isbister talked for awhile while
this rubbing continued, and then he had a fresh idea.
"Come down to my room," he said, "and try a pipe.
I can show you some sketches of this Blackapit. If
The other rose obediently and followed him down
Several times Isbister heard him stumble as they
came down, and his movements were slow and hesitating.
"Come in with me," said Isbister, "and try
some cigarettes and the blessed gift of alcohol. If
you take alcohol?"
The stranger hesitated at the garden gate. He
seemed no longer clearly aware of his actions. "I
don't drink," he said slowly, coming up the garden
path, and after a moment's interval repeated absently,
"No -- I don't drink. It goes round. Spin, it goes
-- spin --"
He stumbled at the doorstep and entered the room
with the bearing of one who sees nothing.
Then he sat down abruptly and heavily in the easy
chair, seemed almost to fall into it. He leant forward
with his brows on his hands and became motionless.
Presently he made a faint sound in his throat.
Isbister moved about the room with the nervousness
of an inexperienced host, making little remarks that
scarcely required answering. He crossed the room
to his portfolio, placed it on the table and noticed
the mantel clock.
"I don't know if you'd care to have supper with
me," he said with an unlighted cigarette in his hand --
his mind troubled with a design of the furtive administration
of chloral. "Only cold mutton, you know,
but passing sweet. Welsh. And a tart, I believe."
He repeated this after momentary silence.
The seated man made no answer. Isbister stopped,
match in hand, regarding him.
The stillness lengthened. The match went out, the
cigarette was put down unlit. The man was certainly
very still. Isbister took up the portfolio, opened it,
put it down, hesitated, seemed about to speak.
"Perhaps," he whispered doubtfully. Presently he
glanced at the door and back to the figure. Then he
stole on tiptoe out of the room, glancing at his
companion after each elaborate pace.
He closed the door noiselessly. The house door
was standing open, and he went out beyond the porch,
and stood where the monkshood rose at the corner
of the garden bed. From this point he could see the
stranger through the open window, still and dim,
sitting head on hand. He had not moved.
A number of children going along the road stopped
and regarded the artist curiously. A boatman exchanged
civilities with him. He felt that possibly his
circumspect attitude and position seemed peculiar and
unaccountable. Smoking, perhaps, might seem more
natural. He drew pipe and pouch from his pocket,
filled the pipe slowly.
"I wonder," . . . he said, with a scarcely perceptible
loss of complacency. "At any rate we must
give him a chance." He struck a match in the virile
way, and proceeded to light his pipe.
Presently he heard his landlady behind him, coming
with his lamp lit from the kitchen. He turned,
gesticulating with his pipe, and stopped her at the door
of his sitting-room. He had some difficulty in
explaining the situation in whispers, for she did not
know he had a visitor. She retreated again with the
lamp, still a little mystified to judge from her manner,
and he resumed his hovering at the corner of the
porch, flushed and less at his ease.
Long after he had smoked out his pipe, and when
the bats were abroad, his curiosity dominated his
complex hesitations, and he stole back into his
darkling sitting-room. He paused in the doorway. The
stranger was still in the same attitude, dark against
the window. Save for the singing of some sailors
aboard one of the little slate-carrying ships in the
harbour, the evening was very still. Outside, the spikes
of monkshood and delphinium stood erect and motionless
against the shadow of the hillside. Something
flashed into Isbister's mind; he started, and leaning
over the table, listened. An unpleasant suspicion
grew stronger; became conviction. Astonishment
seized him and became -- dread!
No sound of breathing came from the seated figure!
He crept slowly and noiselessly round the table,
pausing twice to listen. At last he could lay his hand
on the back of the armchair. He bent down until the
two heads were ear to ear.
Then he bent still lower to look up at his visitor's
face. He started violently and uttered an exclamation.
The eyes were void spaces of white.
He looked again and saw that they were open and
with the pupils rolled under the lids. He was
suddenly afraid. Overcome by the strangeness of the
man's condition, he took him by the shoulder and
shook him. "Are you asleep?" he said, with his voice
jumping into alto, and again, "Are you asleep?"
A conviction took possession of his mind that this
man was dead. He suddenly became active and
noisy, strode across the room, blundering against the
table as he did so, and rang the bell.
"Please bring a light at once," he said in the passage.
"There is something wrong with my friend."
Then he returned to the motionless seated figure,
grasped the shoulder, shook it, and shouted. The
room was flooded with yellow glare as his astonished
landlady entered with the light. His face was white
as he turned blinking towards her. "I must fetch
a doctor at once," he said. "It is either death or a
fit. Is there a doctor in the village? Where is a
doctor to be found?"
The state of cataleptic rigour into which this man
had fallen, lasted for an unprecedented length of time,
and then he passed slowly to the flaccid state, to a lax
attitude suggestive of profound repose. Then it was
his eyes could be closed.
He was removed from the hotel to the Boscastle
surgery, and from the surgery, after some weeks, to
London. But he still resisted every attempt at
reanimation. After a time, for reasons that will appear
later, these attempts were discontinued. For a great
space he lay in that strange condition, inert and still
neither dead nor living but, as it were, suspended,
hanging midway between nothingness and existence.
His was a darkness unbroken by a ray of thought or
sensation, a dreamless inanition, a vast space of peace.
The tumult of his mind had swelled and risen to an
abrupt climax of silence. Where was the man?
Where is any man when insensibility takes hold of
"It seems only yesterday," said Isbister. "I
remember it all as though it happened yesterday --
clearer perhaps, than if it had happened yesterday."
It was the Isbister of the last chapter, but he was
no longer a young man. The hair that had been
brown and a trifle in excess of the fashionable length,
was iron grey and clipped close, and the face that had
been pink and white was buff and ruddy. He had a
pointed beard shot with grey. He talked to an elderly
man who wore a summer suit of drill (the summer of
that year was unusually hot). This was Warming, a
London solicitor and next of kin to Graham, the man
who had fallen into the trance. And the two men
stood side by side in a room in a house in London
regarding his recumbent figure.
It was a yellow figure lying lax upon a water-bed
and clad in a flowing shirt, a figure with a shrunken
face and a stubby beard, lean limbs and lank nails, and
about it was a case of thin glass. This glass seemed
to mark off the sleeper from the reality of life about
him, he was a thing apart, a strange, isolated abnormality.
The two men stood close to the glass,
"The thing gave me a shock," said Isbister "I
feel a queer sort of surprise even now when I think of
his white eyes. They were white, you know, rolled
up. Coming here again brings it all back to me.
"Have you never seen him since that time?" asked
"Often wanted to come," said Isbister; "but business
nowadays is too serious a thing for much holiday
keeping. I've been in America most of the time."
"If I remember rightly," said Warming, "you were
"Was. And then I became a married man. I saw
it was all up with black and white, very soon -- at
least for a mediocre man, and I jumped on to process.
Those posters on the Cliffs at Dover are by my
"Good posters," admitted the solicitor, "though I
was sorry to see them there."
"Last as long as the cliffs, if necessary," exclaimed
Isbister with satisfaction. "The world changes.
When he fell asleep, twenty years ago, I was down
at Boscastle with a box of water-colours and a noble,
old-fashioned ambition. I didn't expect that some
day my pigments would glorify the whole blessed coast
of England, from Land's End round again to the Lizard.
Luck comes to a man very often when he's not
Warming seemed to doubt the quality of the luck.
"I just missed seeing you, if I recollect aright."
"You came back by the trap that took me to Camelford
railway station. It was close on the Jubilee,
Victoria's Jubilee, because I remember the seats and flags
in Westminster, and the row with the cabman at
"The Diamond Jubilee, it was," said Warming;
"the second one."
"Ah, yes! At the proper Jubilee -- the Fifty Year
affair -- I was down at Wookey -- a boy. I missed
all that. . . . What a fuss we had with him! My
landlady wouldn't take him in, wouldn't let him stay --
he looked so queer when he was rigid. We had to
carry him in a chair up to the hotel. And the
Boscastle doctor -- it wasn't the present chap, but the
G.P. before him -- was at him until nearly two, with,
me and the landlord holding lights and so forth."
"It was a cataleptic rigour at first, wasn't it?"
"Stiff! -- wherever you bent him he stuck. You
might have stood him on his head and he'd have
stopped. I never saw such stiffness. Of course this"
-- he indicated the prostrate figure by a movement of
his head -- "is quite different. And, of course, the
little doctor -- what was his name?"
"Smithers it was -- was quite wrong in trying to
fetch him round too soon, according to all accounts.
The things he did. Even now it makes me feel all --
ugh! Mustard, snuff, pricking. And one of those
beastly little things, not dynamos --"
"Yes. You could see his muscles throb and jump,
and he twisted about. There was just two flaring
yellow candles, and all the shadows were shivering,
and the little doctor nervous and putting on side, and
him -- stark and squirming in the most unnatural
ways. Well, it made me dream."
"It's a strange state," said Warming.
"It's a sort of complete absence," said Isbister.
"Here's the body, empty. Not dead a bit, and yet
not alive. It's like a seat vacant and marked 'engaged.'
No feeling, no digestion, no beating of the
heart -- not a flutter. _That_ doesn't make me feel as
if there was a man present. In a sense it's more dead
than death, for these doctors tell me that even the hair
has stopped growing. Now with the proper dead, the
hair will go on growing --"
"I know," said Warming, with a flash of pain in
They peered through the glass again. Graham was
indeed in a strange state, in the flaccid phase of a
trance, but a trance unprecedented in medical history.
Trances had lasted for as much as a year before
-- but at the end of that time it had ever been
waking or a death; sometimes first one and then the
other. Isbister noted the marks the physicians had
made in injecting nourishment, for that device had
been resorted to to postpone collapse; he pointed them
out to Warming, who had been trying not to see them.
"And while he has been lying here," said Isbister,
with the zest of a life freely spent, "I have changed my
plans in life; married, raised a family, my eldest lad --
I hadn't begun to think of sons then -- is an American
citizen, and looking forward to leaving Harvard.
There's a touch of grey in my hair. And this man,
not a day older nor wiser (practically) than I was in
my downy days. It's curious to think of."
Warming turned. "And I have grown old too. I
played cricket with him when I was still only a lad.
And he looks a young man still. Yellow perhaps.
But that is a young man nevertheless."
"And there's been the War," said Isbister.
"From beginning to end."
"And these Martians."
"I've understood," said Isbister after a pause, "that
he had some moderate property of his own?"
"That is so," said Warming. He coughed primly.
"As it happens -- have charge of it."
"Ah!" Isbister thought, hesitated and spoke:
"No doubt -- his keep here is not expensive -- no
doubt it will have improved -- accumulated?"
"It has. He will wake up very much better off --
if he wakes -- than when he slept."
"As a business man," said Isbister, "that thought
has naturally been in my mind. I have, indeed,
sometimes thought that, speaking commercially, of course,
this sleep may be a very good thing for him. That
he knows what he is about, so to speak, in being
insensible so long. If he had lived straight on --"
"I doubt if he would have premeditated as much,"
said Warming. "He was not a far-sighted man. In
"We differed on that point. I stood to him somewhat
in the relation of a guardian. You have probably
seen enough of affairs to recognise that
occasionally a certain friction --. But even if that was the
case, there is a doubt whether he will ever wake. This
sleep exhausts slowly, but it exhausts. Apparently
he is sliding slowly, very slowly and tediously, down
a long slope, if you can understand me?"
"It will be a pity to lose his surprise. There's been
a lot of change these twenty years. It's Rip Van
Winkle come real."
"It's Bellamy," said Warming. "There has been
a lot of change certainly. And, among other changes,
I have changed. I am an old man."
Isbister hesitated, and then feigned a belated surprise.
"I shouldn't have thought it."
"I was forty-three when his bankers -- you remember
you wired to his bankers -- sent on to me."
"I got their address from the cheque book in his
pocket," said Isbister.
"Well, the addition is not difficult," said Warming.
There was another pause, and then Isbister gave
way to an unavoidable curiosity. "He may go on
for years yet," he said, and had a moment of hesitation.
"We have to consider that. His affairs, you
know, may fall some day into the hands of -- someone
else, you know."
"That, if you will believe me, Mr. Isbister, is one
of the problems most constantly before my mind. We
happen to be -- as a matter of fact, there are no very
trustworthy connections of ours. It is a grotesque
and unprecedented position."
"It is," said Isbister. "As a matter of fact, it's a
case for a public trustee, if only we had such a
"It seems to me it's a case for some public body,
some practically undying guardian. If he really is
going on living -- as the doctors, some of them, think.
As a matter of fact, I have gone to one or two public
men about it. But, so far, nothing has been done."
"It wouldn't be a bad idea to hand him over to
some public body -- the British Museum Trustees, or
the Royal College of Physicians. Sounds a bit odd,
of course, but the whole situation is odd."
"The difficulty is to induce them to take him."
"Red tape, I suppose?"
Pause. "It's a curious business, certainly," said
Isbister. "And compound interest has a way of
"It has," said Warming. "And now the gold supplies
are running short there is a tendency towards
. . . appreciation."
"I've felt that," said Isbister with a grimace. "But
it makes it better for him."
"If he wakes."
"If he wakes," echoed Isbister. "Do you notice
the pinched-ill look of his nose, and the way in which
his eyelids sink?"
Warming looked and thought for a space. "I doubt
if he will wake," he said at last.
"I never properly understood," said Isbister, "what
it was brought this on. He told me something about
overstudy. I've often been curious."
"He was a man of considerable gifts, but spasmodic,
emotional. He had grave domestic troubles,
divorced his wife, in fact, and it was as a relief from
that, I think, that he took up politics of the rabid sort.
He was a fanatical Radical -- a Socialist -- or typical
Liberal, as they used to call themselves,-of the advanced
school. Energetic -- flighty -- undisciplined. Overwork
upon a controversy did this for him. I remember
the pamphlet he wrote -- a curious production. Wild,
whirling stuff. There were one or two prophecies.
Some of them are already exploded, some of them are
established facts. But for the most part to read such
a thesis is to realise how full the world is of
unanticipated things. He will have much to learn, much to
unlearn, when he wakes. If ever a waking comes."
"I'd give anything to be there," said Isbister, "just
to hear what he would say to it all."
"So would I," said Warming. "Aye! so would
I," with an old man's sudden turn to self pity. "But
I shall never see him wake."
He stood looking thoughtfully at the waxen figure.
"He will never wake," he said at last. He sighed
"He will never wake again."
But Warming was wrong in that. An awakening
What a wonderfully complex thing! this simple
seeming unity -- the self! Who can trace its
reintegration as morning after morning we awaken, the
flux and confluence of its countless factors interweaving,
rebuilding, the dim first stirrings of the soul, the
growth and synthesis of the unconscious to the
subconscious, the sub-conscious to dawning consciousness,
until at last we recognise ourselves again. And
as it happens to most of us after the night's sleep, so
it was with Graham at the end of his vast slumber.
A dim cloud of sensation taking shape, a cloudy
dreariness, and he found himself vaguely somewhere,
recumbent, faint, but alive.
The pilgrimage towards a personal being seemed to
traverse vast gulfs, to occupy epochs. Gigantic
dreams that were terrible realities at the time, left
vague perplexing memories, strange creatures, strange
scenery, as if from another planet. There was a distinct
impression, too, of a momentous conversation, of
a name -- he could not tell what name -- that was
subsequently to recur, of some queer long-forgotten
sensation of vein and muscle, of a feeling of vast
hopeless effort, the effort of a man near drowning in
darkness. Then came a panorama of dazzling unstable
Graham became aware his eyes were open and regarding
some unfamiliar thing.
It was something white, the edge of something, a
frame of wood. He moved his head slightly, following
the contour of this shape. It went up beyond the
top of his eyes. He tried to think where he might be.
Did it matter, seeing he was so wretched? The colour
of his thoughts was a dark depression. He felt the
featureless misery of one who wakes towards the hour
of dawn. He had an uncertain sense of whispers and
footsteps hastily receding.
The movement of his head involved a perception of
extreme physical weakness. He supposed he was in
bed in the hotel at the place in the valley -- but he
could not recall that white edge. He must have slept.
He remembered now that he had wanted to sleep. He
recalled the cliff and waterfall again, and then
recollected something about talking to a passer-by.
How long had he slept? What was that sound of
pattering feet? And that rise and fall, like the
murmur of breakers on pebbles? He put out a languid
hand to reach his watch from the chair whereon it
was his habit to place it, and touched some smooth
hard surface like glass. This was so unexpected that
it startled him extremely. Quite suddenly he rolled
over, stared for a moment, and struggled into a sitting
position. The effort was unexpectedly difficult, and
it left him giddy and weak -- and amazed.
He rubbed his eyes. The riddle of his surroundings
was confusing but his mind was quite clear -- evidently
his sleep had benefited him. He was not in a
bed at all as he understood the word, but lying naked
on a very soft and yielding mattress, in a trough of
dark glass. The mattress was partly transparent, a
fact he observed with a strange sense of insecurity, and
below it was a mirror reflecting him greyly. About
his arm -- and he saw with a shock that his skin was
strangely dry and yellow -- was bound a curious apparatus
of rubber, bound so cunningly that it seemed
to pass into his skin above and below. And this
strange bed was placed in a case of greenish coloured
glass (as it seemed to him), a bar in the white framework
of which had first arrested his attention. In
the corner of the case was a stand of glittering and
delicately made apparatus, for the most part quite
strange appliances, though a maximum and minimum
thermometer was recognisable.
The slightly greenish tint of the glass-like substance
which surrounded him on every hand obscured what
lay behind, but he perceived it was a vast apartment
of splendid appearance, and with a very large and
simple white archway facing him. Close to the walls
of the cage were articles of furniture, a table covered
with a silvery cloth, silvery like the side of a fish, a
couple of graceful chairs, and on the table a number
of dishes with substances piled on them, a bottle and
two glasses. He realised that he was intensely hungry.
He could see no human being, and after a period
of hesitation scrambled off the translucent mattress
and tried to stand on the clean white floor of his little
apartment. He had miscalculated his strength, however,
and staggered and put his hand against the glasslike
pane before him to steady himself. For a moment
it resisted his hand, bending outward like a distended
bladder, then it broke with a slight report and vanished -- a
pricked bubble. He reeled out into the
general space of the hall, greatly astonished. He
caught at the table to save himself, knocking one of
the glasses to the floor -- it rang but did not break --
and sat down in one of the armchairs.
When he had a little recovered he filled the remaining
glass from the bottle and drank -- a colourless
liquid it was, but not water, with a pleasing faint
aroma and taste and a quality of immediate support
and stimulus. He put down the vessel and looked
The apartment lost none of its size and magnificence
now that the greenish transparency that had intervened
was removed. The archway he saw led to a
flight of steps, going downward without the
intermediation of a door, to a spacious transverse passage.
This passage ran between polished pillars of some
white-veined substance of deep ultramarine, and along
it came the sound of human movements and voices
and a deep undeviating droning note. He sat, now
fully awake, listening alertly, forgetting the viands in
Then with a shock he remembered that he was
naked, and casting about him for covering, saw a long
black robe thrown on one of the chairs beside him.
This he wrapped about him and sat down again,
His mind was still a surging perplexity. Clearly
he had slept. and had been removed in his sleep. But
here? And who were those people, the distant
crowd beyond the deep blue pillars? Boscastle? He
poured out and partially drank another glass of the
What was this place? -- this place that to his senses
seemed subtly quivering like a thing alive? He looked
about him at the clean and beautiful form of the apartment,
unstained by ornament, and saw that the roof
was broken in one place by a circular shaft full of
light, and, as he looked, a steady, sweeping shadow
blotted it out and passed, and came again and passed.
"Beat, beat," that sweeping shadow had a note of its
own in the subdued tumult that filled the air.
He would have called out, but only a little sound
came into his throat. Then he stood up, and, with
the uncertain steps of a drunkard, made his way
towards the archway. He staggered down the steps,
tripped on the corner of the black cloak he had
wrapped about himself, and saved himself by catching
at one of the blue pillars.
The passage ran down a cool vista of blue and purple,
and ended remotely in a railed space like a balcony,
brightly lit and projecting into a space of haze,
a space like the interior of some gigantic building.
Beyond and remote were vast and vague architectural
forms. The tumult of voices rose now loud and clear,
and on the balcony and with their backs to him,
gesticulating and apparently in animated conversation,
were three figures, richly dressed in loose and easy
garments of bright soft colourings. The noise of a
great multitude of people poured up over the balcony,
and once it seemed the top of a banner passed, and
once some brightly coloured object, a pale blue cap
or garment thrown up into the air perhaps, flashed
athwart the space and fell. The shouts sounded like
English, there was a reiteration of "Wake!" He
heard some indistinct shrill cry, and abruptly the
three men began laughing.
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed one -- a red-haired man in
a short purple robe. "When the Sleeper wakes --
He turned his eyes full of merriment along the passage.
His face changed, the whole man changed,
became rigid. The other two turned swiftly at his
exclamation and stood motionless. Their faces
assumed an expression of consternation, an expression
that deepened into awe.
Suddenly Graham's knees bent beneath him, his arm
against the pillar collapsed limply, he staggered
forward and fell upon his face.
THE SOUND OF A TUMULT
Graham's last impression before he fainted was of
a clamorous ringing of bells. He learnt afterwards that
he was insensible, hanging between life and death, for
the better part of an hour. When he recovered his
senses, he was back on his translucent couch, and
there was a stirring warmth at heart and throat. The
dark apparatus, he perceived, had been removed from
his arm, which was bandaged. The white framework
was still about him, but the greenish transparent
substance that had filled it was altogether gone. A man
in a deep violet robe, one of those who had been on
the balcony, was looking keenly into his face.
Remote but insistent was a clamour of bells and
confused sounds, that suggested to his mind the
picture of a great number of people shouting together.
Something seemed to fall across this tumult, a
door suddenly closed.
Graham moved his head. "What does this all
mean?" he said slowly. "Where am I?"
He saw the red-haired man who had been first to
discover him. A voice seemed to be asking what he
had said, and was abruptly stilled.
The man in violet answered in a soft voice, speaking
English with a slightly foreign accent, or so at least
it seemed to the Sleeper's ears, "You are quite safe.
You were brought hither from where you fell asleep.
It is quite safe. You have been here some time --
sleeping. In a trance."
He said something further that Graham could not
hear, and a little phial was handed across to him.
Graham felt a cooling spray, a fragrant mist played
over his forehead for a moment, and his sense of
refreshment increased. He closed his eyes in satisfaction.
"Better?" asked the man in violet, as Graham's
eyes reopened. He was a pleasant-faced man of
thirty, perhaps, with a pointed flaxen beard, and a
clasp of gold at the neck of his violet robe.
"Yes," said Graham.
"You have been asleep some time. In a cataleptic
trance. You have heard? Catalepsy? It may seem
strange to you at first, but I can assure you everything
Graham did not answer, but these words served
their reassuring purpose. His eyes went from face
to face of the three people about him. They were
regarding him strangely. He knew he ought to be
somewhere in Cornwall, but he could not square these
things with that impression.
A matter that had been in his mind during his last
waking moments at Boscastle recurred, a thing resolved
upon and somehow neglected. He cleared his
"Have you wired my cousin?" he asked. "E.
Warming, 27, Chancery Lane?"
They were all assiduous to hear. But he had to
repeat it. "What an odd _blurr_ in his accent!"
whispered the red-haired man. "Wire, sir?" said the
young man with the flaxen beard, evidently puzzled.
"He means send an electric telegram," volunteered
the third, a pleasant-faced youth of nineteen or twenty.
The flaxen-bearded man gave a cry of comprehension.
"How stupid of me! You may be sure everything
shall be done, sir," he said to Graham. "I am afraid
it would be difficult to -- wire to your cousin. He is
not in London now. But don't trouble about arrangements
yet; you have been asleep a very long time and
the important thing is to get over that, sir." (Graham
concluded the word was sir, but this man pronounced
"Oh!" said Graham, and became quiet.
It was all very puzzling, but apparently these people
in unfamiliar dress knew what they were about. Yet
they were odd and the room was odd. It seemed he
was in some newly established place. He had a sudden
flash of suspicion. Surely this wasn't some hall
of public exhibition! If it was he would give Warming
a piece of his mind. But it scarcely had that
character. And in a place of public exhibition he
would not have discovered himself naked.
Then suddenly, quite abruptly, he realised what had
happened. There was no perceptible interval of suspicion,
no dawn to his knowledge. Abruptly he
knew that his trance had lasted for a vast interval; as
if by some processes of thought reading he interpreted
the awe in the faces that peered into his. He looked
at them strangely, full of intense emotion. It seemed
they read his eyes. He framed his lips to speak and
could not. A queer impulse to hide his knowledge
came into his mind almost at the moment of his discovery.
He looked at his bare feet, regarding then
silently. His impulse to speak passed. He was
They gave him some pink fluid with a greenish
fluorescence and a meaty taste, and the assurance of
returning strength grew.
"That -- that makes me feel better," he said
hoarsely, and there were murmurs of respectful
approval. He knew now quite clearly. He made to
speak again, and again he could not.
He pressed his throat and tried a third time.
"How long?" he asked in a level voice. "How long
have I been asleep?"
"Some considerable time," said the flaxen-bearded
man, glancing quickly at the others.
"A very long time."
"Yes -- yes," said Graham, suddenly testy. "But
I want -- Is it -- it is -- some years? Many years?
There was something -- I forget what. I feel --
confused. But you --" He sobbed. "You need
not fence with me. How long -- ?"
He stopped, breathing irregularly. He squeezed
his eyes with his knuckles and sat waiting for an
They spoke in undertones.
"Five or six?" he asked faintly. "More?"
"Very much more than that."
He looked at them and it seemed as though imps
were twitching the muscles of his face. He looked
"Many years," said the man with the red beard.
Graham struggled into a sitting position. He
wiped a rheumy tear from his face with a lean hand.
"Many years!" he repeated. He shut his eyes tight,
opened them, and sat looking about him, from one
unfamiliar thing to another.
"How many years?" he asked.
"You must be prepared to be surprised."
"More than a gross of years."
He was irritated at the strange word. "More than
Two of them spoke together. Some quick remarks
that were made about "decimal" he did not catch.
"How long did you say?" asked Graham. "How
long? Don't look like that. Tell me."
Among the remarks in an undertone, his ear caught
six words: "More than a couple of centuries."
_"What?"_ he cried, turning on the youth who he
thought had spoken. "Who says -- ? What was
that? A couple of centuries!"
"Yes," said the man with the red beard. "Two
Graham repeated the words. He had been prepared
to hear of a vast repose, and yet these concrete
centuries defeated him.
"Two hundred years," he said again, with the figure
of a great gulf opening very slowly in his mind; and
then, "Oh, but -- !"
They said nothing.
"You -- did you say -- ?"
"Two hundred years. Two centuries of years,"
said the man with the red beard.
There was a pause. Graham looked at their faces
and saw that what he had heard was indeed true.
"But it can't be," he said querulously. "I am
dreaming. Trances. Trances don't last. That is not
right -- this is a joke you have played upon me! Tell
me -- some days ago, perhaps, I was walking along
the coast of Cornwall -- ?"
His voice failed him.
The man with the flaxen beard hesitated. "I'm
not very strong in history, sir," he said weakly, and
glanced at the others.
"That was it, sir," said the youngster. "Boscastle,
in the old Duchy of Cornwall -- it's in the southwest
country beyond the dairy meadows. There is a house
there still. I have been there."
"Boscastle!" Graham turned his eyes to the
youngster. "That was it -- Boscastle. Little Boscastle.
I fell asleep -- somewhere there. I don't
exactly remember. I don't exactly remember."
He pressed his brows and whispered, "More than
two hundred years!"
He began to speak quickly with a twitching face,
but his heart was cold within him. "But if it is two
hundred years, every soul I know, every human being
that ever I saw or spoke to before I went to sleep,
must be dead."
They did not answer him.
"The Queen and the Royal Family, her Ministers,
of Church and State. High and low, rich and poor, one
with another --"
"Is there England still?"
"That's a comfort! Is there London?"
E "This _is_ London, eh? And you are my assistant --
custodian; assistant-custodian. And these -- ? Eh?
He sat with a gaunt stare on his face. "But why
am I here? No! Don't talk. Be quiet. Let me --"
He sat silent, rubbed his eyes, and, uncovering them,
found another little glass of pinkish fluid held towards
him. He took the dose. It was almost immediately
sustaining. Directly he had taken it he began to weep
naturally and refreshingly.
Presently he looked at their faces, suddenly laughed
through his tears, a little foolishly. "But -- two --
hun -- dred -- years!" he said. He grimaced hysterically
and covered up his face again.
After a space he grew calm. He sat up, his hands
hanging over his knees in almost precisely the same
attitude in which Isbister had found him on the cliff
at Pentargen. His attention was attracted by a thick
domineering voice, the footsteps of an advancing personage.
"What are you doing? Why was I not
warned? Surely you could tell? Someone will suffer
for this. The man must be kept quiet. Are the
doorways closed? All the doorways? He must be kept
perfectly quiet. He must not be told. Has he been
The man with the fair beard made some inaudible
remark, and Graham looking over his shoulder saw
approaching a very short, fat, and thickset beardless
man, with aquiline nose and heavy neck and chin.
Very thick black and slightly sloping eyebrows that
almost met over his nose and overhung deep grey
eyes, gave his face an oddly formidable expression.
He scowled momentarily at Graham and then his
regard returned to the man with the flaxen beard.
"These others," he said in a voice of extreme
irritation. "You had better go."
"Go?" said the red-bearded man.
"Certainly -- go now. But see the doorways are
closed as you go."
The two men addressed turned obediently, after one
reluctant glance at Graham, and instead of going
through the archway as he expected, walked straight
to the dead wall of the apartment opposite the archway.
And then came a strange thing; a long strip
of this apparently solid wall rolled up with a snap,
hung over the two retreating men and fell again, and
immediately Graham was alone with the new comer
and the purple-robed man with the flaxen beard.
For a space the thickset man took not the slightest
notice of Graham, but proceeded to interrogate the
other -- obviously his subordinate -- upon the treatment
of their charge. He spoke clearly, but in
phrases only partially intelligible to Graham. The
awakening seemed not only a matter of surprise but
of consternation and annoyance to him. He was evidently
"You must not confuse his mind by telling him
things," he repeated again and again. "You must not
confuse his mind."
His questions answered, he turned quickly and eyed
the awakened sleeper with an ambiguous expression.
"Feel queer?" he asked.
"The world, what you see of it, seems strange to
"I suppose I have to live in it, strange as it seems."
"I suppose so, now."
"In the first place, hadn't I better have some
"They --" said the thickset man and stopped, and
the flaxen-bearded man met his eye and went away.
"You will very speedily have clothes," said the thickset
"Is it true indeed, that I have been asleep two
hundred -- ?" asked Graham.
"They have told you that, have they? Two hundred
and three, as a matter of fact."
Graham accepted the indisputable now with raised
eyebrows and depressed mouth. He sat silent for a
moment, and then asked a question, "Is there a mill
or dynamo near here?" He did not wait for an
answer. "Things have changed tremendously, I
suppose?" he said.
"What is that shouting?" he asked abruptly.
"Nothing," said the thickset man impatiently.
"It's people. You'll understand better later -- perhaps.
As you say, things have changed." He spoke
shortly, his brows were knit, and he glanced about
him like a man trying to decide in an emergency.
"We must get you clothes and so forth, at any rate.
Better wait here until some can come. No one will
come near you. You want shaving."
Graham rubbed his chin.
The man with the flaxen beard came back towards
them, turned suddenly, listened for a moment, lifted
his eyebrows at the older man, and hurried off through
the archway towards the balcony. The tumult of
shouting grew louder, and the thickset man turned and
listened also. He cursed suddenly under his breath,
and turned his eyes upon Graham with an unfriendly
expression. It was a surge of many voices, rising and
falling, shouting and screaming, and once came a
sound like blows and sharp cries, and then a snapping
like the crackling of dry sticks. Graham
strained his ears to draw some single thread of sound
from the woven tumult.
Then he perceived, repeated again and again, a
certain formula. For a time he doubted his ears. But
surely these were the words: "Show us the Sleeper!
Show us the Sleeper!"
The thickset man rushed suddenly to the archway.
"Wild!" he cried, "How do they know? Do they
know? Or is it guessing?"
There was perhaps an answer.
"I can't come," said the thickset man; "I have _him_
to see to. But shout from the balcony."
There was an inaudible reply.
"Say he is not awake. Anything! I leave it to
He came hurrying back to Graham. "You must
have clothes at once," he said. "You cannot stop
here -- and it will be impossible to --"
He rushed away, Graham shouting unanswered
questions after him. In a moment he was back.
"I can't tell you what is happening. It is too complex
to explain. In a moment you shall have your
clothes made. Yes -- in a moment. And then I can
take you away from here. You will find out our
troubles soon enough."
"But those voices. They were shouting -- ?"
"Something about the Sleeper -- that's you. They
have some twisted idea. I don't know what it is. I
A shrill bell jetted acutely across the indistinct mingling
of remote noises, and this brusque person sprang
to a little group of appliances in the corner of the
room. He listened for a moment, regarding a ball of
crystal, nodded, and said a few indistinct words; then
he walked to the wall through which the two men had
vanished. It rolled up again like a curtain, and he
Graham lifted his arm and was astonished to find
what strength the restoratives had given him. He
thrust one leg over the side of the couch and then the
other. His head no longer swam. He could scarcely
credit his rapid recovery. He sat feeling his limbs.
The man with the flaxen beard re-entered from the
archway, and as he did so the cage of a lift came
sliding down in front of the thickset man, and a lean,
grey-bearded man, carrying a roll, and wearing a
tightly-fitting costume of dark green, appeared therein.
"This is the tailor," said the thickset man with an
introductory gesture." It will never do for you to
wear that black. I cannot understand how it got here.
But I shall. I shall. You will be as rapid as possible?"
he said to the tailor.
The man in green bowed, and, advancing, seated
himself by Graham on the bed. His manner was
calm, but his eyes were full of curiosity. "You will
find the fashions altered, Sire," he said. He glanced
from under his brows at the thickset man.
He opened the roller with a quick movement, and a
confusion of brilliant fabrics poured out over his knees.
"You lived, Sire, in a period essentially cylindrical --
the Victorian. With a tendency to the hemisphere in
hats. Circular curves always. Now --" He flicked
out a little appliance the size and appearance of a
keyless watch, whirled the knob, and behold -- a little
figure in white appeared kinetoscope fashion on the
dial, walking and turning. The tailor caught up a
pattern of bluish white satin. "That is my conception
of your immediate treatment," he said.
The thickset man came and stood by the shoulder
"We have very little time," he said.
"Trust me," said the tailor. "My machine follows.
What do you think of this?"
"What is that?" asked the man from the nineteenth
"In your days they showed you a fashion-plate,"
said the tailor," but this is our modern development
See here." The little figure repeated its evolutions,
but in a different costume. "Or this," and with a
click another small figure in a more voluminous type
of robe marched on to the dial. The tailor was very
quick in his movements, and glanced twice towards
the lift as he did these things.
It rumbled again, and a crop-haired anaemic lad
with features of the Chinese type, clad in coarse
pale blue canvas, appeared together with a complicated
machine, which he pushed noiselessly on
little castors into the room. Incontinently the little
kinetoscope was dropped, Graham was invited to
stand in front of the machine and the tailor
muttered some instructions to the crop-haired lad,
who answered in guttural tones and with words
Graham did not recognise. The boy then went
to conduct an incomprehensible monologue in the
corner, and the tailor pulled out a number of slotted
arms terminating in little discs, pulling them out until
the discs were flat against the body of Graham, one
at each shoulder blade, one at the elbows, one at the
neck and so forth, so that at last there were, perhaps,
two score of them upon his body and limbs. At the
same time, some other person entered the room by the
lift, behind Graham. The tailor set moving a mechanism
that initiated a faint-sounding rhythmic movement
of parts in the machine, and in another moment he was
knocking up the levers and Graham was released. The
tailor replaced his cloak of black, and the man with
the flaxen beard proffered him a little glass of some
refreshing fluid. Graham saw over the rim of the
glass a pale-faced young man regarding him with a
The thickset man had been pacing the room fretfully,
and now turned and went through the archway
towards the balcony, from which the noise of a distant
crowd still came in gusts and cadences. The cropheaded
lad handed the tailor a roll of the bluish satin
and the two began fixing this in the mechanism in a
manner reminiscent of a roll of paper in a nineteenth
century printing machine. Then they ran the entire
thing on its easy, noiseless bearings across the room
to a remote corner where a twisted cable looped rather
gracefully from the wall. They made some connexion
and the machine became energetic and swift.
"What is that doing?" asked Graham, pointing
with the empty glass to the busy figures and trying
to ignore the scrutiny of the new comer. "Is that --
some sort of force -- laid on?"
"Yes," said the man with the flaxen beard.
"Who is that?" He indicated the archway behind
The man in purple stroked his little beard, hesitated,
and answered in an undertone, "He is Howard, your
chief guardian. You see, Sire, -- it's a little difficult
to explain. The Council appoints a guardian and
assistants. This hall has under certain restrictions
been public. In order that people might satisfy themselves.
We have barred the doorways for the first
time. But I think -- if you don't mind, I will leave
him to explain."
"Odd" said Graham. "Guardian? Council?"
Then turning his back on the new comer, he asked
in an undertone, "Why is this man glaring at me?
Is he a mesmerist?"
"Mesmerist! He is a capillotomist."
"Yes -- one of the chief. His yearly fee is sixdoz
It sounded sheer nonsense. Graham snatched at
the last phrase with an unsteady mind. "Sixdoz
lions?" he said.
"Didn't you have lions? I suppose not. You had
the old pounds? They are our monetary units."
"But what was that you said -- sixdoz?"
"Yes. Six dozen, Sire. Of course things, even
these little things, have altered. You lived in the days
of the decimal system, the Arab system -- tens, and
little hundreds and thousands. We have eleven
numerals now. We have single figures for both ten
and eleven, two figures for a dozen, and a dozen dozen
makes a gross, a great hundred, you know, a dozen
gross a dozand, and a dozand dozand a myriad. Very
"I suppose so," said Graham. "But about this
cap -- what was it?"
The man with the flaxen beard glanced over his
"Here are your clothes!" he said. Graham turned
round sharply and saw the tailor standing at his elbow
smiling, and holding some palpably new garments over
his arm. The crop-headed boy, by means of one
finger, was impelling the complicated machine towards
the lift by which he had arrived. Graham stared at
the completed suit. "You don't mean to say -- !"
"Just made," said the tailor. He dropped the garments
at the feet of Graham, walked to the bed on
which Graham had so recently been lying, flung out
the translucent mattress, and turned up the looking
glass. As he did so a furious bell summoned the
thickset man to the corner. The man with the flaxen
beard rushed across to him and then hurried out by
The tailor was assisting Graham into a dark purple
combination garment, stockings, vest, and pants in
one, as the thickset man came back from the corner
to meet the man with the flaxen beard returning from
the balcony. They began speaking quickly in an
undertone, their bearing had an unmistakable quality
of anxiety. Over the purple under-garment came a I
complex but graceful garment of bluish white, and I
Graham was clothed in the fashion once more and saw
himself, sallow-faced, unshaven and shaggy still, but
at least naked no longer, and in some indefinable
unprecedented way graceful.
"I must shave," he said regarding himself in the
"In a moment," said Howard.
The persistent stare ceased. The young man closed
his eyes, reopened them, and with a lean hand
extended, advanced on Graham. Then he stopped,
with his hand slowly gesticulating, and looked about
"A seat," said Howard impatiently, and in a moment
the flaxen-bearded man had a chair behind Graham.
"Sit down, please," said Howard.
Graham hesitated, and in the other hand of the wildeyed
man he saw the glint of steel.
"Don't you understand, Sire?" cried the flaxen-bearded
man with hurried politeness. "He is going
to cut your hair."
"Oh!" cried Graham enlightened. "But you
called him --
"A capillotomist -- precisely! He is one of the
finest artists in the world."
Graham sat down abruptly. The flaxen-bearded
man disappeared. The capillotomist came forward
with graceful gestures, examined Graham's ears and
surveyed him, felt the back of his head, and would
have sat down again to regard him but for Howard's
audible impatience. Forthwith with rapid movements
and a succession of deftly handled implements he
shaved Graham's chin, clipped his moustache, and cut
and arranged his hair. All this he did without a word,
with something of the rapt air of a poet inspired. And
as soon as he had finished Graham was handed a pair
Suddenly a loud voice shouted -- it seemed from a
piece of machinery in the corner -- "At once -- at
once. The people know all over the city. Work is
being stopped. Work is being stopped. Wait for
nothing, but come."
This shout appeared to perturb Howard exceedingly.
By his gestures it seemed to Graham that he
hesitated between two directions. Abruptly he went
towards the corner where the apparatus stood about
the little crystal ball. As he did so the undertone of
tumultuous shouting from the archway that had continued
during all these occurrences rose to a mighty
sound, roared as if it were sweeping past, and fell
again as if receding swiftly. It drew Graham after it
with an irresistible attraction. He glanced at the
thickset man, and then obeyed his impulse. In two
strides he was down the steps and in the passage, and,
in a score he was out upon the balcony upon which |
the three men had been standing.
THE MOVING WAYS
He went to the railings of the balcony and stared
upward. An exclamation of surprise at his appearance,
and the movements of a number of people came
from the spacious area below.
His first impression was of overwhelming architecture.
The place into which he looked was an aisle of
Titanic buildings, curving spaciously in either direction.
Overhead mighty cantilevers sprang together
across the huge width of the place, and a tracery of
translucent material shut out the sky. Gigantic
globes of cool white light shamed the pale sunbeams
that filtered down through the girders and wires.
Here and there a gossamer suspension bridge dotted
with foot passengers flung across the chasm and the
air was webbed with slender cables. A cliff of edifice
hung above him, he perceived as he glanced upward,
and the opposite facade was grey and dim and broken
by great archings, circular perforations, balconies,
buttresses, turret projections, myriads of vast windows,
and an intricate scheme of architectural relief.
Athwart these ran inscriptions horizontally and
obliquely in an unfamiliar lettering. Here and there
close to the roof cables of a peculiar stoutness were
fastened, and drooped in a steep curve to circular
openings on the opposite side of the space, and even
as Graham noted these a remote and tiny figure of a
man clad in pale blue arrested his attention. This little
figure was far overhead across the space beside the
higher fastening of one of these festoons, hanging
forward from a little ledge of masonry and handling some
well-nigh invisible strings dependent from the line.
Then suddenly, with a swoop that sent Graham's heart
into his mouth, this man had rushed down the curve
and vanished through a round opening on the hither
side of the way. Graham had been looking up as he
came out upon the balcony, and the things he saw
above and opposed to him had at first seized his
attention to the exclusion of anything else. Then suddenly
he discovered the roadway! It was not a roadway at
all, as Graham understood such things, for in the
nineteenth century the only roads and streets were
beaten tracks of motionless earth, jostling rivulets of
vehicles between narrow footways. But this roadway
was three hundred feet across, and it moved; it moved,
all save the middle, the lowest part. For a moment,
the motion dazzled his mind. Then he understood.
Under the balcony this extraordinary roadway ran
swiftly to Graham's right, an endless flow rushing
along as fast as a nineteenth century express train, an
endless platform of narrow transverse overlapping
slats with little interspaces that permitted it to follow
the curvatures of the street. Upon it were seats, and
here and there little kiosks, but they swept by too
swiftly for him to see what might be therein. From
this nearest and swiftest platform a series of others
descended to the centre of the space. Each moved to
the right, each perceptibly slower than the one above
it, but the difference in pace was small enough to permit
anyone to step from any platform to the one adjacent,
and so walk uninterruptedly from the swiftest to
the motionless middle way. Beyond this middle way
was another series of endless platforms rushing with
varying pace to Graham's left. And seated in crowds
upon the two widest and swiftest platforms, or stepping
from one to another down the steps, or swarming
over the central space, was an innumerable and
wonderfully diversified multitude of people.
"You must not stop here," shouted Howard suddenly
at his side. "You must come away at once."
Graham made no answer. He heard without hearing.
The platforms ran with a roar and the people
were shouting. He perceived women and girls with
flowing hair, beautifully robed, with bands crossing
between the breasts. These first came out of the
confusion. Then he perceived that the dominant note
in that kaleidoscope of costume was the pale blue that
the tailor's boy had worn. He became aware of cries
of "The Sleeper. What has happened to the Sleeper?"
and it seemed as though the rushing platforms before
him were suddenly spattered with the pale buff of
human faces, and then still more thickly. He saw
pointing fingers. He perceived that the motionless
central area of this huge arcade just opposite to the
balcony was densely crowded with blue-clad people.
Some sort of struggle had sprung into life. People
seemed to be pushed up the running platforms on either
side, and carried away against their will. They would
spring off so soon as they were beyond the thick of
the confusion, and run back towards the conflict.
"It is the Sleeper. Verily it is the Sleeper," shouted
voices. "That is never the Sleeper," shouted
others. More and more faces were turned to him. At
the intervals along this central area Graham noted
openings, pits, apparently the heads of staircases going
down with people ascending out of them and
descending into them. The struggle it seemed centred
about the one of these nearest to him. People were
running down the moving platforms to this, leaping
dexterously from platform to platform. The clustering
people on the higher platforms seemed to divide
their interest between this point and the balcony. A
number of sturdy little figures clad in a uniform of
bright red, and working methodically together, were
employed it seemed in preventing access to this
descending staircase. About them a crowd was rapidly
accumulating. Their brilliant colour contrasted vividly
with the whitish-blue of their antagonists, for the
struggle was indisputable.
He saw these things with Howard shouting in his
ear and shaking his arm. And then suddenly Howard
was gone and he stood alone.
He perceived that the cries of "The Sleeper" grew
in volume, and that the people on the nearer platform
were standing up. The nearer swifter platform he
perceived was empty to the right of him, and far
across the space the platform running in the opposite
direction was coming crowded and passing away bare.
With incredible swiftness a vast crowd had gathered
in the central space before his eyes; a dense swaying
mass of people, and the shouts grew from a fitful crying
to a voluminous incessant clamour: "The Sleeper!"
The Sleeper!" and yells and cheers, a waving of garments
and cries of "Stop the ways!" They were also
crying another name strange to Graham. It sounded
like "Ostrog." The slower platforms were soon thick
with active people, running against the movement so
as to keep themselves opposite to him.
"Stop the ways," they cried. Agile figures ran up
swiftly from the centre to the swift road nearest to him,
were borne rapidly past him, shouting strange,
unintelligible things, and ran back obliquely to the central
way. One thing he distinguished: "It is indeed the
Sleeper. It is indeed the Sleeper," they testified.
For a space Graham stood without a movement.
Then he became vividly aware that all this concerned
him. He was pleased at his wonderful popularity, he
bowed, and, seeking a gesture of longer range, waved
his arm. He was astonished at the violence of uproar
that this provoked. The tumult about the descending
stairway rose to furious violence. He became aware
of crowded balconies, of men sliding along ropes, of
men in trapeze-like seats hurling athwart the space.
He heard voices behind him, a number of people
descending the steps through the archway; he suddenly
perceived that his guardian Howard was back
again and gripping his arm painfully, and shouting
inaudibly in his ear.
He turned, and Howard's face was white. "Come
back," he heard. "They will stop the ways. The
whole city will be in confusion."
He perceived a number of men hurrying along the
passage of blue pillars behind Howard, the red-haired
man, the man with the flaxen beard, a tall man in vivid
vermilion, a crowd of others in red carrying staves, and
all these people had anxious eager faces.
"Get him away," cried Howard.
"But why?" said Graham. "I don't see --"
"You must come away!" said the man in red in a
resolute voice. His face and eyes were resolute, too.
Graham's glances went from face to face, and he was
suddenly aware of that most disagreeable flavour in
life, compulsion. Some one gripped his arm....
He was being dragged away. It seemed as though the
tumult suddenly became two, as if half the shouts that
had come in from this wonderful roadway had sprung
into the passages of the great building behind him.
Marvelling and confused, feeling an impotent desire
to resist, Graham was half led, half thrust, along the
passage of blue pillars, and suddenly he found himself
alone with Howard in a lift and moving swiftly
THE HALL OF THE ATLAS
From the moment when the tailor had bowed his
farewell to the moment when Graham found himself
in the lift, was altogether barely five minutes. And
as yet the haze of his vast interval of sleep hung about
him, as yet the initial strangeness of his being alive
at all in this remote age touched everything with wonder,
with a sense of the irrational, with something of
the quality of a realistic dream. He was still detached,
an astonished spectator, still but half involved in life.
What he had seen, and especially the last crowded
tumult, framed in the setting of the balcony, had a
spectacular turn, like a thing witnessed from the box
of a theatre. "I don't understand," he said. "What
was the trouble? My mind is in a whirl. Why were
they shouting? What is the danger?"
"We have our troubles," said Howard. His eyes
avoided Graham's enquiry. "This is a time of unrest.
And, in fact, your appearance, your waking just now,
has a sort of connexion --"
He spoke jerkily, like a man not quite sure of his
breathing. He stopped abruptly.
"I don't understand," said Graham.
"It will be clearer later," said Howard.
He glanced uneasily upward, as though he found the
progress of the lift slow.
"I shall understand better, no doubt, when I have
seen my way about a little," said Graham puzzled. "It.
will be -- it is bound to be perplexing. At present it is
all so strange. Anything seems possible. Anything
In the details even. Your counting, I understand, is
The lift stopped, and they stepped out into a narrow
but very long passage between high walls, along
which ran an extraordinary number of tubes and big
"What a huge place this is!" said Graham. "Is it
all one building? What place is it?"
"This is one of the city ways for various public
services. Light and so forth."
"Was it a social trouble -- that -- in the great
roadway place? How are you governed? Have you
still a police?"
"Several," said Howard.
"I don't understand."
"Very probably not. Our social order will probably
seem very complex to you. To tell you the truth, I
don't understand it myself very clearly. Nobody does.
You will, perhaps -- bye and bye. We have to go to
Graham's attention was divided between the urgent
necessity of his inquiries and the people in the
passages and halls they were traversing. For a moment
his mind would be concentrated upon Howard and
the halting answers he made, and then he would lose
the thread in response to some vivid unexpected
impression. Along the passages, in the halls, half the
people seemed to be men in the red uniform. The pale
blue canvas that had been so abundant in the aisle of
moving ways did not appear. Invariably these men
looked at him, and saluted him and Howard as they
He had a clear vision of entering a long corridor,
and there were a number of girls sitting on low seats
and as though in a class. He saw no teacher, but only
a novel apparatus from which he fancied a voice proceeded.
The girls regarded him and his conductor, he
thought, with curiosity and astonishment. But he was
hurried on before he could form a clear idea of the
gathering. He judged they knew Howard and not
himself, and that they wondered who he was. This
Howard, it seemed, was a person of importance. But
then he was also merely Graham's guardian. That
There came a passage in twilight, and into this passage
a footway hung so that he could see the feet and
ankles of people going to and fro thereon, but no
more of them. Then vague impressions of galleries
and of casual astonished passers-by turning round to
stare after the two of them with their red-clad guard.
The stimulus of the restoratives he had taken was
only temporary. He was speedily fatigued by this
excessive haste. He asked Howard to slacken his
speed. Presently he was in a lift that had a window
upon the great street space, but this was glazed and
did not open, and they were too high for him to see
the moving platforms below. But he saw people going
to and fro along cables and along strange, frail-looking
And thence they passed across the street and at a vast
height above it. They crossed by means of a narrow
bridge closed in with glass, so clear that it made him
giddy even to remember it. The floor of it also was
of glass. From his memory of the cliffs between New
Quay and Boscastle, so remote in time, and so recent
in his experience, it seemed to him that they must be
near four hundred feet above the moving ways. He
stopped, looked down between his legs upon the
swarming blue and red multitudes, minute and
fore-shortened, struggling and gesticulating still towards
the little balcony far below, a little toy balcony, it
seemed, where he had so recently been standing. A
thin haze and the glare of the mighty globes of light
obscured everything. A man seated in a little open-work
cradle shot by from some point still higher than
the little narrow bridge, rushing down a cable as
swiftly almost as if he were falling. Graham stopped
involuntarily to watch this strange passenger vanish
in a great circular opening below, and then his eyes
went back to the tumultuous struggle.
Along one of the swifter ways rushed a thick crowd
of red spots. This broke up into individuals as it
approached the balcony, and went pouring down the
slower ways towards the dense struggling crowd on
the central area. These men in red appeared to be
armed with sticks or truncheons; they seemed to be
striking and thrusting. A great shouting, cries of
wrath, screaming, burst out and came up to Graham,
faint and thin. "Go on," cried Howard, laying hands
Another man rushed down a cable. Graham suddenly
glanced up to see whence he came, and beheld
through the glassy roof and the network of cables and
girders, dim rhythmically passing forms like the vans
of windmills, and between them glimpses of a remote
and pallid sky. Then Howard had thrust him forward
across the bridge, and he was in a little narrow passage
decorated with geometrical patterns.
"I want to see more of that," cried Graham,
"No, no," cried Howard, still gripping his arm.
"This way. You must go this way." And the men in
red following them seemed ready to enforce his orders.
Some negroes in a curious wasp-like uniform of black
and yellow appeared down the passage, and one hastened
to throw up a sliding shutter that had seemed
a door to Graham, and led the way through it.
Graham found himself in a gallery overhanging the
end of a great chamber. The attendant in black and
yellow crossed this, thrust up a second shutter and
This place had the appearance of an ante-room. He
saw a number of people in the central space, and at
the opposite end a large and imposing doorway at the
top of a flight of steps, heavily curtained but giving a
glimpse of some still larger hall beyond. He perceived
white men in red and other negroes in black and yellow
standing stiffly about those portals.
As they crossed the gallery he heard a whisper from
below, "The Sleeper," and was aware of a turning of
heads, a hum of observation. They entered another
little passage in the wall of this ante-chamber, and
then he found himself on an iron-railed gallery of
metal that passed round the side of the great hall he
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