When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
Part 2 out of 6
had already seen through the curtains. He entered
the place at the corner, so that he received the fullest
impression of its huge proportions. The black in the
wasp uniform stood aside like a well-trained servant,
and closed the valve behind him.
Compared with any of the places Graham had see
thus far, this second hall appeared to be decorate
with extreme richness. On a pedestal at the remote
end, and more brilliantly lit than any other object, was
a gigantic white figure of Atlas, strong and strenuous,
the globe upon his bowed shoulders. It was the first
thing to strike his attention, it was so vast, so patiently
and painfully real, so white and simple. Save for this
figure and for a dais in the centre, the wide floor of the
place was a shining vacancy. The dais was remote
in the greatness of the area; it would have looked a
mere slab of metal had it not been for the group of
seven men who stood about a table on it, and gave an
inkling of its proportions. They were all dressed in
white robes, they seemed to have arisen that moment
from their seats, and they were regarding Graham
steadfastly. At the end of the table he perceived the
glitter of some mechanical appliances.
Howard led him along the end gallery until they
were opposite this mighty labouring figure. Then he
stopped. The two men in red who had followed them
into the gallery came and stood on either hand of
"You must remain here," murmured Howard, "for
a few moments," and, without waiting for a reply,
hurried away along the gallery.
"But, _why?_" began Graham.
He moved as if to follow Howard, and found his
path obstructed by one of the men in red. "You have
to wait here, Sire," said the man in red.
"Our orders, Sire."
Graham looked his exasperation.
"What place is this?" he said presently. "Who
are those men?"
"They are the lords of the Council, Sire."
"Oh!" said Graham, and after an equally ineffectual
attempt at the other man, went to the railing and
stared at the distant men in white, who stood watching
him and whispering together.
The Council? He perceived there were now eight,
though how the newcomer had arrived he had not
observed. They made no gestures of greeting; they
stood regarding him as in the nineteenth century a
group of men might have stood in the street regarding
a distant balloon that had suddenly floated into view.
What council could it be that gathered there, that little
body of men beneath the significant white Atlas,
secluded from every eavesdropper in this impressive
spaciousness? And why should he be brought to
them, and be looked at strangely and spoken of
inaudibly? Howard appeared beneath, walking
quickly across the polished floor towards them. As he
drew near he bowed and performed certain peculiar
movements, apparently of a ceremonious nature.
Then he ascended the steps of the dais, and stood by
the apparatus at the end of the table.
Graham watched that visible inaudible conversation.
Occasionally, one of the white-robed men would
glance towards him. He strained his ears in vain.
The gesticulation of two of the speakers became
animated. He glanced from them to the passive faces of
his attendants. . . . When he looked again Howard
was extending his hands and moving his head like a
man who protests. He was interrupted, it seemed, by
one of the white-robed men rapping the table.
The conversation lasted an interminable time to
Graham's sense. His eyes rose to the still giant at
whose feet the Council sat. Thence they wandered
at last to the walls of the hall. It was decorated in
long painted panels of a quasi-Japanese type, many
of them very beautiful. These panels were grouped
in a great and elaborate framing of dark metal, which
passed into the metallic caryatidae of the galleries, and
the great structural lines of the interior. The facile
grace of these panels enhanced the mighty white effort
that laboured in the centre of the scheme. Graham's
eyes came back to the Council, and Howard was
descending the steps. As he drew nearer his features
could be distinguished, and Graham saw that he was
flushed and blowing out his cheeks. His countenance
was still disturbed when presently he reappeared along
"This way," he said concisely, and they went on in
silence to a little door that opened at their approach.
The two men in red stopped on either side of this door.
Howard and Graham passed in, and Graham, glancing
back, saw the white-robed Council still standing in a
close group and looking at him. Then the door closed
behind him with a heavy thud, and for the first time
since his awakening he was in silence. The floor, even,
was noiseless to his feet.
Howard opened another door, and they were in the
first of two contiguous chambers furnished in white
and green. "What Council was that?" began Graham.
"What were they discussing? What have
they to do with me?" Howard closed the door carefully,
heaved a huge sigh, and said something in an
undertone. He walked slanting ways across the room
and turned, blowing out his cheeks again. "Ugh!"
he grunted, a man relieved.
Graham stood regarding him.
"You must understand," began Howard abruptly,
avoiding Graham's eyes, "that our social order is
very complex. A half explanation, a bare unqualified
statement would give you false impressions. As a
matter of fact -- it is a case of compound interest
partly -- your small fortune, and the fortune of your
cousin Warming which was left to you -- and certain
other beginnings -- have become very considerable.
And in other ways that will be hard for you to understand,
you have become a person of significance -- of
very considerable significance -- involved in the
"Yes?" said Graham.
"We have grave social troubles."
"Things have come to such a pass that, in fact,
is advisable to seclude you here."
"Keep me prisoner!" exclaimed Graham.
"Well -- to ask you to keep in seclusion."
Graham turned on him. "This is strange!" he
"No harm will be done you."
"But you must be kept here --"
"While I learn my position, I presume."
"Very well then. Begin. Why _harm?_"
"It is too long a story, Sire."
"All the more reason I should begin at once. You
say I am a person of importance. What was that
shouting I heard? Why is a great multitude shouting
and excited because my trance is over, and who are
the men in white in that huge council chamber?"
"All in good time, Sire," said Howard. "But not
crudely, not crudely. This is one of those flimsy times
when no man has a settled mind. Your awakening.
No one expected your awakening. The Council is
"The Council you saw."
Graham made a petulant movement. "This is not
right," he said. "I should be told what is happening.
"You must wait. Really you must wait."
Graham sat down abruptly. "I suppose since I
have waited so long to resume life," he said, "that I
must wait a little longer."
"That is better," said Howard. "Yes, that is much
better. And I must leave you alone. For a space.
While I attend the discussion in the Council.
I am sorry."
He went towards the noiseless door, hesitated and
Graham walked to the door, tried it, found it securely
fastened in some way he never came to understand,
turned about, paced the room restlessly, made
the circuit of the room, and sat down. He remained
sitting for some time with folded arms and knitted
brow, biting his finger nails and trying to piece
together the kaleidoscopic impressions of this first
hour of awakened life; the vast mechanical spaces, the
endless series of chambers and passages, the great
struggle that roared and splashed through these
strange ways, the little group of remote unsympathetic
men beneath the colossal Atlas, Howard's mysterious
behaviour. There was an inkling of some vast inheritance
already in his mind -- a vast inheritance perhaps
misapplied -- of some unprecedented importance
and opportunity. What had he to do? And this
room's secluded silence was eloquent of imprisonment!
It came into Graham's mind with irresistible conviction
that this series of magnificent impressions was
a dream. He tried to shut his eyes and succeeded,
but that time-honoured device led to no awakening.
Presently he began to touch and examine all the
unfamiliar appointments of the two small rooms in
which he found himself.
In a long oval panel of mirror he saw himself and
stopped astonished. He was clad in a graceful costume
of purple and bluish white, with a little greyshot
beard trimmed to a point, and his hair, its blackness
streaked now with bands of grey, arranged over his
forehead in an unfamiliar but graceful manner. He
seemed a man of five-and-forty perhaps. For a
moment he did not perceive this was himself.
A flash of laughter came with the recognition. "To
call on old Warming like this!" he exclaimed, "and
make him take me out to lunch!"
Then he thought of meeting first one and then
another of the few familiar acquaintances of his early
manhood, and in the midst of his amusement realised
that every soul with whom he might jest had died
many score of years ago. The thought smote him
abruptly and keenly; he stopped short, the expression
of his face changed to a white consternation.
The tumultuous memory of the moving platforms
and the huge facade of that wonderful street reasserted
itself. The shouting multitudes came back clear and
vivid, and those remote, inaudible, unfriendly councilors
in white. He felt himself a little figure, very
small and ineffectual, pitifully conspicuous. And all
about him, the world was -- strange.
IN THE SILENT ROOMS
Presently Graham resumed his examination of his
apartments. Curiosity kept him moving in spite of
his fatigue. The inner room, he perceived, was high,
and its ceiling dome shaped', with an oblong aperture
in the centre, opening into a funnel in which a wheel
of broad vans seemed to be rotating, apparently driving
the air up the shaft. The faint humming note of
its easy motion was the only clear sound in that quiet
place. As these vans sprang up one after the other,
Graham could get transient glimpses of the sky. He
was surprised to see a star.
This drew his attention to the fact that the bright
lighting of these rooms was due to a multitude of very
faint glow lamps set about the cornices. There were
no windows. And he began to recall that along all
the vast chambers and passages he had traversed with
Howard he had observed no windows at all. Had
there been windows? There were windows on the
street indeed, but were they for light? Or was the
whole city lit day and night for evermore, so that
there was no night there?
And another thing dawned upon him. There was
no fireplace in either room. Was the season summer,
and were these merely summer apartments, or was
the whole City uniformly heated or cooled? He became
interested in these questions, began examining
the smooth texture of the walls, the simply constructed
bed, the ingenious arrangements by which the labour
of bedroom service was practically abolished. And
over everything was a curious absence of deliberate
ornament, a bare grace of form and colour, that he
found very pleasing to the eye. There were several
very comfortable chairs, a light table on silent runners
carrying several bottles of fluids and glasses, and two
plates bearing a clear substance like jelly. Then he
noticed there were no books, no newspapers, no
writing materials. "The world has changed indeed," he
He observed one entire side of the outer room was
set with rows of peculiar double cylinders inscribed
with green lettering on white that harmonized With
the decorative scheme of the room, and in the centre
of this side projected a little apparatus about a yard
square and having a white smooth face to the room. A
chair faced this. He had a transitory idea that these
cylinders might be books, or a modern substitute for
books, but at first it did not seem so.
The lettering on the cylinders puzzled him. At first
sight it seemed like Russian. Then he noticed a
suggestion of mutilated English about certain of the
"oi Man huwdbi Kin"
forced itself on him as "The Man who would be
King." "Phonetic spelling," he said. He remembered
reading a story with that title, then he recalled
the story vividly, one of the best stories in the 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
"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
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
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 sensations.
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 recognized 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
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 apparatus broken....
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 felt very tired,
felt 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
swift 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 become intolerable.
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 asleep.
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 his prison. 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 soundproof
walls that enclosed him, he would not elucidate.
He evaded, as politely as possible, every question on
the position of affairs in the outer world.
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," protested Howard.
"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
"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
Howard pulled his lip.
"I am beginning to feel -- every hour I feel more
clearly -- a sense of complex concealment of which
you are the salient point. 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 to _live_ --"
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 oŁ 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
"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
despised -- discreet --"
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 that his imagination suddenly created
dominated his mind with an intense attraction. Then
he flashed into anger.
"No I" 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
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
"How can it benefit anyone if harm should happen
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 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, wrestling darkly with the unknown powers
that imprisoned him, and which he had now deliberately
challenged, was startled by the sound of a
He peered up and saw in the intervals of the rotation,
dark and dim, the face and shoulders of a man
regarding him. When a dark hand was extended, the
swift van 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,
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, for outside it
was high night. 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 vans 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 van. "Who are you?"
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
"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 three days."
"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
"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 arise. "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 flat 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
"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.
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
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
sideways, 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 van. 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
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
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
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
"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 vans 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.
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
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
benurrled 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
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, I
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
"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
His teeth chattered in his head.
"Where are the markets?" asked Graham staring
out. "Where are all the people?"
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 ironwork
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
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 indistinct tackle.
"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 tightly, grip!"
Graham did as he was told.
"Jump," said the voice. "In heaven's name,
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 circular aperture
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 clumsy explanation.
He stared stupidly for some moments at these things
and then stood up abruptly; he grasped the arm of this
"Tell me!" he cried. "Who am I? Who am I?"
The others came nearer to hear his words. "Who
am I?" His eyes searched their faces.
"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 half 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 interference."
"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 your name."
"In my name? -- And you? Why is he not
"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 are marching."
"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, kill 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.
"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 drilled men --"
"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
The door opened, Lincoln's voice was swept away
and drowned, and a rush 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
"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
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 abundantly.
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,
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, 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
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 the
direction of 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 right -- all right."
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 his questions.
A crackling sound grew to distinctness, and there
with 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. He wore a red uniform.
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
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
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
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 rebels
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 Sleeper's face.
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
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