THE SLEEPER AWAKES
A Revised Edition of "When the Sleeper Wakes"
H. G. WELLS
PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION
When the Sleeper Wakes, whose title I have now altered to The Sleeper
Awakes, was first published as a book in 1899 after a serial appearance
in the Graphic and one or two American and colonial periodicals. It is
one of the most ambitious and least satisfactory of my books, and I have
taken the opportunity afforded by this reprinting to make a number of
excisions and alterations. Like most of my earlier work, it was written
under considerable pressure; there are marks of haste not only in the
writing of the latter part, but in the very construction of the story.
Except for certain streaks of a slovenliness which seems to be an almost
unavoidable defect in me, there is little to be ashamed of in the writing
of the opening portion; but it will be fairly manifest to the critic that
instead of being put aside and thought over through a leisurely
interlude, the ill-conceived latter part was pushed to its end. I was at
that time overworked, and badly in need of a holiday. In addition to
various necessary journalistic tasks, I had in hand another book, Love
and Mr. Lewisham, which had taken a very much stronger hold upon my
affections than this present story. My circumstances demanded that one or
other should be finished before I took any rest, and so I wound up the
Sleeper sufficiently to make it a marketable work, hoping to be able to
revise it before the book printers at any rate got hold of it. But
fortune was against me. I came back to England from Italy only to fall
dangerously ill, and I still remember the impotent rage and strain of my
attempt to put some sort of finish to my story of Mr. Lewisham, with my
temperature at a hundred and two. I couldn't endure the thought of
leaving that book a fragment. I did afterwards contrive to save it from
the consequences of that febrile spurt—Love and Mr. Lewisham is indeed
one of my most carefully balanced books—but the Sleeper escaped me.
It is twelve years now since the Sleeper was written, and that young man
of thirty-one is already too remote for me to attempt any very drastic
reconstruction of his work. I have played now merely the part of an
editorial elder brother: cut out relentlessly a number of long tiresome
passages that showed all too plainly the fagged, toiling brain, the heavy
sluggish driven pen, and straightened out certain indecisions at the
end. Except for that, I have done no more than hack here and there at
clumsy phrases and repetitions. The worst thing in the earlier version,
and the thing that rankled most in my mind, was the treatment of the
relations of Helen Wotton and Graham. Haste in art is almost always
vulgarisation, and I slipped into the obvious vulgarity of making what
the newspaper syndicates call a "love interest" out of Helen. There was
even a clumsy intimation that instead of going up in the flying-machine
to fight, Graham might have given in to Ostrog, and married Helen. I have
now removed the suggestion of these uncanny connubialities. Not the
slightest intimation of any sexual interest could in truth have arisen
between these two. They loved and kissed one another, but as a girl and
her heroic grandfather might love, and in a crisis kiss. I have found it
possible, without any very serious disarrangement, to clear all that
objectionable stuff out of the story, and so a little ease my conscience
on the score of this ungainly lapse. I have also, with a few strokes of
the pen, eliminated certain dishonest and regrettable suggestions that
the People beat Ostrog. My Graham dies, as all his kind must die, with no
certainty of either victory or defeat.
Who will win—Ostrog or the People? A thousand years hence that will
still be just the open question we leave to-day.
II. THE TRANCE
III. THE AWAKENING
IV. THE SOUND OF A TUMULT
V. THE MOVING WAYS
VI. THE HALL OF THE ATLAS
VII. IN THE SILENT ROOMS
VIII. THE ROOF SPACES
IX. THE PEOPLE MARCH
X. THE BATTLE OF THE DARKNESS
XI. THE OLD MAN WHO KNEW EVERYTHING
XIII. THE END OF THE OLD ORDER
XIV. FROM THE CROW'S NEST
XV. PROMINENT PEOPLE
XVI. THE MONOPLANE
XVII. THREE DAYS
XVIII. GRAHAM REMEMBERS
XIX. OSTROG'S POINT OF VIEW
XX. IN THE CITY WAYS
XXI. THE UNDER-SIDE
XXII. THE STRUGGLE IN THE COUNCIL HOUSE
XXIII. GRAHAM SPEAKS HIS WORD
XXIV. WHILE THE AEROPLANES WERE COMING
XXV. THE COMING OF THE AEROPLANES
THE SLEEPER AWAKES
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
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, 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 querulous intonation.
"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 steady—" He paused. "Towards
"You must sleep," said Isbister decisively, and with an air of a remedy
discovered. "Certainly you must sleep."
"My mind is perfectly lucid. It was never clearer. But I know I am
drawing towards the vortex. Presently—"
"You have seen things go down an eddy? Out of the light of the day, out
of this sweet world of sanity—down—"
"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 than that."
"There at any rate is sleep," repeated the stranger, not heeding him.
Isbister looked at him. "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 doubtfully.
"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 my misery."
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 for it."
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. The first need of this exhausted being was companionship. He
flung himself down on the steeply sloping turf beside the motionless
seated figure, and threw out a skirmishing line of gossip.
His hearer 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 objection to this benevolent intrusion upon his despair.
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 me,"
The man dropped his hand and turned again. They went over the brow 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 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,
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 you'd care?"
The other rose obediently and followed him down the steep.
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 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 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 ideas of a
furtive administration of chloral. "Only cold mutton, you know, but
passing sweet. Welsh. And a tart, I believe." He repeated this after
The seated man made no answer. Isbister stopped, match in hand,
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
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 looked 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 one must give him a chance." He struck a match
in the virile way, and proceeded to light his pipe.
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,
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 afraid. He took the man by the shoulder and shook
him. "Are you asleep?" he said, with his voice jumping, and again, "Are
A conviction took possession of his mind that this man was dead. He
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."
He returned to the motionless seated figure, grasped the shoulder, shook
it, shouted. The room was flooded with yellow glare as his landlady
entered with the light. His face was white as he turned blinking towards
her. "I must fetch a doctor," 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 him?
"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, peering in.
"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 Warming.
"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
"If I remember rightly," said Warming, "you were an artist?"
"Was. And then I became a married man. I saw it was all up with black and
white, very soon—at least for a mediocrity, and I jumped on to process.
Those posters on the Cliffs at Dover are by my people."
"Good posters," admitted the solicitor, "though I was sorry to see
"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 looking."
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 Chelsea."
"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."
"Do you mean—he was stiff and hard?"
"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 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 were 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
"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
"I know," said Warming, with a flash of pain in his expression.
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 a waking or a death; sometimes
first one and then the other. Isbister noted the marks the physicians
had made in injecting nourishment, for that 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 boy. 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—I 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
"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 fact—"
"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."
"There has been a lot of change certainly," said Warming. "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 connexions of ours. It is a grotesque and
"Rather," said Isbister.
"It seems to me it's a case of 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 mounting up."
"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
"If he wakes."
"If he wakes," echoed Isbister. "Do you notice the pinched-in 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 awake,"
he said at last. He sighed. "He will never awake again."
But Warming was wrong in that. An awakening came.
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 subconscious 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 confluent
Graham became aware that his eyes were open and regarding some
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
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
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 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 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 one, 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 glass like 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
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 about him.
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 his attention.
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, trembling.
His mind was still a surging perplexity. Clearly he had slept, and had
been removed in his sleep. But where? And who were those people, the
distant crowd beyond the deep blue pillars? Boscastle? He poured out and
partially drank another glass of the colourless fluid.
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 these three men began laughing.
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed one—a red-haired man in a short purple robe. "When
the Sleeper wakes—When!"
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 the 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 is well."
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 throat.
"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 it "Sire.")
"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 them
silently. His impulse to speak passed. He was trembling exceedingly.
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 answer.
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 his question.
"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
"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 a what?"
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 hundred years."
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
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
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 south-west 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, Church and State. High
and low, rich and poor, one with another … Is there England still?"
"That's a comfort! Is there London?"
"This is London, eh? And you are my assistant-custodian;
assistant-custodian. And these—? Eh? Assistant-custodians too!"
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.
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 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 told anything?"
The man with the fair beard made some inaudible remark, and Graham
looking over his shoulder saw approaching a 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. 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 newcomer 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 you?"
"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 clothes?"
"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 man.
"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 they can be procured. 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 you."
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 know nothing."
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 stood waiting.
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 of Graham.
"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 century.
"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 anemic 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 singular fixity.
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 crop-headed 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 him.
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 lions."
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 simple?"
"I suppose so," said Graham. "But about this cap—what was it?"
The man with the flaxen beard glanced over his shoulder.
"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 ringer, 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 complex garment of bluish white, and 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 glass.
"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 him.
"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 wild-eyed 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
Graham sat down abruptly. The flaxen-bearded man disappeared. The
capillotomist came forward, 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 of shoes.
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 great 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
façade 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 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 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 motionless. 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. Someone 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 upward.
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. 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
"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
"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 different."
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 cables.
"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
"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 passed.
He had a clear vision of entering a long corridor, and there were a
number of girls sitting on low seats, 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 was odd.
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 bridges.
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 foreshortened, 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 openwork 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 below, and then his
eyes went back to the tumultuous struggle.
Along one of the faster 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 on him.
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 vanes 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, resisting.
"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
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 stood waiting.
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
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 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 seen thus far, this second
hall appeared to be decorated with extreme richness. On a pedestal at the
remoter 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
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 Graham.
"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 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 the gallery.
"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 slantingways 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, it 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 said.
"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 consulting."
"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 vanished.
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
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
pleasing 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 façade of that
wonderful street reasserted itself. The shouting multitudes came back
clear and vivid, and those remote, inaudible, unfriendly councillors 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 vanes 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 vanes 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 said.
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 words.
"Thi 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 doing?"
"Ah!" said Graham. He forgot everything else, and sat down in the chair.
Within five minutes he heard himself, named, heard "when the Sleeper
wakes," used jestingly as a proverb for remote postponement, and passed
himself by, a thing remote and incredible. But in a little while he knew
those two people like intimate friends.
At last the miniature drama came to an end, and the square face of the
apparatus was blank again.
It was a strange world into which he had been permitted to see,
unscrupulous, pleasure seeking, energetic, subtle, a world too of dire
economic struggle; there were allusions he did not understand, incidents
that conveyed strange suggestions of altered moral ideals, flashes of
dubious enlightenment. The blue canvas that bulked so largely in his
first impression of the city ways appeared again and again as the costume
of the common people. He had no doubt the story was contemporary, and its
intense realism was undeniable. And the end had been a tragedy that
oppressed him. He sat staring at the blankness.
He started and rubbed his eyes. He had been so absorbed in the latter-day
substitute for a novel, that he awoke to the little green and white room
with more than a touch of the surprise of his first awakening.
He stood up, and abruptly he was back in his own wonderland. The
clearness of the kinetoscope drama passed, and the struggle in the vast
place of streets, the ambiguous Council, the swift phases of his waking
hour, came back. These people had spoken of the Council with suggestions
of a vague universality of power. And they had spoken of the Sleeper; it
had not really struck him vividly at the time that he was the Sleeper. He
had to recall precisely what they had said….
He walked into the bedroom and peered up through the quick intervals of
the revolving fan. As the fan swept round, a dim turmoil like the noise
of machinery came in rhythmic eddies. All else was silence. Though the
perpetual day still irradiated his apartments, he perceived the little
intermittent strip of sky was now deep blue—black almost, with a dust of
He resumed his examination of the rooms. He could find no way of opening
the padded door, no bell nor other means of calling for attendance. His
feeling of wonder was in abeyance; but he was curious, anxious for
information. He wanted to know exactly how he stood to these new things.
He tried to compose himself to wait until someone came to him. Presently
he became restless and eager for information, for distraction, for fresh
He went back to the apparatus in the other room, and had soon puzzled out
the method of replacing the cylinders by others. As he did so, it came
into his mind that it must be these little appliances had fixed the
language so that it was still clear and understandable after two hundred
years. The haphazard cylinders he substituted displayed a musical
fantasia. At first it was beautiful, and then it was sensuous. He
presently recognised what appeared to him to be an altered version of the
story of Tannhauser. The music was unfamiliar. But the rendering was
realistic, and with a contemporary unfamiliarity. Tannhauser did not go
to a Venusberg, but to a Pleasure City. What was a Pleasure City? A
dream, surely, the fancy of a fantastic, voluptuous writer.
He became interested, curious. The story developed with a flavour of
strangely twisted sentimentality. Suddenly he did not like it. He liked
it less as it proceeded.
He had a revulsion of feeling. These were no pictures, no idealisations,
but photographed realities. He wanted no more of the twenty-second
century Venusberg. He forgot the part played by the model in nineteenth
century art, and gave way to an archaic indignation. He rose, angry and
half ashamed at himself for witnessing this thing even in solitude. He
pulled forward the apparatus, and with some violence sought for a means
of stopping its action. Something snapped. A violet spark stung and
convulsed his arm and the thing was still. When he attempted next day to
replace these Tannhauser cylinders by another pair, he found the
He struck out a path oblique to the room and paced to and fro, struggling
with intolerable vast impressions. The things he had derived from the
cylinders and the things he had seen, conflicted, confused him. It seemed
to him the most amazing thing of all that in his thirty years of life he
had never tried to shape a picture of these coming times. "We were making
the future," he said, "and hardly any of us troubled to think what future
we were making. And here it is!"
"What have they got to, what has been done? How do I come into the midst
of it all?" The vastness of street and house he was prepared for, the
multitudes of people. But conflicts in the city ways! And the
systematised sensuality of a class of rich men!
He thought of Bellamy, the hero of whose Socialistic Utopia had so oddly
anticipated this actual experience. But here was no Utopia, no
Socialistic state. He had already seen enough to realise that the ancient
antithesis of luxury, waste and sensuality on the one hand and abject
poverty on the other, still prevailed. He knew enough of the essential
factors of life to understand that correlation. And not only were the
buildings of the city gigantic and the crowds in the street gigantic, but
the voices he had heard in the ways, the uneasiness of Howard, the very
atmosphere spoke of gigantic discontent. What country was he in? Still
England it seemed, and yet strangely "un-English." His mind glanced at
the rest of the world, and saw only an enigmatical veil.
He prowled about his apartment, examining everything as a caged animal
might do. He was very tired, with that feverish exhaustion that does not
admit of rest. He listened for long spaces under the ventilator to catch
some distant echo of the tumults he felt must be proceeding in the city.
He began to talk to himself. "Two hundred and three years!" he said to
himself over and over again, laughing stupidly. "Then I am two hundred
and thirty-three years old! The oldest inhabitant. Surely they haven't
reversed the tendency of our time and gone back to the rule of the
oldest. My claims are indisputable. Mumble, mumble. I remember the
Bulgarian atrocities as though it was yesterday. 'Tis a great age! Ha
ha!" He was surprised at first to hear himself laughing, and then laughed
again deliberately and louder. Then he realised that he was behaving
foolishly. "Steady," he said. "Steady!"
His pacing became more regular. "This new world," he said. "I don't
understand it. Why? … But it is all why!"
"I suppose they can fly and do all sorts of things. Let me try and
remember just how it began."
He was surprised at first to find how vague the memories of his first
thirty years had become. He remembered fragments, for the most part
trivial moments, things of no great importance that he had observed. His
boyhood seemed the most accessible at first, he recalled school books and
certain lessons in mensuration. Then he revived the more salient features
of his life, memories of the wife long since dead, her magic influence
now gone beyond corruption, of his rivals and friends and betrayers, of
the decision of this issue and that, and then of his last years of
misery, of fluctuating resolves, and at last of his strenuous studies. In
a little while he perceived he had it all again; dim perhaps, like metal
long laid aside, but in no way defective or injured, capable of
re-polishing. And the hue of it was a deepening misery. Was it worth
re-polishing? By a miracle he had been lifted out of a life that had
He reverted to his present condition. He wrestled with the facts in vain.
It became an inextricable tangle. He saw the sky through the ventilator
pink with dawn. An old persuasion came out of the dark recesses of his
memory. "I must sleep," he said. It appeared as a delightful relief from
this mental distress and from the growing pain and heaviness of his
limbs. He went to the strange little bed, lay down and was presently
He was destined to become very familiar indeed with these apartments
before he left them, for he remained imprisoned for three days. During
that time no one, except Howard, entered the rooms. The marvel of his
fate mingled with and in some way minimised the marvel of his survival.
He had awakened to mankind it seemed only to be snatched away into this
unaccountable solitude. Howard came regularly with subtly sustaining and
nutritive fluids, and light and pleasant foods, quite strange to Graham.
He always closed the door carefully as he entered. On matters of detail
he was increasingly obliging, but the bearing of Graham on the great
issues that were evidently being contested so closely beyond the
sound-proof walls that enclosed him, he would not elucidate. He evaded,
as politely as possible, every question on the position of affairs in the
And in those three days Graham's incessant thoughts went far and wide.
All that he had seen, all this elaborate contrivance to prevent him
seeing, worked together in his mind. Almost every possible interpretation
of his position he debated—even as it chanced, the right interpretation.
Things that presently happened to him, came to him at last credible, by
virtue of this seclusion. When at length the moment of his release
arrived, it found him prepared….
Howard's bearing went far to deepen Graham's impression of his own
strange importance; the door between its opening and closing seemed to
admit with him a breath of momentous happening. His enquiries became
more definite and searching. Howard retreated through protests and
difficulties. The awakening was unforeseen, he repeated; it happened
to have fallen in with the trend of a social convulsion. "To explain
it I must tell you the history of a gross and a half of years,"
"The thing is this," said Graham. "You are afraid of something I shall
do. In some way I am arbitrator—I might be arbitrator."
"It is not that. But you have—I may tell you this much—the automatic
increase of your property puts great possibilities of interference in
your hands. And in certain other ways you have influence, with your
eighteenth century notions."
"Nineteenth century," corrected Graham.
"With your old world notions, anyhow, ignorant as you are of every
feature of our State."
"Am I a fool?"
"Do I seem to be the sort of man who would act rashly?"
"You were never expected to act at all. No one counted on your
awakening. No one dreamt you would ever awake. The Council had surrounded
you with antiseptic conditions. As a matter of fact, we thought that you
were dead—a mere arrest of decay. And—but it is too complex. We dare
not suddenly—-while you are still half awake."
"It won't do," said Graham. "Suppose it is as you say—why am I not being
crammed night and day with facts and warnings and all the wisdom of the
time to fit me for my responsibilities? Am I any wiser now than two days
ago, if it is two days, when I awoke?"
Howard pulled his lip.
"I am beginning to feel—every hour I feel more clearly—a system of
concealment of which you are the face. Is this Council, or committee, or
whatever they are, cooking the accounts of my estate? Is that it?"
"That note of suspicion—" said Howard.
"Ugh!" said Graham. "Now, mark my words, it will be ill for those who
have put me here. It will be ill. I am alive. Make no doubt of it, I am
alive. Every day my pulse is stronger and my mind clearer and more
vigorous. No more quiescence. I am a man come back to life. And I want
Howard's face lit with an idea. He came towards Graham and spoke in an
easy confidential tone.
"The Council secludes you here for your good. You are restless.
Naturally—an energetic man! You find it dull here. But we are anxious
that everything you may desire—every desire—every sort of desire …
There may be something. Is there any sort of company?"
He paused meaningly.
"Yes," said Graham thoughtfully. "There is."
"Ah! Now! We have treated you neglectfully."
"The crowds in yonder streets of yours."
"That," said Howard, "I am afraid—But—"
Graham began pacing the room. Howard stood near the door watching him.
The implication of Howard's suggestion was only half evident to Graham.
Company? Suppose he were to accept the proposal, demand some sort of
company? Would there be any possibilities of gathering from the
conversation of this additional person some vague inkling of the struggle
that had broken out so vividly at his waking moment? He meditated again,
and the suggestion took colour. He turned on Howard abruptly.
"What do you mean by company?"
Howard raised his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. "Human beings," he
said, with a curious smile on his heavy face. "Our social ideas," he
said, "have a certain increased liberality, perhaps, in comparison with
your times. If a man wishes to relieve such a tedium as this—by feminine
society, for instance. We think it no scandal. We have cleared our minds
of formulae. There is in our city a class, a necessary class, no longer
Graham stopped dead.
"It would pass the time," said Howard. "It is a thing I should perhaps
have thought of before, but, as a matter of fact, so much is happening—"
He indicated the exterior world.
Graham hesitated. For a moment the figure of a possible woman dominated
his mind with an intense attraction. Then he flashed into anger.
"No!" he shouted.
He began striding rapidly up and down the room. "Everything you say,
everything you do, convinces me—of some great issue in which I am
concerned. I do not want to pass the time, as you call it. Yes, I know.
Desire and indulgence are life in a sense—and Death! Extinction! In my
life before I slept I had worked out that pitiful question. I will not
begin again. There is a city, a multitude—. And meanwhile I am here like
a rabbit in a bag."
His rage surged high. He choked for a moment and began to wave his
clenched fists. He gave way to an anger fit, he swore archaic curses. His
gestures had the quality of physical threats.
"I do not know who your party may be. I am in the dark, and you keep me
in the dark. But I know this, that I am secluded here for no good
purpose. For no good purpose. I warn you, I warn you of the consequences.
Once I come at my power—"
He realised that to threaten thus might be a danger to himself. He
stopped. Howard stood regarding him with a curious expression.
"I take it this is a message to the Council," said Howard.
Graham had a momentary impulse to leap upon the man, fell or stun him. It
must have shown upon his face; at any rate Howard's movement was quick.
In a second the noiseless door had closed again, and the man from the
nineteenth century was alone.
For a moment he stood rigid, with clenched hands half raised. Then he
flung them down. "What a fool I have been!" he said, and gave way to his
anger again, stamping about the room and shouting curses…. For a long
time he kept himself in a sort of frenzy, raging at his position, at his
own folly, at the knaves who had imprisoned him. He did this because he
did not want to look calmly at his position. He clung to his
anger—because he was afraid of fear.
Presently he found himself reasoning with himself. This imprisonment
was unaccountable, but no doubt the legal forms—new legal forms—of
the time permitted it. It must, of course, be legal. These people were
two hundred years further on in the march of civilisation than the
Victorian generation. It was not likely they would be less—humane. Yet
they had cleared their minds of formulae! Was humanity a formula as
well as chastity?
His imagination set to work to suggest things that might be done to him.
The attempts of his reason to dispose of these suggestions, though for
the most part logically valid, were quite unavailing. "Why should
anything be done to me?"
"If the worst comes to the worst," he found himself saying at last, "I
can give up what they want. But what do they want? And why don't they ask
me for it instead of cooping me up?"
He returned to his former preoccupation with the Council's possible
intentions. He began to reconsider the details of Howard's behaviour,
sinister glances, inexplicable hesitations. Then, for a time, his mind
circled about the idea of escaping from these rooms; but whither could he
escape into this vast, crowded world? He would be worse off than a Saxon
yeoman suddenly dropped into nineteenth century London. And besides, how
could anyone escape from these rooms?
"How can it benefit anyone if harm should happen to me?"
He thought of the tumult, the great social trouble of which he was so
unaccountably the axis. A text, irrelevant enough, and yet curiously
insistent, came floating up out of the darkness of his memory. This also
a Council had said:
"It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people."
THE ROOF SPACES
As the fans in the circular aperture of the inner room rotated and
permitted glimpses of the night, dim sounds drifted in thereby. And
Graham, standing underneath, was startled by the sound of a voice.
He peered up and saw in the intervals of the rotation, dark and dim, the
face and shoulders of a man regarding him. Then a dark hand was extended,
the swift vane struck it, swung round and beat on with a little brownish
patch on the edge of its thin blade, and something began to fall
therefrom upon the floor, dripping silently.
Graham looked down, and there were spots of blood at his feet. He looked
up again in a strange excitement. The figure had gone.
He remained motionless—his every sense intent upon the flickering patch
of darkness. He became aware of some faint, remote, dark specks floating
lightly through the outer air. They came down towards him, fitfully,
eddyingly, and passed aside out of the uprush from the fan. A gleam of
light flickered, the specks flashed white, and then the darkness came
again. Warmed and lit as he was, he perceived that it was snowing within
a few feet of him.
Graham walked across the room and came back to the ventilator again. He
saw the head of a man pass near. There was a sound of whispering. Then a
smart blow on some metallic substance, effort, voices, and the vanes
stopped. A gust of snowflakes whirled into the room, and vanished before
they touched the floor. "Don't be afraid," said a voice.
Graham stood under the vane. "Who are you?" he whispered.
For a moment there was nothing but a swaying of the fan, and then the
head of a man was thrust cautiously into the opening. His face
appeared nearly inverted to Graham; his dark hair was wet with
dissolving flakes of snow upon it. His arm went up into the darkness
holding something unseen. He had a youthful face and bright eyes, and
the veins of his forehead were swollen. He seemed to be exerting
himself to maintain his position.
For several seconds neither he nor Graham spoke.
"You were the Sleeper?" said the stranger at last.
"Yes," said Graham. "What do you want with me?"
"I come from Ostrog, Sire."
The man in the ventilator twisted his head round so that his profile was
towards Graham. He appeared to be listening. Suddenly there was a hasty
exclamation, and the intruder sprang back just in time to escape the
sweep of the released fan. And when Graham peered up there was nothing
visible but the slowly falling snow.
It was perhaps a quarter of an hour before anything returned to the
ventilator. But at last came the same metallic interference again; the
fans stopped and the face reappeared. Graham had remained all this time
in the same place, alert and tremulously excited.
"Who are you? What do you want?" he said.
"We want to speak to you, Sire," said the intruder. "We want—I
can't hold the thing. We have been trying to find a way to you—these
"Is it rescue?" whispered Graham. "Escape?"
"Yes, Sire. If you will."
"You are my party—the party of the Sleeper?"
"What am I to do?" said Graham.
There was a struggle. The stranger's arm appeared, and his hand was
bleeding. His knees came into view over the edge of the funnel. "Stand
away from me," he said, and he dropped rather heavily on his hands and
one shoulder at Graham's feet. The released ventilator whirled noisily.
The stranger rolled over, sprang up nimbly and stood panting, hand to a
bruised shoulder, and with his bright eyes on Graham.
"You are indeed the Sleeper," he said. "I saw you asleep. When it was the
law that anyone might see you."
"I am the man who was in the trance," said Graham. "They have imprisoned
me here. I have been here since I awoke—at least three days."
The intruder seemed about to speak, heard something, glanced swiftly at
the door, and suddenly left Graham and ran towards it, shouting quick
incoherent words. A bright wedge of steel flashed in his hand, and he
began tap, tap, a quick succession of blows upon the hinges. "Mind!"
cried a voice. "Oh!" The voice came from above.
Graham glanced up, saw the soles of two feet, ducked, was struck on the
shoulder by one of them, and a heavy weight bore him to the earth. He
fell on his knees and forward, and the weight went over his head. He
knelt up and saw a second man from above seated before him.
"I did not see you, Sire," panted the man. He rose and assisted
Graham to rise. "Are you hurt, Sire?" he panted. A succession of heavy
blows on the ventilator began, something fell close to Graham's face,
and a shivering edge of white metal danced, fell over, and lay fiat
upon the floor.
"What is this?" cried Graham, confused and looking at the ventilator.
"Who are you? What are you going to do? Remember, I understand nothing."
"Stand back," said the stranger, and drew him from under the ventilator
as another fragment of metal fell heavily.
"We want you to come, Sire," panted the newcomer, and Graham glancing at
his face again, saw a new cut had changed from white to red on his
forehead, and a couple of little trickles of blood starting therefrom.
"Your people call for you."
"Come where? My people?"
"To the hall about the markets. Your life is in danger here. We have
spies. We learned but just in time. The Council has decided—this very
day—either to drug or kill you. And everything is ready. The people are
drilled, the Wind-Vane police, the engineers, and half the way-gearers
are with us. We have the halls crowded—shouting. The whole city shouts
against the Council. We have arms." He wiped the blood with his hand.
"Your life here is not worth—"
"But why arms?"
"The people have risen to protect you, Sire. What?"
He turned quickly as the man who had first come down made a hissing with
his teeth. Graham saw the latter start back, gesticulate to them to
conceal themselves, and move as if to hide behind the opening door.
As he did so Howard appeared, a little tray in one hand and his heavy
face downcast. He started, looked up, the door slammed behind him, the
tray tilted side-ways, and the steel wedge struck him behind the ear. He
went down like a felled tree, and lay as he fell athwart the floor of the
outer room. The man who had struck him bent hastily, studied his face for
a moment, rose, and returned to his work at the door.
"Your poison!" said a voice in Graham's ear.
Then abruptly they were in darkness. The innumerable cornice lights had
been extinguished. Graham saw the aperture of the ventilator with ghostly
snow whirling above it and dark figures moving hastily. Three knelt on
the vane. Some dim thing—a ladder—was being lowered through the
opening, and a hand appeared holding a fitful yellow light.
He had a moment of hesitation. But the manner of these men, their swift
alacrity, their words, marched so completely with his own fears of the
Council, with his idea and hope of a rescue, that it lasted not a moment.
And his people awaited him!
"I do not understand," he said. "I trust. Tell me what to do."
The man with the cut brow gripped Graham's arm. "Clamber up the ladder,"
he whispered. "Quick. They will have heard—"
Graham felt for the ladder with extended hands, put his foot on the
lower rung, and, turning his head, saw over the shoulder of the nearest
man, in the yellow flicker of the light, the first-comer astride over
Howard and still working at the door. Graham turned to the ladder again,
and was thrust by his conductor and helped up by those above, and then
he was standing on something hard and cold and slippery outside the
He shivered. He was aware of a great difference in the temperature. Half
a dozen men stood about him, and light flakes of snow touched hands and
face and melted. For a moment it was dark, then for a flash a ghastly
violet white, and then everything was dark again.
He saw he had come out upon the roof of the vast city structure which had
replaced the miscellaneous houses, streets and open spaces of Victorian
London. The place upon which he stood was level, with huge serpentine
cables lying athwart it in every direction. The circular wheels of a
number of windmills loomed indistinct and gigantic through the darkness
and snowfall, and roared with a varying loudness as the fitful wind rose
and fell. Some way off an intermittent white light smote up from below,
touched the snow eddies with a transient glitter, and made an evanescent
spectre in the night; and here and there, low down, some vaguely outlined
wind-driven mechanism flickered with livid sparks.
All this he appreciated in a fragmentary manner as his rescuers stood
about him. Someone threw a thick soft cloak of fur-like texture about
him, and fastened it by buckled straps at waist and shoulders. Things
were said briefly, decisively. Someone thrust him forward.
Before his mind was yet clear a dark shape gripped his arm. "This way,"
said this shape, urging him along, and pointed Graham across the flat
roof in the direction of a dim semicircular haze of light. Graham obeyed.
"Mind!" said a voice, as Graham stumbled against a cable. "Between them
and not across them," said the voice. And, "We must hurry."
"Where are the people?" said Graham. "The people you said awaited me?"
The stranger did not answer. He left Graham's arm as the path grew
narrower, and led the way with rapid strides. Graham followed blindly. In
a minute he found himself running. "Are the others coming?" he panted,
but received no reply. His companion glanced back and ran on. They came
to a sort of pathway of open metal-work, transverse to the direction they
had come, and they turned aside to follow this. Graham looked back, but
the snowstorm had hidden the others.
"Come on!" said his guide. Running now, they drew near a little windmill
spinning high in the air. "Stoop," said Graham's guide, and they avoided
an endless band running roaring up to the shaft of the vane. "This way!"
and they were ankle deep in a gutter full of drifted thawing snow,
between two low walls of metal that presently rose waist high. "I will go
first," said the guide. Graham drew his cloak about him and followed.
Then suddenly came a narrow abyss across which the gutter leapt to the
snowy darkness of the further side. Graham peeped over the side once and
the gulf was black. For a moment he regretted his flight. He dared not
look again, and his brain spun as he waded through the half liquid snow.
Then out of the gutter they clambered and hurried across a wide flat
space damp with thawing snow, and for half its extent dimly translucent
to lights that went to and fro underneath. He hesitated at this unstable
looking substance, but his guide ran on unheeding, and so they came to
and clambered up slippery steps to the rim of a great dome of glass.
Round this they went. Far below a number of people seemed to be dancing,
and music filtered through the dome…. Graham fancied he heard a
shouting through the snowstorm, and his guide hurried him on with a new
spurt of haste. They clambered panting to a space of huge windmills, one
so vast that only the lower edge of its vanes came rushing into sight and
rushed up again and was lost in the night and the snow. They hurried for
a time through the colossal metallic tracery of its supports, and came at
last above a place of moving platforms like the place into which Graham
had looked from the balcony. They crawled across the sloping transparency
that covered this street of platforms, crawling on hands and knees
because of the slipperiness of the snowfall.
For the most part the glass was bedewed, and Graham saw only hazy
suggestions of the forms below, but near the pitch of the transparent
roof the glass was clear, and he found himself looking sheerly down
upon it all. For awhile, in spite of the urgency of his guide, he gave
way to vertigo and lay spread-eagled on the glass, sick and paralysed.
Far below, mere stirring specks and dots, went the people of the
unsleeping city in their perpetual daylight, and the moving platforms
ran on their incessant journey. Messengers and men on unknown
businesses shot along the drooping cables and the frail bridges were
crowded with men. It was like peering into a gigantic glass hive, and
it lay vertically below him with only a tough glass of unknown
thickness to save him from a fall. The street showed warm and lit, and
Graham was wet now to the skin with thawing snow, and his feet were
numbed with cold. For a space he could not move. "Come on!" cried his
guide, with terror in his voice. "Come on!"
Graham reached the pitch of the roof by an effort.
Over the ridge, following his guide's example, he turned about and slid
backward down the opposite slope very swiftly, amid a little avalanche of
snow. While he was sliding he thought of what would happen if some broken
gap should come in his way. At the edge he stumbled to his feet ankle
deep in slush, thanking heaven for an opaque footing again. His guide was
already clambering up a metal screen to a level expanse.
Through the spare snowflakes above this loomed another line of vast
windmills, and then suddenly the amorphous tumult of the rotating wheels
was pierced with a deafening sound. It was a mechanical shrilling of
extraordinary intensity that seemed to come simultaneously from every
point of the compass.
"They have missed us already!" cried Graham's guide in an accent of
terror, and suddenly, with a blinding flash, the night became day.
Above the driving snow, from the summits of the wind-wheels, appeared
vast masts carrying globes of livid light. They receded in illimitable
vistas in every direction. As far as his eye could penetrate the snowfall
"Get on this," cried Graham's conductor, and thrust him forward to a long
grating of snowless metal that ran like a band between two slightly
sloping expanses of snow. It felt warm to Graham's benumbed feet, and a
faint eddy of steam rose from it.
"Come on!" shouted his guide ten yards off, and, without waiting, ran
swiftly through the incandescent glare towards the iron supports of the
next range of wind-wheels. Graham, recovering from his astonishment,
followed as fast, convinced of his imminent capture….
In a score of seconds they were within a tracery of glare and black
shadows shot with moving bars beneath the monstrous wheels. Graham's
conductor ran on for some time, and suddenly darted sideways and vanished
into a black shadow in the corner of the foot of a huge support. In
another moment Graham was beside him.
They cowered panting and stared out.
The scene upon which Graham looked was very wild and strange. The snow
had now almost ceased; only a belated flake passed now and again across
the picture. But the broad stretch of level before them was a ghastly
white, broken only by gigantic masses and moving shapes and lengthy
strips of impenetrable darkness, vast ungainly Titans of shadow. All
about them, huge metallic structures, iron girders, inhumanly vast as it
seemed to him, interlaced, and the edges of wind-wheels, scarcely moving
in the lull, passed in great shining curves steeper and steeper up into a
luminous haze. Wherever the snow-spangled light struck down, beams and
girders, and incessant bands running with a halting, indomitable
resolution, passed upward and downward into the black. And with all that
mighty activity, with an omnipresent sense of motive and design, this
snow-clad desolation of mechanism seemed void of all human presence save
themselves, seemed as trackless and deserted and unfrequented by men as
some inaccessible Alpine snowfield.
"They will be chasing us," cried the leader. "We are scarcely halfway
there yet. Cold as it is we must hide here for a space—at least until it
snows more thickly again."
His teeth chattered in his head.
"Where are the markets?" asked Graham staring out. "Where are all
The other made no answer.
"Look!" whispered Graham, crouched close, and became very still.
The snow had suddenly become thick again, and sliding with the whirling
eddies out of the black pit of the sky came something, vague and large
and very swift. It came down in a steep curve and swept round, wide wings
extended and a trail of white condensing steam behind it, rose with an
easy swiftness and went gliding up the air, swept horizontally forward in
a wide curve, and vanished again in the steaming specks of snow. And,
through the ribs of its body, Graham saw two little men, very minute and
active, searching the snowy areas about him, as it seemed to him, with
field glasses. For a second they were clear, then hazy through a thick
whirl of snow, then small and distant, and in a minute they were gone.
"Now!" cried his companion. "Come!"
He pulled Graham's sleeve, and incontinently the two were running
headlong down the arcade of iron-work beneath the wind-wheels. Graham,
running blindly, collided with his leader, who had turned back on him
suddenly. He found himself within a dozen yards of a black chasm. It
extended as far as he could see right and left. It seemed to cut off
their progress in either direction.
"Do as I do," whispered his guide. He lay down and crawled to the edge,
thrust his head over and twisted until one leg hung. He seemed to feel
for something with his foot, found it, and went sliding over the edge
into the gulf. His head reappeared. "It is a ledge," he whispered. "In
the dark all the way along. Do as I did."
Graham hesitated, went down upon all fours, crawled to the edge, and
peered into a velvety blackness. For a sickly moment he had courage
neither to go on nor retreat, then he sat and hung his leg down, felt his
guide's hands pulling at him, had a horrible sensation of sliding over
the edge into the unfathomable, splashed, and felt himself in a slushy
gutter, impenetrably dark.
"This way," whispered the voice, and he began crawling along the gutter
through the trickling thaw, pressing himself against the wall. They
continued along it for some minutes. He seemed to pass through a hundred
stages of misery, to pass minute after minute through a hundred degrees
of cold, damp, and exhaustion. In a little while he ceased to feel his
hands and feet.
The gutter sloped downwards. He observed that they were now many feet
below the edge of the buildings. Rows of spectral white shapes like the
ghosts of blind-drawn windows rose above them. They came to the end of a
cable fastened above one of these white windows, dimly visible and
dropping into impenetrable shadows. Suddenly his hand came against his
guide's. "Still!" whispered the latter very softly.
He looked up with a start and saw the huge wings of the flying machine
gliding slowly and noiselessly overhead athwart the broad band of
snow-flecked grey-blue sky. In a moment it was hidden again.
"Keep still; they were just turning."
For awhile both were motionless, then Graham's companion stood up, and
reaching towards the fastenings of the cable fumbled with some
"What is that?" asked Graham.
The only answer was a faint cry. The man crouched motionless. Graham
peered and saw his face dimly. He was staring down the long ribbon of
sky, and Graham, following his eyes, saw the flying machine small and
faint and remote. Then he saw that the wings spread on either side, that
it headed towards them, that every moment it grew larger. It was
following the edge of the chasm towards them.
The man's movements became convulsive. He thrust two cross bars into
Graham's hand. Graham could not see them, he ascertained their form by
feeling. They were slung by thin cords to the cable. On the cord were
hand grips of some soft elastic substance. "Put the cross between your
legs," whispered the guide hysterically, "and grip the holdfasts. Grip
Graham did as he was told.
"Jump," said the voice. "In heaven's name, jump!"
For one momentous second Graham could not speak. He was glad afterwards
that darkness hid his face. He said nothing. He began to tremble
violently. He looked sideways at the swift shadow that swallowed up the
sky as it rushed upon him.
"Jump! Jump—in God's name! Or they will have us," cried Graham's guide,
and in the violence of his passion thrust him forward.
Graham tottered convulsively, gave a sobbing cry, a cry in spite of
himself, and then, as the flying machine swept over them, fell forward
into the pit of that darkness, seated on the cross wood and holding the
ropes with the clutch of death. Something cracked, something rapped
smartly against a wall. He heard the pulley of the cradle hum on its
rope. He heard the aeronauts shout. He felt a pair of knees digging into
his back…. He was sweeping headlong through the air, falling through
the air. All his strength was in his hands. He would have screamed but he
had no breath.
He shot into a blinding light that made him grip the tighter. He
recognised the great passage with the running ways, the hanging lights
and interlacing girders. They rushed upward and by him. He had a
momentary impression of a great round mouth yawning to swallow him up.
He was in the dark again, falling, falling, gripping with aching hands,
and behold! a clap of sound, a burst of light, and he was in a brightly
lit hall with a roaring multitude of people beneath his feet. The people!
His people! A proscenium, a stage rushed up towards him, and his cable
swept down to a circular aperture to the right of this. He felt he was
travelling slower, and suddenly very much slower. He distinguished shouts
of "Saved! The Master. He is safe!" The stage rushed up towards him with
rapidly diminishing swiftness. Then—
He heard the man clinging behind him shout as if suddenly terrified, and
this shout was echoed by a shout from below. He felt that he was no
longer gliding along the cable but falling with it. There was a tumult of
yells, screams, and cries. He felt something soft against his extended
hand, and the impact of a broken fall quivering through his arm….
He wanted to be still and the people were lifting him. He believed
afterwards he was carried to the platform and given some drink, but he
was never sure. He did not notice what became of his guide. When his mind
was clear again he was on his feet; eager hands were assisting him to
stand. He was in a big alcove, occupying the position that in his
previous experience had been devoted to the lower boxes. If this was
indeed a theatre.
A mighty tumult was in his ears, a thunderous roar, the shouting of a
countless multitude. "It is the Sleeper! The Sleeper is with us!"
"The Sleeper is with us! The Master—the Owner! The Master is with us.
He is safe."
Graham had a surging vision of a great hall crowded with people. He saw
no individuals, he was conscious of a froth of pink faces, of waving arms
and garments, he felt the occult influence of a vast crowd pouring over
him, buoying him up. There were balconies, galleries, great archways
giving remoter perspectives, and everywhere people, a vast arena of
people, densely packed and cheering. Across the nearer space lay the
collapsed cable like a huge snake. It had been cut by the men of the
flying machine at its upper end, and had crumpled down into the hall. Men
seemed to be hauling this out of the way. But the whole effect was vague,
the very buildings throbbed and leapt with the roar of the voices.
He stood unsteadily and looked at those about him. Someone supported him
by one arm. "Let me go into a little room," he said, weeping; "a little
room," and could say no more. A man in black stepped forward, took his
disengaged arm. He was aware of officious men opening a door before him.
Someone guided him to a seat. He staggered. He sat down heavily and
covered his face with his hands; he was trembling violently, his nervous
control was at an end. He was relieved of his cloak, he could not
remember how; his purple hose he saw were black with wet. People were
running about him, things were happening, but for some time he gave no
heed to them.
He had escaped. A myriad of cries told him that. He was safe. These were
the people who were on his side. For a space he sobbed for breath, and
then he sat still with his face covered. The air was full of the shouting
of innumerable men.
THE PEOPLE MARCH
He became aware of someone urging a glass of clear fluid upon his
attention, looked up and discovered this was a dark young man in a yellow
garment. He took the dose forthwith, and in a moment he was glowing. A
tall man in a black robe stood by his shoulder, and pointed to the half
open door into the hall. This man was shouting close to his ear and yet
what was said was indistinct because of the tremendous uproar from the
great theatre. Behind the man was a girl in a silvery grey robe, whom
Graham, even in this confusion, perceived to be beautiful. Her dark eyes,
full of wonder and curiosity, were fixed on him, her lips trembled apart.
A partially opened door gave a glimpse of the crowded hall, and admitted
a vast uneven tumult, a hammering, clapping and shouting that died away
and began again, and rose to a thunderous pitch, and so continued
intermittently all the time that Graham remained in the little room. He
watched the lips of the man in black and gathered that he was making some
He stared stupidly for some moments at these things and then stood up
abruptly; he grasped the arm of this shouting person.
"Tell me!" he cried. "Who am I? Who am I?"
The others came nearer to hear his words. "Who am I?" His eyes searched
"They have told him nothing!" cried the girl.
"Tell me, tell me!" cried Graham.
"You are the Master of the Earth. You are owner of the world."
He did not believe he heard aright. He resisted the persuasion. He
pretended not to understand, not to hear. He lifted his voice again. "I
have been awake three days—a prisoner three days. I judge there is some
struggle between a number of people in this city—it is London?"
"Yes," said the younger man.
"And those who meet in the great hall with the white Atlas? How does it
concern me? In some way it has to do with me. Why, I don't know. Drugs?
It seems to me that while I have slept the world has gone mad. I have
gone mad…. Who are those Councillors under the Atlas? Why should they
try to drug me?"
"To keep you insensible," said the man in yellow. "To prevent your
"Because you are the Atlas, Sire," said the man in yellow. "The world
is on your shoulders. They rule it in your name."
The sounds from the hall had died into a silence threaded by one
monotonous voice. Now suddenly, trampling on these last words, came a
deafening tumult, a roaring and thundering, cheer crowded on cheer,
voices hoarse and shrill, beating, overlapping, and while it lasted the
people in the little room could not hear each other shout.
Graham stood, his intelligence clinging helplessly to the thing he had
just heard. "The Council," he repeated blankly, and then snatched at a
name that had struck him. "But who is Ostrog?" he said.
"He is the organiser—the organiser of the revolt. Our Leader—in
"In my name?—And you? Why is he not here?"
"He—has deputed us. I am his brother—his half-brother, Lincoln. He
wants you to show yourself to these people and then come on to him. That
is why he has sent. He is at the wind-vane offices directing. The people
"In your name," shouted the younger man. "They have ruled, crushed,
tyrannised. At last even—"
"In my name! My name! Master?"
The younger man suddenly became audible in a pause of the outer thunder,
indignant and vociferous, a high penetrating voice under his red
aquiline nose and bushy moustache. "No one expected you to wake. No one
expected you to wake. They were cunning. Damned tyrants! But they were
taken by surprise. They did not know whether to drug you, hypnotise you,
Again the hall dominated everything.
"Ostrog is at the wind-vane offices ready—. Even now there is a rumour
of fighting beginning."
The man who had called himself Lincoln came close to him. "Ostrog has it
planned. Trust him. We have our organisations ready. We shall seize the
flying stages—. Even now he may be doing that. Then—"
"This public theatre," bawled the man in yellow, "is only a contingent.
We have five myriads of drilled men—"
"We have arms," cried Lincoln. "We have plans. A leader. Their police
have gone from the streets and are massed in the—" (inaudible). "It is
now or never. The Council is rocking—They cannot trust even their
"Hear the people calling to you!"
Graham's mind was like a night of moon and swift clouds, now dark and
hopeless, now clear and ghastly. He was Master of the Earth, he was a man
sodden with thawing snow. Of all his fluctuating impressions the dominant
ones presented an antagonism; on the one hand was the White Council,
powerful, disciplined, few, the White Council from which he had just
escaped; and on the other, monstrous crowds, packed masses of
indistinguishable people clamouring his name, hailing him Master. The
other side had imprisoned him, debated his death. These shouting
thousands beyond the little doorway had rescued him. But why these things
should be so he could not understand.
The door opened, Lincoln's voice was swept away and drowned, and a rash
of people followed on the heels of the tumult. These intruders came
towards him and Lincoln gesticulating. The voices without explained their
soundless lips. "Show us the Sleeper, show us the Sleeper!" was the
burden of the uproar. Men were bawling for "Order! Silence!"
Graham glanced towards the open doorway, and saw a tall, oblong picture
of the hall beyond, a waving, incessant confusion of crowded, shouting
faces, men and women together, waving pale blue garments, extended hands.
Many were standing, one man in rags of dark brown, a gaunt figure, stood
on the seat and waved a black cloth. He met the wonder and expectation of
the girl's eyes. What did these people expect from him. He was dimly
aware that the tumult outside had changed its character, was in some way
beating, marching. His own mind, too, changed. For a space he did not
recognise the influence that was transforming him. But a moment that was
near to panic passed. He tried to make audible inquiries of what was
required of him.
Lincoln was shouting in his ear, but Graham was deafened to that. All the
others save the woman gesticulated towards the hall. He perceived what
had happened to the uproar. The whole mass of people was chanting
together. It was not simply a song, the voices were gathered together and
upborne by a torrent of instrumental music, music like the music of an
organ, a woven texture of sounds, full of trumpets, full of flaunting
banners, full of the march and pageantry of opening war. And the feet of
the people were beating time—tramp, tramp.
He was urged towards the door. He obeyed mechanically. The strength of
that chant took hold of him, stirred him, emboldened him. The hall opened
to him, a vast welter of fluttering colour swaying to the music.
"Wave your arm to them," said Lincoln. "Wave your arm to them."
"This," said a voice on the other side, "he must have this." Arms were
about his neck detaining him in the doorway, and a black
subtly-folding mantle hung from his shoulders. He threw his arm free
of this and followed Lincoln. He perceived the girl in grey close to
him, her face lit, her gesture onward. For the instant she became to
him, flushed and eager as she was, an embodiment of the song. He
emerged in the alcove again. Incontinently the mounting waves of the
song broke upon his appearing, and flashed up into a foam of shouting.
Guided by Lincoln's hand he marched obliquely across the centre of the
stage facing the people.
The hall was a vast and intricate space—galleries, balconies, broad
spaces of amphitheatral steps, and great archways. Far away, high up,
seemed the mouth of a huge passage full of struggling humanity. The whole
multitude was swaying in congested masses. Individual figures sprang out
of the tumult, impressed him momentarily, and lost definition again.
Close to the platform swayed a beautiful fair woman, carried by three
men, her hair across her face and brandishing a green staff. Next this
group an old careworn man in blue canvas maintained his place in the
crush with difficulty, and behind shouted a hairless face, a great cavity
of toothless mouth. A voice called that enigmatical word "Ostrog." All
his impressions were vague save the massive emotion of that trampling
song. The multitude were beating time with their feet—marking time,
tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. The green weapons waved, flashed and slanted.
Then he saw those nearest to him on a level space before the stage were
marching in front of him, passing towards a great archway, shouting "To
the Council!" Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. He raised his arm, and the
roaring was redoubled. He remembered he had to shout "March!" His mouth
shaped inaudible heroic words. He waved his arm again and pointed to the
archway, shouting "Onward!" They were no longer marking time, they were
marching; tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. In that host were bearded men, old
men, youths, fluttering robed bare-armed women, girls. Men and women of
the new age! Rich robes, grey rags fluttered together in the whirl of
their movement amidst the dominant blue. A monstrous black banner jerked
its way to the right. He perceived a blue-clad negro, a shrivelled woman
in yellow, then a group of tall fair-haired, white-faced, blue-clad men
pushed theatrically past him. He noted two Chinamen. A tall, sallow,
dark-haired, shining-eyed youth, white clad from top to toe, clambered up
towards the platform shouting loyally, and sprang down again and receded,
looking backward. Heads, shoulders, hands clutching weapons, all were
swinging with those marching cadences.
Faces came out of the confusion to him as he stood there, eyes met his
and passed and vanished. Men gesticulated to him, shouted inaudible
personal things. Most of the faces were flushed, but many were ghastly
white. And disease was there, and many a hand that waved to him was gaunt
and lean. Men and women of the new age! Strange and incredible meeting!
As the broad stream passed before him to the right, tributary gangways
from the remote uplands of the hall thrust downward in an incessant
replacement of people; tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp. The unison of the song
was enriched and complicated by the massive echoes of arches and
passages. Men and women mingled in the ranks; tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp.
The whole world seemed marching. Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp; his brain
was tramping. The garments waved onward, the faces poured by more
Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp; at Lincoln's pressure he turned towards the
archway, walking unconsciously in that rhythm, scarcely noticing his
movement for the melody and stir of it. The multitude, the gesture and
song, all moved in that direction, the flow of people smote downward
until the upturned faces were below the level of his feet. He was aware
of a path before him, of a suite about him, of guards and dignities, and
Lincoln on his right hand. Attendants intervened, and ever and again
blotted out the sight of the multitude to the left. Before him went the
backs of the guards in black—three and three and three. He was marched
along a little railed way, and crossed above the archway, with the
torrent dipping to flow beneath, and shouting up to him. He did not know
whither he went; he did not want to know. He glanced back across a
flaming spaciousness of hall. Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp.
THE BATTLE OF THE DARKNESS
He was no longer in the hall. He was marching along a gallery overhanging
one of the great streets of the moving platforms that traversed the city.
Before him and behind him tramped his guards. The whole concave of the
moving ways below was a congested mass of people marching, tramping to
the left, shouting, waving hands and arms, pouring along a huge vista,
shouting as they came into view, shouting as they passed, shouting as
they receded, until the globes of electric light receding in perspective
dropped down it seemed and hid the swarming bare heads. Tramp, tramp,
The song roared up to Graham now, no longer upborne by music, but coarse
and noisy, and the beating of the marching feet, tramp, tramp, tramp,
tramp, interwove with a thunderous irregularity of footsteps from the
undisciplined rabble that poured along the higher ways.
Abruptly he noted a contrast. The buildings on the opposite side of the
way seemed deserted, the cables and bridges that laced across the aisle
were empty and shadowy. It came into Graham's mind that these also should
have swarmed with people.
He felt a curious emotion—throbbing—very fast! He stopped again. The
guards before him marched on; those about him stopped as he did. He saw
anxiety and fear in their faces. The throbbing had something to do with
the lights. He too looked up.
At first it seemed to him a thing that affected the lights simply, an
isolated phenomenon, having no bearing on the things below. Each huge
globe of blinding whiteness was as it were clutched, compressed in a
systole that was followed by a transitory diastole, and again a systole
like a tightening grip, darkness, light, darkness, in rapid alternation.
Graham became aware that this strange behaviour of the lights had to do
with the people below. The appearance of the houses and ways, the
appearance of the packed masses changed, became a confusion of vivid
lights and leaping shadows. He saw a multitude of shadows had sprung into
aggressive existence, seemed rushing up, broadening, widening, growing
with steady swiftness—to leap suddenly back and return reinforced. The
song and the tramping had ceased. The unanimous march, he discovered, was
arrested, there were eddies, a flow sideways, shouts of "The lights!"
Voices were crying together one thing. "The lights!" cried these voices.
"The lights!" He looked down. In this dancing death of the lights the
area of the street had suddenly become a monstrous struggle. The huge
white globes became purple-white, purple with a reddish glow, flickered,
flickered faster and faster, fluttered between light and extinction,
ceased to flicker and became mere fading specks of glowing red in a vast
obscurity. In ten seconds the extinction was accomplished, and there was
only this roaring darkness, a black monstrosity that had suddenly
swallowed up those glittering myriads of men.
He felt invisible forms about him; his arms were gripped. Something
rapped sharply against his shin. A voice bawled in his ear, "It is all
Graham shook off the paralysis of his first astonishment. He struck his
forehead against Lincoln's and bawled, "What is this darkness?"
"The Council has cut the currents that light the city. We must
wait—stop. The people will go on. They will—"
His voice was drowned. Voices were shouting, "Save the Sleeper. Take care
of the Sleeper." A guard stumbled against Graham and hurt his hand by an
inadvertent blow of his weapon. A wild tumult tossed and whirled about
him, growing, as it seemed, louder, denser, more furious each moment.
Fragments of recognisable sounds drove towards him, were whirled away
from him as his mind reached out to grasp them. Voices seemed to be
shouting conflicting orders, other voices answered. There were suddenly a
succession of piercing screams close beneath them.
A voice bawled in his ear, "The red police," and receded forthwith beyond
A crackling sound grew to distinctness, and therewith a leaping of faint
flashes along the edge of the further ways. By their light Graham saw the
heads and bodies of a number of men, armed with weapons like those of his
guards, leap into an instant's dim visibility. The whole area began to
crackle, to flash with little instantaneous streaks of light, and
abruptly the darkness rolled back like a curtain.
A glare of light dazzled his eyes, a vast seething expanse of struggling
men confused his mind. A shout, a burst of cheering, came across the
ways. He looked up to see the source of the light. A man hung far
overhead from the upper part of a cable, holding by a rope the blinding
star that had driven the darkness back.
Graham's eyes fell to the ways again. A wedge of red a little way
along the vista caught his eye. He saw it was a dense mass of red-clad
men jammed on the higher further way, their backs against the pitiless
cliff of building, and surrounded by a dense crowd of antagonists.
They were fighting. Weapons flashed and rose and fell, heads vanished
at the edge of the contest, and other heads replaced them, the little
flashes from the green weapons became little jets of smoky grey while
the light lasted.
Abruptly the flare was extinguished and the ways were an inky darkness
once more, a tumultuous mystery.
He felt something thrusting against him. He was being pushed along the
gallery. Someone was shouting—it might be at him. He was too confused
to hear. He was thrust against the wall, and a number of people
blundered past him. It seemed to him that his guards were struggling
with one another.
Suddenly the cable-hung star-holder appeared again, and the whole scene
was white and dazzling. The band of red-coats seemed broader and nearer;
its apex was half-way down the ways towards the central aisle. And
raising his eyes Graham saw that a number of these men had also appeared
now in the darkened lower galleries of the opposite building, and were
firing over the heads of their fellows below at the boiling confusion of
people on the lower ways. The meaning of these things dawned upon him.
The march of the people had come upon an ambush at the very outset.
Thrown into confusion by the extinction of the lights they were now being
attacked by the red police. Then he became aware that he was standing
alone, that his guards and Lincoln were along the gallery in the
direction along which he had come before the darkness fell. He saw they
were gesticulating to him wildly, running back towards him. A great
shouting came from across the ways. Then it seemed as though the whole
face of the darkened building opposite was lined and speckled with
red-clad men. And they were pointing over to him and shouting. "The
Sleeper! Save the Sleeper!" shouted a multitude of throats.
Something struck the wall above his head. He looked up at the impact and
saw a star-shaped splash of silvery metal. He saw Lincoln near him. Felt
his arm gripped. Then, pat, pat; he had been missed twice.
For a moment he did not understand this. The street was hidden,
everything was hidden, as he looked. The second flare had burned out.
Lincoln had gripped Graham by the arm, was lugging him along the gallery.
"Before the next light!" he cried. His haste was contagious. Graham's
instinct of self-preservation overcame the paralysis of his incredulous
astonishment. He became for a time the blind creature of the fear of
death. He ran, stumbling because of the uncertainty of the darkness,
blundered into his guards as they turned to run with him. Haste was his
one desire, to escape this perilous gallery upon which he was exposed. A
third glare came close on its predecessors. With it came a great shouting
across the ways, an answering tumult from the ways. The red-coats below,
he saw, had now almost gained the central passage. Their countless faces
turned towards him, and they shouted. The white façade 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 façade, an unmasked ambuscade of red police, was
crowded and bawling and firing at him.
Down went one of his guards before him, and Graham, unable to stop, leapt
the writhing body.
In another second he had plunged, unhurt, into a black passage, and
incontinently someone, coming, it may be, in a transverse direction,
blundered violently into him. He was hurling down a staircase in absolute
darkness. He reeled, and was struck again, and came against a wall with
his hands. He was crushed by a weight of struggling bodies, whirled
round, and thrust to the right. A vast pressure pinned him. He could not
breathe, his ribs seemed cracking. He felt a momentary relaxation, and
then the whole mass of people moving together, bore him back towards the
great theatre from which he had so recently come. There were moments when
his feet did not touch the ground. Then he was staggering and shoving. He
heard shouts of "They are coming!" and a muffled cry close to him. His
foot blundered against something soft, he heard a hoarse scream under
foot. He heard shouts of "The Sleeper!" but he was too confused to speak.
He heard the green weapons crackling. For a space he lost his individual
will, became an atom in a panic, blind, unthinking, mechanical. He thrust
and pressed back and writhed in the pressure, kicked presently against a
step, and found himself ascending a slope. And abruptly the faces all
about him leapt out of the black, visible, ghastly-white and astonished,
terrified, perspiring, in a livid glare. One face, a young man's, was
very near to him, not twenty inches away. At the time it was but a
passing incident of no emotional value, but afterwards it came back to
him in his dreams. For this young man, wedged upright in the crowd for a
time, had been shot and was already dead.
A fourth white star must have been lit by the man on the cable. Its
light came glaring in through vast windows and arches and showed Graham
that he was now one of a dense mass of flying black figures pressed back
across the lower area of the great theatre. This time the picture was
livid and fragmentary, slashed and barred with black shadows. He saw
that quite near to him the red guards were fighting their way through
the people. He could not tell whether they saw him. He looked for
Lincoln and his guards. He saw Lincoln near the stage of the theatre
surrounded in a crowd of black-badged revolutionaries, lifted up and
staring to and fro as if seeking him. Graham perceived that he himself
was near the opposite edge of the crowd, that behind him, separated by a
barrier, sloped the now vacant seats of the theatre. A sudden idea came
to him, and he began fighting his way towards the barrier. As he reached
it the glare came to an end.
In a moment he had thrown off the great cloak that not only impeded his
movements but made him conspicuous, and had slipped it from his
shoulders. He heard someone trip in its folds. In another he was scaling
the barrier and had dropped into the blackness on the further side. Then
feeling his way he came to the lower end of an ascending gangway. In the
darkness the sound of firing ceased and the roar of feet and voices
lulled. Then suddenly he came to an unexpected step and tripped and fell.
As he did so pools and islands amidst the darkness about him leapt to
vivid light again, the uproar surged louder and the glare of the fifth
white star shone through the vast fenestrations of the theatre walls.
He rolled over among some seats, heard a shouting and the whirring rattle
of weapons, struggled up and was knocked back again, perceived that a
number of black-badged men were all about him firing at the reds below,
leaping from seat to seat, crouching among the seats to reload.
Instinctively he crouched amidst the seats, as stray shots ripped the
pneumatic cushions and cut bright slashes on their soft metal frames.
Instinctively he marked the direction of the gangways, the most plausible
way of escape for him so soon as the veil of darkness fell again.
A young man in faded blue garments came vaulting over the seats. "Hullo!"
he said, with his flying feet within six inches of the crouching
He stared without any sign of recognition, turned to fire, fired, and
shouting, "To hell with the Council!" was about to fire again. Then it
seemed to Graham that the half of this man's neck had vanished. A drop of
moisture fell on Graham's cheek. The green weapon stopped half raised.
For a moment the man stood still with his face suddenly expressionless,
then he began to slant forward. His knees bent. Man and darkness fell
together. At the sound of his fall Graham rose up and ran for his life
until a step down to the gangway tripped him. He scrambled to his feet,
turned up the gangway and ran on.
When the sixth star glared he was already close to the yawning throat of
a passage. He ran on the swifter for the light, entered the passage and
turned a corner into absolute night again. He was knocked sideways,
rolled over, and recovered his feet. He found himself one of a crowd of
invisible fugitives pressing in one direction. His one thought now was
their thought also; to escape out of this fighting. He thrust and struck,
staggered, ran, was wedged tightly, lost ground and then was clear again.
For some minutes he was running through the darkness along a winding
passage, and then he crossed some wide and open space, passed down a long
incline, and came at last down a flight of steps to a level place. Many
people were shouting, "They are coming! The guards are coming. They are
firing. Get out of the fighting. The guards are firing. It will be safe
in Seventh Way. Along here to Seventh Way!" There were women and children
in the crowd as well as men.
The crowd converged on an archway, passed through a short throat and
emerged on a wider space again, lit dimly. The black figures about him
spread out and ran up what seemed in the twilight to be a gigantic series
of steps. He followed. The people dispersed to the right and left…. He
perceived that he was no longer in a crowd. He stopped near the highest
step. Before him, on that level, were groups of seats and a little kiosk.
He went up to this and, stopping in the shadow of its eaves, looked about
Everything was vague and grey, but he recognised that these great steps
were a series of platforms of the "ways," now motionless again. The
platform slanted up on either side, and the tall buildings rose beyond,
vast dim ghosts, their inscriptions and advertisements indistinctly seen,
and up through the girders and cables was a faint interrupted ribbon of
pallid sky. A number of people hurried by. From their shouts and voices,
it seemed they were hurrying to join the fighting. Other less noisy
figures flitted timidly among the shadows.
From very far away down the street he could hear the sound of a struggle.
But it was evident to him that this was not the street into which the
theatre opened. That former fight, it seemed, had suddenly dropped out of
sound and hearing. And they were fighting for him!
For a space he was like a man who pauses in the reading of a vivid book,
and suddenly doubts what he has been taking unquestionably. At that time
he had little mind for details; the whole effect was a huge astonishment.
Oddly enough, while the flight from the Council prison, the great crowd
in the hall, and the attack of the red police upon the swarming people
were clearly present in his mind, it cost him an effort to piece in his
awakening and to revive the meditative interval of the Silent Rooms. At
first his memory leapt these things and took him back to the cascade at
Pentargen quivering in the wind, and all the sombre splendours of the
sunlit Cornish coast. The contrast touched everything with unreality. And
then the gap filled, and he began to comprehend his position.
It was no longer absolutely a riddle, as it had been in the Silent Rooms.
At least he had the strange, bare outline now. He was in some way the
owner of the world, and great political parties were fighting to possess
him. On the one hand was the Council, with its red police, set
resolutely, it seemed, on the usurpation of his property and perhaps his
murder; on the other, the revolution that had liberated him, with this
unseen "Ostrog" as its leader. And the whole of this gigantic city was
convulsed by their struggle. Frantic development of his world! "I do not
understand," he cried. "I do not understand!"
He had slipped out between the contending parties into this liberty of
the twilight. What would happen next? What was happening? He figured the
red-clad men as busily hunting him, driving the black-badged
revolutionists before them.
At any rate chance had given him a breathing space. He could lurk
unchallenged by the passers-by, and watch the course of things. His eye
followed up the intricate dim immensity of the twilight buildings, and it
came to him as a thing infinitely wonderful, that above there the sun was
rising, and the world was lit and glowing with the old familiar light of
day. In a little while he had recovered his breath. His clothing had
already dried upon him from the snow.
He wandered for miles along these twilight ways, speaking to no one,
accosted by no one—a dark figure among dark figures—the coveted man out
of the past, the inestimable unintentional owner of the world. Wherever
there were lights or dense crowds, or exceptional excitement, he was
afraid of recognition, and watched and turned back or went up and down by
the middle stairways, into some transverse system of ways at a lower or
higher level. And though he came on no more fighting, the whole city
stirred with battle. Once he had to run to avoid a marching multitude of
men that swept the street. Everyone abroad seemed involved. For the most
part they were men, and they carried what he judged were weapons. It
seemed as though the struggle was concentrated mainly in the quarter of
the city from which he came. Ever and again a distant roaring, the
remote suggestion of that conflict, reached his ears. Then his caution
and his curiosity struggled together. But his caution prevailed, and he
continued wandering away from the fighting—so far as he could judge. He
went unmolested, unsuspected through the dark. After a time he ceased to
hear even a remote echo of the battle, fewer and fewer people passed him,
until at last the streets became deserted. The frontages of the buildings
grew plain, and harsh; he seemed to have come to a district of vacant
warehouses. Solitude crept upon him—his pace slackened.
He became aware of a growing fatigue. At times he would turn aside and
sit down on one of the numerous benches of the upper ways. But a feverish
restlessness, the knowledge of his vital implication in this struggle,
would not let him rest in any place for long. Was the struggle on his
And then in a desolate place came the shock of an earthquake—a roaring
and thundering—a mighty wind of cold air pouring through the city, the
smash of glass, the slip and thud of falling masonry—a series of
gigantic concussions. A mass of glass and ironwork fell from the remote
roofs into the middle gallery, not a hundred yards away from him, and in
the distance were shouts and running. He, too, was startled to an aimless
activity, and ran first one way and then as aimlessly back.
A man came running towards him. His self-control returned. "What have
they blown up?" asked the man breathlessly. "That was an explosion," and
before Graham could speak he had hurried on.
The great buildings rose dimly, veiled by a perplexing twilight, albeit
the rivulet of sky above was now bright with day. He noted many strange
features, understanding none at the time; he even spelt out many of the
inscriptions in Phonetic lettering. But what profit is it to decipher a
confusion of odd-looking letters resolving itself, after painful strain
of eye and mind, into "Here is Eadhamite," or, "Labour Bureau—Little
Side"? Grotesque thought, that all these cliff-like houses were his!
The perversity of his experience came to him vividly. In actual fact he
had made such a leap in time as romancers have imagined again and again.
And that fact realised, he had been prepared. His mind had, as it were,
seated itself for a spectacle. And no spectacle unfolded itself, but a
great vague danger, unsympathetic shadows and veils of darkness.
Somewhere through the labyrinthine obscurity his death sought him. Would
he, after all, be killed before he saw? It might be that even at the next
corner his destruction ambushed. A great desire to see, a great longing
to know, arose in him.
He became fearful of corners. It seemed to him that there was safety in
concealment. Where could he hide to be inconspicuous when the lights
returned? At last he sat down upon a seat in a recess on one of the
higher ways, conceiving he was alone there.
He squeezed his knuckles into his weary eyes. Suppose when he looked
again he found the dark trough of parallel ways and that intolerable
altitude of edifice gone. Suppose he were to discover the whole story of
these last few days, the awakening, the shouting multitudes, the darkness
and the fighting, a phantasmagoria, a new and more vivid sort of dream.
It must be a dream; it was so inconsecutive, so reasonless. Why were the
people fighting for him? Why should this saner world regard him as Owner
So he thought, sitting blinded, and then he looked again, half hoping in
spite of his ears to see some familiar aspect of the life of the
nineteenth century, to see, perhaps, the little harbour of Boscastle
about him, the cliffs of Pentargen, or the bedroom of his home. But fact
takes no heed of human hopes. A squad of men with a black banner tramped
athwart the nearer shadows, intent on conflict, and beyond rose that
giddy wall of frontage, vast and dark, with the dim incomprehensible
lettering showing faintly on its face.
"It is no dream," he said, "no dream." And he bowed his face upon
THE OLD MAN WHO KNEW EVERYTHING
He was startled by a cough close at hand.
He turned sharply, and peering, saw a small, hunched-up figure sitting a
couple of yards off in the shadow of the enclosure.
"Have ye any news?" asked the high-pitched wheezy voice of a very old
Graham hesitated. "None," he said.
"I stay here till the lights come again," said the old man. "These blue
scoundrels are everywhere—everywhere."
Graham's answer was inarticulate assent. He tried to see the old man but
the darkness hid his face. He wanted very much to respond, to talk, but
he did not know how to begin.
"Dark and damnable," said the old man suddenly. "Dark and damnable.
Turned out of my room among all these dangers."
"That's hard," ventured Graham. "That's hard on you."
"Darkness. An old man lost in the darkness. And all the world gone mad.
War and fighting. The police beaten and rogues abroad. Why don't they
bring some negroes to protect us? … No more dark passages for me. I
fell over a dead man."
"You're safer with company," said the old man, "if it's company of
the right sort," and peered frankly. He rose suddenly and came
Apparently the scrutiny was satisfactory. The old man sat down as if
relieved to be no longer alone. "Eh!" he said, "but this is a terrible
time! War and fighting, and the dead lying there—men, strong men, dying
in the dark. Sons! I have three sons. God knows where they are to-night."
The voice ceased. Then repeated quavering: "God knows where they are
Graham stood revolving a question that should not betray his ignorance.
Again the old man's voice ended the pause.
"This Ostrog will win," he said. "He will win. And what the world will
be like under him no one can tell. My sons are under the wind-vanes,
all three. One of my daughters-in-law was his mistress for a while.
His mistress! We're not common people. Though they've sent me to
wander to-night and take my chance…. I knew what was going on.
Before most people. But this darkness! And to fall over a dead body
suddenly in the dark!"
His wheezy breathing could be heard.
"Ostrog!" said Graham.
"The greatest Boss the world has ever seen," said the voice.
Graham ransacked his mind. "The Council has few friends among the
people," he hazarded.
"Few friends. And poor ones at that. They've had their time. Eh! They
should have kept to the clever ones. But twice they held election. And
Ostrog—. And now it has burst out and nothing can stay it, nothing can
stay it. Twice they rejected Ostrog—Ostrog the Boss. I heard of his
rages at the time—he was terrible. Heaven save them! For nothing on
earth can now he has raised the Labour Companies upon them. No one else
would have dared. All the blue canvas armed and marching! He will go
through with it. He will go through."
He was silent for a little while. "This Sleeper," he said, and stopped.
"Yes," said Graham. "Well?"
The senile voice sank to a confidential whisper, the dim, pale face came
close. "The real Sleeper—"
"Yes," said Graham.
"Died years ago."
"What?" said Graham, sharply.
"Years ago. Died. Years ago."
"You don't say so!" said Graham.
"I do. I do say so. He died. This Sleeper who's woke up—they changed in
the night. A poor, drugged insensible creature. But I mustn't tell all I
know. I mustn't tell all I know."
For a little while he muttered inaudibly. His secret was too much for
him. "I don't know the ones that put him to sleep—that was before my
time—but I know the man who injected the stimulants and woke him again.
It was ten to one—wake or kill. Wake or kill. Ostrog's way."
Graham was so astonished at these things that he had to interrupt, to
make the old man repeat his words, to re-question vaguely, before he was
sure of the meaning and folly of what he heard. And his awakening had
not been natural! Was that an old man's senile superstition, too, or had
it any truth in it? Feeling in the dark corners of his memory, he
presently came on something that might conceivably be an impression of
some such stimulating effect. It dawned upon him that he had happened
upon a lucky encounter, that at last he might learn something of the new
age. The old man wheezed awhile and spat, and then the piping,
reminiscent voice resumed:
"The first time they rejected him. I've followed it all."
"Rejected whom?" said Graham. "The Sleeper?"
"Sleeper? No. Ostrog. He was terrible—terrible! And he was promised
then, promised certainly the next time. Fools they were—not to be more
afraid of him. Now all the city's his millstone, and such as we dust
ground upon it. Dust ground upon it. Until he set to work—the workers
cut each other's throats, and murdered a Chinaman or a Labour policeman
at times, and left the rest of us in peace. Dead bodies! Robbing!
Darkness! Such a thing hasn't been this gross of years. Eh!—but 'tis ill
on small folks when the great fall out! It's ill."
"Did you say—there had not been—what?—for a gross of years?"
"Eh?" said the old man.
The old man said something about clipping his words, and made him repeat
this a third time. "Fighting and slaying, and weapons in hand, and fools
bawling freedom and the like," said the old man. "Not in all my life has
there been that. These are like the old days—for sure—when the Paris
people broke out—three gross of years ago. That's what I mean hasn't
been. But it's the world's way. It had to come back. I know. I know. This
five years Ostrog has been working, and there has been trouble and
trouble, and hunger and threats and high talk and arms. Blue canvas and
murmurs. No one safe. Everything sliding and slipping. And now here we
are! Revolt and fighting, and the Council come to its end."
"You are rather well-informed on these things," said Graham.
"I know what I hear. It isn't all Babble Machine with me."
"No," said Graham, wondering what Babble Machine might be. "And you are
certain this Ostrog—you are certain Ostrog organised this rebellion and
arranged for the waking of the Sleeper? Just to assert himself—because
he was not elected to the Council?"
"Everyone knows that, I should think," said the old man. "Except—just
fools. He meant to be master somehow. In the Council or not. Everyone who
knows anything knows that. And here we are with dead bodies lying in the
dark! Why, where have you been if you haven't heard all about the trouble
between Ostrog and the Verneys? And what do you think the troubles are
about? The Sleeper? Eh? You think the Sleeper's real and woke of his own
"I'm a dull man, older than I look, and forgetful," said Graham. "Lots of
things that have happened—especially of late years—. If I was the
Sleeper, to tell you the truth, I couldn't know less about them."
"Eh!" said the voice. "Old, are you? You don't sound so very old! But
it's not everyone keeps his memory to my time of life—truly. But these
notorious things! But you're not so old as me—not nearly so old as me.
Well! I ought not to judge other men by myself, perhaps. I'm young—for
so old a man. Maybe you're old for so young."
"That's it," said Graham. "And I've a queer history. I know very little.
And history! Practically I know no history. The Sleeper and Julius
Caesar are all the same to me. It's interesting to hear you talk of
"I know a few things," said the old man. "I know a thing or two.
The two men became silent, listening. There was a heavy thud, a
concussion that made their seat shiver. The passers-by stopped, shouted
to one another. The old man was full of questions; he shouted to a man
who passed near. Graham, emboldened by his example, got up and accosted
others. None knew what had happened.
He returned to the seat and found the old man muttering vague
interrogations in an undertone. For a while they said nothing to
The sense of this gigantic struggle, so near and yet so remote, oppressed
Graham's imagination. Was this old man right, was the report of the
people right, and were the revolutionaries winning? Or were they all in
error, and were the red guards driving all before them? At any time the
flood of warfare might pour into this silent quarter of the city and
seize upon him again. It behoved him to learn all he could while there
was time. He turned suddenly to the old man with a question and left it
unsaid. But his motion moved the old man to speech again.
"Eh! but how things work together!" said the old man. "This Sleeper that
all the fools put their trust in! I've the whole history of it—I was
always a good one for histories. When I was a boy—I'm that old—I used
to read printed books. You'd hardly think it. Likely you've seen
none—they rot and dust so—and the Sanitary Company burns them to make
ashlarite. But they were convenient in their dirty way. One learnt a
lot. These new-fangled Babble Machines—they don't seem new-fangled to
you, eh?—they're easy to hear, easy to forget. But I've traced all the
Sleeper business from the first."
"You will scarcely believe it," said Graham slowly, "I'm so
ignorant—I've been so preoccupied in my own little affairs, my
circumstances have been so odd—I know nothing of this Sleeper's history.
Who was he?"
"Eh!" said the old man. "I know, I know. He was a poor nobody, and set
on a playful woman, poor soul! And he fell into a trance. There's the
old things they had, those brown things—silver photographs—still
showing him as he lay, a gross and a half years ago—a gross and a half
"Set on a playful woman, poor soul," said Graham softly to himself, and
then aloud, "Yes—well go on."
"You must know he had a cousin named Warming, a solitary man without
children, who made a big fortune speculating in roads—the first
Eadhamite roads. But surely you've heard? No? Why? He bought all the
patent rights and made a big company. In those days there were grosses of
grosses of separate businesses and business companies. Grosses of
grosses! His roads killed the railroads—the old things—in two dozen
years; he bought up and Eadhamited the tracks. And because he didn't want
to break up his great property or let in shareholders, he left it all to
the Sleeper, and put it under a Board of Trustees that he had picked and
trained. He knew then the Sleeper wouldn't wake, that he would go on
sleeping, sleeping till he died. He knew that quite well! And plump! a
man in the United States, who had lost two sons in a boat accident,
followed that up with another great bequest. His trustees found
themselves with a dozen myriads of lions'-worth or more of property at
the very beginning."
"What was his name?"
"No—I mean—that American's."
"Isbister!" cried Graham. "Why, I don't even know the name."
"Of course not," said the old man. "Of course not. People don't learn
much in the schools nowadays. But I know all about him. He was a rich
American who went from England, and he left the Sleeper even more than
Warming. How he made it? That I don't know. Something about pictures by
machinery. But he made it and left it, and so the Council had its start.
It was just a council of trustees at first."
"And how did it grow?"
"Eh!—but you're not up to things. Money attracts money—and twelve
brains are better than one. They played it cleverly. They worked politics
with money, and kept on adding to the money by working currency and
tariffs. They grew—they grew. And for years the twelve trustees hid the
growing of the Sleeper's estate under double names and company titles and
all that. The Council spread by title deed, mortgage, share, every
political party, every newspaper they bought. If you listen to the old
stories you will see the Council growing and growing. Billions and
billions of lions at last—the Sleeper's estate. And all growing out of a
whim—out of this Warming's will, and an accident to Isbister's sons.
"Men are strange," said the old man. "The strange thing to me is how the
Council worked together so long. As many as twelve. But they worked in
cliques from the first. And they've slipped back. In my young days
speaking of the Council was like an ignorant man speaking of God. We
didn't think they could do wrong. We didn't know of their women and all
that! Or else I've got wiser.
"Men are strange," said the old man. "Here are you, young and
ignorant, and me—sevendy years old, and I might reasonably before
getting—explaining it all to you short and clear.
"Sevendy," he said, "sevendy, and I hear and see—hear better than I
see. And reason clearly, and keep myself up to all the happenings of
"Life is strange. I was twaindy before Ostrog was a baby. I remember him
long before he'd pushed his way to the head of the Wind Vanes Control.
I've seen many changes. Eh! I've worn the blue. And at last I've come to
see this crush and darkness and tumult and dead men carried by in heaps
on the ways. And all his doing! All his doing!"
His voice died away in scarcely articulate praises of Ostrog.
Graham thought. "Let me see," he said, "if I have it right."
He extended a hand and ticked off points upon his fingers. "The Sleeper
has been asleep—"
"Changed," said the old man.
"Perhaps. And meanwhile the Sleeper's property grew in the hands of
Twelve Trustees, until it swallowed up nearly all the great ownership of
the world. The Twelve Trustees—by virtue of this property have become
masters of the world. Because they are the paying power—just as the old
English Parliament used to be—"
"Eh!" said the old man. "That's so—that's a good comparison.
You're not so—"
"And now this Ostrog—has suddenly revolutionised the world by waking the
Sleeper—whom no one but the superstitious, common people had ever dreamt
would wake again—raising the Sleeper to claim his property from the
Council, after all these years."
The old man endorsed this statement with a cough. "It's strange," he
said, "to meet a man who learns these things for the first time
"Aye," said Graham, "it's strange."
"Have you been in a Pleasure City?" said the old man. "All my life I've
longed—" He laughed. "Even now," he said, "I could enjoy a little fun.
Enjoy seeing things, anyhow." He mumbled a sentence Graham did not
"The Sleeper—when did he awake?" said Graham suddenly.
"Three days ago."
"Where is he?"
"Ostrog has him. He escaped from the Council not four hours ago. My
dear sir, where were you at the time? He was in the hall of the
markets—where the fighting has been. All the city was screaming about
it. All the Babble Machines. Everywhere it was shouted. Even the fools
who speak for the Council were admitting it. Everyone was rushing off to
see him—everyone was getting arms. Were you drunk or asleep? And even
then! But you're joking! Surely you're pretending. It was to stop the
shouting of the Babble Machines and prevent the people gathering that
they turned off the electricity—and put this damned darkness upon us.
Do you mean to say—?"
"I had heard the Sleeper was rescued," said Graham. "But—to come back a
minute. Are you sure Ostrog has him?"
"He won't let him go," said the old man.
"And the Sleeper. Are you sure he is not genuine? I have never heard—"
"So all the fools think. So they think. As if there wasn't a thousand
things that were never heard. I know Ostrog too well for that. Did I tell
you? In a way I'm a sort of relation of Ostrog's. A sort of relation.
Through my daughter-in-law."
"I suppose there's no chance of this Sleeper asserting himself. I suppose
he's certain to be a puppet—in Ostrog's hands or the Council's, as soon
as the struggle is over."
"In Ostrog's hands—certainly. Why shouldn't he be a puppet? Look at his
position. Everything done for him, every pleasure possible. Why should he
want to assert himself?"
"What are these Pleasure Cities?" said Graham, abruptly.
The old man made him repeat the question. When at last he was assured of
Graham's words, he nudged him violently. "That's too much," said he.
"You're poking fun at an old man. I've been suspecting you know more than
"Perhaps I do," said Graham. "But no! why should I go on acting? No, I do
not know what a Pleasure City is."
The old man laughed in an intimate way.
"What is more, I do not know how to read your letters, I do not know
what money you use, I do not know what foreign countries there are. I do
not know where I am. I cannot count. I do not know where to get food, nor
drink, nor shelter."
"Come, come," said the old man, "if you had a glass of drink now, would
you put it in your ear or your eye?"
"I want you to tell me all these things."
"He, he! Well, gentlemen who dress in silk must have their fun." A
withered hand caressed Graham's arm for a moment. "Silk. Well, well! But,
all the same, I wish I was the man who was put up as the Sleeper. He'll
have a fine time of it. All the pomp and pleasure. He's a queer looking
face. When they used to let anyone go to see him, I've got tickets and
been. The image of the real one, as the photographs show him, this
substitute used to be. Yellow. But he'll get fed up. It's a queer world.
Think of the luck of it. The luck of it. I expect he'll be sent to Capri.
It's the best fun for a greener."
His cough overtook him again. Then he began mumbling enviously of
pleasures and strange delights. "The luck of it, the luck of it! All my
life I've been in London, hoping to get my chance."
"But you don't know that the Sleeper died," said Graham, suddenly.
The old man made him repeat his words.
"Men don't live beyond ten dozen. It's not in the order of things," said
the old man. "I'm not a fool. Fools may believe it, but not me."
Graham became angry with the old man's assurance. "Whether you are a fool
or not," he said, "it happens you are wrong about the Sleeper."
"You are wrong about the Sleeper. I haven't told you before, but I will
tell you now. You are wrong about the Sleeper."
"How do you know? I thought you didn't know anything—not even about
"You don't know," said the old man. "How are you to know? It's very
"I am the Sleeper."
He had to repeat it.
There was a brief pause. "There's a silly thing to say, sir, if you'll
excuse me. It might get you into trouble in a time like this," said
the old man.
Graham, slightly dashed, repeated his assertion.
"I was saying I was the Sleeper. That years and years ago I did, indeed,
fall asleep, in a little stone-built village, in the days when there were
hedgerows, and villages, and inns, and all the countryside cut up into
little pieces, little fields. Have you never heard of those days? And it
is I—I who speak to you—who awakened again these four days since."
"Four days since!—the Sleeper! But they've got the Sleeper. They have
him and they won't let him go. Nonsense! You've been talking sensibly
enough up to now. I can see it as though I was there. There will be
Lincoln like a keeper just behind him; they won't let him go about alone.
Trust them. You're a queer fellow. One of these fun pokers. I see now why
you have been clipping your words so oddly, but—"
He stopped abruptly, and Graham could see his gesture.
"As if Ostrog would let the Sleeper run about alone! No, you're telling
that to the wrong man altogether. Eh! as if I should believe. What's
your game? And besides, we've been talking of the Sleeper."
Graham stood up. "Listen," he said. "I am the Sleeper."
"You're an odd man," said the old man, "to sit here in the dark, talking
clipped, and telling a lie of that sort. But—"
Graham's exasperation fell to laughter. "It is preposterous," he cried.
"Preposterous. The dream must end. It gets wilder and wilder. Here am
I—in this damned twilight—I never knew a dream in twilight before—an
anachronism by two hundred years and trying to persuade an old fool that
I am myself, and meanwhile—Ugh!"
He moved in gusty irritation and went striding. In a moment the old man
was pursuing him. "Eh! but don't go!" cried the old man. "I'm an old
fool, I know. Don't go. Don't leave me in all this darkness."
Graham hesitated, stopped. Suddenly the folly of telling his secret
flashed into his mind.
"I didn't mean to offend you—disbelieving you," said the old man coming
near. "It's no manner of harm. Call yourself the Sleeper if it pleases
you. 'Tis a foolish trick—"
Graham hesitated, turned abruptly and went on his way.
For a time he heard the old man's hobbling pursuit and his wheezy
cries receding. But at last the darkness swallowed him, and Graham saw
him no more.
Graham could now take a clearer view of his position. For a long time yet
he wandered, but after the talk of the old man his discovery of this
Ostrog was clear in his mind as the final inevitable decision. One thing
was evident, those who were at the headquarters of the revolt had
succeeded very admirably in suppressing the fact of his disappearance.
But every moment he expected to hear the report of his death or of his
recapture by the Council.
Presently a man stopped before him. "Have you heard?" he said.
"No!" said Graham, starting.
"Near a dozand," said the man, "a dozand men!" and hurried on.
A number of men and a girl passed in the darkness, gesticulating and
shouting: "Capitulated! Given up!" "A dozand of men." "Two dozand of
men." "Ostrog, Hurrah! Ostrog, Hurrah!" These cries receded, became
Other shouting men followed. For a time his attention was absorbed in the
fragments of speech he heard. He had a doubt whether all were speaking
English. Scraps floated to him, scraps like Pigeon English, like "nigger"
dialect, blurred and mangled distortions. He dared accost no one with
questions. The impression the people gave him jarred altogether with his
preconceptions of the struggle and confirmed the old man's faith in
Ostrog. It was only slowly he could bring himself to believe that all
these people were rejoicing at the defeat of the Council, that the
Council which had pursued him with such power and vigour was after all
the weaker of the two sides in conflict. And if that was so, how did it
affect him? Several times he hesitated on the verge of fundamental
questions. Once he turned and walked for a long way after a little man of
rotund inviting outline, but he was unable to master confidence to
It was only slowly that it came to him that he might ask for the
"wind-vane offices" whatever the "wind-vane offices" might be. His first
enquiry simply resulted in a direction to go on towards Westminster. His
second led to the discovery of a short cut in which he was speedily lost.
He was told to leave the ways to which he had hitherto confined
himself—knowing no other means of transit—and to plunge down one of the
middle staircases into the blackness of a cross-way. Thereupon came some
trivial adventures; chief of these an ambiguous encounter with a
gruff-voiced invisible creature speaking in a strange dialect that seemed
at first a strange tongue, a thick flow of speech with the drifting
corpses of English Words therein, the dialect of the latter-day vile.
Then another voice drew near, a girl's voice singing, "tralala tralala."
She spoke to Graham, her English touched with something of the same
quality. She professed to have lost her sister, she blundered needlessly
into him he thought, caught hold of him and laughed. But a word of vague
remonstrance sent her into the unseen again.
The sounds about him increased. Stumbling people passed him, speaking
excitedly. "They have surrendered!" "The Council! Surely not the
Council!" "They are saying so in the Ways." The passage seemed wider.
Suddenly the wall fell away. He was in a great space and people were
stirring remotely. He inquired his way of an indistinct figure. "Strike
straight across," said a woman's voice. He left his guiding wall, and in
a moment had stumbled against a little table on which were utensils of
glass. Graham's eyes, now attuned to darkness, made out a long vista with
tables on either side. He went down this. At one or two of the tables he
heard a clang of glass and a sound of eating. There were people then cool
enough to dine, or daring enough to steal a meal in spite of social
convulsion and darkness. Far off and high up he presently saw a pallid
light of a semi-circular shape. As he approached this, a black edge came
up and hid it. He stumbled at steps and found himself in a gallery. He
heard a sobbing, and found two scared little girls crouched by a railing.
These children became silent at the near sound of feet. He tried to
console them, but they were very still until he left them. Then as he
receded he could hear them sobbing again.
Presently he found himself at the foot of a staircase and near a wide
opening. He saw a dim twilight above this and ascended out of the
blackness into a street of moving ways again. Along this a disorderly
swarm of people marched shouting. They were singing snatches of the song
of the revolt, most of them out of tune. Here and there torches flared
creating brief hysterical shadows. He asked his way and was twice puzzled
by that same thick dialect. His third attempt won an answer he could
understand. He was two miles from the wind-vane offices in Westminster,
but the way was easy to follow.
When at last he did approach the district of the wind-vane offices it
seemed to him, from the cheering processions that came marching along the
Ways, from the tumult of rejoicing, and finally from the restoration of
the lighting of the city, that the overthrow of the Council must already
be accomplished. And still no news of his absence came to his ears.
The re-illumination of the city came with startling abruptness. Suddenly
he stood blinking, all about him men halted dazzled, and the world was
incandescent. The light found him already upon the outskirts of the
excited crowds that choked the ways near the wind-vane offices, and the
sense of visibility and exposure that came with it turned his colourless
intention of joining Ostrog to a keen anxiety.
For a time he was jostled, obstructed, and endangered by men hoarse and
weary with cheering his name, some of them bandaged and bloody in his
cause. The frontage of the wind-vane offices was illuminated by some
moving picture, but what it was he could not see, because in spite of his
strenuous attempts the density of the crowd prevented his approaching it.
From the fragments of speech he caught, he judged it conveyed news of the
fighting about the Council House. Ignorance and indecision made him slow
and ineffective in his movements. For a time he could not conceive how he
was to get within the unbroken façade of this place. He made his way
slowly into the midst of this mass of people, until he realised that the
descending staircase of the central way led to the interior of the
buildings. This gave him a goal, but the crowding in the central path
was so dense that it was long before he could reach it. And even then he
encountered intricate obstruction, and had an hour of vivid argument
first in this guard room and then in that before he could get a note
taken to the one man of all men who was most eager to see him. His story
was laughed to scorn at one place, and wiser for that, when at last he
reached a second stairway he professed simply to have news of
extraordinary importance for Ostrog. What it was he would not say. They
sent his note reluctantly. For a long time he waited in a little room at
the foot of the lift shaft, and thither at last came Lincoln, eager,
apologetic, astonished. He stopped in the doorway scrutinising Graham,
then rushed forward effusively.
"Yes," he cried. "It is you. And you are not dead!"
Graham made a brief explanation.
"My brother is waiting," explained Lincoln. "He is alone in the wind-vane
offices. We feared you had been killed in the theatre. He doubted—and
things are very urgent still in spite of what we are telling them
there—or he would have come to you."
They ascended a lift, passed along a narrow passage, crossed a great
hall, empty save for two hurrying messengers, and entered a comparatively
little room, whose only furniture was a long settee and a large oval disc
of cloudy, shifting grey, hung by cables from the wall. There Lincoln
left Graham for a space, and he remained alone without understanding the
smoky shapes that drove slowly across this disc.
His attention was arrested by a sound that began abruptly. It was
cheering, the frantic cheering of a vast but very remote crowd, a roaring
exultation. This ended as sharply as it had begun, like a sound heard
between the opening and shutting of a door. In the outer room was a noise
of hurrying steps and a melodious clinking as if a loose chain was
running over the teeth of a wheel.
Then he heard the voice of a woman, the rustle of unseen garments. "It is
Ostrog!" he heard her say. A little bell rang fitfully, and then
everything was still again.
Presently came voices, footsteps and movement without. The footsteps of
some one person detached itself from the other sounds, and drew near,
firm, evenly measured steps. The curtain lifted slowly. A tall,
white-haired man, clad in garments of cream-coloured silk, appeared,
regarding Graham from under his raised arm.
For a moment the white form remained holding the curtain, then dropped it
and stood before it. Graham's first impression was of a very broad
forehead, very pale blue eyes deep sunken under white brows, an aquiline
nose, and a heavily-lined resolute mouth. The folds of flesh over the
eyes, the drooping of the corners of the mouth contradicted the upright
bearing, and said the man was old. Graham rose to his feet instinctively,
and for a moment the two men stood in silence, regarding each other.
"You are Ostrog?" said Graham.
"I am Ostrog."
"So I am called."
Graham felt the inconvenience of the silence. "I have to thank you
chiefly, I understand, for my safety," he said presently.
"We were afraid you were killed," said Ostrog. "Or sent to sleep
again—for ever. We have been doing everything to keep our secret—the
secret of your disappearance. Where have you been? How did you get here?"
Graham told him briefly.
Ostrog listened in silence.
He smiled faintly. "Do you know what I was doing when they came to tell
me you had come?"
"How can I guess?"
"Preparing your double."
"A man as like you as we could find. We were going to hypnotise him, to
save him the difficulty of acting. It was imperative. The whole of this
revolt depends on the idea that you are awake, alive, and with us. Even
now a great multitude of people has gathered in the theatre clamouring to
see you. They do not trust…. You know, of course—something of your
"Very little," said Graham.
"It is like this." Ostrog walked a pace or two into the room and turned.
"You are absolute owner," he said, "of the world. You are King of the
Earth. Your powers are limited in many intricate ways, but you are the
figure-head, the popular symbol of government. This White Council, the
Council of Trustees as it is called—"
"I have heard the vague outline of these things."
"I came upon a garrulous old man."
"I see…. Our masses—the word comes from your days—you know, of
course, that we still have masses—regard you as our actual ruler. Just
as a great number of people in your days regarded the Crown as the
ruler. They are discontented—the masses all over the earth—with the
rule of your Trustees. For the most part it is the old discontent, the
old quarrel of the common man with his commonness—the misery of work and
discipline and unfitness. But your Trustees have ruled ill. In certain
matters, in the administration of the Labour Companies, for example, they
have been unwise. They have given endless opportunities. Already we of
the popular party were agitating for reforms—when your waking came.
Came! If it had been contrived it could not have come more
opportunely." He smiled. "The public mind, making no allowance for
your years of quiescence, had already hit on the thought of waking you
and appealing to you, and—Flash!"
He indicated the outbreak by a gesture, and Graham moved his head to show
that he understood.
"The Council muddled—quarrelled. They always do. They could not decide
what to do with you. You know how they imprisoned you?"
"I see. I see. And now—we win?"
"We win. Indeed we win. To-night, in five swift hours. Suddenly we struck
everywhere. The wind-vane people, the Labour Company and its millions,
burst the bonds. We got the pull of the aeroplanes."
"Yes," said Graham.
"That was, of course, essential. Or they could have got away. All the
city rose, every third man almost was in it! All the blue, all the public
services, save only just a few aeronauts and about half the red police.
You were rescued, and their own police of the ways—not half of them
could be massed at the Council House—have been broken up, disarmed or
killed. All London is ours—now. Only the Council House remains.
"Half of those who remain to them of the red police were lost in that
foolish attempt to recapture you. They lost their heads when they lost
you. They flung all they had at the theatre. We cut them off from the
Council House there. Truly to-night has been a night of victory.
Everywhere your star has blazed. A day ago—the White Council ruled as it
has ruled for a gross of years, for a century and a half of years, and
then, with only a little whispering, a covert arming here and there,
"I am very ignorant," said Graham. "I suppose—I do not clearly
understand the conditions of this fighting. If you could explain. Where
is the Council? Where is the fight?"
Ostrog stepped across the room, something clicked, and suddenly, save for
an oval glow, they were in darkness. For a moment Graham was puzzled.
Then he saw that the cloudy grey disc had taken depth and colour, had
assumed the appearance of an oval window looking out upon a strange
At the first glance he was unable to guess what this scene might be. It
was a daylight scene, the daylight of a wintry day, grey and clear.
Across the picture, and halfway as it seemed between him and the remoter
view, a stout cable of twisted white wire stretched vertically. Then he
perceived that the rows of great wind-wheels he saw, the wide intervals,
the occasional gulfs of darkness, were akin to those through which he had
fled from the Council House. He distinguished an orderly file of red
figures marching across an open space between files of men in black, and
realised before Ostrog spoke that he was looking down on the upper
surface of latter-day London. The overnight snows had gone. He judged
that this mirror was some modern replacement of the camera obscura, but
that matter was not explained to him. He saw that though the file of red
figures was trotting from left to right, yet they were passing out of the
picture to the left. He wondered momentarily, and then saw that the
picture was passing slowly, panorama fashion, across the oval.
"In a moment you will see the fighting," said Ostrog at his elbow. "Those
fellows in red you notice are prisoners. This is the roof space of
London—all the houses are practically continuous now. The streets and
public squares are covered in. The gaps and chasms of your time have
Something out of focus obliterated half the picture. Its form suggested a
man. There was a gleam of metal, a flash, something that swept across the
oval, as the eyelid of a bird sweeps across its eye, and the picture was
clear again. And now Graham beheld men running down among the
wind-wheels, pointing weapons from which jetted out little smoky flashes.
They swarmed thicker and thicker to the right, gesticulating—it might be
they were shouting, but of that the picture told nothing. They and the
wind-wheels passed slowly and steadily across the field of the mirror.
"Now," said Ostrog, "comes the Council House," and slowly a black edge
crept into view and gathered Graham's attention. Soon it was no longer an
edge but a cavity, a huge blackened space amidst the clustering edifices,
and from it thin spires of smoke rose into the pallid winter sky. Gaunt
ruinous masses of the building, mighty truncated piers and girders, rose
dismally out of this cavernous darkness. And over these vestiges of some
splendid place, countless minute men were clambering, leaping, swarming.
"This is the Council House," said Ostrog. "Their last stronghold. And the
fools wasted enough ammunition to hold out for a month in blowing up the
buildings all about them—to stop our attack. You heard the smash? It
shattered half the brittle glass in the city."
And while he spoke, Graham saw that beyond this area of ruins,
overhanging it and rising to a great height, was a ragged mass of white
building. This mass had been isolated by the ruthless destruction of its
surroundings. Black gaps marked the passages the disaster had torn apart;
big halls had been slashed open and the decoration of their interiors
showed dismally in the wintry dawn, and down the jagged walls hung
festoons of divided cables and twisted ends of lines and metallic rods.
And amidst all the vast details moved little red specks, the red-clothed
defenders of the Council. Every now and then faint flashes illuminated
the bleak shadows. At the first sight it seemed to Graham that an attack
upon this isolated white building was in progress, but then he perceived
that the party of the revolt was not advancing, but sheltered amidst the
colossal wreckage that encircled this last ragged stronghold of the
red-garbed men, was keeping up a fitful firing.
And not ten hours ago he had stood beneath the ventilating fans in a
little chamber within that remote building wondering what was happening
in the world!
Looking more attentively as this warlike episode moved silently across
the centre of the mirror, Graham saw that the white building was
surrounded on every side by ruins, and Ostrog proceeded to describe in
concise phrases how its defenders had sought by such destruction to
isolate themselves from a storm. He spoke of the loss of men that huge
downfall had entailed in an indifferent tone. He indicated an improvised
mortuary among the wreckage, showed ambulances swarming like cheese-mites
along a ruinous groove that had once been a street of moving ways. He was
more interested in pointing out the parts of the Council House, the
distribution of the besiegers. In a little while the civil contest that
had convulsed London was no longer a mystery to Graham. It was no
tumultuous revolt had occurred that night, no equal warfare, but a
splendidly organised coup d'état. Ostrog's grasp of details was
astonishing; he seemed to know the business of even the smallest knot of
black and red specks that crawled amidst these places.
He stretched a huge black arm across the luminous picture, and showed the
room whence Graham had escaped, and across the chasm of ruins the course
of his flight. Graham recognised the gulf across which the gutter ran,
and the wind-wheels where he had crouched from the flying machine. The
rest of his path had succumbed to the explosion. He looked again at the
Council House, and it was already half hidden, and on the right a
hillside with a cluster of domes and pinnacles, hazy, dim and distant,
was gliding into view.
"And the Council is really overthrown?" he said.
"Overthrown," said Ostrog.
"And I—. Is it indeed true that I—?"
"You are Master of the World."
"But that white flag—"
"That is the flag of the Council—the flag of the Rule of the World. It
will fall. The fight is over. Their attack on the theatre was their last
frantic struggle. They have only a thousand men or so, and some of these
men will be disloyal. They have little ammunition. And we are reviving
the ancient arts. We are casting guns."
"But—help. Is this city the world?"
"Practically this is all they have left to them of their empire. Abroad
the cities have either revolted with us or wait the issue. Your awakening
has perplexed them, paralysed them."
"But haven't the Council flying machines? Why is there no fighting
"They had. But the greater part of the aeronauts were in the revolt with
us. They wouldn't take the risk of fighting on our side, but they would
not stir against us. We had to get a pull with the aeronauts. Quite
half were with us, and the others knew it. Directly they knew you had got
away, those looking for you dropped. We killed the man who shot at
you—an hour ago. And we occupied the flying stages at the outset in
every city we could, and so stopped and captured the greater aeroplanes,
and as for the little flying machines that turned out—for some did—we
kept up too straight and steady a fire for them to get near the Council
House. If they dropped they couldn't rise again, because there's no clear
space about there for them to get up. Several we have smashed, several
others have dropped and surrendered, the rest have gone off to the
Continent to find a friendly city if they can before their fuel runs out.
Most of these men were only too glad to be taken prisoner and kept out of
harm's way. Upsetting in a flying machine isn't a very attractive
prospect. There's no chance for the Council that way. Its days are done."
He laughed and turned to the oval reflection again to show Graham what he
meant by flying stages. Even the four nearer ones were remote and
obscured by a thin morning haze. But Graham could perceive they were very
vast structures, judged even by the standard of the things about them.
And then as these dim shapes passed to the left there came again the
sight of the expanse across which the disarmed men in red had been
marching. And then the black ruins, and then again the beleaguered white
fastness of the Council. It appeared no longer a ghostly pile, but
glowing amber in the sunlight, for a cloud shadow had passed. About it
the pigmy struggle still hung in suspense, but now the red defenders were
no longer firing.
So, in a dusky stillness, the man from the nineteenth century saw the
closing scene of the great revolt, the forcible establishment of his
rule. With a quality of startling discovery it came to him that this was
his world, and not that other he had left behind; that this was no
spectacle to culminate and cease; that in this world lay whatever life
was still before him, lay all his duties and dangers and
responsibilities. He turned with fresh questions. Ostrog began to answer
them, and then broke off abruptly. "But these things I must explain more
fully later. At present there are—duties. The people are coming by the
moving ways towards this ward from every part of the city—the markets
and theatres are densely crowded. You are just in time for them. They are
clamouring to see you. And abroad they want to see you. Paris, New York,
Chicago, Denver, Capri—thousands of cities are up and in a tumult,
undecided, and clamouring to see you. They have clamoured that you should
be awakened for years, and now it is done they will scarcely believe—"
"But surely—I can't go …"
Ostrog answered from the other side of the room, and the picture on the
oval disc paled and vanished as the light jerked back again. "There are
kineto-telephoto-graphs," he said. "As you bow to the people here—all
over the world myriads of myriads of people, packed and still in darkened
halls, will see you also. In black and white, of course—not like this.
And you will hear their shouts reinforcing the shouting in the hall.
"And there is an optical contrivance we shall use," said Ostrog, "used by
some of the posturers and women dancers. It may be novel to you. You
stand in a very bright light, and they see not you but a magnified image
of you thrown on a screen—so that even the furtherest man in the
remotest gallery can, if he chooses, count your eyelashes."
Graham clutched desperately at one of the questions in his mind. "What is
the population of London?" he said.
"Eight and twaindy myriads."
"Eight and what?"
"More than thirty-three millions."
These figures went beyond Graham's imagination.
"You will be expected to say something," said Ostrog. "Not what you used
to call a Speech, but what our people call a word—just one sentence, six
or seven words. Something formal. If I might suggest—'I have awakened
and my heart is with you.' That is the sort of thing they want."
"What was that?" asked Graham.
"'I am awakened and my heart is with you.' And bow—bow royally. But
first we must get you black robes—for black is your colour. Do you mind?
And then they will disperse to their homes."
Graham hesitated. "I am in your hands," he said.
Ostrog was clearly of that opinion. He thought for a moment, turned to
the curtain and called brief directions to some unseen attendants. Almost
immediately a black robe, the very fellow of the black robe Graham had
worn in the theatre, was brought. And as he threw it about his shoulders
there came from the room without the shrilling of a high-pitched bell.
Ostrog turned in interrogation to the attendant, then suddenly seemed to
change his mind, pulled the curtain aside and disappeared.
For a moment Graham stood with the deferential attendant listening to
Ostrog's retreating steps. There was a sound of quick question and answer
and of men running. The curtain was snatched back and Ostrog reappeared,
his massive face glowing with excitement. He crossed the room in a
stride, clicked the room into darkness, gripped Graham's arm and pointed
to the mirror.
"Even as we turned away," he said.
Graham saw his index finger, black and colossal, above the mirrored
Council House. For a moment he did not understand. And then he perceived
that the flagstaff that had carried the white banner was bare.
"Do you mean—?" he began.
"The Council has surrendered. Its rule is at an end for evermore."
"Look!" and Ostrog pointed to a coil of black that crept in little jerks
up the vacant flagstaff, unfolding as it rose.
The oval picture paled as Lincoln pulled the curtain aside and entered.
"They are clamorous," he said.
Ostrog kept his grip of Graham's arm.
"We have raised the people," he said. "We have given them arms. For
to-day at least their wishes must be law."
Lincoln held the curtain open for Graham and Ostrog to pass through….
On his way to the markets Graham had a transitory glance of a long narrow
white-walled room in which men in the universal blue canvas were carrying
covered things like biers, and about which men in medical purple hurried
to and fro. From this room came groans and wailing. He had an impression
of an empty blood-stained couch, of men on other couches, bandaged and
blood-stained. It was just a glimpse from a railed footway and then a
buttress hid the place and they were going on towards the markets….
The roar of the multitude was near now: it leapt to thunder. And,
arresting his attention, a fluttering of black banners, the waving of
blue canvas and brown rags, and the swarming vastness of the theatre near
the public markets came into view down a long passage. The picture opened
out. He perceived they were entering the great theatre of his first
appearance, the great theatre he had last seen as a chequer-work of glare
and blackness in his flight from the red police. This time he entered it
along a gallery at a level high above the stage. The place was now
brilliantly lit again. His eyes sought the gangway up which he had fled,
but he could not tell it from among its dozens of fellows; nor could he
see anything of the smashed seats, deflated cushions, and such like
traces of the fight because of the density of the people. Except the
stage the whole place was closely packed. Looking down the effect was a
vast area of stippled pink, each dot a still upturned face regarding him.
At his appearance with Ostrog the cheering died away, the singing died
away, a common interest stilled and unified the disorder. It seemed as
though every individual of those myriads was watching him.
THE END OF THE OLD ORDER
So far as Graham was able to judge, it was near midday when the white
banner of the Council fell. But some hours had to elapse before it was
possible to effect the formal capitulation, and so after he had spoken
his "Word" he retired to his new apartments in the wind-vane offices. The
continuous excitement of the last twelve hours had left him inordinately
fatigued, even his curiosity was exhausted; for a space he sat inert and
passive with open eyes, and for a space he slept. He was roused by two
medical attendants, come prepared with stimulants to sustain him through
the next occasion. After he had taken their drugs and bathed by their
advice in cold water, he felt a rapid return of interest and energy, and
was presently able and willing to accompany Ostrog through several miles
(as it seemed) of passages, lifts, and slides to the closing scene of the
White Council's rule.
The way ran deviously through a maze of buildings. They came at last to a
passage that curved about, and showed broadening before him an oblong
opening, clouds hot with sunset, and the ragged skyline of the ruinous
Council House. A tumult of shouts came drifting up to him. In another
moment they had come out high up on the brow of the cliff of torn
buildings that overhung the wreckage. The vast area opened to Graham's
eyes, none the less strange and wonderful for the remote view he had had
of it in the oval mirror.
This rudely amphitheatral space seemed now the better part of a mile to
its outer edge. It was gold lit on the left hand, catching the sunlight,
and below and to the right clear and cold in the shadow. Above the
shadowy grey Council House that stood in the midst of it, the great black
banner of the surrender still hung in sluggish folds against the blazing
sunset. Severed rooms, halls and passages gaped strangely, broken masses
of metal projected dismally from the complex wreckage, vast masses of
twisted cable dropped like tangled seaweed, and from its base came a
tumult of innumerable voices, violent concussions, and the sound of
trumpets. All about this great white pile was a ring of desolation; the
smashed and blackened masses, the gaunt foundations and ruinous lumber of
the fabric that had been destroyed by the Council's orders, skeletons of
girders, Titanic masses of wall, forests of stout pillars. Amongst the
sombre wreckage beneath, running water flashed and glistened, and far
away across the space, out of the midst of a vague vast mass of
buildings, there thrust the twisted end of a water-main, two hundred feet
in the air, thunderously spouting a shining cascade. And everywhere great
multitudes of people.
Wherever there was space and foothold, people swarmed, little people,
small and minutely clear, except where the sunset touched them to
indistinguishable gold. They clambered up the tottering walls, they clung
in wreaths and groups about the high-standing pillars. They swarmed along
the edges of the circle of ruins. The air was full of their shouting, and
they were pressing and swaying towards the central space.
The upper storeys of the Council House seemed deserted, not a human
being was visible. Only the drooping banner of the surrender hung
heavily against the light. The dead were within the Council House, or
hidden by the swarming people, or carried away. Graham could see only a
few neglected bodies in gaps and corners of the ruins, and amidst the
"Will you let them see you, Sire?" said Ostrog. "They are very anxious
to see you."
Graham hesitated, and then walked forward to where the broken verge of
wall dropped sheer. He stood looking down, a lonely, tall, black figure
against the sky.
Very slowly the swarming ruins became aware of him. And as they did so
little bands of black-uniformed men appeared remotely, thrusting through
the crowds towards the Council House. He saw little black heads become
pink, looking at him, saw by that means a wave of recognition sweep
across the space. It occurred to him that he should accord them some
recognition. He held up his arm, then pointed to the Council House and
dropped his hand. The voices below became unanimous, gathered volume,
came up to him as multitudinous wavelets of cheering.
The western sky was a pallid bluish green, and Jupiter shone high in the
south, before the capitulation was accomplished. Above was a slow
insensible change, the advance of night serene and beautiful; below was
hurry, excitement, conflicting orders, pauses, spasmodic developments of
organisation, a vast ascending clamour and confusion. Before the Council
came out, toiling perspiring men, directed by a conflict of shouts,
carried forth hundreds of those who had perished in the hand-to-hand
conflict within those long passages and chambers….
Guards in black lined the way that the Council would come, and as far as
the eye could reach into the hazy blue twilight of the ruins, and
swarming now at every possible point in the captured Council House and
along the shattered cliff of its circumadjacent buildings, were
innumerable people, and their voices, even when they were not cheering,
were as the soughing of the sea upon a pebble beach. Ostrog had chosen a
huge commanding pile of crushed and overthrown masonry, and on this a
stage of timbers and metal girders was being hastily constructed. Its
essential parts were complete, but humming and clangorous machinery still
glared fitfully in the shadows beneath this temporary edifice.
The stage had a small higher portion on which Graham stood with Ostrog
and Lincoln close beside him, a little in advance of a group of minor
officers. A broader lower stage surrounded this quarter-deck, and on this
were the black-uniformed guards of the revolt armed with the little green
weapons whose very names Graham still did not know. Those standing about
him perceived that his eyes wandered perpetually from the swarming people
in the twilight ruins about him to the darkling mass of the White Council
House, whence the Trustees would presently come, and to the gaunt cliffs
of ruin that encircled him, and so back to the people. The voices of the
crowd swelled to a deafening tumult.
He saw the Councillors first afar off in the glare of one of the
temporary lights that marked their path, a little group of white figures
in a black archway. In the Council House they had been in darkness. He
watched them approaching, drawing nearer past first this blazing
electric star and then that; the minatory roar of the crowd over whom
their power had lasted for a hundred and fifty years marched along beside
them. As they drew still nearer their faces came out weary, white, and
anxious. He saw them blinking up through the glare about him and Ostrog.
He contrasted their strange cold looks in the Hall of Atlas…. Presently
he could recognise several of them; the man who had rapped the table at
Howard, a burly man with a red beard, and one delicate-featured, short,
dark man with a peculiarly long skull. He noted that two were whispering
together and looking behind him at Ostrog. Next there came a tall, dark
and handsome man, walking downcast. Abruptly he glanced up, his eyes
touched Graham for a moment, and passed beyond him to Ostrog. The way
that had been made for them was so contrived that they had to march past
and curve about before they came to the sloping path of planks that
ascended to the stage where their surrender was to be made.
"The Master, the Master! God and the Master," shouted the people. "To
hell with the Council!" Graham looked at their multitudes, receding
beyond counting into a shouting haze, and then at Ostrog beside him,
white and steadfast and still. His eye went again to the little group of
White Councillors. And then he looked up at the familiar quiet stars
overhead. The marvellous element in his fate was suddenly vivid. Could
that be his indeed, that little life in his memory two hundred years gone
by—and this as well?
FROM THE CROW'S NEST
And so after strange delays and through an avenue of doubt and battle,
this man from the nineteenth century came at last to his position at the
head of that complex world.
At first when he rose from the long deep sleep that followed his rescue
and the surrender of the Council, he did not recognise his surroundings.
By an effort he gained a clue in his mind, and all that had happened came
back to him, at first with a quality of insincerity like a story heard,
like something read out of a book. And even before his memories were
clear, the exultation of his escape, the wonder of his prominence were
back in his mind. He was owner of the world; Master of the Earth. This
new great age was in the completest sense his. He no longer hoped to
discover his experiences a dream; he became anxious now to convince
himself that they were real.
An obsequious valet assisted him to dress under the direction of a
dignified chief attendant, a little man whose face proclaimed him
Japanese, albeit he spoke English like an Englishman. From the latter he
learnt something of the state of affairs. Already the revolution was an
accepted fact; already business was being resumed throughout the city.
Abroad the downfall of the Council had been received for the most part
with delight. Nowhere was the Council popular, and the thousand cities
of Western America, after two hundred years still jealous of New York,
London, and the East, had risen almost unanimously two days before at the
news of Graham's imprisonment. Paris was fighting within itself. The rest
of the world hung in suspense.
While he was breaking his fast, the sound of a telephone bell jetted from
a corner, and his chief attendant called his attention to the voice of
Ostrog making polite enquiries. Graham interrupted his refreshment to
reply. Very shortly Lincoln arrived, and Graham at once expressed a
strong desire to talk to people and to be shown more of the new life that
was opening before him. Lincoln informed him that in three hours' time a
representative gathering of officials and their wives would be held in
the state apartments of the wind-vane Chief. Graham's desire to traverse
the ways of the city was, however, at present impossible, because of the
enormous excitement of the people. It was, however, quite possible for
him to take a bird's-eye view of the city from the crow's nest of the
wind-vane keeper. To this accordingly Graham was conducted by his
attendant. Lincoln; with a graceful compliment to the attendant,
apologised for not accompanying them, on account of the present pressure
of administrative work.
Higher even than the most gigantic, wind-wheels hung this crow's nest, a
clear thousand feet above the roofs, a little disc-shaped speck on a
spear of metallic filigree, cable stayed. To its summit Graham was drawn
in a little wire-hung cradle. Halfway down the frail-seeming stem was a
light gallery about which hung a cluster of tubes—minute they looked
from above—rotating slowly on the ring of its outer rail. These were the
specula, en rapport with the wind-vane keeper's mirrors, in one of
which Ostrog had shown him the coming of his rule. His Japanese attendant
ascended before him and they spent nearly an hour asking and answering
It was a day full of the promise and quality of spring. The touch of the
wind warmed. The sky was an intense blue and the vast expanse of London
shone dazzling under the morning sun. The air was clear of smoke and
haze, sweet as the air of a mountain glen.
Save for the irregular oval of ruins about the House of the Council and
the black flag of the surrender that fluttered there, the mighty city
seen from above showed few signs of the swift revolution that had, to his
imagination, in one night and one day, changed the destinies of the
world. A multitude of people still swarmed over these ruins, and the huge
openwork stagings in the distance from which started in times of peace
the service of aeroplanes to the various great cities of Europe and
America, were also black with the victors. Across a narrow way of
planking raised on trestles that crossed the ruins a crowd of workmen
were busy restoring the connection between the cables and wires of the
Council House and the rest of the city, preparatory to the transfer
thither of Ostrog's headquarters from the Wind-Vane buildings.
For the rest the luminous expanse was undisturbed. So vast was its
serenity in comparison with the areas of disturbance, that presently
Graham, looking beyond them, could almost forget the thousands of men
lying out of sight in the artificial glare within the quasi-subterranean
labyrinth, dead or dying of the overnight wounds, forget the improvised
wards with the hosts of surgeons, nurses, and bearers feverishly busy,
forget, indeed, all the wonder, consternation and novelty under the
electric lights. Down there in the hidden ways of the anthill he knew
that the revolution triumphed, that black everywhere carried the day,
black favours, black banners, black festoons across the streets. And out
here, under the fresh sunlight, beyond the crater of the fight, as if
nothing had happened to the earth, the forest of wind vanes that had
grown from one or two while the Council had ruled, roared peacefully upon
their incessant duty.
Far away, spiked, jagged and indented by the wind vanes, the Surrey Hills
rose blue and faint; to the north and nearer, the sharp contours of
Highgate and Muswell Hill were similarly jagged. And all over the
countryside, he knew, on every crest and hill, where once the hedges had
interlaced, and cottages, churches, inns, and farm houses had nestled
among their trees, wind-wheels similar to those he saw and bearing like
them vast advertisements, gaunt and distinctive symbols of the new age,
cast their whirling shadows and stored incessantly the energy that flowed
away incessantly through all the arteries of the city. And underneath
these wandered the countless flocks and herds of the British Food Trust,
his property, with their lonely guards and keepers.
Not a familiar outline anywhere broke the cluster of gigantic shapes
below. St. Paul's he knew survived, and many of the old buildings in
Westminster, embedded out of sight, arched over and covered in among the
giant growths of this great age. The Thames, too, made no fall and gleam
of silver to break the wilderness of the city; the thirsty water mains
drank up every drop of its waters before they reached the walls. Its bed
and estuary, scoured and sunken, was now a canal of sea water, and a race
of grimy bargemen brought the heavy materials of trade from the Pool
thereby beneath the very feet of the workers. Faint and dim in the
eastward between earth and sky hung the clustering masts of the colossal
shipping in the Pool. For all the heavy traffic, for which there was no
need of haste, came in gigantic sailing ships from the ends of the earth,
and the heavy goods for which there was urgency in mechanical ships of a
smaller swifter sort.
And to the south over the hills came vast aqueducts with sea water for
the sewers, and in three separate directions ran pallid lines—the roads,
stippled with moving grey specks. On the first occasion that offered he
was determined to go out and see these roads. That would come after the
flying ship he was presently to try. His attendant officer described them
as a pair of gently curving surfaces a hundred yards wide, each one for
the traffic going in one direction, and made of a substance called
Eadhamite—an artificial substance, so far as he could gather, resembling
toughened glass. Along this shot a strange traffic of narrow rubber-shod
vehicles, great single wheels, two and four wheeled vehicles, sweeping
along at velocities of from one to six miles a minute. Railroads had
vanished; a few embankments remained as rust-crowned trenches here and
there. Some few formed the cores of Eadhamite ways.
Among the first things to strike his attention had been the great fleets
of advertisement balloons and kites that receded in irregular vistas
northward and southward along the lines of the aeroplane journeys. No
great aeroplanes were to be seen. Their passages had ceased, and only one
little-seeming monoplane circled high in the blue distance above the
Surrey Hills, an unimpressive soaring speck.
A thing Graham had already learnt, and which he found very hard to
imagine, was that nearly all the towns in the country, and almost all the
villages, had disappeared. Here and there only, he understood, some
gigantic hotel-like edifice stood amid square miles of some single
cultivation and preserved the name of a town—as Bournemouth, Wareham, or
Swanage. Yet the officer had speedily convinced him how inevitable such a
change had been. The old order had dotted the country with farmhouses,
and every two or three miles was the ruling landlord's estate, and the
place of the inn and cobbler, the grocer's shop and church—the village.
Every eight miles or so was the country town, where lawyer, corn
merchant, wool-stapler, saddler, veterinary surgeon, doctor, draper,
milliner and so forth lived. Every eight miles—simply because that eight
mile marketing journey, four there and back, was as much as was
comfortable for the farmer. But directly the railways came into play, and
after them the light railways, and all the swift new motor cars that had
replaced waggons and horses, and so soon as the high roads began to be
made of wood, and rubber, and Eadhamite, and all sorts of elastic durable
substances—the necessity of having such frequent market towns
disappeared. And the big towns grew. They drew the worker with the
gravitational force of seemingly endless work, the employer with their
suggestion of an infinite ocean of labour.
And as the standard of comfort rose, as the complexity of the mechanism
of living increased, life in the country had become more and more costly,
or narrow and impossible. The disappearance of vicar and squire, the
extinction of the general practitioner by the city specialist; had robbed
the village of its last touch of culture. After telephone, kinematograph
and phonograph had replaced newspaper, book, schoolmaster, and letter, to
live outside the range of the electric cables was to live an isolated
savage. In the country were neither means of being clothed nor fed
(according to the refined conceptions of the time), no efficient doctors
for an emergency, no company and no pursuits.
Moreover, mechanical appliances in agriculture made one engineer the
equivalent of thirty labourers. So, inverting the condition of the city
clerk in the days when London was scarce inhabitable because of the coaly
foulness of its air, the labourers now came to the city and its life and
delights at night to leave it again in the morning. The city had
swallowed up humanity; man had entered upon a new stage in his
development. First had come the nomad, the hunter, then had followed the
agriculturist of the agricultural state, whose towns and cities and ports
were but the headquarters and markets of the countryside. And now,
logical consequence of an epoch of invention, was this huge new
aggregation of men.
Such things as these, simple statements of fact though they were to
contemporary men, strained Graham's imagination to picture. And when he
glanced "over beyond there" at the strange things that existed on the
Continent, it failed him altogether.
He had a vision of city beyond city; cities on great plains, cities
beside great rivers, vast cities along the sea margin, cities girdled by
snowy mountains. Over a great part of the earth the English tongue was
spoken; taken together with its Spanish American and Hindoo and Negro and
"Pidgin" dialects, it was the everyday-language of two-thirds of
humanity. On the Continent, save as remote and curious survivals, three
other languages alone held sway—German, which reached to Antioch and
Genoa and jostled Spanish-English at Cadiz; a Gallicised Russian which
met the Indian English in Persia and Kurdistan and the "Pidgin" English
in Pekin; and French still clear and brilliant, the language of lucidity,
which shared the Mediterranean with the Indian English and German and
reached through a negro dialect to the Congo.
And everywhere now through the city-set earth, save in the administered
"black belt" territories of the tropics, the same cosmopolitan social
organisation prevailed, and everywhere from Pole to Equator his property
and his responsibilities extended. The whole world was civilised; the
whole world dwelt in cities; the whole world was his property….
Out of the dim south-west, glittering and strange, voluptuous, and in
some way terrible, shone those Pleasure Cities of which the
kinematograph-phonograph and the old man in the street had spoken.
Strange places reminiscent of the legendary Sybaris, cities of art
and beauty, mercenary art and mercenary beauty, sterile wonderful
cities of motion and music, whither repaired all who profited by the
fierce, inglorious, economic struggle that went on in the glaring
Fierce he knew it was. How fierce he could judge from the fact that these
latter-day people referred back to the England of the nineteenth century
as the figure of an idyllic easy-going life. He turned his eyes to the
scene immediately before him again, trying to conceive the big factories
of that intricate maze….
The state apartments of the Wind Vane Keeper would have astonished Graham
had he entered them fresh from his nineteenth century life, but already
he was growing accustomed to the scale of the new time. He came out
through one of the now familiar sliding panels upon a plateau of landing
at the head of a flight of very broad and gentle steps, with men and
women far more brilliantly dressed than any he had hitherto seen,
ascending and descending. From this position he looked down a vista of
subtle and varied ornament in lustreless white and mauve and purple,
spanned by bridges that seemed wrought of porcelain and filigree, and
terminating far off in a cloudy mystery of perforated screens.
Glancing upward, he saw tier above tier of ascending galleries with faces
looking down upon him. The air was full of the babble of innumerable
voices and of a music that descended from above, a gay and exhilarating
music whose source he did not discover.
The central aisle was thick with people, but by no means uncomfortably
crowded; altogether that assembly must have numbered many thousands. They
were brilliantly, even fantastically dressed, the men as fancifully as
the women, for the sobering influence of the Puritan conception of
dignity upon masculine dress had long since passed away. The hair of the
men, too, though it was rarely worn long, was commonly curled in a
manner that suggested the barber, and baldness had vanished from the
earth. Frizzy straight-cut masses that would have charmed Rossetti
abounded, and one gentleman, who was pointed out to Graham under the
mysterious title of an "amorist," wore his hair in two becoming plaits à
la Marguerite. The pigtail was in evidence; it would seem that citizens
of Chinese extraction were no longer ashamed of their race. There was
little uniformity of fashion apparent in the forms of clothing worn. The
more shapely men displayed their symmetry in trunk hose, and here were
puffs and slashes, and there a cloak and there a robe. The fashions of
the days of Leo the Tenth were perhaps the prevailing influence, but the
aesthetic conceptions of the far east were also patent. Masculine
embonpoint, which, in Victorian times, would have been subjected to the
buttoned perils, the ruthless exaggeration of tight-legged tight-armed
evening dress, now formed but the basis of a wealth of dignity and
drooping folds. Graceful slenderness abounded also. To Graham, a
typically stiff man from a typically stiff period, not only did these men
seem altogether too graceful in person, but altogether too expressive in
their vividly expressive faces. They gesticulated, they expressed
surprise, interest, amusement, above all, they expressed the emotions
excited in their minds by the ladies about them with astonishing
frankness. Even at the first glance it was evident that women were in a
The ladies in the company of these gentlemen displayed in dress, bearing
and manner alike, less emphasis and more intricacy. Some affected a
classical simplicity of robing and subtlety of fold, after the fashion of
the First French Empire, and flashed conquering arms and shoulders as
Graham passed. Others had closely-fitting dresses without seam or belt at
the waist, sometimes with long folds falling from the shoulders. The
delightful confidences of evening dress had not been diminished by the
passage of two centuries.
Everyone's movements seemed graceful. Graham remarked to Lincoln that he
saw men as Raphael's cartoons walking, and Lincoln told him that the
attainment of an appropriate set of gestures was part of every rich
person's education. The Master's entry was greeted with a sort of
tittering applause, but these people showed their distinguished manners
by not crowding upon him nor annoying him by any persistent scrutiny, as
he descended the steps towards the floor of the aisle.
He had already learnt from Lincoln that these were the leaders of
existing London society; almost every person there that night was either
a powerful official or the immediate connexion of a powerful official.
Many had returned from the European Pleasure Cities expressly to welcome
him. The aeronautic authorities, whose defection had played a part in the
overthrow of the Council only second to Graham's, were very prominent,
and so, too, was the Wind Vane Control. Amongst others there were several
of the more prominent officers of the Food Department; the controller of
the European Piggeries had a particularly melancholy and interesting
countenance and a daintily cynical manner. A bishop in full canonicals
passed athwart Graham's vision, conversing with a gentleman dressed
exactly like the traditional Chaucer, including even the laurel wreath.
"Who is that?" he asked almost involuntarily.
"The Bishop of London," said Lincoln.
"No—the other, I mean."
"He doesn't make poetry, of course. He's a cousin of Wotton—one of the
Councillors. But he's one of the Red Rose Royalists—a delightful
club—and they keep up the tradition of these things."
"Asano told me there was a King."
"The King doesn't belong. They had to expel him. It's the Stuart blood, I
suppose; but really—"
"Far too much."
Graham did not quite follow all this, but it seemed part of the general
inversion of the new age. He bowed condescendingly to his first
introduction. It was evident that subtle distinctions of class prevailed
even in this assembly, that only to a small proportion of the guests, to
an inner group, did Lincoln consider it appropriate to introduce him.
This first introduction was the Master Aeronaut, a man whose sun-tanned
face contrasted oddly with the delicate complexions about him. Just at
present his critical defection from the Council made him a very important
His manner contrasted very favourably, according to Graham's ideas, with
the general bearing. He offered a few commonplace remarks, assurances of
loyalty and frank inquiries about the Master's health. His manner was
breezy, his accent lacked the easy staccato of latter-day English. He
made it admirably clear to Graham that he was a bluff "aerial dog"—he
used that phrase—that there was no nonsense about him, that he was a
thoroughly manly fellow and old-fashioned at that, that he didn't profess
to know much, and that what he did not know was not worth knowing. He
made a curt bow, ostentatiously free from obsequiousness, and passed.
"I am glad to see that type endures," said Graham.
"Phonographs and kinematographs," said Lincoln, a little spitefully. "He
has studied from the life." Graham glanced at the burly form again. It
was oddly reminiscent.
"As a matter of fact we bought him," said Lincoln. "Partly. And partly he
was afraid of Ostrog. Everything rested with him."
He turned sharply to introduce the Surveyor-General of the Public
Schools. This person was a willowy figure in a blue-grey academic gown,
he beamed down upon Graham through pince-nez of a Victorian pattern,
and illustrated his remarks by gestures of a beautifully manicured hand.
Graham was immediately interested in this gentleman's functions, and
asked him a number of singularly direct questions. The Surveyor-General
seemed quietly amused at the Master's fundamental bluntness. He was a
little vague as to the monopoly of education his Company possessed; it
was done by contract with the syndicate that ran the numerous London
Municipalities, but he waxed enthusiastic over educational progress
since the Victorian times. "We have conquered Cram," he said,
"completely conquered Cram—there is not an examination left in the
world. Aren't you glad?"
"How do you get the work done?" asked Graham.
"We make it attractive—as attractive as possible. And if it does not
attract then—we let it go. We cover an immense field."
He proceeded to details, and they had a lengthy conversation. Graham
learnt that University Extension still existed in a modified form. "There
is a certain type of girl, for example," said the Surveyor-General,
dilating with a sense of his usefulness, "with a perfect passion for
severe studies—when they are not too difficult you know. We cater for
them by the thousand. At this moment," he said with a Napoleonic touch,
"nearly five hundred phonographs are lecturing in different parts of
London on the influence exercised by Plato and Swift on the love affairs
of Shelley, Hazlitt, and Burns. And afterwards they write essays on the
lectures, and the names in order of merit are put in conspicuous places.
You see how your little germ has grown? The illiterate middle-class of
your days has quite passed away."
"About the public elementary schools," said Graham. "Do you
The Surveyor-General did, "entirely." Now, Graham, in his later
democratic days, had taken a keen interest in these and his questioning
quickened. Certain casual phrases that had fallen from the old man with
whom he had talked in the darkness recurred to him. The Surveyor-General,
in effect, endorsed the old man's words. "We try and make the elementary
schools very pleasant for the little children. They will have to work so
soon. Just a few simple principles—obedience—industry."
"You teach them very little?"
"Why should we? It only leads to trouble and discontent. We amuse them.
Even as it is—there are troubles—agitations. Where the labourers get
the ideas, one cannot tell. They tell one another. There are socialistic
dreams—anarchy even! Agitators will get to work among them. I take
it—I have always taken it—that my foremost duty is to fight against
popular discontent. Why should people be made unhappy?"
"I wonder," said Graham thoughtfully. "But there are a great many things
I want to know."
Lincoln, who had stood watching Graham's face throughout the
conversation, intervened. "There are others," he said in an undertone.
The Surveyor-General of schools gesticulated himself away. "Perhaps,"
said Lincoln, intercepting a casual glance, "you would like to know some
of these ladies?"
The daughter of the Manager of the Piggeries was a particularly charming
little person with red hair and animated blue eyes. Lincoln left him
awhile to converse with her, and she displayed herself as quite an
enthusiast for the "dear old days," as she called them, that had seen the
beginning of his trance. As she talked she smiled, and her eyes smiled in
a manner that demanded reciprocity.
"I have tried," she said, "countless times—to imagine those old romantic
days. And to you—they are memories. How strange and crowded the world
must seem to you! I have seen photographs and pictures of the past, the
little isolated houses built of bricks made out of burnt mud and all
black with soot from your fires, the railway bridges, the simple
advertisements, the solemn savage Puritanical men in strange black coats
and those tall hats of theirs, iron railway trains on iron bridges
overhead, horses and cattle, and even dogs running half wild about the
streets. And suddenly, you have come into this!"
"Into this," said Graham.
"Out of your life—out of all that was familiar."
"The old life was not a happy one," said Graham. "I do not regret that."
She looked at him quickly. There was a brief pause. She sighed
"No," said Graham. "It was a little life—and unmeaning. But this—We
thought the world complex and crowded and civilised enough. Yet I
see—although in this world I am barely four days old—looking back on my
own time, that it was a queer, barbaric time—the mere beginning of this
new order. The mere beginning of this new order. You will find it hard to
understand how little I know."
"You may ask me what you like," she said, smiling at him.
"Then tell me who these people are. I'm still very much in the dark about
them. It's puzzling. Are there any Generals?"
"Men in hats and feathers?"
"Of course not. No. I suppose they are the men who control the great
public businesses. Who is that distinguished looking man?"
"That? He's a most important officer. That is Morden. He is managing
director of the Antibilious Pill Department. I have heard that his
workers sometimes turn out a myriad myriad pills a day in the twenty-four
hours. Fancy a myriad myriad!"
"A myriad myriad. No wonder he looks proud," said Graham. "Pills! What a
wonderful time it is! That man in purple?"
"He is not quite one of the inner circle, you know. But we like him. He
is really clever and very amusing. He is one of the heads of the Medical
Faculty of our London University. All medical men, you know, wear that
purple. But, of course, people who are paid by fees for doing
something—" She smiled away the social pretensions of all such people.
"Are any of your great artists or authors here?"
"No authors. They are mostly such queer people—and so preoccupied about
themselves. And they quarrel so dreadfully! They will fight, some of
them, for precedence on staircases! Dreadful, isn't it? But I think
Wraysbury, the fashionable capillotomist, is here. From Capri."
"Capillotomist," said Graham. "Ah! I remember. An artist! Why not?"
"We have to cultivate him," she said apologetically. "Our heads are in
his hands." She smiled.
Graham hesitated at the invited compliment, but his glance was
expressive. "Have the arts grown with the rest of civilised things?" he
said. "Who are your great painters?"
She looked at him doubtfully. Then laughed. "For a moment," she said, "I
thought you meant—" She laughed again. "You mean, of course, those good
men you used to think so much of because they could cover great spaces of
canvas with oil-colours? Great oblongs. And people used to put the things
in gilt frames and hang them up in rows in their square rooms. We haven't
any. People grew tired of that sort of thing."
"But what did you think I meant?"
She put a finger significantly on a cheek whose glow was above suspicion,
and smiled and looked very arch and pretty and inviting. "And here," and
she indicated her eyelid.
Graham had an adventurous moment. Then a grotesque memory of a picture he
had somewhere seen of Uncle Toby and the widow flashed across his mind.
An archaic shame came upon him. He became acutely aware that he was
visible to a great number of interested people. "I see," he remarked
inadequately. He turned awkwardly away from her fascinating facility. He
looked about him to meet a number of eyes that immediately occupied
themselves with other things. Possibly he coloured a little. "Who is that
talking with the lady in saffron?" he asked, avoiding her eyes.
The person in question he learnt was one of the great organisers of the
American theatres just fresh from a gigantic production at Mexico. His
face reminded Graham of a bust of Caligula. Another striking looking man
was the Black Labour Master. The phrase at the time made no deep
impression, but afterwards it recurred;—the Black Labour Master? The
little lady in no degree embarrassed, pointed out to him a charming
little woman as one of the subsidiary wives of the Anglican Bishop of
London. She added encomiums on the episcopal courage—hitherto there had
been a rule of clerical monogamy—"neither a natural nor an expedient
condition of things. Why should the natural development of the affections
be dwarfed and restricted because a man is a priest?"
"And, bye the bye," she added, "are you an Anglican?" Graham was on the
verge of hesitating inquiries about the status of a "subsidiary wife,"
apparently an euphemistic phrase, when Lincoln's return broke off this
very suggestive and interesting conversation. They crossed the aisle to
where a tall man in crimson, and two charming persons in Burmese costume
(as it seemed to him) awaited him diffidently. From their civilities he
passed to other presentations.
In a little while his multitudinous impressions began to organise
themselves into a general effect. At first the glitter of the gathering
had raised all the democrat in Graham; he had felt hostile and satirical.
But it is not in human nature to resist an atmosphere of courteous
regard. Soon the music, the light, the play of colours, the shining arms
and shoulders about him, the touch of hands, the transient interest of
smiling faces, the frothing sound of skilfully modulated voices, the
atmosphere of compliment, interest and respect, had woven together into a
fabric of indisputable pleasure. Graham for a time forgot his spacious
resolutions. He gave way insensibly to the intoxication of the position
that was conceded him, his manner became more convincingly regal, his
feet walked assuredly, the black robe fell with a bolder fold and pride
ennobled his voice. After all, this was a brilliant interesting world.
He looked up and saw passing across a bridge of porcelain and looking
down upon him, a face that was almost immediately hidden, the face of the
girl he had seen overnight in the little room beyond the theatre after
his escape from the Council. And she was watching him.
For the moment he did not remember when he had seen her, and then came a
vague memory of the stirring emotions of their first encounter. But the
dancing web of melody about him kept the air of that great marching song
from his memory.
The lady to whom he talked repeated her remark, and Graham recalled
himself to the quasi-regal flirtation upon which he was engaged.
Yet, unaccountably, a vague restlessness, a feeling that grew to
dissatisfaction, came into his mind. He was troubled as if by some half
forgotten duty, by the sense of things important slipping from him amidst
this light and brilliance. The attraction that these ladies who crowded
about him were beginning to exercise ceased. He no longer gave vague and
clumsy responses to the subtly amorous advances that he was now assured
were being made to him, and his eyes wandered for another sight of the
girl of the first revolt.
Where, precisely, had he seen her?…
Graham was in one of the upper galleries in conversation with a
bright-eyed lady on the subject of Eadhamite—the subject was his choice
and not hers. He had interrupted her warm assurances of personal devotion
with a matter-of-fact inquiry. He found her, as he had already found
several other latter-day women that night, less well informed than
charming. Suddenly, struggling against the eddying drift of nearer
melody, the song of the Revolt, the great song he had heard in the Hall,
hoarse and massive, came beating down to him.
Ah! Now he remembered!
He glanced up startled, and perceived above him an oeil de boeuf
through which this song had come, and beyond, the upper courses of cable,
the blue haze, and the pendant fabric of the lights of the public ways.
He heard the song break into a tumult of voices and cease. He perceived
quite clearly the drone and tumult of the moving platforms and a murmur
of many people. He had a vague persuasion that he could not account for,
a sort of instinctive feeling that outside in the ways a huge crowd must
be watching this place in which their Master amused himself.
Though the song had stopped so abruptly, though the special music of
this gathering reasserted itself, the motif of the marching song, once
it had begun, lingered in his mind.
The bright-eyed lady was still struggling with the mysteries of Eadhamite
when he perceived the girl he had seen in the theatre again. She was
coming now along the gallery towards him; he saw her first before she saw
him. She was dressed in a faintly luminous grey, her dark hair about her
brows was like a cloud, and as he saw her the cold light from the
circular opening into the ways fell upon her downcast face.
The lady in trouble about the Eadhamite saw the change in his expression,
and grasped her opportunity to escape. "Would you care to know that girl,
Sire?" she asked boldly. "She is Helen Wotton—a niece of Ostrog's. She
knows a great many serious things. She is one of the most serious persons
alive. I am sure you will like her."
In another moment Graham was talking to the girl, and the bright-eyed
lady had fluttered away.
"I remember you quite well," said Graham. "You were in that little room.
When all the people were singing and beating time with their feet. Before
I walked across the Hall."
Her momentary embarrassment passed. She looked up at him, and her face
was steady. "It was wonderful," she said, hesitated, and spoke with a
sudden effort. "All those people would have died for you, Sire. Countless
people did die for you that night."
Her face glowed. She glanced swiftly aside to see that no other heard
Lincoln appeared some way off along the gallery, making his way through
the press towards them. She saw him and turned to Graham strangely
eager, with a swift change to confidence and intimacy. "Sire," she said
quickly, "I cannot tell you now and here. But the common people are very
unhappy; they are oppressed—they are misgoverned. Do not forget the
people, who faced death—death that you might live."
"I know nothing—" began Graham.
"I cannot tell you now."
Lincoln's face appeared close to them. He bowed an apology to the girl.
"You find the new world amusing, Sire?" asked Lincoln, with smiling
deference, and indicating the space and splendour of the gathering by one
comprehensive gesture. "At any rate, you find it changed."
"Yes," said Graham, "changed. And yet, after all, not so greatly
"Wait till you are in the air," said Lincoln. "The wind has fallen; even
now an aeroplane awaits you."
The girl's attitude awaited dismissal.
Graham glanced at her face, was on the verge of a question, found a
warning in her expression, bowed to her and turned to accompany Lincoln.
The Flying Stages of London were collected together in an irregular
crescent on the southern side of the river. They formed three groups of
two each and retained the names of ancient suburban hills or villages.
They were named in order, Roehampton, Wimbledon Park, Streatham, Norwood,
Blackheath, and Shooter's Hill. They were uniform structures rising high
above the general roof surfaces. Each was about four thousand yards long
and a thousand broad, and constructed of the compound of aluminum and
iron that had replaced iron in architecture. Their higher tiers formed an
openwork of girders through which lifts and staircases ascended. The
upper surface was a uniform expanse, with portions—the starting
carriers—that could be raised and were then able to run on very slightly
inclined rails to the end of the fabric.
Graham went to the flying stages by the public ways. He was accompanied
by Asano, his Japanese attendant. Lincoln was called away by Ostrog, who
was busy with his administrative concerns. A strong guard of the
Wind-Vane police awaited the Master outside the Wind-Vane offices, and
they cleared a space for him on the upper moving platform. His passage to
the flying stages was unexpected, nevertheless a considerable crowd
gathered and followed him to his destination. As he went along, he could
hear the people shouting his name, and saw numberless men and women and
children in blue come swarming up the staircases in the central path,
gesticulating and shouting. He could not hear what they shouted. He was
struck again by the evident existence of a vulgar dialect among the poor
of the city. When at last he descended, his guards were immediately
surrounded by a dense excited crowd. Afterwards it occurred to him that
some had attempted to reach him with petitions. His guards cleared a
passage for him with difficulty.
He found a monoplane in charge of an aeronaut awaiting him on the
westward stage. Seen close this mechanism was no longer small. As it lay
on its launching carrier upon the wide expanse of the flying stage, its
aluminum body skeleton was as big as the hull of a twenty-ton yacht. Its
lateral supporting sails braced and stayed with metal nerves almost like
the nerves of a bee's wing, and made of some sort of glassy artificial
membrane, cast their shadow over many hundreds of square yards. The
chairs for the engineer and his passenger hung free to swing by a complex
tackle, within the protecting ribs of the frame and well abaft the
middle. The passenger's chair was protected by a wind-guard and guarded
about with metallic rods carrying air cushions. It could, if desired, be
completely closed in, but Graham was anxious for novel experiences, and
desired that it should be left open. The aeronaut sat behind a glass that
sheltered his face. The passenger could secure himself firmly in his
seat, and this was almost unavoidable on landing, or he could move along
by means of a little rail and rod to a locker at the stem of the machine,
where his personal luggage, his wraps and restoratives were placed, and
which also with the seats, served as a makeweight to the parts of the
central engine that projected to the propeller at the stern.
The flying stage about him was empty save for Asano and their suite of
attendants. Directed by the aeronaut he placed himself in his seat. Asano
stepped through the bars of the hull, and stood below on the stage waving
his hand. He seemed to slide along the stage to the right and vanish.
The engine was humming loudly, the propeller spinning, and for a second
the stage and the buildings beyond were gliding swiftly and horizontally
past Graham's eye; then these things seemed to tilt up abruptly. He
gripped the little rods on either side of him instinctively. He felt
himself moving upward, heard the air whistle over the top of the wind
screen. The propeller screw moved round with powerful rhythmic
impulses—one, two, three, pause; one, two, three—which the engineer
controlled very delicately. The machine began a quivering vibration that
continued throughout the flight, and the roof areas seemed running away
to starboard very quickly and growing rapidly smaller. He looked from
the face of the engineer through the ribs of the machine. Looking
sideways, there was nothing very startling in what he saw—a rapid
funicular railway might have given the same sensations. He recognised
the Council House and the Highgate Ridge. And then he looked straight
down between his feet.
For a moment physical terror possessed him, a passionate sense of
insecurity. He held tight. For a second or so he could not lift his eyes.
Some hundred feet or more sheer below him was one of the big wind-vanes
of south-west London, and beyond it the southernmost flying stage crowded
with little black dots. These things seemed to be falling away from him.
For a second he had an impulse to pursue the earth. He set his teeth, he
lifted his eyes by a muscular effort, and the moment of panic passed.
He remained for a space with his teeth set hard, his eyes staring into
the sky. Throb, throb, throb—beat, went the engine; throb, throb,
throb—beat. He gripped his bars tightly, glanced at the aeronaut, and
saw a smile upon his sun-tanned face. He smiled in return—perhaps a
little artificially. "A little strange at first," he shouted before he
recalled his dignity. But he dared not look down again for some time. He
stared over the aeronaut's head to where a rim of vague blue horizon
crept up the sky. For a little while he could not banish the thought of
possible accidents from his mind. Throb, throb, throb—beat; suppose some
trivial screw went wrong in that supporting engine! Suppose—! He made a
grim effort to dismiss all such suppositions. After a while they did at
least abandon the foreground of his thoughts. And up he went steadily,
higher and higher into the clear air.
Once the mental shock of moving unsupported through the air was over,
his sensations ceased to be unpleasant, became very speedily
pleasurable. He had been warned of air sickness. But he found the
pulsating movement of the monoplane as it drove up the faint south-west
breeze was very little in excess of the pitching of a boat head on to
broad rollers in a moderate gale, and he was constitutionally a good
sailor. And the keenness of the more rarefied air into which they
ascended produced a sense of lightness and exhilaration. He looked up
and saw the blue sky above fretted with cirrus clouds. His eye came
cautiously down through the ribs and bars to a shining flight of white
birds that hung in the lower sky. For a space he watched these. Then
going lower and less apprehensively, he saw the slender figure of the
Wind-Vane keeper's crow's nest shining golden in the sunlight and
growing smaller every moment. As his eye fell with more confidence now,
there came a blue line of hills, and then London, already to leeward, an
intricate space of roofing. Its near edge came sharp and clear, and
banished his last apprehensions in a shock of surprise. For the boundary
of London was like a wall, like a cliff, a steep fall of three or four
hundred feet, a frontage broken only by terraces here and there, a
complex decorative façade.
That gradual passage of town into country through an extensive sponge of
suburbs, which was so characteristic a feature of the great cities of the
nineteenth century, existed no longer. Nothing remained of it here but a
waste of ruins, variegated and dense with thickets of the heterogeneous
growths that had once adorned the gardens of the belt, interspersed among
levelled brown patches of sown ground, and verdant stretches of winter
greens. The latter even spread among the vestiges of houses. But for the
most part the reefs and skerries of ruins, the wreckage of suburban
villas, stood among their streets and roads, queer islands amidst the
levelled expanses of green and brown, abandoned indeed by the inhabitants
years since, but too substantial, it seemed, to be cleared out of the way
of the wholesale horticultural mechanisms of the time.
The vegetation of this waste undulated and frothed amidst the countless
cells of crumbling house walls, and broke along the foot of the city wall
in a surf of bramble and holly and ivy and teazle and tall grasses. Here
and there gaudy pleasure palaces towered amidst the puny remains of
Victorian times, and cable ways slanted to them from the city. That
winter day they seemed deserted. Deserted, too, were the artificial
gardens among the ruins. The city limits were indeed as sharply defined
as in the ancient days when the gates were shut at nightfall and the
robber foeman prowled to the very walls. A huge semi-circular throat
poured out a vigorous traffic upon the Eadhamite Bath Road. So the first
prospect of the world beyond the city flashed on Graham, and dwindled.
And when at last he could look vertically downward again, he saw below
him the vegetable fields of the Thames valley—innumerable minute oblongs
of ruddy brown, intersected by shining threads, the sewage ditches.
His exhilaration increased rapidly, became a sort of intoxication. He
found himself drawing deep breaths of air, laughing aloud, desiring to
shout. After a time that desire became too strong for him, and he
shouted. They curved about towards the south. They drove with a slight
list to leeward, and with a slow alternation of movement, first a short,
sharp ascent and then a long downward glide that was very swift and
pleasing. During these downward glides the propeller was inactive
altogether. These ascents gave Graham a glorious sense of successful
effort; the descents through the rarefied air were beyond all experience.
He wanted never to leave the upper air again.
For a time he was intent upon the landscape that ran swiftly northward
beneath him. Its minute, clear detail pleased him exceedingly. He was
impressed by the ruin of the houses that had once dotted the country, by
the vast treeless expanse of country from which all farms and villages
had gone, save for crumbling ruins. He had known the thing was so, but
seeing it so was an altogether different matter. He tried to make out
familiar places within the hollow basin of the world below, but at first
he could distinguish no data now that the Thames valley was left behind.
Soon, however, they were driving over a sharp chalk hill that he
recognised as the Guildford Hog's Back, because of the familiar outline
of the gorge at its eastward end, and because of the ruins of the town
that rose steeply on either lip of this gorge. And from that he made out
other points, Leith Hill, the sandy wastes of Aldershot, and so forth.
Save where the broad Eadhamite Portsmouth Road, thickly dotted with
rushing shapes, followed the course of the old railway, the gorge of the
wey was choked with thickets.
The whole expanse of the Downs escarpment, so far as the grey haze
permitted him to see, was set with wind-wheels to which the largest of
the city was but a younger brother. They stirred with a stately motion
before the south-west wind. And here and there were patches dotted with
the sheep of the British Food Trust, and here and there a mounted
shepherd made a spot of black. Then rushing under the stern of the
monoplane came the Wealden Heights, the line of Hindhead, Pitch Hill, and
Leith Hill, with a second row of wind-wheels that seemed striving to rob
the downland whirlers of their share of breeze. The purple heather was
speckled with yellow gorse, and on the further side a drove of black oxen
stampeded before a couple of mounted men. Swiftly these swept behind, and
dwindled and lost colour, and became scarce moving specks that were
swallowed up in haze.
And when these had vanished in the distance Graham heard a peewit
wailing close at hand. He perceived he was now above the South Downs, and
staring over his shoulder saw the battlements of Portsmouth Landing Stage
towering over the ridge of Portsdown Hill. In another moment there came
into sight a spread of shipping like floating cities, the little white
cliffs of the Needles dwarfed and sunlit, and the grey and glittering
waters of the narrow sea. They seemed to leap the Solent in a moment, and
in a few seconds the Isle of Wight was running past, and then beneath him
spread a wider and wider extent of sea, here purple with the shadow of a
cloud, here grey, here a burnished mirror, and here a spread of cloudy
greenish blue. The Isle of Wight grew smaller and smaller. In a few more
minutes a strip of grey haze detached itself from other strips that were
clouds, descended out of the sky and became a coast-line—sunlit and
pleasant—the coast of northern France. It rose, it took colour, became
definite and detailed, and the counterpart of the Downland of England was
speeding by below.
In a little time, as it seemed, Paris came above the horizon, and hung
there for a space, and sank out of sight again as the monoplane circled
about to the north. But he perceived the Eiffel Tower still standing, and
beside it a huge dome surmounted by a pin-point Colossus. And he
perceived, too, though he did not understand it at the time, a slanting
drift of smoke. The aeronaut said something about "trouble in the
under-ways," that Graham did not heed. But he marked the minarets and
towers and slender masses that streamed skyward above the city
wind-vanes, and knew that in the matter of grace at least Paris still
kept in front of her larger rival. And even as he looked a pale blue
shape ascended very swiftly from the city like a dead leaf driving up
before a gale. It curved round and soared towards them, growing rapidly
larger and larger. The aeronaut was saying something. "What?" said
Graham, loth to take his eyes from this. "London aeroplane, Sire," bawled
the aeronaut, pointing.
They rose and curved about northward as it drew nearer. Nearer it came
and nearer, larger and larger. The throb, throb, throb—beat, of the
monoplane's flight, that had seemed so potent, and so swift, suddenly
appeared slow by comparison with this tremendous rush. How great the
monster seemed, how swift and steady! It passed quite closely beneath
them, driving along silently, a vast spread of wire-netted translucent
wings, a thing alive. Graham had a momentary glimpse of the rows and rows
of wrapped-up passengers, slung in their little cradles behind
wind-screens, of a white-clothed engineer crawling against the gale along
a ladder way, of spouting engines beating together, of the whirling wind
screw, and of a wide waste of wing. He exulted in the sight. And in an
instant the thing had passed.
It rose slightly and their own little wings swayed in the rush of its
flight. It fell and grew smaller. Scarcely had they moved, as it seemed,
before it was again only a flat blue thing that dwindled in the sky. This
was the aeroplane that went to and fro between London and Paris. In fair
weather and in peaceful times it came and went four times a day.
They beat across the Channel, slowly as it seemed now to Graham's
enlarged ideas, and Beachy Head rose greyly to the left of them.
"Land," called the aeronaut, his voice small against the whistling of
the air over the wind-screen.
"Not yet," bawled Graham, laughing. "Not land yet. I want to learn more
of this machine."
"I meant—" said the aeronaut.
"I want to learn more of this machine," repeated Graham.
"I'm coming to you," he said, and had flung himself free of his chair and
taken a step along the guarded rail between them. He stopped for a
moment, and his colour changed and his hands tightened. Another step and
he was clinging close to the aeronaut. He felt a weight on his shoulder,
the pressure of the air. His hat was a whirling speck behind. The wind
came in gusts over his wind-screen and blew his hair in streamers past
his cheek. The aeronaut made some hasty adjustments for the shifting of
the centres of gravity and pressure.
"I want to have these things explained," said Graham. "What do you do
when you move that engine forward?"
The aeronaut hesitated. Then he answered, "They are complex, Sire."
"I don't mind," shouted Graham. "I don't mind."
There was a moment's pause. "Aeronautics is the secret—the privilege—"
"I know. But I'm the Master, and I mean to know." He laughed, full of
this novel realisation of power that was his gift from the upper air.
The monoplane curved about, and the keen fresh wind cut across Graham's
face and his garment lugged at his body as the stem pointed round to the
west. The two men looked into each other's eyes.
"Sire, there are rules—"
"Not where I am concerned," said Graham, "You seem to forget."
The aeronaut scrutinised his face "No," he said. "I do not forget, Sire.
But in all the earth—no man who is not a sworn aeronaut—has ever a
chance. They come as passengers—"
"I have heard something of the sort. But I'm not going to argue these
points. Do you know why I have slept two hundred years? To fly!"
"Sire," said the aeronaut, "the rules—if I break the rules—"
Graham waved the penalties aside.
"Then if you will watch me—"
"No," said Graham, swaying and gripping tight as the machine lifted its
nose again for an ascent. "That's not my game. I want to do it myself.
Do it myself if I smash for it! No! I will. See I am going to clamber by
this—to come and share your seat. Steady! I mean to fly of my own
accord if I smash at the end of it. I will have something to pay for my
sleep. Of all other things—. In my past it was my dream to fly.
Now—keep your balance."
"A dozen spies are watching me, Sire!"
Graham's temper was at end. Perhaps he chose it should be. He swore.
He swung himself round the intervening mass of levers and the
"Am I Master of the earth?" he said. "Or is your Society? Now. Take your
hands off those levers, and hold my wrists. Yes—so. And now, how do we
turn her nose down to the glide?"
"Sire," said the aeronaut.
"What is it?"
"You will protect me?"
"Lord! Yes! If I have to burn London. Now!"
And with that promise Graham bought his first lesson in aerial
navigation. "It's clearly to your advantage, this journey," he said with
a loud laugh—for the air was like strong wine—"to teach me quickly and
well. Do I pull this? Ah! So! Hullo!"
"Back, Sire! Back!"
"Back—right. One—two—three—good God! Ah! Up she goes! But this
And now the machine began to dance the strangest figures in the air. Now
it would sweep round a spiral of scarcely a hundred yards diameter, now
rush up into the air and swoop down again, steeply, swiftly, falling like
a hawk, to recover in a rushing loop that swept it high again. In one of
these descents it seemed driving straight at the drifting park of
balloons in the southeast, and only curved about and cleared them by a
sudden recovery of dexterity. The extraordinary swiftness and smoothness
of the motion, the extraordinary effect of the rarefied air upon his
constitution, threw Graham into a careless fury.
But at last a queer incident came to sober him, to send him flying down
once more to the crowded life below with all its dark insoluble riddles.
As he swooped, came a tap and something flying past, and a drop like a
drop of rain. Then as he went on down he saw something like a white rag
whirling down in his wake. "What was that?" he asked. "I did not see."
The aeronaut glanced, and then clutched at the lever to recover, for they
were sweeping down. When the monoplane was rising again he drew a deep
breath and replied, "That," and he indicated the white thing still
fluttering down, "was a swan."
"I never saw it," said Graham.
The aeronaut made no answer, and Graham saw little drops upon his
They drove horizontally while Graham clambered back to the passenger's
place out of the lash of the wind. And then came a swift rush down, with
the wind-screw whirling to check their fall, and the flying stage growing
broad and dark before them. The sun, sinking over the chalk hills in the
west, fell with them, and left the sky a blaze of gold.
Soon men could be seen as little specks. He heard a noise coming up to
meet him, a noise like the sound of waves upon a pebbly beach, and saw
that the roofs about the flying stage were dense with his people
rejoicing over his safe return. A black mass was crushed together under
the stage, a darkness stippled with innumerable faces, and quivering with
the minute oscillation of waved white handkerchiefs and waving hands.
Lincoln awaited Graham in an apartment beneath the flying stages. He
seemed curious to learn all that had happened, pleased to hear of the
extraordinary delight and interest which Graham took in flying. Graham
was in a mood of enthusiasm. "I must learn to fly," he cried. "I must
master that. I pity all poor souls who have died without this
opportunity. The sweet swift air! It is the most wonderful experience in
"You will find our new times full of wonderful experiences," said
Lincoln. "I do not know what you will care to do now. We have music that
may seem novel."
"For the present," said Graham, "flying holds me. Let me learn more of
that. Your aeronaut was saying there is some trades union objection to
"There is, I believe," said Lincoln. "But for you—! If you would like to
occupy yourself with that, we can make you a sworn aeronaut to-morrow."
Graham expressed his wishes vividly and talked of his sensations for
a while. "And as for affairs," he asked abruptly. "How are things
Lincoln waved affairs aside. "Ostrog will tell you that to-morrow,"
he said. "Everything is settling down. The Revolution accomplishes
itself all over the world. Friction is inevitable here and there, of
course; but your rule is assured. You may rest secure with things in
"Would it be possible for me to be made a sworn aeronaut, as you call it,
forthwith—before I sleep?" said Graham, pacing. "Then I could be at it
the very first thing to-morrow again…."
"It would be possible," said Lincoln thoughtfully. "Quite possible.
Indeed, it shall be done." He laughed. "I came prepared to suggest
amusements, but you have found one for yourself. I will telephone to the
aeronautical offices from here and we will return to your apartments in
the Wind-Vane Control. By the time you have dined the aeronauts will be
able to come. You don't think that after you have dined you might
prefer—?" He paused.
"Yes," said Graham.
"We had prepared a show of dancers—they have been brought from the
"I hate ballets," said Graham, shortly. "Always did. That other—. That's
not what I want to see. We had dancers in the old days. For the matter of
that, they had them in ancient Egypt. But flying—"
"True," said Lincoln. "Though our dancers—"
"They can afford to wait," said Graham; "they can afford to wait. I know.
I'm not a Latin. There's questions I want to ask some expert—about your
machinery. I'm keen. I want no distractions."
"You have the world to choose from," said Lincoln; "whatever you want
Asano appeared, and under the escort of a strong guard they returned
through the city streets to Graham's apartments. Far larger crowds had
assembled to witness his return than his departure had gathered, and
the shouts and cheering of these masses of people sometimes drowned
Lincoln's answers to the endless questions Graham's aerial journey had
suggested. At first Graham had acknowledged the cheering and cries of
the crowd by bows and gestures, but Lincoln warned him that such a
recognition would be considered incorrect behaviour. Graham, already a
little wearied by rhythmic civilities, ignored his subjects for the
remainder of his public progress.
Directly they arrived at his apartments Asano departed in search of
kinematographic renderings of machinery in motion, and Lincoln despatched
Graham's commands for models of machines and small machines to illustrate
the various mechanical advances of the last two centuries. The little
group of appliances for telegraphic communication attracted the Master so
strongly that his delightfully prepared dinner, served by a number of
charmingly dexterous girls, waited for a space. The habit of smoking had
almost ceased from the face of the earth, but when he expressed a wish
for that indulgence, enquiries were made and some excellent cigars were
discovered in Florida, and sent to him by pneumatic despatch while the
dinner was still in progress. Afterwards came the aeronauts, and a feast
of ingenious wonders in the hands of a latter-day engineer. For the time,
at any rate, the neat dexterity of counting and numbering machines,
building machines, spinning engines, patent doorways, explosive motors,
grain and water elevators, slaughter-house machines and harvesting
appliances, was more fascinating to Graham than any bayadère. "We were
savages," was his refrain, "we were savages. We were in the stone
age—compared with this…. And what else have you?"
There came also practical psychologists with some very interesting
developments in the art of hypnotism. The names of Milne Bramwell,
Fechner, Liebault, William James, Myers and Gurney, he found, bore a
value now that would have astonished their contemporaries. Several
practical applications of psychology were now in general use; it had
largely superseded drugs, antiseptics and anesthetics in medicine; was
employed by almost all who had any need of mental concentration. A real
enlargement of human faculty seemed to have been effected in this
direction. The feats of "calculating boys," the wonders, as Graham had
been wont to regard them, of mesmerisers, were now within the range of
anyone who could afford the services of a skilled hypnotist. Long ago
the old examination methods in education had been destroyed by these
expedients. Instead of years of study, candidates had substituted a few
weeks of trances, and during the trances expert coaches had simply to
repeat all the points necessary for adequate answering, adding a
suggestion of the post-hypnotic recollection of these points. In process
mathematics particularly, this aid had been of singular service, and it
was now invariably invoked by such players of chess and games of manual
dexterity as were still to be found. In fact, all operations conducted
under finite rules, of a quasi-mechanical sort that is, were now
systematically relieved from the wanderings of imagination and emotion,
and brought to an unexampled pitch of accuracy. Little children of the
labouring classes, so soon as they were of sufficient age to be
hypnotised, were thus converted into beautifully punctual and
trustworthy machine minders, and released forthwith from the long, long
thoughts of youth. Aeronautical pupils, who gave way to giddiness,
could be relieved from their imaginary terrors. In every street were
hypnotists ready to print permanent memories upon the mind. If anyone
desired to remember a name, a series of numbers, a song or a speech, it
could be done by this method, and conversely memories could be effaced,
habits removed, and desires eradicated—a sort of psychic surgery was,
in fact, in general use. Indignities, humbling experiences, were thus
forgotten, widows would obliterate their previous husbands, angry lovers
release themselves from their slavery. To graft desires, however, was
still impossible, and the facts of thought transference were yet
unsystematised. The psychologists illustrated their expositions with
some astounding experiments in mnemonics made through the agency of a
troupe of pale-faced children in blue.
Graham, like most of the people of his former time, distrusted the
hypnotist, or he might then and there have eased his mind of many painful
preoccupations. But in spite of Lincoln's assurances he held to the old
theory that to be hypnotised was in some way the surrender of his
personality, the abdication of his will. At the banquet of wonderful
experiences that was beginning, he wanted very keenly to remain
The next day, and another day, and yet another day passed in such
interests as these. Each day Graham spent many hours in the glorious
entertainment of flying. On the third, he soared across middle France,
and within sight of the snow-clad Alps. These vigorous exercises gave him
restful sleep; he recovered almost wholly from the spiritless anemia of
his first awakening. And whenever he was not in the air, and awake,
Lincoln was assiduous in the cause of his amusement; all that was novel
and curious in contemporary invention was brought to him, until at last
his appetite for novelty was well-nigh glutted. One might fill a dozen
inconsecutive volumes with the strange things they exhibited. Each
afternoon he held his court for an hour or so. He found his interest in
his contemporaries becoming personal and intimate. At first he had been
alert chiefly for unfamiliarity and peculiarity; any foppishness in their
dress, any discordance with his preconceptions of nobility in their
status and manners had jarred upon him, and it was remarkable to him how
soon that strangeness and the faint hostility that arose from it,
disappeared; how soon he came to appreciate the true perspective of his
position, and see the old Victorian days remote and quaint. He found
himself particularly amused by the red-haired daughter of the Manager of
the European Piggeries. On the second day after dinner he made the
acquaintance of a latter-day dancing girl, and found her an astonishing
artist. And after that, more hypnotic wonders. On the third day Lincoln
was moved to suggest that the Master should repair to a Pleasure City,
but this Graham declined, nor would he accept the services of the
hypnotists in his aeronautical experiments. The link of locality held him
to London; he found a delight in topographical identifications that he
would have missed abroad. "Here—or a hundred feet below here," he could
say, "I used to eat my midday cutlets during my London University days.
Underneath here was Waterloo and the tiresome hunt for confusing trains.
Often have I stood waiting down there, bag in hand, and stared up into
the sky above the forest of signals, little thinking I should walk some
day a hundred yards in the air. And now in that very sky that was once a
grey smoke canopy, I circle in a monoplane."
During those three days Graham was so occupied with these distractions
that the vast political movements in progress outside his quarters had
but a small share of his attention. Those about him told him little.
Daily came Ostrog, the Boss, his Grand Vizier, his mayor of the palace,
to report in vague terms the steady establishment of his rule; "a little
trouble" soon to be settled in this city, "a slight disturbance" in that.
The song of the social revolt came to him no more; he never learned that
it had been forbidden in the municipal limits; and all the great emotions
of the crow's nest slumbered in his mind.
But on the second and third of the three days he found himself, in spite
of his interest in the daughter of the Pig Manager, or it may be by
reason of the thoughts her conversation suggested, remembering the girl
Helen Wotton, who had spoken to him so oddly at the Wind-Vane Keeper's
gathering. The impression, she had made was a deep one, albeit the
incessant surprise of novel circumstances had kept him from brooding upon
it for a space. But now her memory was coming to its own. He wondered
what she had meant by those broken half-forgotten sentences; the picture
of her eyes and the earnest passion of her face became more vivid as his
mechanical interests faded. Her slender beauty came compellingly between
him and certain immediate temptations of ignoble passion. But he did not
see her again until three full days were past.
She came upon him at last in a little gallery that ran from the Wind-Vane
Offices toward his state apartments. The gallery was long and narrow,
with a series of recesses, each with an arched fenestration that looked
upon a court of palms. He came upon her suddenly in one of these
recesses. She was seated. She turned her head at the sound of his
footsteps and started at the sight of him. Every touch of colour vanished
from her face. She rose instantly, made a step toward him as if to
address him, and hesitated. He stopped and stood still, expectant. Then
he perceived that a nervous tumult silenced her, perceived, too, that she
must have sought speech with him to be waiting for him in this place.
He felt a regal impulse to assist her. "I have wanted to see you," he
said. "A few days ago you wanted to tell me something—you wanted to tell
me of the people. What was it you had to tell me?"
She looked at him with troubled eyes.
"You said the people were unhappy?"
For a moment she was silent still.
"It must have seemed strange to you," she said abruptly.
"It did. And yet—"
"It was an impulse."
"That is all."
She looked at him with a face of hesitation. She spoke with an effort.
"You forget," she said, drawing a deep breath.
"Do you mean—?"
"You forget the people."
He looked interrogative.
"Yes. I know you are surprised. For you do not understand what you are.
You do not know the things that are happening."
"You do not understand."
"Not clearly, perhaps. But—tell me."
She turned to him with sudden resolution. "It is so hard to explain. I
have meant to, I have wanted to. And now—I cannot. I am not ready with
words. But about you—there is something. It is wonder. Your sleep—your
awakening. These things are miracles. To me at least—and to all the
common people. You who lived and suffered and died, you who were a
common citizen, wake again, live again, to find yourself Master almost
of the earth."
"Master of the earth," he said. "So they tell me. But try and imagine how
little I know of it."
"Cities—Trusts—the Labour Department—"
"Principalities, powers, dominions—the power and the glory. Yes, I have
heard them shout. I know. I am Master. King, if you wish. With Ostrog,
She turned upon him and surveyed his face with a curious scrutiny.
He smiled. "To take the responsibility."
"That is what we have begun to fear." For a moment she said no more.
"No," she said slowly. "You will take the responsibility. You will take
the responsibility. The people look to you."
She spoke softly. "Listen! For at least half the years of your sleep—in
every generation—multitudes of people, in every generation greater
multitudes of people, have prayed that you might awake—prayed."
Graham moved to speak and did not.
She hesitated, and a faint colour crept back to her cheek. "Do you know
that you have been to myriads—King Arthur, Barbarossa—the King who
would come in his own good time and put the world right for them?"
"I suppose the imagination of the people—"
"Have you not heard our proverb, 'When the Sleeper wakes'? While you lay
insensible and motionless there—thousands came. Thousands. Every first
of the month you lay in state with a white robe upon you and the people
filed by you. When I was a little girl I saw you like that, with your
face white and calm."
She turned her face from him and looked steadfastly at the painted
wall before her. Her voice fell. "When I was a little girl I used to
look at your face…. It seemed to me fixed and waiting, like the
patience of God."
"That is what we thought of you," she said. "That is how you
seemed to us."
She turned shining eyes to him, her voice was clear and strong. "In the
city, in the earth, a myriad myriad men and women are waiting to see what
you will do, full of strange incredible expectations."
"Ostrog—no one—can take that responsibility."
Graham looked at her in surprise, at her face lit with emotion. She
seemed at first to have spoken with an effort, and to have fired herself
"Do you think," she said, "that you who have lived that little life so
far away in the past, you who have fallen into and risen out of this
miracle of sleep—do you think that the wonder and reverence and hope of
half the world has gathered about you only that you may live another
little life?… That you may shift the responsibility to any other man?"
"I know how great this kingship of mine is," he said haltingly. "I know
how great it seems. But is it real? It is incredible—dreamlike. Is it
real, or is it only a great delusion?"
"It is real," she said; "if you dare."
"After all, like all kingship, my kingship is Belief. It is an illusion
in the minds of men."
"If you dare!" she said.
"Countless men," she said, "and while it is in their minds—they
"But I know nothing. That is what I had in mind. I know nothing. And
these others—the Councillors, Ostrog. They are wiser, cooler, they know
so much, every detail. And, indeed, what are these miseries of which you
speak? What am I to know? Do you mean—"
He stopped blankly.
"I am still hardly more than a girl," she said. "But to me the world
seems full of wretchedness. The world has altered since your day, altered
very strangely. I have prayed that I might see you and tell you these
things. The world has changed. As if a canker had seized it—and robbed
life of—everything worth having."
She turned a flushed face upon him, moving suddenly. "Your days were the
days of freedom. Yes—I have thought. I have been made to think, for my
life—has not been happy. Men are no longer free—no greater, no better
than the men of your time. That is not all. This city—is a prison. Every
city now is a prison. Mammon grips the key in his hand. Myriads,
countless myriads, toil from the cradle to the grave. Is that right? Is
that to be—for ever? Yes, far worse than in your time. All about us,
beneath us, sorrow and pain. All the shallow delight of such life as you
find about you, is separated by just a little from a life of wretchedness
beyond any telling. Yes, the poor know it—they know they suffer. These
countless multitudes who faced death for you two nights since—! You owe
your life to them."
"Yes," said Graham, slowly. "Yes. I owe my life to them."
"You come," she said, "from the days when this new tyranny of the cities
was scarcely beginning. It is a tyranny—a tyranny. In your days the
feudal war lords had gone, and the new lordship of wealth had still to
come. Half the men in the world still lived out upon the free
countryside. The cities had still to devour them. I have heard the
stories out of the old books—there was nobility! Common men led lives of
love and faithfulness then—they did a thousand things. And you—you come
from that time."
"It was not—. But never mind. How is it now—?"
"Gain and the Pleasure Cities! Or slavery—unthanked, unhonoured,
"Slavery!" he said.
"You don't mean to say that human beings are chattels."
"Worse. That is what I want you to know, what I want you to see. I know
you do not know. They will keep things from you, they will take you
presently to a Pleasure City. But you have noticed men and women and
children in pale blue canvas, with thin yellow faces and dull eyes?"
"Speaking a horrible dialect, coarse and weak."
"I have heard it."
"They are the slaves—your slaves. They are the slaves of the Labour
Department you own."
"The Labour Department! In some way—that is familiar. Ah! now I
remember. I saw it when I was wandering about the city, after the
lights returned, great fronts of buildings coloured pale blue. Do you
"Yes. How can I explain it to you? Of course the blue uniform struck you.
Nearly a third of our people wear it—more assume it now every day. This
Labour Department has grown imperceptibly."
"What is this Labour Department?" asked Graham.
"In the old times, how did you manage with starving people?"
"There was the workhouse—which the parishes maintained."
"Workhouse! Yes—there was something. In our history lessons. I remember
now. The Labour Department ousted the workhouse. It grew—partly—out of
something—you, perhaps, may remember it—an emotional religious
organisation called the Salvation Army—that became a business company.
In the first place it was almost a charity. To save people from workhouse
rigours. There had been a great agitation against the workhouse. Now I
come to think of it, it was one of the earliest properties your Trustees
acquired. They bought the Salvation Army and reconstructed it as this.
The idea in the first place was to organise the labour of starving
"Nowadays there are no workhouses, no refuges and charities, nothing but
that Department. Its offices are everywhere. That blue is its colour. And
any man, woman or child who comes to be hungry and weary and with neither
home nor friend nor resort, must go to the Department in the end—or seek
some way of death. The Euthanasy is beyond their means—for the poor
there is no easy death. And at any hour in the day or night there is
food, shelter and a blue uniform for all comers—that is the first
condition of the Department's incorporation—and in return for a day's
shelter the Department extracts a day's work, and then returns the
visitor's proper clothing and sends him or her out again."
"Perhaps that does not seem so terrible to you. In your time men starved
in your streets. That was bad. But they died—men. These people in
blue—. The proverb runs: 'Blue canvas once and ever.' The Department
trades in their labour, and it has taken care to assure itself of the
supply. People come to it starving and helpless—they eat and sleep for a
night and day, they work for a day, and at the end of the day they go
out again. If they have worked well they have a penny or so—enough for a
theatre or a cheap dancing place, or a kinematograph story, or a dinner
or a bet. They wander about after that is spent. Begging is prevented by
the police of the ways. Besides, no one gives. They come back again the
next day or the day after—brought back by the same incapacity that
brought them first. At last their proper clothing wears out, or their
rags get so shabby that they are ashamed. Then they must work for months
to get fresh. If they want fresh. A great number of children are born
under the Department's care. The mother owes them a month thereafter—the
children they cherish and educate until they are fourteen, and they pay
two years' service. You may be sure these children are educated for the
blue canvas. And so it is the Department works."
"And none are destitute in the city?"
"None. They are either in blue canvas or in prison. We have abolished
destitution. It is engraved upon the Department's checks."
"If they will not work?"
"Most people will work at that pitch, and the Department has powers.
There are stages of unpleasantness in the work—stoppage of food—and a
man or woman who has refused to work once is known by a thumb-marking
system in the Department's offices all over the world. Besides, who can
leave the city poor? To go to Paris costs two Lions. And for
insubordination there are the prisons—dark and miserable—out of sight
below. There are prisons now for many things."
"And a third of the people wear this blue canvas?"
"More than a third. Toilers, living without pride or delight or hope,
with the stories of Pleasure Cities ringing in their ears, mocking their
shameful lives, their privations and hardships. Too poor even for the
Euthanasy, the rich man's refuge from life. Dumb, crippled millions,
countless millions, all the world about, ignorant of anything but
limitations and unsatisfied desires. They are born, they are thwarted and
they die. That is the state to which we have come."
For a space Graham sat downcast.
"But there has been a revolution," he said. "All these things will be
"That is our hope. That is the hope of the world. But Ostrog will not do
it. He is a politician. To him it seems things must be like this. He
does not mind. He takes it for granted. All the rich, all the
influential, all who are happy, come at last to take these miseries for
granted. They use the people in their politics, they live in ease by
their degradation. But you—you who come from a happier age—it is to
you the people look. To you."
He looked at her face. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears. He felt
a rush of emotion. For a moment he forgot this city, he forgot the
race, and all those vague remote voices, in the immediate humanity of
"But what am I to do?" he said with his eyes upon her.
"Rule," she answered, bending towards him and speaking in a low tone.
"Rule the world as it has never been ruled, for the good and happiness of
men. For you might rule it—you could rule it.
"The people are stirring. All over the world the people are stirring. It
wants but a word—but a word from you—to bring them all together. Even
the middle sort of people are restless—unhappy.
"They are not telling you the things that are happening. The people will
not go back to their drudgery—they refuse to be disarmed. Ostrog has
awakened something greater than he dreamt of—he has awakened hopes."
His heart was beating fast. He tried to seem judicial, to weigh
"They only want their leader," she said.
"You could do what you would;—the world is yours."
He sat, no longer regarding her. Presently he spoke. "The old dreams, and
the thing I have dreamt, liberty, happiness. Are they dreams? Could one
man—one man—?" His voice sank and ceased.
"Not one man, but all men—give them only a leader to speak the desire of
He shook his head, and for a time there was silence.
He looked up suddenly, and their eyes met. "I have not your faith," he
said, "I have not your youth. I am here with power that mocks me. No—let
me speak. I want to do—not right—I have not the strength for that—but
something rather right than wrong. It will bring no millennium, but I am
resolved now, that I will rule. What you have said has awakened me… You
are right. Ostrog must know his place. And I will learn—…. One thing I
promise you. This Labour slavery shall end."
"And you will rule?"
"Yes. Provided—. There is one thing."
"That you will help me."
"Yes. Does it not occur to you I am absolutely alone?"
She started and for an instant her eyes had pity. "Need you ask whether I
will help you?" she said.
There came a tense silence, and then the beating of a clock striking the
hour. Graham rose.
"Even now," he said, "Ostrog will be waiting." He hesitated, facing her.
"When I have asked him certain questions—. There is much I do not know.
It may be, that I will go to see with my own eyes the things of which you
have spoken. And when I return—?"
"I shall know of your going and coming. I will wait for you here again."
They regarded one another steadfastly, questioningly, and then he turned
from her towards the Wind-Vane office.
OSTROG'S POINT OF VIEW
Graham found Ostrog waiting to give a formal account of his day's
stewardship. On previous occasions he had passed over this ceremony as
speedily as possible, in order to resume his aerial experiences, but now
he began to ask quick short questions. He was very anxious to take up his
empire forthwith. Ostrog brought flattering reports of the development of
affairs abroad. In Paris and Berlin, Graham perceived that he was saying,
there had been trouble, not organised resistance indeed, but
insubordinate proceedings. "After all these years," said Ostrog, when
Graham pressed enquiries; "the Commune has lifted its head again. That is
the real nature of the struggle, to be explicit." But order had been
restored in these cities. Graham, the more deliberately judicial for the
stirring emotions he felt, asked if there had been any fighting. "A
little," said Ostrog. "In one quarter only. But the Senegalese division
of our African agricultural police—the Consolidated African Companies
have a very well drilled police—was ready, and so were the aeroplanes.
We expected a little trouble in the continental cities, and in America.
But things are very quiet in America. They are satisfied with the
overthrow of the Council. For the time."
"Why should you expect trouble?" asked Graham abruptly.
"There is a lot of discontent—social discontent."
"The Labour Department?"
"You are learning," said Ostrog with a touch of surprise. "Yes. It is
chiefly the discontent with the Labour Department. It was that discontent
supplied the motive force of this overthrow—that and your awakening."
Ostrog smiled. He became explicit. "We had to stir up their discontent,
we had to revive the old ideals of universal happiness—all men
equal—all men happy—no luxury that everyone may not share—ideas that
have slumbered for two hundred years. You know that? We had to revive
these ideals, impossible as they are—in order to overthrow the Council.
"Our revolution is accomplished, and the Council is overthrown, and
people whom we have stirred up—remain surging. There was scarcely enough
fighting…. We made promises, of course. It is extraordinary how
violently and rapidly this vague out-of-date humanitarianism has revived
and spread. We who sowed the seed even, have been astonished. In Paris,
as I say—we have had to call in a little external help."
"There is trouble. Multitudes will not go back to work. There is a
general strike. Half the factories are empty and the people are swarming
in the ways. They are talking of a Commune. Men in silk and satin have
been insulted in the streets. The blue canvas is expecting all sorts of
things from you…. Of course there is no need for you to trouble. We are
setting the Babble Machines to work with counter suggestions in the
cause of law and order. We must keep the grip tight; that is all."
Graham thought. He perceived a way of asserting himself. But he spoke
"Even to the pitch of bringing a negro police," he said.
"They are useful," said Ostrog. "They are fine loyal brutes, with no wash
of ideas in their heads—such as our rabble has. The Council should have
had them as police of the ways, and things might have been different. Of
course, there is nothing to fear except rioting and wreckage. You can
manage your own wings now, and you can soar away to Capri if there is any
smoke or fuss. We have the pull of all the great things; the aeronauts
are privileged and rich, the closest trades union in the world, and so
are the engineers of the wind-vanes. We have the air, and the mastery of
the air is the mastery of the earth. No one of any ability is organising
against us. They have no leaders—only the sectional leaders of the
secret society we organised before your very opportune awakening. Mere
busybodies and sentimentalists they are and bitterly jealous of each
other. None of them is man enough for a central figure. The only trouble
will be a disorganised upheaval. To be frank—that may happen. But it
won't interrupt your aeronautics. The days when the People could make
revolutions are past."
"I suppose they are," said Graham. "I suppose they are." He mused. "This
world of yours has been full of surprises to me. In the old days we
dreamt of a wonderful democratic life, of a time when all men would be
equal and happy."
Ostrog looked at him steadfastly. "The day of democracy is past," he
said. "Past for ever. That day began with the bowmen of Creçy, it ended
when marching infantry, when common men in masses ceased to win the
battles of the world, when costly cannon, great ironclads, and strategic
railways became the means of power. To-day is the day of wealth. Wealth
now is power as it never was power before—it commands earth and sea and
sky. All power is for those who can handle wealth. On your behalf…. You
must accept facts, and these are facts. The world for the Crowd! The
Crowd as Ruler! Even in your days that creed had been tried and
condemned. To-day it has only one believer—a multiplex, silly one—the
man in the Crowd."
Graham did not answer immediately. He stood lost in sombre
"No," said Ostrog. "The day of the common man is past. On the open
countryside one man is as good as another, or nearly as good. The earlier
aristocracy had a precarious tenure of strength and audacity. They were
tempered—tempered. There were insurrections, duels, riots. The first
real aristocracy, the first permanent aristocracy, came in with castles
and armour, and vanished before the musket and bow. But this is the
second aristocracy. The real one. Those days of gunpowder and democracy
were only an eddy in the stream. The common man now is a helpless unit.
In these days we have this great machine of the city, and an organisation
complex beyond his understanding."
"Yet," said Graham, "there is something resists, something you are
holding down—something that stirs and presses."
"You will see," said Ostrog, with a forced smile that would brush these
difficult questions aside. "I have not roused the force to destroy
"I wonder," said Graham.
"Must the world go this way?" said Graham with his emotions at the
speaking point. "Must it indeed go in this way? Have all our hopes
"What do you mean?" said Ostrog. "Hopes?"
"I come from a democratic age. And I find an aristocratic tyranny!"
"Well,—but you are the chief tyrant."
Graham shook his head.
"Well," said Ostrog, "take the general question. It is the way that
change has always travelled. Aristocracy, the prevalence of the best—the
suffering and extinction of the unfit, and so to better things."
"But aristocracy! those people I met—"
"Oh! not those!" said Ostrog. "But for the most part they go to their
death. Vice and pleasure! They have no children. That sort of stuff will
die out. If the world keeps to one road, that is, if there is no turning
back. An easy road to excess, convenient Euthanasia for the pleasure
seekers singed in the flame, that is the way to improve the race!"
"Pleasant extinction," said Graham. "Yet—." He thought for an instant.
"There is that other thing—the Crowd, the great mass of poor men. Will
that die out? That will not die out. And it suffers, its suffering is a
force that even you—"
Ostrog moved impatiently, and when he spoke, he spoke rather less evenly
"Don't trouble about these things," he said. "Everything will be
settled in a few days now. The Crowd is a huge foolish beast. What if
it does not die out? Even if it does not die, it can still be tamed and
driven. I have no sympathy with servile men. You heard those people
shouting and singing two nights ago. They were taught that song. If
you had taken any man there in cold blood and asked why he shouted, he
could not have told you. They think they are shouting for you, that
they are loyal and devoted to you. Just then they were ready to
slaughter the Council. To-day—they are already murmuring against those
who have overthrown the Council."
"No, no," said Graham. "They shouted because their lives were dreary,
without joy or pride, and because in me—in me—they hoped."
"And what was their hope? What is their hope? What right have they to
hope? They work ill and they want the reward of those who work well. The
hope of mankind—what is it? That some day the Over-man may come, that
some day the inferior, the weak and the bestial may be subdued or
eliminated. Subdued if not eliminated. The world is no place for the bad,
the stupid, the enervated. Their duty—it's a fine duty too!—is to die.
The death of the failure! That is the path by which the beast rose to
manhood, by which man goes on to higher things."
Ostrog took a pace, seemed to think, and turned on Graham. "I can imagine
how this great world state of ours seems to a Victorian Englishman. You
regret all the old forms of representative government—their spectres
still haunt the world, the voting councils, and parliaments and all that
eighteenth century tomfoolery. You feel moved against our Pleasure
Cities. I might have thought of that,—had I not been busy. But you will
learn better. The people are mad with envy—they would be in sympathy
with you. Even in the streets now, they clamour to destroy the Pleasure
Cities. But the Pleasure Cities are the excretory organs of the State,
attractive places that year after year draw together all that is weak and
vicious, all that is lascivious and lazy, all the easy roguery of the
world, to a graceful destruction. They go there, they have their time,
they die childless, all the pretty silly lascivious women die childless,
and mankind is the better. If the people were sane they would not envy
the rich their way of death. And you would emancipate the silly brainless
workers that we have enslaved, and try to make their lives easy and
pleasant again. Just as they have sunk to what they are fit for." He
smiled a smile that irritated Graham oddly. "You will learn better. I
know those ideas; in my boyhood I read your Shelley and dreamt of
Liberty. There is no liberty, save wisdom and self-control. Liberty is
within—not without. It is each man's own affair. Suppose—which is
impossible—that these swarming yelping fools in blue get the upper hand
of us, what then? They will only fall to other masters. So long as there
are sheep Nature will insist on beasts of prey. It would mean but a few
hundred years' delay. The coming of the aristocrat is fatal and assured.
The end will be the Over-man—for all the mad protests of humanity. Let
them revolt, let them win and kill me and my like. Others will
arise—other masters. The end will be the same."
"I wonder," said Graham doggedly.
For a moment he stood downcast.
"But I must see these things for myself," he said, suddenly assuming a
tone of confident mastery. "Only by seeing can I understand. I must
learn. That is what I want to tell you, Ostrog. I do not want to be King
in a Pleasure City; that is not my pleasure. I have spent enough time
with aeronautics—and those other things. I must learn how people live
now, how the common life has developed. Then I shall understand these
things better. I must learn how common people live—the labour people
more especially—how they work, marry, bear children, die—"
"You get that from our realistic novelists," suggested Ostrog, suddenly
"I want reality," said Graham.
"There are difficulties," said Ostrog, and thought. "On the whole—"
"I did not expect—"
"I had thought—. And yet perhaps—. You say you want to go through the
ways of the city and see the common people."
Suddenly he came to some conclusion. "You would need to go disguised," he
said. "The city is intensely excited, and the discovery of your presence
among them might create a fearful tumult. Still this wish of yours to go
into this city—this idea of yours—. Yes, now I think the thing over, it
seems to me not altogether—. It can be contrived. If you would really
find an interest in that! You are, of course, Master. You can go soon if
you like. A disguise Asano will be able to manage. He would go with you.
After all it is not a bad idea of yours."
"You will not want to consult me in any matter?" asked Graham suddenly,
struck by an odd suspicion.
"Oh, dear no! No! I think you may trust affairs to me for a time, at any
rate," said Ostrog, smiling. "Even if we differ—"
Graham glanced at him sharply.
"There is no fighting likely to happen soon?" he asked abruptly.
"I have been thinking about these negroes. I don't believe the people
intend any hostility to me, and, after all, I am the Master. I do not
want any negroes brought to London. It is an archaic prejudice perhaps,
but I have peculiar feelings about Europeans and the subject races. Even
Ostrog stood watching him from under his drooping brows. "I am not
bringing negroes to London," he said slowly. "But if—"
"You are not to bring armed negroes to London, whatever happens," said
Graham. "In that matter I am quite decided."
Ostrog resolved not to speak, and bowed deferentially.
IN THE CITY WAYS
And that night, unknown and unsuspected, Graham, dressed in the costume
of an inferior wind-vane official keeping holiday, and accompanied by
Asano in Labour Department canvas, surveyed the city through which he had
wandered when it was veiled in darkness. But now he saw it lit and
waking, a whirlpool of life. In spite of the surging and swaying of the
forces of revolution, in spite of the unusual discontent, the mutterings
of the greater struggle of which the first revolt was but the prelude,
the myriad streams of commerce still flowed wide and strong. He knew now
something of the dimensions and quality of the new age, but he was not
prepared for the infinite surprise of the detailed view, for the torrent
of colour and vivid impressions that poured past him.
This was his first real contact with the people of these latter days. He
realised that all that had gone before, saving his glimpses of the public
theatres and markets, had had its element of seclusion, had been a
movement within the comparatively narrow political quarter, that all his
previous experiences had revolved immediately about the question of his
own position. But here was the city at the busiest hours of night, the
people to a large extent returned to their own immediate interests, the
resumption of the real informal life, the common habits of the new time.
They emerged at first into a street whose opposite ways were crowded
with the blue canvas liveries. This swarm Graham saw was a portion of a
procession—it was odd to see a procession parading the city seated.
They carried banners of coarse black stuff with red letters. "No
disarmament," said the banners, for the most part in crudely daubed
letters and with variant spelling, and "Why should we disarm?" "No
disarming." "No disarming." Banner after banner went by, a stream of
banners flowing past, and at last at the end, the song of the revolt and
a noisy band of strange instruments. "They all ought to be at work," said
Asano. "They have had no food these two days, or they have stolen it."
Presently Asano made a detour to avoid the congested crowd that gaped
upon the occasional passage of dead bodies from hospital to a mortuary,
the gleanings after death's harvest of the first revolt.
That night few people were sleeping, everyone was abroad. A vast
excitement, perpetual crowds perpetually changing, surrounded Graham; his
mind was confused and darkened by an incessant tumult, by the cries and
enigmatical fragments of the social struggle that was as yet only
beginning. Everywhere festoons and banners of black and strange
decorations, intensified the quality of his popularity. Everywhere he
caught snatches of that crude thick dialect that served the illiterate
class, the class, that is, beyond the reach of phonograph culture, in
their commonplace intercourse. Everywhere this trouble of disarmament was
in the air, with a quality of immediate stress of which he had no inkling
during his seclusion in the Wind-Vane quarter. He perceived that as soon
as he returned he must discuss this with Ostrog, this and the greater
issues of which it was the expression, in a far more conclusive way than
he had so far done. Perpetually that night, even in the earlier hours of
their wanderings about the city, the spirit of unrest and revolt swamped
his attention, to the exclusion of countless strange things he might
otherwise have observed.
This preoccupation made his impressions fragmentary. Yet amidst so much
that was strange and vivid, no subject, however personal and insistent,
could exert undivided sway. There were spaces when the revolutionary
movement passed clean out of his mind, was drawn aside like a curtain
from before some startling new aspect of the time. Helen had swayed his
mind to this intense earnestness of enquiry, but there came times when
she, even, receded beyond his conscious thoughts. At one moment, for
example, he found they were traversing the religious quarter, for the
easy transit about the city afforded by the moving ways rendered sporadic
churches and chapels no longer necessary—and his attention was vividly
arrested by the façade of one of the Christian sects.
They were travelling seated on one of the swift upper ways, the place
leapt upon them at a bend and advanced rapidly towards them. It was
covered with inscriptions from top to base, in vivid white and blue, save
where a vast and glaring kinematograph transparency presented a realistic
New Testament scene, and where a vast festoon of black to show that the
popular religion followed the popular politics, hung across the
lettering. Graham had already become familiar with the phonotype writing
and these inscriptions arrested him, being to his sense for the most part
almost incredible blasphemy. Among the less offensive were "Salvation on
the First Floor and turn to the Right." "Put your Money on your Maker."
"The Sharpest Conversion in London, Expert Operators! Look Slippy!" "What
Christ would say to the Sleeper;—Join the Up-to-date Saints!" "Be a
Christian—without hindrance to your present Occupation." "All the
Brightest Bishops on the Bench to-night and Prices as Usual." "Brisk
Blessings for Busy Business Men."
"But this is appalling!" said Graham, as that deafening scream of
mercantile piety towered above them.
"What is appalling?" asked his little officer, apparently seeking vainly
for anything unusual in this shrieking enamel.
"This! Surely the essence of religion is reverence."
"Oh that!" Asano looked at Graham. "Does it shock you?" he said in the
tone of one who makes a discovery. "I suppose it would, of course. I had
forgotten. Nowadays the competition for attention is so keen, and people
simply haven't the leisure to attend to their souls, you know, as they
used to do." He smiled. "In the old days you had quiet Sabbaths and the
countryside. Though somewhere I've read of Sunday afternoons that—"
"But that," said Graham, glancing back at the receding blue and white.
"That is surely not the only—"
"There are hundreds of different ways. But, of course, if a sect doesn't
tell it doesn't pay. Worship has moved with the times. There are high
class sects with quieter ways—costly incense and personal attentions
and all that. These people are extremely popular and prosperous. They
pay several dozen lions for those apartments to the Council—to you, I
Graham still felt a difficulty with the coinage, and this mention of a
dozen lions brought him abruptly to that matter. In a moment the
screaming temples and their swarming touts were forgotten in this new
interest. A turn of a phrase suggested, and an answer confirmed the idea
that gold and silver were both demonetised, that stamped gold which had
begun its reign amidst the merchants of Phoenicia was at last dethroned.
The change had been graduated but swift, brought about by an extension of
the system of cheques that had even in his previous life already
practically superseded gold in all the larger business transactions. The
common traffic of the city, the common currency indeed of all the world,
was conducted by means of the little brown, green and pink council
cheques for small amounts, printed with a blank payee. Asano had several
with him, and at the first opportunity he supplied the gaps in his set.
They were printed not on tearable paper, but on a semi-transparent fabric
of silken flexibility, interwoven with silk. Across them all sprawled a
facsimile of Graham's signature, his first encounter with the curves and
turns of that familiar autograph for two hundred and three years.
Some intermediary experiences made no impression sufficiently vivid to
prevent the matter of the disarmament claiming his thoughts again; a
blurred picture of a Theosophist temple that promised MIRACLES in
enormous letters of unsteady fire was least submerged perhaps, but then
came the view of the dining hall in Northumberland Avenue. That
interested him very greatly.
By the energy and thought of Asano he was able to view this place from a
little screened gallery reserved for the attendants of the tables. The
building was pervaded by a distant muffled hooting, piping and bawling,
of which he did not at first understand the import, but which recalled a
certain mysterious leathery voice he had heard after the resumption of
the lights on the night of his solitary wandering.
He had grown accustomed to vastness and great numbers of people,
nevertheless this spectacle held him for a long time. It was as he
watched the table service more immediately beneath, and interspersed
with many questions and answers concerning details, that the
realisation of the full significance of the feast of several thousand
people came to him.
It was his constant surprise to find that points that one might have
expected to strike vividly at the very outset never occurred to him until
some trivial detail suddenly shaped as a riddle and pointed to the
obvious thing he had overlooked. He discovered only now that this
continuity of the city, this exclusion of weather, these vast halls and
ways, involved the disappearance of the household; that the typical
Victorian "Home," the little brick cell containing kitchen and scullery,
living rooms and bedrooms, had, save for the ruins that diversified the
countryside, vanished as surely as the wattle hut. But now he saw what
had indeed been manifest from the first, that London, regarded as a
living place, was no longer an aggregation of houses but a prodigious
hotel, an hotel with a thousand classes of accommodation, thousands of
dining halls, chapels, theatres, markets and places of assembly, a
synthesis of enterprises, of which he chiefly was the owner. People had
their sleeping rooms, with, it might be, antechambers, rooms that were
always sanitary at least whatever the degree of comfort and privacy, and
for the rest they lived much as many people had lived in the new-made
giant hotels of the Victorian days, eating, reading, thinking, playing,
conversing, all in places of public resort, going to their work in the
industrial quarters of the city or doing business in their offices in the
He perceived at once how necessarily this state of affairs had developed
from the Victorian city. The fundamental reason for the modern city had
ever been the economy of co-operation. The chief thing to prevent the
merging of the separate households in his own generation was simply the
still imperfect civilisation of the people, the strong barbaric pride,
passions, and prejudices, the jealousies, rivalries, and violence of the
middle and lower classes, which had necessitated the entire separation of
contiguous households. But the change, the taming of the people, had been
in rapid progress even then. In his brief thirty years of previous life
he had seen an enormous extension of the habit of consuming meals from
home, the casually patronised horse-box coffee-house had given place to
the open and crowded Aerated Bread Shop for instance, women's clubs had
had their beginning, and an immense development of reading rooms, lounges
and libraries had witnessed to the growth of social confidence. These
promises had by this time attained to their complete fulfilment. The
locked and barred household had passed away.
These people below him belonged, he learnt, to the lower middle class,
the class just above the blue labourers, a class so accustomed in the
Victorian period to feed with every precaution of privacy that its
members, when occasion confronted them with a public meal, would usually
hide their embarrassment under horseplay or a markedly militant
demeanour. But these gaily, if lightly dressed people below, albeit
vivacious, hurried and uncommunicative, were dexterously mannered and
certainly quite at their ease with regard to one another.
He noted a slight significant thing; the table, as far as he could see,
was and remained delightfully neat, there was nothing to parallel the
confusion, the broadcast crumbs, the splashes of viand and condiment, the
overturned drink and displaced ornaments, which would have marked the
stormy progress of the Victorian meal. The table furniture was very
different. There were no ornaments, no flowers, and the table was without
a cloth, being made, he learnt, of a solid substance having the texture
and appearance of damask. He discerned that this damask substance was
patterned with gracefully designed trade advertisements.
In a sort of recess before each diner was a complex apparatus of
porcelain and metal. There was one plate of white porcelain, and by means
of taps for hot and cold volatile fluids the diner washed this himself
between the courses; he also washed his elegant white metal knife and
fork and spoon as occasion required.
Soup and the chemical wine that was the common drink were delivered by
similar taps, and the remaining covers travelled automatically in
tastefully arranged dishes down the table along silver rails. The diner
stopped these and helped himself at his discretion. They appeared at a
little door at one end of the table, and vanished at the other. That turn
of democratic sentiment in decay, that ugly pride of menial souls, which
renders equals loth to wait on one another, was very strong he found
among these people. He was so preoccupied with these details that it was
only as he was leaving the place that he remarked the huge advertisement
dioramas that marched majestically along the upper walls and proclaimed
the most remarkable commodities.
Beyond this place they came into a crowded hall, and he discovered the
cause of the noise that had perplexed him. They paused at a turnstile at
which a payment was made.
Graham's attention was immediately arrested by a violent, loud hoot,
followed by a vast leathery voice. "The Master is sleeping peacefully,"
it vociferated. "He is in excellent health. He is going to devote the
rest of his life to aeronautics. He says women are more beautiful than
ever. Galloop! Wow! Our wonderful civilisation astonishes him beyond
measure. Beyond all measure. Galloop. He puts great trust in Boss
Ostrog, absolute confidence in Boss Ostrog. Ostrog is to be his chief
minister; is authorised to remove or reinstate public officers—all
patronage will be in his hands. All patronage in the hands of Boss
Ostrog! The Councillors have been sent back to their own prison above
the Council House."
Graham stopped at the first sentence, and, looking up, beheld a foolish
trumpet face from which this was brayed. This was the General
Intelligence Machine. For a space it seemed to be gathering breath, and a
regular throbbing from its cylindrical body was audible. Then it
trumpeted "Galloop, Galloop," and broke out again.
"Paris is now pacified. All resistance is over. Galloop! The black police
hold every position of importance in the city. They fought with great
bravery, singing songs written in praise of their ancestors by the poet
Kipling. Once or twice they got out of hand, and tortured and mutilated
wounded and captured insurgents, men and women. Moral—don't go
rebelling. Haha! Galloop, Galloop! They are lively fellows. Lively brave
fellows. Let this be a lesson to the disorderly banderlog of this city.
Yah! Banderlog! Filth of the earth! Galloop, Galloop!"
The voice ceased. There was a confused murmur of disapproval among the
crowd. "Damned niggers." A man began to harangue near them. "Is this the
Master's doing, brothers? Is this the Master's doing?"
"Black police!" said Graham. "What is that? You don't mean—"
Asano touched his arm and gave him a warning look, and forthwith another
of these mechanisms screamed deafeningly and gave tongue in a shrill
voice. "Yahaha, Yahah, Yap! Hear a live paper yelp! Live paper. Yaha!
Shocking outrage in Paris. Yahahah! The Parisians exasperated by the
black police to the pitch of assassination. Dreadful reprisals. Savage
times come again. Blood! Blood! Yaha!" The nearer Babble Machine hooted
stupendously, "Galloop, Galloop," drowned the end of the sentence, and
proceeded in a rather flatter note than before with novel comments on the
horrors of disorder. "Law and order must be maintained," said the nearer
"But," began Graham.
"Don't ask questions here," said Asano, "or you will be involved in an
"Then let us go on," said Graham, "for I want to know more of this."
As he and his companion pushed their way through the excited crowd that
swarmed beneath these voices, towards the exit, Graham conceived more
clearly the proportion and features of this room. Altogether, great and
small, there must have been nearly a thousand of these erections,
piping, hooting, bawling and gabbling in that great space, each with its
crowd of excited listeners, the majority of them men dressed in blue
canvas. There were all sizes of machines, from the little gossiping
mechanisms that chuckled out mechanical sarcasm in odd corners, through
a number of grades to such fifty-foot giants as that which had first
hooted over Graham.
This place was unusually crowded, because of the intense public interest
in the course of affairs in Paris. Evidently the struggle had been much
more savage than Ostrog had represented it. All the mechanisms were
discoursing upon that topic, and the repetition of the people made the
huge hive buzz with such phrases as "Lynched policemen," "Women burnt
alive," "Fuzzy Wuzzy." "But does the Master allow such things?" asked a
man near him. "Is this the beginning of the Master's rule?"
Is this the beginning of the Master's rule? For a long time after he
had left the place, the hooting, whistling and braying of the machines
pursued him; "Galloop, Galloop," "Yahahah, Yaha, Yap! Yaha!" Is this
the beginning of the Master's rule?
Directly they were out upon the ways he began to question Asano closely
on the nature of the Parisian struggle. "This disarmament! What was their
trouble? What does it all mean?" Asano seemed chiefly anxious to reassure
him that it was "all right."
"But these outrages!"
"You cannot have an omelette," said Asano, "without breaking eggs. It is
only the rough people. Only in one part of the city. All the rest is all
right. The Parisian labourers are the wildest in the world, except ours."
"What! the Londoners?"
"No, the Japanese. They have to be kept in order."
"But burning women alive!"
"A Commune!" said Asano. "They would rob you of your property. They would
do away with property and give the world over to mob rule. You are
Master, the world is yours. But there will be no Commune here. There is
no need for black police here.
"And every consideration has been shown. It is their own negroes—French
speaking negroes. Senegal regiments, and Niger and Timbuctoo."
"Regiments?" said Graham, "I thought there was only one—"
"No," said Asano, and glanced at him. "There is more than one."
Graham felt unpleasantly helpless.
"I did not think," he began and stopped abruptly. He went off at a
tangent to ask for information about these Babble Machines. For the most
part, the crowd present had been shabbily or even raggedly dressed, and
Graham learnt that so far as the more prosperous classes were concerned,
in all the more comfortable private apartments of the city were fixed
Babble Machines that would speak directly a lever was pulled. The tenant
of the apartment could connect this with the cables of any of the great
News Syndicates that he preferred. When he learnt this presently, he
demanded the reason of their absence from his own suite of apartments.
Asano was embarrassed. "I never thought," he said. "Ostrog must have had
Graham stared. "How was I to know?" he exclaimed.
"Perhaps he thought they would annoy you," said Asano.
"They must be replaced directly I return," said Graham after an interval.
He found a difficulty in understanding that this news room and the dining
hall were not great central places, that such establishments were
repeated almost beyond counting all over the city. But ever and again
during the night's expedition his ears would pick out from the tumult of
the ways the peculiar hooting of the organ of Boss Ostrog, "Galloop,
Galloop!" or the shrill "Yahaha, Yaha Yap!—Hear a live paper yelp!" of
its chief rival.
Repeated, too, everywhere, were such crèches as the one he now entered.
It was reached by a lift, and by a glass bridge that flung across the
dining hall and traversed the ways at a slight upward angle. To enter the
first section of the place necessitated the use of his solvent signature
under Asano's direction. They were immediately attended to by a man in a
violet robe and gold clasp, the insignia of practising medical men. He
perceived from this man's manner that his identity was known, and
proceeded to ask questions on the strange arrangements of the place
On either side of the passage, which was silent and padded, as if to
deaden the footfall, were narrow little doors, their size and arrangement
suggestive of the cells of a Victorian prison. But the upper portion of
each door was of the same greenish transparent stuff that had enclosed
him at his awakening, and within, dimly seen, lay, in every case, a very
young baby in a little nest of wadding. Elaborate apparatus watched the
atmosphere and rang a bell far away in the central office at the
slightest departure from the optimum of temperature and moisture. A
system of such crèches had almost entirely replaced the hazardous
adventures of the old-world nursing. The attendant presently called
Graham's attention to the wet nurses, a vista of mechanical figures, with
arms, shoulders, and breasts of astonishingly realistic modelling,
articulation, and texture, but mere brass tripods below, and having in
the place of features a flat disc bearing advertisements likely to be of
interest to mothers.
Of all the strange things that Graham came upon that night, none jarred
more upon his habits of thought than this place. The spectacle of the
little pink creatures, their feeble limbs swaying uncertainly in vague
first movements, left alone, without embrace or endearment, was wholly
repugnant to him. The attendant doctor was of a different opinion. His
statistical evidence showed beyond dispute that in the Victorian times
the most dangerous passage of life was the arms of the mother, that there
human mortality had ever been most terrible. On the other hand this
crèche company, the International Crèche Syndicate, lost not one-half
per cent, of the million babies or so that formed its peculiar care. But
Graham's prejudice was too strong even for those figures.
Along one of the many passages of the place they presently came upon a
young couple in the usual blue canvas peering through the transparency
and laughing hysterically at the bald head of their first-born. Graham's
face must have showed his estimate of them, for their merriment ceased
and they looked abashed. But this little incident accentuated his sudden
realisation of the gulf between his habits of thought and the ways of the
new age. He passed on to the crawling rooms and the Kindergarten,
perplexed and distressed. He found the endless long playrooms were empty!
the latter-day children at least still spent their nights in sleep. As
they went through these, the little officer pointed out the nature of the
toys, developments of those devised by that inspired sentimentalist
Froebel. There were nurses here, but much was done by machines that sang
and danced and dandled.
Graham was still not clear upon many points. "But so many orphans," he
said perplexed, reverting to a first misconception, and learnt again that
they were not orphans.
So soon as they had left the crèche he began to speak of the horror the
babies in their incubating cases had caused him. "Is motherhood gone?" he
said. "Was it a cant? Surely it was an instinct. This seems so
"Along here we shall come to the dancing place," said Asano by way of
reply. "It is sure to be crowded. In spite of all the political unrest it
will be crowded. The women take no great interest in politics—except a
few here and there. You will see the mothers—most young women in London
are mothers. In that class it is considered a creditable thing to have
one child—a proof of animation. Few middle class people have more than
one. With the Labour Department it is different. As for motherhood! They
still take an immense pride in the children. They come here to look at
them quite often."
"Then do you mean that the population of the World—?"
"Is falling? Yes. Except among the people under the Labour Department. In
spite of scientific discipline they are reckless—"
The air was suddenly dancing with music, and down a way they approached
obliquely, set with gorgeous pillars as it seemed of clear amethyst,
flowed a concourse of gay people and a tumult of merry cries and
laughter. He saw curled heads, wreathed brows, and a happy intricate
flutter of gamboge pass triumphant across the picture.
"You will see," said Asano with a faint smile. "The world has changed. In
a moment you will see the mothers of the new age. Come this way. We shall
see those yonder again very soon."
They ascended a certain height in a swift lift, and changed to a slower
one. As they went on the music grew upon them, until it was near and full
and splendid, and, moving with its glorious intricacies they could
distinguish the beat of innumerable dancing feet. They made a payment at
a turnstile, and emerged upon the wide gallery that overlooked the
dancing place, and upon the full enchantment of sound and sight.
"Here," said Asano, "are the fathers and mothers of the little
ones you saw."
The hall was not so richly decorated as that of the Atlas, but saving
that, it was, for its size, the most splendid Graham had seen. The
beautiful white-limbed figures that supported the galleries reminded him
once more of the restored magnificence of sculpture; they seemed to
writhe in engaging attitudes, their faces laughed. The source of the
music that filled the place was hidden, and the whole vast shining floor
was thick with dancing couples. "Look at them," said the little officer,
"see how much they show of motherhood."
The gallery they stood upon ran along the upper edge of a huge screen
that cut the dancing hall on one side from a sort of outer hall that
showed through broad arches the incessant onward rush of the city ways.
In this outer hall was a great crowd of less brilliantly dressed people,
as numerous almost as those who danced within, the great majority wearing
the blue uniform of the Labour Department that was now so familiar to
Graham. Too poor to pass the turnstiles to the festival, they were yet
unable to keep away from the sound of its seductions. Some of them even
had cleared spaces, and were dancing also, fluttering their rags in the
air. Some shouted as they danced, jests and odd allusions Graham did not
understand. Once someone began whistling the refrain of the revolutionary
song, but it seemed as though that beginning was promptly suppressed. The
corner was dark and Graham could not see. He turned to the hall again.
Above the caryatids were marble busts of men whom that age esteemed great
moral emancipators and pioneers; for the most part their names were
strange to Graham, though he recognised Grant Allen, Le Gallienne,
Nietzsche, Shelley and Goodwin. Great black festoons and eloquent
sentiments reinforced the huge inscription that partially defaced the
upper end of the dancing place, and asserted that "The Festival of the
Awakening" was in progress.
"Myriads are taking holiday or staying from work because of that, quite
apart from the labourers who refuse to go back," said Asano. "These
people are always ready for holidays."
Graham walked to the parapet and stood leaning over, looking down at the
dancers. Save for two or three remote whispering couples, who had stolen
apart, he and his guide had the gallery to themselves. A warm breath of
scent and vitality came up to him. Both men and women below were lightly
clad, bare-armed, open-necked, as the universal warmth of the city
permitted. The hair of the men was often a mass of effeminate curls,
their chins were always shaven, and many of them had flushed or coloured
cheeks. Many of the women were very pretty, and all were dressed with
elaborate coquetry. As they swept by beneath, he saw ecstatic faces with
eyes half closed in pleasure.
"What sort of people are these?" he asked abruptly.
"Workers—prosperous workers. What you would have called the middle
class. Independent tradesmen with little separate businesses have
vanished long ago, but there are store servers, managers, engineers of a
hundred sorts. To-night is a holiday of course, and every dancing place
in the city will be crowded, and every place of worship."
"The same. There's a thousand forms of work for women now. But you had
the beginning of the independent working-woman in your days. Most women
are independent now. Most of these are married more or less—there are a
number of methods of contract—and that gives them more money, and
enables them to enjoy themselves."
"I see," said Graham, looking at the flushed faces, the flash and swirl
of movement, and still thinking of that nightmare of pink helpless limbs.
"And these are—mothers."
"Most of them."
"The more I see of these things the more complex I find your problems.
This, for instance, is a surprise. That news from Paris was a surprise."
In a little while he spoke again:
"These are mothers. Presently, I suppose, I shall get into the modern way
of seeing things. I have old habits of mind clinging about me—habits
based, I suppose, on needs that are over and done with. Of course, in our
time, a woman was supposed not only to bear children, but to cherish
them, to devote herself to them, to educate them—all the essentials of
moral and mental education a child owed its mother. Or went without.
Quite a number, I admit, went without. Nowadays, clearly, there is no
more need for such care than if they were butterflies. I see that! Only
there was an ideal—that figure of a grave, patient woman, silently and
serenely mistress of a home, mother and maker of men—to love her was a
sort of worship—"
He stopped and repeated, "A sort of worship."
"Ideals change," said the little man, "as needs change."
Graham awoke from an instant reverie and Asano repeated his words.
Graham's mind returned to the thing at hand.
"Of course I see the perfect reasonableness of this. Restraint,
soberness, the matured thought, the unselfish act, they are necessities
of the barbarous state, the life of dangers. Dourness is man's tribute to
unconquered nature. But man has conquered nature now for all practical
purposes—his political affairs are managed by Bosses with a black
police—and life is joyous."
He looked at the dancers again. "Joyous," he said.
"There are weary moments," said the little officer, reflectively.
"They all look young. Down there I should be visibly the oldest man. And
in my own time I should have passed as middle-aged."
"They are young. There are few old people in this class in the
"How is that?"
"Old people's lives are not so pleasant as they used to be, unless they
are rich to hire lovers and helpers. And we have an institution called
"Ah! that Euthanasy!" said Graham. "The easy death?"
"The easy death. It is the last pleasure. The Euthanasy Company does it
well. People will pay the sum—it is a costly thing—long beforehand, go
off to some pleasure city and return impoverished and weary, very weary."
"There is a lot left for me to understand," said Graham after a pause.
"Yet I see the logic of it all. Our array of angry virtues and sour
restraints was the consequence of danger and insecurity. The Stoic, the
Puritan, even in my time, were vanishing types. In the old days man was
armed against Pain, now he is eager for Pleasure. There lies the
difference. Civilisation has driven pain and danger so far off—for
well-to-do people. And only well-to-do people matter now. I have been
asleep two hundred years."
For a minute they leant on the balustrading, following the intricate
evolution of the dance. Indeed the scene was very beautiful.
"Before God," said Graham, suddenly, "I would rather be a wounded
sentinel freezing in the snow than one of these painted fools!"
"In the snow," said Asano, "one might think differently."
"I am uncivilised," said Graham, not heeding him. "That is the trouble. I
am primitive—Paleolithic. Their fountain of rage and fear and anger is
sealed and closed, the habits of a lifetime make them cheerful and easy
and delightful. You must bear with my nineteenth century shocks and
disgusts. These people, you say, are skilled workers and so forth. And
while these dance, men are fighting—men are dying in Paris to keep the
world—that they may dance."
Asano smiled faintly. "For that matter, men are dying in London," he
There was a moment's silence.
"Where do these sleep?" asked Graham.
"Above and below—an intricate warren."
"And where do they work? This is—the domestic life."
"You will see little work to-night. Half the workers are out or under
arms. Half these people are keeping holiday. But we will go to the work
places if you wish it."
For a time Graham watched the dancers, then suddenly turned away. "I want
to see the workers. I have seen enough of these," he said.
Asano led the way along the gallery across the dancing hall. Presently
they came to a transverse passage that brought a breath of fresher,
Asano glanced at this passage as they went past, stopped, went back to
it, and turned to Graham with a smile. "Here, Sire," he said, "is
something—will be familiar to you at least—and yet—. But I will not
tell you. Come!"
He led the way along a closed passage that presently became cold. The
reverberation of their feet told that this passage was a bridge. They
came into a circular gallery that was glazed in from the outer weather,
and so reached a circular chamber which seemed familiar, though Graham
could not recall distinctly when he had entered it before. In this was a
ladder—the first ladder he had seen since his awakening—up which they
went, and came into a high, dark, cold place in which was another almost
vertical ladder. This they ascended, Graham still perplexed.
But at the top he understood, and recognised the metallic bars to which
he clung. He was in the cage under the ball of St. Paul's. The dome rose
but a little way above the general contour of the city, into the still
twilight, and sloped away, shining greasily under a few distant lights,
into a circumambient ditch of darkness.
Out between the bars he looked upon the wind-clear northern sky and saw
the starry constellations all unchanged. Capella hung in the west, Vega
was rising, and the seven glittering points of the Great Bear swept
overhead in their stately circle about the Pole.
He saw these stars in a clear gap of sky. To the east and south the great
circular shapes of complaining wind-wheels blotted out the heavens, so
that the glare about the Council House was hidden. To the southwest hung
Orion, showing like a pallid ghost through a tracery of iron-work and
interlacing shapes above a dazzling coruscation of lights. A bellowing
and siren screaming that came from the flying stages warned the world
that one of the aeroplanes was ready to start. He remained for a space
gazing towards the glaring stage. Then his eyes went back to the
For a long time he was silent. "This," he said at last, smiling in the
shadow, "seems the strangest thing of all. To stand in the dome of St.
Paul's and look once more upon these familiar, silent stars!"
Thence Graham was taken by Asano along devious ways to the great gambling
and business quarters where the bulk of the fortunes in the city were
lost and made. It impressed him as a well-nigh interminable series of
very high halls, surrounded by tiers upon tiers of galleries into which
opened thousands of offices, and traversed by a complicated multitude of
bridges, footways, aerial motor rails, and trapeze and cable leaps. And
here more than anywhere the note of vehement vitality, of uncontrollable,
hasty activity, rose high. Everywhere was violent advertisement, until
his brain swam at the tumult of light and colour. And Babble Machines of
a peculiarly rancid tone were abundant and filled the air with strenuous
squealing and an idiotic slang. "Skin your eyes and slide," "Gewhoop,
Bonanza," "Gollipers come and hark!"
The place seemed to him to be dense with people either profoundly
agitated or swelling with obscure cunning, yet he learnt that the place
was comparatively empty, that the great political convulsion of the last
few days had reduced transactions to an unprecedented minimum. In one
huge place were long avenues of roulette tables, each with an excited,
undignified crowd about it; in another a yelping Babel of white-faced
women and red-necked leathery-lunged men bought and sold the shares of an
absolutely fictitious business undertaking which, every five minutes,
paid a dividend of ten per cent, and cancelled a certain proportion of
its shares by means of a lottery wheel.
These business activities were prosecuted with an energy that readily
passed into violence, and Graham approaching a dense crowd found at its
centre a couple of prominent merchants in violent controversy with teeth
and nails on some delicate point of business etiquette. Something still
remained in life to be fought for. Further he had a shock at a vehement
announcement in phonetic letters of scarlet flame, each twice the height
of a man, that "WE ASSURE THE PROPRAIET'R. WE ASSURE THE PROPRAIET'R."
"Who's the proprietor?" he asked.
"But what do they assure me?" he asked. "What do they assure me?"
"Didn't you have assurance?"
Graham thought. "Insurance?"
"Yes—Insurance. I remember that was the older word. They are insuring
your life. Dozands of people are taking out policies, myriads of lions
are being put on you. And further on other people are buying annuities.
They do that on everybody who is at all prominent. Look there!"
A crowd of people surged and roared, and Graham saw a vast black screen
suddenly illuminated in still larger letters of burning purple. "Anuetes
on the Propraiet'r—x 5 pr. G." The people began to boo and shout at
this, a number of hard breathing, wild-eyed men came running past,
clawing with hooked fingers at the air. There was a furious crush about a
Asano did a brief, inaccurate calculation. "Seventeen per cent, per
annum is their annuity on you. They would not pay so much per cent, if
they could see you now, Sire. But they do not know. Your own annuities
used to be a very safe investment, but now you are sheer gambling, of
course. This is probably a desperate bid. I doubt if people will get
The crowd of would-be annuitants grew so thick about them that for some
time they could move neither forward nor backward. Graham noticed what
appeared to him to be a high proportion of women among the speculators,
and was reminded again of the economic independence of their sex. They
seemed remarkably well able to take care of themselves in the crowd,
using their elbows with particular skill, as he learnt to his cost. One
curly-headed person caught in the pressure for a space, looked
steadfastly at him several times, almost as if she recognised him, and
then, edging deliberately towards him, touched his hand with her arm in a
scarcely accidental manner, and made it plain by a look as ancient as
Chaldea that he had found favour in her eyes. And then a lank,
grey-bearded man, perspiring copiously in a noble passion of self-help,
blind to all earthly things save that glaring bait, thrust between them
in a cataclysmal rush towards that alluring "X 5 pr. G."
"I want to get out of this," said Graham to Asano. "This is not what I
came to see. Show me the workers. I want to see the people in blue. These
He found himself wedged into a straggling mass of people.
From the Business Quarter they presently passed by the running ways into
a remote quarter of the city, where the bulk of the manufactures was
done. On their way the platforms crossed the Thames twice, and passed in
a broad viaduct across one of the great roads that entered the city from
the North. In both cases his impression was swift and in both very vivid.
The river was a broad wrinkled glitter of black sea water, overarched by
buildings, and vanishing either way into a blackness starred with
receding lights. A string of black barges passed seaward, manned by
blue-clad men. The road was a long and very broad and high tunnel, along
which big-wheeled machines drove noiselessly and swiftly. Here, too, the
distinctive blue of the Labour Department was in abundance. The
smoothness of the double tracks, the largeness and the lightness of the
big pneumatic wheels in proportion to the vehicular body, struck Graham
most vividly. One lank and very high carriage with longitudinal metallic
rods hung with the dripping carcasses of many hundred sheep arrested his
attention unduly. Abruptly the edge of the archway cut and blotted out
Presently they left the way and descended by a lift and traversed a
passage that sloped downward, and so came to a descending lift again. The
appearance of things changed. Even the pretence of architectural
ornament disappeared, the lights diminished in number and size, the
architecture became more and more massive in proportion to the spaces as
the factory quarters were reached. And in the dusty biscuit-making place
of the potters, among the felspar mills, in the furnace rooms of the
metal workers, among the incandescent lakes of crude Eadhamite, the blue
canvas clothing was on man, woman and child.
Many of these great and dusty galleries were silent avenues of machinery,
endless raked out ashen furnaces testified to the revolutionary
dislocation, but wherever there was work it was being done by slow-moving
workers in blue canvas. The only people not in blue canvas were the
overlookers of the work-places and the orange-clad Labour Police. And
fresh from the flushed faces of the dancing halls, the voluntary vigours
of the business quarter, Graham could note the pinched faces, the feeble
muscles, and weary eyes of many of the latter-day workers. Such as he saw
at work were noticeably inferior in physique to the few gaily dressed
managers and forewomen who were directing their labours. The burly
labourers of the old Victorian times had followed that dray horse and all
such living force producers, to extinction; the place of his costly
muscles was taken by some dexterous machine. The latter-day labourer,
male as well as female, was essentially a machine-minder and feeder, a
servant and attendant, or an artist under direction.
The women, in comparison with those Graham remembered, were as a class
distinctly plain and flat-chested. Two hundred years of emancipation
from the moral restraints of Puritanical religion, two hundred years of
city life, had done their work in eliminating the strain of feminine
beauty and vigour from the blue canvas myriads. To be brilliant
physically or mentally, to be in any way attractive or exceptional, had
been and was still a certain way of emancipation to the drudge, a line
of escape to the Pleasure City and its splendours and delights, and at
last to the Euthanasy and peace. To be steadfast against such
inducements was scarcely to be expected of meanly nourished souls. In
the young cities of Graham's former life, the newly aggregated labouring
mass had been a diverse multitude, still stirred by the tradition of
personal honour and a high morality; now it was differentiating into an
instinct class, with a moral and physical difference of its own—even
with a dialect of its own.
They penetrated downward, ever downward, towards the working places.
Presently they passed underneath one of the streets of the moving ways,
and saw its platforms running on their rails far overhead, and chinks of
white lights between the transverse slits. The factories that were not
working were sparsely lighted; to Graham they and their shrouded aisles
of giant machines seemed plunged in gloom, and even where work was going
on the illumination was far less brilliant than upon the public ways.
Beyond the blazing lakes of Eadhamite he came to the warren of the
jewellers, and, with some difficulty and by using his signature, obtained
admission to these galleries. They were high and dark, and rather cold.
In the first a few men were making ornaments of gold filigree, each man
at a little bench by himself, and with a little shaded light. The long
vista of light patches, with the nimble fingers brightly lit and moving
among the gleaming yellow coils, and the intent face like the face of a
ghost, in each shadow, had the oddest effect.
The work was beautifully executed, but without any strength of modelling
or drawing, for the most part intricate grotesques or the ringing of the
changes on a geometrical motif. These workers wore a peculiar white
uniform without pockets or sleeves. They assumed this on coming to work,
but at night they were stripped and examined before they left the
premises of the Department. In spite of every precaution, the Labour
policeman told them in a depressed tone, the Department was not
Beyond was a gallery of women busied in cutting and setting slabs of
artificial ruby, and next these were men and women working together upon
the slabs of copper net that formed the basis of cloisonné tiles. Many
of these workers had lips and nostrils a livid white, due to a disease
caused by a peculiar purple enamel that chanced to be much in fashion.
Asano apologised to Graham for this offensive sight, but excused himself
on the score of the convenience of this route. "This is what I wanted to
see," said Graham; "this is what I wanted to see," trying to avoid a
start at a particularly striking disfigurement.
"She might have done better with herself than that," said Asano.
Graham made some indignant comments.
"But, Sire, we simply could not stand that stuff without the purple,"
said Asano. "In your days people could stand such crudities, they were
nearer the barbaric by two hundred years."
They continued along one of the lower galleries of this cloisonné
factory, and came to a little bridge that spanned a vault. Looking over
the parapet, Graham saw that beneath was a wharf under yet more
tremendous archings than any he had seen. Three barges, smothered in
floury dust, were being unloaded of their cargoes of powdered felspar by
a multitude of coughing men, each guiding a little truck; the dust filled
the place with a choking mist, and turned the electric glare yellow. The
vague shadows of these workers gesticulated about their feet, and rushed
to and fro against a long stretch of white-washed wall. Every now and
then one would stop to cough.
A shadowy, huge mass of masonry rising out of the inky water, brought to
Graham's mind the thought of the multitude of ways and galleries and
lifts that rose floor above floor overhead between him and the sky. The
men worked in silence under the supervision of two of the Labour Police;
their feet made a hollow thunder on the planks along which they went to
and fro. And as he looked at this scene, some hidden voice in the
darkness began to sing.
"Stop that!" shouted one of the policemen, but the order was disobeyed,
and first one and then all the white-stained men who were working there
had taken up the beating refrain, singing it defiantly—the Song of the
Revolt. The feet upon the planks thundered now to the rhythm of the song,
tramp, tramp, tramp. The policeman who had shouted glanced at his fellow,
and Graham saw him shrug his shoulders. He made no further effort to stop
And so they went through these factories and places of toil, seeing many
painful and grim things. That walk left on Graham's mind a maze of
memories, fluctuating pictures of swathed halls, and crowded vaults seen
through clouds of dust, of intricate machines, the racing threads of
looms, the heavy beat of stamping machinery, the roar and rattle of belt
and armature, of ill-lit subterranean aisles of sleeping places,
illimitable vistas of pin-point lights. Here was the smell of tanning,
and here the reek of a brewery, and here unprecedented reeks. Everywhere
were pillars and cross archings of such a massiveness as Graham had never
before seen, thick Titans of greasy, shining brickwork crushed beneath
the vast weight of that complex city world, even as these anemic millions
were crushed by its complexity. And everywhere were pale features, lean
limbs, disfigurement and degradation.
Once and again, and again a third time, Graham heard the song of the
revolt during his long, unpleasant research in these places, and once he
saw a confused struggle down a passage, and learnt that a number of these
serfs had seized their bread before their work was done. Graham was
ascending towards the ways again when he saw a number of blue-clad
children running down a transverse passage, and presently perceived the
reason of their panic in a company of the Labour Police armed with clubs,
trotting towards some unknown disturbance. And then came a remote
disorder. But for the most part this remnant that worked, worked
hopelessly. All the spirit that was left in fallen humanity was above in
the streets that night, calling for the Master, and valiantly and noisily
keeping its arms.
They emerged from these wanderings and stood blinking in the bright light
of the middle passage of the platforms again. They became aware of the
remote hooting and yelping of the machines of one of the General
Intelligence Offices, and suddenly came men running, and along the
platforms and about the ways everywhere was a shouting and crying. Then a
woman with a face of mute white terror, and another who gasped and
shrieked as she ran.
"What has happened now?" said Graham, puzzled, for he could not
understand their thick speech. Then he heard it in English and perceived
that the thing that everyone was shouting, that men yelled to one
another, that women took up screaming, that was passing like the first
breeze of a thunderstorm, chill and sudden through the city, was this:
"Ostrog has ordered the Black Police to London. The Black Police are
coming from South Africa…. The Black Police. The Black Police."
Asano's face was white and astonished; he hesitated, looked at Graham's
face, and told him the thing he already knew. "But how can they know?"
Graham heard someone shouting. "Stop all work. Stop all work," and a
swarthy hunchback, ridiculously gay in green and gold, came leaping down
the platforms toward him, bawling again and again in good English, "This
is Ostrog's doing, Ostrog the Knave! The Master is betrayed." His voice
was hoarse and a thin foam dropped from his ugly shouting mouth. He
yelled an unspeakable horror that the Black Police had done in Paris, and
so passed shrieking, "Ostrog the Knave!"
For a moment Graham stood still, for it had come upon him again that
these things were a dream. He looked up at the great cliff of buildings
on either side, vanishing into blue haze at last above the lights, and
down to the roaring tiers of platforms, and the shouting, running people
who were gesticulating past. "The Master is betrayed!" they cried. "The
Master is betrayed!"
Suddenly the situation shaped itself in his mind real and urgent. His
heart began to beat fast and strong.
"It has come," he said. "I might have known. The hour has come."
He thought swiftly. "What am I to do?"
"Go back to the Council House," said Asano.
"Why should I not appeal—? The people are here."
"You will lose time. They will doubt if it is you. But they will mass
about the Council House. There you will find their leaders. Your strength
is there—with them."
"Suppose this is only a rumour?"
"It sounds true," said Asano.
"Let us have the facts," said Graham.
Asano shrugged his shoulders. "We had better get towards the Council
House," he cried. "That is where they will swarm. Even now the ruins may
Graham regarded him doubtfully and followed him.
They went up the stepped platforms to the swiftest one, and there Asano
accosted a labourer. The answers to his questions were in the thick,
"What did he say?" asked Graham.
"He knows little, but he told me that the Black Police would have arrived
here before the people knew—had not someone in the Wind-Vane Offices
learnt. He said a girl."
"A girl? Not—?"
"He said a girl—he did not know who she was. Who came out from the
Council House crying aloud, and told the men at work among the ruins."
And then another thing was shouted, something that turned an aimless
tumult into determinate movements, it came like a wind along the
street. "To your wards, to your wards. Every man get arms. Every man to
THE STRUGGLE IN THE COUNCIL HOUSE
As Asano and Graham hurried along to the ruins about the Council House,
they saw everywhere the excitement of the people rising. "To your wards!
To your wards!" Everywhere men and women in blue were hurrying from
unknown subterranean employments, up the staircases of the middle path;
at one place Graham saw an arsenal of the revolutionary committee
besieged by a crowd of shouting men, at another a couple of men in the
hated yellow uniform of the Labour Police, pursued by a gathering crowd,
fled precipitately along the swift way that went in the opposite
The cries of "To your wards!" became at last a continuous shouting as
they drew near the Government quarter. Many of the shouts were
unintelligible. "Ostrog has betrayed us," one man bawled in a hoarse
voice, again and again, dinning that refrain into Graham's ear until it
haunted him. This person stayed close beside Graham and Asano on the
swift way, shouting to the people who swarmed on the lower platforms as
he rushed past them. His cry about Ostrog alternated with some
incomprehensible orders. Presently he went leaping down and disappeared.
Graham's mind was filled with the din. His plans were vague and unformed.
He had one picture of some commanding position from which he could
address the multitudes, another of meeting Ostrog face to face. He was
full of rage, of tense muscular excitement, his hands gripped, his lips
were pressed together.
The way to the Council House across the ruins was impassable, but Asano
met that difficulty and took Graham into the premises of the central
post-office. The post-office was nominally at work, but the blue-clothed
porters moved sluggishly or had stopped to stare through the arches of
their galleries at the shouting men who were going by outside. "Every man
to his ward! Every man to his ward!" Here, by Asano's advice, Graham
revealed his identity.
They crossed to the Council House by a cable cradle. Already in the brief
interval since the capitulation of the Councillors a great change had
been wrought in the appearance of the ruins. The spurting cascades of the
ruptured sea-water mains had been captured and tamed, and huge temporary
pipes ran overhead along a flimsy looking fabric of girders. The sky was
laced with restored cables and wires that served the Council House, and a
mass of new fabric with cranes and other building machines going to and
fro upon it projected to the left of the white pile.
The moving ways that ran across this area had been restored, albeit for
once running under the open sky. These were the ways that Graham had seen
from the little balcony in the hour of his awakening, not nine days
since, and the hall of his Trance had been on the further side, where now
shapeless piles of smashed and shattered masonry were heaped together.
It was already high day and the sun was shining brightly. Out of their
tall caverns of blue electric light came the swift ways crowded with
multitudes of people, who poured off them and gathered ever denser over
the wreckage and confusion of the ruins. The air was full of their
shouting, and they were pressing and swaying towards the central
building. For the most part that shouting mass consisted of shapeless
swarms, but here and there Graham could see that a rude discipline
struggled to establish itself. And every voice clamoured for order in the
chaos. "To your wards! Every man to his ward!"
The cable carried them into a hall which Graham recognised as the
ante-chamber to the Hall of the Atlas, about the gallery of which he had
walked days ago with Howard to show himself to the Vanished Council, an
hour from his awakening. Now the place was empty except for two cable
attendants. These men seemed hugely astonished to recognise the Sleeper
in the man who swung down from the cross seat.
"Where is Ostrog?" he demanded. "I must see Ostrog forthwith. He has
disobeyed me. I have come back to take things out of his hands." Without
waiting for Asano, he went straight across the place, ascended the steps
at the further end, and, pulling the curtain aside, found himself facing
the perpetually labouring Titan.
The hall was empty. Its appearance had changed very greatly since his
first sight of it. It had suffered serious injury in the violent
struggle of the first outbreak. On the right hand side of the great
figure the upper half of the wall had been torn away for nearly two
hundred feet of its length, and a sheet of the same glassy film that had
enclosed Graham at his awakening had been drawn across the gap. This
deadened, but did not altogether exclude the roar of the people outside.
"Wards! Wards! Wards!" they seemed to be saying. Through it there were
visible the beams and supports of metal scaffoldings that rose and fell
according to the requirements of a great crowd of workmen. An idle
building machine, with lank arms of red painted metal stretched gauntly
across this green tinted picture. On it were still a number of workmen
staring at the crowd below. For a moment he stood regarding these
things, and Asano overtook him.
"Ostrog," said Asano, "will be in the small offices beyond there." The
little man looked livid now and his eyes searched Graham's face.
They had scarcely advanced ten paces from the curtain before a little
panel to the left of the Atlas rolled up, and Ostrog, accompanied by
Lincoln and followed by two black and yellow clad negroes, appeared
crossing the remote corner of the hall, towards a second panel that was
raised and open. "Ostrog," shouted Graham, and at the sound of his voice
the little party turned astonished.
Ostrog said something to Lincoln and advanced alone.
Graham was the first to speak. His voice was loud and dictatorial. "What
is this I hear?" he asked. "Are you bringing negroes here—to keep the
"It is none too soon," said Ostrog. "They have been getting out of hand
more and more, since the revolt. I under-estimated—"
"Do you mean that these infernal negroes are on the way?"
"On the way. As it is, you have seen the people—outside?"
"No wonder! But—after what was said. You have taken too much on
Ostrog said nothing, but drew nearer.
"These negroes must not come to London," said Graham. "I am Master and
they shall not come."
Ostrog glanced at Lincoln, who at once came towards them with his two
attendants close behind him. "Why not?" asked Ostrog.
"White men must be mastered by white men. Besides—"
"The negroes are only an instrument."
"But that is not the question. I am the Master. I mean to be the Master.
And I tell you these negroes shall not come."
"I believe in the people."
"Because you are an anachronism. You are a man out of the Past—an
accident. You are Owner perhaps of the world. Nominally—legally. But you
are not Master. You do not know enough to be Master."
He glanced at Lincoln again. "I know now what you think—I can guess
something of what you mean to do. Even now it is not too late to warn
you. You dream of human equality—of some sort of socialistic order—you
have all those worn-out dreams of the nineteenth century fresh and vivid
in your mind, and you would rule this age that you do not understand."
"Listen!" said Graham. "You can hear it—a sound like the sea. Not
voices—but a voice. Do you altogether understand?"
"We taught them that," said Ostrog.
"Perhaps. Can you teach them to forget it? But enough of this! These
negroes must not come."
There was a pause and Ostrog looked him in the eyes.
"They will," he said.
"I forbid it," said Graham.
"They have started."
"I will not have it."
"No," said Ostrog. "Sorry as I am to follow the method of the
Council—. For your own good—you must not side with—Disorder. And now
that you are here—. It was kind of you to come here."
Lincoln laid his hand on Graham's shoulder. Abruptly Graham realised the
enormity of his blunder in coming to the Council House. He turned
towards the curtains that separated the hall from the ante-chamber. The
clutching hand of Asano intervened. In another moment Lincoln had
grasped Graham's cloak.
He turned and struck at Lincoln's face, and incontinently a negro had him
by collar and arm. He wrenched himself away, his sleeve tore noisily, and
he stumbled back, to be tripped by the other attendant. Then he struck
the ground heavily and he was staring at the distant ceiling of the hall.
He shouted, rolled over, struggling fiercely, clutched an attendant's leg
and threw him headlong, and struggled to his feet.
Lincoln appeared before him, went down heavily again with a blow under
the point of the jaw and lay still. Graham made two strides, stumbled.
And then Ostrog's arm was round his neck, he was pulled over backward,
fell heavily, and his arms were pinned to the ground. After a few violent
efforts he ceased to struggle and lay staring at Ostrog's heaving throat.
"You—are—a prisoner," panted Ostrog, exulting. "You—were rather a
fool—to come back."
Graham turned his head about and perceived through the irregular green
window in the walls of the hall the men who had been working the building
cranes gesticulating excitedly to the people below them. They had seen!
Ostrog followed his eyes and started. He shouted something to Lincoln,
but Lincoln did not move. A bullet smashed among the mouldings above the
Atlas. The two sheets of transparent matter that had been stretched
across this gap were rent, the edges of the torn aperture darkened,
curved, ran rapidly towards the framework, and in a moment the Council
chamber stood open to the air. A chilly gust blew in by the gap, bringing
with it a war of voices from the ruinous spaces without, an elvish
babblement, "Save the Master!" "What are they doing to the Master?" "The
Master is betrayed!"
And then he realised that Ostrog's attention was distracted, that
Ostrog's grip had relaxed, and, wrenching his arms free, he struggled to
his knees. In another moment he had thrust Ostrog back, and he was on one
foot, his hand gripping Ostrog's throat, and Ostrog's hands clutching the
silk about his neck.
But now men were coming towards them from the dais—men whose intentions
he misunderstood. He had a glimpse of someone running in the distance
towards the curtains of the antechamber, and then Ostrog had slipped from
him and these newcomers were upon him. To his infinite astonishment, they
seized him. They obeyed the shouts of Ostrog.
He was lugged a dozen yards before he realised that they were not
friends—that they were dragging him towards the open panel. When he saw
this he pulled back, he tried to fling himself down, he shouted for help
with all his strength. And this time there were answering cries.
The grip upon his neck relaxed, and behold! in the lower corner of the
rent upon the wall, first one and then a number of little black figures
appeared shouting and waving arms. They came leaping down from the gap
into the light gallery that had led to the Silent Rooms. They ran along
it, so near were they that Graham could see the weapons in their hands.
Then Ostrog was shouting in his ear to the men who held him, and once
more he was struggling with all his strength against their endeavours to
thrust him towards the opening that yawned to receive him. "They can't
come down," panted Ostrog. "They daren't fire. It's all right. We'll save
him from them yet."
For long minutes as it seemed to Graham that inglorious struggle
continued. His clothes were rent in a dozen places, he was covered in
dust, one hand had been trodden upon. He could hear the shouts of his
supporters, and once he heard shots. He could feel his strength giving
way, feel his efforts wild and aimless. But no help came, and surely,
irresistibly, that black, yawning opening came nearer.
The pressure upon him relaxed and he struggled up. He saw Ostrog's grey
head receding and perceived that he was no longer held. He turned about
and came full into a man in black. One of the green weapons cracked close
to him, a drift of pungent smoke came into his face, and a steel blade
flashed. The huge chamber span about him.
He saw a man in pale blue stabbing one of the black and yellow attendants
not three yards from his face. Then hands were upon him again.
He was being pulled in two directions now. It seemed as though people
were shouting to him. He wanted to understand and could not. Someone was
clutching about his thighs, he was being hoisted in spite of his vigorous
efforts. He understood suddenly, he ceased to struggle. He was lifted up
on men's shoulders and carried away from that devouring panel. Ten
thousand throats were cheering.
He saw men in blue and black hurrying after the retreating Ostrogites
and firing. Lifted up, he saw now across the whole expanse of the hall
beneath the Atlas image, saw that he was being carried towards the
raised platform in the centre of the place. The far end of the hall was
already full of people running towards him. They were looking at him
He became aware that a bodyguard surrounded him. Active men about him
shouted vague orders. He saw close at hand the black moustached man in
yellow who had been among those who had greeted him in the public
theatre, shouting directions. The hall was already densely packed with
swaying people, the little metal gallery sagged with a shouting load, the
curtains at the end had been torn away, and the antechamber was revealed
densely crowded. He could scarcely make the man near him hear for the
tumult about them. "Where has Ostrog gone?" he asked.
The man he questioned pointed over the heads towards the lower panels
about the hall on the side opposite the gap. They stood open, and armed
men, blue clad with black sashes, were running through them and vanishing
into the chambers and passages beyond. It seemed to Graham that a sound
of firing drifted through the riot. He was carried in a staggering curve
across the great hall towards an opening beneath the gap.
He perceived men working with a sort of rude discipline to keep the crowd
off him, to make a space clear about him. He passed out of the hall, and
saw a crude, new wall rising blankly before him topped by blue sky. He
was swung down to his feet; someone gripped his arm and guided him. He
found the man in yellow close at hand. They were taking him up a narrow
stairway of brick, and close at hand rose the great red painted masses,
the cranes and levers and the still engines of the big building machine.
He was at the top of the steps. He was hurried across a narrow railed
footway, and suddenly with a vast shouting the amphitheatre of ruins
opened again before him. "The Master is with us! The Master! The Master!"
The shout swept athwart the lake of faces like a wave, broke against the
distant cliff of ruins, and came back in a welter of cries. "The Master
is on our side!"
Graham perceived that he was no longer encompassed by people, that he was
standing upon a little temporary platform of white metal, part of a
flimsy seeming scaffolding that laced about the great mass of the Council
House. Over all the huge expanse of the ruins swayed and eddied the
shouting people; and here and there the black banners of the
revolutionary societies ducked and swayed and formed rare nuclei of
organisation in the chaos. Up the steep stairs of wall and scaffolding by
which his rescuers had reached the opening in the Atlas Chamber clung a
solid crowd, and little energetic black figures clinging to pillars and
projections were strenuous to induce these congested, masses to stir.
Behind him, at a higher point on the scaffolding, a number of men
struggled upwards with the flapping folds of a huge black standard.
Through the yawning gap in the walls below him he could look down upon
the packed attentive multitudes in the Hall of the Atlas. The distant
flying stages to the south came out bright and vivid, brought nearer as
it seemed by an unusual translucency of the air. A solitary monoplane
beat up from the central stage as if to meet the coming aeroplanes.
"What has become of Ostrog?" asked Graham, and even as he spoke he saw
that all eyes were turned from him towards the crest of the Council House
building. He looked also in this direction of universal attention. For a
moment he saw nothing but the jagged corner of a wall, hard and clear
against the sky. Then in the shadow he perceived the interior of a room
and recognised with a start the green and white decorations of his former
prison. And coming quickly across this opened room and up to the very
verge of the cliff of the ruins came a little white clad figure followed
by two other smaller seeming figures in black and yellow. He heard the
man beside him exclaim "Ostrog," and turned to ask a question. But he
never did, because of the startled exclamation of another of those who
were with him and a lank finger suddenly pointing. He looked, and behold!
the monoplane that had been rising from the flying stage when last he had
looked in that direction, was driving towards them. The swift steady
flight was still novel enough to hold his attention.
Nearer it came, growing rapidly larger and larger, until it had swept
over the further edge of the ruins and into view of the dense multitudes
below. It drooped across the space and rose and passed overhead, rising
to clear the mass of the Council House, a filmy translucent shape with
the solitary aeronaut peering down through its ribs. It vanished beyond
the skyline of the ruins.
Graham transferred his attention to Ostrog. He was signalling with his
hands, and his attendants were busy breaking down the wall beside him. In
another moment the monoplane came into view again, a little thing far
away, coming round in a wide curve and going slower.
Then suddenly the man in yellow shouted: "What are they doing? What are
the people doing? Why is Ostrog left there? Why is he not captured? They
will lift him—the monoplane will lift him! Ah!"
The exclamation was echoed by a shout from the ruins. The rattling sound
of the green weapons drifted across the intervening gulf to Graham, and,
looking down, he saw a number of black and yellow uniforms running along
one of the galleries that lay open to the air below the promontory upon
which Ostrog stood. They fired as they ran at men unseen, and then
emerged a number of pale blue figures in pursuit. These minute fighting
figures had the oddest effect; they seemed as they ran like little model
soldiers in a toy. This queer appearance of a house cut open gave that
struggle amidst furniture and passages a quality of unreality. It was
perhaps two hundred yards away from him, and very nearly fifty above the
heads in the ruins below. The black and yellow men ran into an open
archway, and turned and fired a volley. One of the blue pursuers striding
forward close to the edge, flung up his arms, staggered sideways, seemed
to Graham's sense to hang over the edge for several seconds, and fell
headlong down. Graham saw him strike a projecting corner, fly out, head
over heels, head over heels, and vanish behind the red arm of the
And then a shadow came between Graham and the sun. He looked up and the
sky was clear, but he knew the little monoplane had passed. Ostrog had
vanished. The man in yellow thrust before him, zealous and perspiring,
pointing and blatant.
"They are grounding!" cried the man in yellow. "They are grounding. Tell
the people to fire at him. Tell them to fire at him!"
Graham could not understand. He heard loud voices repeating these
Suddenly he saw the prow of the monoplane come gliding over the edge of
the ruins and stop with a jerk. In a moment Graham understood that the
thing had grounded in order that Ostrog might escape by it. He saw a blue
haze climbing out of the gulf, perceived that the people below him were
now firing up at the projecting stem.
A man beside him cheered hoarsely, and he saw that the blue rebels had
gained the archway that had been contested by the men in black and
yellow a moment before, and were running in a continual stream along the
And suddenly the monoplane slipped over the edge of the Council House and
fell like a diving swallow. It dropped, tilting at an angle of forty-five
degrees, so steeply that it seemed to Graham, it seemed perhaps to most
of those below, that it could not possibly rise again.
It fell so closely past him that he could see Ostrog clutching the guides
of the seat, with his grey hair streaming; see the white-faced aeronaut
wrenching over the lever that turned the machine upward. He heard the
apprehensive vague cry of innumerable men below.
Graham clutched the railing before him and gasped. The second seemed an
age. The lower vane of the monoplane passed within an ace of touching the
people, who yelled and screamed and trampled one another below.
And then it rose.
For a moment it looked as if it could not possibly clear the opposite
cliff, and then that it could not possibly clear the wind-wheel that
And behold! it was clear and soaring, still heeling sideways, upward,
upward into the wind-swept sky.
The suspense of the moment gave place to a fury of exasperation as the
swarming people realised that Ostrog had escaped them. With belated
activity they renewed their fire, until the rattling wove into a roar,
until the whole area became dim and blue and the air pungent with the
thin smoke of their weapons.
Too late! The flying machine dwindled smaller and smaller, and curved
about and swept gracefully downward to the flying stage from which it had
so lately risen. Ostrog had escaped.
For a while a confused babblement arose from the ruins, and then the
universal attention came back to Graham, perched high among the
scaffolding. He saw the faces of the people turned towards him, heard
their shouts at his rescue. From the throat of the ways came the song of
the revolt spreading like a breeze across that swaying sea of men.
The little group of men about him shouted congratulations on his escape.
The man in yellow was close to him, with a set face and shining eyes. And
the song was rising, louder and louder; tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp.
Slowly the realisation came of the full meaning of these things to him,
the perception of the swift change in his position. Ostrog, who had stood
beside him whenever he had faced that shouting multitude before, was
beyond there—the antagonist. There was no one to rule for him any
longer. Even the people about him, the leaders and organisers of the
multitude, looked to see what he would do, looked to him to act, awaited
his orders. He was king indeed. His puppet reign was at an end.
He was very intent to do the thing that was expected of him. His nerves
and muscles were quivering, his mind was perhaps a little confused, but
he felt neither fear nor anger. His hand that had been trodden upon
throbbed and was hot. He was a little nervous about his bearing. He knew
he was not afraid, but he was anxious not to seem afraid. In his former
life he had often been more excited in playing games of skill. He was
desirous of immediate action, he knew he must not think too much in
detail of the huge complexity of the struggle about him lest be should be
paralysed by the sense of its intricacy.
Over there those square blue shapes, the flying stages, meant Ostrog;
against Ostrog, who was so clear and definite and decisive, he who was so
vague and undecided, was fighting for the whole future of the world.
GRAHAM SPEAKS HIS WORD
For a time the Master of the Earth was not even master of his own mind.
Even his will seemed a will not his own, his own acts surprised him and
were but a part of the confusion of strange experiences that poured
across his being. These things were definite, the negroes were coming,
Helen Wotton had warned the people of their coming, and he was Master of
the Earth. Each of these facts seemed struggling for complete possession
of his thoughts. They protruded from a background of swarming halls,
elevated passages, rooms jammed with ward leaders in council,
kinematograph and telephone rooms, and windows looking out on a seething
sea of marching men. The men in yellow, and men whom he fancied were
called Ward Leaders, were either propelling him forward or following him
obediently; it was hard to tell. Perhaps they were doing a little of
both. Perhaps some power unseen and unsuspected propelled them all. He
was aware that he was going to make a proclamation to the People of the
Earth, aware of certain grandiose phrases floating in his mind as the
thing he meant to say. Many little things happened, and then he found
himself with the man in yellow entering a little room where this
proclamation of his was to be made.
This room was grotesquely latter-day in its appointments. In the centre
was a bright oval lit by shaded electric lights from above. The rest was
in shadow, and the double finely fitting doors through which he came from
the swarming Hall of the Atlas made the place very still. The dead thud
of these as they closed behind him, the sudden cessation of the tumult in
which he had been living for hours, the quivering circle of light, the
whispers and quick noiseless movements of vaguely visible attendants in
the shadows, had a strange effect upon Graham. The huge ears of a
phonographic mechanism gaped in a battery for his words, the black eyes
of great photographic cameras awaited his beginning, beyond metal rods
and coils glittered dimly, and something whirled about with a droning
hum. He walked into the centre of the light, and his shadow drew together
black and sharp to a little blot at his feet.
The vague shape of the thing he meant to say was already in his mind. But
this silence, this isolation, the withdrawal from that contagious crowd,
this audience of gaping, glaring machines, had not been in his
anticipation. All his supports seemed withdrawn together; he seemed to
have dropped into this suddenly, suddenly to have discovered himself. In
a moment he was changed. He found that he now feared to be inadequate, he
feared to be theatrical, he feared the quality of his voice, the quality
of his wit; astonished, he turned to the man in yellow with a
propitiatory gesture. "For a moment," he said, "I must wait. I did not
think it would be like this. I must think of the thing I have to say."
While he was still hesitating there came an agitated messenger with news
that the foremost aeroplanes were passing over Madrid.
"What news of the flying stages?" he asked.
"The people of the south-west wards are ready."
He turned impatiently to the blank circles of the lenses again.
"I suppose it must be a sort of speech. Would to God I knew certainly the
thing that should be said! Aeroplanes at Madrid! They must have started
before the main fleet.
"Oh! what can it matter whether I speak well or ill?" he said, and felt
the light grow brighter.
He had framed some vague sentence of democratic sentiment when suddenly
doubts overwhelmed him. His belief in his heroic quality and calling he
found had altogether lost its assured conviction. The picture of a
little strutting futility in a windy waste of incomprehensible
destinies replaced it. Abruptly it was perfectly clear to him that this
revolt against Ostrog was premature, foredoomed to failure, the impulse
of passionate inadequacy against inevitable things. He thought of that
swift flight of aeroplanes like the swoop of Fate towards him. He was
astonished that he could have seen things in any other light. In that
final emergency he debated, thrust debate resolutely aside, determined
at all costs to go through with the thing he had undertaken. And he
could find no word to begin. Even as he stood, awkward, hesitating,
with an indiscreet apology for his inability trembling on his lips,
came the noise of many people crying out, the running to and fro of
feet. "Wait," cried someone, and a door opened. Graham turned, and the
watching lights waned.
Through the open doorway he saw a slight girlish figure approaching. His
heart leapt. It was Helen Wotton. The man in yellow came out of the
nearer shadows into the circle of light.
"This is the girl who told us what Ostrog had done," he said.
She came in very quietly, and stood still, as if she did not want to
interrupt Graham's eloquence…. But his doubts and questionings fled
before her presence. He remembered the things that he had meant to say.
He faced the cameras again and the light about him grew brighter. He
turned back to her.
"You have helped me," he said lamely—"helped me very much…. This is
He paused. He addressed himself to the unseen multitudes who stared upon
him through those grotesque black eyes. At first he spoke slowly.
"Men and women of the new age," he said; "you have arisen to do battle
for the race!… There is no easy victory before us."
He stopped to gather words. He wished passionately for the gift of
"This night is a beginning," he said. "This battle that is coming, this
battle that rushes upon us to-night, is only a beginning. All your lives,
it may be, you must fight. Take no thought though I am beaten, though I
am utterly overthrown. I think I may be overthrown."
He found the thing in his mind too vague for words. He paused
momentarily, and broke into vague exhortations, and then a rush of speech
came upon him. Much that he said was but the humanitarian commonplace of
a vanished age, but the conviction of his voice touched it to vitality.
He stated the case of the old days to the people of the new age, to the
girl at his side.
"I come out of the past to you," he said, "with the memory of an age
that hoped. My age was an age of dreams—of beginnings, an age of noble
hopes; throughout the world we had made an end of slavery; throughout the
world we had spread the desire and anticipation that wars might cease,
that all men and women might live nobly, in freedom and peace…. So we
hoped in the days that are past. And what of those hopes? How is it with
man after two hundred years?
"Great cities, vast powers, a collective greatness beyond our dreams. For
that we did not work, and that has come. But how is it with the little
lives that make up this greater life? How is it with the common lives? As
it has ever been—sorrow and labour, lives cramped and unfulfilled, lives
tempted by power, tempted by wealth, and gone to waste and folly. The old
faiths have faded and changed, the new faith—. Is there a new faith?
"Charity and mercy," he floundered; "beauty and the love of beautiful
things—effort and devotion! Give yourselves as I would give myself—as
Christ gave Himself upon the Cross. It does not matter if you understand.
It does not matter if you seem to fail. You know—in the core of your
hearts you know. There is no promise, there is no security—nothing to
go upon but Faith. There is no faith but faith—faith which is
Things that he had long wished to believe, he found that he believed. He
spoke gustily, in broken incomplete sentences, but with all his heart and
strength, of this new faith within him. He spoke of the greatness of
self-abnegation, of his belief in an immortal life of Humanity in which
we live and move and have our being. His voice rose and fell, and the
recording appliances hummed as he spoke, dim attendants watched him out
of the shadow….
His sense of that silent spectator beside him sustained his sincerity.
For a few glorious moments he was carried away; he felt no doubt of his
heroic quality, no doubt of his heroic words, he had it all straight and
plain. His eloquence limped no longer. And at last he made an end to
speaking. "Here and now," he cried, "I make my will. All that is mine in
the world I give to the people of the world. All that is mine in the
world I give to the people of the world. To all of you. I give it to you,
and myself I give to you. And as God wills to-night, I will live for you,
or I will die."
He ended. He found the light of his present exaltation reflected in the
face of the girl. Their eyes met; her eyes were swimming with tears of
"I knew," she whispered. "Oh! Father of the World—Sire! I knew you
would say these things…."
"I have said what I could," he answered lamely and grasped and clung to
her outstretched hands.
WHILE THE AEROPLANES WERE COMING
The man in yellow was beside them. Neither had noted his coming. He was
saying that the south-west wards were marching. "I never expected it so
soon," he cried. "They have done wonders. You must send them a word to
help them on their way."
Graham stared at him absent-mindedly. Then with a start he returned to
his previous preoccupation about the flying stages.
"Yes," he said. "That is good, that is good." He weighed a message. "Tell
them;—well done South West."
He turned his eyes to Helen Wotton again. His face expressed his struggle
between conflicting ideas. "We must capture the flying stages," he
explained. "Unless we can do that they will land negroes. At all costs we
must prevent that."
He felt even as he spoke that this was not what had been in his mind
before the interruption. He saw a touch of surprise in her eyes. She
seemed about to speak and a shrill bell drowned her voice.
It occurred to Graham that she expected him to lead these marching
people, that that was the thing he had to do. He made the offer abruptly.
He addressed the man in yellow, but he spoke to her. He saw her face
respond. "Here I am doing nothing," he said.
"It is impossible," protested the man in yellow. "It is a fight in a
warren. Your place is here."
He explained elaborately. He motioned towards the room where Graham must
wait, he insisted no other course was possible. "We must know where you
are," he said. "At any moment a crisis may arise needing your presence
A picture had drifted through his mind of such a vast dramatic struggle
as the masses in the ruins had suggested. But here was no spectacular
battle-field such as he imagined. Instead was seclusion—and suspense. It
was only as the afternoon wore on that he pieced together a truer picture
of the fight that was raging, inaudibly and invisibly, within four miles
of him, beneath the Roehampton stage. A strange and unprecedented contest
it was, a battle that was a hundred thousand little battles, a battle in
a sponge of ways and channels, fought out of sight of sky or sun under
the electric glare, fought out in a vast confusion by multitudes
untrained in arms, led chiefly by acclamation, multitudes dulled by
mindless labour and enervated by the tradition of two hundred years of
servile security against multitudes demoralised by lives of venial
privilege and sensual indulgence. They had no artillery, no
differentiation into this force or that; the only weapon on either side
was the little green metal carbine, whose secret manufacture and sudden
distribution in enormous quantities had been one of Ostrog's culminating
moves against the Council. Few had had any experience with this weapon,
many had never discharged one, many who carried it came unprovided with
ammunition; never was wilder firing in the history of warfare. It was a
battle of amateurs, a hideous experimental warfare, armed rioters
fighting armed rioters, armed rioters swept forward by the words and fury
of a song, by the tramping sympathy of their numbers, pouring in
countless myriads towards the smaller ways, the disabled lifts, the
galleries slippery with blood, the halls and passages choked with smoke,
beneath the flying stages, to learn there when retreat was hopeless the
ancient mysteries of warfare. And overhead save for a few sharpshooters
upon the roof spaces and for a few bands and threads of vapour that
multiplied and darkened towards the evening, the day was a clear
serenity. Ostrog it seems had no bombs at command and in all the earlier
phases of the battle the flying machines played no part. Not the smallest
cloud was there to break the empty brilliance of the sky. It seemed as
though it held itself vacant until the aeroplanes should come.
Ever and again there was news of these, drawing nearer, from this Spanish
town and then that, and presently from France. But of the new guns that
Ostrog had made and which were known to be in the city came no news in
spite of Graham's urgency, nor any report of successes from the dense
felt of fighting strands about the flying stages. Section after section
of the Labour-Societies reported itself assembled, reported itself
marching, and vanished from knowledge into the labyrinth of that warfare.
What was happening there? Even the busy ward leaders did not know. In
spite of the opening and closing of doors, the hasty messengers, the
ringing of bells and the perpetual clitter-clack of recording implements,
Graham felt isolated, strangely inactive, inoperative.
His isolation seemed at times the strangest, the most unexpected of all
the things that had happened since his awakening. It had something of
the quality of that inactivity that comes in dreams. A tumult, the
stupendous realisation of a world struggle between Ostrog and himself,
and then this confined quiet little room with its mouthpieces and bells
and broken mirror!
Now the door would be closed and Graham and Helen were alone together;
they seemed sharply marked off then from all the unprecedented world
storm that rushed together without, vividly aware of one another, only
concerned with one another. Then the door would open again, messengers
would enter, or a sharp bell would stab their quiet privacy, and it was
like a window in a well built brightly lit house flung open suddenly to a
hurricane. The dark hurry and tumult, the stress and vehemence of the
battle rushed in and overwhelmed them. They were no longer persons but
mere spectators, mere impressions of a tremendous convulsion. They became
unreal even to themselves, miniatures of personality, indescribably
small, and the two antagonistic realities, the only realities in being
were first the city, that throbbed and roared yonder in a belated frenzy
of defence and secondly the aeroplanes hurling inexorably towards them
over the round shoulder of the world.
There came a sudden stir outside, a running to and fro, and cries. The
girl stood up, speechless, incredulous.
Metallic voices were shouting "Victory!" Yes it was "Victory!"
Bursting through the curtains appeared the man in yellow, startled and
dishevelled with excitement, "Victory," he cried, "victory! The people
are winning. Ostrog's people have collapsed."
She rose. "Victory?"
"What do you mean?" asked Graham. "Tell me! What?"
"We have driven them out of the under galleries at Norwood, Streatham is
afire and burning wildly, and Roehampton is ours. Ours!—and we have
taken the monoplane that lay thereon."
A shrill bell rang. An agitated grey-headed man appeared from the room of
the Ward Leaders. "It is all over," he cried.
"What matters it now that we have Roehampton? The aeroplanes have been
sighted at Boulogne!"
"The Channel!" said the man in yellow. He calculated swiftly.
"Half an hour."
"They still have three of the flying stages," said the old man.
"Those guns?" cried Graham.
"We cannot mount them—in half an hour."
"Do you mean they are found?"
"Too late," said the old man.
"If we could stop them another hour!" cried the man in yellow.
"Nothing can stop them now," said the old man. "They have near a hundred
aeroplanes in the first fleet."
"Another hour?" asked Graham.
"To be so near!" said the Ward Leader. "Now that we have found
those guns. To be so near—. If once we could get them out upon the
"How long would that take?" asked Graham suddenly.
"Too late," cried the Ward Leader, "too late."
"Is it too late?" said Graham. "Even now—. An hour!"
He had suddenly perceived a possibility. He tried to speak calmly, but
his face was white. "There is are chance. You said there was a
"On the Roehampton stage, Sire."
"No. It is lying crossways to the carrier. It might be got upon the
guides—easily. But there is no aeronaut—."
Graham glanced at the two men and then at Helen. He spoke after a long
pause. "We have no aeronauts?"
He turned suddenly to Helen. His decision was made. "I must do it."
"Go to this flying stage—to this machine."
"What do you mean?"
"I am an aeronaut. After all—. Those days for which you reproached me
were not altogether wasted."
He turned to the old man in yellow. "Tell them to put it upon the
The man in yellow hesitated.
"What do you mean to do?" cried Helen.
"This monoplane—it is a chance—."
"You don't mean—?"
"To fight—yes. To fight in the air. I have thought before—. A big
aeroplane is a clumsy thing. A resolute man—!"
"But—never since flying began—" cried the man in yellow.
"There has been no need. But now the time has come. Tell them now—send
them my message—to put it upon the guides. I see now something to do. I
see now why I am here!"
The old man dumbly interrogated the man in yellow nodded, and
Helen made a step towards Graham. Her face was white. "But, Sire!—How
can one fight? You will be killed."
"Perhaps. Yet, not to do it—or to let some one else attempt it—."
"You will be killed," she repeated.
"I've said my word. Do you not see? It may save—London!"
He stopped, he could speak no more, he swept the alternative aside by a
gesture, and they stood looking at one another.
They were both clear that he must go. There was no step back from these
Her eyes brimmed with tears. She came towards him with a curious movement
of her hands, as though she felt her way and could not see; she seized
his hand and kissed it.
"To wake," she cried, "for this!"
He held her clumsily for a moment, and kissed the hair of her bowed head,
and then thrust her away, and turned towards the man in yellow.
He could not speak. The gesture of his arm said "Onward."
THE COMING OF THE AEROPLANES
Two men in pale blue were lying in the irregular line that stretched
along the edge of the captured Roehampton stage from end to end, grasping
their carbines and peering into the shadows of the stage called Wimbledon
Park. Now and then they spoke to one another. They spoke the mutilated
English of their class and period. The fire of the Ostrogites had
dwindled and ceased, and few of the enemy had been seen for some time.
But the echoes of the fight that was going on now far below in the lower
galleries of that stage, came every now and then between the staccato of
shots from the popular side. One of these men was describing to the other
how he had seen a man down below there dodge behind a girder, and had
aimed at a guess and hit him cleanly as he dodged too far. "He's down
there still," said the marksman. "See that little patch. Yes. Between
A few yards behind them lay a dead stranger, face upward to the sky, with
the blue canvas of his jacket smouldering in a circle about the neat
bullet hole on his chest. Close beside him a wounded man, with a leg
swathed about, sat with an expressionless face and watched the progress
of that burning. Behind them, athwart the carrier lay the captured
"I can't see him now," said the second man in a tone of provocation.
The marksman became foul-mouthed and high-voiced in his earnest
endeavour to make things plain. And suddenly, interrupting him, came a
noisy shouting from the substage.
"What's going on now?" he said, and raised himself on one arm to survey
the stairheads in the central groove of the stage. A number of blue
figures were coming up these, and swarming across the stage.
"We don't want all these fools," said his friend. "They only crowd up and
spoil shots. What are they after?"
"Ssh!—they're shouting something."
The two men listened. The new-comers had crowded densely about the
machine. Three Ward Leaders, conspicuous by their black mantles and
badges, clambered into the body and appeared above it. The rank and file
flung themselves upon the vans, gripping hold of the edges, until the
entire outline of the thing was manned, in some places three deep. One of
the marksmen knelt up. "They're putting it on the carrier—that's what
He rose to his feet, his friend rose also. "What's the good?" said his
friend. "We've got no aeronauts."
"That's what they're doing anyhow." He looked at his rifle, looked at the
struggling crowd, and suddenly turned to the wounded man. "Mind these,
mate," he said, handing his carbine and cartridge belt; and in a moment
he was running towards the monoplane. For a quarter of an hour he was
lugging, thrusting, shouting and heeding shouts, and then the thing was
done, and he stood with a multitude of others cheering their own
achievement. By this time he knew, what indeed everyone in the city knew,
that the Master, raw learner though he was, intended to fly this machine
himself, was coming even now to take control of it, would let no other
man attempt it.
"He who takes the greatest danger, he who bears the heaviest burden,
that man is King," so the Master was reported to have spoken. And even as
this man cheered, and while the beads of sweat still chased one another
from the disorder of his hair, he heard the thunder of a greater tumult,
and in fitful snatches the beat and impulse of the revolutionary song. He
saw through a gap in the people that a thick stream of heads still poured
up the stairway. "The Master is coming," shouted voices, "the Master is
coming," and the crowd about him grew denser and denser. He began to
thrust himself towards the central groove. "The Master is coming!" "The
Sleeper, the Master!" "God and the Master!" roared the voices.
And suddenly quite close to him were the black uniforms of the
revolutionary guard, and for the first and last time in his life he saw
Graham, saw him quite nearly. A tall, dark man in a flowing black robe he
was, with a white, resolute face and eyes fixed steadfastly before him; a
man who for all the little things about him had neither ears nor eyes nor
For all his days that man remembered the passing of Graham's bloodless
face. In a moment it had gone and he was fighting in the swaying crowd. A
lad weeping with terror thrust against him, pressing towards the
stairways, yelling "Clear for the start, you fools!" The bell that
cleared the flying stage became a loud unmelodious clanging.
With that clanging in his ears Graham drew near the monoplane, marched
into the shadow of its tilting wing. He became aware that a number of
people about him were offering to accompany him, and waved their offers
aside. He wanted to think how one started the engine. The bell clanged
faster and faster, and the feet of the retreating people roared faster
and louder. The man in yellow was assisting him to mount through the ribs
of the body. He clambered into the aeronaut's place, fixing himself very
carefully and deliberately. What was it? The man in yellow was pointing
to two small flying machines driving upward in the southern sky. No doubt
they were looking for the coming aeroplanes. That—presently—the thing
to do now was to start. Things were being shouted at him, questions,
warnings. They bothered him. He wanted to think about the machine, to
recall every item of his previous experience. He waved the people from
him, saw the man in yellow dropping off through the ribs, saw the crowd
cleft down the line of the girders by his gesture.
For a moment he was motionless, staring at the levers, the wheel by which
the engine shifted, and all the delicate appliances of which he knew so
little. His eye caught a spirit level with the bubble towards him, and he
remembered something, spent a dozen seconds in swinging the engine
forward until the bubble floated in the centre of the tube. He noted that
the people were not shouting, knew they watched his deliberation. A
bullet smashed on the bar above his head. Who fired? Was the line clear
of people? He stood up to see and sat down again.
In another second the propeller was spinning and he was rushing down the
guides. He gripped the wheel and swung the engine back to lift the stem.
Then it was the people shouted. In a moment he was throbbing with the
quiver of the engine, and the shouts dwindled swiftly behind, rushed down
to silence. The wind whistled over the edges of the screen, and the world
sank away from him very swiftly.
Throb, throb, throb—throb, throb, throb; up he drove. He fancied
himself free of all excitement, felt cool and deliberate. He lifted the
stem still more, opened one valve on his left wing and swept round and
up. He looked down with a steady head, and up. One of the Ostrogite
monoplanes was driving across his course, so that he drove obliquely
towards it and would pass below it at a steep angle. Its little
aeronauts were peering down at him. What did they mean to do? His mind
became active. One, he saw held a weapon pointing, seemed prepared to
fire. What did they think he meant to do? In a moment he understood
their tactics, and his resolution was taken. His momentary lethargy was
past. He opened two more valves to his left, swung round, end on to this
hostile machine, closed his valves, and shot straight at it, stem and
wind-screen shielding him from the shot. They tilted a little as if to
clear him. He flung up his stem.
Throb, throb, throb—pause—throb, throb—he set his teeth, his face into
an involuntary grimace, and crash! He struck it! He struck upward beneath
the nearer wing.
Very slowly the wing of his antagonist seemed to broaden as the impetus
of his blow turned it up. He saw the full breadth of it and then it slid
downward out of his sight.
He felt his stem going down, his hands tightened on the levers, whirled
and rammed the engine back. He felt the jerk of a clearance, the nose of
the machine jerked upward steeply, and for a moment he seemed to be
lying on his back. The machine was reeling and staggering, it seemed to
be dancing on its screw. He made a huge effort, hung for a moment on the
levers, and slowly the engine came forward again. He was driving upward
but no longer so steeply. He gasped for a moment and flung himself at the
levers again. The wind whistled about him. One further effort and he was
almost level. He could breathe. He turned his head for the first time to
see what had become of his antagonists. Turned back to the levers for a
moment and looked again. For a moment he could have believed they were
annihilated. And then he saw between the two stages to the east was a
chasm, and down this something, a slender edge, fell swiftly and
vanished, as a sixpence falls down a crack.
At first he did not understand, and then a wild joy possessed him. He
shouted at the top of his voice, an inarticulate shout, and drove higher
and higher up the sky. Throb, throb, throb, pause, throb, throb, throb.
"Where was the other?" he thought. "They too—." As he looked round the
empty heavens he had a momentary fear that this second machine had risen
above him, and then he saw it alighting on the Norwood stage. They had
meant shooting. To risk being rammed headlong two thousand feet in the
air was beyond their latter-day courage….
For a little while he circled, then swooped in a steep descent towards
the westward stage. Throb throb throb, throb throb throb. The twilight
was creeping on apace, the smoke from the Streatham stage that had been
so dense and dark, was now a pillar of fire, and all the laced curves of
the moving ways and the translucent roofs and domes and the chasms
between the buildings were glowing softly now, lit by the tempered
radiance of the electric light that the glare of the day overpowered. The
three efficient stages that the Ostrogites held—for Wimbledon Park was
useless because of the fire from Roehampton, and Streatham was a
furnace—were glowing with guide lights for the coming aeroplanes. As he
swept over the Roehampton stage he saw the dark masses of the people
thereon. He heard a clap of frantic cheering, heard a bullet from the
Wimbledon Park stage tweet through the air, and went beating up above the
Surrey wastes. He felt a breath of wind from the southwest, and lifted
his westward wing as he had learnt to do, and so drove upward heeling
into the rare swift upper air. Whirr, whirr, whirr.
Up he drove and up, to that pulsating rhythm, until the country beneath
was blue and indistinct, and London spread like a little map traced in
light, like the mere model of a city near the brim of the horizon. The
southwest was a sky of sapphire over the shadowy rim of the world, and
ever as he drove upward the multitude of stars increased.
And behold! In the southward, low down and glittering swiftly nearer,
were two little patches of nebulous light. And then two more, and then a
glow of swiftly driving shapes. Presently he could count them. There were
four and twenty. The first fleet of aeroplanes had come! Beyond appeared
a yet greater glow.
He swept round in a half circle, staring at this advancing fleet. It flew
in a wedge-like shape, a triangular flight of gigantic phosphorescent
shapes sweeping nearer through the lower air. He made a swift calculation
of their pace, and spun the little wheel that brought the engine forward.
He touched a lever and the throbbing effort of the engine ceased. He
began to fall, fell swifter and swifter. He aimed at the apex of the
wedge. He dropped like a stone through the whistling air. It seemed
scarce a second from that soaring moment before he struck the foremost
No man of all that black multitude saw the coming of his fate, no man
among them dreamt of the hawk that struck downward upon him out of the
sky. Those who were not limp in the agonies of air-sickness, were craning
their black necks and staring to see the filmy city that was rising out
of the haze, the rich and splendid city to which "Massa Boss" had brought
their obedient muscles. Bright teeth gleamed and the glossy faces shone.
They had heard of Paris. They knew they were to have lordly times among
the poor white trash.
Suddenly Graham hit them.
He had aimed at the body of the aeroplane, but at the very last instant a
better idea had flashed into his mind. He twisted about and struck near
the edge of the starboard wing with all his accumulated weight. He was
jerked back as he struck. His prow went gliding across its smooth expanse
towards the rim. He felt the forward rush of the huge fabric sweeping him
and his monoplane along with it, and for a moment that seemed an age he
could not tell what was happening. He heard a thousand throats yelling,
and perceived that his machine was balanced on the edge of the gigantic
float, and driving down, down; glanced over his shoulder and saw the
backbone of the aeroplane and the opposite float swaying up. He had a
vision through the ribs of sliding chairs, staring faces, and hands
clutching at the tilting guide bars. The fenestrations in the further
float flashed open as the aeronaut tried to right her. Beyond, he saw a
second aeroplane leaping steeply to escape the whirl of its heeling
fellow. The broad area of swaying wings seemed to jerk upward. He felt he
had dropped clear, that the monstrous fabric, clean overturned, hung like
a sloping wall above him.
He did not clearly understand that he had struck the side float of the
aeroplane and slipped off, but he perceived that he was flying free on
the down glide and rapidly nearing earth. What had he done? His heart
throbbed like a noisy engine in his throat and for a perilous instant he
could not move his levers because of the paralysis of his hands. He
wrenched the levers to throw his engine back, fought for two seconds
against the weight of it, felt himself righting, driving horizontally,
set the engine beating again.
He looked upward and saw two aeroplanes glide shouting far overhead,
looked back, and saw the main body of the fleet opening out and rushing
upward and outward; saw the one he had struck fall edgewise on and strike
like a gigantic knife-blade along the wind-wheels below it.
He put down his stern and looked again. He drove up heedless of his
direction as he watched. He saw the wind-vanes give, saw the huge fabric
strike the earth, saw its downward vanes crumple with the weight of its
descent, and then the whole mass turned over and smashed, upside down,
upon the sloping wheels. Then from the heaving wreckage a thin tongue of
white fire licked up towards the zenith. He was aware of a huge mass
flying through the air towards him, and turned upwards just in time to
escape the charge—if it was a charge—of a second aeroplane. It whirled
by below, sucked him down a fathom, and nearly turned him over in the
gust of its close passage.
He became aware of three others rushing towards him, aware of the urgent
necessity of beating above them. Aeroplanes were all about him, circling
wildly to avoid him, as it seemed. They drove past him, above, below,
eastward and westward. Far away to the westward was the sound of a
collision, and two falling flares. Far away to the southward a second
squadron was coming. Steadily he beat upward. Presently all the
aeroplanes were below him, but for a moment he doubted the height he had
of them, and did not swoop again. And then he came down upon a second
victim and all its load of soldiers saw him coming. The big machine
heeled and swayed as the fear-maddened men scrambled to the stern for
their weapons. A score of bullets sung through the air, and there flashed
a star in the thick glass wind-screen that protected him. The aeroplane
slowed and dropped to foil his stroke, and dropped too low. Just in time
he saw the wind-wheels of Bromley hill rushing up towards him, and spun
about and up as the aeroplane he had chased crashed among them. All its
voices wove into a felt of yelling. The great fabric seemed to be
standing on end for a second among the heeling and splintering vans, and
then it flew to pieces. Huge splinters came flying through the air, its
engines burst like shells. A hot rush of flame shot overhead into the
"Two!" he cried, with a bomb from overhead bursting as it fell, and
forthwith he was beating up again. A glorious exhilaration possessed him
now, a giant activity. His troubles about humanity, about his inadequacy,
were gone for ever. He was a man in battle rejoicing in his power.
Aeroplanes seemed radiating from him in every direction, intent only upon
avoiding him, the yelling of their packed passengers came in short gusts
as they swept by. He chose his third quarry, struck hastily and did but
turn it on edge. It escaped him, to smash against the tall cliff of
London wall. Flying from that impact he skimmed the darkling ground so
nearly he could see a frightened rabbit bolting up a slope. He jerked up
steeply, and found himself driving over south London with the air about
him vacant. To the right of him a wild riot of signal rockets from the
Ostrogites banged tumultuously in the sky. To the south the wreckage of
half a dozen air ships flamed, and east and west and north they fled
before him. They drove away to the east and north, and went about in the
south, for they could not pause in the air. In their present confusion
any attempt at evolution would have meant disastrous collisions.
He passed two hundred feet or so above the Roehampton stage. It was black
with people and noisy with their frantic shouting. But why was the
Wimbledon Park stage black and cheering, too? The smoke and flame of
Streatham now hid the three further stages. He curved about and rose to
see them and the northern quarters. First came the square masses of
Shooter's Hill into sight, from behind the smoke, lit and orderly with
the aeroplane that had landed and its disembarking negroes. Then came
Blackheath, and then under the corner of the reek the Norwood stage. On
Blackheath no aeroplane had landed. Norwood was covered by a swarm of
little figures running to and fro in a passionate confusion. Why?
Abruptly he understood. The stubborn defence of the flying stages was
over, the people were pouring into the under-ways of these last
strongholds of Ostrog's usurpation. And then, from far away on the
northern border of the city, full of glorious import to him, came a
sound, a signal, a note of triumph, the leaden thud of a gun. His lips
fell apart, his face was disturbed with emotion.
He drew an immense breath. "They win," he shouted to the empty air; "the
people win!" The sound of a second gun came like an answer. And then he
saw the monoplane on Blackheath was running down its guides to launch. It
lifted clean and rose. It shot up into the air, driving straight
southward and away from him.
In an instant it came to him what this meant. It must needs be Ostrog
in flight. He shouted and dropped towards it. He had the momentum of
his elevation and fell slanting down the air and very swiftly. It rose
steeply at his approach. He allowed for its velocity and drove
straight upon it.
It suddenly became a mere flat edge, and behold! he was past it, and
driving headlong down with all the force of his futile blow.
He was furiously angry. He reeled the engine back along its shaft and
went circling up. He saw Ostrog's machine beating up a spiral before
him. He rose straight towards it, won above it by virtue of the impetus
of his swoop and by the advantage and weight of a man. He dropped
headlong—dropped and missed again! As he rushed past he saw the face of
Ostrog's aeronaut confident and cool and in Ostrog's attitude a wincing
resolution. Ostrog was looking steadfastly away from him—to the south.
He realized with a gleam of wrath how bungling his flight must be. Below
he saw the Croydon hills. He jerked upward and once more he gained on
He glanced over his shoulder and his attention was arrested. The
eastward stage, the one on Shooter's Hill, appeared to lift; a flash
changing to a tall grey shape, a cowled figure of smoke and dust, jerked
into the air. For a moment this cowled figure stood motionless, dropping
huge masses of metal from its shoulders, and then it began to uncoil a
dense head of smoke. The people had blown it up, aeroplane and all! As
suddenly a second flash and grey shape sprang up from the Norwood stage.
And even as he stared at this came a dead report; and the air wave of the
first explosion struck him. He was flung up and sideways.
For a moment his monoplane fell nearly edgewise with her nose down, and
seemed to hesitate whether to overset altogether. He stood on his
wind-shield, wrenching the wheel that swayed up over his head. And then
the shock of the second explosion took his machine sideways.
He found himself clinging to one of the ribs of his machine, and the
air was blowing past him and upward. He seemed to be hanging quite
still in the air, with the wind blowing up past him. It occurred to him
that he was falling. Then he was sure that he was falling. He could not
He found himself recapitulating with incredible swiftness all that had
happened since his awakening, the days of doubt, the days of Empire, and
at last the tumultuous discovery of Ostrog's calculated treachery.
The vision had a quality of utter unreality. Who was he? Why was he
holding so tightly with his hands? Why could he not let go? In such
a fall as this countless dreams have ended. But in a moment he
His thoughts ran swifter and swifter. He wondered if he should see Helen
again. It seemed so unreasonable that he should not see her again. It
must be a dream! Yet surely he would meet her. She at least was real.
She was real. He would wake and meet her.
Although he could not look at it, he was suddenly aware that the earth
was very near.