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|When the Sleeper Wakes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
The Sound Of A Tumult
|Page 2 of 8||
"Oh!" said Graham, and became quiet.
It was all very puzzling, but apparently these people in unfamiliar dress knew what they were about. Yet they were odd and the room was odd. It seemed he was in some newly established place. He had a sudden flash of suspicion. Surely this wasn't some hall of public exhibition! If it was he would give Warming a piece of his mind. But it scarcely had that character. And in a place of public exhibition he would not have discovered himself naked.
Then suddenly, quite abruptly, he realised what had happened. There was no perceptible interval of suspicion, no dawn to his knowledge. Abruptly he knew that his trance had lasted for a vast interval; as if by some processes of thought reading he interpreted the awe in the faces that peered into his. He looked at them strangely, full of intense emotion. It seemed they read his eyes. He framed his lips to speak and could not. A queer impulse to hide his knowledge came into his mind almost at the moment of his discovery. He looked at his bare feet, regarding then silently. His impulse to speak passed. He was 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.
"How long? "
"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 to another.
"How many years?" he asked.
"You must be prepared to be surprised."
"More than a gross of years."
He was irritated at the strange word." More than a _what_?"
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|When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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