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|When the Sleeper Wakes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
The Sound Of A Tumult
|Page 3 of 8||
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."
_"Whats?"_ 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 red beard.
There was a pause. Graham looked at their faces and saw that what he had heard was indeed true.
"But it can't be," he said querulously. "I am dreaming. Trances. Trances don't last. That is not right--this is a joke you have played upon me! Tell me--some days ago, perhaps, I was walking along the coast of Cornwall--? "
His voice failed him.
The man with the flaxen beard hesitated. "I'm not very strong in history, sir," he said weakly, and glanced at the others.
"That was it, sir," said the youngster. "Boscastle, in the old Duchy of Cornwall--it's in the southwest country beyond the dairy meadows. There is a house there still. I have been there."
"Boscastle!" Graham turned his eyes to the youngster. "That was it--Boscastle. Little Boscastle. I fell asleep--somewhere there. I don't exactly remember. I don't exactly remember."
He pressed his brows and whispered," More than two hundred years!" I
He began to speak quickly with a twitching face, but his heart was cold within him. "But if it is two hundred years, every soul I know, every human being that ever I saw or spoke to before I went to sleep, must be dead."
They did not answer him.
"The Queen and the Royal Family, her Ministers, of Church and State. High and low, rich and poor, one with another--"
"Is there England still?"
"That's a comfort! Is there London?" E "This _is_ London, eh? And you are my assistant-- custodian; assistant-custodian. And these--? Eh? Assistant-custodians to?"
He sat with a gaunt stare on his face. "But why am I here? No! Don't talk. Be quiet. Let me--"
He sat silent, rubbed his eyes, and, uncovering them, found another little glass of pinkish fluid held towards him. He took the dose. It was almost immediately sustaining. Directly he had taken it he began to weep naturally and refreshingly.
Presently he looked at their faces, suddenly laughed through his tears, a little foolishly. "But--two-- hun--dred--years ! " he said. He grimaced hysterically and covered up his face again.
After a space he grew calm. He sat up, his hands hanging over his knees in almost precisely the same attitude in which Isbister had found him on the cliff at Pentargen. His attention was attracted by a thick domineering voice, the footsteps of an advancing personage. "What are you doing? Why was I not warned? Surely you could tell? Someone will suffer for this. The man must be kept quiet. Are the doorways closed? All the doorways? He must be kept perfectly quiet. He must not be told. Has he been told anything?"
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|When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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