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|When the Sleeper Wakes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
In The Silent Rooms
|Page 6 of 7||
"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 despised--discreet--"
Graham stopped dead.
"It would pass the time," said Howard. "It is a thing I should perhaps have thought of before, but, as a matter of fact, so much is happening--"
He indicated the exterior world.
Graham hesitated. For a moment the figure of a possible woman that his imagination suddenly created dominated his mind with an intense attraction. Then he flashed into anger.
"No I" he shouted.
He began striding rapidly up and down the room.
"Everything you say, everything you do, convinces me--of some great issue in which I am concerned. I do not want to pass the time, as you call it. Yes, I know. Desire and indulgence are life in a sense--and Death! Extinction! In my life before I slept I had worked out that pitiful question. I will not begin again. There is a city, a multitude--. And meanwhile I am here like a rabbit in a bag."
His rage surged high. He choked for a moment and began to wave his clenched fists. He gave way to an anger fit, he swore archaic curses. His gestures had the quality of physical threats.
"I do not know who your party may be. I am in the dark, and you keep me in the dark. But I know this, that I am secluded here for no good purpose. For no good purpose. I warn you, I warn you of the consequences. Once I come at my power--"
He realised that to threaten thus might be a danger to himself. He stopped. Howard stood regarding him with a curious expression.
"I take it this is a message to the Council," said 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.
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|When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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