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|When the Sleeper Wakes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 2 of 5||
"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 the gulf."
"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 and wondered transitorily if some complex Providence had indeed brought them together that afternoon. "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--"
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|When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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