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|When the Sleeper Wakes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 3 of 8||
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 shifting 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 position? "
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|When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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