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When the Sleeper Wakes H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

The Old Man Who Knew Everything

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"No," said Graham, wondering what Babble Machine might be. "And you are certain this Ostrog--you are certain Ostrog organised this rebellion and arranged for the waking of the Sleeper? Just to assert himself--because he was not elected to the Council?

"Everyone knows that, I should think," said the old man. "Except--just fools. He meant to be master somehow. In the Council or not. Everyone who knows anything knows that. And here we are with dead bodies lying in the dark! Why, where have you been if you haven't heard all about the trouble between Ostrog and the Verneys? And what do you think the troubles are about? The Sleeper? Eh? You think the Sleeper's real and woke of his own accord--eh? "

"I'm a dull man, older than I look, and forgetful," said Graham." Lots of things that have happened--especially of late years--. If I was the Sleeper, to tell you the truth, I couldn't know less about them."

"Eh!" said the voice." Old, are you? You don't sound so very old! But its not everyone keeps his memory to my time of life--truly. But these notorious things! But you're not so old as me--not nearly so old as me. Well! I ought not to judge other men by myself, perhaps. I'm young--for so old a man. Maybe you're old for so young."

"That's it," said Graham. "And I've a queer history. I know very little. And history! Practically I know no history. The Sleeper and Julius Caesar are all the same to me. It's interesting to hear you talk of these things."

"I know a few things," said the old man. "I know a thing or two. But--. Hark!"

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The two men became silent, listening. There was heavy thud, a concussion that made their seat shiver. The passers-by stopped, shouted to one another. The old man was full of questions; he shouted to a man who passed near. Graham, emboldened by his example, got up and accosted others. None knew what had happened.

He returned to the seat and found the old man muttering vague interrogations in an undertone. For a while they said nothing to one another.

The sense of this gigantic struggle, so near and yet so remote oppressed Graham's imagination. Was this old man right, was the report of the people right, and were the revolutionaries winning? Or were they all in error, and were the red guards driving all before them? At any time the flood of warfare might pour into this silent quarter of the city and seize upon him again. It behooved him to learn all he could while there was time. He turned suddenly to the old man with a question and left it unsaid. But his motion moved the old man to speech again.

"Eh! but how things work together!" said the old man." This Sleeper that all the fools put their trust in! I've the whole history of it--I was always a good one for histories. When I was a boy - I'm that old--I used to read printed books. You'd hardly think it. Likely you've seen none--they rot and dust so--and the Sanitary Company burns them to make ashlarite. But they were convenient in their dirty way. Oh I learnt a lot. These new-fangled Babble Machines--they don't seem new-fangled to you, eh?--they're easy to hear, easy to forget. But I've traced all the Sleeper business from the first."

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When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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