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

The Old Man Who Knew Everything

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"Men are strange," said the old man. "The strange, thing to me is how the Council worked together so long. As many as twelve. But they worked in cliques from the first. And they've slipped back. In my young days speaking of the Council was like an ignorant man speaking of God. We didn't think they could do wrong. We didn't know of their women and all that! Or else I've got wiser.

"Men are strange," said the old man. "Here are you, young and ignorant, and me--sevendy years old, and I might reasonably be forgetting--explaining it all to you short and clear.

"Sevendy," he said, "sevendy, and I hear and see--hear better than I see. And reason clearly, and keep myself up to all the happenings of things. Sevendy!

"Life is strange. I was twaindy before Ostrog was a baby. I remember him long before he'd pushed his way to the head of the Wind Vanes Control. I've seen many changes. Eh! I've worn the blue. And at last I've come to see this crush and darkness and tumult and dead men carried by in heaps on the ways. And all his doing! All his doing! "

His voice died away in scarcely articulate praises of Ostrog

Graham thought. "Let me see," he said, "if I have it right."

He extended a hand and ticked off points upon his fingers. "The Sleeper has been asleep--"

"Changed," said the old man.

"Perhaps. And meanwhile the Sleeper's property grew in the hands of Twelve Trustees, until it swallowed up nearly all the great ownership of the world. The Twelve Trustees--by virtue of this property have become virtually masters of the world. Because they are the paying power--just as the old English Parliament used to be--"

"Eh!" said the old man. "That's so--that's a good comparison. You're not so--"

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"And now this Ostrog--has suddenly revolutionised the world by waking the Sleeper--whom no one but the superstitious, common people had ever dreamt would wake again--raising the Sleeper to claim his property from the Council, after all these years."

The old man endorsed this statement with a cough. "It's strange," he said, "to meet a man who learns these things for the first time tonight."

"Aye," said Graham, "it's strange."

"Have you been in a Pleasure City?" said the old man. "All my life I've longed--" He laughed. "Even now," he said, "I could enjoy a little fun. Enjoy seeing things, anyhow. "He mumbled a sentence Graham did not understand.

"The Sleeper--when did he awake?" said Graham suddenly.

"Three days ago."

"Where is he? "

"Ostrog has him. He escaped from the Council not four hours ago. My dear sir, where were you at the time? He was in the hall of the markets--where the fighting has been. All the city was screaming about it. All the Babble Machines! Everywhere it was shouted. Even the fools who speak for the Council were admitting it. Everyone was rushing off to see him--everyone was getting arms. Were you drunk or asleep? And even then! But you're joking! Surely you're pretending. It was to stop the shouting of the Babble Machines and prevent the people gathering that they turned off the electricity--and put this damned darkness upon us. Do you mean to say--? "

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

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