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|When the Sleeper Wakes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
The Old Man Who Knew Everything
|Page 6 of 7||
"I had heard the Sleeper was rescued," said Graham. "But--to come back a minute. Are you sure Ostrog has him?"
"He won't let him go," said the old man.
"And the Sleeper. Are you sure he is not genuine? I have never heard--"
"So all the fools think. So they think. As if there wasn't a thousand things that were never heard. I know Ostrog too well for that. Did I tell you? In a way I'm a sort of relation of Ostrog's. A sort of relation. Through my daughter-in-law."
"I suppose there's no chance of this Sleeper asserting himself. I suppose he's certain to be a puppet-- in Ostrog's hands or the Council's, as soon as the struggle is over."
"In Ostrog's hands--certainly. Why shouldn't he be a puppet? Look at his position. Everything done for him, every pleasure possible. Why should he want to assert himself? "
"What are these Pleasure Cities?" said Graham, abruptly.
The old man made him repeat the question. When at last he was assured of Graham's words, he nudged him violently. "That's too much," said he. "You're poking fun at an old man. I've been suspecting you know more than you pretend."
"Perhaps I do," said Graham. "But no! why should I go on acting? No, I do not know what a Pleasure City is."
The old man laughed in an intimate way.
"What is more, I do not know how to read your letters, I do not know what money you use, I do not know what foreign countries there are. I do not know where I am. I cannot count. I do not know where to get food, nor drink, nor shelter."
"Come, come," said the old man, "if you had a glass of drink, now, would you put it in your ear or your eye?"
"I want you to tell me all these things."
"He, he! Well, gentlemen who dress in silk must have their fun." A withered hand caressed Graham's arm for a moment." Silk. Well, well! But, all the same, I wish I was the man who was put up as the Sleeper. He'll have a fine time of it. All the pomp and pleasure. He's a queer looking face. When they used to let anyone go to see him, I've got tickets and been. The image of the real one, as the photographs show him, this substitute used to be. Yellow. But he'll get fed up. It's a queer world. Think of the luck of it. The luck of it. I expect he'll be sent to Capri. It's the best fun for a greener."
His cough overtook him again. Then he began mumbling enviously of pleasures and strange delights. "The luck of it, the luck of it! All my life I've been in London, hoping to get my chance."
"But you don't know that the Sleeper died," said Graham, suddenly. J
The old man made him repeat his words.
"Men don't live beyond ten dozen. It's not in the order of things," said the old man. "I'm not a fool. Fools may believe it, but not me."
Graham became angry with the old man's assurance. "Whether you are a fool or not," he said, "it happens you are wrong about the Sleeper."
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|When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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