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|When the Sleeper Wakes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
The Sound Of A Tumult
|Page 4 of 8||
The man with the fair beard made some inaudible remark, and Graham looking over his shoulder saw approaching a very short, fat, and thickset beardless man, with aquiline nose and heavy neck and chin. Very thick black and slightly sloping eyebrows that almost met over his nose and overhung deep grey eyes, gave his face an oddly formidable expression. He scowled momentarily at Graham and then his regard returned to the man with the flaxen beard. "These others," he said in a voice of extreme irritation. "You had better go."
"Go? " said the red-bearded man.
"Certainly--go now. But see the doorways are closed as you go."
The two men addressed turned obediently, after one reluctant glance at Graham, and instead of going through the archway as he expected, walked straight to the dead wall of the apartment opposite the archway. And then came a strange thing; a long strip of this apparently solid wall rolled up with a snap, hung over the two retreating men and fell again, and immediately Graham was alone with the new comer and the purple-robed man with the flaxen beard.
For a space the thickset man took not the slightest notice of Graham, but proceeded to interrogate the other--obviously his subordinate--upon the treatment of their charge. He spoke clearly, but in phrases only partially intelligible to Graham. The awakening seemed not only a matter of surprise but of consternation and annoyance to him. He was evidently profoundly excited.
"You must not confuse his mind by telling him things," he repeated again and again. "You must not confuse his mind."
His questions answered, he turned quickly and eyed the awakened sleeper with an ambiguous expression.
"Feel queer? " he asked.
"The world, what you see of it, seems strange to you? "
"I suppose I have to live in it, strange as it seems."
"I suppose so, now."
"In the first place, hadn't I better have some clothes? "
"They--" said the thickset man and stopped, and the flaxen-bearded man met his eye and went away. "You will very speedily have clothes," said the thickset man.
"Is it true indeed, that I have been asleep two hundred--?" asked Graham.
"They have told you that, have they? Two hundred and three, as a matter of fact."
Graham accepted the indisputable now with raised eyebrows and depressed mouth. He sat silent for a moment, and then asked a question, "Is there a mill or dynamo near here?" He did not wait for an answer. "Things have changed tremendously, I suppose?" he said.
"What is that shouting? " he asked abruptly.
"Nothing," said the thickset man impatiently. "It's people. You'll understand better later--perhaps. As you say, things have changed." He spoke shortly, his brows were knit, and he glanced about him like a man trying to decide in an emergency. "We must get you clothes and so forth, at any rate.
Better wait here until some can come. No one will come near you. You want shaving."
Graham rubbed his chin.
The man with the flaxen beard came back towards them, turned suddenly, listened for a moment, lifted his eyebrows at the older man, and hurried off through the archway towards the balcony. The tumult of shouting grew louder, and the thickset man turned and listened also. He cursed suddenly under his breath, and turned his eyes upon Graham with an unfriendly expression. It was a surge of many voices, rising and falling, shouting and screaming, and once came a sound like blows and sharp cries, and then a snapping like the crackling of dry sticks. Graham strained his ears to draw some single thread of sound from the woven tumult.
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|When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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