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|When the Sleeper Wakes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 2 of 4||
Warming seemed to doubt the quality of the luck. "I just missed seeing you, if I recollect aright."
"You came back by the trap that took me to Camelford railway station. It was close on the Jubilee, Victoria's Jubilee, because I remember the seats and flags in Westminster, and the row with the cabman at Chelsea."
"The Diamond Jubilee, it was," said Warming; "the second one."
"Ah, yes! At the proper Jubilee--the Fifty Year affair--I was down at Wookey--a boy. I missed all that.... What a fuss we had with him! My landlady wouldn't take him in, wouldn't let him stay--he looked so queer when he was rigid. We had to carry him in a chair up to the hotel. And the Boscastle doctor--it wasn't the present chap, but the G.P. before him--was at him until nearly two, with, me and the landlord holding lights and so forth."
"It was a cataleptic rigour at first, wasn't it?"
"Stiff!--wherever you bent him he stuck. You might have stood him on his head and he'd have stopped. I never saw such stiffness. Of course this"--he indicated the prostrate figure by a movement of his head--" is quite different. And, of course, the little doctor--what was his name?"
"Smithers it was--was quite wrong in trying to fetch him round too soon, according to all accounts. The things he did. Even now it makes me feel all--ugh! Mustard, snuff, pricking. And one of those beastly little things, not dynamos--"
"Yes. You could see his muscles throb and jump, and he twisted about. There was just two flaring yellow candles, and all the shadows were shivering, and the little doctor nervous and putting on side, and him--stark and squirming in the most unnatural ways. Well, it made me dream."
"It's a strange state," said Warming.
"It's a sort of complete absence," said Isbister.
"Here's the body, empty. Not dead a bit, and yet not alive. It's like a seat vacant and marked 'engaged.' No feeling, no digestion, no beating of the heart--not a flutter. _That_ doesn't make me feel as if there was a man present. In a sense it's more dead than death, for these doctors tell me that even the hair has stopped growing. Now with the proper dead, the hair will go on growing--"
"I know," said Warming, with a flash of pain in his expression.
They peered through the glass again. Graham was indeed in a strange state, in the flaccid phase of a trance, but a trance unprecedented in medical history. Trances had lasted for as much as a year before--but at the end of that time it had ever been waking or a death; sometimes first one and then the other. Isbister noted the marks the physicians had made in injecting nourishment, for that device had been resorted to to postpone collapse; he pointed them out to Warming, who had been trying not to see them.
"And while he has been lying here," said Isbister, with the zest of a life freely spent, "I have changed my plans in life; married, raised a family, my eldest lad--I hadn't begun to think of sons then--is an American citizen, and looking forward to leaving Harvard. There's a touch of grey in my hair. And this man, not a day older nor wiser (practically) than I was in my downy days. It's curious to think of."
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|When the Sleeper Wakes
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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