Part 4 out of 5
city now is a prison. Mammon grips the key in his hand. Myriads,
countless myriads, toil from the cradle to the grave. Is that right? Is
that to be--for ever? Yes, far worse than in your time. All about us,
beneath us, sorrow and pain. All the shallow delight of such life as you
find about you, is separated by just a little from a life of wretchedness
beyond any telling. Yes, the poor know it--they know they suffer. These
countless multitudes who faced death for you two nights since--! You owe
your life to them."
"Yes," said Graham, slowly. "Yes. I owe my life to them."
"You come," she said, "from the days when this new tyranny of the cities
was scarcely beginning. It is a tyranny--a tyranny. In your days the
feudal war lords had gone, and the new lordship of wealth had still to
come. Half the men in the world still lived out upon the free
countryside. The cities had still to devour them. I have heard the
stories out of the old books--there was nobility! Common men led lives of
love and faithfulness then--they did a thousand things. And you--you come
from that time."
"It was not--. But never mind. How is it now--?"
"Gain and the Pleasure Cities! Or slavery--unthanked, unhonoured,
"Slavery!" he said.
"You don't mean to say that human beings are chattels."
"Worse. That is what I want you to know, what I want you to see. I know
you do not know. They will keep things from you, they will take you
presently to a Pleasure City. But you have noticed men and women and
children in pale blue canvas, with thin yellow faces and dull eyes?"
"Speaking a horrible dialect, coarse and weak."
"I have heard it."
"They are the slaves--your slaves. They are the slaves of the Labour
Department you own."
"The Labour Department! In some way--that is familiar. Ah! now I
remember. I saw it when I was wandering about the city, after the
lights returned, great fronts of buildings coloured pale blue. Do you
"Yes. How can I explain it to you? Of course the blue uniform struck you.
Nearly a third of our people wear it--more assume it now every day. This
Labour Department has grown imperceptibly."
"What _is_ this Labour Department?" asked Graham.
"In the old times, how did you manage with starving people?"
"There was the workhouse--which the parishes maintained."
"Workhouse! Yes--there was something. In our history lessons. I remember
now. The Labour Department ousted the workhouse. It grew--partly--out of
something--you, perhaps, may remember it--an emotional religious
organisation called the Salvation Army--that became a business company.
In the first place it was almost a charity. To save people from workhouse
rigours. There had been a great agitation against the workhouse. Now I
come to think of it, it was one of the earliest properties your Trustees
acquired. They bought the Salvation Army and reconstructed it as this.
The idea in the first place was to organise the labour of starving
"Nowadays there are no workhouses, no refuges and charities, nothing but
that Department. Its offices are everywhere. That blue is its colour. And
any man, woman or child who comes to be hungry and weary and with neither
home nor friend nor resort, must go to the Department in the end--or seek
some way of death. The Euthanasy is beyond their means--for the poor
there is no easy death. And at any hour in the day or night there is
food, shelter and a blue uniform for all comers--that is the first
condition of the Department's incorporation--and in return for a day's
shelter the Department extracts a day's work, and then returns the
visitor's proper clothing and sends him or her out again."
"Perhaps that does not seem so terrible to you. In your time men starved
in your streets. That was bad. But they died--_men_. These people in
blue--. The proverb runs: 'Blue canvas once and ever.' The Department
trades in their labour, and it has taken care to assure itself of the
supply. People come to it starving and helpless--they eat and sleep for a
night and day, they work for a day, and at the end of the day they go
out again. If they have worked well they have a penny or so--enough for a
theatre or a cheap dancing place, or a kinematograph story, or a dinner
or a bet. They wander about after that is spent. Begging is prevented by
the police of the ways. Besides, no one gives. They come back again the
next day or the day after--brought back by the same incapacity that
brought them first. At last their proper clothing wears out, or their
rags get so shabby that they are ashamed. Then they must work for months
to get fresh. If they want fresh. A great number of children are born
under the Department's care. The mother owes them a month thereafter--the
children they cherish and educate until they are fourteen, and they pay
two years' service. You may be sure these children are educated for the
blue canvas. And so it is the Department works."
"And none are destitute in the city?"
"None. They are either in blue canvas or in prison. We have abolished
destitution. It is engraved upon the Department's checks."
"If they will not work?"
"Most people will work at that pitch, and the Department has powers.
There are stages of unpleasantness in the work--stoppage of food--and a
man or woman who has refused to work once is known by a thumb-marking
system in the Department's offices all over the world. Besides, who can
leave the city poor? To go to Paris costs two Lions. And for
insubordination there are the prisons--dark and miserable--out of sight
below. There are prisons now for many things."
"And a third of the people wear this blue canvas?"
"More than a third. Toilers, living without pride or delight or hope,
with the stories of Pleasure Cities ringing in their ears, mocking their
shameful lives, their privations and hardships. Too poor even for the
Euthanasy, the rich man's refuge from life. Dumb, crippled millions,
countless millions, all the world about, ignorant of anything but
limitations and unsatisfied desires. They are born, they are thwarted and
they die. That is the state to which we have come."
For a space Graham sat downcast.
"But there has been a revolution," he said. "All these things will be
"That is our hope. That is the hope of the world. But Ostrog will not do
it. He is a politician. To him it seems things must be like this. He
does not mind. He takes it for granted. All the rich, all the
influential, all who are happy, come at last to take these miseries for
granted. They use the people in their politics, they live in ease by
their degradation. But you--you who come from a happier age--it is to
you the people look. To you."
He looked at her face. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears. He felt
a rush of emotion. For a moment he forgot this city, he forgot the
race, and all those vague remote voices, in the immediate humanity of
"But what am I to do?" he said with his eyes upon her.
"Rule," she answered, bending towards him and speaking in a low tone.
"Rule the world as it has never been ruled, for the good and happiness of
men. For you might rule it--you could rule it.
"The people are stirring. All over the world the people are stirring. It
wants but a word--but a word from you--to bring them all together. Even
the middle sort of people are restless--unhappy.
"They are not telling you the things that are happening. The people will
not go back to their drudgery--they refuse to be disarmed. Ostrog has
awakened something greater than he dreamt of--he has awakened hopes."
His heart was beating fast. He tried to seem judicial, to weigh
"They only want their leader," she said.
"You could do what you would;--the world is yours."
He sat, no longer regarding her. Presently he spoke. "The old dreams, and
the thing I have dreamt, liberty, happiness. Are they dreams? Could one
man--_one man_--?" His voice sank and ceased.
"Not one man, but all men--give them only a leader to speak the desire of
He shook his head, and for a time there was silence.
He looked up suddenly, and their eyes met. "I have not your faith," he
said, "I have not your youth. I am here with power that mocks me. No--let
me speak. I want to do--not right--I have not the strength for that--but
something rather right than wrong. It will bring no millennium, but I am
resolved now, that I will rule. What you have said has awakened me... You
are right. Ostrog must know his place. And I will learn--.... One thing I
promise you. This Labour slavery shall end."
"And you will rule?"
"Yes. Provided--. There is one thing."
"That you will help me."
"Yes. Does it not occur to you I am absolutely alone?"
She started and for an instant her eyes had pity. "Need you ask whether I
will help you?" she said.
There came a tense silence, and then the beating of a clock striking the
hour. Graham rose.
"Even now," he said, "Ostrog will be waiting." He hesitated, facing her.
"When I have asked him certain questions--. There is much I do not know.
It may be, that I will go to see with my own eyes the things of which you
have spoken. And when I return--?"
"I shall know of your going and coming. I will wait for you here again."
They regarded one another steadfastly, questioningly, and then he turned
from her towards the Wind-Vane office.
OSTROG'S POINT OF VIEW
Graham found Ostrog waiting to give a formal account of his day's
stewardship. On previous occasions he had passed over this ceremony as
speedily as possible, in order to resume his aerial experiences, but now
he began to ask quick short questions. He was very anxious to take up his
empire forthwith. Ostrog brought flattering reports of the development of
affairs abroad. In Paris and Berlin, Graham perceived that he was saying,
there had been trouble, not organised resistance indeed, but
insubordinate proceedings. "After all these years," said Ostrog, when
Graham pressed enquiries; "the Commune has lifted its head again. That is
the real nature of the struggle, to be explicit." But order had been
restored in these cities. Graham, the more deliberately judicial for the
stirring emotions he felt, asked if there had been any fighting. "A
little," said Ostrog. "In one quarter only. But the Senegalese division
of our African agricultural police--the Consolidated African Companies
have a very well drilled police--was ready, and so were the aeroplanes.
We expected a little trouble in the continental cities, and in America.
But things are very quiet in America. They are satisfied with the
overthrow of the Council. For the time."
"Why should you expect trouble?" asked Graham abruptly.
"There is a lot of discontent--social discontent."
"The Labour Department?"
"You are learning," said Ostrog with a touch of surprise. "Yes. It is
chiefly the discontent with the Labour Department. It was that discontent
supplied the motive force of this overthrow--that and your awakening."
Ostrog smiled. He became explicit. "We had to stir up their discontent,
we had to revive the old ideals of universal happiness--all men
equal--all men happy--no luxury that everyone may not share--ideas that
have slumbered for two hundred years. You know that? We had to revive
these ideals, impossible as they are--in order to overthrow the Council.
"Our revolution is accomplished, and the Council is overthrown, and
people whom we have stirred up--remain surging. There was scarcely enough
fighting.... We made promises, of course. It is extraordinary how
violently and rapidly this vague out-of-date humanitarianism has revived
and spread. We who sowed the seed even, have been astonished. In Paris,
as I say--we have had to call in a little external help."
"There is trouble. Multitudes will not go back to work. There is a
general strike. Half the factories are empty and the people are swarming
in the ways. They are talking of a Commune. Men in silk and satin have
been insulted in the streets. The blue canvas is expecting all sorts of
things from you.... Of course there is no need for you to trouble. We are
setting the Babble Machines to work with counter suggestions in the
cause of law and order. We must keep the grip tight; that is all."
Graham thought. He perceived a way of asserting himself. But he spoke
"Even to the pitch of bringing a negro police," he said.
"They are useful," said Ostrog. "They are fine loyal brutes, with no wash
of ideas in their heads--such as our rabble has. The Council should have
had them as police of the ways, and things might have been different. Of
course, there is nothing to fear except rioting and wreckage. You can
manage your own wings now, and you can soar away to Capri if there is any
smoke or fuss. We have the pull of all the great things; the aeronauts
are privileged and rich, the closest trades union in the world, and so
are the engineers of the wind-vanes. We have the air, and the mastery of
the air is the mastery of the earth. No one of any ability is organising
against us. They have no leaders--only the sectional leaders of the
secret society we organised before your very opportune awakening. Mere
busybodies and sentimentalists they are and bitterly jealous of each
other. None of them is man enough for a central figure. The only trouble
will be a disorganised upheaval. To be frank--that may happen. But it
won't interrupt your aeronautics. The days when the People could make
revolutions are past."
"I suppose they are," said Graham. "I suppose they are." He mused. "This
world of yours has been full of surprises to me. In the old days we
dreamt of a wonderful democratic life, of a time when all men would be
equal and happy."
Ostrog looked at him steadfastly. "The day of democracy is past," he
said. "Past for ever. That day began with the bowmen of Crecy, it ended
when marching infantry, when common men in masses ceased to win the
battles of the world, when costly cannon, great ironclads, and strategic
railways became the means of power. To-day is the day of wealth. Wealth
now is power as it never was power before--it commands earth and sea and
sky. All power is for those who can handle wealth. On your behalf.... You
must accept facts, and these are facts. The world for the Crowd! The
Crowd as Ruler! Even in your days that creed had been tried and
condemned. To-day it has only one believer--a multiplex, silly one--the
man in the Crowd."
Graham did not answer immediately. He stood lost in sombre
"No," said Ostrog. "The day of the common man is past. On the open
countryside one man is as good as another, or nearly as good. The earlier
aristocracy had a precarious tenure of strength and audacity. They were
tempered--tempered. There were insurrections, duels, riots. The first
real aristocracy, the first permanent aristocracy, came in with castles
and armour, and vanished before the musket and bow. But this is the
second aristocracy. The real one. Those days of gunpowder and democracy
were only an eddy in the stream. The common man now is a helpless unit.
In these days we have this great machine of the city, and an organisation
complex beyond his understanding."
"Yet," said Graham, "there is something resists, something you are
holding down--something that stirs and presses."
"You will see," said Ostrog, with a forced smile that would brush these
difficult questions aside. "I have not roused the force to destroy
"I wonder," said Graham.
"_Must_ the world go this way?" said Graham with his emotions at the
speaking point. "Must it indeed go in this way? Have all our hopes
"What do you mean?" said Ostrog. "Hopes?"
"I come from a democratic age. And I find an aristocratic tyranny!"
"Well,--but you are the chief tyrant."
Graham shook his head.
"Well," said Ostrog, "take the general question. It is the way that
change has always travelled. Aristocracy, the prevalence of the best--the
suffering and extinction of the unfit, and so to better things."
"But aristocracy! those people I met--"
"Oh! not _those_!" said Ostrog. "But for the most part they go to their
death. Vice and pleasure! They have no children. That sort of stuff will
die out. If the world keeps to one road, that is, if there is no turning
back. An easy road to excess, convenient Euthanasia for the pleasure
seekers singed in the flame, that is the way to improve the race!"
"Pleasant extinction," said Graham. "Yet--." He thought for an instant.
"There is that other thing--the Crowd, the great mass of poor men. Will
that die out? That will not die out. And it suffers, its suffering is a
force that even you--"
Ostrog moved impatiently, and when he spoke, he spoke rather less evenly
"Don't trouble about these things," he said. "Everything will be
settled in a few days now. The Crowd is a huge foolish beast. What if
it does not die out? Even if it does not die, it can still be tamed and
driven. I have no sympathy with servile men. You heard those people
shouting and singing two nights ago. They were _taught_ that song. If
you had taken any man there in cold blood and asked why he shouted, he
could not have told you. They think they are shouting for you, that
they are loyal and devoted to you. Just then they were ready to
slaughter the Council. To-day--they are already murmuring against those
who have overthrown the Council."
"No, no," said Graham. "They shouted because their lives were dreary,
without joy or pride, and because in me--in me--they hoped."
"And what was their hope? What is their hope? What right have they to
hope? They work ill and they want the reward of those who work well. The
hope of mankind--what is it? That some day the Over-man may come, that
some day the inferior, the weak and the bestial may be subdued or
eliminated. Subdued if not eliminated. The world is no place for the bad,
the stupid, the enervated. Their duty--it's a fine duty too!--is to die.
The death of the failure! That is the path by which the beast rose to
manhood, by which man goes on to higher things."
Ostrog took a pace, seemed to think, and turned on Graham. "I can imagine
how this great world state of ours seems to a Victorian Englishman. You
regret all the old forms of representative government--their spectres
still haunt the world, the voting councils, and parliaments and all that
eighteenth century tomfoolery. You feel moved against our Pleasure
Cities. I might have thought of that,--had I not been busy. But you will
learn better. The people are mad with envy--they would be in sympathy
with you. Even in the streets now, they clamour to destroy the Pleasure
Cities. But the Pleasure Cities are the excretory organs of the State,
attractive places that year after year draw together all that is weak and
vicious, all that is lascivious and lazy, all the easy roguery of the
world, to a graceful destruction. They go there, they have their time,
they die childless, all the pretty silly lascivious women die childless,
and mankind is the better. If the people were sane they would not envy
the rich their way of death. And you would emancipate the silly brainless
workers that we have enslaved, and try to make their lives easy and
pleasant again. Just as they have sunk to what they are fit for." He
smiled a smile that irritated Graham oddly. "You will learn better. I
know those ideas; in my boyhood I read your Shelley and dreamt of
Liberty. There is no liberty, save wisdom and self-control. Liberty is
within--not without. It is each man's own affair. Suppose--which is
impossible--that these swarming yelping fools in blue get the upper hand
of us, what then? They will only fall to other masters. So long as there
are sheep Nature will insist on beasts of prey. It would mean but a few
hundred years' delay. The coming of the aristocrat is fatal and assured.
The end will be the Over-man--for all the mad protests of humanity. Let
them revolt, let them win and kill me and my like. Others will
arise--other masters. The end will be the same."
"I wonder," said Graham doggedly.
For a moment he stood downcast.
"But I must see these things for myself," he said, suddenly assuming a
tone of confident mastery. "Only by seeing can I understand. I must
learn. That is what I want to tell you, Ostrog. I do not want to be King
in a Pleasure City; that is not my pleasure. I have spent enough time
with aeronautics--and those other things. I must learn how people live
now, how the common life has developed. Then I shall understand these
things better. I must learn how common people live--the labour people
more especially--how they work, marry, bear children, die--"
"You get that from our realistic novelists," suggested Ostrog, suddenly
"I want reality," said Graham.
"There are difficulties," said Ostrog, and thought. "On the whole--"
"I did not expect--"
"I had thought--. And yet perhaps--. You say you want to go through the
ways of the city and see the common people."
Suddenly he came to some conclusion. "You would need to go disguised," he
said. "The city is intensely excited, and the discovery of your presence
among them might create a fearful tumult. Still this wish of yours to go
into this city--this idea of yours--. Yes, now I think the thing over, it
seems to me not altogether--. It can be contrived. If you would really
find an interest in that! You are, of course, Master. You can go soon if
you like. A disguise Asano will be able to manage. He would go with you.
After all it is not a bad idea of yours."
"You will not want to consult me in any matter?" asked Graham suddenly,
struck by an odd suspicion.
"Oh, dear no! No! I think you may trust affairs to me for a time, at any
rate," said Ostrog, smiling. "Even if we differ--"
Graham glanced at him sharply.
"There is no fighting likely to happen soon?" he asked abruptly.
"I have been thinking about these negroes. I don't believe the people
intend any hostility to me, and, after all, I am the Master. I do not
want any negroes brought to London. It is an archaic prejudice perhaps,
but I have peculiar feelings about Europeans and the subject races. Even
Ostrog stood watching him from under his drooping brows. "I am not
bringing negroes to London," he said slowly. "But if--"
"You are not to bring armed negroes to London, whatever happens," said
Graham. "In that matter I am quite decided."
Ostrog resolved not to speak, and bowed deferentially.
IN THE CITY WAYS
And that night, unknown and unsuspected, Graham, dressed in the costume
of an inferior wind-vane official keeping holiday, and accompanied by
Asano in Labour Department canvas, surveyed the city through which he had
wandered when it was veiled in darkness. But now he saw it lit and
waking, a whirlpool of life. In spite of the surging and swaying of the
forces of revolution, in spite of the unusual discontent, the mutterings
of the greater struggle of which the first revolt was but the prelude,
the myriad streams of commerce still flowed wide and strong. He knew now
something of the dimensions and quality of the new age, but he was not
prepared for the infinite surprise of the detailed view, for the torrent
of colour and vivid impressions that poured past him.
This was his first real contact with the people of these latter days. He
realised that all that had gone before, saving his glimpses of the public
theatres and markets, had had its element of seclusion, had been a
movement within the comparatively narrow political quarter, that all his
previous experiences had revolved immediately about the question of his
own position. But here was the city at the busiest hours of night, the
people to a large extent returned to their own immediate interests, the
resumption of the real informal life, the common habits of the new time.
They emerged at first into a street whose opposite ways were crowded
with the blue canvas liveries. This swarm Graham saw was a portion of a
procession--it was odd to see a procession parading the city _seated_.
They carried banners of coarse black stuff with red letters. "No
disarmament," said the banners, for the most part in crudely daubed
letters and with variant spelling, and "Why should we disarm?" "No
disarming." "No disarming." Banner after banner went by, a stream of
banners flowing past, and at last at the end, the song of the revolt and
a noisy band of strange instruments. "They all ought to be at work," said
Asano. "They have had no food these two days, or they have stolen it."
Presently Asano made a detour to avoid the congested crowd that gaped
upon the occasional passage of dead bodies from hospital to a mortuary,
the gleanings after death's harvest of the first revolt.
That night few people were sleeping, everyone was abroad. A vast
excitement, perpetual crowds perpetually changing, surrounded Graham; his
mind was confused and darkened by an incessant tumult, by the cries and
enigmatical fragments of the social struggle that was as yet only
beginning. Everywhere festoons and banners of black and strange
decorations, intensified the quality of his popularity. Everywhere he
caught snatches of that crude thick dialect that served the illiterate
class, the class, that is, beyond the reach of phonograph culture, in
their commonplace intercourse. Everywhere this trouble of disarmament was
in the air, with a quality of immediate stress of which he had no inkling
during his seclusion in the Wind-Vane quarter. He perceived that as soon
as he returned he must discuss this with Ostrog, this and the greater
issues of which it was the expression, in a far more conclusive way than
he had so far done. Perpetually that night, even in the earlier hours of
their wanderings about the city, the spirit of unrest and revolt swamped
his attention, to the exclusion of countless strange things he might
otherwise have observed.
This preoccupation made his impressions fragmentary. Yet amidst so much
that was strange and vivid, no subject, however personal and insistent,
could exert undivided sway. There were spaces when the revolutionary
movement passed clean out of his mind, was drawn aside like a curtain
from before some startling new aspect of the time. Helen had swayed his
mind to this intense earnestness of enquiry, but there came times when
she, even, receded beyond his conscious thoughts. At one moment, for
example, he found they were traversing the religious quarter, for the
easy transit about the city afforded by the moving ways rendered sporadic
churches and chapels no longer necessary--and his attention was vividly
arrested by the facade of one of the Christian sects.
They were travelling seated on one of the swift upper ways, the place
leapt upon them at a bend and advanced rapidly towards them. It was
covered with inscriptions from top to base, in vivid white and blue, save
where a vast and glaring kinematograph transparency presented a realistic
New Testament scene, and where a vast festoon of black to show that the
popular religion followed the popular politics, hung across the
lettering. Graham had already become familiar with the phonotype writing
and these inscriptions arrested him, being to his sense for the most part
almost incredible blasphemy. Among the less offensive were "Salvation on
the First Floor and turn to the Right." "Put your Money on your Maker."
"The Sharpest Conversion in London, Expert Operators! Look Slippy!" "What
Christ would say to the Sleeper;--Join the Up-to-date Saints!" "Be a
Christian--without hindrance to your present Occupation." "All the
Brightest Bishops on the Bench to-night and Prices as Usual." "Brisk
Blessings for Busy Business Men."
"But this is appalling!" said Graham, as that deafening scream of
mercantile piety towered above them.
"What is appalling?" asked his little officer, apparently seeking vainly
for anything unusual in this shrieking enamel.
"_This_! Surely the essence of religion is reverence."
"Oh _that_!" Asano looked at Graham. "Does it shock you?" he said in the
tone of one who makes a discovery. "I suppose it would, of course. I had
forgotten. Nowadays the competition for attention is so keen, and people
simply haven't the leisure to attend to their souls, you know, as they
used to do." He smiled. "In the old days you had quiet Sabbaths and the
countryside. Though somewhere I've read of Sunday afternoons that--"
"But _that_," said Graham, glancing back at the receding blue and white.
"That is surely not the only--"
"There are hundreds of different ways. But, of course, if a sect doesn't
_tell_ it doesn't pay. Worship has moved with the times. There are high
class sects with quieter ways--costly incense and personal attentions
and all that. These people are extremely popular and prosperous. They
pay several dozen lions for those apartments to the Council--to you, I
Graham still felt a difficulty with the coinage, and this mention of a
dozen lions brought him abruptly to that matter. In a moment the
screaming temples and their swarming touts were forgotten in this new
interest. A turn of a phrase suggested, and an answer confirmed the idea
that gold and silver were both demonetised, that stamped gold which had
begun its reign amidst the merchants of Phoenicia was at last dethroned.
The change had been graduated but swift, brought about by an extension of
the system of cheques that had even in his previous life already
practically superseded gold in all the larger business transactions. The
common traffic of the city, the common currency indeed of all the world,
was conducted by means of the little brown, green and pink council
cheques for small amounts, printed with a blank payee. Asano had several
with him, and at the first opportunity he supplied the gaps in his set.
They were printed not on tearable paper, but on a semi-transparent fabric
of silken flexibility, interwoven with silk. Across them all sprawled a
facsimile of Graham's signature, his first encounter with the curves and
turns of that familiar autograph for two hundred and three years.
Some intermediary experiences made no impression sufficiently vivid to
prevent the matter of the disarmament claiming his thoughts again; a
blurred picture of a Theosophist temple that promised MIRACLES in
enormous letters of unsteady fire was least submerged perhaps, but then
came the view of the dining hall in Northumberland Avenue. That
interested him very greatly.
By the energy and thought of Asano he was able to view this place from a
little screened gallery reserved for the attendants of the tables. The
building was pervaded by a distant muffled hooting, piping and bawling,
of which he did not at first understand the import, but which recalled a
certain mysterious leathery voice he had heard after the resumption of
the lights on the night of his solitary wandering.
He had grown accustomed to vastness and great numbers of people,
nevertheless this spectacle held him for a long time. It was as he
watched the table service more immediately beneath, and interspersed
with many questions and answers concerning details, that the
realisation of the full significance of the feast of several thousand
people came to him.
It was his constant surprise to find that points that one might have
expected to strike vividly at the very outset never occurred to him until
some trivial detail suddenly shaped as a riddle and pointed to the
obvious thing he had overlooked. He discovered only now that this
continuity of the city, this exclusion of weather, these vast halls and
ways, involved the disappearance of the household; that the typical
Victorian "Home," the little brick cell containing kitchen and scullery,
living rooms and bedrooms, had, save for the ruins that diversified the
countryside, vanished as surely as the wattle hut. But now he saw what
had indeed been manifest from the first, that London, regarded as a
living place, was no longer an aggregation of houses but a prodigious
hotel, an hotel with a thousand classes of accommodation, thousands of
dining halls, chapels, theatres, markets and places of assembly, a
synthesis of enterprises, of which he chiefly was the owner. People had
their sleeping rooms, with, it might be, antechambers, rooms that were
always sanitary at least whatever the degree of comfort and privacy, and
for the rest they lived much as many people had lived in the new-made
giant hotels of the Victorian days, eating, reading, thinking, playing,
conversing, all in places of public resort, going to their work in the
industrial quarters of the city or doing business in their offices in the
He perceived at once how necessarily this state of affairs had developed
from the Victorian city. The fundamental reason for the modern city had
ever been the economy of co-operation. The chief thing to prevent the
merging of the separate households in his own generation was simply the
still imperfect civilisation of the people, the strong barbaric pride,
passions, and prejudices, the jealousies, rivalries, and violence of the
middle and lower classes, which had necessitated the entire separation of
contiguous households. But the change, the taming of the people, had been
in rapid progress even then. In his brief thirty years of previous life
he had seen an enormous extension of the habit of consuming meals from
home, the casually patronised horse-box coffee-house had given place to
the open and crowded Aerated Bread Shop for instance, women's clubs had
had their beginning, and an immense development of reading rooms, lounges
and libraries had witnessed to the growth of social confidence. These
promises had by this time attained to their complete fulfilment. The
locked and barred household had passed away.
These people below him belonged, he learnt, to the lower middle class,
the class just above the blue labourers, a class so accustomed in the
Victorian period to feed with every precaution of privacy that its
members, when occasion confronted them with a public meal, would usually
hide their embarrassment under horseplay or a markedly militant
demeanour. But these gaily, if lightly dressed people below, albeit
vivacious, hurried and uncommunicative, were dexterously mannered and
certainly quite at their ease with regard to one another.
He noted a slight significant thing; the table, as far as he could see,
was and remained delightfully neat, there was nothing to parallel the
confusion, the broadcast crumbs, the splashes of viand and condiment, the
overturned drink and displaced ornaments, which would have marked the
stormy progress of the Victorian meal. The table furniture was very
different. There were no ornaments, no flowers, and the table was without
a cloth, being made, he learnt, of a solid substance having the texture
and appearance of damask. He discerned that this damask substance was
patterned with gracefully designed trade advertisements.
In a sort of recess before each diner was a complex apparatus of
porcelain and metal. There was one plate of white porcelain, and by means
of taps for hot and cold volatile fluids the diner washed this himself
between the courses; he also washed his elegant white metal knife and
fork and spoon as occasion required.
Soup and the chemical wine that was the common drink were delivered by
similar taps, and the remaining covers travelled automatically in
tastefully arranged dishes down the table along silver rails. The diner
stopped these and helped himself at his discretion. They appeared at a
little door at one end of the table, and vanished at the other. That turn
of democratic sentiment in decay, that ugly pride of menial souls, which
renders equals loth to wait on one another, was very strong he found
among these people. He was so preoccupied with these details that it was
only as he was leaving the place that he remarked the huge advertisement
dioramas that marched majestically along the upper walls and proclaimed
the most remarkable commodities.
Beyond this place they came into a crowded hall, and he discovered the
cause of the noise that had perplexed him. They paused at a turnstile at
which a payment was made.
Graham's attention was immediately arrested by a violent, loud hoot,
followed by a vast leathery voice. "The Master is sleeping peacefully,"
it vociferated. "He is in excellent health. He is going to devote the
rest of his life to aeronautics. He says women are more beautiful than
ever. Galloop! Wow! Our wonderful civilisation astonishes him beyond
measure. Beyond all measure. Galloop. He puts great trust in Boss
Ostrog, absolute confidence in Boss Ostrog. Ostrog is to be his chief
minister; is authorised to remove or reinstate public officers--all
patronage will be in his hands. All patronage in the hands of Boss
Ostrog! The Councillors have been sent back to their own prison above
the Council House."
Graham stopped at the first sentence, and, looking up, beheld a foolish
trumpet face from which this was brayed. This was the General
Intelligence Machine. For a space it seemed to be gathering breath, and a
regular throbbing from its cylindrical body was audible. Then it
trumpeted "Galloop, Galloop," and broke out again.
"Paris is now pacified. All resistance is over. Galloop! The black police
hold every position of importance in the city. They fought with great
bravery, singing songs written in praise of their ancestors by the poet
Kipling. Once or twice they got out of hand, and tortured and mutilated
wounded and captured insurgents, men and women. Moral--don't go
rebelling. Haha! Galloop, Galloop! They are lively fellows. Lively brave
fellows. Let this be a lesson to the disorderly banderlog of this city.
Yah! Banderlog! Filth of the earth! Galloop, Galloop!"
The voice ceased. There was a confused murmur of disapproval among the
crowd. "Damned niggers." A man began to harangue near them. "Is this the
Master's doing, brothers? Is this the Master's doing?"
"Black police!" said Graham. "What is that? You don't mean--"
Asano touched his arm and gave him a warning look, and forthwith another
of these mechanisms screamed deafeningly and gave tongue in a shrill
voice. "Yahaha, Yahah, Yap! Hear a live paper yelp! Live paper. Yaha!
Shocking outrage in Paris. Yahahah! The Parisians exasperated by the
black police to the pitch of assassination. Dreadful reprisals. Savage
times come again. Blood! Blood! Yaha!" The nearer Babble Machine hooted
stupendously, "Galloop, Galloop," drowned the end of the sentence, and
proceeded in a rather flatter note than before with novel comments on the
horrors of disorder. "Law and order must be maintained," said the nearer
"But," began Graham.
"Don't ask questions here," said Asano, "or you will be involved in an
"Then let us go on," said Graham, "for I want to know more of this."
As he and his companion pushed their way through the excited crowd that
swarmed beneath these voices, towards the exit, Graham conceived more
clearly the proportion and features of this room. Altogether, great and
small, there must have been nearly a thousand of these erections,
piping, hooting, bawling and gabbling in that great space, each with its
crowd of excited listeners, the majority of them men dressed in blue
canvas. There were all sizes of machines, from the little gossiping
mechanisms that chuckled out mechanical sarcasm in odd corners, through
a number of grades to such fifty-foot giants as that which had first
hooted over Graham.
This place was unusually crowded, because of the intense public interest
in the course of affairs in Paris. Evidently the struggle had been much
more savage than Ostrog had represented it. All the mechanisms were
discoursing upon that topic, and the repetition of the people made the
huge hive buzz with such phrases as "Lynched policemen," "Women burnt
alive," "Fuzzy Wuzzy." "But does the Master allow such things?" asked a
man near him. "Is _this_ the beginning of the Master's rule?"
Is _this_ the beginning of the Master's rule? For a long time after he
had left the place, the hooting, whistling and braying of the machines
pursued him; "Galloop, Galloop," "Yahahah, Yaha, Yap! Yaha!" Is _this_
the beginning of the Master's rule?
Directly they were out upon the ways he began to question Asano closely
on the nature of the Parisian struggle. "This disarmament! What was their
trouble? What does it all mean?" Asano seemed chiefly anxious to reassure
him that it was "all right."
"But these outrages!"
"You cannot have an omelette," said Asano, "without breaking eggs. It is
only the rough people. Only in one part of the city. All the rest is all
right. The Parisian labourers are the wildest in the world, except ours."
"What! the Londoners?"
"No, the Japanese. They have to be kept in order."
"But burning women alive!"
"A Commune!" said Asano. "They would rob you of your property. They would
do away with property and give the world over to mob rule. You are
Master, the world is yours. But there will be no Commune here. There is
no need for black police here.
"And every consideration has been shown. It is their own negroes--French
speaking negroes. Senegal regiments, and Niger and Timbuctoo."
"Regiments?" said Graham, "I thought there was only one--"
"No," said Asano, and glanced at him. "There is more than one."
Graham felt unpleasantly helpless.
"I did not think," he began and stopped abruptly. He went off at a
tangent to ask for information about these Babble Machines. For the most
part, the crowd present had been shabbily or even raggedly dressed, and
Graham learnt that so far as the more prosperous classes were concerned,
in all the more comfortable private apartments of the city were fixed
Babble Machines that would speak directly a lever was pulled. The tenant
of the apartment could connect this with the cables of any of the great
News Syndicates that he preferred. When he learnt this presently, he
demanded the reason of their absence from his own suite of apartments.
Asano was embarrassed. "I never thought," he said. "Ostrog must have had
Graham stared. "How was I to know?" he exclaimed.
"Perhaps he thought they would annoy you," said Asano.
"They must be replaced directly I return," said Graham after an interval.
He found a difficulty in understanding that this news room and the dining
hall were not great central places, that such establishments were
repeated almost beyond counting all over the city. But ever and again
during the night's expedition his ears would pick out from the tumult of
the ways the peculiar hooting of the organ of Boss Ostrog, "Galloop,
Galloop!" or the shrill "Yahaha, Yaha Yap!--Hear a live paper yelp!" of
its chief rival.
Repeated, too, everywhere, were such _creches_ as the one he now entered.
It was reached by a lift, and by a glass bridge that flung across the
dining hall and traversed the ways at a slight upward angle. To enter the
first section of the place necessitated the use of his solvent signature
under Asano's direction. They were immediately attended to by a man in a
violet robe and gold clasp, the insignia of practising medical men. He
perceived from this man's manner that his identity was known, and
proceeded to ask questions on the strange arrangements of the place
On either side of the passage, which was silent and padded, as if to
deaden the footfall, were narrow little doors, their size and arrangement
suggestive of the cells of a Victorian prison. But the upper portion of
each door was of the same greenish transparent stuff that had enclosed
him at his awakening, and within, dimly seen, lay, in every case, a very
young baby in a little nest of wadding. Elaborate apparatus watched the
atmosphere and rang a bell far away in the central office at the
slightest departure from the optimum of temperature and moisture. A
system of such _creches_ had almost entirely replaced the hazardous
adventures of the old-world nursing. The attendant presently called
Graham's attention to the wet nurses, a vista of mechanical figures, with
arms, shoulders, and breasts of astonishingly realistic modelling,
articulation, and texture, but mere brass tripods below, and having in
the place of features a flat disc bearing advertisements likely to be of
interest to mothers.
Of all the strange things that Graham came upon that night, none jarred
more upon his habits of thought than this place. The spectacle of the
little pink creatures, their feeble limbs swaying uncertainly in vague
first movements, left alone, without embrace or endearment, was wholly
repugnant to him. The attendant doctor was of a different opinion. His
statistical evidence showed beyond dispute that in the Victorian times
the most dangerous passage of life was the arms of the mother, that there
human mortality had ever been most terrible. On the other hand this
_creche_ company, the International Creche Syndicate, lost not one-half
per cent, of the million babies or so that formed its peculiar care. But
Graham's prejudice was too strong even for those figures.
Along one of the many passages of the place they presently came upon a
young couple in the usual blue canvas peering through the transparency
and laughing hysterically at the bald head of their first-born. Graham's
face must have showed his estimate of them, for their merriment ceased
and they looked abashed. But this little incident accentuated his sudden
realisation of the gulf between his habits of thought and the ways of the
new age. He passed on to the crawling rooms and the Kindergarten,
perplexed and distressed. He found the endless long playrooms were empty!
the latter-day children at least still spent their nights in sleep. As
they went through these, the little officer pointed out the nature of the
toys, developments of those devised by that inspired sentimentalist
Froebel. There were nurses here, but much was done by machines that sang
and danced and dandled.
Graham was still not clear upon many points. "But so many orphans," he
said perplexed, reverting to a first misconception, and learnt again that
they were not orphans.
So soon as they had left the _creche_ he began to speak of the horror the
babies in their incubating cases had caused him. "Is motherhood gone?" he
said. "Was it a cant? Surely it was an instinct. This seems so
"Along here we shall come to the dancing place," said Asano by way of
reply. "It is sure to be crowded. In spite of all the political unrest it
will be crowded. The women take no great interest in politics--except a
few here and there. You will see the mothers--most young women in London
are mothers. In that class it is considered a creditable thing to have
one child--a proof of animation. Few middle class people have more than
one. With the Labour Department it is different. As for motherhood! They
still take an immense pride in the children. They come here to look at
them quite often."
"Then do you mean that the population of the World--?"
"Is falling? Yes. Except among the people under the Labour Department. In
spite of scientific discipline they are reckless--"
The air was suddenly dancing with music, and down a way they approached
obliquely, set with gorgeous pillars as it seemed of clear amethyst,
flowed a concourse of gay people and a tumult of merry cries and
laughter. He saw curled heads, wreathed brows, and a happy intricate
flutter of gamboge pass triumphant across the picture.
"You will see," said Asano with a faint smile. "The world has changed. In
a moment you will see the mothers of the new age. Come this way. We shall
see those yonder again very soon."
They ascended a certain height in a swift lift, and changed to a slower
one. As they went on the music grew upon them, until it was near and full
and splendid, and, moving with its glorious intricacies they could
distinguish the beat of innumerable dancing feet. They made a payment at
a turnstile, and emerged upon the wide gallery that overlooked the
dancing place, and upon the full enchantment of sound and sight.
"Here," said Asano, "are the fathers and mothers of the little
ones you saw."
The hall was not so richly decorated as that of the Atlas, but saving
that, it was, for its size, the most splendid Graham had seen. The
beautiful white-limbed figures that supported the galleries reminded him
once more of the restored magnificence of sculpture; they seemed to
writhe in engaging attitudes, their faces laughed. The source of the
music that filled the place was hidden, and the whole vast shining floor
was thick with dancing couples. "Look at them," said the little officer,
"see how much they show of motherhood."
The gallery they stood upon ran along the upper edge of a huge screen
that cut the dancing hall on one side from a sort of outer hall that
showed through broad arches the incessant onward rush of the city ways.
In this outer hall was a great crowd of less brilliantly dressed people,
as numerous almost as those who danced within, the great majority wearing
the blue uniform of the Labour Department that was now so familiar to
Graham. Too poor to pass the turnstiles to the festival, they were yet
unable to keep away from the sound of its seductions. Some of them even
had cleared spaces, and were dancing also, fluttering their rags in the
air. Some shouted as they danced, jests and odd allusions Graham did not
understand. Once someone began whistling the refrain of the revolutionary
song, but it seemed as though that beginning was promptly suppressed. The
corner was dark and Graham could not see. He turned to the hall again.
Above the caryatids were marble busts of men whom that age esteemed great
moral emancipators and pioneers; for the most part their names were
strange to Graham, though he recognised Grant Allen, Le Gallienne,
Nietzsche, Shelley and Goodwin. Great black festoons and eloquent
sentiments reinforced the huge inscription that partially defaced the
upper end of the dancing place, and asserted that "The Festival of the
Awakening" was in progress.
"Myriads are taking holiday or staying from work because of that, quite
apart from the labourers who refuse to go back," said Asano. "These
people are always ready for holidays."
Graham walked to the parapet and stood leaning over, looking down at the
dancers. Save for two or three remote whispering couples, who had stolen
apart, he and his guide had the gallery to themselves. A warm breath of
scent and vitality came up to him. Both men and women below were lightly
clad, bare-armed, open-necked, as the universal warmth of the city
permitted. The hair of the men was often a mass of effeminate curls,
their chins were always shaven, and many of them had flushed or coloured
cheeks. Many of the women were very pretty, and all were dressed with
elaborate coquetry. As they swept by beneath, he saw ecstatic faces with
eyes half closed in pleasure.
"What sort of people are these?" he asked abruptly.
"Workers--prosperous workers. What you would have called the middle
class. Independent tradesmen with little separate businesses have
vanished long ago, but there are store servers, managers, engineers of a
hundred sorts. To-night is a holiday of course, and every dancing place
in the city will be crowded, and every place of worship."
"The same. There's a thousand forms of work for women now. But you had
the beginning of the independent working-woman in your days. Most women
are independent now. Most of these are married more or less--there are a
number of methods of contract--and that gives them more money, and
enables them to enjoy themselves."
"I see," said Graham, looking at the flushed faces, the flash and swirl
of movement, and still thinking of that nightmare of pink helpless limbs.
"And these are--mothers."
"Most of them."
"The more I see of these things the more complex I find your problems.
This, for instance, is a surprise. That news from Paris was a surprise."
In a little while he spoke again:
"These are mothers. Presently, I suppose, I shall get into the modern way
of seeing things. I have old habits of mind clinging about me--habits
based, I suppose, on needs that are over and done with. Of course, in our
time, a woman was supposed not only to bear children, but to cherish
them, to devote herself to them, to educate them--all the essentials of
moral and mental education a child owed its mother. Or went without.
Quite a number, I admit, went without. Nowadays, clearly, there is no
more need for such care than if they were butterflies. I see that! Only
there was an ideal--that figure of a grave, patient woman, silently and
serenely mistress of a home, mother and maker of men--to love her was a
sort of worship--"
He stopped and repeated, "A sort of worship."
"Ideals change," said the little man, "as needs change."
Graham awoke from an instant reverie and Asano repeated his words.
Graham's mind returned to the thing at hand.
"Of course I see the perfect reasonableness of this. Restraint,
soberness, the matured thought, the unselfish act, they are necessities
of the barbarous state, the life of dangers. Dourness is man's tribute to
unconquered nature. But man has conquered nature now for all practical
purposes--his political affairs are managed by Bosses with a black
police--and life is joyous."
He looked at the dancers again. "Joyous," he said.
"There are weary moments," said the little officer, reflectively.
"They all look young. Down there I should be visibly the oldest man. And
in my own time I should have passed as middle-aged."
"They are young. There are few old people in this class in the
"How is that?"
"Old people's lives are not so pleasant as they used to be, unless they
are rich to hire lovers and helpers. And we have an institution called
"Ah! that Euthanasy!" said Graham. "The easy death?"
"The easy death. It is the last pleasure. The Euthanasy Company does it
well. People will pay the sum--it is a costly thing--long beforehand, go
off to some pleasure city and return impoverished and weary, very weary."
"There is a lot left for me to understand," said Graham after a pause.
"Yet I see the logic of it all. Our array of angry virtues and sour
restraints was the consequence of danger and insecurity. The Stoic, the
Puritan, even in my time, were vanishing types. In the old days man was
armed against Pain, now he is eager for Pleasure. There lies the
difference. Civilisation has driven pain and danger so far off--for
well-to-do people. And only well-to-do people matter now. I have been
asleep two hundred years."
For a minute they leant on the balustrading, following the intricate
evolution of the dance. Indeed the scene was very beautiful.
"Before God," said Graham, suddenly, "I would rather be a wounded
sentinel freezing in the snow than one of these painted fools!"
"In the snow," said Asano, "one might think differently."
"I am uncivilised," said Graham, not heeding him. "That is the trouble. I
am primitive--Paleolithic. _Their_ fountain of rage and fear and anger is
sealed and closed, the habits of a lifetime make them cheerful and easy
and delightful. You must bear with my nineteenth century shocks and
disgusts. These people, you say, are skilled workers and so forth. And
while these dance, men are fighting--men are dying in Paris to keep the
world--that they may dance."
Asano smiled faintly. "For that matter, men are dying in London," he
There was a moment's silence.
"Where do these sleep?" asked Graham.
"Above and below--an intricate warren."
"And where do they work? This is--the domestic life."
"You will see little work to-night. Half the workers are out or under
arms. Half these people are keeping holiday. But we will go to the work
places if you wish it."
For a time Graham watched the dancers, then suddenly turned away. "I want
to see the workers. I have seen enough of these," he said.
Asano led the way along the gallery across the dancing hall. Presently
they came to a transverse passage that brought a breath of fresher,
Asano glanced at this passage as they went past, stopped, went back to
it, and turned to Graham with a smile. "Here, Sire," he said, "is
something--will be familiar to you at least--and yet--. But I will not
tell you. Come!"
He led the way along a closed passage that presently became cold. The
reverberation of their feet told that this passage was a bridge. They
came into a circular gallery that was glazed in from the outer weather,
and so reached a circular chamber which seemed familiar, though Graham
could not recall distinctly when he had entered it before. In this was a
ladder--the first ladder he had seen since his awakening--up which they
went, and came into a high, dark, cold place in which was another almost
vertical ladder. This they ascended, Graham still perplexed.
But at the top he understood, and recognised the metallic bars to which
he clung. He was in the cage under the ball of St. Paul's. The dome rose
but a little way above the general contour of the city, into the still
twilight, and sloped away, shining greasily under a few distant lights,
into a circumambient ditch of darkness.
Out between the bars he looked upon the wind-clear northern sky and saw
the starry constellations all unchanged. Capella hung in the west, Vega
was rising, and the seven glittering points of the Great Bear swept
overhead in their stately circle about the Pole.
He saw these stars in a clear gap of sky. To the east and south the great
circular shapes of complaining wind-wheels blotted out the heavens, so
that the glare about the Council House was hidden. To the southwest hung
Orion, showing like a pallid ghost through a tracery of iron-work and
interlacing shapes above a dazzling coruscation of lights. A bellowing
and siren screaming that came from the flying stages warned the world
that one of the aeroplanes was ready to start. He remained for a space
gazing towards the glaring stage. Then his eyes went back to the
For a long time he was silent. "This," he said at last, smiling in the
shadow, "seems the strangest thing of all. To stand in the dome of St.
Paul's and look once more upon these familiar, silent stars!"
Thence Graham was taken by Asano along devious ways to the great gambling
and business quarters where the bulk of the fortunes in the city were
lost and made. It impressed him as a well-nigh interminable series of
very high halls, surrounded by tiers upon tiers of galleries into which
opened thousands of offices, and traversed by a complicated multitude of
bridges, footways, aerial motor rails, and trapeze and cable leaps. And
here more than anywhere the note of vehement vitality, of uncontrollable,
hasty activity, rose high. Everywhere was violent advertisement, until
his brain swam at the tumult of light and colour. And Babble Machines of
a peculiarly rancid tone were abundant and filled the air with strenuous
squealing and an idiotic slang. "Skin your eyes and slide," "Gewhoop,
Bonanza," "Gollipers come and hark!"
The place seemed to him to be dense with people either profoundly
agitated or swelling with obscure cunning, yet he learnt that the place
was comparatively empty, that the great political convulsion of the last
few days had reduced transactions to an unprecedented minimum. In one
huge place were long avenues of roulette tables, each with an excited,
undignified crowd about it; in another a yelping Babel of white-faced
women and red-necked leathery-lunged men bought and sold the shares of an
absolutely fictitious business undertaking which, every five minutes,
paid a dividend of ten per cent, and cancelled a certain proportion of
its shares by means of a lottery wheel.
These business activities were prosecuted with an energy that readily
passed into violence, and Graham approaching a dense crowd found at its
centre a couple of prominent merchants in violent controversy with teeth
and nails on some delicate point of business etiquette. Something still
remained in life to be fought for. Further he had a shock at a vehement
announcement in phonetic letters of scarlet flame, each twice the height
of a man, that "WE ASSURE THE PROPRAIET'R. WE ASSURE THE PROPRAIET'R."
"Who's the proprietor?" he asked.
"But what do they assure me?" he asked. "What do they assure me?"
"Didn't you have assurance?"
Graham thought. "Insurance?"
"Yes--Insurance. I remember that was the older word. They are insuring
your life. Dozands of people are taking out policies, myriads of lions
are being put on you. And further on other people are buying annuities.
They do that on everybody who is at all prominent. Look there!"
A crowd of people surged and roared, and Graham saw a vast black screen
suddenly illuminated in still larger letters of burning purple. "Anuetes
on the Propraiet'r--x 5 pr. G." The people began to boo and shout at
this, a number of hard breathing, wild-eyed men came running past,
clawing with hooked fingers at the air. There was a furious crush about a
Asano did a brief, inaccurate calculation. "Seventeen per cent, per
annum is their annuity on you. They would not pay so much per cent, if
they could see you now, Sire. But they do not know. Your own annuities
used to be a very safe investment, but now you are sheer gambling, of
course. This is probably a desperate bid. I doubt if people will get
The crowd of would-be annuitants grew so thick about them that for some
time they could move neither forward nor backward. Graham noticed what
appeared to him to be a high proportion of women among the speculators,
and was reminded again of the economic independence of their sex. They
seemed remarkably well able to take care of themselves in the crowd,
using their elbows with particular skill, as he learnt to his cost. One
curly-headed person caught in the pressure for a space, looked
steadfastly at him several times, almost as if she recognised him, and
then, edging deliberately towards him, touched his hand with her arm in a
scarcely accidental manner, and made it plain by a look as ancient as
Chaldea that he had found favour in her eyes. And then a lank,
grey-bearded man, perspiring copiously in a noble passion of self-help,
blind to all earthly things save that glaring bait, thrust between them
in a cataclysmal rush towards that alluring "X 5 pr. G."
"I want to get out of this," said Graham to Asano. "This is not what I
came to see. Show me the workers. I want to see the people in blue. These
He found himself wedged into a straggling mass of people.
From the Business Quarter they presently passed by the running ways into
a remote quarter of the city, where the bulk of the manufactures was
done. On their way the platforms crossed the Thames twice, and passed in
a broad viaduct across one of the great roads that entered the city from
the North. In both cases his impression was swift and in both very vivid.
The river was a broad wrinkled glitter of black sea water, overarched by
buildings, and vanishing either way into a blackness starred with
receding lights. A string of black barges passed seaward, manned by
blue-clad men. The road was a long and very broad and high tunnel, along
which big-wheeled machines drove noiselessly and swiftly. Here, too, the
distinctive blue of the Labour Department was in abundance. The
smoothness of the double tracks, the largeness and the lightness of the
big pneumatic wheels in proportion to the vehicular body, struck Graham
most vividly. One lank and very high carriage with longitudinal metallic
rods hung with the dripping carcasses of many hundred sheep arrested his
attention unduly. Abruptly the edge of the archway cut and blotted out
Presently they left the way and descended by a lift and traversed a
passage that sloped downward, and so came to a descending lift again. The
appearance of things changed. Even the pretence of architectural
ornament disappeared, the lights diminished in number and size, the
architecture became more and more massive in proportion to the spaces as
the factory quarters were reached. And in the dusty biscuit-making place
of the potters, among the felspar mills, in the furnace rooms of the
metal workers, among the incandescent lakes of crude Eadhamite, the blue
canvas clothing was on man, woman and child.
Many of these great and dusty galleries were silent avenues of machinery,
endless raked out ashen furnaces testified to the revolutionary
dislocation, but wherever there was work it was being done by slow-moving
workers in blue canvas. The only people not in blue canvas were the
overlookers of the work-places and the orange-clad Labour Police. And
fresh from the flushed faces of the dancing halls, the voluntary vigours
of the business quarter, Graham could note the pinched faces, the feeble
muscles, and weary eyes of many of the latter-day workers. Such as he saw
at work were noticeably inferior in physique to the few gaily dressed
managers and forewomen who were directing their labours. The burly
labourers of the old Victorian times had followed that dray horse and all
such living force producers, to extinction; the place of his costly
muscles was taken by some dexterous machine. The latter-day labourer,
male as well as female, was essentially a machine-minder and feeder, a
servant and attendant, or an artist under direction.
The women, in comparison with those Graham remembered, were as a class
distinctly plain and flat-chested. Two hundred years of emancipation
from the moral restraints of Puritanical religion, two hundred years of
city life, had done their work in eliminating the strain of feminine
beauty and vigour from the blue canvas myriads. To be brilliant
physically or mentally, to be in any way attractive or exceptional, had
been and was still a certain way of emancipation to the drudge, a line
of escape to the Pleasure City and its splendours and delights, and at
last to the Euthanasy and peace. To be steadfast against such
inducements was scarcely to be expected of meanly nourished souls. In
the young cities of Graham's former life, the newly aggregated labouring
mass had been a diverse multitude, still stirred by the tradition of
personal honour and a high morality; now it was differentiating into an
instinct class, with a moral and physical difference of its own--even
with a dialect of its own.
They penetrated downward, ever downward, towards the working places.
Presently they passed underneath one of the streets of the moving ways,
and saw its platforms running on their rails far overhead, and chinks of
white lights between the transverse slits. The factories that were not
working were sparsely lighted; to Graham they and their shrouded aisles
of giant machines seemed plunged in gloom, and even where work was going
on the illumination was far less brilliant than upon the public ways.
Beyond the blazing lakes of Eadhamite he came to the warren of the
jewellers, and, with some difficulty and by using his signature, obtained
admission to these galleries. They were high and dark, and rather cold.
In the first a few men were making ornaments of gold filigree, each man
at a little bench by himself, and with a little shaded light. The long
vista of light patches, with the nimble fingers brightly lit and moving
among the gleaming yellow coils, and the intent face like the face of a
ghost, in each shadow, had the oddest effect.
The work was beautifully executed, but without any strength of modelling
or drawing, for the most part intricate grotesques or the ringing of the
changes on a geometrical _motif_. These workers wore a peculiar white
uniform without pockets or sleeves. They assumed this on coming to work,
but at night they were stripped and examined before they left the
premises of the Department. In spite of every precaution, the Labour
policeman told them in a depressed tone, the Department was not
Beyond was a gallery of women busied in cutting and setting slabs of
artificial ruby, and next these were men and women working together upon
the slabs of copper net that formed the basis of _cloisonne_ tiles. Many
of these workers had lips and nostrils a livid white, due to a disease
caused by a peculiar purple enamel that chanced to be much in fashion.
Asano apologised to Graham for this offensive sight, but excused himself
on the score of the convenience of this route. "This is what I wanted to
see," said Graham; "this is what I wanted to see," trying to avoid a
start at a particularly striking disfigurement.
"She might have done better with herself than that," said Asano.
Graham made some indignant comments.
"But, Sire, we simply could not stand that stuff without the purple,"
said Asano. "In your days people could stand such crudities, they were
nearer the barbaric by two hundred years."
They continued along one of the lower galleries of this _cloisonne_
factory, and came to a little bridge that spanned a vault. Looking over
the parapet, Graham saw that beneath was a wharf under yet more
tremendous archings than any he had seen. Three barges, smothered in
floury dust, were being unloaded of their cargoes of powdered felspar by
a multitude of coughing men, each guiding a little truck; the dust filled
the place with a choking mist, and turned the electric glare yellow. The
vague shadows of these workers gesticulated about their feet, and rushed
to and fro against a long stretch of white-washed wall. Every now and
then one would stop to cough.
A shadowy, huge mass of masonry rising out of the inky water, brought to
Graham's mind the thought of the multitude of ways and galleries and
lifts that rose floor above floor overhead between him and the sky. The
men worked in silence under the supervision of two of the Labour Police;
their feet made a hollow thunder on the planks along which they went to
and fro. And as he looked at this scene, some hidden voice in the
darkness began to sing.
"Stop that!" shouted one of the policemen, but the order was disobeyed,
and first one and then all the white-stained men who were working there
had taken up the beating refrain, singing it defiantly--the Song of the
Revolt. The feet upon the planks thundered now to the rhythm of the song,
tramp, tramp, tramp. The policeman who had shouted glanced at his fellow,
and Graham saw him shrug his shoulders. He made no further effort to stop
And so they went through these factories and places of toil, seeing many
painful and grim things. That walk left on Graham's mind a maze of
memories, fluctuating pictures of swathed halls, and crowded vaults seen
through clouds of dust, of intricate machines, the racing threads of
looms, the heavy beat of stamping machinery, the roar and rattle of belt
and armature, of ill-lit subterranean aisles of sleeping places,
illimitable vistas of pin-point lights. Here was the smell of tanning,
and here the reek of a brewery, and here unprecedented reeks. Everywhere
were pillars and cross archings of such a massiveness as Graham had never
before seen, thick Titans of greasy, shining brickwork crushed beneath
the vast weight of that complex city world, even as these anemic millions
were crushed by its complexity. And everywhere were pale features, lean
limbs, disfigurement and degradation.
Once and again, and again a third time, Graham heard the song of the
revolt during his long, unpleasant research in these places, and once he
saw a confused struggle down a passage, and learnt that a number of these
serfs had seized their bread before their work was done. Graham was
ascending towards the ways again when he saw a number of blue-clad
children running down a transverse passage, and presently perceived the
reason of their panic in a company of the Labour Police armed with clubs,
trotting towards some unknown disturbance. And then came a remote
disorder. But for the most part this remnant that worked, worked
hopelessly. All the spirit that was left in fallen humanity was above in
the streets that night, calling for the Master, and valiantly and noisily
keeping its arms.
They emerged from these wanderings and stood blinking in the bright light
of the middle passage of the platforms again. They became aware of the
remote hooting and yelping of the machines of one of the General
Intelligence Offices, and suddenly came men running, and along the
platforms and about the ways everywhere was a shouting and crying. Then a
woman with a face of mute white terror, and another who gasped and
shrieked as she ran.
"What has happened now?" said Graham, puzzled, for he could not
understand their thick speech. Then he heard it in English and perceived
that the thing that everyone was shouting, that men yelled to one
another, that women took up screaming, that was passing like the first
breeze of a thunderstorm, chill and sudden through the city, was this:
"Ostrog has ordered the Black Police to London. The Black Police are
coming from South Africa.... The Black Police. The Black Police."
Asano's face was white and astonished; he hesitated, looked at Graham's
face, and told him the thing he already knew. "But how can they know?"
Graham heard someone shouting. "Stop all work. Stop all work," and a
swarthy hunchback, ridiculously gay in green and gold, came leaping down
the platforms toward him, bawling again and again in good English, "This
is Ostrog's doing, Ostrog the Knave! The Master is betrayed." His voice
was hoarse and a thin foam dropped from his ugly shouting mouth. He
yelled an unspeakable horror that the Black Police had done in Paris, and
so passed shrieking, "Ostrog the Knave!"
For a moment Graham stood still, for it had come upon him again that
these things were a dream. He looked up at the great cliff of buildings
on either side, vanishing into blue haze at last above the lights, and
down to the roaring tiers of platforms, and the shouting, running people
who were gesticulating past. "The Master is betrayed!" they cried. "The
Master is betrayed!"
Suddenly the situation shaped itself in his mind real and urgent. His
heart began to beat fast and strong.
"It has come," he said. "I might have known. The hour has come."
He thought swiftly. "What am I to do?"
"Go back to the Council House," said Asano.
"Why should I not appeal--? The people are here."
"You will lose time. They will doubt if it is you. But they will mass
about the Council House. There you will find their leaders. Your strength
is there--with them."
"Suppose this is only a rumour?"
"It sounds true," said Asano.
"Let us have the facts," said Graham.
Asano shrugged his shoulders. "We had better get towards the Council
House," he cried. "That is where they will swarm. Even now the ruins may
Graham regarded him doubtfully and followed him.
They went up the stepped platforms to the swiftest one, and there Asano
accosted a labourer. The answers to his questions were in the thick,
"What did he say?" asked Graham.
"He knows little, but he told me that the Black Police would have arrived
here before the people knew--had not someone in the Wind-Vane Offices
learnt. He said a girl."
"A girl? Not--?"
"He said a girl--he did not know who she was. Who came out from the
Council House crying aloud, and told the men at work among the ruins."
And then another thing was shouted, something that turned an aimless
tumult into determinate movements, it came like a wind along the
street. "To your wards, to your wards. Every man get arms. Every man to
THE STRUGGLE IN THE COUNCIL HOUSE
As Asano and Graham hurried along to the ruins about the Council House,
they saw everywhere the excitement of the people rising. "To your wards!
To your wards!" Everywhere men and women in blue were hurrying from
unknown subterranean employments, up the staircases of the middle path;
at one place Graham saw an arsenal of the revolutionary committee
besieged by a crowd of shouting men, at another a couple of men in the
hated yellow uniform of the Labour Police, pursued by a gathering crowd,
fled precipitately along the swift way that went in the opposite
The cries of "To your wards!" became at last a continuous shouting as
they drew near the Government quarter. Many of the shouts were
unintelligible. "Ostrog has betrayed us," one man bawled in a hoarse
voice, again and again, dinning that refrain into Graham's ear until it
haunted him. This person stayed close beside Graham and Asano on the
swift way, shouting to the people who swarmed on the lower platforms as
he rushed past them. His cry about Ostrog alternated with some
incomprehensible orders. Presently he went leaping down and disappeared.
Graham's mind was filled with the din. His plans were vague and unformed.
He had one picture of some commanding position from which he could
address the multitudes, another of meeting Ostrog face to face. He was
full of rage, of tense muscular excitement, his hands gripped, his lips
were pressed together.
The way to the Council House across the ruins was impassable, but Asano
met that difficulty and took Graham into the premises of the central
post-office. The post-office was nominally at work, but the blue-clothed
porters moved sluggishly or had stopped to stare through the arches of
their galleries at the shouting men who were going by outside. "Every man
to his ward! Every man to his ward!" Here, by Asano's advice, Graham
revealed his identity.
They crossed to the Council House by a cable cradle. Already in the brief
interval since the capitulation of the Councillors a great change had
been wrought in the appearance of the ruins. The spurting cascades of the
ruptured sea-water mains had been captured and tamed, and huge temporary
pipes ran overhead along a flimsy looking fabric of girders. The sky was
laced with restored cables and wires that served the Council House, and a
mass of new fabric with cranes and other building machines going to and
fro upon it projected to the left of the white pile.
The moving ways that ran across this area had been restored, albeit for
once running under the open sky. These were the ways that Graham had seen
from the little balcony in the hour of his awakening, not nine days
since, and the hall of his Trance had been on the further side, where now
shapeless piles of smashed and shattered masonry were heaped together.
It was already high day and the sun was shining brightly. Out of their
tall caverns of blue electric light came the swift ways crowded with
multitudes of people, who poured off them and gathered ever denser over
the wreckage and confusion of the ruins. The air was full of their
shouting, and they were pressing and swaying towards the central
building. For the most part that shouting mass consisted of shapeless
swarms, but here and there Graham could see that a rude discipline
struggled to establish itself. And every voice clamoured for order in the
chaos. "To your wards! Every man to his ward!"
The cable carried them into a hall which Graham recognised as the
ante-chamber to the Hall of the Atlas, about the gallery of which he had
walked days ago with Howard to show himself to the Vanished Council, an
hour from his awakening. Now the place was empty except for two cable
attendants. These men seemed hugely astonished to recognise the Sleeper
in the man who swung down from the cross seat.
"Where is Ostrog?" he demanded. "I must see Ostrog forthwith. He has
disobeyed me. I have come back to take things out of his hands." Without
waiting for Asano, he went straight across the place, ascended the steps
at the further end, and, pulling the curtain aside, found himself facing
the perpetually labouring Titan.
The hall was empty. Its appearance had changed very greatly since his
first sight of it. It had suffered serious injury in the violent
struggle of the first outbreak. On the right hand side of the great
figure the upper half of the wall had been torn away for nearly two
hundred feet of its length, and a sheet of the same glassy film that had
enclosed Graham at his awakening had been drawn across the gap. This
deadened, but did not altogether exclude the roar of the people outside.
"Wards! Wards! Wards!" they seemed to be saying. Through it there were
visible the beams and supports of metal scaffoldings that rose and fell
according to the requirements of a great crowd of workmen. An idle
building machine, with lank arms of red painted metal stretched gauntly
across this green tinted picture. On it were still a number of workmen
staring at the crowd below. For a moment he stood regarding these
things, and Asano overtook him.
"Ostrog," said Asano, "will be in the small offices beyond there." The
little man looked livid now and his eyes searched Graham's face.
They had scarcely advanced ten paces from the curtain before a little
panel to the left of the Atlas rolled up, and Ostrog, accompanied by
Lincoln and followed by two black and yellow clad negroes, appeared
crossing the remote corner of the hall, towards a second panel that was
raised and open. "Ostrog," shouted Graham, and at the sound of his voice
the little party turned astonished.
Ostrog said something to Lincoln and advanced alone.
Graham was the first to speak. His voice was loud and dictatorial. "What
is this I hear?" he asked. "Are you bringing negroes here--to keep the
"It is none too soon," said Ostrog. "They have been getting out of hand
more and more, since the revolt. I under-estimated--"
"Do you mean that these infernal negroes are on the way?"
"On the way. As it is, you have seen the people--outside?"
"No wonder! But--after what was said. You have taken too much on
Ostrog said nothing, but drew nearer.
"These negroes must not come to London," said Graham. "I am Master and
they shall not come."
Ostrog glanced at Lincoln, who at once came towards them with his two
attendants close behind him. "Why not?" asked Ostrog.
"White men must be mastered by white men. Besides--"
"The negroes are only an instrument."
"But that is not the question. I am the Master. I mean to be the Master.
And I tell you these negroes shall not come."
"I believe in the people."
"Because you are an anachronism. You are a man out of the Past--an
accident. You are Owner perhaps of the world. Nominally--legally. But you
are not Master. You do not know enough to be Master."
He glanced at Lincoln again. "I know now what you think--I can guess
something of what you mean to do. Even now it is not too late to warn
you. You dream of human equality--of some sort of socialistic order--you
have all those worn-out dreams of the nineteenth century fresh and vivid
in your mind, and you would rule this age that you do not understand."
"Listen!" said Graham. "You can hear it--a sound like the sea. Not
voices--but a voice. Do _you_ altogether understand?"
"We taught them that," said Ostrog.
"Perhaps. Can you teach them to forget it? But enough of this! These
negroes must not come."
There was a pause and Ostrog looked him in the eyes.
"They will," he said.
"I forbid it," said Graham.
"They have started."
"I will not have it."
"No," said Ostrog. "Sorry as I am to follow the method of the
Council--. For your own good--you must not side with--Disorder. And now
that you are here--. It was kind of you to come here."
Lincoln laid his hand on Graham's shoulder. Abruptly Graham realised the
enormity of his blunder in coming to the Council House. He turned
towards the curtains that separated the hall from the ante-chamber. The
clutching hand of Asano intervened. In another moment Lincoln had
grasped Graham's cloak.
He turned and struck at Lincoln's face, and incontinently a negro had him
by collar and arm. He wrenched himself away, his sleeve tore noisily, and
he stumbled back, to be tripped by the other attendant. Then he struck
the ground heavily and he was staring at the distant ceiling of the hall.
He shouted, rolled over, struggling fiercely, clutched an attendant's leg
and threw him headlong, and struggled to his feet.
Lincoln appeared before him, went down heavily again with a blow under
the point of the jaw and lay still. Graham made two strides, stumbled.
And then Ostrog's arm was round his neck, he was pulled over backward,
fell heavily, and his arms were pinned to the ground. After a few violent
efforts he ceased to struggle and lay staring at Ostrog's heaving throat.
"You--are--a prisoner," panted Ostrog, exulting. "You--were rather a
fool--to come back."
Graham turned his head about and perceived through the irregular green
window in the walls of the hall the men who had been working the building
cranes gesticulating excitedly to the people below them. They had seen!
Ostrog followed his eyes and started. He shouted something to Lincoln,
but Lincoln did not move. A bullet smashed among the mouldings above the
Atlas. The two sheets of transparent matter that had been stretched
across this gap were rent, the edges of the torn aperture darkened,
curved, ran rapidly towards the framework, and in a moment the Council
chamber stood open to the air. A chilly gust blew in by the gap, bringing
with it a war of voices from the ruinous spaces without, an elvish
babblement, "Save the Master!" "What are they doing to the Master?" "The
Master is betrayed!"
And then he realised that Ostrog's attention was distracted, that
Ostrog's grip had relaxed, and, wrenching his arms free, he struggled to
his knees. In another moment he had thrust Ostrog back, and he was on one
foot, his hand gripping Ostrog's throat, and Ostrog's hands clutching the
silk about his neck.
But now men were coming towards them from the dais--men whose intentions
he misunderstood. He had a glimpse of someone running in the distance
towards the curtains of the antechamber, and then Ostrog had slipped from
him and these newcomers were upon him. To his infinite astonishment, they
seized him. They obeyed the shouts of Ostrog.
He was lugged a dozen yards before he realised that they were not
friends--that they were dragging him towards the open panel. When he saw
this he pulled back, he tried to fling himself down, he shouted for help
with all his strength. And this time there were answering cries.
The grip upon his neck relaxed, and behold! in the lower corner of the
rent upon the wall, first one and then a number of little black figures
appeared shouting and waving arms. They came leaping down from the gap
into the light gallery that had led to the Silent Rooms. They ran along
it, so near were they that Graham could see the weapons in their hands.
Then Ostrog was shouting in his ear to the men who held him, and once
more he was struggling with all his strength against their endeavours to
thrust him towards the opening that yawned to receive him. "They can't
come down," panted Ostrog. "They daren't fire. It's all right. We'll save
him from them yet."
For long minutes as it seemed to Graham that inglorious struggle
continued. His clothes were rent in a dozen places, he was covered in
dust, one hand had been trodden upon. He could hear the shouts of his
supporters, and once he heard shots. He could feel his strength giving
way, feel his efforts wild and aimless. But no help came, and surely,
irresistibly, that black, yawning opening came nearer.
The pressure upon him relaxed and he struggled up. He saw Ostrog's grey
head receding and perceived that he was no longer held. He turned about
and came full into a man in black. One of the green weapons cracked close
to him, a drift of pungent smoke came into his face, and a steel blade
flashed. The huge chamber span about him.
He saw a man in pale blue stabbing one of the black and yellow attendants
not three yards from his face. Then hands were upon him again.
He was being pulled in two directions now. It seemed as though people
were shouting to him. He wanted to understand and could not. Someone was
clutching about his thighs, he was being hoisted in spite of his vigorous
efforts. He understood suddenly, he ceased to struggle. He was lifted up
on men's shoulders and carried away from that devouring panel. Ten
thousand throats were cheering.
He saw men in blue and black hurrying after the retreating Ostrogites
and firing. Lifted up, he saw now across the whole expanse of the hall
beneath the Atlas image, saw that he was being carried towards the
raised platform in the centre of the place. The far end of the hall was
already full of people running towards him. They were looking at him
He became aware that a bodyguard surrounded him. Active men about him
shouted vague orders. He saw close at hand the black moustached man in
yellow who had been among those who had greeted him in the public
theatre, shouting directions. The hall was already densely packed with
swaying people, the little metal gallery sagged with a shouting load, the
curtains at the end had been torn away, and the antechamber was revealed
densely crowded. He could scarcely make the man near him hear for the
tumult about them. "Where has Ostrog gone?" he asked.
The man he questioned pointed over the heads towards the lower panels
about the hall on the side opposite the gap. They stood open, and armed
men, blue clad with black sashes, were running through them and vanishing
into the chambers and passages beyond. It seemed to Graham that a sound
of firing drifted through the riot. He was carried in a staggering curve
across the great hall towards an opening beneath the gap.
He perceived men working with a sort of rude discipline to keep the crowd
off him, to make a space clear about him. He passed out of the hall, and
saw a crude, new wall rising blankly before him topped by blue sky. He
was swung down to his feet; someone gripped his arm and guided him. He
found the man in yellow close at hand. They were taking him up a narrow
stairway of brick, and close at hand rose the great red painted masses,
the cranes and levers and the still engines of the big building machine.
He was at the top of the steps. He was hurried across a narrow railed
footway, and suddenly with a vast shouting the amphitheatre of ruins
opened again before him. "The Master is with us! The Master! The Master!"
The shout swept athwart the lake of faces like a wave, broke against the
distant cliff of ruins, and came back in a welter of cries. "The Master
is on our side!"
Graham perceived that he was no longer encompassed by people, that he was
standing upon a little temporary platform of white metal, part of a
flimsy seeming scaffolding that laced about the great mass of the Council
House. Over all the huge expanse of the ruins swayed and eddied the
shouting people; and here and there the black banners of the
revolutionary societies ducked and swayed and formed rare nuclei of
organisation in the chaos. Up the steep stairs of wall and scaffolding by
which his rescuers had reached the opening in the Atlas Chamber clung a
solid crowd, and little energetic black figures clinging to pillars and
projections were strenuous to induce these congested, masses to stir.
Behind him, at a higher point on the scaffolding, a number of men
struggled upwards with the flapping folds of a huge black standard.
Through the yawning gap in the walls below him he could look down upon
the packed attentive multitudes in the Hall of the Atlas. The distant
flying stages to the south came out bright and vivid, brought nearer as
it seemed by an unusual translucency of the air. A solitary monoplane
beat up from the central stage as if to meet the coming aeroplanes.
"What has become of Ostrog?" asked Graham, and even as he spoke he saw
that all eyes were turned from him towards the crest of the Council House
building. He looked also in this direction of universal attention. For a
moment he saw nothing but the jagged corner of a wall, hard and clear
against the sky. Then in the shadow he perceived the interior of a room
and recognised with a start the green and white decorations of his former
prison. And coming quickly across this opened room and up to the very
verge of the cliff of the ruins came a little white clad figure followed
by two other smaller seeming figures in black and yellow. He heard the
man beside him exclaim "Ostrog," and turned to ask a question. But he
never did, because of the startled exclamation of another of those who
were with him and a lank finger suddenly pointing. He looked, and behold!
the monoplane that had been rising from the flying stage when last he had
looked in that direction, was driving towards them. The swift steady
flight was still novel enough to hold his attention.
Nearer it came, growing rapidly larger and larger, until it had swept
over the further edge of the ruins and into view of the dense multitudes
below. It drooped across the space and rose and passed overhead, rising
to clear the mass of the Council House, a filmy translucent shape with
the solitary aeronaut peering down through its ribs. It vanished beyond
the skyline of the ruins.
Graham transferred his attention to Ostrog. He was signalling with his
hands, and his attendants were busy breaking down the wall beside him. In
another moment the monoplane came into view again, a little thing far
away, coming round in a wide curve and going slower.
Then suddenly the man in yellow shouted: "What are they doing? What are
the people doing? Why is Ostrog left there? Why is he not captured? They
will lift him--the monoplane will lift him! Ah!"
The exclamation was echoed by a shout from the ruins. The rattling sound
of the green weapons drifted across the intervening gulf to Graham, and,
looking down, he saw a number of black and yellow uniforms running along
one of the galleries that lay open to the air below the promontory upon
which Ostrog stood. They fired as they ran at men unseen, and then
emerged a number of pale blue figures in pursuit. These minute fighting
figures had the oddest effect; they seemed as they ran like little model
soldiers in a toy. This queer appearance of a house cut open gave that
struggle amidst furniture and passages a quality of unreality. It was
perhaps two hundred yards away from him, and very nearly fifty above the
heads in the ruins below. The black and yellow men ran into an open
archway, and turned and fired a volley. One of the blue pursuers striding
forward close to the edge, flung up his arms, staggered sideways, seemed
to Graham's sense to hang over the edge for several seconds, and fell
headlong down. Graham saw him strike a projecting corner, fly out, head
over heels, head over heels, and vanish behind the red arm of the
And then a shadow came between Graham and the sun. He looked up and the
sky was clear, but he knew the little monoplane had passed. Ostrog had
vanished. The man in yellow thrust before him, zealous and perspiring,
pointing and blatant.
"They are grounding!" cried the man in yellow. "They are grounding. Tell
the people to fire at him. Tell them to fire at him!"
Graham could not understand. He heard loud voices repeating these
Suddenly he saw the prow of the monoplane come gliding over the edge of
the ruins and stop with a jerk. In a moment Graham understood that the
thing had grounded in order that Ostrog might escape by it. He saw a blue
haze climbing out of the gulf, perceived that the people below him were
now firing up at the projecting stem.
A man beside him cheered hoarsely, and he saw that the blue rebels had
gained the archway that had been contested by the men in black and
yellow a moment before, and were running in a continual stream along the
And suddenly the monoplane slipped over the edge of the Council House and
fell like a diving swallow. It dropped, tilting at an angle of forty-five
degrees, so steeply that it seemed to Graham, it seemed perhaps to most
of those below, that it could not possibly rise again.
It fell so closely past him that he could see Ostrog clutching the guides
of the seat, with his grey hair streaming; see the white-faced aeronaut
wrenching over the lever that turned the machine upward. He heard the
apprehensive vague cry of innumerable men below.
Graham clutched the railing before him and gasped. The second seemed an
age. The lower vane of the monoplane passed within an ace of touching the
people, who yelled and screamed and trampled one another below.
And then it rose.
For a moment it looked as if it could not possibly clear the opposite
cliff, and then that it could not possibly clear the wind-wheel that
And behold! it was clear and soaring, still heeling sideways, upward,
upward into the wind-swept sky.
The suspense of the moment gave place to a fury of exasperation as the
swarming people realised that Ostrog had escaped them. With belated
activity they renewed their fire, until the rattling wove into a roar,
until the whole area became dim and blue and the air pungent with the
thin smoke of their weapons.
Too late! The flying machine dwindled smaller and smaller, and curved
about and swept gracefully downward to the flying stage from which it had
so lately risen. Ostrog had escaped.
For a while a confused babblement arose from the ruins, and then the
universal attention came back to Graham, perched high among the
scaffolding. He saw the faces of the people turned towards him, heard
their shouts at his rescue. From the throat of the ways came the song of
the revolt spreading like a breeze across that swaying sea of men.
The little group of men about him shouted congratulations on his escape.
The man in yellow was close to him, with a set face and shining eyes. And
the song was rising, louder and louder; tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp.
Slowly the realisation came of the full meaning of these things to him,
the perception of the swift change in his position. Ostrog, who had stood
beside him whenever he had faced that shouting multitude before, was
beyond there--the antagonist. There was no one to rule for him any
longer. Even the people about him, the leaders and organisers of the
multitude, looked to see what he would do, looked to him to act, awaited
his orders. He was king indeed. His puppet reign was at an end.
He was very intent to do the thing that was expected of him. His nerves
and muscles were quivering, his mind was perhaps a little confused, but
he felt neither fear nor anger. His hand that had been trodden upon
throbbed and was hot. He was a little nervous about his bearing. He knew
he was not afraid, but he was anxious not to seem afraid. In his former
life he had often been more excited in playing games of skill. He was
desirous of immediate action, he knew he must not think too much in
detail of the huge complexity of the struggle about him lest be should be
paralysed by the sense of its intricacy.
Over there those square blue shapes, the flying stages, meant Ostrog;
against Ostrog, who was so clear and definite and decisive, he who was so
vague and undecided, was fighting for the whole future of the world.
GRAHAM SPEAKS HIS WORD
For a time the Master of the Earth was not even master of his own mind.
Even his will seemed a will not his own, his own acts surprised him and
were but a part of the confusion of strange experiences that poured
across his being. These things were definite, the negroes were coming,
Helen Wotton had warned the people of their coming, and he was Master of
the Earth. Each of these facts seemed struggling for complete possession
of his thoughts. They protruded from a background of swarming halls,
elevated passages, rooms jammed with ward leaders in council,
kinematograph and telephone rooms, and windows looking out on a seething
sea of marching men. The men in yellow, and men whom he fancied were
called Ward Leaders, were either propelling him forward or following him
obediently; it was hard to tell. Perhaps they were doing a little of
both. Perhaps some power unseen and unsuspected propelled them all. He
was aware that he was going to make a proclamation to the People of the
Earth, aware of certain grandiose phrases floating in his mind as the
thing he meant to say. Many little things happened, and then he found
himself with the man in yellow entering a little room where this
proclamation of his was to be made.
This room was grotesquely latter-day in its appointments. In the centre
was a bright oval lit by shaded electric lights from above. The rest was
in shadow, and the double finely fitting doors through which he came from
the swarming Hall of the Atlas made the place very still. The dead thud
of these as they closed behind him, the sudden cessation of the tumult in
which he had been living for hours, the quivering circle of light, the
whispers and quick noiseless movements of vaguely visible attendants in
the shadows, had a strange effect upon Graham. The huge ears of a
phonographic mechanism gaped in a battery for his words, the black eyes
of great photographic cameras awaited his beginning, beyond metal rods
and coils glittered dimly, and something whirled about with a droning
hum. He walked into the centre of the light, and his shadow drew together
black and sharp to a little blot at his feet.
The vague shape of the thing he meant to say was already in his mind. But
this silence, this isolation, the withdrawal from that contagious crowd,
this audience of gaping, glaring machines, had not been in his
anticipation. All his supports seemed withdrawn together; he seemed to
have dropped into this suddenly, suddenly to have discovered himself. In
a moment he was changed. He found that he now feared to be inadequate, he
feared to be theatrical, he feared the quality of his voice, the quality
of his wit; astonished, he turned to the man in yellow with a
propitiatory gesture. "For a moment," he said, "I must wait. I did not
think it would be like this. I must think of the thing I have to say."
While he was still hesitating there came an agitated messenger with news
that the foremost aeroplanes were passing over Madrid.
"What news of the flying stages?" he asked.
"The people of the south-west wards are ready."