In The City Ways
From: When The Sleeper Wakes
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 Company 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, he common habits of the new
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 red 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 common-place 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
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 now 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
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. In this matter, for instance, it had
not occurred to him 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 trading section.
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
fulfillment. 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 complete 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 just 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 said vociferately. "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 I 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 Babble Machine.
"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 gossipping
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
"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 stared. "I never thought," he said. "Ostrog must have had them
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
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, in some new quarter 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 without reserve.
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 Company 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 Company. They
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
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 Company 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 caryatidae 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. Tonight 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 a 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 work
"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
"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--Palaeolithic. 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 recognized 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
south-west 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 Saint
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, wildeyed men came running past,
clawing with hooked fingers at the air. There was a furious crush about
a little doorway.
Asano did a brief 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 their money."
The crowd of would-be annuitants grew so thick about them that for some
time they could move neither forward no backward. Graham noticed what
appeared to him to be a high proportion of women among the speculators,
and was reminded again of the economical 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 recognized 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 parasitic lunatics--"
He found himself wedged in a struggling mass c people, and this hopeful
sentence went unfinished.
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