The End Of The Old Order

: When The Sleeper Wakes

So far as Graham was able to judge, it was near midday when the white

banner of the Council fell. But some hours had to elapse before it was

possible to effect the formal capitulation, and so after he had spoken

his "Word" he retired to his new apartments in the wind-vane offices.

The continuous excitement of the last twelve hours had left him

inordinately fatigued, even his curiosity was exhausted; for a space he

sat inert and passive with open eyes, and for a space he slept. He

was roused by two medical attendants, come prepared with stimulants to

sustain him through the next occasion. After he had taken their drugs

and bathed by their advice in cold water, he felt a rapid return of

interest and energy, and was presently able and willing to accompany

Ostrog through several miles (as it seemed) of passages, lifts, and

slides to the closing scene of the White Council's rule.

The way ran deviously through a maze of buildings. They came at last to

a passage that curved about, and showed broadening before him an oblong

opening, clouds hot with sunset, and the ragged skyline of the ruinous

Council House. A tumult of shouts came drifting up to him. In another

moment they had come out high up on the brow of the cliff of torn

buildings that overhung the wreckage. The vast area opened to Graham's

eyes, none the less strange and wonderful for the remote view he had had

of it in the oval mirror.

This rudely amphitheatral space seemed now the better part of a mile to

its outer edge. It was gold lit on the left hand, catching the sunlight,

and below and to the right clear and cold in the shadow. Above the

shadowy grey Council House that stood in the midst of it, the great

black banner of the surrender still hung in sluggish folds against

the blazing sunset. Severed rooms, halls and passages gaped strangely,

broken masses of metal projected dismally from the complex wreckage,

vast masses of twisted cable dropped like tangled seaweed, and from its

base came a tumult of innumerable voices, violent concussions, and

the sound of trumpets. All about this great white pile was a ring of

desolation; the smashed and blackened masses, the gaunt foundations and

ruinous lumber of the fabric that had been destroyed by the Council's

orders, skeletons of girders, Titanic masses of wall, forests of stout

pillars. Amongst the sombre wreckage beneath, running water flashed and

glistened, and far away across the space, out of the midst of a vague

vast mass of buildings, there thrust the twisted end of a water-main,

two hundred feet in the air, thunderously spouting a shining cascade.

And everywhere great multitudes of people.

Wherever there was space and foothold, people swarmed, little people,

small and minutely clear, except where the sunset touched them to

indistinguishable gold. They clambered up the tottering walls, they

clung in wreaths and groups about the high-standing pillars. They

swarmed along the edges of the circle of ruins. The air was full of

their shouting, and were pressing and swaying towards the central space.

The upper storeys of the Council House seemed deserted, not a human

being was visible. Only the drooping banner of the surrender hung

heavily against the light. The dead were within the Council House, or

hidden by the swarming people, or carried away. Graham could see only

a few neglected bodies in gaps and corners of the ruins, and amidst the

flowing water.

"Will you let them see you, Sire?" said Ostrog. "They are very anxious

to see you."

Graham hesitated, and then walked forward to where the broken verge

of wall dropped sheer. He I stood looking down, a lonely, tall, black

figure against the sky.

Very slowly the swarming ruins became aware of him. And as they did so

little bands of black-uniformed men appeared remotely, thrusting through

the crowds towards the Council House. He saw little black heads become

pink, looking at him, saw by that means a wave of recognition sweep

across the space. It occurred to him that he should accord them some

recognition. He held up his arm, then pointed to the Council House and

dropped his hand. The voices below became unanimous, gathered volume,

came up to him as multitudinous wavelets of cheering.

The western sky was a pallid bluish green, and Jupiter shone high in

the south, before the capitulation was accomplished. Above was a slow

insensible change, the advance of night serene and beautiful; below was

hurry, excitement, conflicting orders, pauses, spasmodic developments of

organisation, a vast ascending clamour and confusion. Before the Council

came out, toiling perspiring men, directed by a conflict of shouts,

carried forth hundreds of those who had perished in the hand-to-hand

conflict within those long passages and chambers.

Guards in black lined the way that the Council would come, and as far

as the eye could reach into the hazy blue twilight of the ruins, and

swarming now at every possible point in the captured Council House

and along the shattered cliff of its circumadjacent buildings, were

innumerable people, and their voices even when they were not cheering,

were as the soughing of the sea upon a pebble beach. Ostrog had chosen

a huge commanding pile of crushed and overthrown masonry, and on this

a stage of timbers and metal girders was being hastily constructed.

Its essential parts were complete, but humming and clangorous machinery

still glared fitfully in the shadows beneath this temporary edifice.

The stage had a small higher portion on which Graham stood with Ostrog

and Lincoln close beside him, a little in advance of a group of minor

officers. A broader lower stage surrounded this quarter deck, and on

this were the black-uniformed guards of the revolt armed with the little

green weapons whose very names Graham still did not know. Those standing

about him perceived that his eyes wandered perpetually from the swarming

people in the twilight ruins about him to the darkling mass of the White

Council House, whence the Trustees would presently come, and to the

gaunt cliffs of ruin that encircled him, and so back to the people. The

voices of the crowd swelled to a deafening tumult.

He saw the Councillors first afar off in the glare of one of the

temporary lights that marked their path, a little group of white figures

blinking in a black archway. In the Council House they had been in

darkness. He watched them approaching, drawing nearer past first this

blazing electric star and then that; the minatory roar of the crowd over

whom their power had lasted for a hundred and fifty years marched along

beside them. As they drew still nearer their faces came out weary, white

and anxious. He saw them blinking up through the glare about him and

Ostrog. He contrasted their strange cold looks in the Hall of Atlas....

Presently he could recognise several of them; the man who had rapped

the table at Howard, a burly man with a red beard, and one

delicate-featured, short, dark man with a peculiarly long skull. He

noted that two were whispering together and looking behind him at

Ostrog. Next there came a tall, dark and handsome man, walking downcast.

Abruptly he glanced up, his eyes touched Graham for a moment, and

passed beyond him to Ostrog. The way that had been made for them was so

contrived that they had to march past and curve about before they came

to the sloping path of planks that ascended to the stage where their

surrender was to be made.

"The Master, the Master! God and the Master," shouted the people. "To

hell with the Council!" Graham looked at their multitudes, receding

beyond counting into a shouting haze, and then at Ostrog beside him,

white and steadfast and still. His eye went again to the little group

of White Councillors. And then he looked up at the familiar quiet stars

overhead. The marvellous element in his fate was suddenly vivid. Could

that be his indeed, that little life in his memory two hundred years

gone by--and this as well?