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   Chapter 30 THE GREAT SLEEP

The Blue Germ By Maurice Nicoll Characters: 8396

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


On that day the animals in London fell asleep with few exceptions. The exceptions were, I believe, all dogs. I do not pretend to explain, how it came about that dogs remained awake longer than other animals. The reason may be that dogs have some quality in them which is superior even to the qualities found in man, for there is a sweetness in the nature of dogs that is rare in men and women.

Many horses were overcome in the streets and lay down where they were. No attempt was made to remove them. They were left, stretched out on their sides, apparently unconscious.

And many thousands of men and women fell asleep. In some cases men were overcome by the sleep before their dogs, which has always seemed strange to me. It was Thornduck who told me this, for he remained awake during this period that the germ reigned supreme. He tells me that I fell asleep the next evening in my chair in the study and that he carried me upstairs to my room. I had just returned from visiting Leonora, whom I had found unconscious. He made a tour of London next morning. In the City there was a profound stillness.

In the West End matters were much the same. In Cavendish Square he entered many houses and found silence and sleep within. Everywhere doors and windows were wide open, giving access to any who might desire it. He visited the Houses of Parliament only to find a few comatose blue-stained men lying about on the benches. For the sleep had overtaken people by stealth. One day, passing by the Zoo, he had climbed the fence and made an inspection of the inmates. With the exception of an elephant that was nodding drowsily, the animals lay motionless in their cages, deep in the trance that the germ induced.

From time to time he met a man or woman awake like himself and stopped to talk. Those who still retained sufficient individuality to continue existence were the strangest mixture of folk, for they were of every class, many of them being little better than beggars. They were people in whom the desire of life played a minor part. They were those people who are commonly regarded as being failures, people who live and die unknown to the world. They were those people who devote themselves to an obscure existence, shun the rewards of successful careers, and are ridiculed by all prosperous individuals. It seems that Thornduck was instrumental in calling a meeting of these people at St. Paul's. There were about two thousand of them in all, but many in the outlying suburbs remained ignorant of the meeting, and Thornduck considers that in the London district alone there must have been some thousands who did not attend. At the meeting, which must have been the strangest in all history, the question of the future was discussed. Many believed that the effect of the germ on those in the great sleep would ultimately lead to a cessation of life owing to starvation. Thornduck held that the germ would pass, arguing on principles that were so unscientific that I refrain from giving them. Eventually it appears that a decision was reached to leave London on a certain date and migrate southwards in search of a region where a colony might be founded under laws and customs suitable for Immortals. Thornduck says that there was one thing that struck him very forcibly at the meeting at St. Paul's. All the people gathered there had about them a certain sweetness and strength, which, although it was very noticeable, escaped his powers of analysis.

He attempted on several occasions to get into telegraphic communication with the Continent, but failed. In his wanderings he entered many homes, always being careful to lay out at full length any of the unconscious inmates who were asleep on chairs, for he feared that they might come to harm, and that their limbs might become stiffened into unnatural postures.

All the time he had a firm conviction that the phase of sleep was temporary. He himself had moments in which a slight drowsiness overtook him, but he never lost the enhanced power of thought that I had experienced in the early stages of the Blue Disease. So absolute was his conviction that a general awakening would come about that he began to busy his mind w

ith the question as to what he could do, in conjunction with the other Immortals who were still awake, to benefit humanity when it should emerge from the trance. This question was discussed continually. Many thought that they should burn all records, financial, political, governmental and private, so that some opportunity of starting afresh might be given to mankind, enslaved to the past and fettered by law and custom. But the danger of chaos resulting from such a step deterred him. He confessed that the more he thought on the subject the more clearly he saw that under the circumstances belonging to its stage of evolution, the organization of the world was suited to the race that inhabited it. All change, he saw, had to come from within, and that to alter external conditions suddenly and artificially might do incredible harm. We were constructed to develop against resistance, and to remove such resistances before they had been overcome naturally was to tamper with the inner laws of life. And so, after long discussion, they did nothing....

It is curious to reflect that they, earnest men devoted to progress, having at their mercy the machinery of existence, walked through the midst of sleeping London and did nothing. But then none of them were fanatics, for Thornduck stated that the fanatics fell early to sleep, thus proving that the motives behind their fanaticism were egotistical, and a source of satisfaction to themselves. He made a point of visiting the homes of some of them. Philanthropists, too, succumbed early.

On the seventh day after the great sleep had overtaken London the effects of the germ began to wane. Those who had fallen asleep latest were the earliest to open their eyes. The blue stain rapidly vanished from eyes, skin and nails.... I regained my waking sense on the evening of the seventh day and found myself in a small country cottage whither Thornduck had borne me in a motor-car, fearing lest awakened London might seek some revenge on the discoverers of the germ. Sarakoff lay on a couch beside me, still fast asleep.

The first clear idea that came to me concerned Alice Annot. I determined to go to her at once. Then I remembered with vexation that I had wantonly smashed two vases worth ten pounds apiece.

I struggled to my feet. My hands were thin and wasted. I was ravenous with hunger. I felt giddy.

"What's the time?" I called confusedly. "It must be very late. Wake up!"

And I stooped down and began to shake Sarakoff violently.

THE END

Printed in Great Britain by

Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,

BRUNSWICK ST., STAMFORD ST., S.E. 1,

AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.

* * *

[Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors present in the original text have been corrected for this electronic edition.

In Chapter III, a missing period was added after "his pipe and tobacco pouch".

In Chapter IV, a missing quotation mark was added before "pyocyaneus, indeed", and a comma was changed to a period after "Of course".

In Chapter VI, a missing period was added after "'A very unsatisfying view, surely?' he remarked".

In Chapter VIII, "the municipal authorites" was changed to "the municipal authorities", "this phenomen" was changed to "this phenomenon", and "scanned the colums" was changed to "scanned the columns".

In Chapter XIII, a comma was changed to a period after "cold and dark", and "protaplasm" was changed to "protoplasm".

In Chapter XIV, a period was added after "something other than life exists".

In Chapter XV, "in the in the hall" was changed to "in the hall".

In Chapter XVI, "Dr Harden" (in the sentence ending "in smooth and pleasant tones") was changed to "Dr. Harden", and commas were changed to periods following "The gift of immortality" and "if it were true".

In Chapter XVIII, "millenium" was changed to "millennium".

In Chapter XXIII, a missing period was added after "the millennium was at hand".

In Chapter XXVI, a missing period was added after "with conviction", "flutted" was changed to "fluttered", and "I'ad my breakfast" was changed to "I 'ad my breakfast".

In Chapter XXIX, "undimished enthusiasm" was changed to "undiminished enthusiasm".]

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