The Coming Race HTML version

Chapter 5
A voice accosted me- a very quiet and very musical key of voice- in a language of which
I could not understand a word, but it served to dispel my fear. I uncovered my face and
looked up. The stranger (I could scarcely bring myself to call him man) surveyed me with
an eye that seemed to read to the very depths of my heart. He then placed his left hand on
my forehead, and with the staff in his right, gently touched my shoulder. The effect of
this double contact was magical. In place of my former terror there passed into me a
sense of contentment, of joy, of confidence in myself and in the being before me. I rose
and spoke in my own language. He listened to me with apparent attention, but with a
slight surprise in his looks; and shook his head, as if to signify that I was not understood.
He then took me by the hand and led me in silence to the building. The entrance was
open- indeed there was no door to it. We entered an immense hall, lighted by the same
kind of lustre as in the scene without, but diffusing a fragrant odour. The floor was in
large tesselated blocks of precious metals, and partly covered with a sort of matlike
carpeting. A strain of low music, above and around, undulated as if from invisible
instruments, seeming to belong naturally to the place, just as the sound of murmuring
waters belongs to a rocky landscape, or the warble of birds to vernal groves.
A figure in a simpler garb than that of my guide, but of similar fashion, was standing
motionless near the threshold. My guide touched it twice with his staff, and it put itself
into a rapid and gliding movement, skimming noiselessly over the floor. Gazing on it, I
then saw that it was no living form, but a mechanical automaton. It might be two minutes
after it vanished through a doorless opening, half screened by curtains at the other end of
the hall, when through the same opening advanced a boy of about twelve years old, with
features closely resembling those of my guide, so that they seemed to me evidently son
and father. On seeing me the child uttered a cry, and lifted a staff like that borne by my
guide, as if in menace. At a word from the elder he dropped it. The two then conversed
for some moments, examining me while they spoke. The child touched my garments, and
stroked my face with evident curiosity, uttering a sound like a laugh, but with an hilarity
more subdued that the mirth of our laughter. Presently the roof of the hall opened, and a
platform descended, seemingly constructed on the same principle as the 'lifts' used in
hotels and warehouses for mounting from one story to another.
The stranger placed himself and the child on the platform, and motioned to me to do the
same, which I did. We ascended quickly and safely, and alighted in the midst of a
corridor with doorways on either side.
Through one of these doorways I was conducted into a chamber fitted up with an oriental
splendour; the walls were tesselated with spars, and metals, and uncut jewels; cushions
and divans abounded; apertures as for windows but unglazed, were made in the chamber
opening to the floor; and as I passed along I observed that these openings led into
spacious balconies, and commanded views of the illumined landscape without. In cages
suspended from the ceiling there were birds of strange form and bright plumage, which at
our entrance set up a chorus of song, modulated into tune as is that of our piping