"He is going to open his eyes. He had better see but one of us at
"Promise me, then, that you will not tell him."
The first voice was a man's, the second a woman's, and both spoke in
"I will see how he seems," replied the man.
"No, no, promise me," persisted the other.
"Let her have her way," whispered a third voice, also a woman.
"Well, well, I promise, then," answered the man. "Quick, go! He is
coming out of it."
There was a rustle of garments and I opened my eyes. A fine looking
man of perhaps sixty was bending over me, an expression of much
benevolence mingled with great curiosity upon his features. He was an
utter stranger. I raised myself on an elbow and looked around. The
room was empty. I certainly had never been in it before, or one
furnished like it. I looked back at my companion. He smiled.
"How do you feel?" he inquired.
"Where am I?" I demanded.
"You are in my house," was the reply.
"How came I here?"
"We will talk about that when you are stronger. Meanwhile, I beg you
will feel no anxiety. You are among friends and in good hands. How do
"A bit queerly," I replied, "but I am well, I suppose. Will you tell
me how I came to be indebted to your hospitality? What has happened to
me? How came I here? It was in my own house that I went to sleep."
"There will be time enough for explanations later," my unknown host
replied, with a reassuring smile. "It will be better to avoid
agitating talk until you are a little more yourself. Will you oblige
me by taking a couple of swallows of this mixture? It will do you
good. I am a physician."
I repelled the glass with my hand and sat up on the couch, although
with an effort, for my head was strangely light.
"I insist upon knowing at once where I am and what you have been doing
with me," I said.
"My dear sir," responded my companion, "let me beg that you will not
agitate yourself. I would rather you did not insist upon explanations
so soon, but if you do, I will try to satisfy you, provided you will
first take this draught, which will strengthen you somewhat."
I thereupon drank what he offered me. Then he said, "It is not so
simple a matter as you evidently suppose to tell you how you came
here. You can tell me quite as much on that point as I can tell you.
You have just been roused from a deep sleep, or, more properly,
trance. So much I can tell you. You say you were in your own house
when you fell into that sleep. May I ask you when that was?"
"When?" I replied, "when? Why, last evening, of course, at about ten
o'clock. I left my man Sawyer orders to call me at nine o'clock. What
has become of Sawyer?"
"I can't precisely tell you that," replied my companion, regarding me
with a curious expression, "but I am sure that he is excusable for not
being here. And now can you tell me a little more explicitly when it
was that you fell into that sleep, the date, I mean?"
"Why, last night, of course; I said so, didn't I? that is, unless I
have overslept an entire day. Great heavens! that cannot be possible;
and yet I have an odd sensation of having slept a long time. It was
Decoration Day that I went to sleep."
"Yes, Monday, the 30th."
"Pardon me, the 30th of what?"
"Why, of this month, of course, unless I have slept into June, but
that can't be."
"This month is September."
"September! You don't mean that I've slept since May! God in heaven!
Why, it is incredible."
"We shall see," replied my companion; "you say that it was May 30th
when you went to sleep?"
"May I ask of what year?"
I stared blankly at him, incapable of speech, for some moments.
"Of what year?" I feebly echoed at last.
"Yes, of what year, if you please? After you have told me that I shall
be able to tell you how long you have slept."
"It was the year 1887," I said.
My companion insisted that I should take another draught from the
glass, and felt my pulse.
"My dear sir," he said, "your manner indicates that you are a man of
culture, which I am aware was by no means the matter of course in your
day it now is. No doubt, then, you have yourself made the observation
that nothing in this world can be truly said to be more wonderful than
anything else. The causes of all phenomena are equally adequate, and
the results equally matters of course. That you should be startled by
what I shall tell you is to be expected; but I am confident that you
will not permit it to affect your equanimity unduly. Your appearance
is that of a young man of barely thirty, and your bodily condition
seems not greatly different from that of one just roused from a
somewhat too long and profound sleep, and yet this is the tenth day
of September in the year 2000, and you have slept exactly one hundred
and thirteen years, three months, and eleven days."
Feeling partially dazed, I drank a cup of some sort of broth at my
companion's suggestion, and, immediately afterward becoming very
drowsy, went off into a deep sleep.
When I awoke it was broad daylight in the room, which had been lighted
artificially when I was awake before. My mysterious host was sitting
near. He was not looking at me when I opened my eyes, and I had a good
opportunity to study him and meditate upon my extraordinary situation,
before he observed that I was awake. My giddiness was all gone, and my
mind perfectly clear. The story that I had been asleep one hundred and
thirteen years, which, in my former weak and bewildered condition, I
had accepted without question, recurred to me now only to be rejected
as a preposterous attempt at an imposture, the motive of which it was
impossible remotely to surmise.
Something extraordinary had certainly happened to account for my
waking up in this strange house with this unknown companion, but my
fancy was utterly impotent to suggest more than than the wildest guess
as to what that something might have been. Could it be that I was the
victim of some sort of conspiracy? It looked so, certainly; and yet,
if human lineaments ever gave true evidence, it was certain that this
man by my side, with a face so refined and ingenuous, was no party to
any scheme of crime or outrage. Then it occurred to me to question if
I might not be the butt of some elaborate practical joke on the part
of friends who had somehow learned the secret of my underground
chamber and taken this means of impressing me with the peril of
mesmeric experiments. There were great difficulties in the way of this
theory; Sawyer would never have betrayed me, nor had I any friends at
all likely to undertake such an enterprise; nevertheless the
supposition that I was the victim of a practical joke seemed on the
whole the only one tenable. Half expecting to catch a glimpse of some
familiar face grinning from behind a chair or curtain, I looked
carefully about the room. When my eyes next rested on my companion, he
was looking at me.
"You have had a fine nap of twelve hours," he said briskly, "and I can
see that it has done you good. You look much better. Your color is
good and your eyes are bright. How do you feel?"
"I never felt better," I said, sitting up.
"You remember your first waking, no doubt," he pursued, "and your
surprise when I told you how long you had been asleep?"
"You said, I believe, that I had slept one hundred and thirteen
"You will admit," I said, with an ironical smile, "that the story was
rather an improbable one."
"Extraordinary, I admit," he responded, "but given the proper
conditions, not improbable nor inconsistent with what we know of the
trance state. When complete, as in your case, the vital functions are
absolutely suspended, and there is no waste of the tissues. No limit
can be set to the possible duration of a trance when the external
conditions protect the body from physical injury. This trance of yours
is indeed the longest of which there is any positive record, but there
is no known reason wherefore, had you not been discovered and had the
chamber in which we found you continued intact, you might not have
remained in a state of suspended animation till, at the end of
indefinite ages, the gradual refrigeration of the earth had destroyed
the bodily tissues and set the spirit free."
I had to admit that, if I were indeed the victim of a practical joke,
its authors had chosen an admirable agent for carrying out their
imposition. The impressive and even eloquent manner of this man would
have lent dignity to an argument that the moon was made of cheese. The
smile with which I had regarded him as he advanced his trance
hypothesis did not appear to confuse him in the slightest degree.
"Perhaps," I said, "you will go on and favor me with some particulars
as to the circumstances under which you discovered this chamber of
which you speak, and its contents. I enjoy good fiction."
"In this case," was the grave reply, "no fiction could be so strange
as the truth. You must know that these many years I have been
cherishing the idea of building a laboratory in the large garden
beside this house, for the purpose of chemical experiments for which I
have a taste. Last Thursday the excavation for the cellar was at last
begun. It was completed by that night, and Friday the masons were to
have come. Thursday night we had a tremendous deluge of rain, and
Friday morning I found my cellar a frog-pond and the walls quite
washed down. My daughter, who had come out to view the disaster with
me, called my attention to a corner of masonry laid bare by the
crumbling away of one of the walls. I cleared a little earth from it,
and, finding that it seemed part of a large mass, determined to
investigate it. The workmen I sent for unearthed an oblong vault some
eight feet below the surface, and set in the corner of what had
evidently been the foundation walls of an ancient house. A layer of
ashes and charcoal on the top of the vault showed that the house above
had perished by fire. The vault itself was perfectly intact, the
cement being as good as when first applied. It had a door, but this we
could not force, and found entrance by removing one of the flagstones
which formed the roof. The air which came up was stagnant but pure,
dry and not cold. Descending with a lantern, I found myself in an
apartment fitted up as a bedroom in the style of the nineteenth
century. On the bed lay a young man. That he was dead and must have
been dead a century was of course to be taken for granted; but the
extraordinary state of preservation of the body struck me and the
medical colleagues whom I had summoned with amazement. That the art of
such embalming as this had ever been known we should not have
believed, yet here seemed conclusive testimony that our immediate
ancestors had possessed it. My medical colleagues, whose curiosity was
highly excited, were at once for undertaking experiments to test the
nature of the process employed, but I withheld them. My motive in so
doing, at least the only motive I now need speak of, was the
recollection of something I once had read about the extent to which
your contemporaries had cultivated the subject of animal magnetism. It
had occurred to me as just conceivable that you might be in a trance,
and that the secret of your bodily integrity after so long a time was
not the craft of an embalmer, but life. So extremely fanciful did this
idea seem, even to me, that I did not risk the ridicule of my fellow
physicians by mentioning it, but gave some other reason for postponing
their experiments. No sooner, however, had they left me, than I set on
foot a systematic attempt at resuscitation, of which you know the
Had its theme been yet more incredible, the circumstantiality of this
narrative, as well as the impressive manner and personality of the
narrator, might have staggered a listener, and I had begun to feel
very strangely, when, as he closed, I chanced to catch a glimpse of my
reflection in a mirror hanging on the wall of the room. I rose and
went up to it. The face I saw was the face to a hair and a line and
not a day older than the one I had looked at as I tied my cravat
before going to Edith that Decoration Day, which, as this man would
have me believe, was celebrated one hundred and thirteen years before.
At this, the colossal character of the fraud which was being attempted
on me, came over me afresh. Indignation mastered my mind as I realized
the outrageous liberty that had been taken.
"You are probably surprised," said my companion, "to see that,
although you are a century older than when you lay down to sleep in
that underground chamber, your appearance is unchanged. That should
not amaze you. It is by virtue of the total arrest of the vital
functions that you have survived this great period of time. If your
body could have undergone any change during your trance, it would long
ago have suffered dissolution."
"Sir," I replied, turning to him, "what your motive can be in reciting
to me with a serious face this remarkable farrago, I am utterly unable
to guess; but you are surely yourself too intelligent to suppose that
anybody but an imbecile could be deceived by it. Spare me any more of
this elaborate nonsense and once for all tell me whether you refuse to
give me an intelligible account of where I am and how I came here. If
so, I shall proceed to ascertain my whereabouts for myself, whoever
"You do not, then, believe that this is the year 2000?"
"Do you really think it necessary to ask me that?" I returned.
"Very well," replied my extraordinary host. "Since I cannot convince
you, you shall convince yourself. Are you strong enough to follow me
"I am as strong as I ever was," I replied angrily, "as I may have to
prove if this jest is carried much farther."
"I beg, sir," was my companion's response, "that you will not allow
yourself to be too fully persuaded that you are the victim of a trick,
lest the reaction, when you are convinced of the truth of my
statements, should be too great."
The tone of concern, mingled with commiseration, with which he said
this, and the entire absence of any sign of resentment at my hot
words, strangely daunted me, and I followed him from the room with an
extraordinary mixture of emotions. He led the way up two flights of
stairs and then up a shorter one, which landed us upon a belvedere on
the house-top. "Be pleased to look around you," he said, as we reached
the platform, "and tell me if this is the Boston of the nineteenth
At my feet lay a great city. Miles of broad streets, shaded by trees
and lined with fine buildings, for the most part not in continuous
blocks but set in larger or smaller inclosures, stretched in every
direction. Every quarter contained large open squares filled with
trees, among which statues glistened and fountains flashed in the late
afternoon sun. Public buildings of a colossal size and an
architectural grandeur unparalleled in my day raised their stately
piles on every side. Surely I had never seen this city nor one
comparable to it before. Raising my eyes at last towards the horizon,
I looked westward. That blue ribbon winding away to the sunset, was it
not the sinuous Charles? I looked east; Boston harbor stretched before
me within its headlands, not one of its green islets missing.
I knew then that I had been told the truth concerning the prodigious
thing which had befallen me.