H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

Mr. Britling sees it through online

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MR. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH





MR. BRITLING
SEES IT THROUGH



BY

H. G. WELLS

AUTHOR OF "THE WIFE' OF SIR ISAAC HARMAN,*

**THE RESEARCH MAGNIFICENT," **WHAT

Is COMING," ETC.



WITH FRONTISPIECE



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

1917

rights reserved



COPYRIGHT, 1916
BY P. F. COLLIER & SONS, IMC.



COPYRIGHT, 1916
BY H. G. WELLS

Published, September, 1916

Reprinted. September, 1916. Twice

October, 1916, Twice. November, 1916, Four Times.

December, 1916, Five Times. January, 1917, Three Times.

February, 1917, Three Times. March, 1917, Three Times.

April, 1917. May, 1917. Twice

I




PROPERTY OF TEE
CITY OF NEW YOBK






J
CONTENTS \ MMLL

BOOK I

HATCHING'S EASY AT EASE

CHAPTER PAGF

I MR. DIRECK VISITS MR. BRITLING 3

II MR. BRITLING CONTINUES His EXPOSITION . . 34

III THE ENTERTAINMENT OF MR. DIRECK REACHES A

CLIMAX 74

IV MR. BRITLING IN SOLILOQUY 98

V THE COMING OF THE DAY 125

BOOK II
HATCHING'S EASY AT WAR

I ONLOOKERS 189

II TAKING PART 230

III MALIGNITY 273

IV IN THE WEB OF THE INEFFECTIVE 305

BOOK III
THE TESTAMENT OF HATCHING'S EASY

I HRS. TEDDY GOES FOR A WALK 383

II HR. BRITLING WRITES UNTIL SUNRISE . . . 417



BOOK I
MATCHING'S EASY AT EASE



THE -err m YOSS

THE -NEW Y- ; RY



MR. BRITLING SEES IT
THROUGH

CHAPTER THE FIRST

MS. DIEECK VISITS MB. BRITLING



IT was the sixth day of Mr. Direck's first visit to Eng-
land, and he was at his acutest perception of differences.
He found England in every way gratifying and satis-
factory, and more of a contrast with things American
than he had ever dared to hope.

He had promised himself this visit for many years,
but being of a sunny rather than energetic temperament
though he firmly believed himself to be a reservoir of
clear-sighted American energy he had allowed all sorts
of things, and more particularly the uncertainties of
Miss Mamie Nelson, to keep him back. But now there
were no more uncertainties about Miss Mamie Nelson,
and Mr. Direck had come over to England just to con-
vince himself and everybody else that there were other in-
terests in life for him than Mamie. . . .

And also, he wanted to see the old country from which
his maternal grandmother had sprung. Wasn't there even
now in his bedroom in New York a water-colour of Mar-
ket Saffron church, where the dear old lady had been con-
firmed? And generally he wanted to see Europe. As
an interesting side show to the excursion he hoped, in his

3



4 ME. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH

capacity of the rather underworked and rather over-sal-
aried secretary of the Massachusetts Society for the Study
of Contemporary Thouj^^J^J^ggy^ certain agreeable
possibilities with Mr. .Britling, who lived at Matching's
Easy.

Mr. Direck was a type of man not uncommon in
America. He was very much after the fashion of that
clean and pleasant-looking person one sees in the adver-
tisements in American magazines, that agreeable person
who smiles and says, " Good, it's the Fizgig Brand/' or
" Yes, it's a Wilkins, and that's the Best," or " My shirt-
front never rucks ; it's a Chesson." But now he was say-
ing, still with the same firm smile, " Good. It's Eng-
lish." He was pleased by every unlikeness to things
American, by every item he could hail as characteristic;
in the train to London he had laughed aloud with pleasure
at the chequer-board of little fields upon the hills of
Cheshire, he had chuckled to find himself in a compart-
ment without a corridor; he had tipped the polite yet
kindly guard magnificently, after doubting for a moment
whether he ought to tip him. at all, and he had gone about
his hotel in London saying " Lordy ! Lordy ! My
word!" in a kind of ecstasy, verifying the delightful ab-
sence of telephone, of steam-heat, of any dependent bath-
room. At breakfast the waiter (out of Dickens it seemed)
had refused to know what " cereals " were, and had given
him his egg in a china egg-cup such as you see in the pic-
tures in Punch. The Thames, when he sallied out to see
it, had been too good to be true, the smallest thing in rivers
he had ever seen, and he had had to restrain himself from
affecting a marked accent and accosting some passer-by
with the question, " Say ! But is this little wet ditch
here the Historical River Thames ? '

In America, it must be explained, Mr. Direck spoke
a very good and careful English indeed, but he now found
the utmost difficulty in controlling his impulse to use a
high-pitched nasal drone and indulge in dry " American-



ME. DIEECK VISITS ME. BEITLING 5

isms ' and poker metaphors upon all occasions. When
people asked him questions he wanted to say " Yep ' or
" Sure," words he would no more have used in America
than he could have used a bowie knife. But he had a
sense of role. He wanted to be visibly and audibly
America eye-witnessing. He wanted to be just exactly
what he supposed an Englishman would expect him to be.
At any rate, his clothes had been made by a strongly
American New York tailor, and upon the strength of
them a taxi-man had assumed politely but firmly that the
shillings on his taximeter were dollars, an incident that
helped greatly to sustain the effect of Mr. Direck, in Mr.
Direck's mind, as something standing out with an almost
representative clearness against the English scene. . . .
So much so that the taxi-man got the dollars. . . .

Because all the time he had been coming over he had
dreaded that it wasn't true, that England was a legend,
that London would turn out to be just another thunder-
ing great New York, and the English exactly like New
Englanders. . . .

2

And now here he was on the branch line of the little
old Great Eastern Eailway, on his way to Matching's
Easy in Essex, and he was suddenly in the heart of Wash-
ington Irving's England.

Washington Irving's England! Indeed it was. He
couldn't sit still and just peep at it, he had to stand up
in the little compartment and stick his large, firm-fea-
tured, kindly countenance out of the window as if he
greeted it. The country under the June sunshine was
neat and bright as an old-world garden, with little fields
of corn surrounded by dog-rose hedges, and woods and
small rushy pastures of an infinite tidiness. He had seen
a real deer park, it had rather tumbledown iron gates be-
tween its shield-surmounted pillars, and in the distance,
beyond all question, was Bracebridge Hall nestling among



6 MR. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH

great trees. He had seen thatched and timbered cottages,
and half-a-dozen inns with creaking signs. He had seen
a fat vicar driving himself along a grassy lane in a govern-
ess cart drawn by a fat grey pony. It wasn't like any real-
ity he had ever known. It was like travelling in literature.

Mr. Britling's address was the Dower House, and it
was, Mr. Britling's note had explained, on the farther
edge of the park at Claverings. Claverings! The very
name for some stately home of England. ... !

And yet this was only forty-two miles from London.
Surely it brought things within the suburban range. If
Matching's Easy were in America, commuters would live
there. But in supposing that, Mr. Direck displayed his
ignorance of a fact of the greatest importance to all who
would understand England. There is a gap in the sub-
urbs of London. The suburbs of London stretch west
and south and even west by north, but to the north-east-
ward there are no suburbs ; instead there is Essex. Essex
is not a suburban county; it is a characteristic and in-
dividualised county which wins the heart. Between dear
Essex and the centre of things lie two great barriers, the
East End of London and Epping Forest. Before a train
could get to any villadom with a cargo of season-ticket
holders it would have to circle about this rescued wood-
land and travel for twenty unprofitable miles, and so once
you are away from the main Great Eastern lines Essex
still lives in the peace of the eighteenth century, and Lon-
don, the modern Babylon, is, like the stars, just a light
in the nocturnal sky. In Matching's Easy, as Mr. Brit-
ling presently explained to Mr. Direck, there are half-a->
dozen old people who have never set eyes on London in
their lives and do not want to.

" Aye-ya ! "

" Fussin' about thea."

" Mr. Robinson, 'e went to Lon', ? e did. That's ? ow
'e 'urt 'is fut."

Mr. Direck had learnt at the main-line junction that



ME. DIEECK VISITS ME. BEITLING 7

he had to tell the guard to stop the train for Hatching's
Easy ; it only stopped " by request " ; the thing was get-
ting better and better; and when Mr. Direck seized his
grip and got out of the train there was just one little old
Essex station-master and porter and signalman and every-
thing, holding a red flag in his hand and talking to Mr.
Britling about the cultivation of the sweet peas which
glorified the station. And there was the Mr. Britling
who was the only item of business and the greatest ex-
pectation in Mr. Direck's European journey, and he was
quite unlike the portraits Mr. Direck had seen and quite
unmistakably Mr. Britling all the same, since there was
nobody else upon the platform, and he was advancing
with a gesture of welcome.

" Did you ever see such peas, Mr. Dick ? ? said Mr.
Britling by way of introduction.

" My word" said Mr. Direck in a good old Farmer
Hayseed kind of voice.

" Aye-ya ! ' said the station-master in singularly stri-
dent tones. " It be a rare year for sweet peas," and then
he slammed the door of the carriage in a leisurely manner
and did dismissive things with his flag, while the two
gentlemen took stock, as people say, of one another.

3

Except in the doubtful instance of Miss Mamie Nelson,
! Mr. Direck's habit was good fortune. Pleasant things
carne to him. Such was his position as the salaried sec-
retary of this society of thoughtful Massachusetts busi-
ness men to which allusion has been made. Its purpose
was to bring itself expeditiously into touch with the best
thought of the age.

Too busily occupied with practical realities to follow
the thought of the age through all its divagations and
into all its recesses, these Massachusetts business men had
had to consider methods of access more quintessential and



8 ME. BRITLING SEES IT THKOUGH

nuclear. And they had decided not to bunt out the best
thought in its merely germinating stages, but to wait
until it had emerged and flowered to some trustworthy rec-
ognition, and then, rather than toil through recondite
and possibly already reconsidered books and writings gen-
erally, to offer an impressive fee to the emerged new
thinker, and to invite him to come to them and to lecture
to them and to have a conference with them, and to tell
them simply, competently and completely at first hand
just all that he was about. To come, in fact, and be him-
self in a highly concentrated form. In this way a num-
ber of interesting Europeans had been given very pleasant
excursions to America, and the society had been able to
form very definite opinions upon their teaching. And
Mr. Britling was one of the representative thinkers upon
which this society had decided to inform itself. It was
to broach this invitation and to offer him the impressive
honorarium by which the society honoured not only its
guests but itself, that Mr. Direck had now come to Match-
ing's Easy. He had already sent Mr. Britling a letter
of introduction, not indeed intimating his precise pur-
pose, but mentioning merely a desire to know him, and
the letter had been so happily phrased and its writer had
left such a memory of pleasant hospitality on Mr. Brit-
ling's mind during Mr. Britling's former visit to New
York, that it had immediately produced for Mr. Direck
an invitation not merely to come and see him but to come
and stay over the week-end.

And here they were shaking hands.

Mr. Britling did not look at all as Mr. Direck had ex-
pected him to look. He had expected an Englishman in
a country costume of golfing tweeds, like the Englishman
in country costume one sees in American illustrated stories.
Drooping out of the country costume of golfing tweeds he
had expected to see the mildly unhappy face, pensive even
to its drooping moustache, with which Mr. Britling's
publisher had for some faulty and unfortunate reason fa-



ME. DIRECK VISITS ME. BEITLING 9

miliarised the American public. Instead of this, Mr.
Britling was in a miscellaneous costume, and mildness was
the last quality one could attribute to him. His mous-
tache, his hair, his eyebrows bristled ; his flaming freckled
face seemed about to bristle too. His little hazel eyes
came out with a " ping ' ' and looked at Mr. Direck. Mr.
Britling was one of a large but still remarkable class of
people who seem at the mere approach of photography to
change their hair, their clothes, their moral natures. No
photographer had ever caught a hint of his essential Brit-
lingness and bristlingness. Only the camera could ever
induce Mr. Britling to brush his hair, and for the camera
alone did he reserve that expression of submissive martyr-
dom Mr. Direck knew. And Mr. Direck was altogether
unprepared for a certain casualness of costume that some-
times overtook Mr. Britling. He was wearing now a very
old blue flannel blazer, no hat, and a pair of knicker-
bockers, not tweed breeches but tweed knickerbockers of
a remarkable bagginess, and made of one of those virtu-
ous socialistic homespun tweeds that drag out into woolly
knots and strings wherever there is attrition. His stock-
ings were worsted and wrinkled, and on his feet were those
extraordinary slippers of bright-coloured bast-like inter-
woven material one buys in the north of France. These
were purple with a touch of green. He had, in fact,
thought of the necessity of meeting Mr. Direck at the
station at the very last moment, and had come away from
his study in the clothes that had happened to him when
he got up. His face wore the amiable expression of a
wire-haired terrier disposed to be friendly, and it struck
Mr. Direck that for a man of his real intellectual dist>jic-
tion Mr. Britling was unusually short.

For there can be no denying that Mr. Britling was, in
a sense, distinguished. The hero and subject of this novel
was at its very beginning a distinguished man. He was
in the Who's Who of two continents. In the last few
years he had grown with some rapidity into a writer rec-



10 MR. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH

ognised and welcomed by the more cultivated sections of
the American public, and even known to a select circle of
British readers. To his American discoverers he had first
appeared as an essayist, a serious essayist who wrote about
aesthetics and Oriental thought and national character and
poets and painting. He had come through America some
years ago as one of those Xahn scholars, those promising
writers and intelligent men endowed by Auguste Kahn of
Paris, who go about the world nowadays in comfort and
consideration as the travelling guests of that original phil-
anthropist to acquire the international spirit. Previ-
ously he had been a critic of art and literature and a
writer of thoughtful third leaders in the London Times.
He had begun with a Pembroke fellowship and a prize
poem. He had returned from his world tour to his re-
flective yet original corner of The Times and to the pro-
duction of books about national relationships and social
psychology, that had brought him rapidly into prominence.

His was a naturally irritable mind, which gave him
point and passion; and moreover he had a certain obsti-
nate originality and a generous disposition. So that he
was always lively, sometimes spacious, and never vile. He
loved to write and talk. He talked about everything, he
had ideas about everything; he could no more help hav-
ing ideas about everything than a dog can resist smelling
at your heels. He sniffed at the heels of reality. Lots-
of people found him interesting and stimulating, a few
found him seriously exasperating. He had ideas in the
utmost profusion about races and empires and social order
and political institutions and gardens and automobiles and
the future of India and Chiua and aesthetics and America
ana the education of mankind in general. . . . And all
that sort of thing. . . .

Mr. Direck had read a very great deal of all this ex-
pressed opiniativeness of Mr. Britling: he found it en-
tertaining and stimulating stuff, and it was with genu-
ine enthusiasm that he had come over to encounter the man



MR. DIRECK VISITS MR. BRITLING 11

himself. On his way across the Atlantic and during the
intervening days, he had rehearsed this meeting in vary-
ing keys, but always on the supposition that Mr. Britling
was a large, quiet, thoughtful sort of man, a man who
would, as it were, sit in attentive rows like a public meet-
ing and listen. So Mr. Direck had prepared quite a num-
ber of pleasant and attractive openings, and now he felt
was the moment for some one of these various simple,
memorable utterances. But in none of these forecasts
had he reckoned with either the spontaneous activities of
Mr. Britling or with the station-master of Matching's
Easy. Oblivious of any conversational necessities between
Mr. Direck and Mr. Britling, this official now took charge
of Mr. Direck's grip-sack, and, falling into line with the
two gentlemen as they walked towards the exit gate, re-
sumed what was evidently an interrupted discourse upon
sweet peas, originally addressed to Mr. Britling.

He was a small, elderly man with a determined-looking
face and a sea voice, and it was clear he overestimated the
distance of his hearers.

" Mr. Darling what's head gardener up at Claverings, 'e
can't get sweet peas like that, try f ow 'e will. Tried every-
thing 'e 'as. Sand ballast, 'e's tried. Seeds same as me.
'E came along 'ere only the other day, 'e did, and 'e says
to me, 'e says, ' darned 'f I can see why a station-master
should beat a professional gardener at 'is own game,' 'e
says, * but you do. And in your orf time, too, so's to
speak,' 'e says. ' I've tried sile,' 'e says "

"Your first visit to England?' asked Mr. Britling of;
his guest.

" Absolutely," said Mr. Direck.

" I says to 'im, ' there's one thing you 'aven't tried,' I
says," the station-master continued, raising his voice by
a Herculean feat still higher.

" I've got a little car outside here," said Mr. Britling.
" I'm a couple of miles from the station."

" I says to 'im, I says, ' 'ave you tried the vibritation of



12 MB. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH

the trains ? ' I says. i That's what you 'aven't tried, Mr.
Darling. That's what you can't try,' I says. ' But you
rest assured that that's the secret of my sweet peas,' I
says, ' nothing less and nothing more than the vibritation
of the trains.'

Mr. Direck's mind was a little confused by the double
nature of the conversation and by the fact that Mr. Brit-
ling spoke of a car when he meant an automobile. He
handed his ticket mechanically to the station-master, -who
continued to repeat and endorse his anecdote at the top
of his voice as Mr. Britling disposed himself and his
guest in the automobile.

" You know you 'aven't 'urt that mud-guard, sir, not
the slightest bit that matters," shouted the station-master.
" I've been a looking at it er. It's my fence that's suf-
fered most. And that's only strained the post a HP bit.
Shall I put your bag in behind, sir ? '

Mr. Direck assented, and then, after a momentary hesi-
tation, rewarded the station-master's services.

" Ready ? " asked Mr. Britling.

" That's all right sir," the station-master reverberated.

With a rather wide curve Mr. Britling steered his
out of the station into the highroad.



And now it seemed was the time for Mr. Direck to
make his meditated speeches. But an unexpected com-
plication was to defeat this intention. Mr. Direck per-
ceived almost at once that Mr. Britling was probably driv-
ing an automobile for the first or second or at the extremest
the third time in his life.

The thing became evident when he struggled to get into
the high gear an attempt that stopped the engine, and
it was even more startlingly so when Mr. Britling nar-
rowly missed a collision with a baker's cart at a corner.
" I pressed the accelerator," he explained afterwards, " in-



ME. DIEECK VISITS ME. BEITLING 13

stead of the brake. One does at first. I missed him by
less than a foot." The estimate was a generous one. And
after that Mr. Direck became too anxious not to distract
his host's thoughts to persist with his conversational open-
ings. An attentive silence came upon both gentlemen
that was broken presently by a sudden outcry from Mr.|
Britling and a great noise of tormented gears. " Damn ! "
cried Mr. Britling, and "How the devil?"

Mr. Direck perceived that his host was trying to turn
the car into a very beautiful gateway, with gate-houses on
either side. Then it was manifest that Mr. Britling
had abandoned this idea, and then they came to a stop a
dozen yards or so along the main road. "Missed it,"
said Mr. Britling, and took his hands off the steering wheel
and blew stormily, and then whistled some bars of a fretful
air, and became still.

" Do we go through these ancient gates ? ' asked Mr.
Direck.

Mr. Britling looked over his right shoulder and con-
sidered problems of curvature and distance. " I think,"
he said, " I will go round outside the park. It will take
us a little longer, but it will be simpler than backing and
manoeuvring here now. . . . These electric starters are
remarkably convenient things. Otherwise now I should
have to get down and wind up the engine."

After that came a corner, the rounding of which seemed
to present few difficulties until suddenly Mr. Britling cried
out, "Eh! eh! EH/ Oh, damn!'

Then the two gentlemen were sitting side by side in a
rather sloping car that had ascended the bank and buried
its nose in a hedge of dog-rose and honeysuckle, from
which two missel thrushes, a blackbird and a number
of sparrows had made a hurried escape. . . .

5

" Perhaps," said Mr. Britling without assurance, and
after a little peaceful pause, " I can reverse out of this."



14 MR. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH

He seemed to feel some explanation was due to Mr.
Direck. " You see, at first it's perfectly simple one
steers round a corner and then one doesn't put the wheels
straight again, and so one keeps on going round more
than one meant to. It's the bicycle habit; the bicycle
rights itself. One expects a car to do the same thing. It
was my fault. The book explains all this question clearly,
but just at the moment I forgot."

He reflected and experimented in a way that made the
engine scold and fuss. . . .

" You see, she won't budge for the reverse. . . . She's
embedded. . . . Do you mind getting out and turning
the wheel back? Then if I reverse, perhaps we'll get a



move on.



Mr. Direck descended, and there were considerable ef-
forts.

" If you'd just grip the spokes. Yes, so. ... One,
Two, Three! . . . No! Well, let's just sit here until
somebody comes along to help us. Oh! Somebody will
come all right. Won't you get up again ? '

And after a reflective moment Mr. Direck resumed his
seat beside Mr. Britling. . . .

o A

The two gentlemen smiled at each other to dispel any
suspicion of discontent.

" My driving leaves something to be desired," said

' Mr. Britling with an air of frank impartiality. " But I

.have only just got this car for myself after some years

of hired cars the sort of lazy arrangement where people

supply car, driver, petrol, tyres, insurance and everything

at so much a month. It bored me abominably. I can't

imagine now how I stood it for so long. They sent me

down a succession of compact, scornful boys who used to

go fast when I wanted to go slow, and slow when I wanted

to go fast, and who used to take every corner on the wrong



Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsMr. Britling sees it through → online text (page 1 of 34)