H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

Marriage online

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Produced by Eleni Christofaki, Juliet Sutherland and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

| The following Novels: |
| |
| |
| Numerous short stories now published |
| in a single volume under the title. |
| |
| The following fantastic Romances: |
| |
| |
| And a series of books upon social and political |
| questions of which |
| |
| are the chief. |




"And the Poor Dears haven't the shadow of a doubt they will live
happily ever afterwards." - _From a Private Letter_.









§ 1

An extremely pretty girl occupied a second-class compartment in one of
those trains which percolate through the rural tranquillities of middle
England from Ganford in Oxfordshire to Rumbold Junction in Kent. She was
going to join her family at Buryhamstreet after a visit to some
Gloucestershire friends. Her father, Mr. Pope, once a leader in the
coach-building world and now by retirement a gentleman, had taken the
Buryhamstreet vicarage furnished for two months (beginning on the
fifteenth of July) at his maximum summer rental of seven guineas a week.
His daughter was on her way to this retreat.

At first she had been an animated traveller, erect and keenly regardful
of every detail upon the platforms of the stations at which her
conveyance lingered, but the tedium of the journey and the warmth of the
sunny afternoon had relaxed her pose by imperceptible degrees, and she
sat now comfortably in the corner, with her neat toes upon the seat
before her, ready to drop them primly at the first sign of a
fellow-traveller. Her expression lapsed more and more towards an almost
somnolent reverie. She wished she had not taken a second-class ticket,
because then she might have afforded a cup of tea at Reading, and so
fortified herself against this insinuating indolence.

She was travelling second class, instead of third as she ought to have
done, through one of those lapses so inevitable to young people in her
position. The two Carmel boys and a cousin, two greyhounds and a chow
had come to see her off; they had made a brilliant and prosperous group
on the platform and extorted the manifest admiration of two youthful
porters, and it had been altogether too much for Marjorie Pope to admit
it was the family custom - except when her father's nerves had to be
considered - to go third class. So she had made a hasty calculation - she
knew her balance to a penny because of the recent tipping - and found it
would just run to it. Fourpence remained, - and there would be a porter
at Buryhamstreet!

Her mother had said: "You will have Ample." Well, opinions of amplitude
vary. With numerous details fresh in her mind, Marjorie decided it would
be wiser to avoid financial discussion during her first few days at

There was much in Marjorie's equipment in the key of travelling second
class at the sacrifice of afternoon tea. There was, for example, a
certain quiet goodness of style about her clothes, though the skirt
betrayed age, and an entire absence of style about her luggage, which
was all in the compartment with her, and which consisted of a distended
hold-all, a very good tennis racquet in a stretcher, a portmanteau of
cheap white basketwork held together by straps, and a very new,
expensive-looking and meretricious dressing-bag of imitation morocco,
which had been one of her chief financial errors at Oxbridge. The
collection was eloquent indeed of incompatible standards....

Marjorie had a chin that was small in size if resolute in form, and a
mouth that was not noticeably soft and weak because it was conspicuously
soft and pretty. Her nose was delicately aquiline and very subtly and
finely modelled, and she looked out upon the world with steady,
grey-blue eyes beneath broad, level brows that contradicted in a large
measure the hint of weakness below. She had an abundance of copper-red
hair, which flowed back very prettily from her broad, low forehead and
over her delicate ears, and she had that warm-tinted clear skin that
goes so well with reddish hair. She had a very dainty neck, and the long
slender lines of her body were full of the promise of a riper beauty.
She had the good open shoulders of a tennis-player and a swimmer. Some
day she was to be a tall, ruddy, beautiful woman. She wore simple
clothes of silvery grey and soft green, and about her waist was a belt
of grey leather in which there now wilted two creamy-petalled roses.

That was the visible Marjorie. Somewhere out of time and space was an
invisible Marjorie who looked out on the world with those steady eyes,
and smiled or drooped with the soft red lips, and dreamt, and wondered,
and desired.

§ 2

What a queer thing the invisible human being would appear if, by some
discovery as yet inconceivable, some spiritual X-ray photography, we
could flash it into sight! Long ago I read a book called "Soul Shapes"
that was full of ingenious ideas, but I doubt very much if the thing so
revealed would have any shape, any abiding solid outline at all. It is
something more fluctuating and discursive than that - at any rate, for
every one young enough not to have set and hardened. Things come into
it and become it, things drift out of it and cease to be it, things turn
upside down in it and change and colour and dissolve, and grow and eddy
about and blend into each other. One might figure it, I suppose, as a
preposterous jumble animated by a will; a floundering disconnectedness
through which an old hump of impulse rises and thrusts unaccountably; a
river beast of purpose wallowing in a back eddy of mud and weeds and
floating objects and creatures drowned. Now the sunshine of gladness
makes it all vivid, now it is sombre and grimly insistent under the sky
of some darkling mood, now an emotional gale sweeps across it and it is
one confused agitation....

And surely these invisible selves of men were never so jumbled, so
crowded, complicated, and stirred about as they are at the present time.
Once I am told they had a sort of order, were sphered in religious
beliefs, crystal clear, were arranged in a cosmogony that fitted them as
hand fits glove, were separated by definite standards of right and wrong
which presented life as planned in all its essential aspects from the
cradle to the grave. Things are so no longer. That sphere is broken for
most of us; even if it is tied about and mended again, it is burst like
a seed case; things have fallen out and things have fallen in....

Can I convey in any measure how it was with Marjorie?

What was her religion?

In college forms and returns, and suchlike documents, she would describe
herself as "Church of England." She had been baptized according to the
usages of that body, but she had hitherto evaded confirmation into it,
and although it is a large, wealthy, and powerful organization with
many minds to serve it, it had never succeeded in getting into her quick
and apprehensive intelligence any lucid and persuasive conception of
what it considered God and the universe were up to with her. It had
failed to catch her attention and state itself to her. A number of
humorous and other writers and the general trend of talk around her, and
perhaps her own shrewd little observation of superficial things, had, on
the other hand, created a fairly definite belief in her that it wasn't
as a matter of fact up to very much at all, that what it said wasn't
said with that absolute honesty which is a logical necessity in every
religious authority, and that its hierarchy had all sorts of political
and social considerations confusing its treatment of her immortal

Marjorie followed her father in abstaining from church. He too professed
himself "Church of England," but he was, if we are to set aside merely
superficial classifications, an irascible atheist with a respect for
usage and Good Taste, and an abject fear of the disapproval of other
gentlemen of his class. For the rest he secretly disliked clergymen on
account of the peculiarity of their collars, and a certain influence
they had with women. When Marjorie at the age of fourteen had displayed
a hankering after ecclesiastical ceremony and emotional religion, he had
declared: "We don't want any of _that_ nonsense," and sent her into the
country to a farm where there were young calves and a bottle-fed lamb
and kittens. At times her mother went to church and displayed
considerable orthodoxy and punctilio, at times the good lady didn't, and
at times she thought in a broad-minded way that there was a Lot in
Christian Science, and subjected herself to the ministrations of an
American named Silas Root. But his ministrations were too expensive for
continuous use, and so the old faith did not lose its hold upon the
family altogether.

* * * * *

At school Marjorie had been taught what I may best describe as Muffled
Christianity - a temperate and discreet system designed primarily not to
irritate parents, in which the painful symbol of the crucifixion and the
riddle of what Salvation was to save her from, and, indeed, the coarser
aspects of religion generally, were entirely subordinate to images of
amiable perambulations, and a rich mist of finer feelings. She had been
shielded, not only from arguments against her religion, but from
arguments for it - the two things go together - and I do not think it was
particularly her fault if she was now growing up like the great majority
of respectable English people, with her religious faculty as it were,
artificially faded, and an acquired disposition to regard any
speculation of why she was, and whence and whither, as rather foolish,
not very important, and in the very worst possible taste.

And so, the crystal globe being broken which once held souls together,
you may expect to find her a little dispersed and inconsistent in her
motives, and with none of that assurance a simpler age possessed of the
exact specification of goodness or badness, the exact delimitation of
right and wrong. Indeed, she did not live in a world of right and wrong,
or anything so stern; "horrid" and "jolly" had replaced these archaic
orientations. In a world where a mercantile gentility has conquered
passion and God is neither blasphemed nor adored, there necessarily
arises this generation of young people, a little perplexed, indeed, and
with a sense of something missing, but feeling their way inevitably at
last to the great releasing question, "Then why shouldn't we have a
good time?"

Yet there was something in Marjorie, as in most human beings, that
demanded some general idea, some aim, to hold her life together. A girl
upon the borders of her set at college was fond of the phrase "living
for the moment," and Marjorie associated with it the speaker's lax
mouth, sloe-like eyes, soft, quick-flushing, boneless face, and a habit
of squawking and bouncing in a forced and graceless manner. Marjorie's
natural disposition was to deal with life in a steadier spirit than
that. Yet all sorts of powers and forces were at work in her, some
exalted, some elvish, some vulgar, some subtle. She felt keenly and
desired strongly, and in effect she came perhaps nearer the realization
of that offending phrase than its original exponent. She had a clean
intensity of feeling that made her delight in a thousand various things,
in sunlight and textures, and the vividly quick acts of animals, in
landscape, and the beauty of other girls, in wit, and people's voices,
and good strong reasoning, and the desire and skill of art. She had a
clear, rapid memory that made her excel perhaps a little too easily at
school and college, an eagerness of sympathetic interest that won people
very quickly and led to disappointments, and a very strong sense of the
primary importance of Miss Marjorie Pope in the world. And when any very
definite dream of what she would like to be and what she would like to
do, such as being the principal of a ladies' college, or the first woman
member of Parliament, or the wife of a barbaric chief in Borneo, or a
great explorer, or the wife of a millionaire and a great social leader,
or George Sand, or Saint Teresa, had had possession of her imagination
for a few weeks, an entirely contrasted and equally attractive dream
would presently arise beside it and compete with it and replace it. It
wasn't so much that she turned against the old one as that she was
attracted by the new, and she forgot the old dream rather than abandoned
it, simply because she was only one person, and hadn't therefore the
possibility of realizing both.

In certain types Marjorie's impressionability aroused a passion of
proselytism. People of the most diverse kinds sought to influence her,
and they invariably did so. Quite a number of people, including her
mother and the principal of her college, believed themselves to be the
leading influence in her life. And this was particularly the case with
her aunt Plessington. Her aunt Plessington was devoted to social and
political work of an austere and aggressive sort (in which Mr.
Plessington participated); she was childless, and had a Movement of her
own, the Good Habits Movement, a progressive movement of the utmost
scope and benevolence which aimed at extensive interferences with the
food and domestic intimacies of the more defenceless lower classes by
means ultimately of legislation, and she had Marjorie up to see her,
took her for long walks while she influenced with earnestness and
vigour, and at times had an air of bequeathing her mantle, movement and
everything, quite definitely to her "little Madge." She spoke of
training her niece to succeed her, and bought all the novels of Mrs.
Humphry Ward for her as they appeared, in the hope of quickening in her
that flame of politico-social ambition, that insatiable craving for
dinner-parties with important guests, which is so distinctive of the
more influential variety of English womanhood. It was due rather to her
own habit of monologue than to any reserve on the part of Marjorie that
she entertained the belief that her niece was entirely acquiescent in
these projects. They went into Marjorie's mind and passed. For nearly a
week, it is true, she had dramatized herself as the angel and
inspiration of some great modern statesman, but this had been ousted by
a far more insistent dream, begotten by a picture she had seen in some
exhibition, of a life of careless savagery, whose central and constantly
recurrent incident was the riding of barebacked horses out of
deep-shadowed forest into a foamy sunlit sea - in a costume that would
certainly have struck Aunt Plessington as a mistake.

If you could have seen Marjorie in her railway compartment, with the
sunshine, sunshine mottled by the dirty window, tangled in her hair and
creeping to and fro over her face as the train followed the curves of
the line, you would certainly have agreed with me that she was pretty,
and you might even have thought her beautiful. But it was necessary to
fall in love with Marjorie before you could find her absolutely
beautiful. You might have speculated just what business was going on
behind those drowsily thoughtful eyes. If you are - as people
say - "Victorian," you might even have whispered "Day Dreams," at the
sight of her....

She _was_ dreaming, and in a sense she was thinking of beautiful things.
But only mediately. She was thinking how very much she would enjoy
spending freely and vigorously, quite a considerable amount of
money, - heaps of money.

You see, the Carmels, with whom she had just been staying, were
shockingly well off. They had two motor cars with them in the country,
and the boys had the use of the second one as though it was just an old
bicycle. Marjorie had had a cheap white dinner-dress, made the year
before by a Chelsea French girl, a happy find of her mother's, and it
was shapely and simple and not at all bad, and she had worn her green
beads and her Egyptian necklace of jade; but Kitty Carmel and her sister
had had a new costume nearly every night, and pretty bracelets, and
rubies, big pearls, and woven gold, and half a score of delightful and
precious things for neck and hair. Everything in the place was bright
and good and abundant, the servants were easy and well-mannered, without
a trace of hurry or resentment, and one didn't have to be sharp about
the eggs and things at breakfast in the morning, or go without. All
through the day, and even when they had gone to bathe from the smart
little white and green shed on the upper lake, Marjorie had been made to
feel the insufficiency of her equipment. Kitty Carmel, being twenty-one,
possessed her own cheque-book and had accounts running at half a dozen
West-end shops; and both sisters had furnished their own rooms according
to their taste, with a sense of obvious effect that had set Marjorie
speculating just how a room might be done by a girl with a real eye for
colour and a real brain behind it....

The train slowed down for the seventeenth time. Marjorie looked up and
read "Buryhamstreet."

§ 3

Her reverie vanished, and by a complex but almost instantaneous movement
she had her basket off the rack and the carriage door open. She became
teeming anticipations. There, advancing in a string, were Daffy, her
elder sister, Theodore, her younger brother, and the dog Toupee. Sydney
and Rom hadn't come. Daffy was not copper red like her sister, but
really quite coarsely red-haired; she was bigger than Marjorie, and with
irregular teeth instead of Marjorie's neat row; she confessed them in a
broad simple smile of welcome. Theodore was hatless, rustily
fuzzy-headed, and now a wealth of quasi-humorous gesture. The dog Toupee
was straining at a leash, and doing its best in a yapping, confused
manner, to welcome the wrong people by getting its lead round their

"Toupee!" cried Marjorie, waving the basket. "Toupee!"

They all called it Toupee because it was like one, but the name was
forbidden in her father's hearing. Her father had decided that the
proper name for a family dog in England is Towser, and did his utmost to
suppress a sobriquet that was at once unprecedented and not in the best
possible taste. Which was why the whole family, with the exception of
Mrs. Pope, of course, stuck to Toupee....

Marjorie flashed a second's contrast with the Carmel splendours.

"Hullo, old Daffy. What's it like?" she asked, handing out the basket as
her sister came up.

"It's a lark," said Daffy. "Where's the dressing-bag?"

"Thoddy," said Marjorie, following up the dressing-bag with the
hold-all. "Lend a hand."

"Stow it, Toupee," said Theodore, and caught the hold-all in time.

In another moment Marjorie was out of the train, had done the swift
kissing proper to the occasion, and rolled a hand over Toupee's
head - Toupee, who, after a passionate lunge at a particularly savoury
drover from the next compartment, was now frantically trying to indicate
that Marjorie was the one human being he had ever cared for. Brother and
sister were both sketching out the state of affairs at Buryhamstreet
Vicarage in rapid competitive jerks, each eager to tell things
first - and the whole party moved confusedly towards the station exit.
Things pelted into Marjorie's mind.

"We've got an old donkey-cart. I thought we shouldn't get here - ever....
Madge, we can go up the church tower whenever we like, only old Daffy
won't let me shin up the flagstaff. It's _perfectly_ safe - you couldn't
fall off if you tried.... Had positively to get out at the level
crossing and _pull_ him over.... There's a sort of moat in the
garden.... You never saw such furniture, Madge! And the study! It's hung
with texts, and stuffed with books about the Scarlet Woman.... Piano's
rather good, it's a Broadwood.... The Dad's got a war on about the
tennis net. Oh, frightful! You'll see. It won't keep up. He's had a
letter kept waiting by the _Times_ for a fortnight, and it's a terror at
breakfast. Says the motor people have used influence to silence him.
Says that's a game two can play at.... Old Sid got herself upset
stuffing windfalls. Rather a sell for old Sid, considering how refined
she's getting...."

There was a brief lull as the party got into the waiting governess cart.
Toupee, after a preliminary refusal to enter, made a determined attempt
on the best seat, from which he would be able to bark in a persistent,
official manner at anything that passed. That suppressed, and Theodore's
proposal to drive refused, they were able to start, and attention was
concentrated upon Daffy's negotiation of the station approach. Marjorie
turned on her brother with a smile of warm affection.

"How are you, old Theodore?"

"I'm all right, old Madge."


"Every one's all right," said Theodore; "if it wasn't for that damned
infernal net - - "

"Ssssh!" cried both sisters together.

"_He_ says it," said Theodore.

Both sisters conveyed a grave and relentless disapproval.

"Pretty bit of road," said Marjorie. "I like that little house at the

A pause and the eyes of the sisters met.

"_He's_ here," said Daffy.

Marjorie affected ignorance.

"Who's here?"

"_Il vostro senior Miraculoso_."

"Just as though a fellow couldn't understand your kiddy little Italian,"
said Theodore, pulling Toupee's ear.

"Oh well, I thought he might be," said Marjorie, regardless of her

"Oh!" said Daffy. "I didn't know - - "

Both sisters looked at each other, and then both glanced at Theodore. He
met Marjorie's eyes with a grimace of profound solemnity.

"Little brothers," he said, "shouldn't know. Just as though they didn't!
Rot! But let's change the subject, my dears, all the same. Lemme see.
There are a new sort of flea on Toupee, Madge, that he gets from the

"_Is_ a new sort," corrected Daffy. "He's horrider than ever, Madge. He
leaves his soap in soak now to make us think he has used it. This is the
village High Street. Isn't it jolly?"

"Corners don't _bite_ people," said Theodore, with a critical eye to the

Marjorie surveyed the High Street, while Daffy devoted a few moments to

The particular success of the village was its brace of chestnut trees
which, with that noble disregard of triteness which is one of the charms
of villages the whole world over, shadowed the village smithy. On either
side of the roadway between it and the paths was a careless width of
vivid grass protected by white posts, which gave way to admit a generous
access on either hand to a jolly public house, leering over red blinds,

Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsMarriage → online text (page 1 of 35)