H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

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a certain amount of the biological teaching
and practically all this new history stuff by
chemistry and physics. But one has to admit
that Mr. Huss did not know when to relin-
quish power nor when to devolve responsi-
bihty. We, all of us, the entire staff — it is
no mere personal grievance of mine — were
kept, well, to say the least of it, in tutelage.
Rather than let authority go definitely out of
his hands, he would allow things to drift.
Witness that door, witness the business of the
nurse."

Mr. Dad, with his lips compressed, nodded
his head ; each nod hke the tap of a hammer.

" I never believed in all this overdoing
history in the school," Mr. Dad remarked
rather disconnectedly. " If you get rid of
Latin and Greek, why bring it all back again
in another form? Why, I'm told he taught
'em things about Assyria. Assyria! A
modern school ought to be a modern school —
business first and business last and business all

B



50 The Undying Fire

the time. And teach boys to work. We shall
need it, mark my words."

" A certain amount of modern culture,"
waved Sir Eliphaz.

*^ Modern y^^ said Mr. Farr softly.

Mr. Dad grunted. " In my opinion that
sort of thing gives the boys ideas."

Mr. Farr steered his way discreetly.
" Science with a due regard to its technical
applications should certainly be the substantial
part of a modern education." . . .

They were in the smoking-room and half
way through three princely cigars before they
got beyond such fragmentary detractions of
the fallen headmaster. Then Mr. Dad in the
clear-cut style of a business man, brought his
companions to action. " Well," said Mr.
Dad, turning abruptly upon Sir Eliphaz,
"what about it?"

"It is manifest that Woldingstanton has
to enter on a new phase ; what has happened
brings us to the parting of the ways," said
Sir Eliphaz. " Much as I regret the misfor-
tunes of an old friend."

"T/iat," said Mr. Dad, "spells Farr."
If he will shoulder the burthen," said



((



The Three Visitors 51

Sir Eliphaz, smiling upon Mr. Farr not so
much with his mouth as by the most engag-
ing convolutions, curvatures and waving
about of his various strands of hair.

" I don't want to see the school go
down," said Mr. Farr. " I've given it a
good slice of my life."

"Right," said Mr. Dad. "Right. File
that. That suits us. And now how do we
set about the affair? The next thing, I take
it, is to break it to Huss. . . . How? "

He paused to give the ideas of his com-
panions a fair chance.

" Well, my idea is this. None of us want
to be hard on Mr. Huss. Luck has been hard
enough as it is. We want to do this job as
gently as we can. It happens that I go and
play golf at Sundering on Sea ever and
again. Excellent links, well kept up all
things considered, and the big hotel close by
does you wonderfully, the railway company
sees to that; in spite of the war. Well, why
shouldn't we all, if Sir Eliphaz's engage-
ments permit, go down there in a sort of
casual way, and take the opportunity of a
good clear talk with him and settle it all up?



52 The Undying Fire

The thing's got to be done, and it seems to
me altogether more kindly to go there
personally and put it to him than do it by
correspondence. Very likely we could put it
to him in such a .way that he himself would
suggest the very arrangement we want. You
particularly, Sir Eliphaz, being as you say an
old friend.'* . . .



§ 2

Since there was little likelihood of Mr.
Huss going away from Sundering on Sea, it
did not appear necessary to Mr. Dad to
apprise him of the projected visitation. And
so these three gentlemen heard nothing
about any operation for cancer until they
reached that resort.

Mr. Dad came down early on Friday after-
noon to the Golf Hotel, where he had already
engaged rooms for the party. He needed the
relaxation of the links very badly, the task of
accumulating a balance sufficiently large to
secure an opulent future for British industry,
with which Mr. Dad in his straightforward
way identified himself, was one that in a con-
trolled establishment between the Scylla of
aggressive labour and the Charybdis of the
war-profits tax, strained his mind to the
utmost. He was joined by Mr. Farr at
dinner-time, and Sir Eliphaz, who was de-
tained in London by some negotiations with
the American Governmen*^, arrived replete
by the dining-car train. Mr. Farr made a

53



54 The Undying Fire

preliminarj^ reconnaisance at Sea View, and
was the first to hear of the operation.

Sir Alpheus Mengo was due at Sea View by
the first train on Saturday. lie had arranged
to operate before hinch. It was clear there-
fore that the only time available for a conver-
sation between the three and Mr. Huss was be-
tween breakfast and the arrival of Sir Alpheus.

Mr. Huss, whose lethargy had now de-
parted, displayed himself feverishly anxious to
talk about the school. " There are points I
must make clear," he said, " vital points,"
and so a meeting was arranged for half-past
nine. This would give a full hour before the
arrival of the doctors.

" He feels that in a way it will be his testa-
ment, so to speak," said Mr. Farr. " Natur-
ally he has his own ideas about the future of
the school. We all have. I would be the last
person to suggest that he could say anything
about Woldingstanton that would not be well
worth hearing. Some of us may have heard
most of it before, and be better able to dis-
count some of his assertions. But that under
the present circuuistances is neither here nor
there."



§ 8

Matters in the confined space of Sea View,
were not nearly so strained as Mr. Huss had
feared. The prospect of an operation was
not without its agreeable side to Mrs. Croome.
Possibly she would have preferred that the
subject should have been Mrs. rather than Mr
Huss, but it was clear that she made no claim
to dictate upon this point. Her demand for
special fees to meet the inconveniences of the
occasion had been met quite liberally by Mr.
Huss. And there was a genuine appreciation
of order and method in Mrs. Croome ; she was
a furious spring-cleaner, a hurricane tidier-up,
her feeling for the discursive state of Mrs.
Huss's hair was almost as involuntary as a
racial animosity ; and the swift dexterous
preparations of the nurse who presently came
to convert the best bedroom to surgical uses,
impressed her deeply. She was allowed to
help. Superfluous hangings and furnishings
were removed, everything was thoroughly

55



56 The Undying Fire

scrubbed, at the last moment clean linen sheets
ot a wonderful hardness were to be spread over
every exposed surface. They were to be
brought in sterilized drums. The idea of
sterilized drums fascinated her. She had
never heard of such things before. She
wished she could keep her own linen in a
sterilized drum always, and let her lodgers
have something else instead.

She felt that she was going to be a sort
of assistant priestess at a sacrifice, the sacrifice
of Mr. Huss. She had always secretly feared
his submissive quiet as a thing unaccountable
that might at any time turn upon her; she
suspected him of ironies ; and he would be
helpless, under chloroform, subject to exam-
ination with no possibilities of disconcerting
repartee. She did her best to persuade Dr.
Barrack that she would be useful in the room
during the proceedings. Her imagination
conjured up a wonderful vision of the Huss
interior as a great chest full of strange and
interesting viscera with the lid wide open and
Sir Alpheus picking thoughtfully, with depre-
catory remarks, amid its contents. But that
sight was denied her.



The Three Visitors 57

She was very helpful and cheerful on the
Saturday morning, addressing herself to the
consolation of Mr. and the bracing-up of Mrs.
Huss. She assisted in the final transforma-
tion of the room.

" It might be a real 'ospital," she said.
" Nursing must be nice work. I never
thought of it like this before."

Mr. Huss ,was no longer depressed but
flushed and resolute, but Mrs. Huss, wounded
by the neglect of everyone — no one seemed to
consider for a moment what she must be feel-
ing — remained very much in her own room,
working inefficiently upon the mourning that
might now be doubly needed.



§ 4

Mr. Huss knew Mr. Farr very well. For
the last ten years it had been his earnest desire
to get rid of him, but he had been difficult to
replace because of his real accomplishment in
technical chemistry. In the course of their
five minutes' talk in his bedroom on Friday
evening, Mr. Huss grasped the situation.
Woldingstanton, his creation, his life work,
was to be taken out of his hands, and in favour
of this, his most soul-deadening assistant. He
had been foolish no doubt, but he had never
anticipated that. He had never supposed that
Farr would dare.

He thought hard through that long night
of Friday. His pain was no distraction. He
had his intentions very ready and clear in his
mind when his three visitors arrived.

He had insisted upon getting up and
dressing fully.

*' I can't talk about Woldingstanton in
bed," he said. The doctor was not there to
gainsay him.

58



The Three Visitors 59

Sir Eliphaz was the first to arrive, and Mrs.
Huss retrieved him from Mrs. Croome in the
passage and brought him in. He was wearing
a Norfolk jacket suit of a coarse yet hairy con-
sistency and of a pale sage green colour. He
shone greatly in the eyes of Mrs. Huss. *' I
can't help thinking of you, dear lady," he
said, bowing over her hand, and all his hair
was for a moment sad and sympathetic like a
sick Skye terrier's. Mr. Dad and Mr. Farr
entered a moment later ; Mr. Farr in grey
flannel trousers and a brown jacket, and Mr.
Dad in a natty dark grey suit with a luminous
purple waistcoat.

" My dear," said Mr. Huss to his wife, *' I
must be alone with these gentlemen," and
when she seemed disposed to linger near the
understanding warmth of Sir Eliphaz, he
added, " Figures, my dear — Finance, ^^ and
drove her forth. . . .

" 'Pon my honour," said Mr. Dad, coming
close up to the armchair, wrinkling his muzzle
and putting through his compliments in good
business-like style before coming to the
harder stuff in hand ; " I don't like to see you
like this, Mr. Huss."



6o The Undying Fire

*' Nor does Sir Eliphaz, I hope — nor Farr.
Please find yourselves chairs."

And while Mr. Farr made protesting noises
and Sir Eliphaz waved his hair about before
beginning the little speech he had prepared,
Mr. Huss took the discourse out of their
mouths and began :

" I know perfectly well the task you have
set yourselves. You have come to make
an end of me as headmaster of VVold-
ingstanton. And Mr. Farr has very
obligingly ..."

He held up his white and wasted hand as
Mr. Farr began to disavow.

"No," said Mr. Huss. " But before you
three gentlemen proceed with your office, I
should like to tell you something of what the
school and my work in it, and my work for
education, is to me. I am a man of little more
than fifty. A month ago I counted with a
reasonable confidence upon twenty years more
of work before I relaxed. . . . Then these
misfortunes rained upon me. I have lost all
my private independence ; there have been
these shocking deaths in the school ; my son,
my only son . . . killed . . . trouble has



The Three Visitors 6i

darkened the love and kindness of my wife
. . . and now my body is suffering so that my
mind is Hke a swimmer striigghng through
waves of pain . . . far from land. . . . These
are heavy blows. But the hardest blow of all,
harder to bear than any of these others — I do
not speak rashly, gentlemen, I have thought
it out through an endless night — the last blow
will be this rejection of my Hfe work. That
will strike the inmost me, the heart and soul
of me. ..."

He paused.

** You mustn't take it quite hke that, Mr.
Huss," protested Mr. Dad. " It isn't fair to
us to put it like that."

"I want you to listen to me," said Mr.
Huss.

" Only the very kindest motives," con-
tinued Mr. Dad.

" Let me speak," said Mr. Huss, with the
voice of authority that had ruled Wolding-
stanton for five and twenty years. " I cannot
wrangle and contradict. At most we have an
hour."

Mr. Dad made much the same sound that a
dog will make when it has proposed to l)ark



62 The Undying Fire

and has been told to get under the table.
For a time he looked an ill-used man.

*' To end my work in the school will be
to end me altogether. ... I do not see why
I should not speak plainly to you, gentlemen,
situated as I am here. I do not see why I
should not talk to you for once in my own
language. Pain and death are our inter-
locutors ; this is a rare and raw and bleeding
occasion ; in an hour or so the women may be
laying out my body and I may be silent for
ever. I have hidden my religion, but why
should I hide it now? To you I have always
tried to seem as practical and self-seeking as
possible, but in secret I have been a fanatic ;
and Woldingstanton was the altar on which
I offered myself to God. I have done ill and
feebly there I know ; I have been indolent and
rash ; those were my weaknesses ; but I have
done my best. To the limits of my strength
and knowledge I have served God. . . . And
now in this hour of darkness where is this
God that I have served? Why does he not
stand here between me and this last injury you
would do to the work I have dedicated to
him? '»



The Three Visitors 63

At these words Mr. Dad turned horrified
eyes to Mr. Farr.

But Mr. Huss went on as though talking
to himself. " In the night I have looked into
my heart ; I have sought in my heart for base
motives and secret sins. I have put myself
on trial to find why God should hide himself
from me now, and I can find no reason and
no justification. ... In the bitterness of my
heart I am tempted to give way to you and to
tell you to take the school and 10 do just what
you will with it. . . . The nearness of death
makes the familiar things of experience flimsy
and unreal, and far more real to me now is this
darkness that broods over me, as blight will
sometimes overhang the world at noon, and
mocks me day and night with a perpetual
challenge to curse Gk)d and die. . . .

" Why do I not curse God and die? Why
do I cling to my work when the God to whom
I dedicated it is — silent? Because, I suppose,
I still hope for some sign of reassurance. Be-
cause I am not yet altogether defeated. I
would go on telling you why I want Wolding-
stanton to continue on its present lines and
why it is impossible for you, why it will be a



64 The Undying Fire

sort of murder for you to hand it over to Farr
here, if my pain were ten times what it is. . . ."

At the mention of his name, Mr. Farr
started and looked first at Mr. Dad, and then
at Sir EHphaz. " Really," he said, " really !
One might think I had conspired "

" I am afraid, Mr. Huss," said Sir Eliphaz,
with a large reassuring gesture to the tech-
nical master, " that the suggestion that Mr.
Farr should be your successor, came in the
first instance from me."

" You must reconsider it," said Mr. Huss,
moistening his lips and staring steadfastly in
front of him.

Here Mr. Dad broke out in a querulous
voice : " Are you really in a state, Mr. Huss,
to discuss a matter like this — feverish and suf-
fering as you are? "

'' I could not be in a better frame for this
discussion," said Mr. Huss. ..." And now,
for what I have to say about the school : —
Woldingstanton, when I came to it, was a
humdrum school of some seventy boys, follow-
ing a worn-out routine. A little Latin was
taught and less Greek, chiefly in order to say
that Greek was taught ; some scraps of mathe-



The Three Visitors 65

matical processes, a few rags of general know-
ledge, English history — not human history,
mind you, but just the national brand, cut
dried flowers from the past with no roots and
no meaning, a smattering of French. . . .
That was practically all ; it was no sort of
education, it was a mere education-like pos-
turing. And to-day, what has that school
become? "

" We never grudged you money," said Sir
Eliphaz.

" Nor loyal help," said Mr. Farr, but in a
half whisper.

'* I am not thinking of its visdble prosper-
ity. The houses and laboratories and museums
that have grown about that nucleus are nothing
in themselves. The reality of a school is not
in buildings and numbers but in matters of
the mind and soul. Woldingstanton has be-
come a torch at which lives are set aflame. I
have lit a candle there — the winds of fate may
yet blow it into a world-wide blaze."

As Mr. Huss said these things he was up-
lifted by enthusiasm, and his pain sank down
out of his consciousness .

"What," he said, "is the task of the



66 The Undying Fire

teacher in the world ? It is the greatest of all
human tasks. It is to ensure that Man, Man
the Divine, grows in the souls of men. For
what is a man without instruction? He is
born as the beasts are born, a greedy egotism,
a clutching desire, a thing of lusts and fears.
He can regard nothing except in relation to
himself. Even his love is a bargain ; and his
utmost effort is vanity because he has to die.
And it is we teachers alone who can lift him
out of that self-preoccupation. We teachers
. . . We can release him into a .wider circle
of ideas beyond himself in which he can at
length forget himself and his meagre personal
ends altogether. We can open his eyes to the
past and to the future and to the undying life
of Man. So through us and through us only,
he escapes from death and futility. An un-
taught man is but himself alone, as lonely in
his ends and destiny as any beast ; a man
instructed is a man enlarged from that narrow
prison of self into participation in an undying
life, that began we know not when, that grows
above and beyond the greatness of the
stars. . . ."

He spoke as if he addressed some other



The Three Visitors 67

hearer than the three before him. Mr. Dad,
with eyebrows raised and lips compressed,
nodded silently to Mr. Farr as if his worst sus-
picions were confirmed, and there were signs
and signals that Sir Eliphaz was about to
speak, when Mr. Huss resumed.

" For five and twenty years I have ruled
over Woldingstanton, and for all that time I
have been giving sight to the blind. I have
given understanding to some thousands of
boys. All those routines of teaching that had
become dead we made live again there. My
boys have learnt the history of mankind so that
it has become their own adventure ; they have
learnt geography so that the world is their
possession ; I have had languages taught to
make the past live again in their minds and to
be windows upon the souls of alien peoples.
Science has played its proper part ; it has taken
my boys into the secret places of matter and
out among the nebuhe. . . . Always I have
kept Farr and his utilities in their due subor-
dination. Some of my boys have already made
good business men — because they were more
than business men. . . . liut I have never
sougiit to make business men and I never willc



68 The Undying Fire

My boys have gone into the professions, into
the services, into the great world and done
well — I have had dull boys and intractable
boys, but nearly all have gone into the world
gentlemen, broad-minded, good-mannered,
understanding and unselfish, masters of self,
servants of man, because the whole scheme of
their education has been to release them from
base and narrow things. . . . When the war
came, my boys were ready. . . . They have
gone to their deaths — how many have gone to
their deaths ! My own son among them. . . .
I did not grudge him. . . . Woldingstanton
is a new school ; its tradition has scarcely
begun ; the list of its old boys is now so terribly
depleted that its young tradition wilts like a
torn seedling. . . . But still we can keep on
with it, still that tradition will grow, if my
flame still burns. But my teaching must go on
as I have planned it. It must. It must. . . .
What has made my boys all that they are, has
been the history, the biological science, the
philosophy. For these things are wisdom. All
the rest is training and mere knowledge. If the
school is to live, the head must still be a man
who can teach history — history in the jvidest



The Three Visitors 69

sense ; he must be philosopher, biologist, and
archaeologist as well as scholar. And you
would hand that task to Farr ! Farr ! Farr
here has never even touched the essential work
of the school. He does not know what it is.
His mind is no more opened than the cricket
professional's."

Mr. Dad made an impatient noise.

The sick man went on with his burning eyes
on Farr, his Hps bloodless.

"He thinks of chemistry and physics not
as a help to understanding but as a help to
trading. So long as he has been at Wolding-
stanton he has been working furtively with our
m.aterials in the laboratories, dreaming of
some profitable patent. Oh ! I know you,
Farr. Do you think I didn't see because I
didn't choose to complain.'' If he could have
discovered some profitable patent he would
have abandoned teaching the day he did so.
He would have been even as you are. But
with a lifeless imagination you cannot even
invent patentable things. He would talk to
the boys of the empire at times, but the empire
to him is no more than a trading conspiracy
fenced about with tariffs. It goes on to



70 The Undying Fire

nothing. . . . And he thinks we are fighting
the Germans, he thinks my dear and precious
boy gave his Hfe and that all these other brave
lads beyond counting died, in order that we
might take the place of the Germans as the
chapman-bullies of the world. That is the
measure of his mind. He has no religion, no
faith, no devotion. Why does he want my
place? Because he wants to serve as I have
served ? No ! But because he envies my
house, my income, my headship. Whether I
live or die, it is impossible that Woldingstan-
ton, my Woldingstanton, should live under
his hand. Give it to him, and in a little while
it will be dead."



§ 5



((



Gentlemen! " Mr. Farr protested with
a white perspiring face.

** I had no idea," ejaculated Mr. Dad,
" I had no idea that things had gone so far."

Sir Eliphaz indicated by waving his hand
that his associates might allay themselves ; he
recognized that the time had come for him to
speak.

"It is deplorable," Sir Eliphaz began.

He put down his hands and gripped the
seat of his chair as if to hold himself on to it
very tightly, and he looked very hard at the
horizon as if he were trying to decipher some
remote inscription. " You have imported a
tone into this discussion," he tried.

He got off at the third attempt. " It is an
extremely painful thing to me, Mr. Huss,
that to you, standing as you do on the very
l)rink of the Great Chasm, it should be neces-
sary to speak in any but the most cordial and
helpful tones. But it is my duty, it is our

71



72 The Undying Fire

duty, to hold firmly to those principles which
have always guided us as governors of the
Woldingstanton School. You speak, I must
say it, with an extreme arrogance of an in-
stitution to which all of here have in some
measure contributed ; you speak as though
you, and you alone, were its creator and guide.
You must pardon me, Mr. Huss, if I remind
you of the facts, the eternal verities of the
story. The school, sir, was founded in the
spacious days of Queen Elizabeth, and many a
good man guided its fortunes down to the time
when an unfortunate — a diversion of its en-
dowments led to its temporary cessation.
The Charity Commissioners revived it after
an inquiry some fifty years ago, and it has
been largely the lavish generosity of the
Papermakers' Guild, of which I and Dad are
humble members, that has stimulated its ex-
pansion under you. Loth as I am to cross
your mood, Mr. Huss, while you are in pain
and anxiety, I am bound to recall to you these
things which have made your work possible.
You could not have made bricks without
straw, you could not have built up Wolding-
stanton without the money obtained by that



The Three Visitors 73

commercialism for which you display such
unqualified contempt. We sordid cits it was
who planted, who watered. ..."

Mr. Huss seemed about to speak, but said
nothing.

" Exactly what I say," said Mr. Dad,
turning for confirmation to Mr. Farr.
"The school is essentially a modern com-
mercial school. It should be run as tha«t."

Mr. Farr nodded his white face am-
biguously with his eye on Sir Eliphaz.


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