H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

The wonderful visit online

. (page 2 of 10)
Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsThe wonderful visit → online text (page 2 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

delicious dream!"

"And never dreaming of each other."

"Except when people go a dreaming!"

"Yes," said the Angel thoughtfully. "It must be something of the sort.
And that reminds me. Sometimes when I have been dropping asleep, or
drowsing under the noon-tide sun, I have seen strange corrugated faces
just like yours, going by me, and trees with green leaves upon them, and
such queer uneven ground as this.... It must be so. I have fallen into
another world."

"Sometimes," began the Vicar, "at bedtime, when I have been just on the
edge of consciousness, I have seen faces as beautiful as yours, and the
strange dazzling vistas of a wonderful scene, that flowed past me,
winged shapes soaring over it, and wonderful - sometimes terrible - forms
going to and fro. I have even heard sweet music too in my ears.... It
may be that as we withdraw our attention from the world of sense, the
pressing world about us, as we pass into the twilight of repose, other
worlds.... Just as we see the stars, those other worlds in space, when
the glare of day recedes.... And the artistic dreamers who see such
things most clearly...."

They looked at one another.

"And in some incomprehensible manner I have fallen into this world of
yours out of my own!" said the Angel, "into the world of my dreams,
grown real."

He looked about him. "Into the world of my dreams."

"It is confusing," said the Vicar. "It almost makes one think there may
be (ahem) Four Dimensions after all. In which case, of course," he went
on hurriedly - for he loved geometrical speculations and took a certain
pride in his knowledge of them - "there may be any number of three
dimensional universes packed side by side, and all dimly dreaming of one
another. There may be world upon world, universe upon universe. It's
perfectly possible. There's nothing so incredible as the absolutely
possible. But I wonder how you came to fall out of your world into

"Dear me!" said the Angel; "There's deer and a stag! Just as they draw
them on the coats of arms. How grotesque it all seems! Can I really be

He rubbed his knuckles into his eyes.

The half-dozen of dappled deer came in Indian file obliquely through the
trees and halted, watching. "It's no dream - I am really a solid concrete
Angel, in Dream Land," said the Angel. He laughed. The Vicar stood
surveying him. The Reverend gentleman was pulling his mouth askew after
a habit he had, and slowly stroking his chin. He was asking himself
whether he too was not in the Land of Dreams.


Now in the land of the Angels, so the Vicar learnt in the course of many
conversations, there is neither pain nor trouble nor death, marrying nor
giving in marriage, birth nor forgetting. Only at times new things
begin. It is a land without hill or dale, a wonderfully level land,
glittering with strange buildings, with incessant sunlight or full moon,
and with incessant breezes blowing through the √Жolian traceries of the
trees. It is Wonderland, with glittering seas hanging in the sky, across
which strange fleets go sailing, none know whither. There the flowers
glow in Heaven and the stars shine about one's feet and the breath of
life is a delight. The land goes on for ever - there is no solar system
nor interstellar space such as there is in our universe - and the air
goes upward past the sun into the uttermost abyss of their sky. And
there is nothing but Beauty there - all the beauty in our art is but
feeble rendering of faint glimpses of that wonderful world, and our
composers, our original composers, are those who hear, however faintly,
the dust of melody that drives before its winds. And the Angels, and
wonderful monsters of bronze and marble and living fire, go to and fro

It is a land of Law - for whatever is, is under the law - but its laws
all, in some strange way, differ from ours. Their geometry is different
because their space has a curve in it so that all their planes are
cylinders; and their law of Gravitation is not according to the law of
inverse squares, and there are four-and-twenty primary colours instead
of only three. Most of the fantastic things of our science are
commonplaces there, and all our earthly science would seem to them the
maddest dreaming. There are no flowers upon their plants, for instance,
but jets of coloured fire. That, of course, will seem mere nonsense to
you because you do not understand Most of what the Angel told the Vicar,
indeed the Vicar could not realise, because his own experiences, being
only of this world of matter, warred against his understanding. It was
too strange to imagine.

What had jolted these twin universes together so that the Angel had
fallen suddenly into Sidderford, neither the Angel nor the Vicar could
tell. Nor for the matter of that could the author of this story. The
author is concerned with the facts of the case, and has neither the
desire nor the confidence to explain them. Explanations are the fallacy
of a scientific age. And the cardinal fact of the case is this, that out
in Siddermorton Park, with the glory of some wonderful world where there
is neither sorrow nor sighing, still clinging to him, on the 4th of
August 1895, stood an Angel, bright and beautiful, talking to the Vicar
of Siddermorton about the plurality of worlds. The author will swear to
the Angel, if need be; and there he draws the line.


"I have," said the Angel, "a most unusual feeling - _here_. Have had
since sunrise. I don't remember ever having any feeling - _here_ before."

"Not pain, I hope," said the Vicar.

"Oh no! It is quite different from that - a kind of vacuous feeling."

"The atmospheric pressure, perhaps, is a little different," the Vicar
began, feeling his chin.

"And do you know, I have also the most curious sensations in my
mouth - almost as if - it's so absurd! - as if I wanted to stuff things
into it."

"Bless me!" said the Vicar. "Of course! You're hungry!"

"Hungry!" said the Angel. "What's that?"

"Don't you eat?"

"Eat! The word's quite new to me."

"Put food into your mouth, you know. One has to here. You will soon
learn. If you don't, you get thin and miserable, and suffer a great
deal - _pain_, you know - and finally you die."

"Die!" said the Angel. "That's another strange word!"

"It's not strange here. It means leaving off, you know," said the Vicar.

"We never leave off," said the Angel.

"You don't know what may happen to you in this world," said the Vicar,
thinking him over. "Possibly if you are feeling hungry, and can feel
pain and have your wings broken, you may even have to die before you get
out of it again. At anyrate you had better try eating. For my own
part - ahem! - there are many more disagreeable things."

"I suppose I _had_ better Eat," said the Angel. "If it's not too
difficult. I don't like this 'Pain' of yours, and I don't like this
'Hungry.' If your 'Die' is anything like it, I would prefer to Eat. What
a very odd world this is!"

"To Die," said the Vicar, "is generally considered worse than either
pain or hunger.... It depends."

"You must explain all that to me later," said the Angel. "Unless I wake
up. At present, please show me how to eat. If you will. I feel a kind of

"Pardon me," said the Vicar, and offered an elbow. "If I may have the
pleasure of entertaining you. My house lies yonder - not a couple of
miles from here."

"_Your_ House!" said the Angel a little puzzled; but he took the Vicar's
arm affectionately, and the two, conversing as they went, waded slowly
through the luxuriant bracken, sun mottled under the trees, and on over
the stile in the park palings, and so across the bee-swarming heather
for a mile or more, down the hillside, home.

You would have been charmed at the couple could you have seen them. The
Angel, slight of figure, scarcely five feet high, and with a beautiful,
almost effeminate face, such as an Italian old Master might have
painted. (Indeed, there is one in the National Gallery [_Tobias and the
Angel_, by some artist unknown] not at all unlike him so far as face and
spirit go.) He was robed simply in a purple-wrought saffron blouse, bare
kneed and bare-footed, with his wings (broken now, and a leaden grey)
folded behind him. The Vicar was a short, rather stout figure, rubicund,
red-haired, clean-shaven, and with bright ruddy brown eyes. He wore a
piebald straw hat with a black ribbon, a very neat white tie, and a fine
gold watch-chain. He was so greatly interested in his companion that it
only occurred to him when he was in sight of the Vicarage that he had
left his gun lying just where he had dropped it amongst the bracken.

He was rejoiced to hear that the pain of the bandaged wing fell rapidly
in intensity.



Let us be plain. The Angel of this story is the Angel of Art, not the
Angel that one must be irreverent to touch - neither the Angel of
religious feeling nor the Angel of popular belief. The last we all know.
She is alone among the angelic hosts in being distinctly feminine: she
wears a robe of immaculate, unmitigated white with sleeves, is fair,
with long golden tresses, and has eyes of the blue of Heaven. Just a
pure woman she is, pure maiden or pure matron, in her _robe de nuit_,
and with wings attached to her shoulder blades. Her callings are
domestic and sympathetic, she watches over a cradle or assists a sister
soul heavenward. Often she bears a palm leaf, but one would not be
surprised if one met her carrying a warming-pan softly to some poor
chilly sinner. She it was who came down in a bevy to Marguerite in
prison, in the amended last scene in _Faust_ at the Lyceum, and the
interesting and improving little children that are to die young, have
visions of such angels in the novels of Mrs Henry Wood. This white
womanliness with her indescribable charm of lavender-like holiness, her
aroma of clean, methodical lives, is, it would seem after all, a purely
Teutonic invention. Latin thought knows her not; the old masters have
none of her. She is of a piece with that gentle innocent ladylike school
of art whereof the greatest triumph is "a lump in one's throat," and
where wit and passion, scorn and pomp, have no place. The white angel
was made in Germany, in the land of blonde women and the domestic
sentiments. She comes to us cool and worshipful, pure and tranquil, as
silently soothing as the breadth and calmness of the starlit sky, which
also is so unspeakably dear to the Teutonic soul.... We do her
reverence. And to the angels of the Hebrews, those spirits of power and
mystery, to Raphael, Zadkiel, and Michael, of whom only Watts has caught
the shadow, of whom only Blake has seen the splendour, to them too, do
we do reverence.

But this Angel the Vicar shot is, we say, no such angel at all, but the
Angel of Italian art, polychromatic and gay. He comes from the land of
beautiful dreams and not from any holier place. At best he is a popish
creature. Bear patiently, therefore, with his scattered remiges, and be
not hasty with your charge of irreverence before the story is read.



The Curate's wife and her two daughters and Mrs Jehoram were still
playing at tennis on the lawn behind the Vicar's study, playing keenly
and talking in gasps about paper patterns for blouses. But the Vicar
forgot and came in that way.

They saw the Vicar's hat above the rhododendrons, and a bare curly head
beside him. "I must ask him about Susan Wiggin," said the Curate's wife.
She was about to serve, and stood with a racket in one hand and a ball
between the fingers of the other. "_He_ really ought to have gone to see
her - being the Vicar. Not George. I - - _Ah!_"

For the two figures suddenly turned the corner and were visible. The
Vicar, arm in arm with - -

You see, it came on the Curate's wife suddenly. The Angel's face being
towards her she saw nothing of the wings. Only a face of unearthly
beauty in a halo of chestnut hair, and a graceful figure clothed in a
saffron garment that barely reached the knees. The thought of those
knees flashed upon the Vicar at once. He too was horrorstruck. So were
the two girls and Mrs Jehoram. All horrorstruck. The Angel stared in
astonishment at the horrorstruck group. You see, he had never seen
anyone horrorstruck before.

"MIS - ter Hilyer!" said the Curate's wife. "This is _too_ much!" She
stood speechless for a moment. "_Oh!_"

She swept round upon the rigid girls. "Come!" The Vicar opened and shut
his voiceless mouth. The world hummed and spun about him. There was a
whirling of zephyr skirts, four impassioned faces sweeping towards the
open door of the passage that ran through the vicarage. He felt his
position went with them.

"Mrs Mendham," said the Vicar, stepping forward. "Mrs Mendham. You don't
understand - - "

"_Oh!_" they all said again.

One, two, three, four skirts vanished in the doorway. The Vicar
staggered half way across the lawn and stopped, aghast. "This comes," he
heard the Curate's wife say, out of the depth of the passage, "of having
an unmarried vicar - - ." The umbrella stand wobbled. The front door of
the vicarage slammed like a minute gun. There was silence for a space.

"I might have thought," he said. "She is always so hasty."

He put his hand to his chin - a habit with him. Then turned his face to
his companion. The Angel was evidently well bred. He was holding up Mrs
Jehoram's sunshade - she had left it on one of the cane chairs - and
examining it with extraordinary interest. He opened it. "What a curious
little mechanism!" he said. "What can it be for?"

The Vicar did not answer. The angelic costume certainly was - the Vicar
knew it was a case for a French phrase - but he could scarcely remember
it. He so rarely used French. It was not _de trop_, he knew. Anything
but _de trop_. The Angel was _de trop_, but certainly not his costume.
Ah! _Sans culotte!_

The Vicar examined his visitor critically - for the first time. "He
_will_ be difficult to explain," he said to himself softly.

The Angel stuck the sunshade into the turf and went to smell the sweet
briar. The sunshine fell upon his brown hair and gave it almost the
appearance of a halo. He pricked his finger. "Odd!" he said. "Pain

"Yes," said the Vicar, thinking aloud. "He's very beautiful and curious
as he is. I should like him best so. But I am afraid I must."

He approached the Angel with a nervous cough.


"Those," said the Vicar, "were ladies."

"How grotesque," said the Angel, smiling and smelling the sweet briar.
"And such quaint shapes!"

"Possibly," said the Vicar. "Did you, _ahem_, notice how they behaved?"

"They went away. Seemed, indeed, to run away. Frightened? I, of course,
was frightened at things without wings. I hope - - they were not
frightened at my wings?"

"At your appearance generally," said the Vicar, glancing involuntarily
at the pink feet.

"Dear me! It never occurred to me. I suppose I seemed as odd to them as
you did to me." He glanced down. "And my feet. _You_ have hoofs like a

"Boots," corrected the Vicar.

"Boots, you call them! But anyhow, I am sorry I alarmed - - "

"You see," said the Vicar, stroking his chin, "our ladies, _ahem_, have
peculiar views - rather inartistic views - about, _ahem_, clothing.
Dressed as you are, I am afraid, I am really afraid that - beautiful as
your costume certainly is - you will find yourself somewhat, _ahem_,
somewhat isolated in society. We have a little proverb, 'When in Rome,
_ahem_, one must do as the Romans do.' I can assure you that, assuming
you are desirous to, _ahem_, associate with us - during your involuntary
stay - - "

The Angel retreated a step or so as the Vicar came nearer and nearer in
his attempt to be diplomatic and confidential. The beautiful face grew
perplexed. "I don't quite understand. Why do you keep making these
noises in your throat? Is it Die or Eat, or any of those...."

"As your host," interrupted the Vicar, and stopped.

"As my host," said the Angel.

"_Would_ you object, pending more permanent arrangements, to invest
yourself, _ahem_, in a suit, an entirely new suit I may say, like this I
have on?"

"Oh!" said the Angel. He retreated so as to take in the Vicar from top
to toe. "Wear clothes like yours!" he said. He was puzzled but amused.
His eyes grew round and bright, his mouth puckered at the corners.

"Delightful!" he said, clapping his hands together. "What a mad, quaint
dream this is! Where are they?" He caught at the neck of the saffron

"Indoors!" said the Vicar. "This way. We will change - indoors!"


So the Angel was invested in a pair of nether garments of the Vicar's, a
shirt, ripped down the back (to accommodate the wings), socks,
shoes - the Vicar's dress shoes - collar, tie, and light overcoat. But
putting on the latter was painful, and reminded the Vicar that the
bandaging was temporary. "I will ring for tea at once, and send Grummet
down for Crump," said the Vicar. "And dinner shall be earlier." While
the Vicar shouted his orders on the landing rails, the Angel surveyed
himself in the cheval glass with immense delight. If he was a stranger
to pain, he was evidently no stranger - thanks perhaps to dreaming - to
the pleasure of incongruity.

They had tea in the drawing-room. The Angel sat on the music stool
(music stool because of his wings). At first he wanted to lie on the
hearthrug. He looked much less radiant in the Vicar's clothes, than he
had done upon the moor when dressed in saffron. His face shone still,
the colour of his hair and cheeks was strangely bright, and there was a
superhuman light in his eyes, but his wings under the overcoat gave him
the appearance of a hunchback. The garments, indeed, made quite a
terrestrial thing of him, the trousers were puckered transversely, and
the shoes a size or so too large.

He was charmingly affable and quite ignorant of the most elementary
facts of civilization. Eating came without much difficulty, and the
Vicar had an entertaining time teaching him how to take tea. "What a
mess it is! What a dear grotesque ugly world you live in!" said the
Angel. "Fancy stuffing things into your mouth! We use our mouths just to
talk and sing with. Our world, you know, is almost incurably beautiful.
We get so very little ugliness, that I find all this ... delightful."

Mrs Hinijer, the Vicar's housekeeper, looked at the Angel suspiciously
when she brought in the tea. She thought him rather a "queer customer."
What she would have thought had she seen him in saffron no one can tell.

The Angel shuffled about the room with his cup of tea in one hand, and
the bread and butter in the other, and examined the Vicar's furniture.
Outside the French windows, the lawn with its array of dahlias and
sunflowers glowed in the warm sunlight, and Mrs Jehoram's sunshade stood
thereon like a triangle of fire. He thought the Vicar's portrait over
the mantel very curious indeed, could not understand what it was there
for. "You have yourself round," he said, _apropos_ of the portrait, "Why
want yourself flat?" and he was vastly amused at the glass fire screen.
He found the oak chairs odd - "You're not square, are you?" he said, when
the Vicar explained their use. "_We_ never double ourselves up. We lie
about on the asphodel when we want to rest."

"The chair," said the Vicar, "to tell you the truth, has always puzzled
_me_. It dates, I think, from the days when the floors were cold and
very dirty. I suppose we have kept up the habit. It's become a kind of
instinct with us to sit on chairs. Anyhow, if I went to see one of my
parishioners, and suddenly spread myself out on the floor - the natural
way of it - I don't know what she would do. It would be all over the
parish in no time. Yet it seems the natural method of reposing, to
recline. The Greeks and Romans - - "

"What is this?" said the Angel abruptly.

"That's a stuffed kingfisher. I killed it."

"Killed it!"

"Shot it," said the Vicar, "with a gun."

"Shot! As you did me?"

"I didn't kill you, you see. Fortunately."

"Is killing making like that?"

"In a way."

"Dear me! And you wanted to make me like that - wanted to put glass eyes
in me and string me up in a glass case full of ugly green and brown

"You see," began the Vicar, "I scarcely understood - - "

"Is that 'die'?" asked the Angel suddenly.

"That is dead; it died."

"Poor little thing. I must eat a lot. But you say you killed it. _Why?_"

"You see," said the Vicar, "I take an interest in birds, and I (_ahem_)
collect them. I wanted the specimen - - "

The Angel stared at him for a moment with puzzled eyes. "A beautiful
bird like that!" he said with a shiver. "Because the fancy took you. You
wanted the specimen!"

He thought for a minute. "Do you often kill?" he asked the Vicar.



Then Doctor Crump arrived. Grummet had met him not a hundred yards from
the vicarage gate. He was a large, rather heavy-looking man, with a
clean-shaven face and a double chin. He was dressed in a grey morning
coat (he always affected grey), with a chequered black and white tie.
"What's the trouble?" he said, entering and staring without a shadow of
surprise at the Angel's radiant face.

"This - _ahem_ - gentleman," said the Vicar, "or - _ah_ - Angel" - the Angel
bowed - "is suffering from a gunshot wound."

"Gunshot wound!" said Doctor Crump. "In July! May I look at it,
Mr - Angel, I think you said?"

"He will probably be able to assuage your pain," said the Vicar. "Let
me assist you to remove your coat?"

The Angel turned obediently.

"Spinal curvature?" muttered Doctor Crump quite audibly, walking round
behind the Angel. "No! abnormal growth. Hullo! This is odd!" He clutched
the left wing. "Curious," he said. "Reduplication of the anterior
limb - bifid coracoid. Possible, of course, but I've never seen it
before." The angel winced under his hands. "Humerus. Radius and Ulna.
All there. Congenital, of course. Humerus broken. Curious integumentary
simulation of feathers. Dear me. Almost avian. Probably of considerable
interest in comparative anatomy. I never did! - - How did this gunshot
happen, Mr Angel?"

The Vicar was amazed at the Doctor's matter-of-fact manner.

"Our friend," said the Angel, moving his head at the Vicar.

"Unhappily it is my doing," said the Vicar, stepping forward,
explanatory. "I mistook the gentleman - the Angel (_ahem_) - for a large
bird - - "

"Mistook him for a large bird! What next? Your eyes want seeing to,"
said Doctor Crump. "I've told you so before." He went on patting and
feeling, keeping time with a series of grunts and inarticulate
mutterings.... "But this is really a very good bit of amateur
bandaging," said he. "I think I shall leave it. Curious malformation
this is! Don't you find it inconvenient, Mr Angel?"

He suddenly walked round so as to look in the Angel's face.

The Angel thought he referred to the wound. "It is rather," he said.

"If it wasn't for the bones I should say paint with iodine night and
morning. Nothing like iodine. You could paint your face flat with it.
But the osseous outgrowth, the bones, you know, complicate things. I
could saw them off, of course. It's not a thing one should have done in
a hurry - - "

"Do you mean my wings?" said the Angel in alarm.

"Wings!" said the Doctor. "Eigh? Call 'em wings! Yes - what else should I

"Saw them off!" said the Angel.

"Don't you think so? It's of course your affair. I am only advising - - "

"Saw them off! What a funny creature you are!" said the Angel, beginning
to laugh.

"As you will," said the Doctor. He detested people who laughed. "The
things are curious," he said, turning to the Vicar. "If
inconvenient" - to the Angel. "I never heard of such complete
reduplication before - at least among animals. In plants it's common
enough. Were you the only one in your family?" He did not wait for a
reply. "Partial cases of the fission of limbs are not at all uncommon,
of course, Vicar - six-fingered children, calves with six feet, and cats
with double toes, you know. May I assist you?" he said, turning to the
Angel who was struggling with the coat. "But such a complete
reduplication, and so avian, too! It would be much less remarkable if it
was simply another pair of arms."

The coat was got on and he and the Angel stared at one another.

"Really," said the Doctor, "one begins to understand how that beautiful
myth of the angels arose. You look a little hectic, Mr Angel - feverish.
Excessive brilliance is almost worse as a symptom than excessive pallor.

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsThe wonderful visit → online text (page 2 of 10)