H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

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Whither I do not know."

"And you have to eat like this every day?"

"Eat, and get clothes and keep this roof above me. There are some very
disagreeable things in this world called Cold and Rain. And the other
people here - how and why is too long a story - have made me a kind of
chorus to their lives. They bring their little pink babies to me and I
have to say a name and some other things over each new pink baby. And
when the children have grown to be youths and maidens, they come again
and are confirmed. You will understand that better later. Then before
they may join in couples and have pink babies of their own, they must
come again and hear me read out of a book. They would be outcast, and no
other maiden would speak to the maiden who had a little pink baby
without I had read over her for twenty minutes out of my book. It's a
necessary thing, as you will see. Odd as it may seem to you. And
afterwards when they are falling to pieces, I try and persuade them of a
strange world in which I scarcely believe myself, where life is
altogether different from what they have had - or desire. And in the
end, I bury them, and read out of my book to those who will presently
follow into the unknown land. I stand at the beginning, and at the
zenith, and at the setting of their lives. And on every seventh day, I
who am a man myself, I who see no further than they do, talk to them of
the Life to Come - the life of which we know nothing. If such a life
there be. And slowly I drop to pieces amidst my prophesying."

"What a strange life!" said the Angel.

"Yes," said the Vicar. "What a strange life! But the thing that makes it
strange to me is new. I had taken it as a matter of course until you
came into my life."

"This life of ours is so insistent," said the Vicar. "It, and its petty
needs, its temporary pleasures (_Crack_) swathe our souls about. While I
am preaching to these people of mine of another life, some are
ministering to one appetite and eating sweets, others - the old men - are
slumbering, the youths glance at the maidens, the grown men protrude
white waistcoats and gold chains, pomp and vanity on a substratum of
carnal substance, their wives flaunt garish bonnets at one another. And
I go on droning away of the things unseen and unrealised - 'Eye hath not
seen,' I read, 'nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the imagination
of man to conceive,' and I look up to catch an adult male immortal
admiring the fit of a pair of three and sixpenny gloves. It is damping
year after year. When I was ailing in my youth I felt almost the
assurance of vision that beneath this temporary phantasm world was the
real world - the enduring world of the Life Everlasting. But now - - "

He glanced at his chubby white hand, fingering the stem of his glass. "I
have put on flesh since then," he said. [_Pause_].

"I have changed and developed very much. The battle of the Flesh and
Spirit does not trouble me as it did. Every day I feel less confidence
in my beliefs, and more in God. I live, I am afraid, a quiescent life,
duties fairly done, a little ornithology and a little chess, a trifle of
mathematical trifling. My times are in His hands - - "

The Vicar sighed and became pensive. The Angel watched him, and the
Angel's eyes were troubled with the puzzle of him. "Gluck, gluck,
gluck," went the decanter as the Vicar refilled his glass.


So the Angel dined and talked to the Vicar, and presently the night came
and he was overtaken by yawning.

"Yah - - oh!" said the Angel suddenly. "Dear me! A higher power seemed
suddenly to stretch my mouth open and a great breath of air went rushing
down my throat."

"You yawned," said the Vicar. "Do you never yawn in the angelic

"Never," said the Angel.

"And yet you are immortal! - - I suppose you want to go to bed."

"Bed!" said the Angel. "Where's that?"

So the Vicar explained darkness to him and the art of going to bed. (The
Angels, it seems sleep only in order to dream, and dream, like primitive
man, with their foreheads on their knees. And they sleep among the white
poppy meadows in the heat of the day.) The Angel found the bedroom
arrangements quaint enough.

"Why is everything raised up on big wooden legs?" he said. "You have the
floor, and then you put everything you have upon a wooden quadruped. Why
do you do it?" The Vicar explained with philosophical vagueness. The
Angel burnt his finger in the candle-flame - and displayed an absolute
ignorance of the elementary principles of combustion. He was merely
charmed when a line of fire ran up the curtains. The Vicar had to
deliver a lecture on fire so soon as the flame was extinguished. He had
all kinds of explanations to make - even the soap needed explaining. It
was an hour or more before the Angel was safely tucked in for the night.

"He's very beautiful," said the Vicar, descending the staircase, quite
tired out; "and he's a real angel no doubt. But I am afraid he will be a
dreadful anxiety, all the same, before he gets into our earthly way with

He seemed quite worried. He helped himself to an extra glass of sherry
before he put away the wine in the cellaret.


The Curate stood in front of the looking-glass and solemnly divested
himself of his collar.

"I never heard a more fantastic story," said Mrs Mendham from the basket
chair. "The man must be mad. Are you sure - - ."

"Perfectly, my dear. I've told you every word, every incident - - ."

"_Well!_" said Mrs Mendham, and spread her hands. "There's no sense in

"Precisely, my dear."

"The Vicar," said Mrs Mendham, "must be mad."

"This hunchback is certainly one of the strangest creatures I've seen
for a long time. Foreign looking, with a big bright coloured face and
long brown hair.... It can't have been cut for months!" The Curate put
his studs carefully upon the shelf of the dressing-table. "And a kind of
staring look about his eyes, and a simpering smile. Quite a silly
looking person. Effeminate."

"But who _can_ he be?" said Mrs Mendham.

"I can't imagine, my dear. Nor where he came from. He might be a
chorister or something of that sort."

"But _why_ should he be about the shrubbery ... in that dreadful

"I don't know. The Vicar gave me no explanation. He simply said,
'Mendham, this is an Angel.'"

"I wonder if he drinks.... They may have been bathing near the spring,
of course," reflected Mrs Mendham. "But I noticed no other clothes on
his arm."

The Curate sat down on his bed and unlaced his boots.

"It's a perfect mystery to me, my dear." (Flick, flick of laces.)
"Hallucination is the only charitable - - "

"You are sure, George, that it was _not_ a woman."

"Perfectly," said the Curate.

"I know what men are, of course."

"It was a young man of nineteen or twenty," said the Curate.

"I can't understand it," said Mrs Mendham. "You say the creature is
staying at the Vicarage?"

"Hilyer is simply mad," said the Curate. He got up and went padding
round the room to the door to put out his boots. "To judge by his manner
you would really think he believed this cripple was an Angel." ("Are
your shoes out, dear?")

("They're just by the wardrobe"), said Mrs Mendham. "He always was a
little queer, you know. There was always something childish about
him.... An Angel!"

The Curate came and stood by the fire, fumbling with his braces. Mrs
Mendham liked a fire even in the summer. "He shirks all the serious
problems in life and is always trifling with some new foolishness," said
the Curate. "Angel indeed!" He laughed suddenly. "Hilyer _must_ be mad,"
he said.

Mrs Mendham laughed too. "Even that doesn't explain the hunchback," she

"The hunchback must be mad too," said the Curate.

"It's the only way of explaining it in a sensible way," said Mrs
Mendham. [_Pause._]

"Angel or no angel," said Mrs Mendham, "I know what is due to me. Even
supposing the man thought he _was_ in the company of an angel, that is
no reason why he should not behave like a gentleman."

"That is perfectly true."

"You will write to the Bishop, of course?"

Mendham coughed. "No, I shan't write to the Bishop," said Mendham. "I
think it seems a little disloyal.... And he took no notice of the last,
you know."

"But surely - - "

"I shall write to Austin. In confidence. He will be sure to tell the
Bishop, you know. And you must remember, my dear - - "

"That Hilyer can dismiss you, you were going to say. My dear, the man's
much too weak! _I_ should have a word to say about that. And besides,
you do all his work for him. Practically, we manage the parish from end
to end. I do not know what would become of the poor if it was not for
me. They'd have free quarters in the Vicarage to-morrow. There is that
Goody Ansell - - "

"I know, my dear," said the Curate, turning away and proceeding with his
undressing. "You were telling me about her only this afternoon."


And thus in the little bedroom over the gable we reach a first resting
place in this story. And as we have been hard at it, getting our story
spread out before you, it may be perhaps well to recapitulate a little.

Looking back you will see that much has been done; we began with a blaze
of light "not uniform but broken all over by curving flashes like the
waving of swords," and the sound of a mighty harping, and the advent of
an Angel with polychromatic wings.

Swiftly, dexterously, as the reader must admit, wings have been clipped,
halo handled off, the glory clapped into coat and trousers, and the
Angel made for all practical purposes a man, under a suspicion of being
either a lunatic or an impostor. You have heard too, or at least been
able to judge, what the Vicar and the Doctor and the Curate's wife
thought of the strange arrival. And further remarkable opinions are to

The afterglow of the summer sunset in the north-west darkens into night
and the Angel sleeps, dreaming himself back in the wonderful world where
it is always light, and everyone is happy, where fire does not burn and
ice does not chill; where rivulets of starlight go streaming through the
amaranthine meadows, out to the seas of Peace. He dreams, and it seems
to him that once more his wings glow with a thousand colours and flash
through the crystal air of the world from which he has come.

So he dreams. But the Vicar lies awake, too perplexed for dreaming.
Chiefly he is troubled by the possibilities of Mrs Mendham; but the
evening's talk has opened strange vistas in his mind, and he is
stimulated by a sense as of something seen darkly by the indistinct
vision of a hitherto unsuspected wonderland lying about his world. For
twenty years now he has held his village living and lived his daily
life, protected by his familiar creed, by the clamour of the details of
life, from any mystical dreaming. But now interweaving with the
familiar bother of his persecuting neighbour, is an altogether
unfamiliar sense of strange new things.

There was something ominous in the feeling. Once, indeed, it rose above
all other considerations, and in a kind of terror he blundered out of
bed, bruised his shins very convincingly, found the matches at last, and
lit a candle to assure himself of the reality of his own customary world
again. But on the whole the more tangible trouble was the Mendham
avalanche. Her tongue seemed to be hanging above him like the sword of
Damocles. What might she not say of this business, before her indignant
imagination came to rest?

And while the successful captor of the Strange Bird was sleeping thus
uneasily, Gully of Sidderton was carefully unloading his gun after a
wearisome blank day, and Sandy Bright was on his knees in prayer, with
the window carefully fastened. Annie Durgan was sleeping hard with her
mouth open, and Amory's mother was dreaming of washing, and both of them
had long since exhausted the topics of the Sound and the Glare. Lumpy
Durgan was sitting up in his bed, now crooning the fragment of a tune
and now listening intently for a sound he had heard once and longed to
hear again. As for the solicitor's clerk at Iping Hanger, he was trying
to write poetry about a confectioner's girl at Portburdock, and the
Strange Bird was quite out of his head. But the ploughman who had seen
it on the confines of Siddermorton Park had a black eye. That had been
one of the more tangible consequences of a little argument about birds'
legs in the "Ship." It is worthy of this passing mention, since it is
probably the only known instance of an Angel causing anything of the



The Vicar going to call the Angel, found him dressed and leaning out of
his window. It was a glorious morning, still dewy, and the rising
sunlight slanting round the corner of the house, struck warm and yellow
upon the hillside. The birds were astir in the hedges and shrubbery. Up
the hillside - for it was late in August - a plough drove slowly. The
Angel's chin rested upon his hands and he did not turn as the Vicar came
up to him.

"How's the wing?" said the Vicar.

"I'd forgotten it," said the Angel. "Is that yonder a man?"

The Vicar looked. "That's a ploughman."

"Why does he go to and fro like that? Does it amuse him?"

"He's ploughing. That's his work."

"Work! Why does he do it? It seems a monotonous thing to do."

"It is," admitted the Vicar. "But he has to do it to get a living, you
know. To get food to eat and all that kind of thing."

"How curious!" said the Angel. "Do all men have to do that? Do you?"

"Oh, no. He does it for me; does my share."

"Why?" asked the Angel.

"Oh! in return for things I do for him, you know. We go in for division
of labour in this world. Exchange is no robbery."

"I see," said the Angel, with his eyes still on the ploughman's heavy

"What do you do for him?"

"That seems an easy question to you," said the Vicar, "but really! - it's
difficult. Our social arrangements are rather complicated. It's
impossible to explain these things all at once, before breakfast. Don't
you feel hungry?"

"I think I do," said the Angel slowly, still at the window; and then
abruptly, "Somehow I can't help thinking that ploughing must be far from

"Possibly," said the Vicar, "very possibly. But breakfast is ready.
Won't you come down?"

The Angel left the window reluctantly.

"Our society," explained the Vicar on the staircase, "is a complicated


"And it is so arranged that some do one thing and some another."

"And that lean, bent old man trudges after that heavy blade of iron
pulled by a couple of horses while we go down to eat?"

"Yes. You will find it is perfectly just. Ah! mushrooms and poached
eggs! It's the Social System. Pray be seated. Possibly it strikes you as

"I'm puzzled," said the Angel.

"The drink I'm sending you is called coffee," said the Vicar. "I daresay
you are. When I was a young man I was puzzled in the same way. But
afterwards comes a Broader View of Things. (These black things are
called mushrooms; they look beautiful.) Other Considerations. All men
are brothers, of course, but some are younger brothers, so to speak.
There is work that requires culture and refinement, and work in which
culture and refinement would be an impediment. And the rights of
property must not be forgotten. One must render unto Cæsar.... Do you
know, instead of explaining this matter now (this is yours), I think I
will lend you a little book to read (_chum_, _chum_, _chum_ - these
mushrooms are well up to their appearance), which sets the whole thing
out very clearly."



After breakfast the Vicar went into the little room next his study to
find a book on Political Economy for the Angel to read. For the Angel's
social ignorances were clearly beyond any verbal explanations. The door
stood ajar.

"What is that?" said the Angel, following him. "A violin!" He took it

"You play?" said the Vicar.

The Angel had the bow in his hand, and by way of answer drove it across
the strings. The quality of the note made the Vicar turn suddenly.

The Angel's hand tightened on the instrument. The bow flew back and
flickered, and an air the Vicar had never heard before danced in his
ears. The Angel shifted the fiddle under his dainty chin and went on
playing, and as he played his eyes grew bright and his lips smiled. At
first he looked at the Vicar, then his expression became abstracted. He
seemed no longer to look at the Vicar, but through him, at something
beyond, something in his memory or his imagination, something infinitely
remote, undreamt of hitherto....

The Vicar tried to follow the music. The air reminded him of a flame, it
rushed up, shone, flickered and danced, passed and reappeared. No! - it
did not reappear! Another air - like it and unlike it, shot up after it,
wavered, vanished. Then another, the same and not the same. It reminded
him of the flaring tongues that palpitate and change above a newly lit
fire. There are two airs - or _motifs_, which is it? - thought the Vicar.
He knew remarkably little of musical technique. They go dancing up, one
pursuing the other, out of the fire of the incantation, pursuing,
fluctuating, turning, up into the sky. There below was the fire burning,
a flame without fuel upon a level space, and there two flirting
butterflies of sound, dancing away from it, up, one over another, swift,
abrupt, uncertain.

"Flirting butterflies were they!" What was the Vicar thinking of? Where
was he? In the little room next to his study, of course! And the Angel
standing in front of him smiling into his face, playing the violin, and
looking through him as though he was only a window - - . That _motif_
again, a yellow flare, spread fanlike by a gust, and now one, then with
a swift eddying upward flight the other, the two things of fire and
light pursuing one another again up into that clear immensity.

The study and the realities of life suddenly faded out of the Vicar's
eyes, grew thinner and thinner like a mist that dissolves into air, and
he and the Angel stood together on a pinnacle of wrought music, about
which glittering melodies circled, and vanished, and reappeared. He was
in the land of Beauty, and once more the glory of heaven was upon the
Angel's face, and the glowing delights of colour pulsated in his wings.
Himself the Vicar could not see. But I cannot tell you of the vision of
that great and spacious land, of its incredible openness, and height,
and nobility. For there is no space there like ours, no time as we know
it; one must needs speak by bungling metaphors and own in bitterness
after all that one has failed. And it was only a vision. The wonderful
creatures flying through the æther saw them not as they stood there,
flew through them as one might pass through a whisp of mist. The Vicar
lost all sense of duration, all sense of necessity - -

"Ah!" said the Angel, suddenly putting down the fiddle.

The Vicar had forgotten the book on Political Economy, had forgotten
everything until the Angel had done. For a minute he sat quite still.
Then he woke up with a start. He was sitting on the old iron-bound

"Really," he said slowly, "you are very clever."

He looked about him in a puzzled way. "I had a kind of vision while you
were playing. I seemed to see - - . What did I see? It has gone."

He stood up with a dazzled expression upon his face. "I shall never play
the violin again," he said. "I wish you would take it to your room - and
keep it - - . And play to me again. I did not know anything of music
until I heard you play. I do not feel as though I had ever heard any
music before."

He stared at the Angel, then about him at the room. "I have never felt
anything of this kind with music before," he said. He shook his head. "I
shall never play again."



Very unwisely, as I think, the Vicar allowed the Angel to go down into
the village by himself, to enlarge his ideas of humanity. Unwisely,
because how was he to imagine the reception the Angel would receive? Not
thoughtlessly, I am afraid. He had always carried himself with decorum
in the village, and the idea of a slow procession through the little
street with all the inevitable curious remarks, explanations, pointings,
was too much for him. The Angel might do the strangest things, the
village was certain to think them. Peering faces. "Who's _he_ got now?"
Besides, was it not his duty to prepare his sermon in good time? The
Angel, duly directed, went down cheerfully by himself - still innocent of
most of the peculiarities of the human as distinguished from the angelic
turn of mind.

The Angel walked slowly, his white hands folded behind his hunched
back, his sweet face looking this way and that. He peered curiously into
the eyes of the people he met. A little child picking a bunch of vetch
and honeysuckle looked in his face, and forthwith came and put them in
his hand. It was about the only kindness he had from a human being
(saving only the Vicar and one other). He heard Mother Gustick scolding
that granddaughter of hers as he passed the door. "You _Brazen_
Faggit - you!" said Mother Gustick. "You Trumpery Baggage!"

The Angel stopped, startled at the strange sounds of Mother Gustick's
voice. "Put yer best clo'es on, and yer feather in yer 'at, and off you
goes to meet en, fal lal, and me at 'ome slaving for ye. 'Tis a Fancy
Lady you'll be wantin' to be, my gal, a walkin' Touch and Go, with yer
idleness and finery - - "

The voice ceased abruptly, and a great peace came upon the battered air.
"Most grotesque and strange!" said the Angel, still surveying this
wonderful box of discords. "Walking Touch and Go!" He did not know that
Mrs Gustick had suddenly become aware of his existence, and was
scrutinizing his appearance through the window-blind. Abruptly the door
flew open, and she stared out into the Angel's face. A strange
apparition, grey and dusty hair, and the dirty pink dress unhooked to
show the stringy throat, a discoloured gargoyle, presently to begin
spouting incomprehensible abuse.

"Now, then, Mister," began Mrs Gustick. "Have ye nothin' better to do
than listen at people's doors for what you can pick up?"

The Angel stared at her in astonishment.

"D'year!" said Mrs Gustick, evidently very angry indeed. "Listenin'."

"Have you any objection to my hearing...."

"Object to my hearing! Course I have! Whad yer think? You aint such a

"But if ye didn't want me to hear, why did you cry out so loud? I

"_You thought!_ Softie - that's what _you_ are! You silly girt staring
Gaby, what don't know any better than to come holding yer girt mouth
wide open for all that you can catch holt on? And then off up there to
tell! You great Fat-Faced, Tale-Bearin' Silly-Billy! I'd be ashamed to
come poking and peering round quiet people's houses...."

The Angel was surprised to find that some inexplicable quality in her
voice excited the most disagreeable sensations in him and a strong
desire to withdraw. But, resisting this, he stood listening politely (as
the custom is in the Angelic Land, so long as anyone is speaking). The
entire eruption was beyond his comprehension. He could not perceive any
reason for the sudden projection of this vituperative head, out of
infinity, so to speak. And questions without a break for an answer were
outside his experience altogether.

Mrs Gustick proceeded with her characteristic fluency, assured him he
was no gentleman, enquired if he called himself one, remarked that every
tramp did as much nowadays, compared him to a Stuck Pig, marvelled at
his impudence, asked him if he wasn't ashamed of himself standing there,
enquired if he was rooted to the ground, was curious to be told what he
meant by it, wanted to know whether he robbed a scarecrow for his
clothes, suggested that an abnormal vanity prompted his behaviour,
enquired if his mother knew he was out, and finally remarking, "I got
somethin'll move you, my gentleman," disappeared with a ferocious
slamming of the door.

The interval struck the Angel as singularly peaceful. His whirling mind
had time to analyse his sensations. He ceased bowing and smiling, and
stood merely astonished.

"This is a curious painful feeling," said the Angel. "Almost worse than
Hungry, and quite different. When one is hungry one wants to eat. I
suppose she was a woman. Here one wants to get away. I suppose I might
just as well go."

He turned slowly and went down the road meditating. He heard the cottage
door re-open, and turning his head, saw through intervening scarlet

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Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsThe wonderful visit → online text (page 4 of 10)