H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

The wonderful visit online

. (page 8 of 10)
Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsThe wonderful visit → online text (page 8 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


was entering into his soul. For a week now he had known pain and
rejection, suspicion and hatred; a strange new spirit of revolt was
growing up in his heart. He played a melody, still sweet and tender as
those of the Angelic Land, but charged with a new note, the note of
human sorrow and effort, now swelling into something like defiance,
dying now into a plaintive sadness. He played softly, playing to himself
to comfort himself, but the Vicar heard, and all his finite bothers were
swallowed up in a hazy melancholy, a melancholy that was quite remote
from sorrow. And besides the Vicar, the Angel had another hearer of whom
neither Angel nor Vicar was thinking.




DELIA.

XL.


She was only four or five yards away from the Angel in the westward
gable. The diamond-paned window of her little white room was open. She
knelt on her box of japanned tin, and rested her chin on her hands, her
elbows on the window-sill. The young moon hung over the pine trees, and
its light, cool and colourless, lay softly upon the silent-sleeping
world. Its light fell upon her white face, and discovered new depths in
her dreaming eyes. Her soft lips fell apart and showed the little white
teeth.

Delia was thinking, vaguely, wonderfully, as girls will think. It was
feeling rather than thinking; clouds of beautiful translucent emotion
drove across the clear sky of her mind, taking shape that changed and
vanished. She had all that wonderful emotional tenderness, that subtle
exquisite desire for self-sacrifice, which exists so inexplicably in a
girl's heart, exists it seems only to be presently trampled under foot
by the grim and gross humours of daily life, to be ploughed in again
roughly and remorselessly, as the farmer ploughs in the clover that has
sprung up in the soil. She had been looking out at the tranquillity of
the moonlight long before the Angel began to play, - waiting; then
suddenly the quiet, motionless beauty of silver and shadow was suffused
with tender music.

She did not move, but her lips closed and her eyes grew even softer. She
had been thinking before of the strange glory that had suddenly flashed
out about the stooping hunchback when he spoke to her in the sunset; of
that and of a dozen other glances, chance turns, even once the touching
of her hand. That afternoon he had spoken to her, asking strange
questions. Now the music seemed to bring his very face before her, his
look of half curious solicitude, peering into her face, into her eyes,
into her and through her, deep down into her soul. He seemed now to be
speaking directly to her, telling her of his solitude and trouble. Oh!
that regret, that longing! For he was in trouble. And how could a
servant-girl help him, this soft-spoken gentleman who carried himself so
kindly, who played so sweetly. The music was so sweet and keen, it came
so near to the thought of her heart, that presently one hand tightened
on the other, and the tears came streaming down her face.

As Crump would tell you, people do not do that kind of thing unless
there is something wrong with the nervous system. But then, from the
scientific point of view, being in love is a pathological condition.


I am painfully aware of the objectionable nature of my story here. I
have even thought of wilfully perverting the truth to propitiate the
Lady Reader. But I could not. The story has been too much for me. I do
the thing with my eyes open. Delia must remain what she really was - a
servant girl. I know that to give a mere servant girl, or at least an
English servant girl, the refined feelings of a human being, to present
her as speaking with anything but an intolerable confusion of aspirates,
places me outside the pale of respectable writers. Association with
servants, even in thought, is dangerous in these days. I can only plead
(pleading vainly, I know), that Delia was a very exceptional servant
girl. Possibly, if one enquired, it might be found that her parentage
was upper middle-class - that she was made of the finer upper
middle-class clay. And (this perhaps may avail me better) I will promise
that in some future work I will redress the balance, and the patient
reader shall have the recognised article, enormous feet and hands,
systematic aspiration of vowels and elimination of aspirates, no figure
(only middle-class girls have figures - the thing is beyond a
servant-girl's means), a fringe (by agreement), and a cheerful readiness
to dispose of her self-respect for half-a-crown. That is the accepted
English servant, the typical English woman (when stripped of money and
accomplishments) as she appears in the works of contemporary writers.
But Delia somehow was different. I can only regret the circumstance - it
was altogether beyond my control.




DOCTOR CRUMP ACTS.

XLI.


Early the next morning the Angel went down through the village, and
climbing the fence, waded through the waist-high reeds that fringe the
Sidder. He was going to Bandram Bay to take a nearer view of the sea,
which one could just see on a clear day from the higher parts of
Siddermorton Park. And suddenly he came upon Crump sitting on a log and
smoking. (Crump always smoked exactly two ounces per week - and he always
smoked it in the open air.)

"Hullo!" said Crump, in his healthiest tone. "How's the wing?"

"Very well," said the Angel. "The pain's gone."

"I suppose you know you are trespassing?"

"Trespassing!" said the Angel.

"I suppose you don't know what that means," said Crump.

"I don't," said the Angel.

"I must congratulate you. I don't know how long you will last, but you
are keeping it up remarkably well. I thought at first you were a
mattoid, but you're so amazingly consistent. Your attitude of entire
ignorance of the elementary facts of Life is really a very amusing pose.
You make slips of course, but very few. But surely we two understand one
another."

He smiled at the Angel. "You would beat Sherlock Holmes. I wonder who
you really are."

The Angel smiled back, with eyebrows raised and hands extended. "It's
impossible for you to know who I am. Your eyes are blind, your ears
deaf, your soul dark, to all that is wonderful about me. It's no good my
telling that I fell into your world."

The Doctor waved his pipe. "Not that, please. I don't want to pry if you
have your reasons for keeping quiet. Only I would like you to think of
Hilyer's mental health. He really believes this story."

The Angel shrugged his dwindling wings.

"You did not know him before this affair. He's changed tremendously. He
used to be neat and comfortable. For the last fortnight he's been hazy,
with a far-away look in his eyes. He preached last Sunday without his
cuff links, and something wrong with his tie, and he took for his text,
'Eye hath not seen nor ear heard.' He really believes all this nonsense
about the Angel-land. The man is verging on monomania!"

"You _will_ see things from your own standpoint," said the Angel.

"Everyone must. At any rate, I think it jolly regrettable to see this
poor old fellow hypnotized, as you certainly have hypnotized him. I
don't know where you come from nor who you are, but I warn you I'm not
going to see the old boy made a fool of much longer."

"But he's not being made a fool of. He's simply beginning to dream of a
world outside his knowledge - - "

"It won't do," said Crump. "I'm not one of the dupe class. You are
either of two things - a lunatic at large (which I don't believe), or a
knave. Nothing else is possible. I think I know a little of this world,
whatever I do of yours. Very well. If you don't leave Hilyer alone I
shall communicate with the police, and either clap you into a prison, if
you go back on your story, or into a madhouse if you don't. It's
stretching a point, but I swear I'd certify you insane to-morrow to get
you out of the village. It's not only the Vicar. As you know. I hope
that's plain. Now what have you to say?"

With an affectation of great calm, the Doctor took out his penknife and
began to dig the blade into his pipe bowl. His pipe had gone out during
this last speech.

For a moment neither spoke. The Angel looked about him with a face that
grew pale. The Doctor extracted a plug of tobacco from his pipe and
flung it away, shut his penknife and put it in his waistcoat pocket. He
had not meant to speak quite so emphatically, but speech always warmed
him.

"Prison," said the Angel. "Madhouse! Let me see." Then he remembered
the Vicar's explanation. "Not that!" he said. He approached Crump with
eyes dilated and hands outstretched.

"I knew _you_ would know what those things meant - at any rate. Sit
down," said Crump, indicating the tree trunk beside him by a movement of
the head.

The Angel, shivering, sat down on the tree trunk and stared at the
Doctor.

Crump was getting out his pouch. "You are a strange man," said the
Angel. "Your beliefs are like - a steel trap."

"They are," said Crump - flattered.

"But I tell you - I assure you the thing is so - I know nothing, or at
least remember nothing of anything I knew of this world before I found
myself in the darkness of night on the moorland above Sidderford."

"Where did you learn the language then?"

"I don't know. Only I tell you - But I haven't an atom of the sort of
proof that would convince you."

"And you really," said Crump, suddenly coming round upon him and
looking into his eyes; "You really believe you were eternally in a kind
of glorious heaven before then?"

"I do," said the Angel.

"Pshaw!" said Crump, and lit his pipe. He sat smoking, elbow on knee,
for some time, and the Angel sat and watched him. Then his face grew
less troubled.

"It is just possible," he said to himself rather than to the Angel, and
began another piece of silence.

"You see;" he said, when that was finished. "There is such a thing as
double personality.... A man sometimes forgets who he is and thinks he
is someone else. Leaves home, friends, and everything, and leads a
double life. There was a case in _Nature_ only a month or so ago. The
man was sometimes English and right-handed, and sometimes Welsh and
left-handed. When he was English he knew no Welsh, when he was Welsh he
knew no English.... H'm."

He turned suddenly on the Angel and said "Home!" He fancied he might
revive in the Angel some latent memory of his lost youth. He went on
"Dadda, Pappa, Daddy, Mammy, Pappy, Father, Dad, Governor, Old Boy,
Mother, dear Mother, Ma, Mumsy.... No good? What are you laughing at?"

"Nothing," said the Angel. "You surprised me a little, - that is all. A
week ago I should have been puzzled by that vocabulary."

For a minute Crump rebuked the Angel silently out of the corner of his
eye.

"You have such an ingenuous face. You almost force me to believe you.
You are certainly not an ordinary lunatic. Your mind - except for your
isolation from the past - seems balanced enough. I wish Nordau or
Lombroso or some of these _Saltpetriere_ men could have a look at you.
Down here one gets no practice worth speaking about in mental cases.
There's one idiot - and he's just a damned idiot of an idiot - ; all the
rest are thoroughly sane people."

"Possibly that accounts for their behaviour," said the Angel
thoughtfully.

"But to consider your general position here," said Crump, ignoring his
comment, "I really regard you as a bad influence here. These fancies
are contagious. It is not simply the Vicar. There is a man named Shine
has caught the fad, and he has been in the drink for a week, off and on,
and offering to fight anyone who says you are not an Angel. Then a man
over at Sidderford is, I hear, affected with a kind of religious mania
on the same tack. These things spread. There ought to be a quarantine in
mischievous ideas. And I have heard another story...."

"But what can I do?" said the Angel. "Suppose I am (quite
unintentionally) doing mischief...."

"You can leave the village," said Crump.

"Then I shall only go into another village."

"That's not my affair," said Crump. "Go where you like. Only go. Leave
these three people, the Vicar, Shine, the little servant girl, whose
heads are all spinning with galaxies of Angels...."

"But," said the Angel. "Face your world! I tell you I can't. And leave
Delia! I don't understand.... I do not know how to set about getting
Work and Food and Shelter. And I am growing afraid of human beings...."

"Fancies, fancies," said Crump, watching him, "mania."

"It's no good my persisting in worrying you," he said suddenly, "but
certainly the situation is impossible as it stands." He stood up with a
jerk.

"Good-morning, Mr - Angel," he said, "the long and the short of it is - I
say it as the medical adviser of this parish - you are an unhealthy
influence. We can't have you. You must go."

He turned, and went striding through the grass towards the roadway,
leaving the Angel sitting disconsolately on the tree trunk. "An
unhealthy influence," said the Angel slowly, staring blankly in front of
him, and trying to realise what it meant.




SIR JOHN GOTCH ACTS.

XLII.


Sir John Gotch was a little man with scrubby hair, a small, thin nose
sticking out of a face crackled with wrinkles, tight brown gaiters, and
a riding whip. "I've come, you see," he said, as Mrs Hinijer closed the
door.

"Thank you," said the Vicar, "I'm obliged to you. I'm really obliged to
you."

"Glad to be of any service to you," said Sir John Gotch. (Angular
attitude.)

"This business," said the Vicar, "this unfortunate business of the
barbed wire - is really, you know, a most unfortunate business."

Sir John Gotch became decidedly more angular in his attitude. "It is,"
he said.

"This Mr Angel being my guest - "

"No reason why he should cut my wire," said Sir John Gotch, briefly.

"None whatever."

"May I ask _who_ this Mr Angel is?" asked Sir John Gotch with the
abruptness of long premeditation.

The Vicar's fingers jumped to his chin. What _was_ the good of talking
to a man like Sir John Gotch about Angels?

"To tell you the exact truth," said the Vicar, "there is a little
secret - "

"Lady Hammergallow told me as much."

The Vicar's face suddenly became bright red.

"Do you know," said Sir John, with scarcely a pause, "he's been going
about this village preaching Socialism?"

"Good heavens!" said the Vicar, "_No!_"

"He has. He has been buttonholing every yokel he came across, and asking
them why they had to work, while we - I and you, you know - did nothing.
He has been saying we ought to educate every man up to your level and
mine - out of the rates, I suppose, as usual. He has been suggesting that
we - I and you, you know - keep these people down - pith 'em."

"_Dear_ me!" said the Vicar, "I had no idea."

"He has done this wire-cutting as a demonstration, I tell you, as a
Socialistic demonstration. If we don't come down on him pretty sharply,
I tell you, we shall have the palings down in Flinders Lane next, and
the next thing will be ricks afire, and every damned (I beg your pardon,
Vicar. I know I'm too fond of that word), every blessed pheasant's egg
in the parish smashed. I know these - "

"A Socialist," said the Vicar, quite put out, "I had _no_ idea."

"You see why I am inclined to push matters against our gentleman though
he _is_ your guest. It seems to me he has been taking advantage of your
paternal - "

"Oh, _not_ paternal!" said the Vicar. "Really - "

"(I beg your pardon, Vicar - it was a slip.) Of your kindness, to go
mischief-making everywhere, setting class against class, and the poor
man against his bread and butter."

The Vicar's fingers were at his chin again.

"So there's one of two things," said Sir John Gotch. "Either that Guest
of yours leaves the parish, or - I take proceedings. That's final."

The Vicar's mouth was all askew.

"That's the position," said Sir John, jumping to his feet, "if it were
not for you, I should take proceedings at once. As it is - am I to take
proceedings or no?"

"You see," said the Vicar in horrible perplexity.

"Well?"

"Arrangements have to be made."

"He's a mischief-making idler.... I know the breed. But I'll give you a
week - - "

"Thank you," said the Vicar. "I understand your position. I perceive the
situation is getting intolerable...."

"Sorry to give you this bother, of course," said Sir John.

"A week," said the Vicar.

"A week," said Sir John, leaving.


The Vicar returned, after accompanying Gotch out, and for a long time he
remained sitting before the desk in his study, plunged in thought. "A
week!" he said, after an immense silence. "Here is an Angel, a glorious
Angel, who has quickened my soul to beauty and delight, who has opened
my eyes to Wonderland, and something more than Wonderland, ... and I
have promised to get rid of him in a week! What are we men made of?...
How _can_ I tell him?"

He began to walk up and down the room, then he went into the
dining-room, and stood staring blankly out at the cornfield. The table
was already laid for lunch. Presently he turned, still dreaming, and
almost mechanically helped himself to a glass of sherry.




THE SEA CLIFF.

XLIII.


The Angel lay upon the summit of the cliff above Bandram Bay, and stared
out at the glittering sea. Sheer from under his elbows fell the cliff,
five hundred and seven feet of it down to the datum line, and the
sea-birds eddied and soared below him. The upper part of the cliff was a
greenish chalky rock, the lower two-thirds a warm red, marbled with
gypsum bands, and from half-a-dozen places spurted jets of water, to
fall in long cascades down its face. The swell frothed white on the
flinty beach, and the water beyond where the shadows of an outstanding
rock lay, was green and purple in a thousand tints and marked with
streaks and flakes of foam. The air was full of sunlight and the
tinkling of the little waterfalls and the slow soughing of the seas
below. Now and then a butterfly flickered over the face of the cliff,
and a multitude of sea birds perched and flew hither and thither.

The Angel lay with his crippled, shrivelled wings humped upon his back,
watching the gulls and jackdaws and rooks, circling in the sunlight,
soaring, eddying, sweeping down to the water or upward into the dazzling
blue of the sky. Long the Angel lay there and watched them going to and
fro on outspread wings. He watched, and as he watched them he remembered
with infinite longing the rivers of starlight and the sweetness of the
land from which he came. And a gull came gliding overhead, swiftly and
easily, with its broad wings spreading white and fair against the blue.
And suddenly a shadow came into the Angel's eyes, the sunlight left
them, he thought of his own crippled pinions, and put his face upon his
arm and wept.

A woman who was walking along the footpath across the Cliff Field saw
only a twisted hunchback dressed in the Vicar of Siddermorton's cast-off
clothes, sprawling foolishly at the edge of the cliff and with his
forehead on his arm. She looked at him and looked again. "The silly
creature has gone to sleep," she said, and though she had a heavy basket
to carry, came towards him with an idea of waking him up. But as she
drew near she saw his shoulders heave and heard the sound of his
sobbing.

She stood still a minute, and her features twitched into a kind of grin.
Then treading softly she turned and went back towards the pathway. "'Tis
so hard to think of anything to say," she said. "Poor afflicted soul!"

Presently the Angel ceased sobbing, and stared with a tear-stained face
at the beach below him.

"This world," he said, "wraps me round and swallows me up. My wings grow
shrivelled and useless. Soon I shall be nothing more than a crippled
man, and I shall age, and bow myself to pain, and die.... I am
miserable. And I am alone."

Then he rested his chin on his hands upon the edge of the cliff, and
began to think of Delia's face with the light in her eyes. The Angel
felt a curious desire to go to her and tell her of his withered wings.
To place his arms about her and weep for the land he had lost. "Delia!"
he said to himself very softly. And presently a cloud drove in front of
the sun.




MRS HINIJER ACTS.

XLIV.


Mrs Hinijer surprised the Vicar by tapping at his study door after tea.
"Begging your pardon, Sir," said Mrs Hinijer. "But might I make so bold
as to speak to you for a moment?"

"Certainly, Mrs Hinijer," said the Vicar, little dreaming of the blow
that was coming. He held a letter in his hand, a very strange and
disagreeable letter from his bishop, a letter that irritated and
distressed him, criticising in the strongest language the guests he
chose to entertain in his own house. Only a popular bishop living in a
democratic age, a bishop who was still half a pedagogue, could have
written such a letter.

Mrs Hinijer coughed behind her hand and struggled with some respiratory
disorganisation. The Vicar felt apprehensive. Usually in their
interviews he was the most disconcerted. Invariably so when the
interview ended.

"Well?" he said.

"May I make so bold, sir, as to arst when Mr Angel is a-going?" (Cough.)

The Vicar started. "To ask when Mr Angel is going?" he repeated slowly
to gain time. "_Another!_"

"I'm sorry, sir. But I've been used to waitin' on gentlefolks, sir; and
you'd hardly imagine how it feels quite to wait on such as 'im."

"Such as ... _'im_! Do I understand you, Mrs Hinijer, that you don't
like Mr Angel?"

"You see, sir, before I came to you, sir, I was at Lord Dundoller's
seventeen years, and you, sir - if you will excuse me - are a perfect
gentleman yourself, sir - though in the Church. And then...."

"Dear, dear!" said the Vicar. "And don't you regard Mr Angel as a
gentleman?"

"I'm sorry to 'ave to say it, sir."

"But what...? Dear me! Surely!"

"I'm sorry to 'ave to say it, sir. But when a party goes turning
vegetarian suddenly and putting out all the cooking, and hasn't no
proper luggage of his own, and borry's shirts and socks from his 'ost,
and don't know no better than to try his knife at peas (as I seed my
very self), and goes talking in odd corners to the housemaids, and folds
up his napkin after meals, and eats with his fingers at minced veal, and
plays the fiddle in the middle of the night keeping everybody awake, and
stares and grins at his elders a-getting upstairs, and generally
misconducts himself with things that I can scarcely tell you all, one
can't help thinking, sir. Thought is free, sir, and one can't help
coming to one's own conclusions. Besides which, there is talk all over
the village about him - what with one thing and another. I know a
gentleman when I sees a gentleman, and I know a gentleman when I don't
see a gentleman, and me, and Susan, and George, we've talked it over,
being the upper servants, so to speak, and experienced, and leaving out
that girl Delia, who I only hope won't come to any harm through him, and
depend upon it, sir, that Mr Angel ain't what you think he is, sir, and
the sooner he leaves this house the better."

Mrs Hinijer ceased abruptly and stood panting but stern, and with her
eyes grimly fixed on the Vicar's face.

"_Really_, Mrs Hinijer!" said the Vicar, and then, "Oh _Lord_!"

"What _have_ I done?" said the Vicar, suddenly starting up and appealing
to the inexorable fates. "What HAVE I done?"

"There's no knowing," said Mrs Hinijer. "Though a deal of talk in the
village."

"_Bother!_" said the Vicar, going and staring out of the window. Then he
turned. "Look here, Mrs Hinijer! Mr Angel will be leaving this house in
the course of a week. Is that enough?"

"Quite," said Mrs Hinijer. "And I feel sure, sir...."

The Vicar's eyes fell with unwonted eloquence upon the door.




THE ANGEL IN TROUBLE.

XLV.


"The fact is," said the Vicar, "this is no world for Angels."

The blinds had not been drawn, and the twilight outer world under an
overcast sky seemed unspeakably grey and cold. The Angel sat at table in
dejected silence. His inevitable departure had been proclaimed. Since
his presence hurt people and made the Vicar wretched he acquiesced in
the justice of the decision, but what would happen to him after his
plunge he could not imagine. Something very disagreeable certainly.

"There is the violin," said the Vicar. "Only after our experience - - "

"I must get you clothes - a general outfit. - - Dear me! you don't
understand railway travelling! And coinage! Taking lodgings!
Eating-houses! - - I must come up at least and see you settled. Get work
for you. But an Angel in London! Working for his living! That grey cold
wilderness of people! What _will_ become of you? - - If I had one friend


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10

Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsThe wonderful visit → online text (page 8 of 10)