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The Child of the Agesby@hgwells
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The Child of the Ages

by H.G. WellsNovember 22nd, 2022
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When the intellectual history of this time comes to-251- be written, nothing I think will stand out more strikingly than the empty gulf in quality between the superb and richly fruitful scientific investigations that are going on and the general thought of other educated sections of the community. I do not mean that the scientific men are as a whole a class of supermen, dealing with and thinking about everything in a way altogether better than the common run of humanity, but that in their own field, they think and work with an intensity, an integrity, a breadth, boldness, patience, thoroughness and faithfulness that (excepting only a few artists) puts their work out of all comparison with any other human activity. Often the field in which the work is done is very narrow, and almost universally the underlying philosophy is felt rather than apprehended. A scientific man may be large and deep-minded, deliberate and personally detached in his work, and hasty, commonplace and superficial in every other relation of life. Nevertheless it is true that in these particular directions the human mind has achieved a new and higher quality of attitude and gesture, a veracity, self-detachment and self-abnegating vigour of criticism that tend to spread out and must ultimately spread out to every other human affair. In these uncontroversial issues at least mankind has learnt the rich rewards that ensue from patience and infinite pains.
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Marriage by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. The Child of the Ages

The Child of the Ages

§ 1

When the intellectual history of this time comes to-251- be written, nothing I think will stand out more strikingly than the empty gulf in quality between the superb and richly fruitful scientific investigations that are going on and the general thought of other educated sections of the community. I do not mean that the scientific men are as a whole a class of supermen, dealing with and thinking about everything in a way altogether better than the common run of humanity, but that in their own field, they think and work with an intensity, an integrity, a breadth, boldness, patience, thoroughness and faithfulness that (excepting only a few artists) puts their work out of all comparison with any other human activity. Often the field in which the work is done is very narrow, and almost universally the underlying philosophy is felt rather than apprehended. A scientific man may be large and deep-minded, deliberate and personally detached in his work, and hasty, commonplace and superficial in every other relation of life. Nevertheless it is true that in these particular directions the human mind has achieved a new and higher quality of attitude and gesture, a veracity, self-detachment and self-abnegating vigour of criticism that tend to spread out and must ultimately spread out to every other human affair. In these uncontroversial issues at least mankind has learnt the rich rewards that ensue from patience and infinite pains.

The peculiar circumstances of Trafford's birth-252- and upbringing had accentuated his natural disposition toward this new thoroughness of intellectual treatment which has always distinguished the great artist, and which to-day is also the essential quality of the scientific method. He had lived apart from any urgency to produce and compete in the common business of the world; his natural curiosities, fed and encouraged by his natural gifts, had grown into a steady passion for clarity and knowledge. But with him there was no specialization. He brought out from his laboratory into the everyday affairs of the world the same sceptical restraint of judgment which is the touchstone of scientific truth. This made him a tepid and indeed rather a scornful spectator of political and social life. Party formulae, international rivalries, social customs, and very much of the ordinary law of our state impressed him as a kind of fungoid growth out of a fundamental intellectual muddle. It all maintained itself hazardously, changing and adapting itself unintelligently to unseen conditions. He saw no ultimate truth in this seething welter of human efforts, no tragedy as yet in its defeats, no value in its victories. It had to go on, he believed, until the spreading certitudes of the scientific method pierced its unsubstantial thickets, burst its delusive films, drained away its folly. Aunt Plessington's talk of order and progress and the influence of her Movement impressed his mind very much as the cackle of some larger kind of hen—which cackles because it must. Only Aunt Plessington being human simply imagined the egg. She laid—on the plane of the ideal. When the great nonsensical issues between liberal and conservative, between socialist and individualist, between "Anglo-Saxon" and "Teuton," between the "white race" and the "yellow race" arose in Trafford's company, he would if-253- he felt cheerful take one side or the other as chance or his amusement with his interlocutors determined, and jest and gibe at the opponent's inconsistencies, and if on the other hand he chanced to be irritable he would lose his temper at this "chewing of mesembryanthemum" and sulk into silence. "Chewing mesembryanthemum" was one of Trafford's favourite images,—no doubt the reader knows that abundant fleshy Mediterranean weed and the weakly unpleasant wateriness of its substance. He went back to his laboratory and his proper work after such discussions with a feeling of escape, as if he shut a door upon a dirty and undisciplined market-place crowded with mental defectives. Yet even before he met and married Marjorie, there was a queer little undertow of thought in his mind which insisted that this business could not end with door-slamming, that he didn't altogether leave the social confusion outside his panels when he stood alone before his apparatus, and that sooner or later that babble of voices would force his defences and overcome his disdain.

His particular work upon the intimate constitution of matter had broadened very rapidly in his hands. The drift of his work had been to identify all colloids as liquid solutions of variable degrees of viscosity, and to treat crystalline bodies as the only solids. He had dealt with oscillating processes in colloid bodies with especial reference to living matter. He had passed from a study of the melting and toughening of glass to the molecular structure of a number of elastic bodies, and so, by a characteristic leap into botanical physiology, to the states of resinous and gummy substances at the moment of secretion. He worked at first upon a false start, and then resumed to discover a growing illumination. He found himself in the presence of phenomena that seemed to-254- him to lie near the still undiscovered threshold to the secret processes of living protoplasm. He was, as it were, breaking into biology by way of molecular physics. He spent many long nights of deep excitement, calculating and arranging the development of these seductive intimations. It was this work which his marriage had interrupted, and to which he was now returning.

He was surprised to find how difficult it was to take it up again. He had been only two months away from it, and yet already it had not a little of the feeling of a relic taken from a drawer. Something had faded. It was at first as if a film had come over his eyes, so that he could no longer see these things clearly and subtly and closely. His senses, his emotions, had been living in a stirring and vivid illumination. Now in this cool quietude bright clouds of coloured memory-stuff swam distractingly before his eyes. Phantom kisses on his lips, the memory of touches and the echoing vibrations of an adorable voice, the thought of a gay delightful fireside and the fresh recollection of a companion intensely felt beside him, effaced the delicate profundities of this dim place. Durgan hovered about him, helpful and a mute reproach. Trafford had to force his attention daily for the better part of two weeks before he had fully recovered the fine enchanting interest of that suspended work.

§ 2

At last one day he had the happiness of possession again. He had exactly the sensation one gets when some hitherto intractable piece of a machine one is putting together, clicks neatly and beyond all hoping, into its place. He found himself working in the old style, with the hours slipping by disregarded.-255- He sent out Durgan to get him tobacco and tea and smoked-salmon sandwiches, and he stayed in the laboratory all night. He went home about half-past five, and found a white-faced, red-eyed Marjorie still dressed, wrapped in a travelling-rug, and crumpled and asleep in his study arm-chair beside the grey ashes of an extinct fire.

In the instant before she awoke he could see what a fragile and pitiful being a healthy and happy young wife can appear. Her pose revealed an unsuspected slender weakness of body, her face something infantile and wistful he had still to reckon with. She awoke with a start and stared at him for a moment, and at the room about her. "Oh, where have you been?" she asked almost querulously. "Where have you been?"

"But my dear!" he said, as one might speak to a child, "why aren't you in bed? It's just dawn."

"Oh," she said, "I waited and I waited. It seemed you must come. I read a book. And then I fell asleep." And then with a sob of feeble self-pity, "And here I am!" She rubbed the back of her hand into one eye and shivered. "I'm cold," she said, "and I want some tea."

"Let's make some," said Trafford.

"It's been horrible waiting," said Marjorie without moving; "horrible! Where have you been?"

"I've been working. I got excited by my work. I've been at the laboratory. I've had the best spell of work I've ever had since our marriage."

"But I have been up all night!" she cried with her face and voice softening to tears. "How could you? How could you?"

He was surprised by her weeping. He was still more surprised by the self-abandonment that allowed her to continue. "I've been working," he repeated,-256- and then looked about with a man's helplessness for the tea apparatus. One must have hot water and a teapot and a kettle; he would find those in the kitchen. He strolled thoughtfully out of the room, thinking out the further details of tea-making all mixed up with amazement at Marjorie, while she sat wiping her eyes with a crumpled pocket-handkerchief. Presently she followed him down with the rug about her like a shawl, and stood watching him as he lit a fire of wood and paper among the ashes in the kitchen fireplace. "It's been dreadful," she said, not offering to help.

"You see," he said, on his knees, "I'd really got hold of my work at last."

"But you should have sent——"

"I was thinking of my work. I clean forgot."

"Forgot?"

"Absolutely."

"Forgot—me!"

"Of course," said Trafford, with a slightly puzzled air, "you don't see it as I do."

The kettle engaged him for a time. Then he threw out a suggestion. "We'll have to have a telephone."

"I couldn't imagine where you were. I thought of all sorts of things. I almost came round—but I was so horribly afraid I mightn't find you."

He renewed his suggestion of a telephone.

"So that if I really want you——" said Marjorie. "Or if I just want to feel you're there."

"Yes," said Trafford slowly, jabbing a piece of firewood into the glow; but it was chiefly present in his mind that much of that elaborate experimenting of his wasn't at all a thing to be cut athwart by the exasperating gusts of a telephone bell clamouring for attention. Hitherto the laboratory telephone-257- had been in the habit of disconnecting itself early in the afternoon.

And yet after all it was this instrument, the same twisted wire and little quivering tympanum, that had brought back Marjorie into his life.

§ 3

And now Trafford fell into a great perplexity of mind. His banker had called his attention to the fact that his account was overdrawn to the extent of three hundred and thirteen pounds, and he had been under that vague sort of impression one always has about one's current account that he was a hundred and fifty or so to the good. His first impression was that those hitherto infallible beings, those unseen gnomes of the pass-book whose lucid figures, neat tickings, and unrelenting additions constituted banks to his imagination, must have made a mistake; his second that some one had tampered with a cheque. His third thought pointed to Marjorie and the easy circumstances of his home. For a fortnight now she had been obviously ailing, oddly irritable; he did not understand the change in her, but it sufficed to prevent his taking the thing to her at once and going into it with her as he would have done earlier. Instead he had sent for his pass-book, and in the presence of its neat columns realized for the first time the meaning of Marjorie's "three hundred pounds." Including half-a-dozen cheques to Oxbridge tradesmen for her old debts, she had spent, he discovered, nearly seven hundred and fifty.

He sat before the little bundle of crumpled strips of pink and white, perforated, purple stamped and effaced, in a state of extreme astonishment. It was no small factor in his amazement to note how very carelessly-258- some of those cheques of Marjorie's had been written. Several she had not even crossed. The effect of it all was that she'd just spent his money—freely—with an utter disregard of the consequences.

Up to that moment it had never occurred to Trafford that anybody one really cared for, could be anything but punctilious about money. Now here, with an arithmetical exactitude of demonstration, he perceived that Marjorie wasn't.

It was so tremendous a discovery for him, so disconcerting and startling, that he didn't for two days say a word to her about it. He couldn't think of a word to say. He felt that even to put these facts before her amounted to an accusation of disloyalty and selfishness that he hadn't the courage to make. His work stopped altogether. He struggled hourly with that accusation. Did she realize——? There seemed no escape from his dilemma; either she didn't care or she didn't understand!

His thoughts went back to the lake of Orta, when he had put all his money at her disposal. She had been surprised, and now he perceived she had also been a little frightened. The chief excuse he could find for her was that she was inexperienced—absolutely inexperienced.

Even now, of course, she was drawing fresh cheques....

He would have to pull himself together, and go into the whole thing—for all its infinite disagreeableness—with her....

But it was Marjorie who broached the subject.

He had found work at the laboratory unsatisfactory, and after lunching at his club he had come home and gone to his study in order to think out the discussion he contemplated with her. She came in to him as he sat at his desk. "Busy?" she said. "Not-259- very," he answered, and she came up to him, kissed his head, and stood beside him with her hand on his shoulder.

"Pass-book?" she asked.

He nodded.

"I've been overrunning."

"No end."

The matter was opened. What would she say?

She bent to his ear and whispered. "I'm going to overrun some more."

His voice was resentful. "You can't," he said compactly without looking at her. "You've spent—enough."

"There's—things."

"What things?"

Her answer took some time in coming. "We'll have to give a wedding present to Daffy.... I shall want—some more furniture."

Well, he had to go into it now. "I don't think you can have it," he said, and then as she remained silent, "Marjorie, do you know how much money I've got?"

"Six thousand."

"I had. But we've spent nearly a thousand pounds. Yes—one thousand pounds—over and above income. We meant to spend four hundred. And now, we've got—hardly anything over five."

"Five thousand," said Marjorie.

"Five thousand."

"And there's your salary."

"Yes, but at this pace——"

"Dear," said Marjorie, and her hands came about his neck, "dear—there's something——"

She broke off. An unfamiliar quality in her voice struck into him. He turned his head to see her face,-260- rose to his feet staring at her.

This remarkable young woman had become soft and wonderful as April hills across which clouds are sweeping. Her face was as if he had never seen it before; her eyes bright with tears.

"Oh! don't let's spoil things by thinking of money," she said. "I've got something——" Her voice fell to a whisper. "Don't let's spoil things by thinking of money.... It's too good, dear, to be true. It's too good to be true. It makes everything perfect.... We'll have to furnish that little room. I didn't dare to hope it—somehow. I've been so excited and afraid. But we've got to furnish that little room there—that empty little room upstairs, dear, that we left over.... Oh my dear! my dear!"

§ 4

The world of Trafford and Marjorie was filled and transfigured by the advent of their child.

For two days of abundant silences he had been preparing a statement of his case for her, he had been full of the danger to his research and all the waste of his life that her extravagance threatened. He wanted to tell her just all that his science meant to him, explain how his income and life had all been arranged to leave him, mind and time and energy, free for these commanding investigations. His life was to him the service of knowledge—or futility. He had perceived that she did not understand this in him; that for her, life was a blaze of eagerly sought experiences and gratifications. So far he had thought out things and had them ready for her. But now all this impending discussion vanished out of his world. Their-261- love was to be crowned by the miracle of parentage. This fact flooded his outlook and submerged every other consideration.

This manifest probability came to him as if it were an unforeseen marvel. It was as if he had never thought of such a thing before, as though a fact entirely novel in the order of the universe had come into existence. Marjorie became again magical and wonderful for him, but in a manner new and strange, she was grave, solemn, significant. He was filled with a passionate solicitude for her welfare, and a passionate desire to serve her. It seemed impossible to him that only a day or so ago he should have been accusing her in his heart of disloyalty, and searching for excuses and mitigations....

All the freshness of his first love for Marjorie returned, his keen sense of the sweet gallantry of her voice and bearing, his admiration for the swift, falconlike swoop of her decisions, for the grace and poise of her body, and the steady frankness of her eyes; but now it was all charged with his sense of this new joint life germinating at the heart of her slender vigour, spreading throughout her being to change it altogether into womanhood for ever. In this new light his passion for research and all the scheme of his life appeared faded and unworthy, as much egotism as if he had been devoted to hunting or golf or any such aimless preoccupation. Fatherhood gripped him and faced him about. It was manifestly a monstrous thing that he should ever have expected Marjorie to become a mere undisturbing accessory to the selfish intellectualism of his career, to shave and limit herself to a mere bachelor income, and play no part of her own in the movement of the world. He knew better now. Research must fall into its proper place, and for his immediate business he must set to work to-262- supplement his manifestly inadequate resources.

At first he could form no plan at all for doing that. He determined that research must still have his morning hours until lunch-time, and, he privately resolved, some part of the night. The rest of his day, he thought, he would set aside for a time to money-making. But he was altogether inexperienced in the methods of money-making; it was a new problem, and a new sort of problem to him altogether. He discovered himself helpless and rather silly in the matter. The more obvious possibilities seemed to be that he might lecture upon his science or write. He communicated with a couple of lecture agencies, and was amazed at their scepticism; no doubt he knew his science, on that point they were complimentary in a profuse, unconvincing manner, but could he interest like X—and here they named a notorious quack—could he draw? He offered Science Notes to a weekly periodical; the editor answered that for the purposes of his publication he preferred, as between professors and journalists, journalists. "You real scientific men," he said, "are no doubt a thousand times more accurate and novel and all that, but as no one seems able to understand you——" He went to his old fellow-student, Gwenn, who was editing The Scientific Review, and through him he secured some semi-popular lectures, which involved, he found, travelling about twenty-nine miles weekly at the rate of four-and-sixpence a mile—counting nothing for the lectures. Afterwards Gwenn arranged for some regular notes on physics and micro-chemistry. Trafford made out a weekly time-table, on whose white of dignity, leisure, and the honourable pursuit of knowledge, a diaper of red marked the claims of domestic necessity.

§ 5

It was astonishing how completely this coming-263- child dominated the whole atmosphere and all the circumstances of the Traffords. It became their central fact, to which everything else turned and pointed. Its effect on Marjorie's circle of school and college friends was prodigious. She was the first of their company to cross the mysterious boundaries of a woman's life. She became to them a heroine mingled with something of the priestess. They called upon her more abundantly and sat with her, noted the change in her eyes and voice and bearing, talking with a kind of awe and a faint diffidence of the promised new life.

Many of them had been deeply tinged by the women's suffrage movement, the feminist note was strong among them, and when one afternoon Ottiline Winchelsea brought round Agatha Alimony, the novelist, and Agatha said in that deep-ringing voice of hers: "I hope it will be a girl, so that presently she may fight the battle of her sex," there was the profoundest emotion. But when Marjorie conveyed that to Trafford he was lacking in response.

"I want a boy," he said, and, being pressed for a reason, explained: "Oh, one likes to have a boy. I want him with just your quick eyes and ears, my dear, and just my own safe and certain hands."

Mrs. Pope received the news with that depth and aimless complexity of emotion which had now become her habitual method with Marjorie. She kissed and clasped her daughter, and thought confusedly over her shoulder, and said: "Of course, dear——. Oh, I do so hope it won't annoy your father." Daffy was "nice," but vague, and sufficiently feminist to wish it a daughter, and the pseudo-twins said "Hoo-ray!"-264- and changed the subject at the earliest possible opportunity. But Theodore was deeply moved at the prospect of becoming an uncle, and went apart and mused deeply and darkly thereon for some time. It was difficult to tell just what Trafford's mother thought, she was complex and subtle, and evidently did not show Marjorie all that was in her mind; but at any rate it was clear the prospect of a grandchild pleased and interested her. And about Aunt Plessington's views there was no manner of doubt at all. She thought, and remarked judicially, as one might criticize a game of billiards, that on the whole it was just a little bit too soon.

§ 6

Marjorie kept well throughout March and April, and then suddenly she grew unutterably weary and uncomfortable in London. The end of April came hot and close and dry—it might have been July for the heat—the scrap of garden wilted, and the streets were irritating with fine dust and blown scraps of paper and drifting straws. She could think of nothing but the shade of trees, and cornfields under sunlight and the shadows of passing clouds. So Trafford took out an old bicycle and wandered over the home counties for three days, and at last hit upon a little country cottage near Great Missenden, a cottage a couple of girl artists had furnished and now wanted to let. It had a long, untidy vegetable garden and a small orchard and drying-ground, with an old, superannuated humbug of a pear-tree near the centre surrounded by a green seat, and high hedges with the promise of honeysuckle and dog-roses, and gaps that opened into hospitable beechwoods—woods not so thick but that there were glades of bluebells,-265- bracken and, to be exact, in places embattled stinging-nettles. He took it and engaged a minute, active, interested, philoprogenitive servant girl for it, and took Marjorie thither in a taxi-cab. She went out, wrapped in a shawl, and sat under the pear-tree and cried quietly with weakness and sentiment and the tenderness of afternoon sunshine, and forthwith began to pick up wonderfully, and was presently writing to Trafford to buy her a dog to go for walks with, while he was away in London.

Trafford was still struggling along with his research in spite of a constant gravitation to the cottage and Marjorie's side, but he was also doing his best to grapple with the difficulties of his financial situation. His science notes, which were very uncongenial and difficult to do, and his lecturing, still left his income far behind his expenditure, and the problem of minimising the inevitable fresh inroads on his capital was insistent and distracting. He discovered that he could manage his notes more easily and write a more popular article if he dictated to a typist instead of writing out the stuff in his own manuscript. Dictating made his sentences more copious and open, and the effect of the young lady's by no means acquiescent back was to make him far more explicit than he tended to be pen in hand. With a pen and alone he felt the boredom of the job unendurably, and, to be through with it, became more and more terse, allusive, and compactly technical, after the style of his original papers. One or two articles by him were accepted and published by the monthly magazines, but as he took what the editors sent him, he did not find this led to any excessive opulence....

But his heart was very much with Marjorie through all this time. Hitherto he had taken her health and vigour and companionship for granted,-266- and it changed his attitudes profoundly to find her now an ailing thing, making an invincible appeal for restraint and consideration and help. She changed marvellously, she gained a new dignity, and her complexion took upon itself a fresh, soft beauty. He would spend three or four days out of a week at the cottage, and long hours of that would be at her side, paper and notes of some forthcoming lecture at hand neglected, talking to her consolingly and dreamingly. His thoughts were full of ideas about education; he was obsessed, as are most intelligent young parents of the modern type, by the enormous possibilities of human improvement that might be achieved—if only one could begin with a baby from the outset, on the best lines, with the best methods, training and preparing it—presumably for a cleaned and chastened world. Indeed he made all the usual discoveries of intelligent modern young parents very rapidly, fully and completely, and overlooked most of those practical difficulties that finally reduce them to human dimensions again in quite the normal fashion.

"I sit and muse sometimes when I ought to be computing," he said. "Old Durgan watches me and grunts. But think, if we take reasonable care, watch its phases, stand ready with a kindergarten toy directly it stretches out its hand—think what we can make of it!"...

"We will make it the most wonderful child in the world," said Marjorie. "Indeed! what else can it be?"

"Your eyes," said Trafford, "and my hands."

"A girl."

"A boy."

He kissed her white and passive wrist.

§ 7

The child was born a little before expectation at-267- the cottage throughout a long summer's night and day in early September. Its coming into the world was a long and painful struggle; the general practitioner who had seemed two days before a competent and worthy person enough, revealed himself as hesitating, old-fashioned, and ill-equipped. He had a lingering theological objection to the use of chloroform, and the nurse from London sulked under his directions and came and discussed his methods scornfully with Trafford. From sundown until daylight Trafford chafed in the little sitting-room and tried to sleep, and hovered listening at the foot of the narrow staircase to the room above. He lived through interminable hours of moaning and suspense....

The dawn and sunrise came with a quality of beautiful horror. For years afterwards that memory stood out among other memories as something peculiarly strange and dreadful. Day followed an interminable night and broke slowly. Things crept out of darkness, awoke as it were out of mysteries and reclothed themselves in unsubstantial shadows and faint-hued forms. All through that slow infiltration of the world with light and then with colour, the universe it seemed was moaning and endeavouring, and a weak and terrible struggle went on and kept on in that forbidden room whose windows opened upon the lightening world, dying to a sobbing silence, rising again to agonizing cries, fluctuating, a perpetual obstinate failure to achieve a tormenting end. He went out, and behold the sky was a wonder of pink flushed level clouds and golden hope, and nearly every star except the morning star had gone, the supine moon was pale and half-dissolved in blue, and the grass which had been grey and wet, was green-268- again, and the bushes and trees were green. He returned and hovered in the passage, washed his face, listened outside the door for age-long moments, and then went out again to listen under the window....

He went to his room and shaved, sat for a long time thinking, and then suddenly knelt by his bed and prayed. He had never prayed before in all his life....

He returned to the garden, and there neglected and wet with dew was the camp chair Marjorie had sat on the evening before, the shawl she had been wearing, the novel she had been reading. He brought these things in as if they were precious treasures....

Light was pouring into the world again now. He noticed with an extreme particularity the detailed dewy delicacy of grass and twig, the silver edges to the leaves of briar and nettle, the soft clearness of the moss on bank and wall. He noted the woods with the first warmth of autumn tinting their green, the clear, calm sky, with just a wisp or so of purple cloud waning to a luminous pink on the brightening east, the exquisite freshness of the air. And still through the open window, incessant, unbearable, came this sound of Marjorie moaning, now dying away, now reviving, now weakening again....

Was she dying? Were they murdering her? It was incredible this torture could go on. Somehow it must end. Chiefly he wanted to go in and kill the doctor. But it would do no good to kill the doctor!

At last the nurse came out, looking a little scared, to ask him to cycle three miles away and borrow some special sort of needle that the fool of a doctor had forgotten. He went, outwardly meek, and returning was met by the little interested servant, very alert and excited and rather superior—for here was something no man can do—with the news that he had a beautiful-269- little daughter, and that all was well with Marjorie.

He said "Thank God, thank God!" several times, and then went out into the kitchen and began to eat some flabby toast and drink some lukewarm tea he found there. He was horribly fatigued. "Is she all right?" he asked over his shoulder, hearing the doctor's footsteps on the stairs....

They were very pontifical and official with him.

Presently they brought out a strange, wizened little animal, wailing very stoutly, with a face like a very, very old woman, and reddish skin and hair—it had quite a lot of wet blackish hair of an incredible delicacy of texture. It kicked with a stumpy monkey's legs and inturned feet. He held it: his heart went out to it. He pitied it beyond measure, it was so weak and ugly. He was astonished and distressed by the fact of its extreme endearing ugliness. He had expected something strikingly pretty. It clenched a fist, and he perceived it had all its complement of fingers and ridiculous, pretentious little finger nails. Inside that fist it squeezed his heart.... He did not want to give it back to them. He wanted to protect it. He felt they could not understand it or forgive, as he could forgive, its unjustifiable feebleness....

Later, for just a little while, he was permitted to see Marjorie—Marjorie so spent, so unspeakably weary, and yet so reassuringly vital and living, so full of gentle pride and gentler courage amidst the litter of surgical precaution, that the tears came streaming down his face and he sobbed shamelessly as he kissed her. "Little daughter," she whispered and smiled—just as she had always smiled—that sweet, dear smile of hers!—and closed her eyes and said no-270- more....

Afterwards as he walked up and down the garden he remembered their former dispute and thought how characteristic of Marjorie it was to have a daughter in spite of all his wishes.

§ 8

For weeks and weeks this astonishing and unprecedented being filled the Traffords' earth and sky. Very speedily its minute quaintness passed, and it became a vigorous delightful baby that was, as the nurse explained repeatedly and very explicitly, not only quite exceptional and distinguished, but exactly everything that a baby should be. Its weight became of supreme importance; there was a splendid week when it put on nine ounces, and an indifferent one when it added only one. And then came a terrible crisis. It was ill; some sort of infection had reached it, an infantile cholera. Its temperature mounted to a hundred and three and a half. It became a flushed misery, wailing with a pathetic feeble voice. Then it ceased to wail. Marjorie became white-lipped and heavy-eyed from want of sleep, and it seemed to Trafford that perhaps his child might die. It seemed to him that the spirit of the universe must be a monstrous calivan since children had to die. He went for a long walk through the October beechwoods, under a windy sky, and in a drift of falling leaves, wondering with a renewed freshness at the haunting futilities of life.... Life was not futile—anything but that, but futility seemed to be stalking it, waiting for it.... When he returned the child was already better, and in a few days it was well again—but very light and thin.

When they were sure of its safety, Marjorie and-271- he confessed the extremity of their fears to one another. They had not dared to speak before, and even now they spoke in undertones of the shadow that had hovered and passed over the dearest thing in their lives.

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This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2011). Marriage. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35338/35338-h/35338-h.htm

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