163 reads


by H.G. WellsDecember 8th, 2022
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript
tldt arrow

Too Long; Didn't Read

So for a time this contest of the newer England of free thought, sentimental socialism, and invested profits (so far as it was embodied in the Stubland sisters) and the traditional landowning, church-going Tory England (so far that is as Lady Charlotte Sydenham was able to represent it), for the upbringing of Joan and Peter was suspended, and the Stubland sisters remained in control of these fortunate heirs of the ages. The two ladies determined to make the most of their opportunity to train the children to be, as Aunt Phœbe put it, “free and simple, but fearlessly advanced, unbiassed and yet exquisitely cultivated, inheritors of the treasure of the past purged of all ancient defilement, sensuous, passionate, determined, forerunners of a superhumanity”—for already the phrases at least of Nietzsche were trickling into the restricted but turbid current of British thought.
H.G. Wells HackerNoon profile picture

Joan and Peter by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. THE SCHOOL OF ST. GEORGE AND THE VENERABLE BEDE


§ 1

So for a time this contest of the newer England of free thought, sentimental socialism, and invested profits (so far as it was embodied in the Stubland sisters) and the traditional landowning, church-going Tory England (so far that is as Lady Charlotte Sydenham was able to represent it), for the upbringing of Joan and Peter was suspended, and the Stubland sisters remained in control of these fortunate heirs of the ages. The two ladies determined to make the most of their opportunity to train the children to be, as Aunt Phœbe put it, “free and simple, but fearlessly advanced, unbiassed and yet exquisitely cultivated, inheritors of the treasure of the past purged of all ancient defilement, sensuous, passionate, determined, forerunners of a superhumanity”—for already the phrases at least of Nietzsche were trickling into the restricted but turbid current of British thought.

In their design the Stubland sisters were greatly aided by the sudden appearance of Miss Murgatroyd in the neighbourhood, and the rapid and emphatic establishment of the School of Saint George and the Venerable Bede within two miles of The Ingle-Nook door.

Miss Murgatroyd was a sturdy, rufous lady with a resentful manner, as though she felt that everything and everybody were deliberately getting in her way, and an effort of tension that passed very readily from anger to enthusiasm and from enthusiasm to anger. Her place was in the van. She did not mind very much where the van was going so long as she was in it. She was a born teacher, too, and so overpoweringly moved to teach that what she taught was a secondary consideration. She wanted to do something for mankind—it hardly mattered what. In America she would have been altogether advanced and new, but it was a peculiarity of middle-class British liberalism at the end of the nineteenth century just as it was of middle-class French liberalism a hundred years before, that it was strongly reactionary in colour. In the place of Rousseau and his demand for a return to the age of innocence, we English had Ruskin and Morris, who demanded a return to the Middle Ages. And in Miss Murgatroyd there was Rousseau as well as Ruskin; she wanted, she said, the best of everything; she was very comprehensive; she epitomized the movements of her time.

A love disappointment—the man had fled inexplicably to the ends of the earth and vanished—had exacerbated in Miss Murgatroyd a passion for the plastic affections of children; she had resolved to give herself wholly to the creation of a new sort of school embodying all the best ideals of the time. She saw herself a richly-robed, creative prophetess among the clustering and adoring young.

She had had a certain amount of capital available, and this she had expended upon the adaptation of a pleasant, many-roomed, modern house that looked out bravely over the valley of the Weald about a mile and three-quarters from The Ingle-Nook, to the necessities of a boarding-school, and here she presently accumulated her scholars. She furnished it very brightly in art colours and Morris patterns; wherever possible the woodwork was stained a pleasing green and perforated with heart-shaped holes; there were big, flat, obscurely symbolical colour-prints by Walter Crane, reproductions in bright colours of the works of Rossetti and Burne Jones and Botticelli, and a full-size cast of the Venus of Milo. The name was Ruskinian in spirit with a touch of J. R. Green’s Short History of the English People.

Miss Murgatroyd was indiscriminately receptive of new educational ideas; she meant to miss nothing; and some of these ideas were quite good and some were quite silly; and nearly every holiday she went off with a large notebook and much enthusiasm to educational congresses and conferences and summer schools and got some more. One that she acquired quite early, soon after the battle of Omdurman, was to put all her girls and most of her boys into Djibbahs—loose, pretty garments that were imitated from and named after the Dervish form of shirt. Hers was one of the first of those numerous “djibbah schools” that still flourish in England.

Also she had a natural proclivity towards bare legs and sandals and hatlessness, and only a certain respect for the parents kept the school from waves of pure vegetarianism. And she did all she could to carry her classes out of the class-rooms and into the open air....

The end of the nineteenth century was a happy and beautiful time for the bodies of the children of the more prosperous classes. Children had become precious. Among such people as the Stublands one never heard of such a thing as the death of a child; all their children lived and grew up. It was a point upon which Arthur had never tired of insisting. Whenever he had felt bored and wanting a brief holiday he had been accustomed to go off with a knapsack to study church architecture, and he had never failed to note the lists of children on the monuments. “There you are again,” he would say. “Look at that one: ‘and of Susan his wife by whom he had issue eleven children of whom three survived him.’ That’s the universal story of a woman’s life in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Nowadays it would read, ‘by whom he had issue three children who all survived him.’ And you see here, she died first, worn out, and he married again. And here are five more children, and three die in infancy and childhood. There was a frightful boom in dying in those days; dying was a career in itself for two-thirds of the children born. They made an art of early death. They were trained to die in an edifying manner. Parents wrote books about their little lost saints. Instead of rearing them——”....

Miss Murgatroyd’s school was indeed healthy and pretty and full of physical happiness, but the teaching and mental training that went on in it was of a lower quality. Mental strength and mental balance do not show in quite the same way as their physical equivalents. Minds do not grow as bodies do, through leaving the windows open and singing in the sun.

§ 2

Aunt Phœbe was an old acquaintance of Miss Murgatroyd. They had met at Adelboden during one of the early Fabian excursions in Switzerland. Afterwards Miss Murgatroyd had been charmed by Aunt Phœbe’s first book, a little thin volume of bold ideas in grey covers and a white back, called, By-thoughts of a Stitchwoman. In it Aunt Phœbe represented herself rather after the fashion of one of those richly conceived women who sit and stitch in the background of Sir Frederick Leighton’s great wall paintings at South Kensington, “The Industrial Arts applied to Peace” and “The Industrial Arts Applied to War” (her needlework was really very bad indeed) and while she stitched she thought. She thought outrageously; that was the idea; and she represented all the quiet stitching sex as thinking as outrageously. Miss Murgatroyd had a kindred craving for outrageous thinking, and the book became the link of a great intellectual friendship. They vied with one another in the extremity of their opinions and the mystical extravagance of their expressions. They maintained a tumescent flow of thought that was mostly feeling and feeling that was mostly imitation, far over the heads of the nice little children, who ran about the bright and airy school premises free from most of the current infections of body and spirit, and grew as children do grow under favourable circumstances, after the manner of Nature in her better moods, that is to say after the manner of Nature ploughed and weeded and given light and air.

So far as Aunt Phœbe was concerned, the great thoughts were confined to one or two intimates and—a rather hypothetical circle—her readers. Her mental galumphings were a thing apart. A kind of shyness prevented her with strangers and children. But Miss Murgatroyd was impelled by a sense of duty to build up the character of her children by discourse, more particularly on Sundays. On Sunday mornings the whole school went to church; in the afternoon it had a decorous walk, or it read or talked, and Miss Mills, the junior assistant, read aloud to the little ones; in the evening it read or it drew and painted, except for a special half hour when Miss Murgatroyd built its character up. That was her time. Thus, for example, she built it up about Truth.

“Girls,” she began, “I want to talk to you a little this evening about Truth. I want you to think about Truth, to concentrate your minds upon it and see just all it means and can mean to us. You know we must all tell the Truth, but has it ever occurred to you to ask why we must tell the Truth? I want you to ask that. I want you to be aware of why you have to be good in this way and that. I do not want you to be unthinkingly good. I want you to be

’Not like dumb, driven cattle!Be a hero in the strife!’

or a heroine as the case may be. And so, why do we tell the Truth? Is it because if we did not do so people would be deceived and things go wrong? Partly. Is it because if we did not do so, people would not trust us? Also yes, partly. But the real reason, girls and boys, is this, the real reason is that Lying Lips are an Abomination to the Lord, they are disgusting to Him, and so they ought to be disgusting to us. That is the real reason why we should tell the truth. Because it is a thing offensive and disgraceful, and if we did not do so, then we should tell a Lie.

(“Doris, do stop plaiting your sister’s hair, please. There is a time for all things.)

“I hope there is no one here who can bear to think calmly of telling a Lie; and yet every time you do not tell the Truth manfully and bravely you do that. It is an offence so dreadful that we are told in Scripture that whosoever calleth his brother a liar—no doubt without sufficient evidence—is in danger of Hell Fire. I hope you will think of that if ever you should be tempted at any time to tell a Lie.

“But now I want you to think a little of what is Truth. It is clear you cannot tell the truth unless you know what truth is. Well, what is truth? One thing, I think, will occur to you all at once as part at least of the answer. Truth is straightness. When we say a ruler is true we mean that it is straight, and when we say a wall or a corner is out of truth we mean that it isn’t straight. And, in vulgar parlance, when we say a man is a straight man we mean one whose acts and words are true. And another thing of which our great teacher Ruskin so often reminds us is, that Truth is Simplicity. True people are always simple, and simple people are usually too simple to be anything but true. Truth never explains. It never argues. When I have to ask a girl—and sometimes I have to ask a girl—did she or did she not do this or that, then if she answers me simply and straightly Yes or No, I feel I am getting the truth, but if she answers back, ’that depends,’ or ’Please, Miss Murgatroyd, may I explain just how it was?’ then I know that there is something coming—something else coming, and not the straight and simple, the homespun, simple, valiant English Truth at all. Yes and No are the true words, because as Plato and Aristotle and the Greek philosophers generally taught us in the Science of Logic long ago, and taught it to us for all time, a thing either is or else it is not; it is no good explaining or trying to explain, nothing can ever alter that now for ever. Either you did do the thing or you didn’t do the thing. There is no other choice. That is the very essence of Logic; it would be impossible to have Logic without it.”...

So Miss Murgatroyd building up in her pupils’ minds by precept and example, the wonderful art and practice of English ratiocination.

§ 3

At first Joan and Peter did not see very much of Miss Murgatroyd. She moved about at the back of things, very dignified and remote, decorative and vaguely terrible. Their business lay chiefly with Miss Mills.

Miss Mills was also an educational enthusiast, but of a milder, gentler type than Miss Murgatroyd; she lacked Miss Murgatroyd’s confidence and boldness; she sometimes doubted whether everything wasn’t almost too difficult to teach. She was no blind disciple of her employer. She had a suppressed sense of academic humour that she had acquired by staying with an aunt who kept a small Berlin-wool shop in Oxford, and once or twice she had thought of the most dreadful witticisms about Miss Murgatroyd. Though she had told them to no one, they had kept her ears hot for days. Often she wanted quite badly to titter at the school; it was so different from an ordinary school. Yet she liked wearing a djibbah and sandals. That was fun. She had no educational qualifications, but year by year she was slowly taking the diploma of Associate of the London College of Preceptors. It is a kindly college; the examinations for the diploma may be taken subject by subject over a long term of years. She used to enjoy going up to London for her diploma at Christmas and Midsummer. Her great difficulty was the arithmetic. The sums never came right.

Miss Murgatroyd was usually very severe upon what she called the Fetish of Examinations; she herself had neither degree nor diploma, it was a moral incapacity, and she admitted that she could as soon steal as pass an examination; but it was understood that Miss Mills pursued this qualification with no idea whatever of passing but merely “for the sake of the stimulus.” She made a point of never preparing at all (“cramming” that is) for any of the papers she “took.” This put the thing on a higher level altogether.

She had already done the Theory and Practice of Education part of the diploma. For that she had read parts of Leonard and Gertrude, and she had attended five lectures upon Froebel. Those were days long before the Montessori System, which is now so popular with our Miss Millses; the prevalent educational vogues in the ’nineties were Kindergarten and Swedish drill (the Ling System). Miss Mills was an enthusiast for the Kindergarten. She began teaching Joan and Peter queer little practices with paper mats and paper-pattern folding, and the stringing of beads. As Joan and Peter had been doing such things for a year or so at home as “play,” their ready teachability impressed her very favourably. All the children who fell under Miss Mills got a lot of Kindergarten, even though some of them were as old as nine or ten. They had lots of little songs that she made them sing with appropriate action. All these little songs dealt with the familiar daily life—as it was lived in South Germany four score years ago. The children pretended to be shoemakers, foresters, and woodcutters and hunters and cowherds and masons and students wandering about the country, and they imitated the hammering of shoes, the sawing of stone or the chopping down of trees, and so forth. It had never dawned upon Miss Mills that such types as these were rare objects upon the Surrey countryside. In the country about her there were no masons because there was no stone, no cowherds because there were no cows on the hills and the cows below grazed in enclosed fields, trees and wood were handled wholesale by machinery, and people’s boots came from Northampton or America, and were repaired in London. If any one had suggested songs about golf caddies, jobbing gardeners, or traction-engines, or steam-ploughs, or sawmills, or rate-collectors, or grocers’ boys, or season-ticket holders, or stockbrokers from London stealing rights-of-way, or carpenters putting up fences and trespass-notice boards, she would have thought it a very vulgar suggestion indeed.

Kindergarten did not occupy all the time-table of Miss Mills. She regarded kindergarten as a special subject. She also taught her class to read, she taught them to write, she imparted the elements of history and geography, she did not so much lay the foundations of mathematics as accumulate a sort of rubble on which Mr. Beldame, the visiting mathematical master (Tuesdays and Thursdays), was afterwards to build. Here again Joan and Peter were fortunate. Peter had learnt his alphabet before he was two; Joan had not been much later with it, and both of them could read easy little stories already before they came under Miss Mills’ guidance. That English spelling was entirely illogical, had not troubled them in the least. Insistence upon logical consistency comes later in life. Miss Mills never discovered their previous knowledge. She had heard of a method of teaching to read which was called the “Look and Say Method,” and the essence of it was that you never learnt your letters. It was devised for the use of those older children who go to elementary schools from illiterate homes, and who are beginning to think for themselves a little. From the first by this method the pupils learnt the letters in combination.

“Now, Peter,” Miss Mills would say, “this is ’to.’ Look and say—to.”

“To,” said Peter.

“Now I put this little squiggle to it.”

(“P,” said Peter privately).

“And it is ’top’.”

“Top,” said Peter.

“And now this is ’co.’ What is this? Look and say.”

Peter regarded “cop” for a moment. He knew c-o-p was the signal for “cop,” just as S.O.S. is the signal for “help urgently needed,” but he knew also it was forbidden to read out the letters of the signal.

“Cop,” said Peter, after going through the necessary process of thought.

His inmost feeling about the matter was that Miss Mills did not know her letters, but had some queer roundabout way of reading of her own, and that he was taking an agreeable advantage of her....

Then Miss Mills taught Peter to add and subtract and multiply and divide. She had once heard some lectures upon teaching arithmetic by graphic methods that had pleased her very much. They had seemed so clear. The lecturer had suggested that for a time easy sums might be shown in the concrete as well as in figures. You would first of all draw your operation or express it by wood blocks, and then you would present it in figures. You would draw an addition of 3 to 4, thus:

added to 

 makes this heap

 And then when your pupil had counted it and verified it you would write it down:

3 + 4 = 7

But Miss Mills, when she made her notes, had had no time to draw all the parallelograms; she had just put down one and a number over it in each case, and then her memory had muddled the idea. So she taught Joan and Peter thus: “See,” she said, “I will make it perfectly plain to you. Perfectly plain. You take three—so,” and she drew

“and then you take four—so,” and she drew

“and then you see three plus four makes seven—so:

“Do you see now how it must be so, Peter?”

Peter tried to feel that he did.

Peter quite agreed that it was nice to draw frames about the figures in this way. Afterwards he tried a variation that looked like the face of old Chester Drawers:

But for some reason Miss Mills would not see the beauty of that. Instead of laughing, she said: “Oh, no, that’s quite wrong!” which seemed to Peter just selfishly insisting on her own way.

Well, one had to let her have her own way. She was a grown-up. If it had been Joan, Peter would have had his way....

Both Joan and Peter were much addicted to drawing when they went to the School of St. George and the Venerable Bede. They had picked it up from Dolly. They produced sketches that were something between a scribble and an inspired sketch. They drew three-legged horses that really kicked and men who really struck hard with arms longer than themselves, terrific blows. If Peter wanted to make a soldier looking very fierce in profile, he drew an extra eye aglare beyond the tip of the man’s nose. If Joan wanted to do a pussy-cat curled up, she curled it up into long spirals like a snake. Any intelligent person could be amused by the sketches of Joan and Peter. But Miss Mills discovered they were all “out of proportion,” and Miss Murgatroyd said that this sort of thing was “mere scribbling.” She called Peter’s attention to the strong, firm outlines of various drawings by Walter Crane. She said that what the hands of Joan and Peter wanted was discipline. She said that a drawing wasn’t a drawing until it was “lined in.” She set the two children drawing pages and pages of firm, straight lines. She related a wonderful fable of how Giotto’s one aim in life was to draw a perfect freehand circle. She held out hopes that some day they might draw “from models,” cones and cubes and suchlike stirring objects. But she did not think they would ever draw well enough to draw human beings. Neither Miss Mills nor Miss Murgatroyd thought it was possible for any one, not being a professional artist, to draw a human being in motion. They knew it took years and years of training. Even then it was very exhausting to the model. They thought it was impertinent for any one young to attempt it.

So Joan and Peter got through their “drawing lessons” by being as inattentive as possible, and in secret they practised drawing human beings as a vice, as something forbidden and detrimental and delightful. They drew them kicking about and doing all sorts of things. They drew them with squinting eyes and frightful noses. Sometimes they would sort of come like people they knew. They made each other laugh. Peter would draw nonsense things to amuse the older girls. When he found difficulties with hands or feet or horses’ legs he would look secretly at pictures to see how they were done. He thought it was wrong to do this, but he did it. He wanted to make his pictures alive-er and liker every time; he was unscrupulous how he did it. So gradually the two children became caricaturists. But in their school reports there was never anything about their drawing except “Untidy,” or, in the case of Joan, “Could do better if she would try.”

Peter was rather good at arithmetic, in spite of Miss Mills’ instruction. He got sums right. It was held to be a gift. Joan was less fortunate. Like most people who have been badly taught, Miss Mills had one or two foggy places in her own arithmetical equipment. She was not clear about seven sevens and eight eights; she had a confused, irregular tendency to think that they might amount in either case to fifty-six, and also she had a trick of adding seven to nine as fifteen, although she always got from nine to seven correctly as sixteen. Every learner of arithmetic has a tendency to start little local flaws of this sort, standing sources of error, and every good, trained teacher looks out for them, knows how to test for them and set them right. Once they have been faced in a clear-headed way, such flaws can be cured in an hour or so. But few teachers in upper and middle-class schools in England, in those days, knew even the elements of their business; and it was the custom to let the baffling influence of such flaws develop into the persuasion that the pupil had not “the gift for mathematics.” Very few women indeed of the English “educated” classes to this day can understand a fraction or do an ordinary multiplication sum. They think computation is a sort of fudging—in which some people are persistently lucky enough to guess right—“the gift for mathematics”—or impudent enough to carry their points. That was Miss Mills’ secret and unformulated conviction, a conviction with which she was infecting a large proportion of the youngsters committed to her care. Joan became a mathematical gambler of the wildest description. But there was a guiding light in Peter’s little head that made him grip at last upon the conviction that seven sevens make always forty-nine, and eight eights always sixty-four, and that when this haunting fifty-six flapped about in the sums it was because Miss Mills, grown-up teacher though she was, was wrong.

Mr. Robert Mond, who has done admirable things for the organized study and organized rearing of infants, once told me that a baby was the hardest thing in the world to kill. If it were not, he said, there would be no grown-up people at all. “But a lot,” he added, “get their digestions spoilt, mind you, or grow up rickety.”... Still harder is it to kill a child’s intelligence. There is something heroic about the fight that every infant mind has to make against the bad explanations, the misleading suggestions, the sheer foolishness in which we adults entangle it. The dawning intelligence of Peter, like a young Hercules, fought with the serpentine muddle-headedness of Miss Mills in its cradle, and escaped—remarkably undamaged.... Joan’s, too, fought and escaped, except perhaps for a slight serpentine infection. She was feminine and flexible; she lacked a certain brutality of conviction that Peter possessed.

§ 4

But the regular teaching was the least important thing in the life of the School of St. George and the Venerable Bede. It existed largely in order to be put on one side.

Miss Murgatroyd had the temperament of a sensational editor. Her school was a vehicle for Booms. Every term there was at least one fundamental change.

The year when Joan and Peter joined the school was the year of the Diamond Jubilee, and Miss Murgatroyd had a season of loyalty. The “Empire” and a remarkable work called Sixty Years a Queen dominated the school; Victoria, that poor little old panting German widow, was represented as building up a great fabric of liberty and order, as reconciling nations, as showing what a woman’s heart, a mother’s instinct, could do for mankind. She was, Miss Murgatroyd conveyed, the instigator of such inventions as the electric light and the telephone; she spread railways over the world as one spreads bread with butter; she inspired Tennyson and Dickens, Carlyle and William Morris to their remarkable efforts. The whole world revered her. All this glow of personal loyalty vanished from the school before the year was out; the Queen ceased to be mentioned and the theme of Hand Industry replaced her. Everything was to be taught by hand and no books were to be used. Education had become too bookish. “Rote learning” was forbidden throughout the establishment and “textbooks” were to be replaced by simple note-books made by the children themselves. Then two bright girls came to the school whose father was French, and, by a happy accident, a little boy also joined up who had been very well trained by a French governess. All three spoke French extremely well. Miss Murgatroyd was inspired to put the school French on a colloquial footing, and the time-table was reconstructed with a view to the production of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme on St. George’s Day, the anniversary day of the school.

A parent who could paint was requisitioned as a scene-painter, the stage was put up in the main schoolroom, and those who could take no other part were set to help make the costumes and distribute programs at the performance....

These things happened over the heads of Joan and Peter very much as the things in the newspaper used to happen over our heads before the Great War got hold of us. They went about their small lives amidst these things and with a vast indifference to all such things. They played their little parts in them—the realities of life were not there.

To begin with, Mary used to take them to school; but after a year and a half of that it occurred to Aunt Phyllis that it would cultivate self-reliance if they went alone. So Mary only went to fetch them when there was need of an umbrella or some such serious occasion. The path ran up through the bushes to the high road past the fence of Master’s paddock where Peter had once covered himself with tar. Then they had to go along the high road with a pine-wood to the right—a winding path amidst the trees ran parallel to the road—and presently with a pine-wood to the left, which hid the hollow in which the parents of young Cuspard had made their abode and out of which young Cuspard would sometimes appear, a ginger-haired, hard-breathing youngster, bareheaded and barefooted and altogether very advanced, and so to the little common where there would be geese or a tethered pony. Joan and Peter crossed this obliquely by the path, which was often boggy in wet weather, and went along by the Sheldrick’s holly hedge to the open crest of heather from which one could run down to the school. One could see the playground and games going on long before one could get down to them. And if it were not too stormy the school flag with its red St. George and the Dragon on white would be flying. There were no indications of the Venerable Bede on the Flag, but Joan had concluded privately that he was represented by the red knob at the top of the flagstaff. For a year and more Joan thought that the Venerable Bede was really a large old bead of profound mystical significance.

Joan and Peter varied with the seasons, but except when Joan wore a djibbah they were dressed almost alike; in high summer with bare legs and brown smocks and Heidelberg sandals, and in winter like rolls of green wool stuck on leather gaiters. When they grew beyond the smock stage, then they both wore art green blouses with the school emblem of St. George on the pockets, but Joan wore a dark blue gym skirt and Peter had dark blue knickerbockers simply. The walk altered a little every day. Now the trees were dark and the brambles by the roadside wet and wilted, now all the world was shooting green buds except for the pines, now the pines were taking up the spring brightness, now all the world was hot and dusty and full of the smell of resin, and now again it was wet and misty and with a thousand sorts of brightly coloured fungus among the pine stems. Joan and Peter learnt by experience that throwing pine-cones hurts, and reserved them for the Cuspard boy who had never mastered this lesson. Peter started a “Mooseum” of fungi in the playroom, and made a great display of specimens that presently dried up or deliquesced and stank. When the snow came in the winter the Cuspard boy waylaid them at the corner with a prepared heap of snowballs and fell upon them with shrieks of excitement, throwing so fast and wildly and playing the giddy windmill so completely that it was quite easy for Joan and Peter to close in and capture his heap. Whereupon he fled toward the school weeping loudly that it was his heap and refusing to be comforted.

But afterwards all three of them made common cause against a treacherous ambuscade behind the Sheldrick holly hedge.

It was on these journeyings that Joan began to hear first of the marvellous adventures of Uncle Nobby and Bungo Peter. She most liked Bungo Peter because he had such a satisfying name; Peter never told her he was really the newel knob at home, but she always understood him to be something very large and round and humorous and richly coloured. Sometimes he was as big as the world and sometimes he was a suitable playmate for little children. He was the one constant link in a wandering interminable Saga that came like a spider’s thread endlessly out of Peter’s busy brain. It was a story of quests and wanderings, experiments and tasks and feuds and wars; Nobby was almost always in it, kind and dreadfully brave and always having narrow escapes and being rescued by Bungo Peter. Daddy and Mummy came in and went out again, Peter and Joan joined in. For a time Bungo Peter had a Wonderful Cat that would have shamed Puss-in-boots. Sometimes the story would get funny, so funny that the two children would roll along the road, drunken with laughter. As for example when Bungo Peter had hiccups and couldn’t say anything else whatever you asked him.

After a time Joan learned the trick of the Saga and would go on with it in her own mind as a day-dream. She invented that really and truly Bungo Peter loved her desperately and that she loved Bungo Peter; but she knew, though she knew not why nor wherefore, that this was a thing Peter must never be told.

Sometimes she would try to cut in and make some of the saga herself. “Lemme tell you, Petah,” she used to squeal. “You just lemme tell you.” But it was a rare thing for Peter to give way to her; sometimes he would not listen at all to what she had to say about Bungo Peter; he would smite her down with “No, he didn’t do nuffin of the sort, not reely,” and sometimes when she had thought of a really good thing to tell about him, Peter would take it away from her and go on telling about it himself, as for instance when she thought of “Lightning-slick,” that Bungo Peter used to put on his heels.

Peter listened to her poor speeding-up with “Lightning-slick” for a while.

Then he said: “And after that, Joan, after that——”

“Oh! lemme go on, Petah. Do lemme go on. The fird time he was runned after by anyfing it was this.”

“He put it on his bicycle wheels,” said Peter, getting bored by her, “instead of oil.”

“He put it on his bicycle wheels instead of oil,” said Joan, accepting the idea, “and along came a Tiger.” (She had already done a Mad Dog and a Bear.)

But after that Peter took over altogether while she was waving about rather helplessly and breathlessly with “the Forf time Bungo Peter used Lightning-slick, the forf time—” and hesitating whether to make it a snake or an elephant, Peter could stand it no longer.

“But you don’t know what Bungo Peter did the Forf time, Joan—you don’t reely and I do. Bungo Peter told me. Bungo Peter wanted the holidays to come, so Bungo Peter went and put Lightning-slick on the axles of the Erf.”

“What good was that?”

“It went fast. It went faster and faster. The Erf. It regular spun round. And the sun rose and the sun set jest in an hour or so. ’Cos it would, Joan. It would. Yes, it would. There wasn’t any time for anyfing. People got up and had their breckfus—and it was bedtime. People went out for walks and got b’nighted. Then when the holidays came Bungo Peter just put a stick in the place and stopped it going fast any more.”

“Put a stick in what place?”

“Where the Erf goes round. And then, then the days were as long as long. They lasted—oo, ’undreds of ’ours, heaps.”

“Didn’t they get ’ungry?” said Joan, overcome by this magnificent invention.

“They ’ad free dinners every day, sometimes four, and ’s many teas as they wanted. Out-of-doors. Only you see they didn’t ’ave to go to bed, ’ardly ever. See, Joan?...”

There had to be a pause of blissful contemplation before their minds could go on to any further invention.

“I believe if I had the fings I could make Lightning-slick,” said Peter with a rising inflection of the voice.

He did believe. As soon as it was really said he believed it. Joan, round-eyed with admiration, believed too....

This Saga of Bungo Peter did not so much end as die out, when Aunt Phyllis got little bicycles for her charges after Joan’s seventh birthday, and they began to ride to school. You cannot tell legends on a bicycle.

§ 5

Mr. Sheldrick was a large, loose painter man held together by a very hairy tweed suit, and the Sheldricks were a large, loose family not so much born and brought up as negligently let loose into the world at the slightest provocation by a small facetious mother. It was Mr. Sheldrick who painted the scenery for the school play productions, and it was the Sheldricks who first put it into Miss Murgatroyd’s head that children could be reasonably expected to act. The elder Sheldricks were so to speak the camels and giraffes of Miss Murgatroyd’s school, but the younger ones came down to dimensions that made them practicable playmates for Joan and Peter. Every now and then there would be a Sheldrick birthday (and once Mr. Sheldrick sold a picture) and then there would be a children’s tea-party. It was always a dressing-up tea-party at the Sheldricks. The Sheldrick household possessed a big chest full of pieces of coloured stuff, cloaks, fragmentary wigs, tinsel, wooden swords and the like; this chest stood on the big landing outside the studio and it was called the “dressing-up box.” It was an inexhaustible source of joy and a liberal education to the Sheldricks and their friends.

There were grades of experience in these dressing-up parties. At the lowest, when you were just a “little darling” fit only for gusty embraces—Joan was that to begin with and Peter by dint of a resolute angularity was but battling his way out of it—you put on a preposterous hat or something and ran about yelling, “Look at meeeeee!” Then you rose—Peter rose almost at once and saw to it that Joan rose too, to Dumb Crambo.

In Dumb Crambo one half of the party, the bored half, is “in.” It chooses a word, such as “sleep,” it tells the “outs” that it rhymes with “sneep,” and the “outs” then prepare and act as rapidly as possible, “deep,” “creep,” “sheep,” and so on until they hit upon the right word. There was always much rushing about upon the landing, a great fermentation of ideas, a perpetual “I say, let’s——,” imagination, contrivance, co-operation. So rapidly, joyfully and abundantly, with a disarming effect of confusion, the Sheldricks at their tea-parties did exactly what Miss Mills believed she was doing in her slow, elaborate, remote-spirited Kindergarten lessons, in which she was perpetually saying, “No; no, dear, that isn’t right!” or “Now let us all do it over again just once more and get it perfect.” It was Peter who discovered that these strange ritual-exercises of Miss Mills’ were really a rigid version of the Sheldrick entertainments, and tried to introduce novelties of gesture and facial play and slight but pleasing variations in the verses. He got a laugh or so. But Miss Mills soon put a stop to these experiments.

From Dumb Crambo the Sheldrick dressing-up games rose to scenes from history and charades. Then Mrs. Sheldrick was moved to write a children’s play about fairies and bluebells and butterflies and an angel-child who had died untimely, a play that broke out into a wild burlesque of itself even at its first rehearsals. Then came a wave of Shakespearian enthusiasm that was started by the two elder Sheldricks and skilfully fostered by Daddy Sheldrick, who was getting bored by Dumb Crambo and charades. After a little resistance the younger ones fell in with the new movement and an auspicious beginning was made with selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Miss Murgatroyd was first made aware of this new development by a case of discipline. The second Sheldrick girl was charged with furtively learning passages of Shakespeare by heart instead of pretending to attend to Miss Mills’ display of a total inability to explain the method used in the extraction of the square root. Had it been any other playwright than Shakespeare, things might have gone hard with the Sheldrick girl, but “Shakespeare is different.”

Miss Murgatroyd, perceiving there was more in this than a mere question of discipline, came to see one of the Sheldrick performances, was converted, and annexed the whole thing. The next term of school life she made a Shakespeare Boom, and she astonished the world and herself by an altogether charming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In those days the histrionic possibilities of young children were unsuspected by the parents and schoolmasters who walked over them. Romeo was still played in England by elderly men with time-worn jowls and reverberating voices, and Juliet by dear old actresses for whom the theatre-going public had a genuine filial affection. England had forgotten how young she was in the days of good Queen Elizabeth.

Both Joan and Peter took a prominent part in Miss Murgatroyd’s production because, in spite of nearly four years of Miss Mills, they still had wonderfully good memories. Peter made a dignified Oberon and also a delightfully quaint Thisbe, and Joan was Puck. She danced a dance. She danced in front of the Queen Titania after the Fairy song. It was a dance in which she ceased to be human and became a little brown imp with flashing snake’s eyes and hair like a thunder-cloud. It had been invented years ago by poor dead and drowned Dolly, and the Sheldricks had picked it up again from Joan and developed and improved it for her.

§ 6

But the Sheldricks were not always acting Shakespeare. There were phases in those tea-parties when a kind of wildness came into their blood and the blood of those they entertained that called for something more violent than dressing-up or acting. Then in summertime they had a great scampering and hiding in the garden, it was the sort of garden where you can run across the beds and charge through the shrubs, and in winter they played “Ogre” or “Darkness Ogre” indoors. In Ogre some one—it was usually Mr. Sheldrick—was Ogre, and the little corner room out of the hall was his Den. And you hid. In the Sheldrick’s house you could hide anywhere except in the studio or the pantry and china closet; you could hide in Mrs. Sheldrick’s wardrobe or in the linen cupboard over the hot-water pipes (until it got too hot for you) or under anybody’s bed in anybody’s room. And the Ogre came after you and caught you—often by the foot you had left out carelessly beyond the counterpane—and took you to his Den, and there you were a prisoner until some brave soul came careering across the hall to touch your hand and rescue you and set you free again. The Ogre was never safe against rescues until every one was caught, and everybody never was caught; sooner or later came a gaol delivery, and so the game began all over again and went on until a meal or something released the Ogre or the Ogre struck work. Nobody was so good an Ogre as Mr. Sheldrick; there was such a nice terribleness about him, and he had a way of chanting “Yumpty-Ow. Yumpty-Ow,” as he came after you.

Of course every house is not suitable for Ogre. Intelligent children who understand the delights of Ogre classify homes into two sorts. There are the commonplace homes we most of us inhabit with one staircase, and there are the glorious homes with two, so that you can sneak down one while the Ogre hunts for you up the other. The Sheldrick home had two entirely separate staircases and a long passage between them, and a sort of loop-line arrangement of communicating bedrooms. And also, though this has nothing to do with Ogre, it was easy to get out upon the Sheldrick roof.

“Darkness Ogre” was more exciting in a dreadful kind of way than Ogre. It was only played in winter, and all the blinds and curtains were drawn and all the lights put out. You didn’t need to hide. You just got into a corner and stood still, holding your breath. And the Ogre took off his boots and put on felt slippers, and all the noise he made was a rustle and a creak, and you were never sure that it was him—unless he betrayed himself by whispering “Yumpty-Ow.” He creaked rather more than most, but that was a matter for delicate perceptions. There were frightful moments when you could hear him moving about and feeling about in the very room where you stood frozen, getting nearer and nearer to you. You had to bite your knuckles not to scream.

Once when they were playing Darkness Ogre, Peter was in a corner of Mrs. Sheldrick’s room with Sydney Sheldrick, the third of the Sheldrick sisters, and they were crowding up very close together. And suddenly Sydney put her arms round Peter and began to kiss his ears and cheek. Peter resisted, pushed her away from him. “Ssh,” said Sydney. “You be my little sweetheart.” Peter resisted this proposal with vigour. Then they heard the Ogre creaking down the passage. Sydney drew Peter closer to her, but Peter struggled away from her and made a dash for the further door. He was almost caught. He escaped because somebody else started into flight from the corner of the landing outside the studio and drew the Ogre off the scent.

Afterwards Peter avoided secluded corners when Sydney was about.

But somehow he could not forget what had happened. He kept on thinking of Sydney for a time, and after that she seemed always to be a little more important than the rest of his older schoolmates. Perhaps it was because she took more notice of him. She wanted to help his work, and she would ruffle his hair or pinch his ear as she went past him. She wore a peculiar long jersey so that you could distinguish her from the others quite a long way off. She had level brows and a radiant smile, her shoulders were strong and her legs and feet were very pretty. He noted how well she walked. She always seemed to be looking at Peter. When he shut his eyes and thought of her he could remember her better than he could other people. He did not know whether he liked her or disliked her more than the others; but he perceived that she had in some way become exceptional.

§ 7

Young Winterbaum was another of Miss Murgatroyd’s pupils who made a lasting impression on Peter. He was dark-eyed and fuzzy-haired, the contour of his face had a curious resemblance to that of a sheep, and his head was fixed on in a different way so that he looked more skyward and down his face at you. His expression was one of placid self-satisfaction; his hands twisted about, and ever and again he pranced as he walked. He had a superfluity of gesture, and his voice was a fat voice with the remotest possible hint of a lisp. He had two little round, jolly, frizzy, knock-about sisters who ousted Joan and Peter from their position as the little darlings of the school. The only boy in the school who at all resembled him was young Cuspard, but young Cuspard had not the same bold lines either in his face or conduct; he was red-haired, his nose was a snout instead of a hook, and instead of rather full, well-modelled lips he had that sort of loose mouth that blows. Young Winterbaum said his nose had the Norman arch, and that it showed he was aristocratic and one of the conquerors of England. He was second cousin to a peer, Lord Contango. It was only slowly that Peter came to apprehend the full peculiarity of young Winterbaum.

The differences in form and gesture of the two boys were only the outward and visible signs of profound differences between their imaginations. For example, the heroes of Peter’s romancings were wonderful humorous persons, Nobbys and Bungo Peters, and his themes adventures, struggles, quests that left them neither richer nor poorer than before in a limitless, undisciplined, delightful world, but young Winterbaum’s hero was himself, and he thought in terms of achievement and acquisition. He was a King and the strongest and bravest and richest of all Kings. He had wonderful horses, wonderful bicycles, wonderful catapults and an astonishing army. He counted these things. He walked from the other direction to school, and though no one knew it but himself, he walked in procession. Guards went before him and behind him, and ancient councillors walked beside him. And always he was going on to fresh triumphs and possessions.

He had a diplomatic side to him. He was prepared to negotiate upon the matter of kingship. One day he reached the crest above the school while it was still early, and found Joan and Peter sitting and surveying the playground, waiting for the first bell before they ran down. He stood beside Peter.

“All this is my Kingdom,” he said, waving both his arms about over the Weald. “I am King of all this, I have a great army.”

“Not over this part,” said Peter modestly but firmly.

“You be King up to here,” said young Winterbaum. “You have an army too.”

I want a kingdom too,” said Joan.

Young Winterbaum proposed a fair division of Peter’s kingdom between Joan and Peter.

Peter let Joan have what young Winterbaum gave her. It took some moments to grasp this new situation. “My kingdom,” he said suddenly, “goes right over to those ponds there and up to the church.”

“You can’t,” said young Winterbaum. “I’ve claimed that.”

Peter grunted. It did not seem worth while to have a kingdom unless those ponds were included.

“But if you like I’ll give your people permission to go over all that country whenever they like.”

Peter still felt there was a catch in it somewhere.

“I’ve got a hundred and seven soldiers,” said young Winterbaum. “And six guns that shoot.”

Joan was surprised and shocked to hear that Peter had five hundred soldiers.

“Each of my soldiers, each one, counts as a thousand men,” said young Winterbaum, getting ahead again.

Then the first bell rang and suspended the dispute. But Peter went down to the school with a worried feeling. He wished he had thought of claiming all Surrey as his kingdom first. It was a lamentable oversight. He was disposed to ask the eldest Sheldrick girl whether young Winterbaum really had a right to claim all the Weald. There was a reason in these things....

Young Winterbaum had an extraordinary knack of accentuating possessions. Joan and Peter were very pleased and proud to have bicycles; the first time they arrived upon them at the school young Winterbaum took possession of them and examined them thoroughly. They were really good bicycles, excellent bicycles, he explained, and new, not second-hand; but they were not absolutely the best sort. The best sort nowadays had wood rims. He was going to have a bicycle with wood rims. And there ought to be a Bowden brake in front as well as behind; the one in front was only a spoon brake. It was a pity to have a spoon brake; it would injure the tyre. He doubted if the tubing was helical tubing. And the bell wasn’t a “King of the Road.” It was no good for Peter to pretend it had a good sound, “the King of the Road” had a better sound. When young Winterbaum got his bicycle his bell was going to be a “King of the Road, 1902 pattern.”...

Young Winterbaum was always doing this with things, bringing them up into the foreground of life, grading them, making them competitive and irritating. There was no getting ahead of him. He made Peter feel that the very dust in the Winterbaum dustbin was Grade A. Standard I. while The Ingle-Nook was satisfied with any old makeshift stuff.

Young Winterbaum’s clothes were made by Samuelson’s, the best boys’ tailor in London; there was no disputing it because there was an advertisement in The Daily Telegraph that said as much; he was in trousers and Peter had knickerbockers; he wore sock suspenders, and he had his name in gold letters inside his straw hat. Also he had a pencil-case like no other pencil-case in the school. He was always proposing a comparison of pencil-cases.

His imagination turned precociously and easily to romance and love and the beauty of women. He read a number of novelettes that he had borrowed from his sister’s nurse. He imparted to Peter the idea of a selective pairing off of the species, an idea for which A Midsummer Night’s Dream had already prepared a favourable soil. It was after he had seen Joan dance her dance when that play was performed and heard the unstinted applause that greeted her, that he decided to honour her above all the school with his affections. Previously he had wavered between the eldest Sheldrick girl because she was the biggest, tallest and heaviest girl in the school (though a formidable person to approach) and little Minnie Restharrow who was top in so many classes. But now he knew that Joan was “it,” and that he was in love with her.

But some instinct told him that Peter had to be dealt with.

He approached Peter in this manner.

“Who’s your girl, Peter?” said young Winterbaum. “Who is your own true love? You’ve got to have some one.”

Peter drew a bow at a venture, and subconscious processes guided the answer. “Sydney Sheldrick,” he said.

Young Winterbaum seemed to snatch even before Peter had done speaking. “I’m going to have Joan,” he said. “She dances better than any one. She’s going to be, oh!—a lovely woman.”

Peter was dimly aware of an error. He had forgotten Joan. “I’m going to have Joan too,” he said.

“You can’t have two sweethearts,” said young Winterbaum.

“I can. I’m going to. I’m different.”

“But Joan’s mine already.”

“Get out,” said Peter indignantly. “You can’t have her.”

“But she’s mine.”

“Shut it,” said Peter vulgarly.

“I’ll fight you a duel for her. We will fight a real duel for her.”

“You hadn’t better begin,” said Peter.

“But I mean—you know—a duel, Peter.”

“Let’s fight one now,” said Peter, “’f you think you’re going to have Joan for your girl.”

“We will fight with swords.”


“Yes, but call them swords. And we shall have to have seconds and a doctor.”

“Joan’s my second.”

“You can’t have Joan. My second’s the Grand Duke of Surrey-Sussex.”

“Then mine’s Bungo-Peter.”

“But we’ve got no sticks.”

“I know where there’s two sticks,” said Peter. “Under the stairs. And we can fight in the shrubbery over by the fence.”

The sticks were convenient little canes. “They ought to have hilts,” said young Winterbaum. “You ever fenced?”

“Not much,” said Peter guardedly.

“I’ve often fenced with my cousin, the honourable Ralph—you know. Like this—guard. One. Two. You’ve got to have a wrist.”

They repaired to the field of battle. “We stand aside while the seconds pace out the ground,” explained young Winterbaum. “Now we shake hands. Now we take our places.”

They proceeded to strike fencer-like attitudes. Young Winterbaum suddenly became one of the master swordsmen of the world, but Peter was chiefly intent on where he should hit young Winterbaum. He had got to hit him and hurt him a lot, or else he would get Joan. They crossed swords. Then young Winterbaum feinted and Peter hit him hard on the arm. Then young Winterbaum thrust Peter in the chest, and began to explain at once volubly that Peter was now defeated and dead and everything conclusively settled.

But nobody was going to take away Peter’s Joan on such easy terms. Peter, giving his antagonist no time to complete his explanation, slashed him painfully on the knuckles. “I’m not dead,” said Peter, slashing again. “I’m not dead. See? Come on!”

Whereupon young Winterbaum cried out, as it were with a trumpet, in a loud and grief-stricken voice. “Now I shall hurt you. That’s too much,” and swiped viciously at Peter’s face and raised a weal on Peter’s cheek. Whereupon Peter, feeling that Joan was slipping from him, began to rain blows upon young Winterbaum wherever young Winterbaum might be supposed to be tender, and young Winterbaum began to dance about obliquely and cry out, “Mustn’t hit my legs. Mustn’t hit my legs. Not fair. Oo-oh! my knuckles!” And after one or two revengeful slashes at Peter’s head which Peter—who had had his experiences with Joan in a rage—parried with an uplifted arm, young Winterbaum turned and ran—ran into the arms of Miss Murgatroyd, who had been attracted to the shrubbery by his cries....

It was the first fight that had ever happened in the school of St. George and the Venerable Bede since its foundation.

“He said I couldn’t fight him,” said Peter.

"He went on fighting after I’d pinked him,” said young Winterbaum.

Neither of them said a word about Joan.

So Miss Murgatroyd made a great session of the school, and the two combatants, flushed and a little heroic, sat on either side of her discourse. She said that this was the first time she had ever had to reprove any of her pupils for fighting. She hoped that never again would it be necessary for her to do so. She said that nothing we could do was quite so wicked as fighting because nothing was so flatly contradictory to our Lord’s commandment that we should love one another. The only fight we might fight with a good conscience was the good fight. In that sense we were all warriors. We were fighters for righteousness. In a sense every one was a knight and a fighter, every girl as well as every boy. Because there was no more reason why girls should not fight as well as boys. Some day she hoped this would be recognized, and girls would be given knighthoods and wear their spurs as proudly as the opposite sex. Earth was a battlefield, and none of us must be dumb driven cattle or submit to injustice or cruelty. We must not think that life was made for silken ease or self-indulgence. Let us think rather of the Red Indian perpetually in training for conflict, lean and vigorous and breathing only through his nose. No one who breathed through his or her open mouth would ever be a fighter.

At this point Miss Murgatroyd seemed to hesitate for a time. Breathing was a very attractive topic to her, and it was drawing her away from her main theme. She was, so to speak, dredging for her lost thread in the swift undertow of hygienic doctrine as one might dredge for a lost cable. She got it presently, and concluded by hoping that this would be a lesson to Philip and Peter and that henceforth they would learn that great lesson of Prince Kropotkin’s that co-operation is better than conflict.

Neither of the two combatants listened very closely to this discourse. Peter was wrestling with the question whether a hot red weal across one’s cheek is compatible with victory, and young Winterbaum with the still more subtle difficulty of whether he had been actually running away or merely stepping back when he had collided with Miss Murgatroyd, and what impression this apparently retrograde movement had made on her mind and upon the mind of Peter. Did they understand that sometimes a swordsman had to go back and could go back without the slightest discredit?...

§ 8

After this incident the disposal of Joan ceased to be a topic for conversation between young Winterbaum and Peter, and presently young Winterbaum conveyed to Peter in an offhand manner that he adored Minnie Restharrow as the cleverest and most charming girl in the school. She was indeed absolutely the best thing to be got in that way. She was, he opined, cleverer even than Miss Murgatroyd. He was therefore, he intimated, in love with Minnie Restharrow. It was a great passion.

So far as Peter was concerned, he gathered, it might be.

All the canons of romance required that Peter, having fought for and won Joan, should thereupon love Joan and her only until he was of an age to marry her. As a matter of fact, having disposed of this invader of his private ascendancy over Joan, he thought no more of her in that relationship. He decided, however, that if young Winterbaum was going to have a sweetheart he must have one too, and mysterious processes of his mind indicated Sydney Sheldrick as the only possible person. It was not that Peter particularly wanted a sweetheart, but he was not going to let young Winterbaum come it over him—any more than he was going to let young Winterbaum be King of more than half of Surrey. He was profoundly bored by all this competitiveness, but obscure instincts urged him to keep his end up.

One day Miss Murgatroyd was expatiating to the mother of a prospective pupil upon the wonderful effects of coeducation in calming the passions. “The boys and girls grow up together, get used to each other, and there’s never any nonsense between them.”

“And don’t they—well, take an interest in each other?”

“Not in that way. Not in any undesirable way. Such as they would if they had been morbidly separated.”

“But it seems almost unnatural for them not to take an interest.”

“Experience, I can assure you, shows otherwise,” said Miss Murgatroyd conclusively.

At that moment two figures, gravely conversing together, passed across the lawn in the middle distance; one was a well-grown girl of thirteen in a short-skirted gymnasium dress, the other a nice-looking boy of ten, knickerbockered, bare-legged, sandalled, and wearing the art green blouse of the school. They looked the most open-air and unsophisticated children of modernity it was possible to conceive. This is what they were saying:

“Sydney, when I grow up I’m going to marry you. You got to be my sweetheart. See?”

“You darling! Is that what you have to tell me? I didn’t think you loved me a little bit.”

“I’m going to marry you,” said Peter, sticking to the facts of the case.

“I’d hug you. Only old Muggy is looking out of the window. But the very first chance I get I’ll kiss you. And you’ll have to kiss me back, mind, Peter.”

“Where some one can’t see us,” Peter stipulated.

“Oh! I love spooning,” said the ardent Sydney. “’Member when I kissed you before?...”

“The girls refine the boys and the whole atmosphere is just a family atmosphere,” Miss Murgatroyd was explaining at the window.

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books.

This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2020). Joan and Peter. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, from

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at, located at

. . . comments & more!

About Author

H.G. Wells HackerNoon profile picture
H.G. Wells@hgwells
English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian best known for such science fiction novels as The Time Machine.