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Title:      The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper
Author:     H.G. Wells
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Date first posted:          June 2006
Date most recently updated: June 2006

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Title:      The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper
Author:     H.G. Wells


I call this a Queer Story because it is a story without an explanation.
When I first heard it, in scraps, from Brownlow I found it queer and
incredible. But--it refuses to remain incredible. After resisting and
then questioning and scrutinizing and falling back before the evidence,
after rejecting all his evidence as an elaborate mystification and
refusing to hear any more about it, and then being drawn to reconsider
it by an irresistible curiosity and so going through it all again, I
have been forced to the conclusion that Brownlow, so far as he can tell
the truth, has been telling the truth. But it remains queer truth, queer
and exciting to the imagination. The more credible his story becomes the
queerer it is. It troubles my mind. I am fevered by it, infected not
with germs but with notes of interrogation and unsatisfied curiosity.

Brownlow is, I admit, a cheerful spirit. I have known him tell lies. But
I have never known him do anything so elaborate and sustained as this
affair, if it is a mystification, would have to be. He is incapable of
anything so elaborate and sustained. He is too lazy and easy-going for
anything of the sort. And he would have laughed. At some stage he would
have laughed and given the whole thing away. He has nothing to gain by
keeping it up. His honour is not in the case either way. And after all
there is his bit of newspaper in evidence--and the scrap of an addressed

I realize it will damage this story for many readers that it opens with
Brownlow in a state very definitely on the gayer side of sobriety. He
was not in a mood for cool and calculated observation, much less for
accurate record. He was seeing things in an exhilarated manner. He was
disposed to see them and greet them cheerfully and let them slip by out
of attention. The limitations of time and space lay lightly upon him. It
was after midnight. He had been dining with friends.

I have inquired what friends--and satisfied myself upon one or two
obvious possibilities of that dinner party. They were, he said to me,
"just friends. They hadn't anything to do with it." I don't usually push
past an assurance of this sort, but I made an exception in this case. I
watched my man and took a chance of repeating the question. There was
nothing out of the ordinary about that dinner party, unless it was the
fact that it was an unusually good dinner party. The host was Redpath
Baynes, the solicitor, and the dinner was in his house in St. John's
Wood. Gifford, of the _Evening Telegraph_, whom I know slightly, was, I
found, present, and from him I got all I wanted to know. There was much
bright and discursive talk and Brownlow had been inspired to give an
imitation of his aunt, Lady Clitherholme, reproving an inconsiderate
plumber during some re-building operations at Clitherholme. This early
memory had been received with considerable merriment--he was always very
good about his aunt, Lady Clitherholme--and Brownlow had departed
obviously elated by this little social success and the general geniality
of the occasion. Had they talked, I asked, about the Future, or
Einstein, or J.W. Dunne, or any such high and serious topic at that
party? They had not. Had they discussed the modern newspaper? No. There
had been nobody whom one could call a practical joker at this party, and
Brownlow had gone off alone in a taxi. That is what I was most desirous
of knowing. He had been duly delivered by his taxi at the main entrance
to Sussex Court.

Nothing untoward is to be recorded of his journey in the lift to the
fifth floor of Sussex Court. The liftman on duty noted nothing
exceptional. I asked if Brownlow said, "Good night." The liftman does
not remember. "Usually he says Night O," reflected the
liftman--manifestly doing his best and with nothing particular to
recall. And there the fruits of my inquiries about the condition of
Brownlow on this particular evening conclude. The rest of the story
comes directly from him. My investigations arrive only at this: he was
certainly not drunk. But he was lifted a little out of our normal harsh
and grinding contact with the immediate realities of existence. Life was
glowing softly and warmly in him, and the unexpected could happen
brightly, easily, and acceptably.

He went down the long passage with its red carpet, its clear light, and
its occasional oaken doors, each with its artistic brass number. I have
been down that passage with him on several occasions. It was his custom
to enliven that corridor by raising his hat gravely as he passed each
entrance, saluting his unknown and invisible neighbours, addressing them
softly but distinctly by playful if sometimes slightly indecorous names
of his own devising, expressing good wishes or paying them little

He came at last to his own door, number 49, and let himself in without
serious difficulty. He switched on his hall light. Scattered on the
polished oak floor and invading his Chinese carpet were a number of
letters and circulars, the evening's mail. His parlourmaid-housekeeper
who slept in a room in another part of the building, had been taking her
evening out, or these letters would have been gathered up and put on the
desk in his bureau. As it was, they lay on the floor. He closed his door
behind him or it closed of its own accord; he took off his coat and
wrap, placed his hat on the head of the Greek charioteer whose bust
adorns his hall, and set himself to pick up his letters.

This also he succeeded in doing without misadventure. He was a little
annoyed to miss the _Evening Standard_. It is his custom, he says, to
subscribe for the afternoon edition of the Star to read at tea-time and
also for the final edition of the _Evening Standard_ to turn over the
last thing at night, if only on account of Low's cartoon. He gathered up
all these envelopes and packets and took them with him into his little
sitting-room. There he turned on the electric heater, mixed himself a
weak whisky-and-soda, went to his bedroom to put on soft slippers and
replace his smoking jacket by a frogged jacket of llama wool, returned
to his sitting-room, lit a cigarette, and sat down in his arm-chair by
the reading lamp to examine his correspondence. He recalls all these
details very exactly. They were routines he had repeated scores of

Brownlow's is not a preoccupied mind; it goes out to things. He is one
of those buoyant extroverts who open and read all their letters and
circulars whenever they can get hold of them. In the daytime his
secretary intercepts and deals with most of them, but at night he
escapes from her control and does what he pleases, that is to say, he
opens everything.

He ripped up various envelopes. There was a formal acknowledgment of a
business letter he had dictated the day before, there was a letter from
his solicitor asking for some details about a settlement he was making,
there was an offer from some unknown gentleman with an aristocratic name
to lend him money on his note of hand alone, and there was a notice
about a proposed new wing to his club. "Same old stuff," he sighed.
"Same old stuff. What bores they all are!" He was always hoping, like
every man who is proceeding across the plains of middle-age, that his
correspondence would contain agreeable surprises--and it never did.
Then, as he put it to me, _inter alia_, he picked up the remarkable


It was different in appearance from an ordinary newspaper, but not so
different as not to be recognizable as a newspaper, and he was
surprised, he says, not to have observed it before. It was enclosed in a
wrapper of pale green, but it was unstamped; apparently it had been
delivered not by the postman, but by some other hand. (This wrapper
still exists; I have seen it.) He had already torn it off before he
noted that he was not the addressee.

For a moment or so he remained looking at this address, which struck him
as just a little odd. It was printed in rather unusual type: "Evan
O'Hara Mr., Sussex Court 49."

"Wrong name," said Mr. Brownlow; "Right address. Rummy. Sussex Court
49.... 'Spose he's got my Evening Standard.... 'Change no robbery."

He put the torn wrapper with his unanswered letters and opened out the

The title of the paper was printed in large slightly ornamental
black-green letters that might have come from a kindred fount to that
responsible for the address. But, as he read it, it was the _Evening
Standard!_ Or, at least, it was the "Even Standrd." "Silly," said
Brownlow. "It's some damn Irish paper. Can't spell--anything--these

He had, I think, a passing idea, suggested perhaps by the green wrapper
and the green ink, that it was a lottery stunt from Dublin.

Still, if there was anything to read he meant to read it. He surveyed
the front page. Across this ran a streamer headline: "WILTON BORING

"No," said Brownlow. "It must be oil.... Illiterate lot these oil
chaps--leave out the 's' in 'success.'"

He held the paper down on his knee for a moment, reinforced himself by a
drink, took and lit a second cigarette, and then leant back in his chair
to take a dispassionate view of any oil-share pushing that might be

But it wasn't an affair of oil. It was, it began to dawn upon him,
something stranger than oil. He found himself surveying a real evening
newspaper, which was dealing, so far as he could see at the first onset,
with the affairs of another world.

He had for a moment a feeling as though he and his arm-chair and his
little sitting-room were afloat in a vast space and then it all seemed
to become firm and solid again.

This thing in his hands was plainly and indisputably a printed
newspaper. It was a little odd in its letterpress, and it didn't feel or
rustle like ordinary paper, but newspaper it was. It was printed in
either three or four columns--for the life of him he cannot remember
which--and there were column headlines under the page streamer. It had a
sort of art-nouveau affair at the bottom of one column that might be an
advertisement (it showed a woman in an impossibly big hat), and in the
upper left-hand corner was an unmistakable weather chart of Western
Europe, with _coloured_ isobars, or isotherms, or whatever they are, and
the inscription: "To-morrow's Weather."

And then he remarked the date. The date was November 10th, 1971!

"Steady on," said Brownlow. "Damitall! Steady on."

He held the paper sideways, and then straight again. The date remained
November 10th, 1971.

He got up in a state of immense perplexity and put the paper down. For a
moment he felt a little afraid of it. He rubbed his forehead. "Haven't
been doing a Rip Van Winkle, by any chance, Brownlow, my boy?" he said.
He picked up the paper again, walked out into his hall and looked at
himself in the hall mirror. He was reassured to see no signs of
advancing age, but the expression of mingled consternation and amazement
upon his flushed face struck him suddenly as being undignified and
unwarrantable. He laughed at himself, but not uncontrollably. Then he
stared blankly at that familiar countenance. "I must be half-way
_tordu_" he said, that being his habitual facetious translation of
"screwed." On the console table was a little respectable-looking
adjustable calendar bearing witness that the date was November 10th,

"D'you see?" he said, shaking the queer newspaper at it reproachfully.
"I ought to have spotted you for a hoax ten minutes ago. 'Moosing trick,
to say the least of it. I suppose they've made Low editor for a night,
and he's had this idea. Eh?"

He felt he had been taken in, but that the joke was a good one. And,
with quite unusual anticipations of entertainment, he returned to his
arm-chair. A good idea it was, a paper forty years ahead. Good fun if it
was well done. For a time nothing but the sounds of a newspaper being
turned over and Brownlow's breathing can have broken the silence of the


Regarded as an imaginative creation, he found the thing almost too well
done. Every time he turned a page he expected the sheet to break out
into laughter and give the whole thing away. But it did nothing of the
kind. From being a mere quip, it became an immense and amusing, if
perhaps a little over-elaborate, lark. And then, as a lark, it passed
from stage to stage of incredibility until, as any thing but the thing
it professed to be, it was incredible altogether. It must have cost far
more than an ordinary number. All sorts of colours were used, and
suddenly he came upon illustrations that went beyond amazement; they
were in the colours of reality. Never in all his life had he seen such
colour printing--and the buildings and scenery and costumes in the
pictures were strange. Strange and yet credible. They were colour
photographs of actuality forty years from now. He could not believe
anything else of them. Doubt could not exist in their presence.

His mind had swung back, away from the stunt-number idea altogether.
This paper in his hand would not simply be costly beyond dreaming to
produce. At any price it could not be produced. All this present world
could not produce such an object as this paper he held in his hand. He
was quite capable of realizing that.

He sat turning the sheet over and--quite mechanically--drinking whisky.
His sceptical faculties were largely in suspense; the barriers of
criticism were down. His mind could now accept the idea that he was
reading a newspaper of forty years ahead without any further protest.

It had been addressed to Mr. Evan O'Hara, and it had come to him. Well
and good. This Evan O'Hara evidently knew how to get ahead of things....

I doubt if at that time Brownlow found anything very wonderful in the

Yet it was, it continues to be, a very wonderful situation. The wonder
of it mounts to my head as I write. Only gradually have I been able to
build up this picture of Brownlow turning over that miraculous sheet, so
that I can believe it myself. And you will understand how, as the thing
flickered between credibility and incredibility in my mind, I asked him,
partly to justify or confute what he told me, and partly to satisfy a
vast expanding and, at last, devouring curiosity: "What was there in it?
What did it have to say?" At the same time, I found myself trying to
catch him out in his story, and also asking him for every particular he
could give me.

What was there in it? In other words, What will the world be doing forty
years from now? That was the stupendous scale of the vision, of which
Brownlow was afforded a glimpse. The world forty years from now! I lie
awake at nights thinking of all that paper might have revealed to us.
Much it did reveal, but there is hardly a thing it reveals that does not
change at once into a constellation of riddles. When first he told me
about the thing I was--it is, I admit, an enormous pity--intensely
sceptical. I asked him questions in what people call a "nasty" manner. I
was ready--as my manner made plain to him--to jump down his throat with
"But that's preposterous!" at the very first slip. And I had an
engagement that carried me off at the end of half an hour. But the thing
had already got hold of my imagination, and I rang up Brownlow before
tea-time, and was biting at this "queer story" of his again. That
afternoon he was sulking because of my morning's disbelief, and he told
me very little. "I was drunk and dreaming, I suppose," he said. "I'm
beginning to doubt it all myself." In the night it occurred to me for
the first time that, if he was not allowed to tell and put on record
what he had seen, he might become both confused and sceptical about it
himself. Fancies might mix up with it. He might hedge and alter to get
it more credible. Next day, therefore, I lunched and spent the afternoon
with him, and arranged to go down into Surrey for the week-end. I
managed to dispel his huffiness with me. My growing keenness restored
his. There we set ourselves in earnest, first of all to recover
everything he could remember about his newspaper and then to form some
coherent idea of the world about which it was telling.

It is perhaps a little banal to say we were not trained men for the job.
For who could be considered trained for such a job as we were
attempting? What facts was he to pick out as important and how were they
to be arranged? We wanted to know everything we could about 1971; and
the little facts and the big facts crowded on one another and offended
against each other.

The streamer headline across the page about that seven-mile Wilton
boring, is, to my mind, one of the most significant items in the story.
About that we are fairly clear. It referred, says Brownlow, to a series
of attempts to tap the supply of heat beneath the surface of the earth.
I asked various questions. "It was _explained_, y'know," said Brownlow,
and smiled and held out a hand with twiddling fingers. "It was explained
all right. Old system, they said, was to go down from a few hundred feet
to a mile or so and bring up coal and burn it. Go down a bit deeper, and
there's no need to bring up and burn anything. Just get heat itself
straightaway. Comes up of its own accord--under its own steam. See?

"They were making a big fuss about it," he added. "It wasn't only the
streamer headline; there was a leading article in big type. What was it
headed? Ah! The Age of Combustion has Ended!"

Now that is plainly a very big event for mankind, caught in
mid-happening, November 10th, 1971. And the way in which Brownlow
describes it as being handled, shows clearly a world much more
preoccupied by economic essentials than the world of to-day, and dealing
with them on a larger scale and in a bolder spirit.

That excitement about tapping the central reservoirs of heat, Brownlow
was very definite, was not the only symptom of an increase in practical
economic interest and intelligence. There was much more space given to
scientific work and to inventions than is given in any contemporary
paper. There were diagrams and mathematical symbols, he says, but he did
not look into them very closely because he could not get the hang of
them. "_Frightfully_ highbrow, some of it," he said.

A more intelligent world for our grandchildren evidently, and also, as
the pictures testified, a healthier and happier world.

"The fashions kept you looking," said Brownlow, going off at a tangent,
"all coloured up as they were."

"Were they elaborate?" I asked.

"Anything _but_" he said.

His description of these costumes is vague. The people depicted in the
social illustrations and in the advertisements seemed to have reduced
body clothing--I mean things like vests, pants, socks and so forth--to a
minimum. Breast and chest went bare. There seem to have been
tremendously exaggerated wristlets, mostly on the left arm and going as
far up as the elbow, provided with gadgets which served the purpose of
pockets. Most of these armlets seem to have been very decorative, almost
like little shields. And then, usually, there was an immense hat, often
rolled up and carried in the hand, and long cloaks of the loveliest
colours and evidently also of the most beautiful soft material, which
either trailed from a sort of gorget or were gathered up and wrapped
about the naked body, or were belted up or thrown over the shoulders.

There were a number of pictures of crowds from various parts of the
world. "The people looked fine," said Brownlow. "Prosperous, you know,
and upstanding. Some of the women--just lovely."

My mind went off to India. What was happening in India?

Brownlow could not remember anything very much about India. "Ankor,"
said Brownlow. "That's not India, is it?" There had been some sort of
Carnival going on amidst "perfectly lovely" buildings in the sunshine of

The people there were brownish people but they were dressed very much
like the people in other parts of the world.

I found the politician stirring in me. Was there really nothing about
India? Was he sure of that? There was certainly nothing that had left
any impression in Brownlow's mind. And Soviet Russia? "Not as Soviet
Russia," said Brownlow. All that trouble had ceased to be a matter of
daily interest. "And how was France getting on with Germany?" Brownlow
could not recall a mention of either of these two great powers. Nor of
the British Empire as such, nor of the U.S.A. There was no mention of
any interchanges, communications, ambassadors, conferences,
competitions, comparisons, stresses, in which these governments figured,
so far as he could remember. He racked his brains. I thought perhaps all
that had been going on so entirely like it goes on to-day--and has been
going on for the last hundred years--that he had run his eyes over the
passages in question and that they had left no distinctive impression on
his mind. But he is positive that it was not like that. "All that stuff
was washed out," he said. He is unshaken in his assertion that there
were no elections in progress, no notice of Parliament or politicians,
no mention of Geneva or anything about armaments or war. All those main
interests of a contemporary journal seem to have been among the "washed
out" stuff. It isn't that Brownlow didn't notice them very much; he is
positive they were not there.

Now to me this is a very wonderful thing indeed. It means, I take it,
that in only forty years from now the great game of sovereign states
will be over. It looks also as if the parliamentary game will be over,
and as if some quite new method of handling human affairs will have been
adopted. Not a word of patriotism or nationalism; not a word of party,
not an allusion. But in only forty years! While half the human beings
already alive in the world will still be living! You cannot believe it
for a moment. Nor could I, if it wasn't for two little torn scraps of
paper. These, as I will make clear, leave me in a state of--how can I
put it?--incredulous belief.


After all, in 1831 very few people thought of railway or steamship
travel, and in 1871 you could already go round the world in eighty days
by steam, and send a telegram in a few minutes to nearly every part of
the earth. Who would have thought of that in 1831? Revolutions in human
life, when they begin to come, can come very fast. Our ideas and methods
change faster than we know.

But just forty years!

It was not only that there was this absence of national politics from
that evening paper, but there was something else still more fundamental.
Business, we both think, finance that is, was not in evidence, at least
upon anything like contemporary lines. We are not quite sure of that,
but that is our impression. There was no list of Stock Exchange prices.
for example, no City page, and nothing in its place. I have suggested
already that Brownlow just turned that page over, and that it was
sufficiently like what it is to-day that he passed and forgot it. I have
put that suggestion to him. But he is quite sure that that was not the
case. Like most of us nowadays, he is watching a number of his
investments rather nervously, and he is convinced he looked for the City

November 10th, 1971, may have been Monday--there seems to have been some
readjustment of the months and the days of the week; that is a detail
into which I will not enter now--but that will not account for the
absence of any City news at all. That also, it seems, will be washed out
forty years from now.

Is there some tremendous revolutionary smash-up ahead, then? Which will
put an end to investment and speculation? Is the world going Bolshevik?
In the paper, anyhow, there was no sign of, or reference to, anything of
that kind. Yet against this idea of some stupendous economic revolution
we have the fact that here forty years ahead is a familiar London
evening paper still tumbling into a private individual's letter-box in
the most uninterrupted manner. Not much suggestion of a social smash-up
there. Much stronger is the effect of immense changes which have come
about bit by bit, day by day, and hour by hour, without any sort of
revolutionary jolt, as morning or springtime comes to the world.

These futile speculations are irresistible. The reader must forgive me
them. Let me return to our story.

There had been a picture of a landslide near Ventimiglia and one of some
new chemical works at Salzburg, and there had been a picture of fighting
going on near Irkutsk. (Of that picture, as I will tell presently, a
fading scrap survives.) "Now that was called----" Brownlow made an
effort, and snapped his fingers triumphantly. "----'Round-up of Brigands
by Federal Police.'"

"_What Federal Police?_" I asked.

"There you have me," said Brownlow. "The fellows on both sides looked
mostly Chinese, but there were one or two taller fellows, who might have
been Americans or British or Scandinavians.

"What filled a lot of the paper," said Brownlow, suddenly, "was
gorillas. There was no end of a fuss about gorillas. Not so much as
about that boring, but still a lot of fuss. Photographs. A map. A
special article and some paragraphs."

The paper, had, in fact, announced the death of the last gorilla.
Considerable resentment was displayed at the tragedy that had happened
in the African gorilla reserve. The gorilla population of the world had
been dwindling for many years. In 1931 it had been estimated at nine
hundred. When the Federal Board took over it had shrunken to three

"_What_ Federal Board?" I asked.

Brownlow knew no more than I did. When he read the phrase, it had seemed
all right somehow. Apparently this Board had had too much to do all at
once, and insufficient resources. I had the impression at first that it
must be some sort of conservation board, improvised under panic
conditions, to save the rare creatures of the world threatened with
extinction. The gorillas had not been sufficiently observed and guarded,
and they had been swept out of existence suddenly by a new and malignant
form of influenza. The thing had happened practically before it was
remarked. The paper was clamouring for inquiry and drastic changes of

This Federal Board, whatever it might be, seemed to be something of very
considerable importance in the year 1971. Its name turned up again in an
article of afforestation. This interested Brownlow considerably because
he has large holdings in lumber companies. This Federal Board was
apparently not only responsible for the maladies of wild gorillas but
also for the plantation of trees in--just note these names!--Canada, New
York State, Siberia, Algiers, and the East Coast of England, and it was
arraigned for various negligences in combating insect pests and various
fungoid plant diseases. It jumped all our contemporary boundaries in the
most astounding way. Its range was world-wide. "In spite of the recent
additional restrictions put upon the use of big timber in building and
furnishing, there is a plain possibility of a shortage of shelter timber
and of rainfall in nearly all the threatened regions for 1985 onwards.
Admittedly the Federal Board has come late to its task, from the
beginning its work has been urgency work; but in view of the lucid
report prepared by the James Commission, there is little or no excuse
for the inaggressiveness and over-confidence it has displayed."

I am able to quote this particular article because as a matter of fact
it lies before me as I write. It is indeed, as I will explain, all that
remains of this remarkable newspaper. The rest has been destroyed and
all we can ever know of it now is through Brownlow's sound but not
absolutely trustworthy memory.


My mind, as the days pass, hangs on to that Federal Board. Does that
phrase mean, as just possibly it may mean, a world federation, a
scientific control of all human life only forty years from now? I find
that idea--staggering. I have always believed that the world was
destined to unify--"Parliament of Mankind and Confederation of the
World," as Tennyson put it--but I have always supposed that the process
would take centuries. But then my time sense is poor. My disposition has
always been to under-estimate the pace of change. I wrote in 1900 that
there would be aeroplanes "in fifty years' time." And the confounded
things were buzzing about everywhere and carrying passengers before

Let me tell very briefly of the rest of that evening paper. There seemed
to be a lot of sport and fashion; much about something called
"Spectacle"--with pictures--a lot of illustrated criticism of decorative
art and particularly of architecture. The architecture in the pictures
he saw was "towering--kind of magnificent. Great blocks of building. New
York, but more so and all run together"... Unfortunately he cannot
sketch. There were sections devoted to something he couldn't understand,
but which he thinks was some sort of "radio programme stuff."

All that suggests a sort of advanced human life very much like the life
we lead to-day, possibly rather brighter and better. But here is

"The birth-rate," said Brownlow, searching his mind, "was seven in the

I exclaimed. The lowest birth-rates in Europe now are sixteen or more
per thousand. The Russian birth-rate is forty per thousand, and falling

"It was seven," said Brownlow. "Exactly seven. I noticed it. In a

But what birth-rate, I asked. The British? The European?

"It said the birth-rate," said Brownlow. "Just that." That I think is
the most tantalizing item in all this strange glimpse of the world of
our grandchildren. A birth-rate of seven in the thousand does not mean a
fixed world population; it means a population that is being reduced at a
very rapid rate--unless the death-rate has gone still lower. Quite
possibly people will not be dying so much then, but living very much
longer. On that Brownlow could throw no light. The people in the
pictures did not look to him an "old lot." There were plenty of children
and young or young-looking people about.

"But Brownlow," I said, "wasn't there any crime?"

"Rather," said Brownlow. "They had a big poisoning case on, but it was
jolly hard to follow. You know how it is with these crimes. Unless
you've read about it from the beginning, it's hard to get the hang of
the situation. No newspaper has found out that for every crime it ought
to give a summary up-to-date every day--and forty years ahead, they
hadn't. Or they aren't going to. Whichever way you like to put it.

"There were several crimes and what newspaper men call stories," he
resumed; "personal stories. What struck me about it was that they seemed
to be more sympathetic than our reporters, more concerned with the
motives and less with just finding someone out. What you might call
psychological--so to speak."

"Was there anything much about books?" I asked him.

"I don't remember anything about books," he said....

And that is all. Except for a few trifling details such as a possible
thirteenth month inserted in the year, that is all. It is intolerably
tantalizing. That is the substance of Brownlow's account of his
newspaper. He read it--as one might read any newspaper. He was just in
that state of alcoholic comfort when nothing is incredible and so
nothing is really wonderful. He knew he was reading an evening newspaper
of forty years ahead and he sat in front of his fire, and smoked and
sipped his drink and was no more perturbed than he would have been if he
had been reading an imaginative book about the future.

Suddenly his little brass clock pinged Two.

He got up and yawned. He put that astounding, that miraculous newspaper
down as he was wont to put any old newspaper down; he carried off his
correspondence to the desk in his bureau, and with the swift laziness of
a very tired man he dropped his clothes about his room anyhow and went
to bed.

But somewhen in the night he woke up feeling thirsty and grey-minded. He
lay awake and it came to him that something very strange had occurred to
him. His mind went back to the idea that he had been taken in by a very
ingenious fabrication. He got up for a drink of Vichy water and a liver
tabloid, he put his head in cold water and found himself sitting on his
bed towelling his hair and doubting whether he had really seen those
photographs in the very colours of reality itself, or whether he had
imagined them. Also running through his mind was the thought that the
approach of a world timber famine for 1985 was something likely to
affect his investments and particularly a trust he was setting up on
behalf of an infant in whom he was interested. It might be wise, he
thought, to put more into timber.

He went back down the corridor to his sitting-room. He sat there in his
dressing-gown, turning over the marvellous sheets. There it was in his
hands complete in every page, not a corner torn. Some sort of
auto-hypnosis, he thought, might be at work, but certainly the pictures
seemed as real as looking out of a window. After he had stared at them
some time he went back to the timber paragraph. He felt he must keep
that. I don't know if you will understand how his mind worked--for my
own part I can see at once how perfectly irrational and entirely natural
it was--but he took this marvellous paper, creased the page in question,
tore off this particular article and left the rest. He returned very
drowsily to his bedroom, put the scrap of paper on his dressing-table,
got into bed and dropped off to sleep at once.


When he awoke again it was nine o'clock; his morning tea was untasted
by his bedside and the room was full of sunshine. His
parlourmaid-housekeeper had just re-entered the room.

"You were sleeping so peacefully," she said; "I couldn't bear to wake
you. Shall I get you a fresh cup of tea?"

Brownlow did not answer. He was trying to think of something strange
that had happened.

She repeated her question.

"No. I'll come and have breakfast in my dressing-gown before my bath,"
he said, and she went out of the room.

Then he saw the scrap of paper.

In a moment he was running down the corridor to the sitting-room. "I
left a newspaper," he said. "I left a newspaper."

She came in response to the commotion he made.

"A newspaper?" she said. "It's been gone this two hours, down the chute,
with the dust and things."

Brownlow had a moment of extreme consternation.

He invoked his God. "I wanted it _kept_!" he shouted. "I wanted it

"But how was _I_ to know you wanted it kept?"

"But didn't you notice it was a very extraordinary-looking newspaper?"

"I've got none too much time to dust out this flat to be looking at
newspapers," she said. "I thought I saw some coloured photographs of
bathing ladies and chorus girls in it, but that's no concern of mine. It
didn't seem a proper newspaper to me. How was I to know you'd be wanting
to look at them again this morning?"

"I must get that newspaper back," said Brownlow. "It's--it's vitally
important.... If all Sussex Court has to be held up I want that
newspaper back."

"I've never known a thing come up that chute again," said his
housekeeper, "that's once gone down it. But I'll telephone down, sir,
and see what can be done. Most of that stuff goes right into the
hot-water furnace, they say...."

It does. The newspaper had gone.

Brownlow came near raving. By a vast effort of self-control he sat down
and consumed his cooling breakfast. He kept on saying "Oh, my God!" as
he did so. In the midst of it he got up to recover the scrap of paper
from his bedroom, and then found the wrapper addressed to Evan O'Hara
among the overnight letters on his bureau. That seemed an almost
maddening confirmation. The thing had happened.

Presently after he had breakfasted, he rang me up to aid his baffled

I found him at his bureau with the two bits of paper before him. He did
not speak. He made a solemn gesture.

"What is it?" I asked, standing before him.

"Tell me," he said. "Tell me. What are these objects? It's serious.
Either----" He left the sentence unfinished.

I picked up the torn wrapper first and felt its texture. "Evan O'Hara,
Mr.," I read.

"Yes. Sussex Court, 49. Eh?"

"Right," I agreed and stared at him.

"_That's_ not hallucination, eh?"

I shook my head.

"And now this?" His hand trembled as he held out the cutting. I took it.

"Odd," I said. I stared at the black-green ink, the unfamiliar type, the
little novelties in spelling. Then I turned the thing over. On the back
was a piece of one of the illustrations; it was, I suppose, about a
quarter of the photograph of that "Round-up of Brigands by Federal
Police" I have already mentioned.

When I saw it that morning it had not even begun to fade. It represented
a mass of broken masonry in a sandy waste with bare-looking mountains in
the distance. The cold, clear atmosphere, the glare of a cloudless
afternoon were rendered perfectly. In the foreground were four masked
men in a brown service uniform intent on working some little machine on
wheels with a tube and a nozzle projecting a jet that went out to the
left, where the fragment was torn off. I cannot imagine what the jet was
doing. Brownlow says he thinks they were gassing some men in a hut.
Never have I seen such realistic colour printing.

"What on earth is this?" I asked.

"It's _that_" said Brownlow. "I'm not mad, am I? It's really _that_."

"But what the devil is it?"

"It's a piece of a newspaper for November 10th, 1971."

"You had better explain," I said, and sat down, with the scrap of paper
in my hand, to hear his story. And, with as much elimination of
questions and digressions and repetitions as possible, that is the story
I have written here.

I said at the beginning that it was a queer story and queer to my mind
it remains, fantastically queer. I return to it at intervals, and it
refuses to settle down in my mind as anything but an incongruity with
all my experience and beliefs. If it were not for the two little bits of
paper, one might dispose of it quite easily. One might say that Brownlow
had had a vision, a dream of unparalleled vividness and consistency. Or
that he had been hoaxed and his head turned by some elaborate
mystification. Or, again, one might suppose he had really seen into the
future with a sort of exaggeration of those previsions cited by Mr. J.W.
Dunne in his remarkable "Experiment with Time." But nothing Mr. Dunne
has to advance can account for an actual evening paper being slapped
through a letter-slit forty years in advance of its date.

The wrapper has not altered in the least since I first saw it. But the
scrap of paper with the article about afforestation is dissolving into a
fine powder and the fragment of picture at the back of it is fading out;
most of the colour has gone and the outlines have lost their sharpness.
Some of the powder I have taken to my friend Ryder at the Royal College,
whose work in micro-chemistry is so well known. He says the stuff is not
paper at all, properly speaking. It is mostly aluminium fortified by
admixture with some artificial resinous substance.


Though I offer no explanation whatever of this affair I think I will
venture on one little prophesy. I have an obstinate persuasion that on
November 10th, 1971, the name of the tenant of 49, Sussex Court, will be
Mr. Evan O'Hara. (There is no tenant of that name now in Sussex Court
and I find no evidence in the Telephone Directory, or the London
Directory, that such a person exists anywhere in London.) And on that
particular evening forty years ahead, he will not get his usual copy of
the _Even Standrd_: instead he will get a copy of the _Evening Standard_
of 1931. I have an incurable fancy that this will be so.

There I may be right or wrong, but that Brownlow really got and for two
remarkable hours, read, a real newspaper forty years ahead of time I am
as convinced as I am convinced that my own name is Hubert G. Wells. Can
I say anything stronger than that?


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