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Title: The Chronic Argonauts
Author: H. G. Wells
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Edition: 1
Language: English
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Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: December 2012

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H. G. Wells


About half-a-mile outside the village of Llyddwdd by the road that
goes up over the eastern flank of the mountain called Pen-y-pwll to
Rwstog is a large farm-building known as the Manse. It derives this
title from the fact that it was at one time the residence of the
minister of the Calvinistic Methodists. It is a quaint, low, irregular
erection, lying back some hundred yards from the railway, and now fast
passing into a ruinous state.

Since its construction in the latter half of the last century this
house has undergone many changes of fortune, having been abandoned
long since by the farmer of the surrounding acres for less pretentious
and more commodious headquarters. Among others Miss Carnot, "the
Gallic Sappho" at one time made it her home, and later on an old man
named Williams became its occupier. The foul murder of this tenant by
his two sons was the cause of its remaining for some considerable
period uninhabited; with the inevitable consequence of its undergoing
very extensive dilapidation.

The house had got a bad name, and adolescent man and Nature combined
to bring swift desolation upon it. The fear of the Williamses which
kept the Llyddwdd lads from gratifying their propensity to invade its
deserted interior, manifested itself in unusually destructive
resentment against its external breakables. The missiles with which
they at once confessed and defied their spiritual dread, left scarcely
a splinter of glass, and only battered relics of the old-fashioned
leaden frames, in its narrow windows, while numberless shattered tiles
about the house, and four or five black apertures yawning behind the
naked rafters in the roof, also witnessed vividly to the energy of
their rejection. Rain and wind thus had free way to enter the empty
rooms and work their will there, old Time aiding and abetting.
Alternately soaked and desiccated, the planks of flooring and wainscot
warped apart strangely, split here and there, and tore themselves away
in paroxysms of rheumatic pain from the rust-devoured nails that had
once held them firm. The plaster of walls and ceiling, growing green-
black with a rain-fed crust of lowly life, parted slowly from the
fermenting laths; and large fragments thereof falling down
inexplicably in tranquil hours, with loud concussion and clatter, gave
strength to the popular superstition that old Williams and his sons
were fated to re-enact their fearful tragedy until the final judgment.
White roses and daedal creepers, that Miss Carnot had first adorned
the walls with, spread now luxuriantly over the lichen-filmed tiles of
the roof, and in slender graceful sprays timidly invaded the ghostly
cobweb-draped apartments. Fungi, sickly pale, began to displace and
uplift the bricks in the cellar floor; while on the rotting wood
everywhere they clustered, in all the glory of the purple and mottled
crimson, yellow-brown and hepatite. Woodlice and ants, beetles and
moths, winged and creeping things innumerable, found each day a more
congenial home among the ruins; and after them in ever-increasing
multitudes swarmed the blotchy toads. Swallows and martins built
every year more thickly in the silent, airy, upper chambers. Bats and
owls struggled for the crepuscular corners of the lower rooms. Thus,
in the Spring of the year eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, was
Nature taking over, gradually but certainly, the tenancy of the old
Manse. "The house was falling into decay," as men who do not
appreciate the application of human derelicts to other beings' use
would say, "surely and swiftly." But it was destined nevertheless to
shelter another human tenant before its final dissolution.

There was no intelligence of the advent of a new inhabitant in quiet
Llyddwdd. He came without a solitary premonition out of the vast
unknown into the sphere of minute village observation and gossip. He
fell into the Llyddwdd world, as it were, like a thunderbolt falling
in the daytime. Suddenly, out of nothingness, he was. Rumour, indeed,
vaguely averred that he was seen to arrive by a certain train from
London, and to walk straight without hesitation to the old Manse,
giving neither explanatory word nor sign to mortal as to his purpose
there: but then the same fertile source of information also hinted
that he was first beheld skimming down the slopes of steep Pen-y-pwll
with exceeding swiftness, riding, as it appeared to the intelligent
observer, upon an instrument not unlike a sieve and that he entered
the house by the chimney. Of these conflicting reports, the former was
the first to be generally circulated, but the latter, in view of the
bizarre presence and eccentric ways of the newest inhabitant, obtained
wider credence. By whatever means he arrived, there can be no doubt
that he was in, and in possession of the Manse, on the first of May;
because on the morning of that day he was inspected by Mrs. Morgan ap
Lloyd Jones, and subsequently by the numerous persons her report
brought up the mountain slope, engaged in the curious occupation of
nailing sheet-tin across the void window sockets of his new domicile--
"blinding his house", as Mrs. Morgan ap Lloyd Jones not inaptly termed

He was a small-bodied, sallow faced little man, clad in a close-
fitting garment of some stiff, dark material, which Mr. Parry Davies
the Llyddwdd shoemaker, opined was leather. His aquiline nose, thin
lips, high cheek-ridges, and pointed chin, were all small and mutually
well proportioned; but the bones and muscles of his face were rendered
excessively prominent and distinct by his extreme leanness. The same
cause contributed to the sunken appearance of the large eager-looking
grey eyes, that gazed forth from under his phenomenally wide and high
forehead. It was this latter feature that most powerfully attracted
the attention of an observer. It seemed to be great beyond all
preconceived ratio to the rest of his countenance. Dimensions,
corrugations, wrinkles, venation, were alike abnormally exaggerated.
Below it his eyes glowed like lights in some cave at a cliff's foot.
It so over-powered and suppressed the rest of his face as to give an
unhuman appearance almost, to what would otherwise have been an
unquestionably handsome profile. The lank black hair that hung unkempt
before his eyes served to increase rather than conceal this effect, by
adding to unnatural altitude a suggestion of hydrocephalic projection:
and the idea of something ultra human was furthermore accentuated by
the temporal arteries that pulsated visibly through his transparent
yellow skin. No wonder, in view even of these things, that among the
highly and over-poetical Cymric of Llyddwdd the sieve theory of
arrival found considerable favour.

It was his bearing and actions, however, much more than his
personality, that won over believers to the warlock notion of matters.
In almost every circumstance of life the observant villagers soon
found his ways were not only not their ways, but altogether
inexplicable upon any theory of motives they could conceive. Thus, in
a small matter at the beginning, when Arthur Price Williams, eminent
and famous in every tavern in Caernarvonshire for his social gifts,
endeavoured, in choicest Welsh and even choicer English, to inveigle
the stranger into conversation over the sheet-tin performance, he
failed utterly. Inquisitional supposition, straightforward enquiry,
offer of assistance, suggestion of method, sarcasm, irony, abuse, and
at last, gage of battle, though shouted with much effort from the road
hedge, went unanswered and apparently unheard. Missile weapons, Arthur
Price Williams found, were equally unavailing for the purpose of
introduction, and the gathered crowd dispersed with unappeased
curiosity and suspicion. Later in the day, the swarth apparition was
seen striding down the mountain road towards the village, hatless, and
with such swift width of step and set resolution of countenance, that
Arthur Price Williams, beholding him from afar from the Pig and
Whistle doorway was seized with dire consternation, and hid behind the
Dutch oven in the kitchen till he was past. Wild panic also smote the
school-house as the children were coming out, and drove them indoors
like leaves before a gale. He was merely seeking the provision shop,
however, and erupted thencefrom after a prolonged stay, loaded with a
various armful of blue parcels, a loaf, herrings, pigs' trotters, salt
pork, and a black bottle, with which he returned in the same swift
projectile gait to the Manse. His way of shopping was to name, and to
name simply, without solitary other word of explanation, civility or
request, the article he required.

The shopkeeper's crude meteorological superstitions and inquisitive
commonplaces, he seemed not to hear, and he might have been esteemed
deaf if he had not evinced the promptest attention to the faintest
relevant remark. Consequently it was speedily rumoured that he was
determined to avoid all but the most necessary human intercourse. He
lived altogether mysteriously, in the decaying manse, without mortal
service or companionship, presumably sleeping on planks or litter, and
either preparing his own food or eating it raw. This, coupled with the
popular conception of the haunting patricides, did much to strengthen
the popular supposition of some vast gulf between the newcomer and
common humanity. The only thing that was inharmonious with this idea
of severance from mankind was a constant flux of crates filled with
grotesquely contorted glassware, cases of brazen and steel
instruments, huge coils of wire, vast iron and fire-clay implements,
of inconceivable purpose, jars and phials labelled in black and
scarlet--POISON, huge packages of books, and gargantuan rolls of
cartridge paper, which set in towards his Llyddwdd quarters from the
outer world. The apparently hieroglyphic inscriptions on these various
consignments revealed at the profound scrutiny of Pugh Jones that the
style and title of the new inhabitant was Dr. Moses Nebogipfel, Ph.D.,
F.R.S., N.W.R., PAID: at which discovery much edification was felt,
especially among the purely Welsh-speaking community. Further than
this, these arrivals, by their evident unfitness for any allowable
mortal use, and inferential diabolicalness, filled the neighbourhood
with a vague horror and lively curiosity, which were greatly augmented
by the extraordinary phenomena, and still more extraordinary accounts
thereof, that followed their reception in the Manse.

The first of these was on Wednesday, the fifteenth of May, when the
Calvinistic Methodists of Llyddwdd had their annual commemoration
festival; on which occasion, in accordance with custom, dwellers in
the surrounding parishes of Rwstog, Pen-y-garn, Caergyllwdd, Llanrdd,
and even distant Llanrwst flocked into the village. Popular thanks to
Providence were materialised in the usual way, by means of plum-bread
and butter, mixed tea, terza, consecrated flirtations, kiss-in-the-
ring, rough-and-tumble football, and vituperative political
speechmaking. About half-past eight the fun began to tarnish, and the
assembly to break up; and by nine numerous couples and occasional
groups were wending their way in the darkling along the hilly Llyddwdd
and Rwstog road. It was a calm warm night; one of those nights when
lamps, gas and heavy sleep seem stupid ingratitude to the Creator. The
zenith sky was an ineffable deep lucent blue, and the evening star
hung golden in the liquid darkness of the west. In the north-north-
west, a faint phosphorescence marked the sunken day. The moon was just
rising, pallid and gibbous over the huge haze-dimmed shoulder of Pen-
y-pwll. Against the wan eastern sky, from the vague outline of the
mountain slope, the Manse stood out black, clear and solitary. The
stillness of the twilight had hushed the myriad murmurs of the day.
Only the sounds of footsteps and voices and laughter, that came
fitfully rising and falling from the roadway, and an intermittent
hammering in the darkened dwelling, broke the silence. Suddenly a
strange whizzing, buzzing whirr filled the night air, and a bright
flicker glanced across the dim path of the wayfarers. All eyes were
turned in astonishment to the old Manse. The house no longer loomed a
black featureless block but was filled to overflowing with light. From
the gaping holes in the roof, from chinks and fissures amid tiles and
brickwork, from every gap which Nature or man had pierced in the
crumbling old shell, a blinding blue-white glare was streaming, beside
which the rising moon seemed a disc of opaque sulphur. The thin mist
of the dewy night had caught the violet glow and hung, unearthly
smoke, over the colourless blaze. A strange turmoil and outcrying in
the old Manse now began, and grew ever more audible to the clustering
spectators, and therewith came clanging loud impacts against the
window-guarding tin. Then from the gleaming roof-gaps of the house
suddenly vomited forth a wonderous swarm of heteromerous living
things--swallows, sparrows, martins, owls, bats, insects in visible
multitudes, to hang for many minutes a noisy, gyring, spreading cloud
over the black gables and chimneys...and then slowly to thin out
and vanish away in the night.

As this tumult died away the throbbing humming that had first
arrested attention grew once more in the listener's hearing, until at
last it was the only sound in the long stillness. Presently, however,
the road gradually awoke again to the beating and shuffling of feet,
as the knots of Rwstog people, one by one, turned their blinking eyes
from the dazzling whiteness and, pondering deeply, continued their
homeward way.

The cultivated reader will have already discerned that this
phenomenon, which sowed a whole crop of uncanny thoughts in the minds
of these worthy folk, was simply the installation of the electric
light in the Manse. Truly, this last vicissitude of the old house was
its strangest one. Its revival to mortal life was like the raising of
Lazarus. From that hour forth, by night and day, behind the tin-
blinded windows, the tamed lightning illuminated every corner of its
quickly changing interior. The almost frenzied energy of the lank-
haired, leather-clad little doctor swept away into obscure holes and
corners and common destruction, creeper sprays, toadstools, rose
leaves, birds' nests, birds' eggs, cobwebs, and all the coatings and
lovingly fanciful trimmings with which that maternal old dotard, Dame
Nature, had tricked out the decaying house for its lying in state. The
magneto-electric apparatus whirred incessantly amid the vestiges of
the wainscoted dining-room, where once the eighteenth-century tenant
had piously read morning prayer and eaten his Sunday dinner; and in
the place of his sacred symbolical sideboard was a nasty heap of coke.
The oven of the bakehouse supplied substratum and material for a
forge, whose snorting, panting bellows, and intermittent, ruddy spark-
laden blast made the benighted, but Bible-lit Welsh women murmur in
liquid Cymric, as they hurried by: "Whose breath kindleth coals, and
out of his mouth is a flame of fire." For the idea these good people
formed of it was that a tame, but occasionally restive, leviathan had
been added to the terrors of the haunted house. The constantly
increasing accumulation of pieces of machinery, big brass castings,
block tin, casks, crates, and packages of innumerable articles, by
their demands for space, necessitated the sacrifice of most of the
slighter partitions of the house, and the beams and flooring of the
upper chambers were also mercilessly sawn away by the tireless
scientist in such a way as to convert them into mere shelves and
corner brackets of the atrial space between cellars and rafters. Some
of the sounder planking was utilised in the making of a rude broad
table, upon which files and heaps of geometrical diagrams speedily
accumulated. The production of these latter seemed to be the object
upon which the mind of Dr. Nebogipfel was so inflexibly set. All other
circumstances of his life were made entirely subsidiary to this one
occupation. Strangely complicated traceries of lines they were--plans,
elevations, sections by surfaces and solids, that, with the help of
logarithmic mechanical apparatus and involved curvigraphical machines,
spread swiftly under his expert hands over yard after yard of paper.
Some of these symbolised shapes he despatched to London, and they
presently returned, realised, in forms of brass and ivory, and nickel
and mahogany. Some of them he himself translated into solid models of
metal and wood; occasionally casting the metallic ones in moulds of
sand, but often laboriously hewing them out of the block for greater
precision of dimension. In this second process, among other
appliances, he employed a steel circular saw set with diamond powder
and made to rotate with extraordinary swiftness, by means of steam and
multiplying gear. It was this latter thing, more than all else, that
filled Llyddwdd with a sickly loathing of the Doctor as a man of blood
and darkness. Often in the silence of midnight--for the newest
inhabitant heeded the sun but little in his incessant research--the
awakened dwellers around Pen-y-pwll would hear, what was at first a
complaining murmur, like the groaning of a wounded man, "gurr-urrurr-
URR ", rising by slow gradations in pitch and intensity to the
likeness of a voice in despairing passionate protest, and at last
ending abruptly in a sharp piercing shriek that rang in the ears for
hours afterwards and begot numberless gruesome dreams.

The mystery of all these unearthly noises and inexplicable phenomena,
the Doctor's inhumanly brusque bearing and evident uneasiness when
away from his absorbing occupation, his entire and jealous seclusion,
and his terrifying behaviour to certain officious intruders, roused
popular resentment and curiously to the highest, and a plot was
already on foot to make some sort of popular inquisition (probably
accompanied by an experimental ducking) into his proceedings, when the
sudden death of the hunchback Hughes in a fit, brought matters to an
unexpected crisis. It happened in broad daylight, in the roadway just
opposite the Manse. Half a dozen people witnessed it. The unfortunate
creature was seen to fall suddenly and roll about on the pathway,
struggling violently, as it appeared to the spectators, with some
invisible assailant. When assistance reached him he was purple in the
face and his blue lips were covered with a glairy foam. He died almost
as soon as they laid hands on him.

Owen Thomas, the general practitioner, vainly assured the excited
crowd which speedily gathered outside the Pig and Whistle, whither the
body had been carried, that death was unquestionably natural. A
horrible zymotic suspicion had gone forth that the deceased was the
victim of Dr. Nebogipfel's imputed aerial powers. The contagion was
with the news that passed like a flash through the village and set all
Llyddwdd seething with a fierce desire for action against the worker
of this iniquity. Downright superstition, which had previously walked
somewhat modestly about the village, in the fear of ridicule and the
Doctor, now appeared boldly before the sight of all men, clad in the
terrible majesty of truth. People who had hitherto kept entire silence
as to their fears of the imp-like philosopher suddenly discovered a
fearsome pleasure in whispering dread possibilities to kindred souls,
and from whispers of possibilities their sympathy-fostered utterances
soon developed into unhesitating asserverations in loud and even high-
pitched tones. The fancy of a captive leviathan, already alluded to,
which had up to now been the horrid but secret joy of a certain
conclave of ignorant old women, was published to all the world as
indisputable fact; it being stated, on her own authority, that the
animal had, on one occasion, chased Mrs. Morgan ap Lloyd Jones almost
into Rwstog. The story that Nebogipfel had been heard within the Manse
chanting, in conjunction with the Williamses, horrible blasphemy, and
that a "black flapping thing, of the size of a young calf", had
thereupon entered the gap in the roof, was universally believed in. A
grisly anecdote, that owed its origination to a stumble in the
churchyard, was circulated, to the effect that the Doctor had been
caught ghoulishly tearing with his long white fingers at a new-made
grave. The numerously attested declaration that Nebogipfel and the
murdered Williams had been seen hanging the sons on a ghostly gibbet,
at the back of the house, was due to the electric illumination of a
fitfully wind-shaken tree. A hundred like stories hurtled thickly
about the village and darkened the moral atmosphere. The Reverend
Elijah Ulysses Cook, hearing of the tumult, sallied forth to allay it,
and narrowly escaped drawing on himself the gathering lightning.

By eight o'clock (it was Monday the twenty-second of July) a grand
demonstration had organised itself against the "necromancer". A number
of bolder hearts among the men formed the nucleus of the gathering,
and at nightfall Arthur Price Williams, John Peters, and others
brought torches and raised their spark-raining flames aloft with curt
ominous suggestions. The less adventurous village manhood came
straggling late to the rendezvous, and with them the married women
came in groups of four or five, greatly increasing the excitement of
the assembly with their shrill hysterical talk and active
imaginations. After these the children and young girls, overcome by
undefinable dread, crept quietly out of the too silent and shadowy
houses into the yellow glare of the pine knots, and the tumultuary
noise of the thickening people. By nine, nearly half the Llyddwdd
population was massed before the Pig and Whistle. There was a confused
murmur of many tongues, but above all the stir and chatter of the
growing crowd could be heard the coarse, cracked voice of the blood-
thirsty old fanatic, Pritchard, drawing a congenial lesson from the
fate of the four hundred and fifty idolators of Carmel.

Just as the church clock was beating out the hour, an occultly
originated movement up hill began, and soon the whole assembly, men,
women, and children, was moving in a fear-compacted mass, towards the
ill-fated doctor's abode. As they left the brightly-lit public house
behind them, a quavering female voice began singing one of those grim-
sounding canticles that so satisfy the Calvinistic ear. In a
wonderfully short time, the tune had been caught up, first by two or
three, and then by the whole procession, and the manifold shuffling of
heavy shoon grew swiftly into rhythm with the beats of the hymn. When,
however, their goal rose, like a blazing star, over the undulation of
the road, the volume of the chanting suddenly died away, leaving only
the voices of the ringleaders, shouting indeed now somewhat out of
tune, but, if anything, more vigorously than before. Their persistence
and example nevertheless failed to prevent a perceptible breaking and
slackening of the pace, as the Manse was neared, and when the gate was
reached, the whole crowd came to a dead halt. Vague fear for the
future had begotten the courage that had brought the villagers thus
far: fear for the present now smothered its kindred birth. The intense
blaze from the gaps in the death-like silent pile lit up rows of
livid, hesitating faces: and a smothered, frightened sobbing broke out
among the children. "Well," said Arthur Price Williams, addressing
Jack Peters, with an expert assumption of the modest discipleship,
"what do we do now, Jack?" But Peters was regarding the Manse with
manifest dubiety, and ignored the question. The Llyddwdd witch-find
seemed to be suddenly aborting.

At this juncture old Pritchard suddenly pushed his way forward,
gesticulating weirdly with his bony hands and long arms. "What!" he
shouted, in broken notes, "fear ye to smite when the Lord hateth? Burn
the warlock!" And seizing a flambeau from Peters, he flung open the
rickety gate and strode on down the drive, his torch leaving a coiling
trail of scintillant sparks on the night wind. "Burn the warlock,"
screamed a shrill voice from the wavering crowd, and in a moment the
gregarious human instinct had prevailed. With an outburst of
incoherent, threatening voice, the mob poured after the fanatic.

Woe betide the Philosopher now! They expected barricaded doors; but
with a groan of a conscious insufficiency, the hinge-rusted portals
swung at the push of Pritchard. Blinded by the light, he hesitated for
a second on the threshold, while his followers came crowding up behind

Those who were there say that they saw Dr. Nebogipfel, standing in
the toneless electric glare, on a peculiar erection of brass and ebony
and ivory; and that he seemed to be smiling at them, half pityingly
and half scornfully, as it is said martyrs are wont to smile. Some
assert, moreover, that by his side was sitting a tall man, clad in
ravenswing, and some even aver that this second man--whom others
deny--bore on his face the likeness of the Reverend Elijah Ulysses
Cook, while others declare that he resembled the description of the
murdered Williams. Be that as it may, it must now go unproven for
ever, for suddenly a wonderous thing smote the crowd as it swarmed in
through the entrance. Pritchard pitched headlong on the floor
senseless. While shouts and shrieks of anger, changed in mid utterance
to yells of agonising fear, or to the mute gasp of heart-stopping
horror: and then a frantic rush was made for the doorway.

For the calm, smiling doctor, and his quiet, black-clad companion,
and the polished platform which upbore them, had vanished before their


A silvery-foliaged willow by the side of a mere. Out of the cress-
spangled waters below, rise clumps of sedge-blades, and among them
glows the purple fleur-de-lys, and sapphire vapour of forget-me-nots.
Beyond is a sluggish stream of water reflecting the intense blue of
the moist Fenland sky; and beyond that a low osier-fringed eyot. This
limits all the visible universe, save some scattered pollards and
spear-like poplars showing against the violet distance. At the foot of
the willow reclines the Author watching a copper butterfly fluttering
from iris to iris.

Who can fix the colours of the sunset? Who can take a cast of flame?
Let him essay to register the mutations of mortal thought as it
wanders from a copper butterfly to the disembodied soul, and thence
passes to spiritual motions and the vanishing of Dr. Moses Nebogipfel
and the Rev. Elijah Ulysses Cook from the world of sense.

As the author lay basking there and speculating, as another once did
under the Budh tree, on mystic transmutations, a presence became
apparent. There was a somewhat on the eyot between him and the purple
horizon--an opaque reflecting entity, making itself dimly perceptible
by reflection in the water to his averted eyes. He raised them in
curious surprise.

What was it?

He stared in stupefied astonishment at the apparition, doubted,
blinked, rubbed his eyes, stared again, and believed. It was solid, it
cast a shadow, and it upbore two men. There was white metal in it that
blazed in the noontide sun like incandescent magnesium, ebony bars
that drank in the light, and white parts that gleamed like polished
ivory. Yet withal it seemed unreal. The thing was not square as a
machine ought to be, but all awry: it was twisted and seemed falling
over, hanging in two directions, as those queer crystals called
triclinic hang; it seemed like a machine that had been crushed or
warped; it was suggestive and not confirmatory, like the machine of a
disordered dream. The men, too, were dreamlike. One was short,
intensely sallow, with a strangely-shaped head, and clad in a garment
of dark olive green, the other was, grotesquely out of place,
evidently a clergyman of the Established Church, a fair-haired, pale-
faced respectable-looking man.

Once more doubt came rushing in on the author. He sprawled back and
stared at the sky, rubbed his eyes, stared at the willow wands that
hung between him and the blue, closely examined his hands to see if
his eyes had any new things to relate about them, and then sat up
again and stared at the eyot. A gentle breeze stirred the osiers; a
white bird was flapping its way through the lower sky. The machine of
the vision had vanished! It was an illusion--a projection of the
subjective--an assertion of the immateriality of mind. "Yes,"
interpolated the sceptic faculty, "but how comes it that the clergyman
is still there?"

The clergyman had not vanished. In intense perplexity the author
examined this black-coated phenomenon as he stood regarding the world
with hand-shaded eyes. The author knew the periphery of that eyot by
heart, and the question that troubled him was, "Whence?" The clergyman
looked as Frenchmen look when they land at Newhaven--intensely travel-
worn; his clothes showed rubbed and seamy in the bright day. When he
came to the edge of the island and shouted a question to the author,
his voice was broken and trembled. "Yes," answered the author, "it is
an island. How did you get there?"

But the clergyman, instead of replying to this asked a very strange

He said "Are you in the nineteenth century?" The author made him
repeat that question before he replied. "Thank heaven," cried the
clergyman rapturously. Then he asked very eagerly for the exact date.

"August the ninth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven," he repeated
after the author. "Heaven be praised!" and sinking down on the eyot so
that the sedges hid him, he audibly burst into tears.

Now the author was mightily surprised at all this, and going a
certain distance along the mere, he obtained a punt, and getting into
it he hastily poled to the eyot where he had last seen the clergyman.
He found him lying insensible among the reeds, and carried him in his
punt to the house where he lived, and the clergyman lay there
insensible for ten days.

Meanwhile, it became known that he was the Rev. Elijah Cook, who had
disappeared from Llyddwdd with Dr. Moses Nebogipfel three weeks

On August 19th, the nurse called the author out of his study to speak
to the invalid. He found him perfectly sensible, but his eyes were
strangely bright, and his face was deadly pale. "Have you found out
who I am?" he asked.

"You are the Rev. Elijah Ulysses Cook, Master of Arts, of Pembroke
College, Oxford, and Rector of Llyddwdd, near Rwstog, in Caernarvon."

He bowed his head. "Have you been told anything of how I came here?"

"I found you among the reeds," I said. He was silent and thoughtful
for a while. "I have a deposition to make. Will you take it? It
concerns the murder of an old man named Williams, which occurred in
1862, this disappearance of Dr. Moses Nebogipfel, the abduction of a
ward in the year 4003---"

The author stared.

"The year of our Lord 4003," he corrected. "She would come. Also
several assaults on public officials in the years 17,901 and 2."

The author coughed.

"The years 17,901 and 2, and valuable medical, social, and
physiographical data for all time."

After a consultation with the doctor, it was decided to have the
deposition taken down, and this is which constitutes the remainder of
the story of the Chronic Argonauts.

On August 28th, 1887, the Rev Elijah Cook died. His body was conveyed
to Llyddwdd, and buried in the churchyard there.



Incidentally it has been remarked in the first part, how the Reverend
Elijah Ulysses Cook attempted and failed to quiet the superstitious
excitement of the villagers on the afternoon of the memorable twenty-
second of July. His next proceeding was to try and warn the unsocial
philosopher of the dangers which impended. With this intent he made
his way from the rumour-pelted village, through the silent, slumbrous
heat of the July afternoon, up the slopes of Pen-y-pwll, to the old
Manse. His loud knocking at the heavy door called forth dull resonance
from the interior, and produced a shower of lumps of plaster and
fragments of decaying touchwood from the rickety porch, but beyond
this the dreamy stillness of the summer mid-day remained unbroken.
Everything was so quiet as he stood there expectant, that the
occasional speech of the haymakers a mile away in the fields, over
towards Rwstog, could be distinctly heard. The reverend gentleman
waited, then knocked again, and waited again, and listened, until the
echoes and the patter of rubbish had melted away into the deep
silence, and the creeping in the blood-vessels of his ears had become
oppressively audible, swelling and sinking with sounds like the
confused murmuring of a distant crowd, and causing a suggestion of
anxious discomfort to spread slowly over his mind.

Again he knocked, this time loud, quick blows with his stick, and
almost immediately afterwards, leaning his hand against the door, he
kicked the panels vigorously. There was a shouting of echoes, a
protesting jarring of hinges, and then the oaken door yawned and
displayed, in the blue blaze of the electric light, vestiges of
partitions, piles of planking and straw, masses of metal, heaps of
papers and overthrown apparatus, to the rector's astonished eyes.
"Doctor Nebogipfel, excuse my intruding," he called out, but the only
response was a reverberation among the black beams and shadows that
hung dimly above. For almost a minute he stood there, leaning forward
over the threshold, staring at the glittering mechanisms, diagrams,
books, scattered indiscriminately with broken food, packing cases,
heaps of coke, hay, and microcosmic lumber, about the undivided house
cavity; and then, removing his hat and treading stealthily, as if the
silence were a sacred thing, he stepped into the apparently deserted
shelter of the Doctor.

His eyes sought everywhere, as he cautiously made his way through the
confusion, with a strange anticipation of finding Nebogipfel hidden
somewhere in the sharp black shadows among the litter, so strong in
him was an indescribable sense of perceiving presence. This feeling
was so vivid that, when, after an abortive exploration, he seated
himself upon Nebogipfel's diagram-covered bench, it made him explain
in a forced hoarse voice to the stillness--"He is not here. I have
something to say to him. I must wait for him." It was so vivid, too,
that the trickling of some grit down the wall in the vacant corner
behind him made him start round in a sudden perspiration. There was
nothing visible there, but turning his head back, he was stricken
rigid with horror by the swift, noiseless apparition of Nebogipfel,
ghastly pale, and with red stained hands, crouching upon a strange-
looking metallic platform, and with his deep grey eyes looking
intently into the visitor's face.

Cook's first impulse was to yell out his fear, but his throat was
paralysed, and he could only stare fascinated at the bizarre
countenance that had thus clashed suddenly into visibility. The lips
were quivering and the breath came in short convulsive sobs. The un-
human forehead was wet with perspiration, while the veins were
swollen, knotted and purple. The Doctor's red hands, too, he noticed,
were trembling, as the hands of slight people tremble after intense
muscular exertion, and his lips closed and opened as if he, too, had a
difficulty in speaking as he gasped, "Who--what do you do here?"

Cook answered not a word, but stared with hair erect, open mouth, and
dilated eyes, at the dark red unmistakeable smear that streaked the
pure ivory and gleaming nickel and shining ebony of the platform.

"What are you doing here?" repeated the doctor, raising himself.
"What do you want?"

Cook gave a convulsive effort. "In Heaven's name, what are you?" he
gasped; and then black curtains came closing in from every side,
sweeping the squatting dwarfish phantasm that reeled before him into
rayless, voiceless night.

The Reverend Elijah Ulysses Cook recovered his perceptions to find
himself lying on the floor of the old Manse, and Doctor Nebogipfel, no
longer blood-stained and with all trace of his agitation gone,
kneeling by his side and bending over him with a glass of brandy in
his hand. "Do not be alarmed, sir," said the philosopher with a faint
smile, as the clergyman opened his eyes. "I have not treated you to a
disembodied spirit, or anything nearly so extraordinary...may I
offer you this?"

The clergyman submitted quietly to the brandy, and then stared
perplexed into Nebogipfel's face, vainly searching his memory for what
occurrences had preceded his insensibility. Raising himself at last,
into a sitting posture, he saw the oblique mass of metals that had
appeared with the doctor, and immediately all that happened flashed
back upon his mind. He looked from this structure to the recluse, and
from the recluse to the structure.

"There is absolutely no deception, sir," said Nebogipfel with the
slightest trace of mockery in his voice. "I lay no claim to work in
matters spiritual. It is a bona fide mechanical contrivance, a thing
emphatically of this sordid world. Excuse me--just one minute." He
rose from his knees, stepped upon the mahogany platform, took a
curiously curved lever in his hand and pulled it over. Cook rubbed his
eyes. There certainly was no deception. The doctor and the machine had

The reverend gentleman felt no horror this time, only a slight
nervous shock, to see the doctor presently re-appear "in the twinkling
of an eye" and get down from the machine. From that he walked in a
straight line with his hands behind his back and his face downcast,
until his progress was stopped by the intervention of a circular saw;
then, turning round sharply on his heel, he said:

"I was thinking while I was...away...Would you like to come?
I should greatly value a companion."

The clergyman was still sitting, hatless, on the floor. "I am
afraid," he said slowly, "you will think me stupid---"

"Not at all," interrupted the doctor. "The stupidity is mine. You
desire to have all this explained...wish to know where I am going
first. I have spoken so little with men of this age for the last ten
years or more that I have ceased to make due allowances and
concessions for other minds. I will do my best, but that I fear will
be very unsatisfactory. It is a long you find that
floor comfortable to sit on? If not, there is a nice packing case over
there, or some straw behind you, or this bench--the diagrams are done
with now, but I am afraid of the drawing pins. You may sit on the
Chronic Argo!"

"No, thank you," slowly replied the clergyman, eyeing that deformed
structure thus indicated, suspiciously; "I am quite comfortable here."

"Then I will begin. Do you read fables? Modern ones?"

"I am afraid I must confess to a good deal of fiction," said the
clergyman deprecatingly. "In Wales the ordained ministers of the
sacraments of the Church have perhaps too large a share of leisure---"

"Have you read the Ugly Duckling?"

"Hans Christian Andersen's--yes--in my childhood."

"A wonderful story--a story that has ever been full of tears and
heart swelling hopes for me, since first it came to me in my lonely
boyhood and saved me from unspeakable things. That story, if you
understand it well, will tell you almost all that you should know of
me to comprehend how that machine came to be thought of in a mortal
brain...Even when I read that simple narrative for the first time,
a thousand bitter experiences had begun the teaching of my isolation
among the people of my birth--I knew the story was for me. The ugly
duckling that proved to be a swan, that lived through all contempt and
bitterness, to float at last sublime. From that hour forth, I dreamt
of meeting with my kind, dreamt of encountering that sympathy I knew
was my profoundest need. Twenty years I lived in that hope, lived and
worked, lived and wandered, loved even, and at last, despaired. Only
once among all those millions of wondering, astonished, indifferent,
contemptuous, and insidious faces that I met with in that passionate
wandering, looked one upon me as I desired...looked---"

He paused. The Reverend Cook glanced up into his face, expecting some
indication of the deep feeling that had sounded in his last words. It
was downcast, clouded, and thoughtful, but the mouth was rigidly firm.

"In short, Mr. Cook, I discovered that I was one of those superior
Cagots called a genius--a man born out of my time--a man thinking the
thoughts of a wiser age, doing things and believing things that men
now cannot understand, and that in the years ordained to me there was
nothing but silence and suffering for my soul--unbroken solitude,
man's bitterest pain. I knew I was an Anachronic Man; my age was still
to come. One filmy hope alone held me to life, a hope to which I clung
until it had become a certain thing. Thirty years of unremitting toil
and deepest thought among the hidden things of matter and form and
life, and then that, the Chronic Argo, the ship that sails through
time, and now I go to join my generation, to journey through the ages
till my time has come."


Dr. Nebogipfel paused, looked in sudden doubt at the clergyman's
perplexed face. "You think that sounds mad," he said, "to travel
through time?"

"It certainly jars with accepted opinions," said the clergyman,
allowing the faintest suggestion of controversy to appear in his
intonation, and speaking apparently to the Chronic Argo. Even a
clergyman of the Church of England you see can have a suspicion of
illusions at times.

"It certainly does jar with accepted opinions," agreed the
philosopher cordially. "It does more than that--it defies accepted
opinions to mortal combat. Opinions of all sorts, Mr. Cook--Scientific
Theories, Laws, Articles of Belief, or, to come to elements, Logical
Premises, Ideas, or whatever you like to call them--all are, from the
infinite nature of things, so many diagrammatic caricatures of the
ineffable--caricatures altogether to be avoided save where they are
necessary in the shaping of results--as chalk outlines are necessary
to the painter and plans and sections to the engineer. Men, from the
exigencies of their being, find this hard to believe."

The Rev. Elijah Ulysses Cook nodded his head with the quiet smile of
one whose opponent has unwittingly given a point.

"It is as easy to come to regard ideas as complete reproductions of
entities as it is to roll off a log. Hence it is that almost all
civilised men believe in the reality of the Greek geometrical

"Oh! pardon me, sir," interrupted Cook. "Most men know that a
geometrical point has no existence in matter, and the same with a
geometrical line. I think you underrate..."

"Yes, yes, those things are recognised," said Nebogipfel calmly; "but
now...a cube. Does that exist in the material universe?"


"An instantaneous cube?"

"I don't know what you intend by that expression."

"Without any other sort of extension; a body having length, breadth,
and thickness, exists?"

"What other sort of extension can there be?" asked Cook, with raised

"Has it never occurred to you that no form can exist in the material
universe that has no extension in time?...Has it never glimmered
upon your consciousness that nothing stood between men and a geometry
of four dimensions--length, breadth, thickness, and duration--but the
inertia of opinion, the impulse from the Levantine philosophers of the
bronze age?"

"Putting it that way," said the clergyman, "it does look as though
there was a flaw somewhere in the notion of tridimensional being; but"
...He became silent, leaving that sufficiently eloquent "but" to
convey all the prejudice and distrust that filled his mind.

"When we take up this new light of a fourth dimension and reexamine
our physical science in its illumination," continued Nebogipfel, after
a pause, "we find ourselves no longer limited by hopeless restriction
to a certain beat of time--to our own generation. Locomotion along
lines of duration--chronic navigation comes within the range, first,
of geometrical theory, and then of practical mechanics. There was a
time when men could only move horizontally and in their appointed
country. The clouds floated above them, unattainable things,
mysterious chariots of those fearful gods who dwelt among the mountain
summits. Speaking practically, men in those days were restricted to
motion in two dimensions; and even there circumambient ocean and
hypoborean fear bound him in. But those times were to pass away.
First, the keel of Jason cut its way between the Symplegades, and then
in the fulness of time, Columbus dropped anchor in a bay of Atlantis.
Then man burst his bidimensional limits, and invaded the third
dimension, soaring with Montgolfier into the clouds, and sinking with
a diving bell into the purple treasure-caves of the waters. And now
another step, and the hidden past and unknown future are before us. We
stand upon a mountain summit with the plains of the ages spread

Nebogipfel paused and looked down at his hearer.

The Reverend Elijah Cook was sitting with an expression of strong
distrust on his face. Preaching much had brought home certain truths
to him very vividly, and he always suspected rhetoric. "Are those
things figures of speech," he asked; "or am I to take them as precise
statements? Do you speak of travelling through time in the same way as
one might speak of Omnipotence making His pathway on the storm, or do
you--a--mean what you say?"

Dr. Nebogipfel smiled quietly. "Come and look at these diagrams," he
said, and then with elaborate simplicity he commenced to explain again
to the clergyman the new quadridimensional geometry. Insensibly Cook's
aversion passed away, and seeming impossibility grew possible, now
that such tangible things as diagrams and models could be brought
forward in evidence. Presently he found himself asking questions, and
his interest grew deeper and deeper as Nebogipfel slowly and with
precise clearness unfolded the beautiful order of his strange
invention. The moments slipped away unchecked, as the Doctor passed on
to the narrative of his research, and it was with a start of surprise
that the clergyman noticed the deep blue of the dying twilight through
the open doorway.

"The voyage," said Nebogipfel concluding his history, "will be full
of undreamt-of dangers--already in one brief essay I have stood in the
very jaws of death--but it is also full of the divines' promise of
undreamt-of joy. Will you come? Will you walk among the people of the
Golden Years?..."

But the mention of death by the philosopher had brought flooding back
to the mind of Cook, all the horrible sensations of that first

"Dr. question?" He hesitated. "On your hands...Was it

Nebogipfel's countenance fell. He spoke slowly.

"When I had stopped my machine, I found myself in this room as it
used to be. Hark!"

"It is the wind in the trees towards Rwstog."

"It sounded like the voices of a multitude of people singing...
when I had stopped I found myself in this room as it used to be. An
old man, a young man, and a lad were sitting at a table--reading some
book together. I stood behind them unsuspected. 'Evil spirits assailed
him,' read the old man; 'but it is written, to him that overcometh
shall be given life eternal'. They came as entreating friends, but he
endured through all their snares. They came as principalities and
powers, but he defied them in the name of the King of Kings. Once even
it is told that in his study, while he was translating the New
Testament into German, the Evil One himself appeared before him...'
Just then the lad glanced timorously round, and with a fearful wail
fainted away..."

"The others sprang at me...It was a fearful grapple...The old man
clung to my throat, screaming 'Man or Devil, I defy thee...'

"I could not help it. We rolled together on the floor...the knife
his trembling son had dropped came to my hand...Hark!"

He paused and listened, but Cook remained staring at him in the same
horror-stricken attitude he had assumed when the memory of the blood-
stained hands had rushed back over his mind.

"Do you hear what they are crying? Hark!"

Burn the warlock! Burn the murderer!

"Do you hear? There is no time to be lost."

Slay the murderer of cripples. Kill the devil's claw!

"Come! Come!"

Cook, with a convulsive effort, made a gesture of repugnance and
strode to the doorway. A crowd of black figures roaring towards him in
the red torchlight made him recoil. He shut the door and faced

The thin lips of the Doctor curled with a contemptuous sneer. "They
will kill you if you stay," he said; and seizing his unresisting
vistor by the wrist, he forced him towards the glittering machine.
Cook sat down and covered his face with his hands.

In another moment the door was flung open, and old Pritchard stood
blinking on the threshold.

A pause. A hoarse shout changing suddenly into a sharp shrill shriek.

A thunderous roar like the bursting forth of a great fountain of

The voyage of the Chronic Argonauts had begun.


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