In the Days of the Comet Read online





  This etext was produced by Judy Boss.

  IN THE DAYS OF THE COMET

  BY H. G. WELLS

  "The World's Great Age begins anew, The Golden Years return, The Earth doth like a Snake renew Her Winter Skin outworn: Heaven smiles, and Faiths and Empires gleam Like Wrecks of a Dissolving Dream."

  CONTENTS

  PROLOGUE

  PAGE

  THE MAN WHO WROTE IN THE TOWER . . . 3

  BOOK THE FIRST

  THE COMET

  CHAPTER

  I. DUST IN THE SHADOWS . . . . . . 9 II. NETTIE . . . . . . . . . . . . 52III. THE REVOLVER . . . . . . . . . 89 IV. WAR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152 V. THE PURSUIT OF THE TWO LOVERS . . 184

  BOOK THE SECOND

  THE GREEN VAPORS

  I. THE CHANGE . . . . . . . . . 221 II. THE AWAKENING . . . . . . . . . 252III. THE CABINET COUNCIL . . . . . . . 279

  BOOK THE THIRD

  THE NEW WORLD

  CHAPTER PAGE

  I. LOVE AFTER THE CHANGE . . . . . . 303 II. MY MOTHER'S LAST DAYS . . . . . . 335III. BELTANE AND NEW YEAR'S EVE . . . 353

  EPILOGUE

  THE WINDOW OF THE TOWER . . . . . . . 375

  IN THE DAYS OF THE COMET

  PROLOGUE

  THE MAN WHO WROTE IN THE TOWER

  I SAW a gray-haired man, a figure of hale age, sitting at a deskand writing.

  He seemed to be in a room in a tower, very high, so that throughthe tall window on his left one perceived only distances, a remotehorizon of sea, a headland and that vague haze and glitter in thesunset that many miles away marks a city. All the appointments ofthis room were orderly and beautiful, and in some subtle quality,in this small difference and that, new to me and strange. They werein no fashion I could name, and the simple costume the man woresuggested neither period nor country. It might, I thought, be theHappy Future, or Utopia, or the Land of Simple Dreams; an errantmote of memory, Henry James's phrase and story of "The Great GoodPlace," twinkled across my mind, and passed and left no light.

  The man I saw wrote with a thing like a fountain pen, a modern touchthat prohibited any historical retrospection, and as he finishedeach sheet, writing in an easy flowing hand, he added it to a growingpile upon a graceful little table under the window. His last donesheets lay loose, partly covering others that were clipped togetherinto fascicles.

  Clearly he was unaware of my presence, and I stood waiting untilhis pen should come to a pause. Old as he certainly washe wrote with a steady hand. . . .

  I discovered that a concave speculum hung slantingly high over hishead; a movement in this caught my attention sharply, and I lookedup to see, distorted and made fantastic but bright and beautifullycolored, the magnified, reflected, evasive rendering of a palace,of a terrace, of the vista of a great roadway with many people,people exaggerated, impossible-looking because of the curvature ofthe mirror, going to and fro. I turned my head quickly that I mightsee more clearly through the window behind me, but it was too highfor me to survey this nearer scene directly, and after a momentarypause I came back to that distorting mirror again.

  But now the writer was leaning back in his chair. He put down hispen and sighed the half resentful sigh--"ah! you, work, you! howyou gratify and tire me!"--of a man who has been writing to hissatisfaction.

  "What is this place," I asked, "and who are you?"

  He looked around with the quick movement of surprise.

  "What is this place?" I repeated, "and where am I?"

  He regarded me steadfastly for a moment under his wrinkled brows,and then his expression softened to a smile. He pointed to a chairbeside the table. "I am writing," he said.

  "About this?"

  "About the change."

  I sat down. It was a very comfortable chair, and well placed underthe light.

  "If you would like to read--" he said.

  I indicated the manuscript. "This explains?" I asked.

  "That explains," he answered.

  He drew a fresh sheet of paper toward him as he looked at me.

  I glanced from him about his apartment and back to the littletable. A fascicle marked very distinctly "1" caught my attention,and I took it up. I smiled in his friendly eyes. "Very well," saidI, suddenly at my ease, and he nodded and went on writing. And ina mood between confidence and curiosity, I began to read.

  This is the story that happy, active-looking old man in that pleasantplace had written.

  BOOK THE FIRST

  THE COMET

  CHAPTER THE FIRST

  DUST IN THE SHADOWS