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4. At Maidenhead H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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It became evident after dinner that Sir Richmond also had been thinking over the afternoon's conversation.

He and Dr. Martineau sat in wide-armed cane chairs on the lawn with a wickerwork table bearing coffee cups and little glasses between them. A few other diners chatted and whispered about similar tables but not too close to our talkers to disturb them; the dining room behind them had cleared its tables and depressed its illumination. The moon, in its first quarter, hung above the sunset, sank after twilight, shone brighter and brighter among the western trees, and presently had gone, leaving the sky to an increasing multitude of stars. The Maidenhead river wearing its dusky blue draperies and its jewels of light had recovered all the magic Sir Richmond had stripped from it in the afternoon. The grave arches of the bridge, made complete circles by the reflexion of the water, sustained, as if by some unifying and justifying reason, the erratic flat flashes and streaks and glares of traffic that fretted to and fro overhead. A voice sang intermittently and a banjo tinkled, but remotely enough to be indistinct and agreeable.

"After all," Sir Richmond began abruptly," the search for some sort of sexual modus vivendi is only a means to an end. One does not want to live for sex but only through sex. The main thing in my life has always been my work. This afternoon, under the Maidenhead influence, I talked too much of sex. I babbled. Of things one doesn't usually . . . "

"It was very illuminating," said the doctor.

"No doubt. But a temporary phase. It is the defective bearing talks. . . . Just now--I happen to be irritated."

The darkness concealed a faint smile on the doctor's face.

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"The work is the thing," said Sir Richmond. So long as one can keep one's grip on it."

"What," said the doctor after a pause, leaning back and sending wreaths of smoke up towards the star-dusted zenith, "what is your idea of your work? I mean, how do you see it in relation to yourself--and things generally?"

"Put in the most general terms?"

"Put in the most general terms."

"I wonder if I can put it in general terms for you at all. It is hard to put something one is always thinking about in general terms or to think of it as a whole. . . . Now. . . . Fuel? . . .

"I suppose it was my father's business interests that pushed me towards specialization in fuel. He wanted me to have a thoroughly scientific training in days when a scientific training was less easy to get for a boy than it is today. And much more inspiring when you got it. My mind was framed, so to speak, in geology and astronomical physics. I grew up to think on that scale. Just as a man who has been trained in history and law grows to think on the scale of the Roman empire. I don't know what your pocket map of the universe is, the map, I mean, by which you judge all sorts of other general ideas. To me this planet is a little ball of oxides and nickel steel; life a sort of tarnish on its surface. And we, the minutest particles in that tarnish. Who can nevertheless, in some unaccountable way, take in the idea of this universe as one whole, who begin to dream of taking control of it."

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The Secret Places of the Heart
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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