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Kipps

H. G. Wells


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Description

Kipps is a H. G. Wells novel, originally published in 1905. It's the rags to riches story of Arthur Kipps, whose life takes him on a journey from a little shop in Kent and childhood loves, to an inheritance and entry into a higher social class, right back to a shop in a coastal town, albeit with a little more money.

This book has 280 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1905.

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Excerpt from 'Kipps'

Until he was nearly arrived at manhood, it did not become clear to Kipps how it was that he had come into the care of an aunt and uncle instead of having a father and mother like other little boys. He had vague memories of a somewhere else, a dim room, a window looking down on white buildings, and of a some one else who talked to forgotten people and who was his mother. He could not recall her features very distinctly, but he remembered with extreme definition a white dress she wore, with a pattern of little sprigs of flowers and little bows upon it, and a girdle of straight-ribbed white ribbon about the waist. Linked with this, he knew not how, were clouded half-obliterated recollections of scenes in which there was weeping, weeping in which he was inscrutably moved to join. Some terrible tall man with a loud voice played a part in these scenes, and, either before or after them, there were impressions of looking for interminable periods out of the window of railway trains in the company of these two people.

He knew, though he could not remember that he had ever been told, that a certain faded wistful face that looked at him from a plush and gilt framed daguerreotype above the mantel of the ‘sitting-room’ was the face of his mother. But that knowledge did not touch his dim memories with any elucidation. In that photograph she was a girlish figure, leaning against a photographer’s stile, and with all the self-conscious shrinking natural to that position. She had curly hair and a face far younger and prettier than any other mother in his experience. She swung a Dolly Varden hat by the string, and looked with obedient, respectful eyes on the photographer-gentleman who had commanded the pose. She was very slight and pretty. But the phantom mother that haunted his memory so elusively was not like that, though he could not remember how she differed.

Perhaps she was older or a little less shrinking, or, it may be, only dressed in a different way . . . It is clear she handed him over to his aunt and uncle at New Romney with explicit directions and a certain endowment. One gathers she had something of that fine sense of social distinctions that subsequently played so large a part in Kipps’ career. He was not to go to a ‘Common’ school, she provided, but to a certain seminary in Hastings, that was not only a ‘middle-class academy’ with mortar-boards and every evidence of a higher social tone, but also remarkably cheap. She seems to have been animated by the desire to do her best for Kipps even at a certain sacrifice of herself, as though Kipps were in some way a superior sort of person. She sent pocket-money to him from time to time for a year or more after Hastings had begun for him, but her face he never saw in the days of his lucid memory.

His aunt and uncle were already high on the hill of life when first he came to them. They had married for comfort in the evening or, at any rate, in the late afternoon of their days. They were at first no more then vague figures in the background of proximate realities, such realities as familiar chairs and tables, quiet to ride and drive, the newel of the staircase, kitchen furniture, pieces of firewood, the boiler tap, old newspapers, the cat, the High Street, the back-yard and the flat fields that are always so near in that little town. He knew all the stones in the yard individually, the creeper in the corner, the dust-bin and the mossy wall, better than many men know the faces of their wives. There was a corner under the ironing-board which, by means of a shawl, could be made, under propitious gods, a very decent cubby-house, a corner that served him for several years as the indisputable hub of the world, and the stringy places in the carpet, the knots upon the dresser, and the several corners of the rag hearthrug his uncle had made, became essential parts of his mental foundations. The shop he did not know so thoroughly; it was a forbidden region to him, yet somehow he managed to know it very well.

His aunt and uncle were, as it were, the immediate gods of this world, and, like the gods of the world of old, occasionally descended right into it, with arbitrary injunctions and disproportionate punishments. And, unhappily, one rose to their Olympian level at meals. Then one had to say one’s ‘grace,’ hold one’s spoon and fork in mad, unnatural ways called ‘properly,’ and refrain from eating even nice, sweet things ‘too fast.’ If he ‘gobbled’ there was trouble, and at the slightest abandon with knife, fork, and spoon his aunt rapped his knuckles, albeit his uncle always finished up his gravy with his knife. Sometimes, moreover, his uncle would come pipe in hand out of a sedentary remoteness in the most disconcerting way when a little boy was doing the most natural and attractive things, with ‘Drat and drabbit that young rascal! What’s he a-doing of now?’ and his aunt would appear at door or window to interrupt interesting conversation with children who were upon unknown grounds considered ‘low’ and undesirable, and call him in. The pleasantest little noises, however softly you did them, drumming on tea-trays, trumpeting your fists, whistling on keys, ringing chimes with a couple of pails, or playing tunes on the window-panes, brought down the gods in anger. Yet what noise is fainter than your finger on the window — gently done? Sometimes, however, these gods gave him broken toys out of the shop, and then one loved them better — for the shop they kept was, among other things, a toy-shop. (The other things included books to read and books to give away, and local photographs; it had some pretentions to be a china-shop and the fascia spoke of glass; it was also a stationer’s shop with a touch of haberdashery about it, and in the windows and odd corners were mats and terra-cotta dishes and milking-stools for painting, and there was a hint of picture-frames, and firescreens, and fishing-tackle, and air-guns and bathing-suits, and tents — various things, indeed, but all cruelly attractive to a small boy’s fingers.) Once his aunt gave him a trumpet if he would promise faithfully not to blow it, and afterwards took it away again. And his aunt made him say his catechism, and something she certainly called the ‘Colic for the Day,’ every Sunday in the year.

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