The Wonderful Visit
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Pages (PDF): 145
Publication Date: 1895
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Inspired by Victorian art critic John Ruskin's remark that an angel appearing on earth in Victorian England would be shot on sight, The Wonderful Visit tells the story of a violin playing angel who comes down to London, and is indeed, shot, after being mistaken for a bird. Taken in by a local vicar, the angel becomes increasingly dismayed at what he learns about humans. But not enough to stop him from falling in love.
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Now there are some things frankly impossible. The weakest intellect will admit this situation is impossible. The Athenæum will probably say as much should it venture to review this. Sunbespattered ferns, spreading beech trees, the Vicar and the gun are acceptable enough. But this Angel is a different matter. Plain sensible people will scarcely go on with such an extravagant book. And the Vicar fully appreciated this impossibility. But he lacked decision. Consequently he went on with it, as you shall immediately hear. He was hot, it was after dinner, he was in no mood for mental subtleties. The Angel had him at a disadvantage, and further distracted him from the main issue by irrelevant iridescence and a violent fluttering. For the moment it never occurred to the Vicar to ask whether the Angel was possible or not. He accepted him in the confusion of the moment, and the mischief was done. Put yourself in his place, my dear Athenæum. You go out shooting. You hit something. That alone would disconcert you. You find you have hit an Angel, and he writhes about for a minute and then sits up and addresses you. He makes no apology for his own impossibility. Indeed, he carries the charge clean into your camp. "A man!" he says, pointing. "A man in the maddest black clothes and without a feather upon him. Then I was not deceived. I am indeed in the Land of Dreams!" You must answer him. Unless you take to your heels. Or blow his brains out with your second barrel as an escape from the controversy.
"The Land of Dreams! Pardon me if I suggest you have just come out of it," was the Vicar's remark.
"How can that be?" said the Angel.
"Your wing," said the Vicar, "is bleeding. Before we talk, may I have the pleasure—the melancholy pleasure—of tying it up? I am really most sincerely sorry...." The Angel put his hand behind his back and winced.
The Vicar assisted his victim to stand up. The Angel turned gravely and the Vicar, with numberless insignificant panting parentheses, carefully examined the injured wings. (They articulated, he observed with interest, to a kind of second glenoid on the outer and upper edge of the shoulder blade. The left wing had suffered little except the loss of some of the primary wing-quills, and a shot or so in the ala spuria, but the humerus bone of the right was evidently smashed.) The Vicar stanched the bleeding as well as he could and tied up the bone with his pocket handkerchief and the neck wrap his housekeeper made him carry in all weathers.
"I'm afraid you will not be able to fly for some time," said he, feeling the bone.
"I don't like this new sensation," said the Angel.
"The Pain when I feel your bone?"
"The what?" said the Angel.
"'Pain'—you call it. No, I certainly don't like the Pain. Do you have much of this Pain in the Land of Dreams?"
"A very fair share," said the Vicar. "Is it new to you?"
"Quite," said the Angel. "I don't like it."
"How curious!" said the Vicar, and bit at the end of a strip of linen to tie a knot. "I think this bandaging must serve for the present," he said. "I've studied ambulance work before, but never the bandaging up of wing wounds. Is your Pain any better?"
"It glows now instead of flashing," said the Angel.
"I am afraid you will find it glow for some time," said the Vicar, still intent on the wound.
The Angel gave a shrug of the wing and turned round to look at the Vicar again. He had been trying to keep an eye on the Vicar over his shoulder during all their interview. He looked at him from top to toe with raised eyebrows and a growing smile on his beautiful soft-featured face. "It seems so odd," he said with a sweet little laugh, "to be talking to a Man!"
"Do you know," said the Vicar, "now that I come to think of it, it is equally odd to me that I should be talking to an Angel. I am a somewhat matter-of-fact person. A Vicar has to be. Angels I have always regarded as—artistic conceptions——"
"Exactly what we think of men."
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