“The Apple” is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in The IdlerAn illustrated monthly magazine published in London from 1892 until 1911. in October 1896 and subsequently in The Plattner Story and Others (1897). Told as a third-person narrative, it tells of a young schoolmaster who comes into possession of an apple from the Tree of Knowledge.
Mr. Hinchcliff, recently graduated from London University, is travelling by train to take up his new post as a junior assistant at the prestigious Holmwood Grammar School in Sussex, when he falls into conversation with the only other passenger in his carriage. The man is at first muttering to himself, oblivious to his companion: “I must get rid of it … Why not give it away … Give it away! Why not?”
When the man becomes aware that he is not alone, he removes from his bag something round and wrapped in silver paper, “a small, very smooth, golden-yellow fruit”, which he shows to Mr. Hinchcliff. He claims it is an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, and explains that he obtained it three months ago from an Armenian whose life he saved. The Armenian had been fleeing from his enemies the Kurds, and after three days had stumbled across a strange valley in the mountains, the Garden of Eden. Fearful, the Armenian retraced his steps back up the mountain, but in so doing stumbled against one of the bushes and a ripe fruit fell into his hand, the apple Mr Hinchcliff is now looking at, the Forbidden Fruit.
The man goes on to explain that even though Adam and Eve had already eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, we do not inherit their knowledge, only their sins. But he is reluctant to eat the apple himself as he originally intended, afraid that the “terrible lucidity” he might gain would rob him of his happiness, as “all the world became piteously clear”. So he has determined to give the apple to someone who does not share his fear. As Mr Hinchcliff is leaving the train on reaching Holmwood station, the man suddenly thrusts the apple into his hand and the train is gone.
Mr. Hinchcliff finds a truck to take his luggage, and walks ahead of to his new school, but he is very self-conscious of the bulge created by the apple in his side pocket, spoiling the appearance of his jacket. He considers eating the fruit, but concludes it would be unseemly to be seen doing so in public. Round a bend in the road come two young girls, and fearing they might laugh were they to see him so discomfited by the apple Mr. Hinchcliff throws it over a stone wall into an orchard.
Later that night Mr. Hinchcliff has a dream which convinces him that the fruit really was the Apple of the Tree of Knowledge. Late the next evening, after it is dark, he goes back to try and recover the apple from the orchard, but without success.