“The Reconciliation” is a short story by the English author H. G. Wells (1866–1946), first published in the Weekly Sun Literary Supplement on 1 December 1895 under the title of “The Bulla”, and subsequently in Thirty Strange StoriesCollection of 30 short stories by H. G. Wells, first published in 1897. (1897). Told as a third-person narrative, it concerns two men who attempt a reconciliation after years of enmity, culminating in the death of one of them.
Temple has made a Christmas resolution to reconcile with Findlay, a man he fell out with five years earlier over a woman, when they were students together. In the interim Temple has been travelling in West Africa, whereas Findlay has pursued his scientific career in comparative anatomy. Temple meets with Findlay in the latter’s study, but within a few minutes regrets his decision, and begins to experience his old resentments once again.
Looking around the room, Temple notices a large grey object being used as a door stop, and assumes it to be a human brain pan. But Findlay corrects him, telling him that it is a whale ear bone, a bulla, as he ought to have remembered from his studies. Temple picks it up to examine it, and puts it on top of a cabinet next to Findlay’s dumb-bells. The pair then leave for the music hall together.
The men return to Findlay’s study at 1:30 am, both somewhat the worse for drink. Temple becomes increasingly morose and gloomy. Findlay urges Temple to talk and forget about what happened between them all those years ago, and asks if he remembers the boxing matches they used to have as students, asking “I wonder whether you could put up your fives now.” Findlay then clears space in the room and puts on a pair of boxing gloves, and directs Temple to where another pair sits. Going to put them on in the poor lighting Temple feels the bulla of the whale, and finds that he can get all his fingers inside it, and it looks just like a thumbless boxing glove in the gloom. He puts a boxing glove on his left hand and the bulla on his right, before squaring up to Findlay.
The fight is frenzied and brutal:
With a half bestial cry, he [Temple] flung himself upon Findlay as he jumped back, and with a sudden sweep of his right arm cut down the defence, breaking Findlay’s arm just above the wrist, and following with three rapid blows of the bulla upon the face.
Findlay falls like an ox, but Temple continues to repeatedly smash his right hand into Findlay’s face, until Findlay is dead. Temple is awakened from his frenzy by the sound of a woman screaming, and in horror at what he has done throws the bulla away. He fancies that it lands at exactly the same spot as it was when he had first seen it, “the sole and sufficient cause of Findlay’s death and his own”.[a]Murder was a capital offence in the UK until the passage of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act of 1965.
- H. G. Wells bibliographyList of publications written by H. G. Wells during the more than fifty years of his literary career.