By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University) ‘The Cone’ is a short story by H. G. Wells (1866-1946), first published in Unicorn magazine on 18 September 1895. The story is one of Wells’s few works of fiction to be set in the Potteries in Staffordshire, England: a part of the country in which he lived for a short while. It’s also an early work, written in 1888 when Wells was only in his early twenties. Summary To summarise the plot of ‘The Cone’: a man, Raut, is having an affair with the wife of his friend, a man named Horrocks. Horrocks never shows his wife any affection, his life being governed by the ‘iron’ with which he works, in the industrial midlands. He has driven her into the arms of his friend. The story opens with Raut meeting with Horrocks’ wife at the latter’s home. As they are talking about their affair, they become aware of Horrocks standing in the doorway, regarding them. However, they are unsure how long he has been standing there, and how much of their conversation he overheard. When Raut reminds Horrocks that the latter promised to show him ‘the works’ (i.e., the ironworks) one evening, Horrocks is initially forgetful, but then a ‘new light’ appears in his eyes, and he recovers his enthusiasm for the idea. Mrs Horrocks, who knows her husband’s moods well, realises that he knows about their affair, but she is powerless to warn Raut as he heads off with Horrocks. Horrocks shows Raut around the ironworks as the suspense builds: does Horrocks definitely know about Raut and his wife? And what does he intend to do? Horrocks takes Raut to look at the cones which are at the top of pipes which run off the fire and smoke from the furnaces. Horrocks appears to save Raut from being struck by a passing steam engine, but after the event, Raut realises he was confused in the moment and Horrocks may have been putting him in front of the train, with the intention of killing him. Raut overcomes his fear and decides that […]

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