"As he looked at it, he began to see more vividly the desolate valley among the mountains, the guarding swords of fire, the strange antiquities of the story he had just heard."
Noah's Mausoleum lies in the southern part of Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan. The relics of Noah are said to be found in this column. Legends suggest that the Garden of Eden isn't far away. H.G. Wells didn't travel a lot during his lifetime, but he likely heard these tales. It might have inspired him to pen "The Apple" (1896).
Mr. Hinchcliff was about to start his first day at the Holmwood Grammar School, where he would be the junior assistant. But something happened inside the carriage. He was staring at his fellow traveler, a tall, dark, sunburst man with a pale face. And he was in a generous mood.
"This is the Apple of the Tree of Knowledge. Look at it - small, and bright, and wonderful - knowledge - and I am going to give it to you."
The young man, who just matriculated at London University, would learn about Armenia. This was where the stories from the Old Testament took place. Hinchcliff's fellow traveler met a famished Armenian, who fled from the Kurds. He gave the apple in exchange for a drink of water and a crust of bread. This was the same fruit that drove Adam and Eve out of paradise. The traveler, with a lank black moustache, imagined the innermost thoughts and feelings of every person after he consumed the apple. But he kept the fruit for three months. He wondered if it could make him happy.
H.G. Wells on religion and eugenics
Wells, a native of Bromley, Kent, believed in a just higher being. It seemed like Baruch Spinoza's idea of a perfect man, but Wells also thought of a supreme figure with a human heart. On the other hand, he foresaw the degeneration of humanity. He described it in horrific detail in "Time Machine" (1895), where a lonely romantic chose to leave (Victorian) society and lived with the so-called savages.
This mysterious traveler gave the apple to Hinchcliff, but only at the last minute. Vanity forced the young man to throw it, only to regret doing it after dreaming about the fruit for several nights. He was in a bleak valley in Armenia, where he saw Adam holding the apple that Eve picked from the forbidden tree. He was disgusted, so he threw it away. A dwarfed tree grew, and more followed. Snow didn't curb its growth. The apples would glisten at nighttime.
This was Wells's vision of man's fall of grace, which was hardly surprising at all. (He was an intellectual.) Hinchcliff went to the site where he threw the apple, and didn't find it. Someone picked it. An animal could have devoured it. The mysterious traveler might be pulling a leg. Wells was a young man when he penned this short story. Did he sensed a painful truth during that moment?