THE INVISIBLE MAN
by H.G. Wells
The Strange Man's Arrival
The stranger came early in February one wintry day, through a bitingwind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over thedown, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station andcarrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. Hewas wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hathid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snowhad piled itself against his shoulders and chest, and added a whitecrest to the burden he carried. He staggered into the Coach andHorses, more dead than alive as it seemed, and flung his portmanteaudown. "A fire," he cried, "in the name of human charity! A room anda fire!" He stamped and shook the snow from off himself in the bar,and followed Mrs. Hall into her guest parlour to strike his bargain.And with that much introduction, that and a ready acquiescence toterms and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up hisquarters in the inn.
Mrs. Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to preparehim a meal with her own hands. A guest to stop at Iping in thewinter-time was an unheard-of piece of luck, let alone a guest whowas no "haggler," and she was resolved to show herself worthy of hergood fortune. As soon as the bacon was well under way, and Millie,her lymphatic aid, had been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosenexpressions of contempt, she carried the cloth, plates, and glassesinto the parlour and began to lay them with the utmost clat.Although the fire was burning up briskly, she was surprised to seethat her visitor still wore his hat and coat, standing with his backto her and staring out of the window at the falling snow in the yard.His gloved hands were clasped behind him, and he seemed to be lost inthought. She noticed that the melted snow that still sprinkled hisshoulders dripped upon her carpet. "Can I take your hat and coat,sir," she said, "and give them a good dry in the kitchen?"
"No," he said without turning.
She was not sure she had heard him, and was about to repeat herquestion.
He turned his head and looked at her over his shoulder. "I prefer tokeep them on," he said with emphasis, and she noticed that he worebig blue spectacles with side-lights and had a bushy side-whiskerover his coat-collar that completely hid his face.
"Very well, sir," she said. "As you like. In a bit the room will bewarmer."
He made no answer and had turned his face away from her again; andMrs. Hall, feeling that her conversational advances were ill- timed,laid the rest of the table things in a quick staccato and whisked outof the room. When she returned he was still standing there like aman of stone, his back hunched, his collar turned up, his drippinghat-brim turned down, hiding his face and ears completely. She putdown the eggs and bacon with considerable emphasis, and called ratherthan said to him, "Your lunch is served, sir."
"Thank you," he said at the same time, and did not stir until she wasclosing the door. Then he swung round and approached the table.
As she went behind the bar to the kitchen she heard a sound repeatedat regular intervals. Chirk, chirk, chirk, it went, the sound of aspoon being rapidly whisked round a basin. "That girl!" she said."There! I clean forgot it. It's her being so long!" And while sheherself finished mixing the mustard, she gave Millie a few verbalstabs for her excessive slowness. She had cooked the ham and eggs,laid the table, and done everything, while Millie (help indeed!) hadonly succeeded in delaying the mustard. And him a new guest andwanting to stay! Then she filled the mustard pot, and, putting itwith a certain stateliness upon a gold and black tea-tray, carried itinto the parlour.
She rapped and entered promptly. As she did so her visitor movedquickly, so that she got but a glimpse of a white object disappearingbehind the table. It would seem he was picking something from thefloor. She rapped down the mustard pot on the table, and then shenoticed the overcoat and hat had been taken off and put over a chairin front of the fire. A pair of wet boots threatened rust to hersteel fender. She went to these things resolutely. "I suppose I mayhave them to dry now," she said in a voice that brooked no denial.
"Leave the hat," said her visitor in a muffled voice, and turning shesaw he had raised his head and was sitting looking at her.
For a moment she stood gaping at him, too surprised to speak.
He held a white cloth--it was a serviette he had brought withhim--over the lower part of his face, so that his mouth and jaws werecompletely hidden, and that was the reason of his muffled voice. Butit was not that which startled Mrs. Hall. It was the fact that allhis forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage,and that another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap of his faceexposed excepting only his pink, peaked nose. It was bright pink,and shiny just as it had been at first. He wore a dark-brown velvetjacket with a high black linen lined collar turned up about his neck.The thick black hair, escaping as it could below and between thecross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns, giving him thestrangest appearance conceivable. This muffled and bandaged head wasso unlike what she had anticipated, that for a moment she was rigid.
He did not remove the serviette, but remained holding it, as she sawnow, with a brown gloved hand, and regarding her with his inscrutableblue glasses. "Leave the hat," he said, speaking very distinctlythrough the white cloth.
Her nerves began to recover from the shock they had received. Sheplaced the hat on the chair again by the fire. "I didn't know, sir,"she began, "that--" and she stopped embarrassed.
"Thank you," he said drily, glancing from her to the door and then ather again.
"I'll have them nicely dried, sir, at once," she said, and carriedhis clothes out of the room. She glanced at his white-swathed headand blue goggles again as she was going out of the door; but hisnapkin was still in front of his face. She shivered a little as sheclosed the door behind her, and her face was eloquent of her surpriseand perplexity. "I never," she whispered. "There!" She went quitesoftly to the kitchen, and was too preoccupied to ask Millie what shewas messing about with now, when she got there.
The visitor sat and listened to her retreating feet. He glancedinquiringly at the window before he removed his serviette and resumedhis meal. He took a mouthful, glanced suspiciously at the window,took another mouthful, then rose and, taking the serviette in hishand, walked across the room and pulled the blind down to the top ofthe white muslin that obscured the lower panes. This left the roomin twilight. This done, he returned with an easier air to the tableand his meal.
"The poor soul's had an accident or an op'ration or something," saidMrs. Hall. "What a turn them bandages did give me, to be sure!"
She put on some more coal, unfolded the clothes-horse, and extendedthe traveller's coat upon this. "And they goggles! Why, he lookedmore like a divin' helmet than a human man!" She hung his muffler ona corner of the horse. "And holding that handkerchief over his mouthall the time. Talkin' through it!...Perhaps his mouth was hurttoo--maybe."
She turned round, as one who suddenly remembers. "Bless my soulalive!" she said, going off at a tangent; "ain't you done them tatersyet, Millie?"
When Mrs. Hall went to clear away the stranger's lunch, her idea thathis mouth must also have been cut or disfigured in the accident shesupposed him to have suffered, was confirmed, for he was smoking apipe, and all the time that she was in the room he never loosened thesilk muffler he had wrapped round the lower part of his face to putthe mouthpiece to his lips. Yet it was not forgetfulness, for shesaw he glanced at it as it smouldered out. He sat in the corner withhis back to the window-blind and spoke now, having eaten and drunkand being comfortably warmed through, with less aggressive brevitythan before. The reflection of the fire lent a kind of red animationto his big spectacles they had lacked hitherto.
"I have some luggage," he said, "at Bramblehurst station," and heasked her how he could have it sent. He bowed his bandaged headquite politely in acknowledgment of her explanation. "To-morrow!" hesaid. "There is no speedier delivery?" and seemed quite disappointedwhen she answered "No." Was she quite sure? No man with a trap whowould go over?
Mrs. Hall, nothing loath, answered his questions and developed aconversation. "It's a steep road by the down, sir," she said inanswer to the question about a trap; and then, snatching at anopening said, "It was there a carriage was upsettled, a year ago andmore. A gentleman killed, besides his coachman. Accidents, sir,happen in a moment, don't they?"
But the visitor was not to be drawn so easily. "They do," he saidthrough his muffler, eyeing her quietly through his impenetrableglasses.
"But they take long enough to get well, sir, don't they? ... Therewas my sister's son, Tom, jest cut his arm with a scythe, tumbled onit in the 'ayfield, and, bless me! he was three months tied up, sir.You'd hardly believe it. It's regular given me a dread of a scythe,sir."
"I can quite understand that," said the visitor.
"He was afraid, one time, that he'd have to have an op'ration --hewas that bad, sir."
The visitor laughed abruptly, a bark of a laugh that he seemed tobite and kill in his mouth. "Was he?" he said.
"He was, sir. And no laughing matter to them as had the doing forhim, as I had--my sister being took up with her little ones so much.There was bandages to do, sir, and bandages to undo. So that if Imay make so bold as to say it, sir--"
"Will you get me some matches?" said the visitor, quite abruptly."My pipe is out."
Mrs. Hall was pulled up suddenly. It was certainly rude of him,after telling him all she had done. She gasped at him for a moment,and remembered the two sovereigns. She went for the matches.
"Thanks," he said concisely, as she put them down, and turned hisshoulder upon her and stared out of the window again. It wasaltogether too discouraging. Evidently he was sensitive on the topicof operations and bandages. She did not "make so bold as to say,"however, after all. But his snubbing way had irritated her, andMillie had a hot time of it that afternoon.
The visitor remained in the parlour until four o'clock, withoutgiving the ghost of an excuse for an intrusion. For the most part hewas quite still during that time; it would seem he sat in the growingdarkness smoking in the firelight, perhaps dozing.
Once or twice a curious listener might have heard him at the coals,and for the space of five minutes he was audible pacing the room. Heseemed to be talking to himself. Then the armchair creaked as he satdown again.
Mr. Teddy Henfrey's First Impressions
At four o'clock, when it was fairly dark and Mrs. Hall was screwingup her courage to go in and ask her visitor if he would take sometea, Teddy Henfrey, the clock-jobber, came into the bar. "My sakes!Mrs. Hall," said he, "but this is terrible weather for thin boots!"The snow outside was falling faster.
Mrs. Hall agreed with him, and then noticed he had his bag and hitupon a brilliant idea. "Now you're here, Mr. Teddy," said she, "I'dbe glad if you'd give th' old clock in the parlour a bit of a look.'Tis going, and it strikes well and hearty; but the hour-hand won'tdo nuthin' but point at six."
And leading the way, she went across to the parlour door and rappedand entered.
Her visitor, she saw as she opened the door, was seated in thearmchair before the fire, dozing it would seem, with his bandagedhead drooping on one side. The only light in the room was the redglow from the fire--which lit his eyes like adverse railway signals,but left his downcast face in darkness--and the scanty vestiges ofthe day that came in through the open door. Everything was ruddy,shadowy, and indistinct to her, the more so since she had just beenlighting the bar lamp, and her eyes were dazzled. But for a secondit seemed to her that the man she looked at had an enormous mouthwide open,--a vast and incredible mouth that swallowed the whole ofthe lower portion of his face. It was the sensation of a moment: thewhite- bound head, the monstrous goggle eyes, and this huge yawnbelow it. Then he stirred, started up in his chair, put up his hand.She opened the door wide, so that the room was lighter, and she sawhim more clearly, with the muffler held to his face just as she hadseen him hold the serviette before. The shadows, she fancied, hadtricked her.
"Would you mind, sir, this man a-coming to look at the clock, sir?"she said, recovering from her momentary shock.
"Look at the clock?" he said, staring round in a drowsy manner andspeaking over his hand, and then getting more fully awake,"certainly."
Mrs. Hall went away to get a lamp, and he rose and stretched himself.Then came the light, and Mr. Teddy Henfrey, entering, was confrontedby this bandaged person. He was, he says, "taken aback."
"Good-afternoon," said the stranger, regarding him, as Mr. Henfreysays with a vivid sense of the dark spectacles, "like a lobster."
"I hope," said Mr. Henfrey, "that it's no intrusion."
"None whatever," said the stranger. "Though I understand," he said,turning to Mrs. Hall, "that this room is really to be mine for my ownprivate use."
"I thought, sir," said Mrs. Hall, "you'd prefer the clock--" She wasgoing to say "mended."
"Certainly," said the stranger, "certainly--but, as a rule, I like tobe alone and undisturbed.
"But I'm really glad to have the clock seen to," he said, seeing acertain hesitation in Mr. Henfrey's manner. "Very glad." Mr.Henfrey had intended to apologise and withdraw, but this anticipationreassured him. The stranger stood round with his back to thefireplace and put his hands behind his back. "And presently," hesaid, "when the clock-mending is over, I think I should like to havesome tea. But not until the clock-mending is over."
Mrs. Hall was about to leave the room,--she made no conversationaladvances this time, because she did not want to be snubbed in frontof Mr. Henfrey,--when her visitor asked her if she had made anyarrangements about his boxes at Bramblehurst. She told him she hadmentioned the matter to the postman, and that the carrier could bringthem over on the morrow. "You are certain that is the earliest?" hesaid.
She was certain, with a marked coldness.
"I should explain," he added, "what I was really too cold andfatigued to do before, that I am an experimental investigator."
"Indeed, sir," said Mrs. Hall, much impressed.
"And my baggage contains apparatus and appliances."
"Very useful things indeed they are, sir," said Mrs. Hall.
"And I'm naturally anxious to get on with my inquiries."
"Of course, sir."
"My reason for coming to Iping," he proceeded, with a certaindeliberation of manner, "was--a desire for solitude. I do not wishto be disturbed in my work. In addition to my work, an accident--"
"I thought as much," said Mrs. Hall to herself.
"--necessitates a certain retirement. My eyes--are sometimes so weakand painful that I have to shut myself up in the dark for hourstogether. Lock myself up. Sometimes--now and then. Not at present,certainly. At such times the slightest disturbance, the entry of astranger into the room, is a source of excruciating annoyance tome--it is well these things should be understood."
"Certainly, sir," said Mrs. Hall. "And if I might make so bold as toask--"
"That, I think, is all," said the stranger, with that quietlyirresistible air of finality he could assume at will. Mrs. Hallreserved her question and sympathy for a better occasion.
After Mrs. Hall had left the room, he remained standing in front ofthe fire, glaring, so Mr. Henfrey puts it, at the clock- mending.Mr. Henfrey not only took off the hands of the clock, and the face,but extracted the works; and he tried to work in as slow and quietand unassuming a manner as possible. He worked with the lamp closeto him, and the green shade threw a brilliant light upon his hands,and upon the frame and wheels, and left the rest of the room shadowy.When he looked up, coloured patches swam in his eyes. Beingconstitutionally of a curious nature, he had removed the works--aquite unnecessary proceeding--with the idea of delaying his departureand perhaps falling into conversation with the stranger. But thestranger stood there, perfectly silent and still. So still, it goton Henfrey's nerves. He felt alone in the room and looked up, andthere, grey and dim, was the bandaged head and huge blue lensesstaring fixedly, with a mist of green spots drifting in front ofthem. It was so uncanny-looking to Henfrey that for a minute theyremained staring blankly at one another. Then Henfrey looked downagain. Very uncomfortable position! One would like to saysomething. Should he remark that the weather was very cold for thetime of year?
He looked up as if to take aim with that introductory shot. "Theweather--" he began.
"Why don't you finish and go?" said the rigid figure, evidently in astate of painfully suppressed rage. "All you've got to do is to fixthe hour-hand on its axle. You're simply humbugging--"
"Certainly, sir--one minute more, sir. I overlooked--" And Mr.Henfrey finished and went.
But he went off feeling excessively annoyed. "Damn it!" said Mr.Henfrey to himself, trudging down the village through the thawingsnow; "a man must do a clock at times, sure-lie."
And again: "Can't a man look at you?--Ugly!"
And yet again: "Seemingly not. If the police was wanting you youcouldn't be more wropped and bandaged."
At Gleeson's corner he saw Hall, who had recently married thestranger's hostess at the Coach and Horses, and who now drove theIping conveyance, when occasional people required it, to SidderbridgeJunction, coming towards him on his return from that place. Hall hadevidently been "stopping a bit" at Sidderbridge, to judge by hisdriving. "'Ow do, Teddy?" he said, passing.
"You got a rum un up home!" said Teddy.
Hall very sociably pulled up. "What's that?" he asked.
"Rum-looking customer stopping at the Coach and Horses," said Teddy."My sakes!"
And he proceeded to give Hall a vivid description of his grotesqueguest. "Looks a bit like a disguise, don't it? I'd like to see aman's face if I had him stopping in my place," said Henfrey. "Butwomen are that trustful,--where strangers are concerned. He's tookyour rooms and he ain't even given a name, Hall."
"You don't say so!" said Hall, who was a man of sluggishapprehension.
"Yes," said Teddy. "By the week. Whatever he is, you can't get ridof him under the week. And he's got a lot of luggage comingto-morrow, so he says. Let's hope it won't be stones in boxes,Hall."
He told Hall how his aunt at Hastings had been swindled by a strangerwith empty portmanteaux. Altogether he left Hall vaguely suspicious."Get up, old girl," said Hall. "I s'pose I must see 'bout this."
Teddy trudged on his way with his mind considerably relieved.
Instead of "seeing 'bout it," however, Hall on his return wasseverely rated by his wife on the length of time he had spent inSidderbridge, and his mild inquiries were answered snappishly and ina manner not to the point. But the seed of suspicion Teddy had sowngerminated in the mind of Mr. Hall in spite of these discouragements."You wim' don't know everything," said Mr. Hall, resolved toascertain more about the personality of his guest at the earliestpossible opportunity. And after the stranger had gone to bed, whichhe did about half-past nine, Mr. Hall went aggressively into theparlour and looked very hard at his wife's furniture, just to showthat the stranger wasn't master there, and scrutinised closely and alittle contemptuously a sheet of mathematical computation thestranger had left. When retiring for the night he instructed Mrs.Hall to look very closely at the stranger's luggage when it came nextday.
"You mind your own business, Hall," said Mrs. Hall, "and I'll mindmine."
She was all the more inclined to snap at Hall because the strangerwas undoubtedly an unusually strange sort of stranger, and she was byno means assured about him in her own mind. In the middle of thenight she woke up dreaming of huge white heads like turnips, thatcame trailing after her at the end of interminable necks, and withvast black eyes. But being a sensible woman, she subdued her terrorsand turned over and went to sleep again.
The Thousand and One Bottles
Thus it was that on the ninth day of February, at the beginning ofthe thaw, this singular person fell out of infinity into IpingVillage. Next day his luggage arrived through the slush. And veryremarkable luggage it was. There was a couple of trunks indeed, suchas a rational man might need, but in addition there were a box ofbooks,--big, fat books, of which some were just in anincomprehensible handwriting,--and a dozen or more crates, boxes, andcases, containing objects packed in straw, as it seemed to Hall,tugging with a casual curiosity at the straw--glass bottles. Thestranger, muffled in hat, coat, gloves, and wrapper, came outimpatiently to meet Fearenside's cart, while Hall was having a wordor so of gossip preparatory to helping bring them in. Out he came,not noticing Fearenside's dog, who was sniffing in a dilettantespirit at Hall's legs. "Come along with those boxes," he said."I've been waiting long enough."
And he came down the steps towards the tail of the cart as if to layhands on the smaller crate.
No sooner had Fearenside's dog caught sight of him, however, than itbegan to bristle and growl savagely, and when he rushed down thesteps it gave an undecided hop, and then sprang straight at his hand."Whup!" cried Hall, jumping back, for he was no hero with dogs, andFearenside howled, "Lie down!" and snatched his whip.
They saw the dog's teeth had slipped the hand, heard a kick, saw thedog execute a flanking jump and get home on the stranger's leg, andheard the rip of his trousering. Then the finer end of Fearenside'swhip reached his property, and the dog, yelping with dismay,retreated under the wheels of the waggon. It was all the business ofa half-minute. No one spoke, every one shouted. The strangerglanced swiftly at his torn glove and at his leg, made as if he wouldstoop to the latter, then turned and rushed up the steps into theinn. They heard him go headlong across the passage and up theuncarpeted stairs to his bedroom.
"You brute, you!" said Fearenside, climbing off the waggon with hiswhip in his hand, while the dog watched him through the wheel. "Comehere!" said Fearenside--"You'd better."
Hall had stood gaping. "He wuz bit," said Hall. "I'd better go andsee to en," and he trotted after the stranger. He met Mrs. Hall inthe passage. "Carrier's darg," he said, "bit en."
He went straight upstairs, and the stranger's door being ajar, hepushed it open and was entering without any ceremony, being of anaturally sympathetic turn of mind.
The blind was down and the room dim. He caught a glimpse of a mostsingular thing, what seemed a handless arm waving towards him, and aface of three huge indeterminate spots on white, very like the faceof a pale pansy. Then he was struck violently in the chest, hurledback, and the door slammed in his face and locked, all so rapidlythat he had no time to observe. A waving of indecipherable shapes, ablow, and a concussion. There he stood on the dark little landing,wondering what it might be that he had seen.
After a couple of minutes he rejoined the little group that hadformed outside the Coach and Horses. There was Fearenside tellingabout it all over again for the second time; there was Mrs. Hallsaying his dog didn't have no business to bite her guests; there wasHuxter, the general dealer from over the road, interrogative; andSandy Wadgers from the forge, judicial; besides women and children,--all of them saying fatuities: "Wouldn't let en bite me, I knows";"'Tasn't right have such dargs"; "Whad 'e bite'n for then?" and soforth.
Mr. Hall, staring at them from the steps and listening, found itincredible that he had seen anything very remarkable happen upstairs.Besides, his vocabulary was altogether too limited to express hisimpressions.
"He don't want no help, he says," he said in answer to his wife'senquiry. "We'd better be a-takin' of his luggage in."
"He ought to have it cauterised at once," said Mr. Huxter;"especially if it's at all inflamed."
"I'd shoot en, that's what I'd do," said a lady in the group.
Suddenly the dog began growling again.
"Come along," cried an angry voice in the doorway, and there stoodthe muffled stranger with his collar turned up, and his hat-brim bentdown. "The sooner you get those things in the better I'll bepleased." It is stated by an anonymous bystander that his trousersand gloves had been changed.
"Was you hurt, sir?" said Fearenside. "I'm rare sorry the darg--"
"Not a bit," said the stranger. "Never broke the skin. Hurry upwith those things."
He then swore to himself, so Mr. Hall asserts.
Directly the first crate was carried into the parlour, in accordancewith his directions, the stranger flung himself upon it withextraordinary eagerness, and began to unpack it, scattering the strawwith an utter disregard of Mrs. Hall's carpet. And from it he beganto produce bottles--little fat bottles containing powders, small andslender bottles containing coloured and white fluids, fluted bluebottles labelled Poison, bottles with round bodies and slender necks,large green-glass bottles, large white-glass bottles, bottles withglass stoppers and frosted labels, bottles with fine corks, bottleswith bungs, bottles with wooden caps, wine bottles, salad-oilbottles--putting them in rows on the chiffonier, on the mantel, onthe table under the window, round the floor, on the book-shelf--everywhere. The chemist's shop in Bramblehurst could not boast halfso many. Quite a sight it was. Crate after crate yielded bottles,until all six were empty and the table high with straw; the onlythings that came out of these crates besides the bottles were anumber of test-tubes and a carefully packed balance.
And directly the crates were unpacked, the stranger went to thewindow and set to work, not troubling in the least about the litterof straw, the fire which had gone out, the box of books outside, norfor the trunks and other luggage that had gone upstairs.
When Mrs. Hall took his dinner in to him, he was already so absorbedin his work, pouring little drops out of the bottles into test-tubes,that he did not hear her until she had swept away the bulk of thestraw and put the tray on the table, with some little emphasisperhaps, seeing the state that the floor was in. Then he half turnedhis head and immediately turned it away again. But she saw he hadremoved his glasses; they were beside him on the table, and it seemedto her that his eye sockets were extraordinarily hollow. He put onhis spectacles again, and then turned and faced her. She was aboutto complain of the straw on the floor when he anticipated her.
"I wish you wouldn't come in without knocking," he said in the toneof abnormal exasperation that seemed so characteristic of him.
"I knocked, but seemingly--"
"Perhaps you did. But in my investigations--my really very urgentand necessary investigations--the slightest disturbance, the jar of adoor--I must ask you--"
"Certainly, sir. You can turn the lock if you're like that, youknow--any time."
"A very good idea," said the stranger.
"This stror, sir, if I might make so bold as to remark--"
"Don't. If the straw makes trouble put it down in the bill." And hemumbled at her--words suspiciously like curses.
He was so odd, standing there, so aggressive and explosive, bottle inone hand and test-tube in the other, that Mrs. Hall was quitealarmed. But she was a resolute woman. "In which case, I shouldlike to know, sir, what you consider--"
"A shilling. Put down a shilling. Surely a shilling's enough?"
"So be it," said Mrs. Hall, taking up the tablecloth and beginning tospread it over the table. "If you're satisfied, of course--"
He turned and sat down, with his coat-collar towards her.
All the afternoon he worked with the door locked and, as Mrs. Halltestifies, for the most part in silence. But once there was aconcussion and a sound of bottles ringing together as though thetable had been hit, and the smash of a bottle flung violently down,and then a rapid pacing athwart the room. Fearing "something was thematter," she went to the door and listened, not caring to knock.
"I can't go on," he was raving. "I can't go on. Three hundredthousand, four hundred thousand! The huge multitude! Cheated! Allmy life it may take me! Patience! Patience indeed! Fool and liar!"
There was a noise of hobnails on the bricks in the bar, and Mrs. Hallvery reluctantly had to leave the rest of his soliloquy. When shereturned the room was silent again, save for the faint crepitation ofhis chair and the occasional clink of a bottle. It was all over.The stranger had resumed work.
When she took in his tea she saw broken glass in the corner of theroom under the concave mirror, and a golden stain that had beencarelessly wiped. She called attention to it.
"Put it down in the bill," snapped her visitor. "For God's sakedon't worry me. If there's damage done, put it down in the bill";and he went on ticking a list in the exercise book before him.
"I'll tell you something," said Fearenside mysteriously. It was latein the afternoon, and they were in the little beer-shop of IpingHanger.
"Well?" said Teddy Henfrey.
"This chap you're speaking of, what my dog bit. Well--he's black.Leastways, his legs are. I seed through the tear of his glove.You'd have expected a sort of pinky to show, wouldn't you?Well--there wasn't none. Just blackness. I tell you, he's as blackas my hat."
"My sakes!" said Henfrey. "It's a rummy case altogether. Why, hisnose is as pink as paint!"
"That's true," said Fearenside. "I knows that. And I tell 'ee whatI'm thinking. That marn's a piebald, Teddy. Black here and whitethere--in patches. And he's ashamed of it. He's a kind ofhalf-breed, and the colour's come off patchy instead of mixing. I'veheard of such things before. And it's the common way with horses, asanyone can see."
Mr. Cuss Interviews the Stranger
I have told the circumstances of the stranger's arrival in Iping witha certain fulness of detail, in order that the curious impression hecreated may be understood by the reader. But excepting two oddincidents, the circumstances of his stay until the extraordinary dayof the Club Festival may be passed over very cursorily. There were anumber of skirmishes with Mrs. Hall on matters of domesticdiscipline, but in every case until late in April, when the firstsigns of penury began, he over-rode her by the easy expedient of anextra payment. Hall did not like him, and whenever he dared hetalked of the advisability of getting rid of him; but he showed hisdislike chiefly by concealing it ostentatiously, and avoiding hisvisitor as much as possible. "Wait till the summer," said Mrs. Hall,sagely, "when the artisks are beginning to come. Then we'll see. Hemay be a bit overbearing, but bills settled punctual is bills settledpunctual, whatever you like to say."
The stranger did not go to church, and indeed made no differencebetween Sunday and the irreligious days, even in costume. He worked,as Mrs. Hall thought, very fitfully. Some days he would come downearly and be continuously busy. On others he would rise late, pacehis room, fretting audibly for hours together, smoke, sleep in thearmchair by the fire. Communication with the world beyond thevillage he had none. His temper continued very uncertain; for themost part his manner was that of a man suffering under almostunendurable provocation, and once or twice things were snapped, torn,crushed, or broken in spasmodic gusts of violence. He seemed under achronic irritation of the greatest intensity. His habit of talkingto himself in a low voice grew steadily upon him, but though Mrs.Hall listened conscientiously she could make neither head nor tail ofwhat she heard.
He rarely went abroad by daylight, but at twilight he would go outmuffled up enormously, whether the weather were cold or not, and hechose the loneliest paths and those most overshadowed by trees andbanks. His goggling spectacles and ghastly bandaged face under thepenthouse of his hat, came with a disagreeable suddenness out of thedarkness upon one or two home-going labourers; and Teddy Henfrey,tumbling out of the Scarlet Coat one night at half-past nine, wasscared shamefully by the stranger's skull-like head (he was walkinghat in hand) lit by the sudden light of the opened door. Suchchildren as saw him at nightfall dreamt of bogies, and it seemeddoubtful whether he disliked boys more than they disliked him, or thereverse--but there was certainly a vivid enough dislike on eitherside.
It was inevitable that a person of so remarkable an appearance andbearing should form a frequent topic in such a village as Iping.Opinion was greatly divided about his occupation. Mrs. Hall wassensitive on the point. When questioned, she explained verycarefully that he was an "experimental investigator," going gingerlyover the syllables as one who dreads pitfalls. When asked what anexperimental investigator was, she would say with a touch ofsuperiority that most educated people knew that, and would thenexplain that he "discovered things." Her visitor had had anaccident, she said, which temporarily discoloured his face and hands;and being of a sensitive disposition, he was averse to any publicnotice of the fact.
Out of her hearing there was a view largely entertained that he was acriminal trying to escape from justice by wrapping himself up so asto conceal himself altogether from the eye of the police. This ideasprang from the brain of Mr. Teddy Henfrey. No crime of anymagnitude dating from the middle or end of February was known to haveoccurred. Elaborated in the imagination of Mr. Gould, theprobationary assistant in the National School, this theory took theform that the stranger was an Anarchist in disguise, preparingexplosives, and he resolved to undertake such detective operations ashis time permitted. These consisted for the most part in lookingvery hard at the stranger whenever they met, or in asking people whohad never seen the stranger leading questions about him. But hedetected nothing.
Another school of opinion followed Mr. Fearenside, and eitheraccepted the piebald view or some modification of it; as, forinstance, Silas Durgan, who was heard to assert that "if he choses toshow enself at fairs he'd make his fortune in no time," and being abit of a theologian, compared the stranger to the man with the onetalent. Yet another view explained the entire matter by regardingthe stranger as a harmless lunatic. That had the advantage ofaccounting for everything straight away.
Between these main groups there were waverers and compromisers.Sussex folk have few superstitions, and it was only after the eventsof early April that the thought of the supernatural was firstwhispered in the village. Even then it was only credited among thewomen folks.
But whatever they thought of him, people in Iping on the whole agreedin disliking him. His irritability, though it might have beencomprehensible to an urban brain-worker, was an amazing thing tothese quiet Sussex villagers. The frantic gesticulations theysurprised now and then, the headlong pace after nightfall that swepthim upon them round quiet corners, the inhuman bludgeoning of all thetentative advances of curiosity, the taste for twilight that led tothe closing of doors, the pulling down of blinds, the extinction ofcandles and lamps--who could agree with such goings on? They drewaside as he passed down the village, and when he had gone by, younghumorists would up with coat-collars and down with hat-brims, and gopacing nervously after him in imitation of his occult bearing. Therewas a song popular at that time called the "Bogey Man"; MissStatchell sang it at the schoolroom concert (in aid of the churchlamps), and thereafter whenever one or two of the villagers weregathered together and the stranger appeared, a bar or so of thistune, more or less sharp or flat, was whistled in the midst of them.Also belated little children would call "Bogey Man!" after him, andmake off tremulously elated.
Cuss, the general practitioner, was devoured by curiosity. Thebandages excited his professional interest, the report of thethousand and one bottles aroused his jealous regard. All throughApril and May he coveted an opportunity of talking to the stranger;and at last, towards Whitsuntide, he could stand it no longer, andhit upon the subscription-list for a village nurse as an excuse. Hewas surprised to find that Mr. Hall did not know his guest's name."He give a name," said Mrs. Hall--an assertion which was quiteunfounded-- "but I didn't rightly hear it." She thought it seemed sosilly not to know the man's name.
Cuss rapped at the parlour door and entered. There was a fairlyaudible imprecation from within. "Pardon my intrusion," said Cuss,and then the door closed and cut Mrs. Hall off from the rest of theconversation.
She could hear the murmur of voices for the next ten minutes, then acry of surprise, a stirring of feet, a chair flung aside, a bark oflaughter, quick steps to the door, and Cuss appeared, his face white,his eyes staring over his shoulder. He left the door open behindhim, and without looking at her strode across the hall and went downthe steps, and she heard his feet hurrying along the road. Hecarried his hat in his hand. She stood behind the door, looking atthe open door of the parlour. Then she heard the stranger laughingquietly, and then his footsteps came across the room. She could notsee his face where she stood. The parlour door slammed, and theplace was silent again.
Cuss went straight up the village to Bunting the vicar. "Am I mad?"Cuss began abruptly, as he entered the shabby little study. "Do Ilook like an insane person?"
"What's happened?" said the vicar, putting the ammonite on the loosesheets of his forthcoming sermon.
"That chap at the inn--"
"Give me something to drink," said Cuss, and he sat down.
When his nerves had been steadied by a glass of cheap sherry-- theonly drink the good vicar had available--he told him of the interviewhe had just had. "Went in," he gasped, "and began to demand asubscription for that Nurse Fund. He'd stuck his hands in hispockets as I came in, and he sat down lumpily in his chair. Sniffed.I told him I'd heard he took an interest in scientific things. Hesaid yes. Sniffed again. Kept on sniffing all the time; evidentlyrecently caught an infernal cold. No wonder, wrapped up like that!I developed the nurse idea, and all the while kept my eyes open.Bottles--chemicals--everywhere. Balance, test-tubes in stands, and asmell of--evening primrose. Would he subscribe? Said he'd considerit. Asked him, point-blank, was he researching. Said he was. Along research? Got quite cross. 'A damnable long research,' saidhe, blowing the cork out, so to speak. 'Oh,' said I. And out camethe grievance. The man was just on the boil, and my question boiledhim over. He had been given a prescription, most valuableprescription-- what for he wouldn't say. Was it medical? 'Damn you!What are you fishing after?' I apologised. Dignified sniff andcough. He resumed. He'd read it. Five ingredients. Put it down;turned his head. Draught of air from window lifted the paper.Swish, rustle. He was working in a room with an open fireplace, hesaid. Saw a flicker, and there was the prescription burning andlifting chimneyward. Rushed towards it just as it whisked upchimney. So! Just at that point, to illustrate his story, out camehis arm."
"No hand--just an empty sleeve. Lord! I thought, that's adeformity! Got a cork arm, I suppose, and has taken it off. Then, Ithought, there's something odd in that. What the devil keeps thatsleeve up and open, if there's nothing in it? There was nothing init, I tell you. Nothing down it, right down to the joint. I couldsee right down it to the elbow, and there was a glimmer of lightshining through a tear of the cloth. 'Good God!' I said. Then hestopped. Stared at me with those black goggles of his, and then athis sleeve."
"That's all. He never said a word; just glared, and put his sleeveback in his pocket quickly. 'I was saying,' said he, 'that there wasthe prescription burning, wasn't I?' Interrogative cough. 'How thedevil,' said I, 'can you move an empty sleeve like that?' 'Emptysleeve?' 'Yes,' said I, 'an empty sleeve.'
"'It's an empty sleeve, is it? You saw it was an empty sleeve?' Hestood up right away. I stood up too. He came towards me in threevery slow steps, and stood quite close. Sniffed venomously. Ididn't flinch, though I'm hanged if that bandaged knob of his, andthose blinkers, aren't enough to unnerve any one, coming quietly upto you.
"'You said it was an empty sleeve?' he said. 'Certainly,' I said.At staring and saying nothing a barefaced man, unspectacled, startsscratch. Then very quietly he pulled his sleeve out of his pocketagain, and raised his arm towards me as though he would show it to meagain. He did it very, very slowly. I looked at it. Seemed an age.'Well?' said I, clearing my throat, 'there's nothing in it.' Had tosay something. I was beginning to feel frightened. I could seeright down it. He extended it straight towards me, slowly, slowly--just like that--until the cuff was six inches from my face. Queerthing to see an empty sleeve come at you like that! And then--"
"Something--exactly like a finger and thumb it felt--nipped my nose."
Bunting began to laugh.
"There wasn't anything there!" said Cuss, his voice running up into ashriek at the "there." "It's all very well for you to laugh, but Itell you I was so startled, I hit his cuff hard, and turned round,and cut out of the room--I left him--"
Cuss stopped. There was no mistaking the sincerity of his panic. Heturned round in a helpless way and took a second glass of theexcellent vicar's very inferior sherry. "When I hit his cuff," saidCuss, "I tell you, it felt exactly like hitting an arm. And therewasn't an arm! There wasn't the ghost of an arm!"
Mr. Bunting thought it over. He looked suspiciously at Cuss. "It'sa most remarkable story," he said. He looked very wise and graveindeed. "It's really," said Mr. Bunting with judicial emphasis, "amost remarkable story."
The Burglary at the Vicarage
The facts of the burlgary at the vicarage came to us chiefly throughthe medium of the vicar and his wife. It occurred in the small hoursof Whit-Monday--the day devoted in Iping to the Club festivities.Mrs. Bunting, it seems, woke up suddenly in the stillness that comesbefore the dawn, with the strong impression that the door of theirbedroom had opened and closed. She did not arouse her husband atfirst, but sat up in bed listening. She then distinctly heard thepad, pad, pad of bare feet coming out of the adjoining dressing-roomand walking along the passage towards the staircase. As soon as shefelt assured of this, she aroused the Rev. Mr. Bunting as quietly aspossible. He did not strike a light, but putting on his spectacles,her dressing-gown, and his bath slippers, he went out on the landingto listen. He heard quite distinctly a fumbling going on at hisstudy desk downstairs, and then a violent sneeze.
At that he returned to his bedroom, armed himself with the mostobvious weapon, the poker, and descended the staircase as noiselesslyas possible. Mrs. Bunting came out on the landing.
The hour was about four, and the ultimate darkness of the night waspast. There was a faint shimmer of light in the hall, but the studydoorway yawned impenetrably black. Everything was still except thefaint creaking of the stairs under Mr. Bunting's tread, and theslight movements in the study. Then something snapped, the drawerwas opened, and there was a rustle of papers. Then came animprecation, and a match was struck and the study was flooded withyellow light. Mr. Bunting was now in the hall, and through the crackof the door he could see the desk and the open drawer and a candleburning on the desk. But the robber he could not see. He stoodthere in the hall undecided what to do, and Mrs. Bunting, her facewhite and intent, crept slowly downstairs after him. One thing keptup Mr. Bunting's courage: the persuasion that this burglar was aresident in the village.
They heard the chink of money, and realised that the robber had foundthe housekeeping reserve of gold--two pounds ten in half- sovereignsaltogether. At that sound Mr. Bunting was nerved to abrupt action.Gripping the poker firmly, he rushed into the room, closely followedby Mrs. Bunting. "Surrender!" cried Mr. Bunting, fiercely, and thenstopped amazed. Apparently the room was perfectly empty.
Yet their conviction that they had, that very moment, heard somebodymoving in the room had amounted to a certainty. For half a minute,perhaps, they stood gaping, then Mrs. Bunting went across the roomand looked behind the screen, while Mr. Bunting, by a kindredimpulse, peered under the desk. Then Mrs. Bunting turned back thewindow-curtains, and Mr. Bunting looked up the chimney and probed itwith the poker. Then Mrs. Bunting scrutinised the waste-paper basketand Mr. Bunting opened the lid of the coal-scuttle. Then they cameto a stop and stood with eyes interrogating each other.
"I could have sworn--" said Mr. Bunting.
"The candle!" said Mr. Bunting. "Who lit the candle?"
"The drawer!" said Mrs. Bunting. "And the money's gone!"
She went hastily to the doorway.
"Of all the extraordinary occurrences--"
There was a violent sneeze in the passage. They rushed out, and asthey did so the kitchen door slammed. "Bring the candle," said Mr.Bunting, and led the way. They both heard a sound of bolts beinghastily shot back.
As he opened the kitchen door he saw through the scullery that theback door was just opening, and the faint light of early dawndisplayed the dark masses of the garden beyond. He is certain thatnothing went out of the door. It opened, stood open for a moment,and then closed with a slam. As it did so, the candle Mrs. Buntingwas carrying from the study flickered and flared. It was a minute ormore before they entered the kitchen.
The place was empty. They refastened the back door, examined thekitchen, pantry, and scullery thoroughly, and at last went down intothe cellar. There was not a soul to be found in the house, search asthey would.
Daylight found the vicar and his wife, a quaintly-costumed littlecouple, still marvelling about on their own ground floor by theunnecessary light of a guttering candle.
The Furniture That Went Mad
Now it happened that in the early hours of Whit-Monday, before Milliewas hunted out for the day, Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall both rose and wentnoiselessly down into the cellar. Their business there was of aprivate nature, and had something to do with the specific gravity oftheir beer. They had hardly entered the cellar when Mrs. Hall foundshe had forgotten to bring down a bottle of sarsaparilla from theirjoint-room. As she was the expert and principal operator in thisaffair, Hall very properly went upstairs for it.
On the landing he was surprised to see that the stranger's door wasajar. He went on into his own room and found the bottle as he hadbeen directed.
But returning with the bottle, he noticed that the bolts of the frontdoor had been shot back, that the door was in fact simply on thelatch. And with a flash of inspiration he connected this with thestranger's room upstairs and the suggestions of Mr. Teddy Henfrey.He distinctly remembered holding the candle while Mrs. Hall shotthose bolts overnight. At the sight he stopped, gaping, then withthe bottle still in his hand went upstairs again. He rapped at thestranger's door. There was no answer. He rapped again; then pushedthe door wide open and entered.
It was as he expected. The bed, the room also, was empty. And whatwas stranger, even to his heavy intelligence, on the bedroom chairand along the rail of the bed were scattered the garments, the onlygarments so far as he knew, and the bandages of their guest. His bigslouch hat even was cocked jauntily over the bed-post.
As Hall stood there he heard his wife's voice coming out of the depthof the cellar, with that rapid telescoping of the syllables andinterrogative cocking up of the final words to a high note, by whichthe West Sussex villager is wont to indicate a brisk impatience."Gearge! You gart what a wand?"
At that he turned and hurried down to her. "Janny," he said, overthe rail of the cellar steps, "'tas the truth what Henfrey sez. 'E'snot in uz room, 'e ent. And the front door's unbolted."
At first Mrs. Hall did not understand, and as soon as she did sheresolved to see the empty room for herself. Hall, still holding thebottle, went first. "If 'e ent there," he said, "his close are. Andwhat's 'e doin' without his close, then? 'Tas a most curiousbasness."
As they came up the cellar steps, they both, it was afterwardsascertained, fancied they heard the front door open and shut, butseeing it closed and nothing there, neither said a word to the otherabout it at the time. Mrs. Hall passed her husband in the passageand ran on first upstairs. Some one sneezed on the staircase. Hall,following six steps behind, thought that he heard her sneeze. She,going on first, was under the impression that Hall was sneezing. Sheflung open the door and stood regarding the room. "Of all thecurious!" she said.
She heard a sniff close behind her head as it seemed, and, turning,was surprised to see Hall a dozen feet off on the top-most stair.But in another moment he was beside her. She bent forward and puther hand on the pillow and then under the clothes.
"Cold," she said. "He's been up this hour or more."
As she did so, a most extraordinary thing happened--the bed- clothesgathered themselves together, leapt up suddenly into a sort of peak,and then jumped headlong over the bottom rail. It was exactly as ifa hand had clutched them in the centre and flung them aside.Immediately after, the stranger's hat hopped off the bed-post,describing a whirling flight in the air through the better part of acircle, and then dashed straight at Mrs. Hall's face. Then asswiftly came the sponge from the washstand; and then the chair,flinging the stranger's coat and trousers carelessly aside, andlaughing dryly in a voice singularly like the stranger's, turneditself up with its four legs at Mrs. Hall, seemed to take aim at herfor a moment, and charged at her. She screamed and turned, and thenthe chair legs came gently but firmly against her back and impelledher and Hall out of the room. The door slammed violently and waslocked. The chair and bed seemed to be executing a dance of triumphfor a moment, and then abruptly everything was still.
Mrs. Hall was left almost in a fainting condition in Mr. Hall's armson the landing. It was with the greatest difficulty that Mr. Halland Millie, who had been roused by her scream of alarm, succeeded ingetting her downstairs, and applying the restoratives customary inthese cases.
"'Tas sperrits," said Mrs. Hall. "I know 'tas sperrits. I've readin papers of en. Tables and chairs leaping and dancing--!"
"Take a drop more, Janny," said Hall. "'Twill steady ye."
"Lock him out," said Mrs. Hall. "Don't let him come in again. Ihalf guessed--I might ha' known. With them goggling eyes andbandaged head, and never going to church of a Sunday. And all theybottles--more'n it's right for any one to have. He's put thesperrits into the furniture. My good old furniture! 'Twas in thatvery chair my poor dear mother used to sit when I was a little girl.To think it should rise up against me now!"
"Just a drop more, Janny," said Hall. "Your nerves is all upset."
They sent Millie across the street through the golden five o'clocksunshine to rouse up Mr. Sandy Wadgers, the blacksmith. Mr. Hall'scompliments and the furniture upstairs was behaving mostextraordinary. Would Mr. Wadgers come round? He was a knowing man,was Mr. Wadgers, and very resourceful. He took quite a grave view ofthe case. "Arm darmed ef thet ent witchcraft," was the view of Mr.Sandy Wadgers. "You warnt horseshoes for such gentry as he."
He came round greatly concerned. They wanted him to lead the wayupstairs to the room, but he didn't seem to be in any hurry. Hepreferred to talk in the passage. Over the way Huxter's apprenticecame out and began taking down the shutters of the tobacco window.He was called over to join the discussion. Mr. Huxter naturallyfollowed in the course of a few minutes. The Anglo-Saxon genius forparliamentary government asserted itself; there was a great deal oftalk and no decisive action. "Let's have the facts first," insistedMr. Sandy Wadgers. "Let's be sure we'd be acting perfectly right inbustin' that there door open. A door onbust is always open tobustin', but ye can't onbust a door once you've busted en."
And suddenly and most wonderfully the door of the room upstairsopened of its own accord, and as they looked up in amazement, theysaw descending the stairs the muffled figure of the stranger staringmore blackly and blankly than ever with those unreasonably large blueglass eyes of his. He came down stiffly and slowly, staring all thetime; he walked across the passage staring, then stopped.
"Look there!" he said, and their eyes followed the direction of hisgloved finger and saw a bottle of sarsaparilla hard by the cellardoor. Then he entered the parlour, and suddenly, swiftly, viciouslyslammed the door in their faces.
Not a word was spoken until the last echoes of the slam had diedaway. They stared at one another. "Well, if that don't lickeverything!" said Mr. Wadgers, and left the alternative unsaid.
"I'd go in and ask'n 'bout it," said Wadgers, to Mr. Hall. "I'dd'mand an explanation."
It took some time to bring the landlady's husband up to that pitch.At last he rapped, opened the door, and got as far as, "Excuse me--"
"Go to the devil!" said the stranger in a tremendous voice, and "Shutthat door after you." So that brief interview terminated.
The Unveiling of the Stranger
The stranger went into the little parlour of the Coach and Horsesabout half-past five in the morning, and there he remained until nearmidday, the blinds down, the door shut, and none, after Hall'srepulse, venturing near him.
All that time he must have fasted. Thrice he rang his bell, thethird time furiously and continuously, but no one answered him. "Himand his 'go to the devil' indeed!" said Mrs. Hall. Presently came animperfect rumour of the burglary at the vicarage, and two and twowere put together. Hall, assisted by Wadgers, went off to find Mr.Shuckleforth, the magistrate, and take his advice. No one venturedupstairs. How the stranger occupied himself is unknown. Now andthen he would stride violently up and down, and twice came anoutburst of curses, a tearing of paper, and a violent smashing ofbottles.
The little group of scared but curious people increased. Mrs.Huxter came over; some gay young fellows resplendent in black ready-made jackets and piqu paper ties, for it was Whit-Monday, joined thegroup with confused interrogations. Young Archie Harkerdistinguished himself by going up the yard and trying to peep underthe window-blinds. He could see nothing, but gave reason forsupposing that he did, and others of the Iping youth presently joinedhim.
It was the finest of all possible Whit-Mondays, and down the villagestreet stood a row of nearly a dozen booths and a shooting gallery,and on the grass by the forge were three yellow and chocolate waggonsand some picturesque strangers of both sexes putting up a cocoanutshy. The gentlemen wore blue jerseys, the ladies white aprons andquite fashionable hats with heavy plumes. Wodger of the Purple Fawnand Mr. Jaggers the cobbler, who also sold second-hand ordinarybicycles, were stretching a string of union-jacks and royal ensigns(which had originally celebrated the Jubilee) across the road...
And inside, in the artificial darkness of the parlour, into whichonly one thin jet of sunlight penetrated, the stranger, hungry wemust suppose, and fearful, hidden in his uncomfortable hot wrappings,pored through his dark glasses upon his paper or chinked his dirtylittle bottles, and occasionally swore savagely at the boys, audibleif invisible, outside the windows. In the corner by the fireplacelay the fragments of half a dozen smashed bottles, and a pungent tangof chlorine tainted the air. So much we know from what was heard atthe time and from what was subsequently seen in the room.
About noon he suddenly opened his parlour door and stood glaringfixedly at the three or four people in the bar. "Mrs. Hall," hesaid. Somebody went sheepishly and called for Mrs. Hall.
Mrs. Hall appeared after an interval, a little short of breath, butall the fiercer for that. Hall was still out. She had deliberatedover the scene, and she came holding a little tray with an unsettledbill upon it. "Is it your bill you're wanting, sir?" she said.
"Why wasn't my breakfast laid? Why haven't you prepared my meals andanswered my bell? Do you think I live without eating?"
"Why isn't my bill paid?" said Mrs. Hall. "That's what I want toknow."
"I told you three days ago I was awaiting a remittance--"
"I told you two days ago I wasn't going to await no remittances. Youcan't grumble if your breakfast waits a bit, if my bill's beenwaiting these five days, can you?"
The stranger swore briefly but vividly.
"Nar, nar!" from the bar.
"And I'd thank you kindly, sir, if you'd keep your swearing toyourself, sir," said Mrs. Hall.
The stranger stood looking more like an angry diving-helmet thanever. It was universally felt in the bar that Mrs. Hall had thebetter of him. His next words showed as much.
"Look here, my good woman--" he began.
"Don't good woman me," said Mrs. Hall.
"I've told you my remittance hasn't come--"
"Remittance indeed!" said Mrs. Hall.
"Still, I daresay in my pocket--"
"You told me two days ago that you hadn't anything but a sovereign'sworth of silver upon you--"
"Well, I've found some more--"
"'Ul-lo!" from the bar.
"I wonder where you found it!" said Mrs. Hall.
That seemed to annoy the stranger very much. He stamped his foot."What do you mean?" he said.
"That I wonder where you found it," said Mrs. Hall. "And before Itake any bills or get any breakfasts, or do any such thingswhatsoever, you got to tell me one or two things I don't understand,and what nobody don't understand, and what everybody is very anxiousto understand. I want know what you been doing t' my chair upstairs,and I want know how 'tis your room was empty, and how you got inagain. Them as stops in this house comes in by the doors--that's therule of the house, and that you didn't do, and what I want know ishow you did come in. And I want know--"
Suddenly the stranger raised his gloved hands clenched, stamped hisfoot, and said, "Stop!" with such extraordinary violence that hesilenced her instantly.
"You don't understand," he said, "who I am or what I am. I'll showyou. By Heaven! I'll show you." Then he put his open palm over hisface and withdrew it. The centre of his face became a black cavity."Here," he said. He stepped forward and handed Mrs. Hall somethingwhich she, staring at his metamorphosed face, accepted automatically.Then, when she saw what it was, she screamed loudly, dropped it, andstaggered back. The nose--it was the stranger's nose! pink andshining--rolled on the floor.
Then he removed his spectacles, and every one in the bar gasped. Hetook off his hat, and with a violent gesture tore at his whiskers andbandages. For a moment they resisted him. A flash of horribleanticipation passed through the bar. "Oh, my Gard!" said some one.Then off they came.
It was worse than anything. Mrs. Hall, standing open-mouthed andhorror-struck, shrieked at what she saw, and made for the door of thehouse. Every one began to move. They were prepared for scars,disfigurements, tangible horrors, but nothing! The bandages andfalse hair flew across the passage into the bar, making a hobbledehoyjump to avoid them. Every one tumbled on every one else down thesteps. For the man who stood there shouting some incoherentexplanation, was a solid gesticulating figure up to the coat-collarof him, and then--nothingness, no visible thing at all!
People down the village heard shouts and shrieks, and looking up thestreet saw the Coach and Horses violently firing out its humanity.They saw Mrs. Hall fall down and Mr. Teddy Henfrey jump to avoidtumbling over her, and then they heard the frightful screams ofMillie, who, emerging suddenly from the kitchen at the noise of thetumult, had come upon the headless stranger from behind.
Forthwith every one all down the street, the sweet-stuff seller,cocoanut shy proprietor and his assistant, the swing man, little boysand girls, rustic dandies, smart wenches, smocked elders and apronedgipsies, began running towards the inn; and in a miraculously shortspace of time a crowd of perhaps forty people, and rapidlyincreasing, swayed and hooted and inquired and exclaimed andsuggested, in front of Mrs. Hall's establishment. Every one seemedeager to talk at once, and the result was babel. A small groupsupported Mrs. Hall, who was picked up in a state of collapse. Therewas a conference, and the incredible evidence of a vociferouseyewitness. "O'Bogey!" "What's he been doin', then?" "Ain't hurtthe girl, 'as 'e?" "Run at en with a knife, I believe." "No 'ed, Itell ye. I don't mean no manner of speaking, I mean marn 'without a'ed!" "Narnsense! 'tas some conjuring trick." "Fetched off 'iswrappin's, 'e did--"
In its struggles to see in through the open door, the crowd formeditself into a straggling wedge, with the more adventurous apexnearest the inn. "He stood for a moment, I heerd the gal scream, andhe turned. I saw her skirts whisk, and he went after her. Didn'ttake ten seconds. Back he comes with a knife in uz hand and a loaf;stood just as if he was staring. Not a moment ago. Went in thatthere door. I tell 'e, 'e ain't gart no 'ed 't all. You just misseden--"
There was a disturbance behind, and the speaker stopped to step asidefor a little procession that was marching very resolutely towards thehouse--first Mr. Hall, very red and determined, then Mr. BobbyJaffers, the village constable, and then the wary Mr. Wadgers. Theyhad come now armed with a warrant.
People shouted conflicting information of the recent circumstances."'Ed or no 'ed," said Jaffers, "I got to 'rest en, and 'rest en Iwill."
Mr. Hall marched up the steps, marched straight to the door of theparlour and flung it open. "Constable," he said, "do your duty."
Jaffers marched in, Hall next, Wadgers last. They saw in the dimlight the headless figure facing them, with a gnawed crust of breadin one gloved hand and a chunk of cheese in the other.
"That's him!" said Hall.
"What the devil's this?" came in a tone of angry expostulation fromabove the collar of the figure.
"You're a damned rum customer, mister," said Mr. Jaffers. "But 'edor no 'ed, the warrant says 'body,' and duty's duty--"
"Keep off!" said the figure, starting back.
Abruptly he whipped down the bread and cheese, and Mr. Hall justgrasped the knife on the table in time to save it. Off came thestranger's left glove and was slapped in Jaffers' face. In anothermoment Jaffers, cutting short some statement concerning a warrant,had gripped him by the handless wrist and caught his invisiblethroat. He got a sounding kick on the shin that made him shout, buthe kept his grip. Hall sent the knife sliding along the table toWadgers, who acted as goal-keeper for the offensive, so to speak, andthen stepped forward as Jaffers and the stranger swayed and staggeredtowards him, clutching and hitting in. A chair stood in the way, andwent aside with a crash as they came down together.
"Get the feet," said Jaffers between his teeth.
Mr. Hall, endeavoring to act on instructions, receiving a soundingkick in the ribs that disposed of him for a moment, and Mr. Wadgers,seeing the decapitated stranger had rolled over and got the upperside of Jaffers, retreated towards the door, knife in hand, and socollided with Mr. Huxter and the Siddermorton carter coming to therescue of law and order. At the same moment down came three or fourbottles from the chiffonier and shot a web of pungency into the airof the room.
"I'll surrender," cried the stranger, though he had Jaffers down, andin another moment he stood up panting, a strange figure, headless andhandless--for he had pulled off his right glove now as well as hisleft. "It's no good," he said, as if sobbing for breath.
It was the strangest thing in the world to hear that voice coming asif out of empty space, but the Sussex peasants are perhaps the mostmatter-of-fact people under the sun. Jaffers got up also andproduced a pair of handcuffs. Then he started.
"I say!" said Jaffers, brought up short by a dim realisation of theincongruity of the whole business. "Darm it! Can't use 'em as I cansee."
The stranger ran his arm down his waistcoat, and as if by a miraclethe buttons to which his empty sleeve pointed became undone. Then hesaid something about his shin, and stooped down. He seemed to befumbling with his shoes and socks.
"Why!" said Huxter, suddenly, "that's not a man at all. It's justempty clothes. Look! You can see down his collar and the linings ofhis clothes. I could put my arm--"
He extended his hand; it seemed to meet something in mid-air, and hedrew it back with a sharp exclamation. "I wish you'd keep yourfingers out of my eye," said the aerial voice, in a tone of savageexpostulation. "The fact is, I'm all here: head, hands, legs, andall the rest of it, but it happens I'm invisible. It's a confoundednuisance, but I am. That's no reason why I should be poked to piecesby every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?"
The suit of clothes, now all unbuttoned and hanging loosely upon itsunseen supports, stood up, arms akimbo.
Several other of the men folks had now entered the room, so that itwas closely crowded. "Invisible, eigh?" said Huxter, ignoring thestranger's abuse. "Who ever heard the likes of that?"
"It's strange, perhaps, but it's not a crime. Why am I assaulted bya policeman in this fashion?"
"Ah! that's a different matter," said Jaffers. "No doubt you are abit difficult to see in this light, but I got a warrant, and it's allcorrect. What I'm after ain't no invisibility--it's burglary.There's a house been broken into and money took."
"And circumstances certainly point--"
"Stuff and nonsense!" said the Invisible Man.
"I hope so, sir; but I've got my instructions."
"Well," said the stranger, "I'll come. I'll come. But nohandcuffs."
"It's the regular thing," said Jaffers.
"No handcuffs," stipulated the stranger.
"Pardon me," said Jaffers.
Abruptly the figure sat down, and before any one could realise whatwas being done, the slippers, socks, and trousers had been kicked offunder the table. Then he sprang up again and flung off his coat.
"Here, stop that," said Jaffers, suddenly realising what washappening. He gripped the waist-coat; it struggled, and the shirtslipped out of it and left it limp and empty in his hand. "Holdhim!" said Jaffers loudly. "Once he gets they things off--!"
"Hold him!" cried every one, and there was a rush at the flutteringwhite shirt which was now all that was visible of the stranger.
The shirt-sleeve planted a shrewd blow in Hall's face that stoppedhis open-armed advance, and sent him backward into old Toothsome thesexton, and in another moment the garment was lifted up and becameconvulsed and vacantly flapping about the arms, even as a shirt thatis being thrust over a man's head. Jaffers clutched at it, and onlyhelped to pull it off; he was struck in the mouth out of the air, andincontinently drew his truncheon and smote Teddy Henfrey savagelyupon the crown of his head.
"Look out!" said everybody, fencing at random and hitting at nothing."Hold him! Shut the door! Don't let him loose! I got something!Here he is!" A perfect babel of noises they made. Everybody, itseemed, was being hit all at once, and Sandy Wadgers, knowing as everand his wits sharpened by a frightful blow in the nose, reopened thedoor and led the rout. The others, following incontinently, werejammed for a moment in the corner by the doorway. The hittingcontinued. Phipps, the Unitarian, had a front tooth broken, andHenfrey was injured in the cartilage of his ear. Jaffers was struckunder the jaw, and, turning, caught at something that intervenedbetween him and Huxter in the mle, and prevented their comingtogether. He felt a muscular chest, and in another moment the wholemass of struggling, excited men shot out into the crowded hall.
"I got him!" shouted Jaffers, choking and reeling through them all,and wrestling with purple face and swelling veins against his unseenenemy.
Men staggered right and left as the extraordinary conflict swayedswiftly towards the house door, and went spinning down the half-dozensteps of the inn. Jaffers cried in a strangled voice-- holdingtight, nevertheless, and making play with his knee--spun round, andfell heavily undermost with his head on the gravel. Only then didhis fingers relax.
There were excited cries of "Hold him!" "Invisible!" and so forth,and a young fellow, a stranger in the place whose name did not cometo light, rushed in at once, caught something, missed his hold, andfell over the constable's prostrate body. Halfway across the road, awoman screamed as something pushed by her; a dog, kicked apparently,yelped and ran howling into Huxter's yard, and with that the transitof the Invisible Man was accomplished. For a space people stoodamazed and gesticulating, and then came Panic, and scattered themabroad through the village as a gust scatters dead leaves.
But Jaffers lay quite still, face upward and knees bent.
The eighth chapter is exceedingly brief, and relates that Gibbins,the amateur naturalist of the district, while lying out on thespacious open downs without a soul within a couple of miles of him,as he thought, and almost dozing, heard close to him the sound as ofa man coughing, sneezing, and then swearing savagely to himself; andlooking, beheld nothing. Yet the voice was indisputable. Itcontinued to swear with that breadth and variety that distinguishesthe swearing of a cultivated man. It grew to a climax, diminishedagain, and died away in the distance, going as it seemed to him inthe direction of Adderdean. It lifted to a spasmodic sneeze andended. Gibbins had heard nothing of the morning's occurrences, butthe phenomenon was so striking and disturbing that his philosophicaltranquillity vanished; he got up hastily, and hurried down thesteepness of the hill towards the village, as fast as he could go.
Mr. Thomas Marvel
You must picture Mr. Thomas Marvel as a person of copious, flexiblevisage, a nose of cylindrical protrusion, a liquorish, ample,fluctuating mouth, and a beard of bristling eccentricity. His figureinclined to embonpoint; his short limbs accentuated this inclination.He wore a furry silk hat, and the frequent substitution of twine andshoe-laces for buttons, apparent at critical points of his costume,marked a man essentially bachelor.
Mr. Thomas Marvel was sitting with his feet in a ditch by theroadside over the down toward Adderdean, about a mile and a half outof Iping. His feet, save for socks of irregular openwork, were bare,his big toes were broad, and pricked like the ears of a watchful dog.In a leisurely manner--he did everything in a leisurely manner--hewas contemplating trying on a pair of boots. They were the soundestboots he had come across for a long time, but too large for him;whereas the ones he had were, in dry weather, a very comfortable fit,but too thin-soled for damp. Mr. Thomas Marvel hated roomy boots,but then he hated damp. He had never properly thought out which hehated most, and it was a pleasant day, and there was nothing betterto do. So he put the four boots in a graceful group on the turf andlooked at them. And seeing them there among the grass and springingagrimony, it suddenly occurred to him that both pairs wereexceedingly ugly to see. He was not at all startled by a voicebehind him.
"They're boots, anyhow," said the voice.
"They are--charity boots," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with his head onone side regarding them distastefully; "and which is the ugliest pairin the whole blessed universe, I'm darned if I know!"
"H'm," said the voice.
"I've worn worse--in fact, I've worn none. But none so owdaciousugly--if you'll allow the expression. I've been cadging boots--inparticular--for days. Because I was sick of them. They're soundenough, of course. But a gentleman on tramp sees such a thunderinglot of his boots. And if you'll believe me, I've raised nothing inthe whole blessed county, try as I would, but THEM. Look at 'em!And a good county for boots, too, in a general way. But it's just mypromiscuous luck. I've got my boots in this county ten years ormore. And then they treat you like this."
"It's a beast of a county," said the voice. "And pigs for people."
"Ain't it?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel. "Lord! But them boots! Itbeats it."
He turned his head over his shoulder to the right, to look at theboots of his interlocutor with a view to comparisons, and lo! wherethe boots of his interlocutor should have been were neither legs norboots. He turned his head over his shoulder to the left, and therealso were neither legs nor boots. He was irradiated by the dawn of agreat amazement. "Where are yar?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel over hisshoulder and coming round on all fours. He saw a stretch of emptydowns with the wind swaying and remote green-pointed furze bushes.
"Am I drunk?" said Mr. Marvel. "Have I had visions? Was I talkingto myself? What the--"
"Don't be alarmed," said a voice.
"None of your ventriloquising me," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, risingsharply to his feet. "Where are yer? Alarmed, indeed!"
"Don't be alarmed," repeated the voice.
"You'll be alarmed in a minute, you silly fool," said Mr. ThomasMarvel. "Where are yer? Lemme get my mark on yer--
"Are you buried?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel, after an interval.
There was no answer. Mr. Thomas Marvel stood bootless and amazed,his jacket nearly thrown off.
"Peewit," said a peewit, very remote.
"Peewit, indeed!" said Mr. Thomas Marvel. "This ain't no time forfoolery." The down was desolate, east and west, north and south; theroad with its shallow ditches and white bordering stakes, ran smoothand empty north and south, and, save for that peewit, the blue skywas empty too. "So help me," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, shuffling hiscoat on to his shoulders again. "It's the drink! I might ha'known."
"It's not the drink," said the voice. "You keep your nerves steady."
"Ow!" said Mr. Marvel, and his face grew white amidst its patches."It's the drink," his lips repeated noiselessly. He remained staringabout him, rotating slowly backwards. "I could have swore I heard avoice," he whispered.
"Of course you did."
"It's there again," said Mr. Marvel, closing his eyes and claspinghis hand on his brow with a tragic gesture. He was suddenly taken bythe collar and shaken violently and left more dazed than ever."Don't be a fool," said the voice.
"I'm--off--my--blooming--chump," said Mr. Marvel. "It's no good.It's fretting about them blarsted boots. I'm off my blessed bloomingchump. Or it's spirits."
"Neither one thing nor the other," said the voice. "Listen!"
"Chump," said Mr. Marvel.
"One minute," said the voice penetratingly,--tremulous withself-control.
"Well?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with a strange feeling of having beendug in the chest by a finger.
"You think I'm just imagination? Just imagination?"
"What else can you be?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rubbing the back ofhis neck.
"Very well," said the voice, in a tone of relief. "Then I'm going tothrow flints at you till you think differently."
"But where are yer?"
The voice made no answer. Whiz came a flint, apparently out of theair, and missed Mr. Marvel's shoulder by a hair's breadth. Mr.Marvel, turning, saw a flint jerk up into the air, trace acomplicated path, hang for a moment, and then fling at his feet withalmost invisible rapidity. He was too amazed to dodge. Whiz itcame, and ricocheted from a bare toe into the ditch. Mr. ThomasMarvel jumped a foot and howled aloud. Then he started to run,tripped over an unseen obstacle, and came head over heels into asitting position.
"Now," said the voice, as a third stone curved upward and hung in theair above the tramp. "Am I imagination?"
Mr. Marvel by way of reply struggled to his feet, and was immediatelyrolled over again. He lay quiet for a moment. "If you struggle anymore," said the voice, "I shall throw the flint at your head."
"It's a fair do," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, sitting up, taking hiswounded toe in hand and fixing his eye on the third missle. "I don'tunderstand it. Stones flinging themselves. Stones talking. Putyourself down. Rot away. I'm done."
The third flint fell.
"It's very simple," said the voice. "I'm an invisible man."
"Tell us something I don't know," said Mr. Marvel, gasping with pain."Where you've hid--how you do it--I don't know, I'm beat."
"That's all," said the voice. "I'm invisible. That's what I wantyou to understand."
"Any one could see that. There is no need for you to be soconfounded impatient, mister. Now then. Give us a notion. How areyou hid?"
"I'm invisible. That's the great point. And what I want you tounderstand is this--"
"But whereabouts?" interrupted Mr. Marvel.
"Here! Six yards in front of you."
"Oh, come! I ain't blind. You'll be telling me next you're justthin air. I'm not one of your ignorant tramps--"
"Yes, I am--thin air. You're looking through me."
"What! Ain't there any stuff to you? Vox et--what is it?-- jabber.Is it that?
"I am just a human being--solid, needing food and drink, needingcovering too--But I'm invisible. You see? Invisible. Simple idea.Invisible."
"What, real like?"
"Let's have a hand of you," said Marvel, "if you are real. It won'tbe so darn out-of-the-way like, then--Lord!" he said, "how you mademe jump!--gripping me like that!"
He felt the hand that had closed round his wrist with his disengagedfingers, and his touch went timorously up the arm, patted a muscularchest, and explored a bearded face. Marvel's face was astonishment.
"I'm dashed!" he said. "If this don't beat cock-fighting! Mostremarkable!--And there I can see a rabbit clean through you, 'arf amile away! Not a bit of you visible--except--"
He scrutinised the apparently empty space keenly. "You 'aven't beeneatin' bread and cheese?" he asked, holding the invisible arm.
"You're quite right, and it's not quite assimilated into the system."
"Ah!" said Mr. Marvel. "Sort of ghostly, though."
"Of course, all this isn't so wonderful as you think."
"It's quite wonderful enough for my modest wants," said Mr. ThomasMarvel. "Howjer manage it? How the dooce is it done?"
"It's too long a story. And besides--"
"I tell you, the whole business fair beats me," said Mr. Marvel.
"What I want to say at present is this: I need help. I have come tothat--I came upon you suddenly. I was wandering, mad with rage,naked, impotent. I could have murdered. And I saw you--"
"Lord!" said Mr. Marvel.
"I came up behind you--hesitated--went on--"
Mr. Marvel's expression was eloquent.
"--then stopped. 'Here,' I said, 'is an outcast like myself. Thisis the man for me.' So I turned back and came to you--you. And--"
"Lord!" said Mr. Marvel. "But I'm all in a dizzy. May I ask--How isit? And what you may be requiring in the way of help?-- Invisible!"
"I want you to help me get clothes--and shelter--and then, with otherthings. I've left them long enough. If you won't--well! But youwill--must."
"Look here," said Mr. Marvel. "I'm too flabbergasted. Don't knockme about any more. And leave me go. I must get steady a bit. Andyou've pretty near broken my toe. It's all so unreasonable. Emptydowns, empty sky. Nothing visible for miles except the bosom ofNature. And then comes a voice. A voice out of heaven! And stones!And a fist--Lord!"
"Pull yourself together," said the voice, "for you have to do the jobI've chosen for you."
Mr. Marvel blew out his cheeks, and his eyes were round.
"I've chosen you," said the voice. "You are the only man, exceptsome of those fools down there, who knows there is such a thing as aninvisible man. You have to be my helper. Help me--and I will dogreat things for you. An invisible man is a man of power." Hestopped for a moment to sneeze violently.
"But if you betray me," he said, "if you fail to do as I directyou--"
He paused and tapped Mr. Marvel's shoulder smartly. Mr. Marvel gavea yelp of terror at the touch. "I don't want to betray you," saidMr. Marvel, edging away from the direction of the fingers. "Don'tyou go a-thinking that, whatever you do. All I want to do is to helpyou--just tell me what I got to do. (Lord!) Whatever you want done,that I'm most willing to do."
Mr. Marvel's Visit to Iping
After the first gusty panic had spent itself Iping becameargumentative. Scepticism suddenly reared its head--rather nervousscepticism, not at all assured of its back, but scepticism neverthe-less. It is so much easier not to believe in an invisible man; andthose who had actually seen him dissolve into air, or felt thestrength of his arm, could be counted on the fingers of two hands.And of these witnesses Mr. Wadgers was presently missing, havingretired impregnably behind the bolts and bars of his own house, andJaffers was lying stunned in the parlour of the Coach and Horses.Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have lesseffect upon men and women than smaller, more tangible considerations.Iping was gay with bunting, and everybody was in gala dress.Whit-Monday had been looked forward to for a month or more. By theafternoon even those who believed in the Unseen were beginning toresume their little amusements in a tentative fashion, on thesupposition that he had quite gone away, and with the sceptics he wasalready a jest. But people, sceptics and believers alike, wereremarkably sociable all that day.
Haysman's meadow was gay with a tent, in which Mrs. Bunting and otherladies were preparing tea, while, without, the Sunday-school childrenran races and played games under the noisy guidance of the curate andthe Misses Cuss and Sackbut. No doubt there was a slight uneasinessin the air, but people for the most part had the sense to concealwhatever imaginative qualms they experienced. On the village greenan inclined string, down which, clinging the while to a pulley- swunghandle, one could be hurled violently against a sack at the otherend, came in for considerable favour among the adolescent. Therewere swings and cocoanut shies and promenading, and the steam organattached to the swings filled the air with a pungent flavour of oiland with equally pungent music. Members of the Club, who hadattended church in the morning, were splendid in badges of pink andgreen, and some of the gayer-minded had also adorned their bowlerhats with brilliant-coloured favours of ribbon. Old Fletcher, whoseconceptions of holiday-making were severe, was visible through thejasmine about his window or through the open door (whichever way youchose to look), poised delicately on a plank supported on two chairs,and whitewashing the ceiling of his front room.
About four o'clock a stranger entered the village from the directionof the downs. He was a short, stout person in an extraorindarilyshabby top hat, and he appeared to be very much out of breath. Hischeeks were alternately limp and tightly puffed. His mottled facewas apprenhensive, and he moved with a sort of reluctant alacrity.He turned the corner by the church, and directed his way to the Coachand Horses. Among others old Fletcher remembers seeing him, andindeed the old gentleman was so struck by his peculiar agitation thathe inadvertently allowed a quantity of whitewash to run down thebrush into the sleeve of his coat while regarding him.
This stranger, to the perceptions of the proprietor of the cocoanutshy, appeared to be talking to himself, and Mr. Huxter remarked thesame thing. He stopped at the foot of the Coach and Horses steps,and, according to Mr. Huxter, appeared to undergo a severe internalstruggle before he could induce himself to enter the house. Finallyhe marched up the steps, and was seen by Mr. Huxter to turn to theleft and open the door of the parlour. Mr. Huxter heard voices fromwithin the room and from the bar apprising the man of his error."That room's private!" said Hall, and the stranger shut the doorclumsily and went into the bar.
In the course of a few minutes he reappeared, wiping his lips withthe back of his hand with an air of quiet satisfaction that somehowimpressed Mr. Huxter as assumed. He stood looking about him for somemoments, and then Mr. Huxter saw him walk in an oddly furtive mannertowards the gates of the yard, upon which the parlour window opened.The stranger, after some hesitation, leant against one of thegate-posts, produced a short clay pipe, and prepared to fill it. Hisfingers trembled while doing so. He lit it clumsily, and folding hisarms began to smoke in a languid attitude, an attitude which hisoccasional quick glances up the yard altogether belied.
All this Mr. Huxter saw over the canisters of the tobacco window, andthe singularity of the man's behaviour prompted him to maintain hisobservation.
Presently the stranger stood up abruptly and put his pipe in hispocket. Then he vanished into the yard. Forthwith Mr. Huxter,conceiving he was witness of some petty larceny, leapt round hiscounter and ran out into the road to intercept the thief. As he didso, Mr. Marvel reappeared, his hat askew, a big bundle in a bluetable-cloth in one hand, and three books tied together--as it provedafterwards with the Vicar's braces--in the other. Directly he sawHuxter he gave a sort of gasp, and turning sharply to the left, beganto run. "Stop thief!" cried Huxter, and set off after him. Mr.Huxter's sensations were vivid but brief. He saw the man just beforehim and spurting briskly for the church corner and the hill road. Hesaw the village flags and festivities beyond, and a face or so turnedtowards him. He bawled, "Stop!" again. He had hardly gone tenstrides before his shin was caught in some mysterious fashion, and hewas no longer running, but flying with inconceivable rapidity throughthe air. He saw the ground suddenly close to his face. The worldseemed to splash into a million whirling specks of light, andsubsequent proceedings interested him no more.
In the Coach and Horses
Now in order clearly to understand what had happened in the inn, itis necessary to go back to the moment when Mr. Marvel first came intoview of Mr. Huxter's window. At that precise moment Mr. Cuss andMr. Bunting were in the parlour. They were seriously investigatingthe strange occurrences of the morning, and were, with Mr. Hall'spermission, making a thorough examination of the Invisible Man'sbelongings. Jaffers had partially recovered from his fall and hadgone home in the charge of his sympathetic friends. The stranger'sscattered garments had been removed by Mrs. Hall and the room tidiedup. And on the table under the window where the stranger had beenwont to work, Cuss had hit almost at once on three big books inmanuscript labelled "Diary."
"Diary!" said Cuss, putting the three books on the table. "Now, atany rate, we shall learn something." The Vicar stood with his handson the table.
"Diary," repeated Cuss, sitting down, putting two volumes to supportthe third, and opening it. "H'm--no name on the fly-leaf.Bother!--cypher. And figures."
The Vicar came round to look over his shoulder.
Cuss turned the pages over with a face suddenly disappointed."I'm--dear me! It's all cypher, Bunting."
"There are no diagrams?" asked Mr. Bunting. "No illustrationsthrowing light--"
"See for yourself," said Mr. Cuss. "Some of it's mathematical andsome of it's Russian or some such language (to judge by the letters),and some of it's Greek. Now the Greek I thought you--"
"Of course," said Mr. Bunting, taking out and wiping his spectaclesand feeling suddenly very uncomfortable,--for he had no Greek left inhis mind worth talking about; "yes--the Greek, of course, may furnisha clue."
"I'll find you a place."
"I'd rather glance through the volumes first," said Mr. Bunting,still wiping. "A general impression first, Cuss, and then, you know,we can go looking for clues."
He coughed, put on his glasses, arranged them fastidiously, coughedagain, and wished something would happen to avert the seeminglyinevitable exposure. Then he took the volume Cuss handed him in aleisurely manner. And then something did happen.
The door opened suddenly.
Both gentlemen started violently, looked around, and were relieved tosee a sporadically rosy face beneath a furry silk hat. "Tap?" askedthe face, and stood staring.
"No," said both gentlemen at once.
"Over the other side, my man," said Mr. Bunting. And "Please shutthat door," said Mr. Cuss irritably.
"All right," said the intruder, as it seemed, in a low voicecuriously different from the huskiness of its first enquiry. "Rightyou are," said the intruder in the former voice. "Stand clear!" andhe vanished and closed the door.
"A sailor, I should judge," said Mr. Bunting. "Amusing fellows theyare. Stand clear! indeed. A nautical term referring to his gettingback out of the room, I suppose."
"I daresay so," said Cuss. "My nerves are all loose to-day. Itquite made me jump--the door opening like that."
Mr. Bunting smiled as if he had not jumped. "And now," he said witha sigh, "these books."
"One minute," said Cuss, and went and locked the door. "Now I thinkwe are safe from interruption."
Some one sniffed as he did so.
"One thing is indisputable," said Bunting, drawing up a chair next tothat of Cuss. "There certainly have been very strange things happenin Iping during the last few days--very strange. I cannot of coursebelieve in this absurd invisibility story--"
"It's incredible," said Cuss, "--incredible. But the fact remainsthat I saw--I certainly saw right down his sleeve--"
"But did you--are you sure? Suppose a mirror, for instance,--hallucinations are so easily produced. I don't know if you have everseen a really good conjuror--"
"I won't argue again," said Cuss. "We've thrashed that out, Bunting.And just now there's these books--Ah! here's some of what I take tobe Greek! Greek letters certainly."
He pointed to the middle of the page. Mr. Bunting flushed slightlyand brought his face nearer, apparently finding some difficulty withhis glasses. Suddenly he became aware of a strange feeling at thenape of his neck. He tried to raise his head, and encountered animmovable resistance. The feeling was a curious pressure, the gripof a heavy, firm hand, and it bore his chin irresistibly to thetable. "Don't move, little men," whispered a voice, "or I'll brainyou both!" He looked into the face of Cuss, close to his own, andeach saw a horrified reflection of his own sickly astonishment.
"I'm sorry to handle you roughly," said the Voice, "but it'sunavoidable.
"Since when did you learn to pry into an investigator's privatememoranda?" said the Voice; and two chins struck the tablesimultaneously and two sets of teeth rattled.
"Since when did you learn to invade the private rooms of a man inmisfortune?" and the concussion was repeated.
"Where have they put my clothes?
"Listen," said the Voice. "The windows are fastened and I've takenthe key out of the door. I am a fairly strong man, and I have thepoker handy--besides being invisible. There's not the slightestdoubt that I could kill you both and get away quite easily if Iwanted to--do you understand? Very well. If I let you go will youpromise not to try any nonsense and do what I tell you?"
The Vicar and the Doctor looked at one another, and the Doctor pulleda face. "Yes," said Mr. Bunting, and the Doctor repeated it. Thenthe pressure on the necks relaxed, and the Doctor and the Vicar satup, both very red in the face and wriggling their heads.
"Please keep sitting where you are," said the Invisible Man. "Here'sthe poker, you see.
"When I came into this room," continued the Invisible Man, afterpresenting the poker to the tip of the nose of each of his visitors,"I did not expect to find it occupied, and I expected to find, inaddition to my books of memoranda, an outfit of clothing. Where isit? No,--don't rise. I can see it's gone. Now, just at present,though the days are quite warm enough for an invisible man to runabout stark, the evenings are chilly. I want clothing--and otheraccommodation; and I must also have those three books."
The Invisible Man Loses His Temper
It is unavoidable that at this point the narrative should break offagain, for a certain very painful reason that will presently beapparent. While these things were going on in the parlour, and whileMr. Huxter was watching Mr. Marvel smoking his pipe against the gate,not a dozen yards away were Mr. Hall and Teddy Henfrey discussing ina state of cloudy puzzlement the one Iping topic.
Suddenly there came a violent thud against the door of the parlour, asharp cry, and then--silence.
"Hul--lo!" said Teddy Henfrey.
"Hul--lo!" from the Tap.
Mr. Hall took things in slowly but surely. "That ain't right," hesaid, and came round from behind the bar towards the parlour door.
He and Teddy approached the door together, with intent faces. Theireyes considered. "Summat wrong," said Hall, and Henfrey noddedagreement. Whiffs of an unpleasant chemical odour met them, andthere was a muffled sound of conversation, very rapid and subdued.
"You all raight thur?" asked Hall, rapping.
The muttered conversation ceased abruptly, for a moment silence, thenthe conversation was resumed in hissing whispers, then a sharp cry of"No! no, you don't!" There came a sudden motion and the oversettingof a chair, a brief struggle. Silence again.
"What the dooce?" exclaimed Henfrey, sotto voce.
"You--all--raight--thur?" asked Mr. Hall sharply, again.
The Vicar's voice answered with a curious jerking intonation: "Quiteri--ight. Please don't--interrupt."
"Odd!" said Mr. Henfrey.
"Odd!" said Mr. Hall.
"Says, 'Don't interrupt,'" said Henfrey.
"I heerd'n," said Hall.
"And a sniff," said Henfrey.
They remained listening. The conversation was rapid and subdued. "Ican't," said Mr. Bunting, his voice rising; "I tell you, sir, I willnot."
"What was that?" asked Henfrey.
"Says he wi' nart," said Hall. "Warn't speakin' to us, wuz he?"
"Disgraceful!" said Mr. Bunt
― | (Latham Green), Sunday, 20 February 2022 01:00 (one year ago) link
Didn't read it again just now, but last time I read it I liked it.
― more difficult than I look (Aimless), Sunday, 20 February 2022 01:02 (one year ago) link
sorry big post
― | (Latham Green), Monday, 21 February 2022 22:30 (one year ago) link
Mr Bunting farted
― sorry Mario, but our princess is in another butthole (Neanderthal), Monday, 21 February 2022 23:31 (one year ago) link
that is the lbog
― | (Latham Green), Tuesday, 22 February 2022 18:51 (one year ago) link
yes that book is good
― castanuts (DJP), Wednesday, 2 March 2022 05:00 (one year ago) link
i can't see it
― Deez NFTs (Neanderthal), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 16:43 (one year ago) link