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THE INVISIBLE MAN

by H.G. Wells

**********

Chapter 1

The Strange Man's Arrival

The stranger came early in February one wintry day, through a biting
wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the
down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station and
carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He
was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat
hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow
had piled itself against his shoulders and chest, and added a white
crest to the burden he carried. He staggered into the Coach and
Horses, more dead than alive as it seemed, and flung his portmanteau
down. "A fire," he cried, "in the name of human charity! A room and
a 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 to
terms and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up his
quarters in the inn.

Mrs. Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to prepare
him a meal with her own hands. A guest to stop at Iping in the
winter-time was an unheard-of piece of luck, let alone a guest who
was no "haggler," and she was resolved to show herself worthy of her
good 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 chosen
expressions of contempt, she carried the cloth, plates, and glasses
into the parlour and began to lay them with the utmost clat.
Although the fire was burning up briskly, she was surprised to see
that her visitor still wore his hat and coat, standing with his back
to 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 in
thought. She noticed that the melted snow that still sprinkled his
shoulders 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 her
question.

He turned his head and looked at her over his shoulder. "I prefer to
keep them on," he said with emphasis, and she noticed that he wore
big blue spectacles with side-lights and had a bushy side-whisker
over his coat-collar that completely hid his face.

"Very well, sir," she said. "As you like. In a bit the room will be
warmer."

He made no answer and had turned his face away from her again; and
Mrs. Hall, feeling that her conversational advances were ill- timed,
laid the rest of the table things in a quick staccato and whisked out
of the room. When she returned he was still standing there like a
man of stone, his back hunched, his collar turned up, his dripping
hat-brim turned down, hiding his face and ears completely. She put
down the eggs and bacon with considerable emphasis, and called rather
than said to him, "Your lunch is served, sir."

"Thank you," he said at the same time, and did not stir until she was
closing the door. Then he swung round and approached the table.

As she went behind the bar to the kitchen she heard a sound repeated
at regular intervals. Chirk, chirk, chirk, it went, the sound of a
spoon being rapidly whisked round a basin. "That girl!" she said.
"There! I clean forgot it. It's her being so long!" And while she
herself finished mixing the mustard, she gave Millie a few verbal
stabs for her excessive slowness. She had cooked the ham and eggs,
laid the table, and done everything, while Millie (help indeed!) had
only succeeded in delaying the mustard. And him a new guest and
wanting to stay! Then she filled the mustard pot, and, putting it
with a certain stateliness upon a gold and black tea-tray, carried it
into the parlour.

She rapped and entered promptly. As she did so her visitor moved
quickly, so that she got but a glimpse of a white object disappearing
behind the table. It would seem he was picking something from the
floor. She rapped down the mustard pot on the table, and then she
noticed the overcoat and hat had been taken off and put over a chair
in front of the fire. A pair of wet boots threatened rust to her
steel fender. She went to these things resolutely. "I suppose I may
have 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 she
saw 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 with
him--over the lower part of his face, so that his mouth and jaws were
completely hidden, and that was the reason of his muffled voice. But
it was not that which startled Mrs. Hall. It was the fact that all
his forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage,
and that another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap of his face
exposed excepting only his pink, peaked nose. It was bright pink,
and shiny just as it had been at first. He wore a dark-brown velvet
jacket with a high black linen lined collar turned up about his neck.
The thick black hair, escaping as it could below and between the
cross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns, giving him the
strangest appearance conceivable. This muffled and bandaged head was
so unlike what she had anticipated, that for a moment she was rigid.

He did not remove the serviette, but remained holding it, as she saw
now, with a brown gloved hand, and regarding her with his inscrutable
blue glasses. "Leave the hat," he said, speaking very distinctly
through the white cloth.

Her nerves began to recover from the shock they had received. She
placed 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 at
her again.

"I'll have them nicely dried, sir, at once," she said, and carried
his clothes out of the room. She glanced at his white-swathed head
and blue goggles again as she was going out of the door; but his
napkin was still in front of his face. She shivered a little as she
closed the door behind her, and her face was eloquent of her surprise
and perplexity. "I never," she whispered. "There!" She went quite
softly to the kitchen, and was too preoccupied to ask Millie what she
was messing about with now, when she got there.

The visitor sat and listened to her retreating feet. He glanced
inquiringly at the window before he removed his serviette and resumed
his meal. He took a mouthful, glanced suspiciously at the window,
took another mouthful, then rose and, taking the serviette in his
hand, walked across the room and pulled the blind down to the top of
the white muslin that obscured the lower panes. This left the room
in twilight. This done, he returned with an easier air to the table
and his meal.

"The poor soul's had an accident or an op'ration or something," said
Mrs. Hall. "What a turn them bandages did give me, to be sure!"

She put on some more coal, unfolded the clothes-horse, and extended
the traveller's coat upon this. "And they goggles! Why, he looked
more like a divin' helmet than a human man!" She hung his muffler on
a corner of the horse. "And holding that handkerchief over his mouth
all the time. Talkin' through it!...Perhaps his mouth was hurt
too--maybe."

She turned round, as one who suddenly remembers. "Bless my soul
alive!" she said, going off at a tangent; "ain't you done them taters
yet, Millie?"

When Mrs. Hall went to clear away the stranger's lunch, her idea that
his mouth must also have been cut or disfigured in the accident she
supposed him to have suffered, was confirmed, for he was smoking a
pipe, and all the time that she was in the room he never loosened the
silk muffler he had wrapped round the lower part of his face to put
the mouthpiece to his lips. Yet it was not forgetfulness, for she
saw he glanced at it as it smouldered out. He sat in the corner with
his back to the window-blind and spoke now, having eaten and drunk
and being comfortably warmed through, with less aggressive brevity
than before. The reflection of the fire lent a kind of red animation
to his big spectacles they had lacked hitherto.

"I have some luggage," he said, "at Bramblehurst station," and he
asked her how he could have it sent. He bowed his bandaged head
quite politely in acknowledgment of her explanation. "To-morrow!" he
said. "There is no speedier delivery?" and seemed quite disappointed
when she answered "No." Was she quite sure? No man with a trap who
would go over?

Mrs. Hall, nothing loath, answered his questions and developed a
conversation. "It's a steep road by the down, sir," she said in
answer to the question about a trap; and then, snatching at an
opening said, "It was there a carriage was upsettled, a year ago and
more. 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 said
through his muffler, eyeing her quietly through his impenetrable
glasses.

"But they take long enough to get well, sir, don't they? ... There
was my sister's son, Tom, jest cut his arm with a scythe, tumbled on
it 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 --he
was that bad, sir."

The visitor laughed abruptly, a bark of a laugh that he seemed to
bite and kill in his mouth. "Was he?" he said.

"He was, sir. And no laughing matter to them as had the doing for
him, 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 I
may 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 his
shoulder upon her and stared out of the window again. It was
altogether too discouraging. Evidently he was sensitive on the topic
of operations and bandages. She did not "make so bold as to say,"
however, after all. But his snubbing way had irritated her, and
Millie had a hot time of it that afternoon.

The visitor remained in the parlour until four o'clock, without
giving the ghost of an excuse for an intrusion. For the most part he
was quite still during that time; it would seem he sat in the growing
darkness 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. He
seemed to be talking to himself. Then the armchair creaked as he sat
down again.

**********

Chapter 2

Mr. Teddy Henfrey's First Impressions

At four o'clock, when it was fairly dark and Mrs. Hall was screwing
up her courage to go in and ask her visitor if he would take some
tea, 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 hit
upon a brilliant idea. "Now you're here, Mr. Teddy," said she, "I'd
be 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't
do nuthin' but point at six."

And leading the way, she went across to the parlour door and rapped
and entered.

Her visitor, she saw as she opened the door, was seated in the
armchair before the fire, dozing it would seem, with his bandaged
head drooping on one side. The only light in the room was the red
glow from the fire--which lit his eyes like adverse railway signals,
but left his downcast face in darkness--and the scanty vestiges of
the day that came in through the open door. Everything was ruddy,
shadowy, and indistinct to her, the more so since she had just been
lighting the bar lamp, and her eyes were dazzled. But for a second
it seemed to her that the man she looked at had an enormous mouth
wide open,--a vast and incredible mouth that swallowed the whole of
the lower portion of his face. It was the sensation of a moment: the
white- bound head, the monstrous goggle eyes, and this huge yawn
below 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 saw
him more clearly, with the muffler held to his face just as she had
seen him hold the serviette before. The shadows, she fancied, had
tricked 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 and
speaking 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 confronted
by this bandaged person. He was, he says, "taken aback."

"Good-afternoon," said the stranger, regarding him, as Mr. Henfrey
says 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 own
private use."

"I thought, sir," said Mrs. Hall, "you'd prefer the clock--" She was
going to say "mended."

"Certainly," said the stranger, "certainly--but, as a rule, I like to
be alone and undisturbed.

"But I'm really glad to have the clock seen to," he said, seeing a
certain hesitation in Mr. Henfrey's manner. "Very glad." Mr.
Henfrey had intended to apologise and withdraw, but this anticipation
reassured him. The stranger stood round with his back to the
fireplace and put his hands behind his back. "And presently," he
said, "when the clock-mending is over, I think I should like to have
some tea. But not until the clock-mending is over."

Mrs. Hall was about to leave the room,--she made no conversational
advances this time, because she did not want to be snubbed in front
of Mr. Henfrey,--when her visitor asked her if she had made any
arrangements about his boxes at Bramblehurst. She told him she had
mentioned the matter to the postman, and that the carrier could bring
them over on the morrow. "You are certain that is the earliest?" he
said.

She was certain, with a marked coldness.

"I should explain," he added, "what I was really too cold and
fatigued 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 certain
deliberation of manner, "was--a desire for solitude. I do not wish
to 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 weak
and painful that I have to shut myself up in the dark for hours
together. Lock myself up. Sometimes--now and then. Not at present,
certainly. At such times the slightest disturbance, the entry of a
stranger into the room, is a source of excruciating annoyance to
me--it is well these things should be understood."

"Certainly, sir," said Mrs. Hall. "And if I might make so bold as to
ask--"

"That, I think, is all," said the stranger, with that quietly
irresistible air of finality he could assume at will. Mrs. Hall
reserved her question and sympathy for a better occasion.

After Mrs. Hall had left the room, he remained standing in front of
the 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 quiet
and unassuming a manner as possible. He worked with the lamp close
to 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. Being
constitutionally of a curious nature, he had removed the works--a
quite unnecessary proceeding--with the idea of delaying his departure
and perhaps falling into conversation with the stranger. But the
stranger stood there, perfectly silent and still. So still, it got
on Henfrey's nerves. He felt alone in the room and looked up, and
there, grey and dim, was the bandaged head and huge blue lenses
staring fixedly, with a mist of green spots drifting in front of
them. It was so uncanny-looking to Henfrey that for a minute they
remained staring blankly at one another. Then Henfrey looked down
again. Very uncomfortable position! One would like to say
something. Should he remark that the weather was very cold for the
time of year?

He looked up as if to take aim with that introductory shot. "The
weather--" he began.

"Why don't you finish and go?" said the rigid figure, evidently in a
state of painfully suppressed rage. "All you've got to do is to fix
the 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 thawing
snow; "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 you
couldn't be more wropped and bandaged."

At Gleeson's corner he saw Hall, who had recently married the
stranger's hostess at the Coach and Horses, and who now drove the
Iping conveyance, when occasional people required it, to Sidderbridge
Junction, coming towards him on his return from that place. Hall had
evidently been "stopping a bit" at Sidderbridge, to judge by his
driving. "'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 grotesque
guest. "Looks a bit like a disguise, don't it? I'd like to see a
man's face if I had him stopping in my place," said Henfrey. "But
women are that trustful,--where strangers are concerned. He's took
your rooms and he ain't even given a name, Hall."

"You don't say so!" said Hall, who was a man of sluggish
apprehension.

"Yes," said Teddy. "By the week. Whatever he is, you can't get rid
of him under the week. And he's got a lot of luggage coming
to-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 stranger
with 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 was
severely rated by his wife on the length of time he had spent in
Sidderbridge, and his mild inquiries were answered snappishly and in
a manner not to the point. But the seed of suspicion Teddy had sown
germinated in the mind of Mr. Hall in spite of these discouragements.
"You wim' don't know everything," said Mr. Hall, resolved to
ascertain more about the personality of his guest at the earliest
possible opportunity. And after the stranger had gone to bed, which
he did about half-past nine, Mr. Hall went aggressively into the
parlour and looked very hard at his wife's furniture, just to show
that the stranger wasn't master there, and scrutinised closely and a
little contemptuously a sheet of mathematical computation the
stranger had left. When retiring for the night he instructed Mrs.
Hall to look very closely at the stranger's luggage when it came next
day.

"You mind your own business, Hall," said Mrs. Hall, "and I'll mind
mine."

She was all the more inclined to snap at Hall because the stranger
was undoubtedly an unusually strange sort of stranger, and she was by
no means assured about him in her own mind. In the middle of the
night she woke up dreaming of huge white heads like turnips, that
came trailing after her at the end of interminable necks, and with
vast black eyes. But being a sensible woman, she subdued her terrors
and turned over and went to sleep again.

**********

Chapter 3

The Thousand and One Bottles

Thus it was that on the ninth day of February, at the beginning of
the thaw, this singular person fell out of infinity into Iping
Village. Next day his luggage arrived through the slush. And very
remarkable luggage it was. There was a couple of trunks indeed, such
as a rational man might need, but in addition there were a box of
books,--big, fat books, of which some were just in an
incomprehensible handwriting,--and a dozen or more crates, boxes, and
cases, containing objects packed in straw, as it seemed to Hall,
tugging with a casual curiosity at the straw--glass bottles. The
stranger, muffled in hat, coat, gloves, and wrapper, came out
impatiently to meet Fearenside's cart, while Hall was having a word
or so of gossip preparatory to helping bring them in. Out he came,
not noticing Fearenside's dog, who was sniffing in a dilettante
spirit 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 lay
hands on the smaller crate.

No sooner had Fearenside's dog caught sight of him, however, than it
began to bristle and growl savagely, and when he rushed down the
steps it gave an undecided hop, and then sprang straight at his hand.
"Whup!" cried Hall, jumping back, for he was no hero with dogs, and
Fearenside howled, "Lie down!" and snatched his whip.

They saw the dog's teeth had slipped the hand, heard a kick, saw the
dog execute a flanking jump and get home on the stranger's leg, and
heard the rip of his trousering. Then the finer end of Fearenside's
whip reached his property, and the dog, yelping with dismay,
retreated under the wheels of the waggon. It was all the business of
a half-minute. No one spoke, every one shouted. The stranger
glanced swiftly at his torn glove and at his leg, made as if he would
stoop to the latter, then turned and rushed up the steps into the
inn. They heard him go headlong across the passage and up the
uncarpeted stairs to his bedroom.

"You brute, you!" said Fearenside, climbing off the waggon with his
whip in his hand, while the dog watched him through the wheel. "Come
here!" said Fearenside--"You'd better."

Hall had stood gaping. "He wuz bit," said Hall. "I'd better go and
see to en," and he trotted after the stranger. He met Mrs. Hall in
the passage. "Carrier's darg," he said, "bit en."

He went straight upstairs, and the stranger's door being ajar, he
pushed it open and was entering without any ceremony, being of a
naturally sympathetic turn of mind.

The blind was down and the room dim. He caught a glimpse of a most
singular thing, what seemed a handless arm waving towards him, and a
face of three huge indeterminate spots on white, very like the face
of a pale pansy. Then he was struck violently in the chest, hurled
back, and the door slammed in his face and locked, all so rapidly
that he had no time to observe. A waving of indecipherable shapes, a
blow, 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 had
formed outside the Coach and Horses. There was Fearenside telling
about it all over again for the second time; there was Mrs. Hall
saying his dog didn't have no business to bite her guests; there was
Huxter, the general dealer from over the road, interrogative; and
Sandy 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 so
forth.

Mr. Hall, staring at them from the steps and listening, found it
incredible that he had seen anything very remarkable happen upstairs.
Besides, his vocabulary was altogether too limited to express his
impressions.

"He don't want no help, he says," he said in answer to his wife's
enquiry. "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 stood
the muffled stranger with his collar turned up, and his hat-brim bent
down. "The sooner you get those things in the better I'll be
pleased." It is stated by an anonymous bystander that his trousers
and 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 up
with those things."

He then swore to himself, so Mr. Hall asserts.

Directly the first crate was carried into the parlour, in accordance
with his directions, the stranger flung himself upon it with
extraordinary eagerness, and began to unpack it, scattering the straw
with an utter disregard of Mrs. Hall's carpet. And from it he began
to produce bottles--little fat bottles containing powders, small and
slender bottles containing coloured and white fluids, fluted blue
bottles labelled Poison, bottles with round bodies and slender necks,
large green-glass bottles, large white-glass bottles, bottles with
glass stoppers and frosted labels, bottles with fine corks, bottles
with bungs, bottles with wooden caps, wine bottles, salad-oil
bottles--putting them in rows on the chiffonier, on the mantel, on
the table under the window, round the floor, on the book-shelf--
everywhere. The chemist's shop in Bramblehurst could not boast half
so many. Quite a sight it was. Crate after crate yielded bottles,
until all six were empty and the table high with straw; the only
things that came out of these crates besides the bottles were a
number of test-tubes and a carefully packed balance.

And directly the crates were unpacked, the stranger went to the
window and set to work, not troubling in the least about the litter
of straw, the fire which had gone out, the box of books outside, nor
for the trunks and other luggage that had gone upstairs.

When Mrs. Hall took his dinner in to him, he was already so absorbed
in 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 the
straw and put the tray on the table, with some little emphasis
perhaps, seeing the state that the floor was in. Then he half turned
his head and immediately turned it away again. But she saw he had
removed his glasses; they were beside him on the table, and it seemed
to her that his eye sockets were extraordinarily hollow. He put on
his spectacles again, and then turned and faced her. She was about
to complain of the straw on the floor when he anticipated her.

"I wish you wouldn't come in without knocking," he said in the tone
of abnormal exasperation that seemed so characteristic of him.

"I knocked, but seemingly--"

"Perhaps you did. But in my investigations--my really very urgent
and necessary investigations--the slightest disturbance, the jar of a
door--I must ask you--"

"Certainly, sir. You can turn the lock if you're like that, you
know--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 he
mumbled at her--words suspiciously like curses.

He was so odd, standing there, so aggressive and explosive, bottle in
one hand and test-tube in the other, that Mrs. Hall was quite
alarmed. But she was a resolute woman. "In which case, I should
like 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 to
spread 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. Hall
testifies, for the most part in silence. But once there was a
concussion and a sound of bottles ringing together as though the
table had been hit, and the smash of a bottle flung violently down,
and then a rapid pacing athwart the room. Fearing "something was the
matter," 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 hundred
thousand, four hundred thousand! The huge multitude! Cheated! All
my 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. Hall
very reluctantly had to leave the rest of his soliloquy. When she
returned the room was silent again, save for the faint crepitation of
his 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 the
room under the concave mirror, and a golden stain that had been
carelessly wiped. She called attention to it.

"Put it down in the bill," snapped her visitor. "For God's sake
don'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 late
in the afternoon, and they were in the little beer-shop of Iping
Hanger.

"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 black
as my hat."

"My sakes!" said Henfrey. "It's a rummy case altogether. Why, his
nose is as pink as paint!"

"That's true," said Fearenside. "I knows that. And I tell 'ee what
I'm thinking. That marn's a piebald, Teddy. Black here and white
there--in patches. And he's ashamed of it. He's a kind of
half-breed, and the colour's come off patchy instead of mixing. I've
heard of such things before. And it's the common way with horses, as
anyone can see."

**********

Chapter 4

Mr. Cuss Interviews the Stranger

I have told the circumstances of the stranger's arrival in Iping with
a certain fulness of detail, in order that the curious impression he
created may be understood by the reader. But excepting two odd
incidents, the circumstances of his stay until the extraordinary day
of the Club Festival may be passed over very cursorily. There were a
number of skirmishes with Mrs. Hall on matters of domestic
discipline, but in every case until late in April, when the first
signs of penury began, he over-rode her by the easy expedient of an
extra payment. Hall did not like him, and whenever he dared he
talked of the advisability of getting rid of him; but he showed his
dislike chiefly by concealing it ostentatiously, and avoiding his
visitor as much as possible. "Wait till the summer," said Mrs. Hall,
sagely, "when the artisks are beginning to come. Then we'll see. He
may be a bit overbearing, but bills settled punctual is bills settled
punctual, whatever you like to say."

The stranger did not go to church, and indeed made no difference
between Sunday and the irreligious days, even in costume. He worked,
as Mrs. Hall thought, very fitfully. Some days he would come down
early and be continuously busy. On others he would rise late, pace
his room, fretting audibly for hours together, smoke, sleep in the
armchair by the fire. Communication with the world beyond the
village he had none. His temper continued very uncertain; for the
most part his manner was that of a man suffering under almost
unendurable provocation, and once or twice things were snapped, torn,
crushed, or broken in spasmodic gusts of violence. He seemed under a
chronic irritation of the greatest intensity. His habit of talking
to himself in a low voice grew steadily upon him, but though Mrs.
Hall listened conscientiously she could make neither head nor tail of
what she heard.

He rarely went abroad by daylight, but at twilight he would go out
muffled up enormously, whether the weather were cold or not, and he
chose the loneliest paths and those most overshadowed by trees and
banks. His goggling spectacles and ghastly bandaged face under the
penthouse of his hat, came with a disagreeable suddenness out of the
darkness upon one or two home-going labourers; and Teddy Henfrey,
tumbling out of the Scarlet Coat one night at half-past nine, was
scared shamefully by the stranger's skull-like head (he was walking
hat in hand) lit by the sudden light of the opened door. Such
children as saw him at nightfall dreamt of bogies, and it seemed
doubtful whether he disliked boys more than they disliked him, or the
reverse--but there was certainly a vivid enough dislike on either
side.

It was inevitable that a person of so remarkable an appearance and
bearing should form a frequent topic in such a village as Iping.
Opinion was greatly divided about his occupation. Mrs. Hall was
sensitive on the point. When questioned, she explained very
carefully that he was an "experimental investigator," going gingerly
over the syllables as one who dreads pitfalls. When asked what an
experimental investigator was, she would say with a touch of
superiority that most educated people knew that, and would then
explain that he "discovered things." Her visitor had had an
accident, she said, which temporarily discoloured his face and hands;
and being of a sensitive disposition, he was averse to any public
notice of the fact.

Out of her hearing there was a view largely entertained that he was a
criminal trying to escape from justice by wrapping himself up so as
to conceal himself altogether from the eye of the police. This idea
sprang from the brain of Mr. Teddy Henfrey. No crime of any
magnitude dating from the middle or end of February was known to have
occurred. Elaborated in the imagination of Mr. Gould, the
probationary assistant in the National School, this theory took the
form that the stranger was an Anarchist in disguise, preparing
explosives, and he resolved to undertake such detective operations as
his time permitted. These consisted for the most part in looking
very hard at the stranger whenever they met, or in asking people who
had never seen the stranger leading questions about him. But he
detected nothing.

Another school of opinion followed Mr. Fearenside, and either
accepted the piebald view or some modification of it; as, for
instance, Silas Durgan, who was heard to assert that "if he choses to
show enself at fairs he'd make his fortune in no time," and being a
bit of a theologian, compared the stranger to the man with the one
talent. Yet another view explained the entire matter by regarding
the stranger as a harmless lunatic. That had the advantage of
accounting for everything straight away.

Between these main groups there were waverers and compromisers.
Sussex folk have few superstitions, and it was only after the events
of early April that the thought of the supernatural was first
whispered in the village. Even then it was only credited among the
women folks.

But whatever they thought of him, people in Iping on the whole agreed
in disliking him. His irritability, though it might have been
comprehensible to an urban brain-worker, was an amazing thing to
these quiet Sussex villagers. The frantic gesticulations they
surprised now and then, the headlong pace after nightfall that swept
him upon them round quiet corners, the inhuman bludgeoning of all the
tentative advances of curiosity, the taste for twilight that led to
the closing of doors, the pulling down of blinds, the extinction of
candles and lamps--who could agree with such goings on? They drew
aside as he passed down the village, and when he had gone by, young
humorists would up with coat-collars and down with hat-brims, and go
pacing nervously after him in imitation of his occult bearing. There
was a song popular at that time called the "Bogey Man"; Miss
Statchell sang it at the schoolroom concert (in aid of the church
lamps), and thereafter whenever one or two of the villagers were
gathered together and the stranger appeared, a bar or so of this
tune, more or less sharp or flat, was whistled in the midst of them.
Also belated little children would call "Bogey Man!" after him, and
make off tremulously elated.

Cuss, the general practitioner, was devoured by curiosity. The
bandages excited his professional interest, the report of the
thousand and one bottles aroused his jealous regard. All through
April and May he coveted an opportunity of talking to the stranger;
and at last, towards Whitsuntide, he could stand it no longer, and
hit upon the subscription-list for a village nurse as an excuse. He
was surprised to find that Mr. Hall did not know his guest's name.
"He give a name," said Mrs. Hall--an assertion which was quite
unfounded-- "but I didn't rightly hear it." She thought it seemed so
silly not to know the man's name.

Cuss rapped at the parlour door and entered. There was a fairly
audible imprecation from within. "Pardon my intrusion," said Cuss,
and then the door closed and cut Mrs. Hall off from the rest of the
conversation.

She could hear the murmur of voices for the next ten minutes, then a
cry of surprise, a stirring of feet, a chair flung aside, a bark of
laughter, quick steps to the door, and Cuss appeared, his face white,
his eyes staring over his shoulder. He left the door open behind
him, and without looking at her strode across the hall and went down
the steps, and she heard his feet hurrying along the road. He
carried his hat in his hand. She stood behind the door, looking at
the open door of the parlour. Then she heard the stranger laughing
quietly, and then his footsteps came across the room. She could not
see his face where she stood. The parlour door slammed, and the
place 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 I
look like an insane person?"

"What's happened?" said the vicar, putting the ammonite on the loose
sheets of his forthcoming sermon.

"That chap at the inn--"

"Well?"

"Give me something to drink," said Cuss, and he sat down.

When his nerves had been steadied by a glass of cheap sherry-- the
only drink the good vicar had available--he told him of the interview
he had just had. "Went in," he gasped, "and began to demand a
subscription for that Nurse Fund. He'd stuck his hands in his
pockets 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. He
said yes. Sniffed again. Kept on sniffing all the time; evidently
recently 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 a
smell of--evening primrose. Would he subscribe? Said he'd consider
it. Asked him, point-blank, was he researching. Said he was. A
long research? Got quite cross. 'A damnable long research,' said
he, blowing the cork out, so to speak. 'Oh,' said I. And out came
the grievance. The man was just on the boil, and my question boiled
him over. He had been given a prescription, most valuable
prescription-- what for he wouldn't say. Was it medical? 'Damn you!
What are you fishing after?' I apologised. Dignified sniff and
cough. 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, he
said. Saw a flicker, and there was the prescription burning and
lifting chimneyward. Rushed towards it just as it whisked up
chimney. So! Just at that point, to illustrate his story, out came
his arm."

"Well?"

"No hand--just an empty sleeve. Lord! I thought, that's a
deformity! Got a cork arm, I suppose, and has taken it off. Then, I
thought, there's something odd in that. What the devil keeps that
sleeve up and open, if there's nothing in it? There was nothing in
it, I tell you. Nothing down it, right down to the joint. I could
see right down it to the elbow, and there was a glimmer of light
shining through a tear of the cloth. 'Good God!' I said. Then he
stopped. Stared at me with those black goggles of his, and then at
his sleeve."

"Well?"

"That's all. He never said a word; just glared, and put his sleeve
back in his pocket quickly. 'I was saying,' said he, 'that there was
the prescription burning, wasn't I?' Interrogative cough. 'How the
devil,' said I, 'can you move an empty sleeve like that?' 'Empty
sleeve?' 'Yes,' said I, 'an empty sleeve.'

"'It's an empty sleeve, is it? You saw it was an empty sleeve?' He
stood up right away. I stood up too. He came towards me in three
very slow steps, and stood quite close. Sniffed venomously. I
didn't flinch, though I'm hanged if that bandaged knob of his, and
those blinkers, aren't enough to unnerve any one, coming quietly up
to you.

"'You said it was an empty sleeve?' he said. 'Certainly,' I said.
At staring and saying nothing a barefaced man, unspectacled, starts
scratch. Then very quietly he pulled his sleeve out of his pocket
again, and raised his arm towards me as though he would show it to me
again. 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 to
say something. I was beginning to feel frightened. I could see
right down it. He extended it straight towards me, slowly, slowly
--just like that--until the cuff was six inches from my face. Queer
thing to see an empty sleeve come at you like that! And then--"

"Well?"

"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 a
shriek at the "there." "It's all very well for you to laugh, but I
tell 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. He
turned round in a helpless way and took a second glass of the
excellent vicar's very inferior sherry. "When I hit his cuff," said
Cuss, "I tell you, it felt exactly like hitting an arm. And there
wasn't an arm! There wasn't the ghost of an arm!"

Mr. Bunting thought it over. He looked suspiciously at Cuss. "It's
a most remarkable story," he said. He looked very wise and grave
indeed. "It's really," said Mr. Bunting with judicial emphasis, "a
most remarkable story."

**********

Chapter 5

The Burglary at the Vicarage

The facts of the burlgary at the vicarage came to us chiefly through
the medium of the vicar and his wife. It occurred in the small hours
of Whit-Monday--the day devoted in Iping to the Club festivities.
Mrs. Bunting, it seems, woke up suddenly in the stillness that comes
before the dawn, with the strong impression that the door of their
bedroom had opened and closed. She did not arouse her husband at
first, but sat up in bed listening. She then distinctly heard the
pad, pad, pad of bare feet coming out of the adjoining dressing-room
and walking along the passage towards the staircase. As soon as she
felt assured of this, she aroused the Rev. Mr. Bunting as quietly as
possible. He did not strike a light, but putting on his spectacles,
her dressing-gown, and his bath slippers, he went out on the landing
to listen. He heard quite distinctly a fumbling going on at his
study desk downstairs, and then a violent sneeze.

At that he returned to his bedroom, armed himself with the most
obvious weapon, the poker, and descended the staircase as noiselessly
as possible. Mrs. Bunting came out on the landing.

The hour was about four, and the ultimate darkness of the night was
past. There was a faint shimmer of light in the hall, but the study
doorway yawned impenetrably black. Everything was still except the
faint creaking of the stairs under Mr. Bunting's tread, and the
slight movements in the study. Then something snapped, the drawer
was opened, and there was a rustle of papers. Then came an
imprecation, and a match was struck and the study was flooded with
yellow light. Mr. Bunting was now in the hall, and through the crack
of the door he could see the desk and the open drawer and a candle
burning on the desk. But the robber he could not see. He stood
there in the hall undecided what to do, and Mrs. Bunting, her face
white and intent, crept slowly downstairs after him. One thing kept
up Mr. Bunting's courage: the persuasion that this burglar was a
resident in the village.

They heard the chink of money, and realised that the robber had found
the housekeeping reserve of gold--two pounds ten in half- sovereigns
altogether. At that sound Mr. Bunting was nerved to abrupt action.
Gripping the poker firmly, he rushed into the room, closely followed
by Mrs. Bunting. "Surrender!" cried Mr. Bunting, fiercely, and then
stopped amazed. Apparently the room was perfectly empty.

Yet their conviction that they had, that very moment, heard somebody
moving in the room had amounted to a certainty. For half a minute,
perhaps, they stood gaping, then Mrs. Bunting went across the room
and looked behind the screen, while Mr. Bunting, by a kindred
impulse, peered under the desk. Then Mrs. Bunting turned back the
window-curtains, and Mr. Bunting looked up the chimney and probed it
with the poker. Then Mrs. Bunting scrutinised the waste-paper basket
and Mr. Bunting opened the lid of the coal-scuttle. Then they came
to 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 as
they did so the kitchen door slammed. "Bring the candle," said Mr.
Bunting, and led the way. They both heard a sound of bolts being
hastily shot back.

As he opened the kitchen door he saw through the scullery that the
back door was just opening, and the faint light of early dawn
displayed the dark masses of the garden beyond. He is certain that
nothing 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. Bunting
was carrying from the study flickered and flared. It was a minute or
more before they entered the kitchen.

The place was empty. They refastened the back door, examined the
kitchen, pantry, and scullery thoroughly, and at last went down into
the cellar. There was not a soul to be found in the house, search as
they would.

Daylight found the vicar and his wife, a quaintly-costumed little
couple, still marvelling about on their own ground floor by the
unnecessary light of a guttering candle.

**********

Chapter 6

The Furniture That Went Mad

Now it happened that in the early hours of Whit-Monday, before Millie
was hunted out for the day, Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall both rose and went
noiselessly down into the cellar. Their business there was of a
private nature, and had something to do with the specific gravity of
their beer. They had hardly entered the cellar when Mrs. Hall found
she had forgotten to bring down a bottle of sarsaparilla from their
joint-room. As she was the expert and principal operator in this
affair, Hall very properly went upstairs for it.

On the landing he was surprised to see that the stranger's door was
ajar. He went on into his own room and found the bottle as he had
been directed.

But returning with the bottle, he noticed that the bolts of the front
door had been shot back, that the door was in fact simply on the
latch. And with a flash of inspiration he connected this with the
stranger's room upstairs and the suggestions of Mr. Teddy Henfrey.
He distinctly remembered holding the candle while Mrs. Hall shot
those bolts overnight. At the sight he stopped, gaping, then with
the bottle still in his hand went upstairs again. He rapped at the
stranger's door. There was no answer. He rapped again; then pushed
the door wide open and entered.

It was as he expected. The bed, the room also, was empty. And what
was stranger, even to his heavy intelligence, on the bedroom chair
and along the rail of the bed were scattered the garments, the only
garments so far as he knew, and the bandages of their guest. His big
slouch hat even was cocked jauntily over the bed-post.

As Hall stood there he heard his wife's voice coming out of the depth
of the cellar, with that rapid telescoping of the syllables and
interrogative cocking up of the final words to a high note, by which
the 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, over
the rail of the cellar steps, "'tas the truth what Henfrey sez. 'E's
not in uz room, 'e ent. And the front door's unbolted."

At first Mrs. Hall did not understand, and as soon as she did she
resolved to see the empty room for herself. Hall, still holding the
bottle, went first. "If 'e ent there," he said, "his close are. And
what's 'e doin' without his close, then? 'Tas a most curious
basness."

As they came up the cellar steps, they both, it was afterwards
ascertained, fancied they heard the front door open and shut, but
seeing it closed and nothing there, neither said a word to the other
about it at the time. Mrs. Hall passed her husband in the passage
and 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. She
flung open the door and stood regarding the room. "Of all the
curious!" 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 put
her 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- clothes
gathered themselves together, leapt up suddenly into a sort of peak,
and then jumped headlong over the bottom rail. It was exactly as if
a 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 a
circle, and then dashed straight at Mrs. Hall's face. Then as
swiftly came the sponge from the washstand; and then the chair,
flinging the stranger's coat and trousers carelessly aside, and
laughing dryly in a voice singularly like the stranger's, turned
itself up with its four legs at Mrs. Hall, seemed to take aim at her
for a moment, and charged at her. She screamed and turned, and then
the chair legs came gently but firmly against her back and impelled
her and Hall out of the room. The door slammed violently and was
locked. The chair and bed seemed to be executing a dance of triumph
for a moment, and then abruptly everything was still.

Mrs. Hall was left almost in a fainting condition in Mr. Hall's arms
on the landing. It was with the greatest difficulty that Mr. Hall
and Millie, who had been roused by her scream of alarm, succeeded in
getting her downstairs, and applying the restoratives customary in
these cases.

"'Tas sperrits," said Mrs. Hall. "I know 'tas sperrits. I've read
in 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. I
half guessed--I might ha' known. With them goggling eyes and
bandaged head, and never going to church of a Sunday. And all they
bottles--more'n it's right for any one to have. He's put the
sperrits into the furniture. My good old furniture! 'Twas in that
very 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'clock
sunshine to rouse up Mr. Sandy Wadgers, the blacksmith. Mr. Hall's
compliments and the furniture upstairs was behaving most
extraordinary. Would Mr. Wadgers come round? He was a knowing man,
was Mr. Wadgers, and very resourceful. He took quite a grave view of
the 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 way
upstairs to the room, but he didn't seem to be in any hurry. He
preferred to talk in the passage. Over the way Huxter's apprentice
came out and began taking down the shutters of the tobacco window.
He was called over to join the discussion. Mr. Huxter naturally
followed in the course of a few minutes. The Anglo-Saxon genius for
parliamentary government asserted itself; there was a great deal of
talk and no decisive action. "Let's have the facts first," insisted
Mr. Sandy Wadgers. "Let's be sure we'd be acting perfectly right in
bustin' that there door open. A door onbust is always open to
bustin', but ye can't onbust a door once you've busted en."

And suddenly and most wonderfully the door of the room upstairs
opened of its own accord, and as they looked up in amazement, they
saw descending the stairs the muffled figure of the stranger staring
more blackly and blankly than ever with those unreasonably large blue
glass eyes of his. He came down stiffly and slowly, staring all the
time; he walked across the passage staring, then stopped.

"Look there!" he said, and their eyes followed the direction of his
gloved finger and saw a bottle of sarsaparilla hard by the cellar
door. Then he entered the parlour, and suddenly, swiftly, viciously
slammed the door in their faces.

Not a word was spoken until the last echoes of the slam had died
away. They stared at one another. "Well, if that don't lick
everything!" said Mr. Wadgers, and left the alternative unsaid.

"I'd go in and ask'n 'bout it," said Wadgers, to Mr. Hall. "I'd
d'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 "Shut
that door after you." So that brief interview terminated.

**********

Chapter 7

The Unveiling of the Stranger

The stranger went into the little parlour of the Coach and Horses
about half-past five in the morning, and there he remained until near
midday, the blinds down, the door shut, and none, after Hall's
repulse, venturing near him.

All that time he must have fasted. Thrice he rang his bell, the
third time furiously and continuously, but no one answered him. "Him
and his 'go to the devil' indeed!" said Mrs. Hall. Presently came an
imperfect rumour of the burglary at the vicarage, and two and two
were put together. Hall, assisted by Wadgers, went off to find Mr.
Shuckleforth, the magistrate, and take his advice. No one ventured
upstairs. How the stranger occupied himself is unknown. Now and
then he would stride violently up and down, and twice came an
outburst of curses, a tearing of paper, and a violent smashing of
bottles.

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 the
group with confused interrogations. Young Archie Harker
distinguished himself by going up the yard and trying to peep under
the window-blinds. He could see nothing, but gave reason for
supposing that he did, and others of the Iping youth presently joined
him.

It was the finest of all possible Whit-Mondays, and down the village
street stood a row of nearly a dozen booths and a shooting gallery,
and on the grass by the forge were three yellow and chocolate waggons
and some picturesque strangers of both sexes putting up a cocoanut
shy. The gentlemen wore blue jerseys, the ladies white aprons and
quite fashionable hats with heavy plumes. Wodger of the Purple Fawn
and Mr. Jaggers the cobbler, who also sold second-hand ordinary
bicycles, 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 which
only one thin jet of sunlight penetrated, the stranger, hungry we
must suppose, and fearful, hidden in his uncomfortable hot wrappings,
pored through his dark glasses upon his paper or chinked his dirty
little bottles, and occasionally swore savagely at the boys, audible
if invisible, outside the windows. In the corner by the fireplace
lay the fragments of half a dozen smashed bottles, and a pungent tang
of chlorine tainted the air. So much we know from what was heard at
the time and from what was subsequently seen in the room.

About noon he suddenly opened his parlour door and stood glaring
fixedly at the three or four people in the bar. "Mrs. Hall," he
said. Somebody went sheepishly and called for Mrs. Hall.

Mrs. Hall appeared after an interval, a little short of breath, but
all the fiercer for that. Hall was still out. She had deliberated
over the scene, and she came holding a little tray with an unsettled
bill 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 and
answered my bell? Do you think I live without eating?"

"Why isn't my bill paid?" said Mrs. Hall. "That's what I want to
know."

"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. You
can't grumble if your breakfast waits a bit, if my bill's been
waiting 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 to
yourself, sir," said Mrs. Hall.

The stranger stood looking more like an angry diving-helmet than
ever. It was universally felt in the bar that Mrs. Hall had the
better 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's
worth 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 I
take any bills or get any breakfasts, or do any such things
whatsoever, you got to tell me one or two things I don't understand,
and what nobody don't understand, and what everybody is very anxious
to 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 in
again. Them as stops in this house comes in by the doors--that's the
rule of the house, and that you didn't do, and what I want know is
how you did come in. And I want know--"

Suddenly the stranger raised his gloved hands clenched, stamped his
foot, and said, "Stop!" with such extraordinary violence that he
silenced her instantly.

"You don't understand," he said, "who I am or what I am. I'll show
you. By Heaven! I'll show you." Then he put his open palm over his
face and withdrew it. The centre of his face became a black cavity.
"Here," he said. He stepped forward and handed Mrs. Hall something
which she, staring at his metamorphosed face, accepted automatically.
Then, when she saw what it was, she screamed loudly, dropped it, and
staggered back. The nose--it was the stranger's nose! pink and
shining--rolled on the floor.

Then he removed his spectacles, and every one in the bar gasped. He
took off his hat, and with a violent gesture tore at his whiskers and
bandages. For a moment they resisted him. A flash of horrible
anticipation passed through the bar. "Oh, my Gard!" said some one.
Then off they came.

It was worse than anything. Mrs. Hall, standing open-mouthed and
horror-struck, shrieked at what she saw, and made for the door of the
house. Every one began to move. They were prepared for scars,
disfigurements, tangible horrors, but nothing! The bandages and
false hair flew across the passage into the bar, making a hobbledehoy
jump to avoid them. Every one tumbled on every one else down the
steps. For the man who stood there shouting some incoherent
explanation, was a solid gesticulating figure up to the coat-collar
of him, and then--nothingness, no visible thing at all!

People down the village heard shouts and shrieks, and looking up the
street saw the Coach and Horses violently firing out its humanity.
They saw Mrs. Hall fall down and Mr. Teddy Henfrey jump to avoid
tumbling over her, and then they heard the frightful screams of
Millie, who, emerging suddenly from the kitchen at the noise of the
tumult, 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 boys
and girls, rustic dandies, smart wenches, smocked elders and aproned
gipsies, began running towards the inn; and in a miraculously short
space of time a crowd of perhaps forty people, and rapidly
increasing, swayed and hooted and inquired and exclaimed and
suggested, in front of Mrs. Hall's establishment. Every one seemed
eager to talk at once, and the result was babel. A small group
supported Mrs. Hall, who was picked up in a state of collapse. There
was a conference, and the incredible evidence of a vociferous
eyewitness. "O'Bogey!" "What's he been doin', then?" "Ain't hurt
the girl, 'as 'e?" "Run at en with a knife, I believe." "No 'ed, I
tell ye. I don't mean no manner of speaking, I mean marn 'without a'
ed!" "Narnsense! 'tas some conjuring trick." "Fetched off 'is
wrappin's, 'e did--"

In its struggles to see in through the open door, the crowd formed
itself into a straggling wedge, with the more adventurous apex
nearest the inn. "He stood for a moment, I heerd the gal scream, and
he turned. I saw her skirts whisk, and he went after her. Didn't
take 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 that
there door. I tell 'e, 'e ain't gart no 'ed 't all. You just missed
en--"

There was a disturbance behind, and the speaker stopped to step aside
for a little procession that was marching very resolutely towards the
house--first Mr. Hall, very red and determined, then Mr. Bobby
Jaffers, the village constable, and then the wary Mr. Wadgers. They
had 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 I
will."

Mr. Hall marched up the steps, marched straight to the door of the
parlour and flung it open. "Constable," he said, "do your duty."

Jaffers marched in, Hall next, Wadgers last. They saw in the dim
light the headless figure facing them, with a gnawed crust of bread
in 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 from
above the collar of the figure.

"You're a damned rum customer, mister," said Mr. Jaffers. "But 'ed
or 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 just
grasped the knife on the table in time to save it. Off came the
stranger's left glove and was slapped in Jaffers' face. In another
moment Jaffers, cutting short some statement concerning a warrant,
had gripped him by the handless wrist and caught his invisible
throat. He got a sounding kick on the shin that made him shout, but
he kept his grip. Hall sent the knife sliding along the table to
Wadgers, who acted as goal-keeper for the offensive, so to speak, and
then stepped forward as Jaffers and the stranger swayed and staggered
towards him, clutching and hitting in. A chair stood in the way, and
went 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 sounding
kick in the ribs that disposed of him for a moment, and Mr. Wadgers,
seeing the decapitated stranger had rolled over and got the upper
side of Jaffers, retreated towards the door, knife in hand, and so
collided with Mr. Huxter and the Siddermorton carter coming to the
rescue of law and order. At the same moment down came three or four
bottles from the chiffonier and shot a web of pungency into the air
of the room.

"I'll surrender," cried the stranger, though he had Jaffers down, and
in another moment he stood up panting, a strange figure, headless and
handless--for he had pulled off his right glove now as well as his
left. "It's no good," he said, as if sobbing for breath.

It was the strangest thing in the world to hear that voice coming as
if out of empty space, but the Sussex peasants are perhaps the most
matter-of-fact people under the sun. Jaffers got up also and
produced a pair of handcuffs. Then he started.

"I say!" said Jaffers, brought up short by a dim realisation of the
incongruity of the whole business. "Darm it! Can't use 'em as I can
see."

The stranger ran his arm down his waistcoat, and as if by a miracle
the buttons to which his empty sleeve pointed became undone. Then he
said something about his shin, and stooped down. He seemed to be
fumbling with his shoes and socks.

"Why!" said Huxter, suddenly, "that's not a man at all. It's just
empty clothes. Look! You can see down his collar and the linings of
his clothes. I could put my arm--"

He extended his hand; it seemed to meet something in mid-air, and he
drew it back with a sharp exclamation. "I wish you'd keep your
fingers out of my eye," said the aerial voice, in a tone of savage
expostulation. "The fact is, I'm all here: head, hands, legs, and
all the rest of it, but it happens I'm invisible. It's a confounded
nuisance, but I am. That's no reason why I should be poked to pieces
by every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?"

The suit of clothes, now all unbuttoned and hanging loosely upon its
unseen supports, stood up, arms akimbo.

Several other of the men folks had now entered the room, so that it
was closely crowded. "Invisible, eigh?" said Huxter, ignoring the
stranger's abuse. "Who ever heard the likes of that?"

"It's strange, perhaps, but it's not a crime. Why am I assaulted by
a policeman in this fashion?"

"Ah! that's a different matter," said Jaffers. "No doubt you are a
bit difficult to see in this light, but I got a warrant, and it's all
correct. What I'm after ain't no invisibility--it's burglary.
There's a house been broken into and money took."

"Well?"

"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 no
handcuffs."

"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 what
was being done, the slippers, socks, and trousers had been kicked off
under the table. Then he sprang up again and flung off his coat.

"Here, stop that," said Jaffers, suddenly realising what was
happening. He gripped the waist-coat; it struggled, and the shirt
slipped out of it and left it limp and empty in his hand. "Hold
him!" said Jaffers loudly. "Once he gets they things off--!"

"Hold him!" cried every one, and there was a rush at the fluttering
white shirt which was now all that was visible of the stranger.

The shirt-sleeve planted a shrewd blow in Hall's face that stopped
his open-armed advance, and sent him backward into old Toothsome the
sexton, and in another moment the garment was lifted up and became
convulsed and vacantly flapping about the arms, even as a shirt that
is being thrust over a man's head. Jaffers clutched at it, and only
helped to pull it off; he was struck in the mouth out of the air, and
incontinently drew his truncheon and smote Teddy Henfrey savagely
upon 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, it
seemed, was being hit all at once, and Sandy Wadgers, knowing as ever
and his wits sharpened by a frightful blow in the nose, reopened the
door and led the rout. The others, following incontinently, were
jammed for a moment in the corner by the doorway. The hitting
continued. Phipps, the Unitarian, had a front tooth broken, and
Henfrey was injured in the cartilage of his ear. Jaffers was struck
under the jaw, and, turning, caught at something that intervened
between him and Huxter in the mle, and prevented their coming
together. He felt a muscular chest, and in another moment the whole
mass 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 unseen
enemy.

Men staggered right and left as the extraordinary conflict swayed
swiftly towards the house door, and went spinning down the half-dozen
steps of the inn. Jaffers cried in a strangled voice-- holding
tight, nevertheless, and making play with his knee--spun round, and
fell heavily undermost with his head on the gravel. Only then did
his 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 come
to light, rushed in at once, caught something, missed his hold, and
fell over the constable's prostrate body. Halfway across the road, a
woman screamed as something pushed by her; a dog, kicked apparently,
yelped and ran howling into Huxter's yard, and with that the transit
of the Invisible Man was accomplished. For a space people stood
amazed and gesticulating, and then came Panic, and scattered them
abroad through the village as a gust scatters dead leaves.

But Jaffers lay quite still, face upward and knees bent.

**********

Chapter 8

In Transit

The eighth chapter is exceedingly brief, and relates that Gibbins,
the amateur naturalist of the district, while lying out on the
spacious 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 of
a man coughing, sneezing, and then swearing savagely to himself; and
looking, beheld nothing. Yet the voice was indisputable. It
continued to swear with that breadth and variety that distinguishes
the swearing of a cultivated man. It grew to a climax, diminished
again, and died away in the distance, going as it seemed to him in
the direction of Adderdean. It lifted to a spasmodic sneeze and
ended. Gibbins had heard nothing of the morning's occurrences, but
the phenomenon was so striking and disturbing that his philosophical
tranquillity vanished; he got up hastily, and hurried down the
steepness of the hill towards the village, as fast as he could go.

**********

Chapter 9

Mr. Thomas Marvel

You must picture Mr. Thomas Marvel as a person of copious, flexible
visage, a nose of cylindrical protrusion, a liquorish, ample,
fluctuating mouth, and a beard of bristling eccentricity. His figure
inclined to embonpoint; his short limbs accentuated this inclination.
He wore a furry silk hat, and the frequent substitution of twine and
shoe-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 the
roadside over the down toward Adderdean, about a mile and a half out
of 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--he
was contemplating trying on a pair of boots. They were the soundest
boots 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 he
hated most, and it was a pleasant day, and there was nothing better
to do. So he put the four boots in a graceful group on the turf and
looked at them. And seeing them there among the grass and springing
agrimony, it suddenly occurred to him that both pairs were
exceedingly ugly to see. He was not at all startled by a voice
behind him.

"They're boots, anyhow," said the voice.

"They are--charity boots," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with his head on
one side regarding them distastefully; "and which is the ugliest pair
in 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 owdacious
ugly--if you'll allow the expression. I've been cadging boots--in
particular--for days. Because I was sick of them. They're sound
enough, of course. But a gentleman on tramp sees such a thundering
lot of his boots. And if you'll believe me, I've raised nothing in
the 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 my
promiscuous luck. I've got my boots in this county ten years or
more. 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! It
beats it."

He turned his head over his shoulder to the right, to look at the
boots of his interlocutor with a view to comparisons, and lo! where
the boots of his interlocutor should have been were neither legs nor
boots. He turned his head over his shoulder to the left, and there
also were neither legs nor boots. He was irradiated by the dawn of a
great amazement. "Where are yar?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel over his
shoulder and coming round on all fours. He saw a stretch of empty
downs with the wind swaying and remote green-pointed furze bushes.

"Am I drunk?" said Mr. Marvel. "Have I had visions? Was I talking
to myself? What the--"

"Don't be alarmed," said a voice.

"None of your ventriloquising me," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rising
sharply 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. Thomas
Marvel. "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 for
foolery." The down was desolate, east and west, north and south; the
road with its shallow ditches and white bordering stakes, ran smooth
and empty north and south, and, save for that peewit, the blue sky
was empty too. "So help me," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, shuffling his
coat 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 staring
about him, rotating slowly backwards. "I could have swore I heard a
voice," he whispered.

"Of course you did."

"It's there again," said Mr. Marvel, closing his eyes and clasping
his hand on his brow with a tragic gesture. He was suddenly taken by
the 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 blooming
chump. 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 with
self-control.

"Well?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with a strange feeling of having been
dug 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 of
his neck.

"Very well," said the voice, in a tone of relief. "Then I'm going to
throw flints at you till you think differently."

"But where are yer?"

The voice made no answer. Whiz came a flint, apparently out of the
air, and missed Mr. Marvel's shoulder by a hair's breadth. Mr.
Marvel, turning, saw a flint jerk up into the air, trace a
complicated path, hang for a moment, and then fling at his feet with
almost invisible rapidity. He was too amazed to dodge. Whiz it
came, and ricocheted from a bare toe into the ditch. Mr. Thomas
Marvel jumped a foot and howled aloud. Then he started to run,
tripped over an unseen obstacle, and came head over heels into a
sitting position.

"Now," said the voice, as a third stone curved upward and hung in the
air above the tramp. "Am I imagination?"

Mr. Marvel by way of reply struggled to his feet, and was immediately
rolled over again. He lay quiet for a moment. "If you struggle any
more," said the voice, "I shall throw the flint at your head."

"It's a fair do," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, sitting up, taking his
wounded toe in hand and fixing his eye on the third missle. "I don't
understand it. Stones flinging themselves. Stones talking. Put
yourself 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 want
you to understand."

"Any one could see that. There is no need for you to be so
confounded impatient, mister. Now then. Give us a notion. How are
you hid?"

"I'm invisible. That's the great point. And what I want you to
understand 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 just
thin 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, needing
covering too--But I'm invisible. You see? Invisible. Simple idea.
Invisible."

"What, real like?"

"Yes, real."

"Let's have a hand of you," said Marvel, "if you are real. It won't
be so darn out-of-the-way like, then--Lord!" he said, "how you made
me jump!--gripping me like that!"

He felt the hand that had closed round his wrist with his disengaged
fingers, and his touch went timorously up the arm, patted a muscular
chest, and explored a bearded face. Marvel's face was astonishment.

"I'm dashed!" he said. "If this don't beat cock-fighting! Most
remarkable!--And there I can see a rabbit clean through you, 'arf a
mile away! Not a bit of you visible--except--"

He scrutinised the apparently empty space keenly. "You 'aven't been
eatin' 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. Thomas
Marvel. "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 to
that--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. This
is 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 is
it? 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 other
things. I've left them long enough. If you won't--well! But you
will--must."

"Look here," said Mr. Marvel. "I'm too flabbergasted. Don't knock
me about any more. And leave me go. I must get steady a bit. And
you've pretty near broken my toe. It's all so unreasonable. Empty
downs, empty sky. Nothing visible for miles except the bosom of
Nature. 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 job
I'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, except
some of those fools down there, who knows there is such a thing as an
invisible man. You have to be my helper. Help me--and I will do
great things for you. An invisible man is a man of power." He
stopped for a moment to sneeze violently.

"But if you betray me," he said, "if you fail to do as I direct
you--"

He paused and tapped Mr. Marvel's shoulder smartly. Mr. Marvel gave
a yelp of terror at the touch. "I don't want to betray you," said
Mr. Marvel, edging away from the direction of the fingers. "Don't
you go a-thinking that, whatever you do. All I want to do is to help
you--just tell me what I got to do. (Lord!) Whatever you want done,
that I'm most willing to do."

**********

Chapter 10

Mr. Marvel's Visit to Iping

After the first gusty panic had spent itself Iping became
argumentative. Scepticism suddenly reared its head--rather nervous
scepticism, not at all assured of its back, but scepticism neverthe-
less. It is so much easier not to believe in an invisible man; and
those who had actually seen him dissolve into air, or felt the
strength of his arm, could be counted on the fingers of two hands.
And of these witnesses Mr. Wadgers was presently missing, having
retired impregnably behind the bolts and bars of his own house, and
Jaffers was lying stunned in the parlour of the Coach and Horses.
Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have less
effect 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 the
afternoon even those who believed in the Unseen were beginning to
resume their little amusements in a tentative fashion, on the
supposition that he had quite gone away, and with the sceptics he was
already a jest. But people, sceptics and believers alike, were
remarkably sociable all that day.

Haysman's meadow was gay with a tent, in which Mrs. Bunting and other
ladies were preparing tea, while, without, the Sunday-school children
ran races and played games under the noisy guidance of the curate and
the Misses Cuss and Sackbut. No doubt there was a slight uneasiness
in the air, but people for the most part had the sense to conceal
whatever imaginative qualms they experienced. On the village green
an inclined string, down which, clinging the while to a pulley- swung
handle, one could be hurled violently against a sack at the other
end, came in for considerable favour among the adolescent. There
were swings and cocoanut shies and promenading, and the steam organ
attached to the swings filled the air with a pungent flavour of oil
and with equally pungent music. Members of the Club, who had
attended church in the morning, were splendid in badges of pink and
green, and some of the gayer-minded had also adorned their bowler
hats with brilliant-coloured favours of ribbon. Old Fletcher, whose
conceptions of holiday-making were severe, was visible through the
jasmine about his window or through the open door (whichever way you
chose 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 direction
of the downs. He was a short, stout person in an extraorindarily
shabby top hat, and he appeared to be very much out of breath. His
cheeks were alternately limp and tightly puffed. His mottled face
was apprenhensive, and he moved with a sort of reluctant alacrity.
He turned the corner by the church, and directed his way to the Coach
and Horses. Among others old Fletcher remembers seeing him, and
indeed the old gentleman was so struck by his peculiar agitation that
he inadvertently allowed a quantity of whitewash to run down the
brush into the sleeve of his coat while regarding him.

This stranger, to the perceptions of the proprietor of the cocoanut
shy, appeared to be talking to himself, and Mr. Huxter remarked the
same thing. He stopped at the foot of the Coach and Horses steps,
and, according to Mr. Huxter, appeared to undergo a severe internal
struggle before he could induce himself to enter the house. Finally
he marched up the steps, and was seen by Mr. Huxter to turn to the
left and open the door of the parlour. Mr. Huxter heard voices from
within the room and from the bar apprising the man of his error.
"That room's private!" said Hall, and the stranger shut the door
clumsily and went into the bar.

In the course of a few minutes he reappeared, wiping his lips with
the back of his hand with an air of quiet satisfaction that somehow
impressed Mr. Huxter as assumed. He stood looking about him for some
moments, and then Mr. Huxter saw him walk in an oddly furtive manner
towards the gates of the yard, upon which the parlour window opened.
The stranger, after some hesitation, leant against one of the
gate-posts, produced a short clay pipe, and prepared to fill it. His
fingers trembled while doing so. He lit it clumsily, and folding his
arms began to smoke in a languid attitude, an attitude which his
occasional quick glances up the yard altogether belied.

All this Mr. Huxter saw over the canisters of the tobacco window, and
the singularity of the man's behaviour prompted him to maintain his
observation.

Presently the stranger stood up abruptly and put his pipe in his
pocket. Then he vanished into the yard. Forthwith Mr. Huxter,
conceiving he was witness of some petty larceny, leapt round his
counter and ran out into the road to intercept the thief. As he did
so, Mr. Marvel reappeared, his hat askew, a big bundle in a blue
table-cloth in one hand, and three books tied together--as it proved
afterwards with the Vicar's braces--in the other. Directly he saw
Huxter he gave a sort of gasp, and turning sharply to the left, began
to run. "Stop thief!" cried Huxter, and set off after him. Mr.
Huxter's sensations were vivid but brief. He saw the man just before
him and spurting briskly for the church corner and the hill road. He
saw the village flags and festivities beyond, and a face or so turned
towards him. He bawled, "Stop!" again. He had hardly gone ten
strides before his shin was caught in some mysterious fashion, and he
was no longer running, but flying with inconceivable rapidity through
the air. He saw the ground suddenly close to his face. The world
seemed to splash into a million whirling specks of light, and
subsequent proceedings interested him no more.

**********

Chapter 11

In the Coach and Horses

Now in order clearly to understand what had happened in the inn, it
is necessary to go back to the moment when Mr. Marvel first came into
view of Mr. Huxter's window. At that precise moment Mr. Cuss and
Mr. Bunting were in the parlour. They were seriously investigating
the strange occurrences of the morning, and were, with Mr. Hall's
permission, making a thorough examination of the Invisible Man's
belongings. Jaffers had partially recovered from his fall and had
gone home in the charge of his sympathetic friends. The stranger's
scattered garments had been removed by Mrs. Hall and the room tidied
up. And on the table under the window where the stranger had been
wont to work, Cuss had hit almost at once on three big books in
manuscript labelled "Diary."

"Diary!" said Cuss, putting the three books on the table. "Now, at
any rate, we shall learn something." The Vicar stood with his hands
on the table.

"Diary," repeated Cuss, sitting down, putting two volumes to support
the 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 illustrations
throwing light--"

"See for yourself," said Mr. Cuss. "Some of it's mathematical and
some 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 spectacles
and feeling suddenly very uncomfortable,--for he had no Greek left in
his mind worth talking about; "yes--the Greek, of course, may furnish
a 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, coughed
again, and wished something would happen to avert the seemingly
inevitable exposure. Then he took the volume Cuss handed him in a
leisurely manner. And then something did happen.

The door opened suddenly.

Both gentlemen started violently, looked around, and were relieved to
see a sporadically rosy face beneath a furry silk hat. "Tap?" asked
the face, and stood staring.

"No," said both gentlemen at once.

"Over the other side, my man," said Mr. Bunting. And "Please shut
that door," said Mr. Cuss irritably.

"All right," said the intruder, as it seemed, in a low voice
curiously different from the huskiness of its first enquiry. "Right
you are," said the intruder in the former voice. "Stand clear!" and
he vanished and closed the door.

"A sailor, I should judge," said Mr. Bunting. "Amusing fellows they
are. Stand clear! indeed. A nautical term referring to his getting
back out of the room, I suppose."

"I daresay so," said Cuss. "My nerves are all loose to-day. It
quite made me jump--the door opening like that."

Mr. Bunting smiled as if he had not jumped. "And now," he said with
a sigh, "these books."

"One minute," said Cuss, and went and locked the door. "Now I think
we are safe from interruption."

Some one sniffed as he did so.

"One thing is indisputable," said Bunting, drawing up a chair next to
that of Cuss. "There certainly have been very strange things happen
in Iping during the last few days--very strange. I cannot of course
believe in this absurd invisibility story--"

"It's incredible," said Cuss, "--incredible. But the fact remains
that 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 ever
seen 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 to
be Greek! Greek letters certainly."

He pointed to the middle of the page. Mr. Bunting flushed slightly
and brought his face nearer, apparently finding some difficulty with
his glasses. Suddenly he became aware of a strange feeling at the
nape of his neck. He tried to raise his head, and encountered an
immovable resistance. The feeling was a curious pressure, the grip
of a heavy, firm hand, and it bore his chin irresistibly to the
table. "Don't move, little men," whispered a voice, "or I'll brain
you both!" He looked into the face of Cuss, close to his own, and
each saw a horrified reflection of his own sickly astonishment.

"I'm sorry to handle you roughly," said the Voice, "but it's
unavoidable.

"Since when did you learn to pry into an investigator's private
memoranda?" said the Voice; and two chins struck the table
simultaneously and two sets of teeth rattled.

"Since when did you learn to invade the private rooms of a man in
misfortune?" and the concussion was repeated.

"Where have they put my clothes?

"Listen," said the Voice. "The windows are fastened and I've taken
the key out of the door. I am a fairly strong man, and I have the
poker handy--besides being invisible. There's not the slightest
doubt that I could kill you both and get away quite easily if I
wanted to--do you understand? Very well. If I let you go will you
promise not to try any nonsense and do what I tell you?"

The Vicar and the Doctor looked at one another, and the Doctor pulled
a face. "Yes," said Mr. Bunting, and the Doctor repeated it. Then
the pressure on the necks relaxed, and the Doctor and the Vicar sat
up, both very red in the face and wriggling their heads.

"Please keep sitting where you are," said the Invisible Man. "Here's
the poker, you see.

"When I came into this room," continued the Invisible Man, after
presenting 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, in
addition to my books of memoranda, an outfit of clothing. Where is
it? 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 run
about stark, the evenings are chilly. I want clothing--and other
accommodation; and I must also have those three books."

**********

Chapter 12

The Invisible Man Loses His Temper

It is unavoidable that at this point the narrative should break off
again, for a certain very painful reason that will presently be
apparent. While these things were going on in the parlour, and while
Mr. Huxter was watching Mr. Marvel smoking his pipe against the gate,
not a dozen yards away were Mr. Hall and Teddy Henfrey discussing in
a state of cloudy puzzlement the one Iping topic.

Suddenly there came a violent thud against the door of the parlour, a
sharp 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," he
said, and came round from behind the bar towards the parlour door.

He and Teddy approached the door together, with intent faces. Their
eyes considered. "Summat wrong," said Hall, and Henfrey nodded
agreement. Whiffs of an unpleasant chemical odour met them, and
there 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, then
the conversation was resumed in hissing whispers, then a sharp cry of
"No! no, you don't!" There came a sudden motion and the oversetting
of 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: "Quite
ri--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. "I
can't," said Mr. Bunting, his voice rising; "I tell you, sir, I will
not."

"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 (nine months 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 (nine months ago) link

sorry big post

| (Latham Green), Monday, 21 February 2022 22:30 (nine months ago) link

Mr Bunting farted

sorry Mario, but our princess is in another butthole (Neanderthal), Monday, 21 February 2022 23:31 (nine months ago) link

that is the lbog

| (Latham Green), Tuesday, 22 February 2022 18:51 (nine months ago) link

yes that book is good

castanuts (DJP), Wednesday, 2 March 2022 05:00 (nine months ago) link

two months pass...

i can't see it

Deez NFTs (Neanderthal), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 16:43 (six months ago) link


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