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Title: The Invisible Man
Author: H.G. Wells
Release Date: March, 2004 [EBook #5230]
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[This file was first posted on June 9, 2002]
Edition: 10
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The Invisible Man
A Grotesque Romance
By H.G. Wells
I The strange Man's Arrival
II Mr. Teddy Henfrey's first Impressions
III The thousand and one Bottles
IV Mr. Cuss interviews the Stranger
V The Burglary at the Vicarage
VI The Furniture that went mad
VII The Unveiling of the Stranger
VIII In Transit
IX Mr. Thomas Marvel
X Mr. Marvel's Visit to Iping
XI In the "Coach and Horses"
XII The invisible Man loses his Temper
XIII Mr. Marvel discusses his Resignation
XIV At Port Stowe
XV The Man who was running
XVI In the "Jolly Cricketers"
XVII Dr. Kemp's Visitor
XVIII The invisible Man sleeps
XIX Certain first Principles
XX At the House in Great Portland Street
XXI In Oxford Street
XXII In the Emporium
XXIII In Drury Lane
XXIV The Plan that failed
XXV The Hunting of the invisible Man
XXVI The Wicksteed Murder
XXVII The Siege of Kemp's House
XXVIII The Hunter hunted
The Epilogue
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 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, 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 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
wintertime 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 eclat.
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 melting 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
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 sidelights, and had a bush side-whisker
over his coat-collar that completely hid his cheeks and 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
with a certain eager quickness.
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, and 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 and 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 a 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 somethin'," 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 handkercheif 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
"But they take long enough to get well, 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,
"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.
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, and then noticed he had his bag with him. "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
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 up 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 the 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,
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--"
"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 turned 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 till 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 very 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
"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 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. I overlooked--" and Mr. Henfrey
finished and went.
But he went 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-ly."
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 very
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 computations 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 you own business, Hall," said Mrs. Hall, "and I'll mind
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.
So it was that on the twenty-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 were 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 being 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 swift half-minute. No one spoke, everyone 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 swiftly 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. It was so
rapid that it gave him 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.
A couple of minutes after, 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, than?" and so forth.
Mr. Hall, staring at them from the steps and listening, found it
incredible that he had seen anything so 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
inquiry. "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, in accordance with his directions,
carried into the parlour, 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 labeled 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 chiffonnier, on the
mantel, on the table under the window, round the floor, on the
bookshelf--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 table-cloth and beginning
to spread it over the table. "If you're satisfied, of course--"
He turned and sat down, with his coat-collar toward 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
"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!
There was a noise of hobnails on the bricks in the bar, and Mrs.
Hall had very reluctantly 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 trousers
and 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 any one
can see."
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 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'd 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 invisibly, 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 inn
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 such things as that,
and would thus 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 folk.
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 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 humourists 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, but
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 forth-coming sermon.
"That chap at the inn--"
"Give me something to drink," said Cuss, and he sat down.
When his nerves had been steadied by a glass of cheap sherry--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 the
chimney. So! Just at that point, to illustrate his story, out came
his arm."
"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."
"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--"
"Something--exactly like a finger and thumb it felt--nipped my
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
around, 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."
The facts of the burglary 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 down-stairs, 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 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 stooped 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 strange 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.
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 these 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. "George! You gart whad 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 en't. And the front door's onbolted."
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 en't there," he said, "'is close are.
And what's 'e doin' 'ithout 'is close, then? 'Tas a most curious
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. Someone 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 topmost 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,
described 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 drily 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 such cases.
"'Tas sperits," said Mrs. Hall. "I know 'tas sperits. 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
sperits 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 if 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 over 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
"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.
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 pique 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, 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.
Woodyer, of the "Purple Fawn," and Mr. Jaggers, the cobbler, who
also sold old second-hand ordinary bicycles, were stretching a
string of union-jacks and royal ensigns (which had originally
celebrated the first Victorian 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
twang 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 this scene, and she came holding a little tray with an
unsettled bill upon it. "Is it your bill you're wanting, sir?" she
"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
"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 three 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 to know what you been doing t'my chair
upstairs, and I want to 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 to know is how you _did_ come in. And I want to 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 everyone 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. Everyone 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. Everyone tumbled on everyone 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. These increased suddenly.
Forthwith everyone all down the street, the sweetstuff 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.
Everyone 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 eye-witness. "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
'ithout a 'ed!" "Narnsense! 'tis some conjuring trick." "Fetched
off 'is wrapping, '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 at 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
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, endeavouring to act on instructions, received 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 Sidderbridge carter
coming to the rescue of law and order. At the same moment down came
three or four bottles from the chiffonnier 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
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 stared.
"I say!" said Jaffers, brought up short by a dim realization of the
incongruity of the whole business, "Darn it! Can't use 'em as I can
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, eh?" 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 broke into and money took."
"And circumstances certainly point--"
"Stuff and nonsense!" said the Invisible Man.
"I hope so, sir; but I've got my instructions."
"Well," said the stranger, "I'll come. I'll _come_. But no
"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 was
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 at the waistcoat; it struggled, and the shirt
slipped out of it and left it limply and empty in his hand. "Hold
him!" said Jaffers, loudly. "Once he gets the things off--"
"Hold him!" cried everyone, 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 threw 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 melee, 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 around, 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. Half-way 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
But Jaffers lay quite still, face upward and knees bent, at the foot
of the steps of the inn.
The eighth chapter is exceedingly brief, and relates that Gibbons,
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. Gibbons 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.
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 towards Adderdean, about a mile and a half
out of Iping. His feet, save for socks of irregular open-work, 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 shoes, 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 shoes 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 country, try as I would, but _them_. Look at 'em!
And a good country for boots, too, in a general way. But it's just
my promiscuous luck. I've got my boots in this country ten years or
more. And then they treat you like this."
"It's a beast of a country," said the Voice. "And pigs for people."
"Ain't it?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel. "Lord! But them boots! It beats
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 was irradiated by the dawn of a great amazement.
"Where _are_ yer?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel over his shoulder and
coming on all fours. He saw a stretch of empty downs with the wind
swaying the 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 yer _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
"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
"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. Whizz 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. Whizz
it came, and ricochetted 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 missile. "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."
"Anyone 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.
"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 fingers went timorously up the arm, patted a
muscular chest, and explored a bearded face. Marvel's face was
"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 half 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 fairly 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 tizzy. 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."
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
nevertheless. 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 strong, 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, as also did the swings and the cocoanut shies. There
was also promenading, and the steam organ attached to a small
roundabout 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 extraordinarily
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 apprehensive, and he moved with a sort of reluctant alacrity. He
turned the corner of 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 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.
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 round, 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 inquiry. "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."
Someone 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 so roughly," said the Voice, "but it's
"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 quite chilly. I want clothing--and
other accommodation; and I must also have those three books."
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 right 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--right thur?" asked Mr. Hall, sharply, again.
The Vicar's voice answered with a curious jerking intonation:
"Quite ri-right. 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 speaking to us, wuz he?"
"Disgraceful!" said Mr. Bunting, within.
"'Disgraceful,'" said Mr. Henfrey. "I heard it--distinct."
"Who's that speaking now?" asked Henfrey.
"Mr. Cuss, I s'pose," said Hall. "Can you hear--anything?"
Silence. The sounds within indistinct and perplexing.
"Sounds like throwing the table-cloth about," said Hall.
Mrs. Hall appeared behind the bar. Hall made gestures of silence and
invitation. This aroused Mrs. Hall's wifely opposition. "What yer
listenin' there for, Hall?" she asked. "Ain't you nothin' better to
do--busy day like this?"
Hall tried to convey everything by grimaces and dumb show, but Mrs.
Hall was obdurate. She raised her voice. So Hall and Henfrey, rather
crestfallen, tiptoed back to the bar, gesticulating to explain to
At first she refused to see anything in what they had heard at
all. Then she insisted on Hall keeping silence, while Henfrey told
her his story. She was inclined to think the whole business
nonsense--perhaps they were just moving the furniture about. "I
heerd'n say 'disgraceful'; _that_ I did," said Hall.
"_I_ heerd that, Mrs. Hall," said Henfrey.
"Like as not--" began Mrs. Hall.
"Hsh!" said Mr. Teddy Henfrey. "Didn't I hear the window?"
"What window?" asked Mrs. Hall.
"Parlour window," said Henfrey.
Everyone stood listening intently. Mrs. Hall's eyes, directed
straight before her, saw without seeing the brilliant oblong of the
inn door, the road white and vivid, and Huxter's shop-front
blistering in the June sun. Abruptly Huxter's door opened and Huxter
appeared, eyes staring with excitement, arms gesticulating. "Yap!"
cried Huxter. "Stop thief!" and he ran obliquely across the oblong
towards the yard gates, and vanished.
Simultaneously came a tumult from the parlour, and a sound of
windows being closed.
Hall, Henfrey, and the human contents of the tap rushed out at once
pell-mell into the street. They saw someone whisk round the corner
towards the road, and Mr. Huxter executing a complicated leap in
the air that ended on his face and shoulder. Down the street people
were standing astonished or running towards them.
Mr. Huxter was stunned. Henfrey stopped to discover this, but Hall
and the two labourers from the Tap rushed at once to the corner,
shouting incoherent things, and saw Mr. Marvel vanishing by the
corner of the church wall. They appear to have jumped to the
impossible conclusion that this was the Invisible Man suddenly
become visible, and set off at once along the lane in pursuit. But
Hall had hardly run a dozen yards before he gave a loud shout of
astonishment and went flying headlong sideways, clutching one of
the labourers and bringing him to the ground. He had been charged
just as one charges a man at football. The second labourer came
round in a circle, stared, and conceiving that Hall had tumbled
over of his own accord, turned to resume the pursuit, only to be
tripped by the ankle just as Huxter had been. Then, as the first
labourer struggled to his feet, he was kicked sideways by a blow
that might have felled an ox.
As he went down, the rush from the direction of the village green
came round the corner. The first to appear was the proprietor of
the cocoanut shy, a burly man in a blue jersey. He was astonished
to see the lane empty save for three men sprawling absurdly on the
ground. And then something happened to his rear-most foot, and he
went headlong and rolled sideways just in time to graze the feet
of his brother and partner, following headlong. The two were then
kicked, knelt on, fallen over, and cursed by quite a number of
over-hasty people.
Now when Hall and Henfrey and the labourers ran out of the house,
Mrs. Hall, who had been disciplined by years of experience,
remained in the bar next the till. And suddenly the parlour door
was opened, and Mr. Cuss appeared, and without glancing at her
rushed at once down the steps toward the corner. "Hold him!" he
cried. "Don't let him drop that parcel."
He knew nothing of the
existence of Marvel. For the Invisible Man had handed over the
books and bundle in the yard. The face of Mr. Cuss was angry and
resolute, but his costume was defective, a sort of limp white kilt
that could only have passed muster in Greece. "Hold him!" he
bawled. "He's got my trousers! And every stitch of the Vicar's
"'Tend to him in a minute!" he cried to Henfrey as he passed the
prostrate Huxter, and, coming round the corner to join the tumult,
was promptly knocked off his feet into an indecorous sprawl.
Somebody in full flight trod heavily on his finger. He yelled,
struggled to regain his feet, was knocked against and thrown on all
fours again, and became aware that he was involved not in a capture,
but a rout. Everyone was running back to the village. He rose again
and was hit severely behind the ear. He staggered and set off back
to the "Coach and Horses" forthwith, leaping over the deserted
Huxter, who was now sitting up, on his way.
Behind him as he was halfway up the inn steps he heard a sudden
yell of rage, rising sharply out of the confusion of cries, and a
sounding smack in someone's face. He recognised the voice as that
of the Invisible Man, and the note was that of a man suddenly
infuriated by a painful blow.
In another moment Mr. Cuss was back in the parlour. "He's coming
back, Bunting!" he said, rushing in. "Save yourself!"
Mr. Bunting was standing in the window engaged in an attempt to
clothe himself in the hearth-rug and a West Surrey Gazette. "Who's
coming?" he said, so startled that his costume narrowly escaped
"Invisible Man," said Cuss, and rushed on to the window. "We'd
better clear out from here! He's fighting mad! Mad!"
In another moment he was out in the yard.
"Good heavens!" said Mr. Bunting, hesitating between two horrible
alternatives. He heard a frightful struggle in the passage of the
inn, and his decision was made. He clambered out of the window,
adjusted his costume hastily, and fled up the village as fast as
his fat little legs would carry him.
From the moment when the Invisible Man screamed with rage and Mr.
Bunting made his memorable flight up the village, it became
impossible to give a consecutive account of affairs in Iping.
Possibly the Invisible Man's original intention was simply to cover
Marvel's retreat with the clothes and books. But his temper, at no
time very good, seems to have gone completely at some chance blow,
and forthwith he set to smiting and overthrowing, for the mere
satisfaction of hurting.
You must figure the street full of running figures, of doors
slamming and fights for hiding-places. You must figure the tumult
suddenly striking on the unstable equilibrium of old Fletcher's
planks and two chairs--with cataclysmic results. You must figure
an appalled couple caught dismally in a swing. And then the whole
tumultuous rush has passed and the Iping street with its gauds and
flags is deserted save for the still raging unseen, and littered
with cocoanuts, overthrown canvas screens, and the scattered stock
in trade of a sweetstuff stall. Everywhere there is a sound of
closing shutters and shoving bolts, and the only visible humanity
is an occasional flitting eye under a raised eyebrow in the corner
of a window pane.
The Invisible Man amused himself for a little while by breaking all
the windows in the "Coach and Horses," and then he thrust a street
lamp through the parlour window of Mrs. Gribble. He it must have
been who cut the telegraph wire to Adderdean just beyond Higgins'
cottage on the Adderdean road. And after that, as his peculiar
qualities allowed, he passed out of human perceptions altogether,
and he was neither heard, seen, nor felt in Iping any more. He
vanished absolutely.
But it was the best part of two hours before any human being
ventured out again into the desolation of Iping street.
When the dusk was gathering and Iping was just beginning to peep
timorously forth again upon the shattered wreckage of its Bank
Holiday, a short, thick-set man in a shabby silk hat was marching
painfully through the twilight behind the beechwoods on the road to
Bramblehurst. He carried three books bound together by some sort
of ornamental elastic ligature, and a bundle wrapped in a blue
table-cloth. His rubicund face expressed consternation and fatigue;
he appeared to be in a spasmodic sort of hurry. He was accompanied
by a voice other than his own, and ever and again he winced under
the touch of unseen hands.
"If you give me the slip again," said the Voice, "if you attempt to
give me the slip again--"
"Lord!" said Mr. Marvel. "That shoulder's a mass of bruises as it
"On my honour," said the Voice, "I will kill you."
"I didn't try to give you the slip," said Marvel, in a voice that
was not far remote from tears. "I swear I didn't. I didn't know the
blessed turning, that was all! How the devil was I to know the
blessed turning? As it is, I've been knocked about--"
"You'll get knocked about a great deal more if you don't mind,"
said the Voice, and Mr. Marvel abruptly became silent. He blew out
his cheeks, and his eyes were eloquent of despair.
"It's bad enough to let these floundering yokels explode my little
secret, without _your_ cutting off with my books. It's lucky for some
of them they cut and ran when they did! Here am I ... No one knew I
was invisible! And now what am I to do?"
"What am _I_ to do?" asked Marvel, sotto voce.
"It's all about. It will be in the papers! Everybody will be
looking for me; everyone on their guard--" The Voice broke off
into vivid curses and ceased.
The despair of Mr. Marvel's face deepened, and his pace slackened.
"Go on!" said the Voice.
Mr. Marvel's face assumed a greyish tint between the ruddier
"Don't drop those books, stupid," said the Voice, sharply--overtaking
"The fact is," said the Voice, "I shall have to make use of you....
You're a poor tool, but I must."
"I'm a _miserable_ tool," said Marvel.
"You are," said the Voice.
"I'm the worst possible tool you could have," said Marvel.
"I'm not strong," he said after a discouraging silence.
"I'm not over strong," he repeated.
"And my heart's weak. That little business--I pulled it through,
of course--but bless you! I could have dropped."
"I haven't the nerve and strength for the sort of thing you want."
"_I'll_ stimulate you."
"I wish you wouldn't. I wouldn't like to mess up your plans, you
know. But I might--out of sheer funk and misery."
"You'd better not," said the Voice, with quiet emphasis.
"I wish I was dead," said Marvel.
"It ain't justice," he said; "you must admit.... It seems to me I've
a perfect right--"
"_Get_ on!" said the Voice.
Mr. Marvel mended his pace, and for a time they went in silence
"It's devilish hard," said Mr. Marvel.
This was quite ineffectual. He tried another tack.
"What do I make by it?" he began again in a tone of unendurable
"Oh! _shut_up_!" said the Voice, with sudden amazing vigour. "I'll
see to you all right. You do what you're told. You'll do it all
right. You're a fool and all that, but you'll do--"
"I tell you, sir, I'm not the man for it. Respectfully--but
it _is_ so--"
"If you don't shut up I shall twist your wrist again," said the
Invisible Man. "I want to think."
Presently two oblongs of yellow light appeared through the trees,
and the square tower of a church loomed through the gloaming. "I
shall keep my hand on your shoulder," said the Voice, "all through
the village. Go straight through and try no foolery. It will be the
worse for you if you do."
"I know that," sighed Mr. Marvel, "I know all that."
The unhappy-looking figure in the obsolete silk hat passed up the
street of the little village with his burdens, and vanished into
the gathering darkness beyond the lights of the windows.
Ten o'clock the next morning found Mr. Marvel, unshaven, dirty, and
travel-stained, sitting with the books beside him and his hands deep
in his pockets, looking very weary, nervous, and uncomfortable, and
inflating his cheeks at infrequent intervals, on the bench outside
a little inn on the outskirts of Port Stowe. Beside him were the
books, but now they were tied with string. The bundle had been
abandoned in the pine-woods beyond Bramblehurst, in accordance with
a charge in the plans of the Invisible Man. Mr. Marvel sat on the
bench, and although no one took the slightest notice of him, his
agitation remained at fever heat. His hands would go ever and again
to his various pockets with a curious nervous fumbling.
When he had been sitting for the best part of an hour, however, an
elderly mariner, carrying a newspaper, came out of the inn and sat
down beside him. "Pleasant day," said the mariner.
Mr. Marvel glanced about him with something very like terror.
"Very," he said.
"Just seasonable weather for the time of year," said the mariner,
taking no denial.
"Quite," said Mr. Marvel.
The mariner produced a toothpick, and (saving his regard) was
engrossed thereby for some minutes. His eyes meanwhile were at
liberty to examine Mr. Marvel's dusty figure, and the books beside
him. As he had approached Mr. Marvel he had heard a sound like the
dropping of coins into a pocket. He was struck by the contrast of
Mr. Marvel's appearance with this suggestion of opulence. Thence
his mind wandered back again to a topic that had taken a curiously
firm hold of his imagination.
"Books?" he said suddenly, noisily finishing with the toothpick.
Mr. Marvel started and looked at them. "Oh, yes," he said. "Yes,
they're books."
"There's some ex-traordinary things in books," said the mariner.
"I believe you," said Mr. Marvel.
"And some extra-ordinary things out of 'em," said the mariner.
"True likewise," said Mr. Marvel. He eyed his interlocutor, and
then glanced about him.
"There's some extra-ordinary things in newspapers, for example,"
said the mariner.
"There are."
"In _this_ newspaper," said the mariner.
"Ah!" said Mr. Marvel.
"There's a story," said the mariner, fixing Mr. Marvel with an eye
that was firm and deliberate; "there's a story about an Invisible
Man, for instance."
Mr. Marvel pulled his mouth askew and scratched his cheek and felt
his ears glowing. "What will they be writing next?" he asked
faintly. "Ostria, or America?"
"Neither," said the mariner. "_Here_."
"Lord!" said Mr. Marvel, starting.
"When I say _here_," said the mariner, to Mr. Marvel's intense
relief, "I don't of course mean here in this place, I mean
"An Invisible Man!" said Mr. Marvel. "And what's _he_ been up to?"
"Everything," said the mariner, controlling Marvel with his eye,
and then amplifying, "every--blessed--thing."
"I ain't seen a paper these four days," said Marvel.
"Iping's the place he started at," said the mariner.
"In-deed!" said Mr. Marvel.
"He started there. And where he came from, nobody don't seem to
know. Here it is: 'Pe-culiar Story from Iping.' And it says in this
paper that the evidence is extra-ordinary strong--extra-ordinary."
"Lord!" said Mr. Marvel.
"But then, it's an extra-ordinary story. There is a clergyman and a
medical gent witnesses--saw 'im all right and proper--or leastways
didn't see 'im. He was staying, it says, at the 'Coach an' Horses,'
and no one don't seem to have been aware of his misfortune, it says,
aware of his misfortune, until in an Altercation in the inn, it
says, his bandages on his head was torn off. It was then ob-served
that his head was invisible. Attempts were At Once made to secure
him, but casting off his garments, it says, he succeeded in
escaping, but not until after a desperate struggle, in which he
had inflicted serious injuries, it says, on our worthy and able
constable, Mr. J. A. Jaffers. Pretty straight story, eh? Names and
"Lord!" said Mr. Marvel, looking nervously about him, trying to
count the money in his pockets by his unaided sense of touch, and
full of a strange and novel idea. "It sounds most astonishing."
"Don't it? Extra-ordinary, _I_ call it. Never heard tell of Invisible
Men before, I haven't, but nowadays one hears such a lot of
extra-ordinary things--that--"
"That all he did?" asked Marvel, trying to seem at his ease.
"It's enough, ain't it?" said the mariner.
"Didn't go Back by any chance?" asked Marvel. "Just escaped and
that's all, eh?"
"All!" said the mariner. "Why!--ain't it enough?"
"Quite enough," said Marvel.
"I should think it was enough," said the mariner. "I should think
it was enough."
"He didn't have any pals--it don't say he had any pals, does it?"
asked Mr. Marvel, anxious.
"Ain't one of a sort enough for you?" asked the mariner. "No, thank
Heaven, as one might say, he didn't."
He nodded his head slowly. "It makes me regular uncomfortable,
the bare thought of that chap running about the country! He is at
present At Large, and from certain evidence it is supposed that he
has--taken--took, I suppose they mean--the road to Port Stowe. You
see we're right _in_ it! None of your American wonders, this time.
And just think of the things he might do! Where'd you be, if he took
a drop over and above, and had a fancy to go for you? Suppose he
wants to rob--who can prevent him? He can trespass, he can burgle,
he could walk through a cordon of policemen as easy as me or you
could give the slip to a blind man! Easier! For these here blind
chaps hear uncommon sharp, I'm told. And wherever there was liquor
he fancied--"
"He's got a tremenjous advantage, certainly," said Mr. Marvel.
"You're right," said the mariner. "He _has_."
All this time Mr. Marvel had been glancing about him intently,
listening for faint footfalls, trying to detect imperceptible
movements. He seemed on the point of some great resolution. He
coughed behind his hand.
He looked about him again, listened, bent towards the mariner, and
lowered his voice: "The fact of it is--I happen--to know just a
thing or two about this Invisible Man. From private sources."
"Oh!" said the mariner, interested. "_You_?"
"Yes," said Mr. Marvel. "Me."
"Indeed!" said the mariner. "And may I ask--"
"You'll be astonished," said Mr. Marvel behind his hand. "It's
"Indeed!" said the mariner.
"The fact is," began Mr. Marvel eagerly in a confidential undertone.
Suddenly his expression changed marvellously. "Ow!" he said. He rose
stiffly in his seat. His face was eloquent of physical suffering.
"Wow!" he said.
"What's up?" said the mariner, concerned.
"Toothache," said Mr. Marvel, and put his hand to his ear. He caught
hold of his books. "I must be getting on, I think," he said. He
edged in a curious way along the seat away from his interlocutor.
"But you was just a-going to tell me about this here Invisible Man!"
protested the mariner. Mr. Marvel seemed to consult with himself.
"Hoax," said a Voice. "It's a hoax," said Mr. Marvel.
"But it's in the paper," said the mariner.
"Hoax all the same," said Marvel. "I know the chap that started the
lie. There ain't no Invisible Man whatsoever--Blimey."
"But how 'bout this paper? D'you mean to say--?"
"Not a word of it," said Marvel, stoutly.
The mariner stared, paper in hand. Mr. Marvel jerkily faced about.
"Wait a bit," said the mariner, rising and speaking slowly, "D'you
mean to say--?"
"I do," said Mr. Marvel.
"Then why did you let me go on and tell you all this blarsted
stuff, then? What d'yer mean by letting a man make a fool of
himself like that for? Eh?"
Mr. Marvel blew out his cheeks. The mariner was suddenly very red
indeed; he clenched his hands. "I been talking here this ten
minutes," he said; "and you, you little pot-bellied, leathery-faced
son of an old boot, couldn't have the elementary manners--"
"Don't you come bandying words with me," said Mr. Marvel.
"Bandying words! I'm a jolly good mind--"
"Come up," said a Voice, and Mr. Marvel was suddenly whirled about
and started marching off in a curious spasmodic manner. "You'd
better move on," said the mariner. "Who's moving on?" said Mr.
Marvel. He was receding obliquely with a curious hurrying gait, with
occasional violent jerks forward. Some way along the road he began
a muttered monologue, protests and recriminations.
"Silly devil!" said the mariner, legs wide apart, elbows akimbo,
watching the receding figure. "I'll show you, you silly ass--
hoaxing _me_! It's here--on the paper!"
Mr. Marvel retorted incoherently and, receding, was hidden by a bend
in the road, but the mariner still stood magnificent in the midst
of the way, until the approach of a butcher's cart dislodged him.
Then he turned himself towards Port Stowe. "Full of extra-ordinary
asses," he said softly to himself. "Just to take me down a bit--that
was his silly game--It's on the paper!"
And there was another extraordinary thing he was presently to hear,
that had happened quite close to him. And that was a vision of a
"fist full of money" (no less) travelling without visible agency,
along by the wall at the corner of St. Michael's Lane. A brother
mariner had seen this wonderful sight that very morning. He had
snatched at the money forthwith and had been knocked headlong, and
when he had got to his feet the butterfly money had vanished. Our
mariner was in the mood to believe anything, he declared, but that
was a bit _too_ stiff. Afterwards, however, he began to think things
The story of the flying money was true. And all about that
neighbourhood, even from the august London and Country Banking
Company, from the tills of shops and inns--doors standing that sunny
weather entirely open--money had been quietly and dexterously making
off that day in handfuls and rouleaux, floating quietly along by
walls and shady places, dodging quickly from the approaching eyes of
men. And it had, though no man had traced it, invariably ended its
mysterious flight in the pocket of that agitated gentleman in the
obsolete silk hat, sitting outside the little inn on the outskirts
of Port Stowe.
It was ten days after--and indeed only when the Burdock story was
already old--that the mariner collated these facts and began to
understand how near he had been to the wonderful Invisible Man.
In the early evening time Dr. Kemp was sitting in his study in the
belvedere on the hill overlooking Burdock. It was a pleasant little
room, with three windows--north, west, and south--and bookshelves
covered with books and scientific publications, and a broad
writing-table, and, under the north window, a microscope, glass
slips, minute instruments, some cultures, and scattered bottles of
reagents. Dr. Kemp's solar lamp was lit, albeit the sky was still
bright with the sunset light, and his blinds were up because there
was no offence of peering outsiders to require them pulled down.
Dr. Kemp was a tall and slender young man, with flaxen hair and a
moustache almost white, and the work he was upon would earn him, he
hoped, the fellowship of the Royal Society, so highly did he think
of it.
And his eye, presently wandering from his work, caught the sunset
blazing at the back of the hill that is over against his own. For a
minute perhaps he sat, pen in mouth, admiring the rich golden
colour above the crest, and then his attention was attracted by the
little figure of a man, inky black, running over the hill-brow
towards him. He was a shortish little man, and he wore a high hat,
and he was running so fast that his legs verily twinkled.
"Another of those fools," said Dr. Kemp. "Like that ass who ran
into me this morning round a corner, with the ''Visible Man
a-coming, sir!' I can't imagine what possess people. One might
think we were in the thirteenth century."
He got up, went to the window, and stared at the dusky hillside, and
the dark little figure tearing down it. "He seems in a confounded
hurry," said Dr. Kemp, "but he doesn't seem to be getting on. If
his pockets were full of lead, he couldn't run heavier."
"Spurted, sir," said Dr. Kemp.
In another moment the higher of the villas that had clambered up the
hill from Burdock had occulted the running figure. He was visible
again for a moment, and again, and then again, three times between
the three detached houses that came next, and then the terrace hid
"Asses!" said Dr. Kemp, swinging round on his heel and walking
back to his writing-table.
But those who saw the fugitive nearer, and perceived the abject
terror on his perspiring face, being themselves in the open roadway,
did not share in the doctor's contempt. By the man pounded, and as
he ran he chinked like a well-filled purse that is tossed to and
fro. He looked neither to the right nor the left, but his dilated
eyes stared straight downhill to where the lamps were being lit, and
the people were crowded in the street. And his ill-shaped mouth fell
apart, and a glairy foam lay on his lips, and his breath came hoarse
and noisy. All he passed stopped and began staring up the road and
down, and interrogating one another with an inkling of discomfort
for the reason of his haste.
And then presently, far up the hill, a dog playing in the road
yelped and ran under a gate, and as they still wondered
something--a wind--a pad, pad, pad,--a sound like a panting breathing,
rushed by.
People screamed. People sprang off the pavement: It passed in
shouts, it passed by instinct down the hill. They were shouting in
the street before Marvel was halfway there. They were bolting into
houses and slamming the doors behind them, with the news. He heard
it and made one last desperate spurt. Fear came striding by, rushed
ahead of him, and in a moment had seized the town.
"The Invisible Man is coming! The Invisible Man!"
The "Jolly Cricketers" is just at the bottom of the hill, where the
tram-lines begin. The barman leant his fat red arms on the counter
and talked of horses with an anaemic cabman, while a black-bearded
man in grey snapped up biscuit and cheese, drank Burton, and
conversed in American with a policeman off duty.
"What's the shouting about!" said the anaemic cabman, going off at a
tangent, trying to see up the hill over the dirty yellow blind in
the low window of the inn. Somebody ran by outside. "Fire, perhaps,"
said the barman.
Footsteps approached, running heavily, the door was pushed open
violently, and Marvel, weeping and dishevelled, his hat gone, the
neck of his coat torn open, rushed in, made a convulsive turn, and
attempted to shut the door. It was held half open by a strap.
"Coming!" he bawled, his voice shrieking with terror. "He's coming.
The 'Visible Man! After me! For Gawd's sake! 'Elp! 'Elp! 'Elp!"
"Shut the doors," said the policeman. "Who's coming? What's the
row?" He went to the door, released the strap, and it slammed. The
American closed the other door.
"Lemme go inside," said Marvel, staggering and weeping, but still
clutching the books. "Lemme go inside. Lock me in--somewhere. I
tell you he's after me. I give him the slip. He said he'd kill me
and he will."
"_You're_ safe," said the man with the black beard. "The door's shut.
What's it all about?"
"Lemme go inside," said Marvel, and shrieked aloud as a blow
suddenly made the fastened door shiver and was followed by a hurried
rapping and a shouting outside. "Hullo," cried the policeman, "who's
there?" Mr. Marvel began to make frantic dives at panels that looked
like doors. "He'll kill me--he's got a knife or something. For
Gawd's sake--!"
"Here you are," said the barman. "Come in here." And he held up the
flap of the bar.
Mr. Marvel rushed behind the bar as the summons outside was
repeated. "Don't open the door," he screamed. "_Please_ don't open
the door. _Where_ shall I hide?"
"This, this Invisible Man, then?" asked the man with the black
beard, with one hand behind him. "I guess it's about time we saw
The window of the inn was suddenly smashed in, and there was a
screaming and running to and fro in the street. The policeman had
been standing on the settee staring out, craning to see who was at
the door. He got down with raised eyebrows. "It's that," he said.
The barman stood in front of the bar-parlour door which was now
locked on Mr. Marvel, stared at the smashed window, and came round
to the two other men.
Everything was suddenly quiet. "I wish I had my truncheon," said
the policeman, going irresolutely to the door. "Once we open, in he
comes. There's no stopping him."
"Don't you be in too much hurry about that door," said the anaemic
cabman, anxiously.
"Draw the bolts," said the man with the black beard, "and if he
comes--" He showed a revolver in his hand.
"That won't do," said the policeman; "that's murder."
"I know what country I'm in," said the man with the beard. "I'm
going to let off at his legs. Draw the bolts."
"Not with that blinking thing going off behind me," said the
barman, craning over the blind.
"Very well," said the man with the black beard, and stooping down,
revolver ready, drew them himself. Barman, cabman, and policeman
faced about.
"Come in," said the bearded man in an undertone, standing back and
facing the unbolted doors with his pistol behind him. No one came
in, the door remained closed. Five minutes afterwards when a second
cabman pushed his head in cautiously, they were still waiting, and
an anxious face peered out of the bar-parlour and supplied
information. "Are all the doors of the house shut?" asked Marvel.
"He's going round--prowling round. He's as artful as the devil."
"Good Lord!" said the burly barman. "There's the back! Just watch
them doors! I say--!" He looked about him helplessly. The
bar-parlour door slammed and they heard the key turn. "There's
the yard door and the private door. The yard door--"
He rushed out of the bar.
In a minute he reappeared with a carving-knife in his hand. "The
yard door was open!" he said, and his fat underlip dropped. "He may
be in the house now!" said the first cabman.
"He's not in the kitchen," said the barman. "There's two women
there, and I've stabbed every inch of it with this little beef
slicer. And they don't think he's come in. They haven't noticed--"
"Have you fastened it?" asked the first cabman.
"I'm out of frocks," said the barman.
The man with the beard replaced his revolver. And even as he did so
the flap of the bar was shut down and the bolt clicked, and then
with a tremendous thud the catch of the door snapped and the
bar-parlour door burst open. They heard Marvel squeal like a caught
leveret, and forthwith they were clambering over the bar to his
rescue. The bearded man's revolver cracked and the looking-glass at
the back of the parlour starred and came smashing and tinkling down.
As the barman entered the room he saw Marvel, curiously crumpled up
and struggling against the door that led to the yard and kitchen.
The door flew open while the barman hesitated, and Marvel was
dragged into the kitchen. There was a scream and a clatter of pans.
Marvel, head down, and lugging back obstinately, was forced to the
kitchen door, and the bolts were drawn.
Then the policeman, who had been trying to pass the barman, rushed
in, followed by one of the cabmen, gripped the wrist of the
invisible hand that collared Marvel, was hit in the face and went
reeling back. The door opened, and Marvel made a frantic effort to
obtain a lodgment behind it. Then the cabman collared something.
"I got him," said the cabman. The barman's red hands came clawing
at the unseen. "Here he is!" said the barman.
Mr. Marvel, released, suddenly dropped to the ground and made an
attempt to crawl behind the legs of the fighting men. The struggle
blundered round the edge of the door. The voice of the Invisible
Man was heard for the first time, yelling out sharply, as the
policeman trod on his foot. Then he cried out passionately and
his fists flew round like flails. The cabman suddenly whooped
and doubled up, kicked under the diaphragm. The door into the
bar-parlour from the kitchen slammed and covered Mr. Marvel's
retreat. The men in the kitchen found themselves clutching at and
struggling with empty air.
"Where's he gone?" cried the man with the beard. "Out?"
"This way," said the policeman, stepping into the yard and
A piece of tile whizzed by his head and smashed among the crockery
on the kitchen table.
"I'll show him," shouted the man with the black beard, and suddenly
a steel barrel shone over the policeman's shoulder, and five
bullets had followed one another into the twilight whence the
missile had come. As he fired, the man with the beard moved his
hand in a horizontal curve, so that his shots radiated out into the
narrow yard like spokes from a wheel.
A silence followed. "Five cartridges," said the man with the black
beard. "That's the best of all. Four aces and a joker. Get a
lantern, someone, and come and feel about for his body."
Dr. Kemp had continued writing in his study until the shots
aroused him. Crack, crack, crack, they came one after the other.
"Hullo!" said Dr. Kemp, putting his pen into his mouth again and
listening. "Who's letting off revolvers in Burdock? What are the
asses at now?"
He went to the south window, threw it up, and leaning out stared
down on the network of windows, beaded gas-lamps and shops, with its
black interstices of roof and yard that made up the town at night.
"Looks like a crowd down the hill," he said, "by 'The Cricketers,'"
and remained watching. Thence his eyes wandered over the town to far
away where the ships' lights shone, and the pier glowed--a little
illuminated, facetted pavilion like a gem of yellow light. The moon
in its first quarter hung over the westward hill, and the stars were
clear and almost tropically bright.
After five minutes, during which his mind had travelled into a
remote speculation of social conditions of the future, and lost
itself at last over the time dimension, Dr. Kemp roused himself
with a sigh, pulled down the window again, and returned to his
writing desk.
It must have been about an hour after this that the front-door bell
rang. He had been writing slackly, and with intervals of
abstraction, since the shots. He sat listening. He heard the servant
answer the door, and waited for her feet on the staircase, but she
did not come. "Wonder what that was," said Dr. Kemp.
He tried to resume his work, failed, got up, went downstairs from
his study to the landing, rang, and called over the balustrade to
the housemaid as she appeared in the hall below. "Was that a
letter?" he asked.
"Only a runaway ring, sir," she answered.
"I'm restless to-night," he said to himself. He went back to his
study, and this time attacked his work resolutely. In a little
while he was hard at work again, and the only sounds in the room
were the ticking of the clock and the subdued shrillness of his
quill, hurrying in the very centre of the circle of light his
lampshade threw on his table.
It was two o'clock before Dr. Kemp had finished his work for the
night. He rose, yawned, and went downstairs to bed. He had already
removed his coat and vest, when he noticed that he was thirsty. He
took a candle and went down to the dining-room in search of a
syphon and whiskey.
Dr. Kemp's scientific pursuits have made him a very observant
man, and as he recrossed the hall, he noticed a dark spot on the
linoleum near the mat at the foot of the stairs. He went on
upstairs, and then it suddenly occurred to him to ask himself what
the spot on the linoleum might be. Apparently some subconscious
element was at work. At any rate, he turned with his burden, went
back to the hall, put down the syphon and whiskey, and bending
down, touched the spot. Without any great surprise he found it had
the stickiness and colour of drying blood.
He took up his burden again, and returned upstairs, looking about
him and trying to account for the blood-spot. On the landing he saw
something and stopped astonished. The door-handle of his own room
was blood-stained.
He looked at his own hand. It was quite clean, and then he
remembered that the door of his room had been open when he came down
from his study, and that consequently he had not touched the handle
at all. He went straight into his room, his face quite calm--perhaps
a trifle more resolute than usual. His glance, wandering
inquisitively, fell on the bed. On the counterpane was a mess of
blood, and the sheet had been torn. He had not noticed this before
because he had walked straight to the dressing-table. On the further
side the bedclothes were depressed as if someone had been recently
sitting there.
Then he had an odd impression that he had heard a low voice say,
"Good Heavens!--Kemp!" But Dr. Kemp was no believer in voices.
He stood staring at the tumbled sheets. Was that really a voice? He
looked about again, but noticed nothing further than the disordered
and blood-stained bed. Then he distinctly heard a movement across
the room, near the wash-hand stand. All men, however highly
educated, retain some superstitious inklings. The feeling that is
called "eerie" came upon him. He closed the door of the room, came
forward to the dressing-table, and put down his burdens. Suddenly,
with a start, he perceived a coiled and blood-stained bandage of
linen rag hanging in mid-air, between him and the wash-hand stand.
He stared at this in amazement. It was an empty bandage, a bandage
properly tied but quite empty. He would have advanced to grasp it,
but a touch arrested him, and a voice speaking quite close to him.
"Kemp!" said the Voice.
"Eh?" said Kemp, with his mouth open.
"Keep your nerve," said the Voice. "I'm an Invisible Man."
Kemp made no answer for a space, simply stared at the bandage.
"Invisible Man," he said.
"I am an Invisible Man," repeated the Voice.
The story he had been active to ridicule only that morning rushed
through Kemp's brain. He does not appear to have been either very
much frightened or very greatly surprised at the moment.
Realisation came later.
"I thought it was all a lie," he said. The thought uppermost in his
mind was the reiterated arguments of the morning. "Have you a
bandage on?" he asked.
"Yes," said the Invisible Man.
"Oh!" said Kemp, and then roused himself. "I say!" he said. "But
this is nonsense. It's some trick." He stepped forward suddenly,
and his hand, extended towards the bandage, met invisible fingers.
He recoiled at the touch and his colour changed.
"Keep steady, Kemp, for God's sake! I want help badly. Stop!"
The hand gripped his arm. He struck at it.
"Kemp!" cried the Voice. "Kemp! Keep steady!" and the grip
A frantic desire to free himself took possession of Kemp. The hand
of the bandaged arm gripped his shoulder, and he was suddenly
tripped and flung backwards upon the bed. He opened his mouth to
shout, and the corner of the sheet was thrust between his teeth.
The Invisible Man had him down grimly, but his arms were free and
he struck and tried to kick savagely.
"Listen to reason, will you?" said the Invisible Man, sticking to
him in spite of a pounding in the ribs. "By Heaven! you'll madden
me in a minute!
"Lie still, you fool!" bawled the Invisible Man in Kemp's ear.
Kemp struggled for another moment and then lay still.
"If you shout, I'll smash your face," said the Invisible Man,
relieving his mouth.
"I'm an Invisible Man. It's no foolishness, and no magic. I really
am an Invisible Man. And I want your help. I don't want to hurt
you, but if you behave like a frantic rustic, I must. Don't you
remember me, Kemp? Griffin, of University College?"
"Let me get up," said Kemp. "I'll stop where I am. And let me sit
quiet for a minute."
He sat up and felt his neck.
"I am Griffin, of University College, and I have made myself
invisible. I am just an ordinary man--a man you have known--made
"Griffin?" said Kemp.
"Griffin," answered the Voice. A younger student than you were,
almost an albino, six feet high, and broad, with a pink and white
face and red eyes, who won the medal for chemistry."
"I am confused," said Kemp. "My brain is rioting. What has this to
do with Griffin?"
"I _am_ Griffin."
Kemp thought. "It's horrible," he said. "But what devilry must
happen to make a man invisible?"
"It's no devilry. It's a process, sane and intelligible enough--"
"It's horrible!" said Kemp. "How on earth--?"
"It's horrible enough. But I'm wounded and in pain, and tired ...
Great God! Kemp, you are a man. Take it steady. Give me some food
and drink, and let me sit down here."
Kemp stared at the bandage as it moved across the room, then saw a
basket chair dragged across the floor and come to rest near the bed.
It creaked, and the seat was depressed the quarter of an inch or so.
He rubbed his eyes and felt his neck again. "This beats ghosts," he
said, and laughed stupidly.
"That's better. Thank Heaven, you're getting sensible!"
"Or silly," said Kemp, and knuckled his eyes.
"Give me some whiskey. I'm near dead."
"It didn't feel so. Where are you? If I get up shall I run into you?
_There_! all right. Whiskey? Here. Where shall I give it to you?"
The chair creaked and Kemp felt the glass drawn away from him. He
let go by an effort; his instinct was all against it. It came to
rest poised twenty inches above the front edge of the seat of the
chair. He stared at it in infinite perplexity. "This is--this
must be--hypnotism. You have suggested you are invisible."
"Nonsense," said the Voice.
"It's frantic."
"Listen to me."
"I demonstrated conclusively this morning," began Kemp, "that
"Never mind what you've demonstrated!--I'm starving," said the
Voice, "and the night is chilly to a man without clothes."
"Food?" said Kemp.
The tumbler of whiskey tilted itself. "Yes," said the Invisible Man
rapping it down. "Have you a dressing-gown?"
Kemp made some exclamation in an undertone. He walked to a wardrobe
and produced a robe of dingy scarlet. "This do?" he asked. It was
taken from him. It hung limp for a moment in mid-air, fluttered
weirdly, stood full and decorous buttoning itself, and sat down in
his chair. "Drawers, socks, slippers would be a comfort," said the
Unseen, curtly. "And food."
"Anything. But this is the insanest thing I ever was in, in my
He turned out his drawers for the articles, and then went downstairs
to ransack his larder. He came back with some cold cutlets and
bread, pulled up a light table, and placed them before his guest.
"Never mind knives," said his visitor, and a cutlet hung in mid-air,
with a sound of gnawing.
"Invisible!" said Kemp, and sat down on a bedroom chair.
"I always like to get something about me before I eat," said the
Invisible Man, with a full mouth, eating greedily. "Queer fancy!"
"I suppose that wrist is all right," said Kemp.
"Trust me," said the Invisible Man.
"Of all the strange and wonderful--"
"Exactly. But it's odd I should blunder into _your_ house to get my
bandaging. My first stroke of luck! Anyhow I meant to sleep in this
house to-night. You must stand that! It's a filthy nuisance, my
blood showing, isn't it? Quite a clot over there. Gets visible as
it coagulates, I see. It's only the living tissue I've changed, and
only for as long as I'm alive.... I've been in the house three hours."
"But how's it done?" began Kemp, in a tone of exasperation.
"Confound it! The whole business--it's unreasonable from
beginning to end."
"Quite reasonable," said the Invisible Man. "Perfectly reasonable."
He reached over and secured the whiskey bottle. Kemp stared at the
devouring dressing gown. A ray of candle-light penetrating a torn
patch in the right shoulder, made a triangle of light under the
left ribs. "What were the shots?" he asked. "How did the shooting
"There was a real fool of a man--a sort of confederate of
mine--curse him!--who tried to steal my money. Has done so."
"Is he invisible too?"
"Can't I have some more to eat before I tell you all that? I'm
hungry--in pain. And you want me to tell stories!"
Kemp got up. "_You_ didn't do any shooting?" he asked.
"Not me," said his visitor. "Some fool I'd never seen fired at
random. A lot of them got scared. They all got scared at me. Curse
them!--I say--I want more to eat than this, Kemp."
"I'll see what there is to eat downstairs," said Kemp. "Not much,
I'm afraid."
After he had done eating, and he made a heavy meal, the Invisible
Man demanded a cigar. He bit the end savagely before Kemp could
find a knife, and cursed when the outer leaf loosened. It was
strange to see him smoking; his mouth, and throat, pharynx and
nares, became visible as a sort of whirling smoke cast.
"This blessed gift of smoking!" he said, and puffed vigorously.
"I'm lucky to have fallen upon you, Kemp. You must help me. Fancy
tumbling on you just now! I'm in a devilish scrape--I've been mad,
I think. The things I have been through! But we will do things yet.
Let me tell you--"
He helped himself to more whiskey and soda. Kemp got up, looked
about him, and fetched a glass from his spare room. "It's wild--but
I suppose I may drink."
"You haven't changed much, Kemp, these dozen years. You fair men
don't. Cool and methodical--after the first collapse. I must tell
you. We will work together!"
"But how was it all done?" said Kemp, "and how did you get like
"For God's sake, let me smoke in peace for a little while! And then
I will begin to tell you."
But the story was not told that night. The Invisible Man's wrist
was growing painful; he was feverish, exhausted, and his mind came
round to brood upon his chase down the hill and the struggle about
the inn. He spoke in fragments of Marvel, he smoked faster, his
voice grew angry. Kemp tried to gather what he could.
"He was afraid of me, I could see that he was afraid of me," said
the Invisible Man many times over. "He meant to give me the slip--he
was always casting about! What a fool I was!"
"The cur!
"I should have killed him!"
"Where did you get the money?" asked Kemp, abruptly.
The Invisible Man was silent for a space. "I can't tell you
to-night," he said.
He groaned suddenly and leant forward, supporting his invisible
head on invisible hands. "Kemp," he said, "I've had no sleep for
near three days, except a couple of dozes of an hour or so. I
must sleep soon."
"Well, have my room--have this room."
"But how can I sleep? If I sleep--he will get away. Ugh! What
does it matter?"
"What's the shot wound?" asked Kemp, abruptly.
"Nothing--scratch and blood. Oh, God! How I want sleep!"
"Why not?"
The Invisible Man appeared to be regarding Kemp. "Because I've a
particular objection to being caught by my fellow-men," he said
Kemp started.
"Fool that I am!" said the Invisible Man, striking the table
smartly. "I've put the idea into your head."
Exhausted and wounded as the Invisible Man was, he refused to accept
Kemp's word that his freedom should be respected. He examined the
two windows of the bedroom, drew up the blinds and opened the
sashes, to confirm Kemp's statement that a retreat by them would be
possible. Outside the night was very quiet and still, and the new
moon was setting over the down. Then he examined the keys of the
bedroom and the two dressing-room doors, to satisfy himself that
these also could be made an assurance of freedom. Finally he
expressed himself satisfied. He stood on the hearth rug and Kemp
heard the sound of a yawn.
"I'm sorry," said the Invisible Man, "if I cannot tell you all that
I have done to-night. But I am worn out. It's grotesque, no doubt.
It's horrible! But believe me, Kemp, in spite of your arguments of
this morning, it is quit a possible thing. I have made a discovery.
I meant to keep it to myself. I can't. I must have a partner. And
you.... We can do such things ... But to-morrow. Now, Kemp, I feel
as though I must sleep or perish."
Kemp stood in the middle of the room staring at the headless
garment. "I suppose I must leave you," he said. "It's--
incredible. Three things happening like this, overturning all
my preconceptions--would make me insane. But it's real! Is
there anything more that I can get you?"
"Only bid me good-night," said Griffin.
"Good-night," said Kemp, and shook an invisible hand. He walked
sideways to the door. Suddenly the dressing-gown walked quickly
towards him. "Understand me!" said the dressing-gown. "No attempts
to hamper me, or capture me! Or--"
Kemp's face changed a little. "I thought I gave you my word," he
Kemp closed the door softly behind him, and the key was turned upon
him forthwith. Then, as he stood with an expression of passive
amazement on his face, the rapid feet came to the door of the
dressing-room and that too was locked. Kemp slapped his brow with
his hand. "Am I dreaming? Has the world gone mad--or have I?"
He laughed, and put his hand to the locked door. "Barred out of my
own bedroom, by a flagrant absurdity!" he said.
He walked to the head of the staircase, turned, and stared at the
locked doors. "It's fact," he said. He put his fingers to his
slightly bruised neck. "Undeniable fact!
He shook his head hopelessly, turned, and went downstairs.
He lit the dining-room lamp, got out a cigar, and began pacing the
room, ejaculating. Now and then he would argue with himself.
"Invisible!" he said.
"Is there such a thing as an invisible animal? ... In the sea, yes.
Thousands--millions. All the larvae, all the little nauplii and
tornarias, all the microscopic things, the jelly-fish. In the sea
there are more things invisible than visible! I never thought of
that before. And in the ponds too! All those little pond-life
things--specks of colourless translucent jelly! But in air? No!
"It can't be.
"But after all--why not?
"If a man was made of glass he would still be visible."
His meditation became profound. The bulk of three cigars had passed
into the invisible or diffused as a white ash over the carpet before
he spoke again. Then it was merely an exclamation. He turned aside,
walked out of the room, and went into his little consulting-room and
lit the gas there. It was a little room, because Dr. Kemp did not
live by practice, and in it were the day's newspapers. The morning's
paper lay carelessly opened and thrown aside. He caught it up,
turned it over, and read the account of a "Strange Story from Iping"
that the mariner at Port Stowe had spelt over so painfully to Mr.
Marvel. Kemp read it swiftly.
"Wrapped up!" said Kemp. "Disguised! Hiding it! 'No one seems to
have been aware of his misfortune.' What the devil _is_ his game?"
He dropped the paper, and his eye went seeking. "Ah!" he said, and
caught up the St. James' Gazette, lying folded up as it arrived.
"Now we shall get at the truth," said Dr. Kemp. He rent the paper
open; a couple of columns confronted him. "An Entire Village in
Sussex goes Mad" was the heading.
"Good Heavens!" said Kemp, reading eagerly an incredulous account
of the events in Iping, of the previous afternoon, that have
already been described. Over the leaf the report in the morning
paper had been reprinted.
He re-read it. "Ran through the streets striking right and left.
Jaffers insensible. Mr. Huxter in great pain--still unable to
describe what he saw. Painful humiliation--vicar. Woman ill with
terror! Windows smashed. This extraordinary story probably a
fabrication. Too good not to print--cum grano!"
He dropped the paper and stared blankly in front of him. "Probably
a fabrication!"
He caught up the paper again, and re-read the whole business. "But
when does the Tramp come in? Why the deuce was he chasing a tramp?"
He sat down abruptly on the surgical bench. "He's not only
invisible," he said, "but he's mad! Homicidal!"
When dawn came to mingle its pallor with the lamp-light and cigar
smoke of the dining-room, Kemp was still pacing up and down, trying
to grasp the incredible.
He was altogether too excited to sleep. His servants, descending
sleepily, discovered him, and were inclined to think that
over-study had worked this ill on him. He gave them extraordinary
but quite explicit instructions to lay breakfast for two in the
belvedere study--and then to confine themselves to the basement
and ground-floor. Then he continued to pace the dining-room until
the morning's paper came. That had much to say and little to tell,
beyond the confirmation of the evening before, and a very badly
written account of another remarkable tale from Port Burdock. This
gave Kemp the essence of the happenings at the "Jolly Cricketers,"
and the name of Marvel. "He has made me keep with him twenty-four
hours," Marvel testified. Certain minor facts were added to the
Iping story, notably the cutting of the village telegraph-wire.
But there was nothing to throw light on the connexion between
the Invisible Man and the Tramp; for Mr. Marvel had supplied no
information about the three books, or the money with which he was
lined. The incredulous tone had vanished and a shoal of reporters
and inquirers were already at work elaborating the matter.
Kemp read every scrap of the report and sent his housemaid out to
get everyone of the morning papers she could. These also he
"He is invisible!" he said. "And it reads like rage growing to
mania! The things he may do! The things he may do! And he's
upstairs free as the air. What on earth ought I to do?"
"For instance, would it be a breach of faith if--? No."
He went to a little untidy desk in the corner, and began a note. He
tore this up half written, and wrote another. He read it over and
considered it. Then he took an envelope and addressed it to "Colonel
Adye, Port Burdock."
The Invisible Man awoke even as Kemp was doing this. He awoke in an
evil temper, and Kemp, alert for every sound, heard his pattering
feet rush suddenly across the bedroom overhead. Then a chair was
flung over and the wash-hand stand tumbler smashed. Kemp hurried
upstairs and rapped eagerly.
"What's the matter?" asked Kemp, when the Invisible Man admitted him.
"Nothing," was the answer.
"But, confound it! The smash?"
"Fit of temper," said the Invisible Man. "Forgot this arm; and it's
"You're rather liable to that sort of thing."
"I am."
Kemp walked across the room and picked up the fragments of broken
glass. "All the facts are out about you," said Kemp, standing up
with the glass in his hand; "all that happened in Iping, and down
the hill. The world has become aware of its invisible citizen. But
no one knows you are here."
The Invisible Man swore.
"The secret's out. I gather it was a secret. I don't know what your
plans are, but of course I'm anxious to help you."
The Invisible Man sat down on the bed.
"There's breakfast upstairs," said Kemp, speaking as easily as
possible, and he was delighted to find his strange guest rose
willingly. Kemp led the way up the narrow staircase to the
"Before we can do anything else," said Kemp, "I must understand a
little more about this invisibility of yours." He had sat down,
after one nervous glance out of the window, with the air of a man
who has talking to do. His doubts of the sanity of the entire
business flashed and vanished again as he looked across to
where Griffin sat at the breakfast-table--a headless, handless
dressing-gown, wiping unseen lips on a miraculously held serviette.
"It's simple enough--and credible enough," said Griffin, putting
the serviette aside and leaning the invisible head on an invisible
"No doubt, to you, but--" Kemp laughed.
"Well, yes; to me it seemed wonderful at first, no doubt. But now,
great God! ... But we will do great things yet! I came on the stuff
first at Chesilstowe."
"I went there after I left London. You know I dropped medicine and
took up physics? No; well, I did. _Light_ fascinated me."
"Optical density! The whole subject is a network of riddles--a
network with solutions glimmering elusively through. And being but
two-and-twenty and full of enthusiasm, I said, 'I will devote my
life to this. This is worth while.' You know what fools we are at
"Fools then or fools now," said Kemp.
"As though knowing could be any satisfaction to a man!
"But I went to work--like a slave. And I had hardly worked and
thought about the matter six months before light came through one
of the meshes suddenly--blindingly! I found a general principle
of pigments and refraction--a formula, a geometrical expression
involving four dimensions. Fools, common men, even common
mathematicians, do not know anything of what some general expression
may mean to the student of molecular physics. In the books--the
books that tramp has hidden--there are marvels, miracles! But this
was not a method, it was an idea, that might lead to a method by
which it would be possible, without changing any other property of
matter--except, in some instances colours--to lower the refractive
index of a substance, solid or liquid, to that of air--so far as all
practical purposes are concerned."
"Phew!" said Kemp. "That's odd! But still I don't see quite ... I
can understand that thereby you could spoil a valuable stone, but
personal invisibility is a far cry."
"Precisely," said Griffin. "But consider, visibility depends on the
action of the visible bodies on light. Either a body absorbs light,
or it reflects or refracts it, or does all these things. If it
neither reflects nor refracts nor absorbs light, it cannot of
itself be visible. You see an opaque red box, for instance, because
the colour absorbs some of the light and reflects the rest, all the
red part of the light, to you. If it did not absorb any particular
part of the light, but reflected it all, then it would be a shining
white box. Silver! A diamond box would neither absorb much of the
light nor reflect much from the general surface, but just here
and there where the surfaces were favourable the light would
be reflected and refracted, so that you would get a brilliant
appearance of flashing reflections and translucencies--a sort of
skeleton of light. A glass box would not be so brilliant, not so
clearly visible, as a diamond box, because there would be less
refraction and reflection. See that? From certain points of view
you would see quite clearly through it. Some kinds of glass would
be more visible than others, a box of flint glass would be brighter
than a box of ordinary window glass. A box of very thin common
glass would be hard to see in a bad light, because it would absorb
hardly any light and refract and reflect very little. And if you
put a sheet of common white glass in water, still more if you
put it in some denser liquid than water, it would vanish almost
altogether, because light passing from water to glass is only
slightly refracted or reflected or indeed affected in any way.
It is almost as invisible as a jet of coal gas or hydrogen is in
air. And for precisely the same reason!"
"Yes," said Kemp, "that is pretty plain sailing."
"And here is another fact you will know to be true. If a sheet of
glass is smashed, Kemp, and beaten into a powder, it becomes much
more visible while it is in the air; it becomes at last an opaque
white powder. This is because the powdering multiplies the surfaces
of the glass at which refraction and reflection occur. In the sheet
of glass there are only two surfaces; in the powder the light is
reflected or refracted by each grain it passes through, and very
little gets right through the powder. But if the white powdered
glass is put into water, it forthwith vanishes. The powdered glass
and water have much the same refractive index; that is, the light
undergoes very little refraction or reflection in passing from one
to the other.
"You make the glass invisible by putting it into a liquid of nearly
the same refractive index; a transparent thing becomes invisible if
it is put in any medium of almost the same refractive index. And if
you will consider only a second, you will see also that the powder
of glass might be made to vanish in air, if its refractive index
could be made the same as that of air; for then there would be no
refraction or reflection as the light passed from glass to air."
"Yes, yes," said Kemp. "But a man's not powdered glass!"
"No," said Griffin. "He's more transparent!"
"That from a doctor! How one forgets! Have you already forgotten
your physics, in ten years? Just think of all the things that are
transparent and seem not to be so. Paper, for instance, is made up
of transparent fibres, and it is white and opaque only for the same
reason that a powder of glass is white and opaque. Oil white paper,
fill up the interstices between the particles with oil so that there
is no longer refraction or reflection except at the surfaces, and
it becomes as transparent as glass. And not only paper, but cotton
fibre, linen fibre, wool fibre, woody fibre, and _bone_, Kemp,
_flesh_, Kemp, _hair_, Kemp, _nails_ and _nerves_, Kemp, in fact
the whole fabric of a man except the red of his blood and the black
pigment of hair, are all made up of transparent, colourless tissue.
So little suffices to make us visible one to the other. For the
most part the fibres of a living creature are no more opaque than
"Great Heavens!" cried Kemp. "Of course, of course! I was thinking
only last night of the sea larvae and all jelly-fish!"
"_Now_ you have me! And all that I knew and had in mind a year after
I left London--six years ago. But I kept it to myself. I had to do
my work under frightful disadvantages. Oliver, my professor, was a
scientific bounder, a journalist by instinct, a thief of ideas--he
was always prying! And you know the knavish system of the scientific
world. I simply would not publish, and let him share my credit. I
went on working; I got nearer and nearer making my formula into an
experiment, a reality. I told no living soul, because I meant to
flash my work upon the world with crushing effect and become famous
at a blow. I took up the question of pigments to fill up certain
gaps. And suddenly, not by design but by accident, I made a
discovery in physiology."
"You know the red colouring matter of blood; it can be made
white--colourless--and remain with all the functions it has now!"
Kemp gave a cry of incredulous amazement.
The Invisible Man rose and began pacing the little study. "You may
well exclaim. I remember that night. It was late at night--in the
daytime one was bothered with the gaping, silly students--and I
worked then sometimes till dawn. It came suddenly, splendid and
complete in my mind. I was alone; the laboratory was still, with the
tall lights burning brightly and silently. In all my great moments
I have been alone. 'One could make an animal--a tissue--transparent!
One could make it invisible! All except the pigments--I could be
invisible!' I said, suddenly realising what it meant to be an albino
with such knowledge. It was overwhelming. I left the filtering I was
doing, and went and stared out of the great window at the stars.
'I could be invisible!' I repeated.
"To do such a thing would be to transcend magic. And I beheld,
unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility
might mean to a man--the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks
I saw none. You have only to think! And I, a shabby, poverty-struck,
hemmed-in demonstrator, teaching fools in a provincial college,
might suddenly become--this. I ask you, Kemp if _you_ ... Anyone, I
tell you, would have flung himself upon that research. And I worked
three years, and every mountain of difficulty I toiled over showed
another from its summit. The infinite details! And the exasperation!
A professor, a provincial professor, always prying. 'When are you
going to publish this work of yours?' was his everlasting question.
And the students, the cramped means! Three years I had of it--
"And after three years of secrecy and exasperation, I found that to
complete it was impossible--impossible."
"How?" asked Kemp.
"Money," said the Invisible Man, and went again to stare out of the
He turned around abruptly. "I robbed the old man--robbed my
"The money was not his, and he shot himself."
For a moment Kemp sat in silence, staring at the back of the
headless figure at the window. Then he started, struck by a thought,
rose, took the Invisible Man's arm, and turned him away from the
"You are tired," he said, "and while I sit, you walk about. Have
my chair."
He placed himself between Griffin and the nearest window.
For a space Griffin sat silent, and then he resumed abruptly:
"I had left the Chesilstowe cottage already," he said, "when that
happened. It was last December. I had taken a room in London, a
large unfurnished room in a big ill-managed lodging-house in a slum
near Great Portland Street. The room was soon full of the appliances
I had bought with his money; the work was going on steadily,
successfully, drawing near an end. I was like a man emerging from a
thicket, and suddenly coming on some unmeaning tragedy. I went to
bury him. My mind was still on this research, and I did not lift
a finger to save his character. I remember the funeral, the cheap
hearse, the scant ceremony, the windy frost-bitten hillside, and the
old college friend of his who read the service over him--a shabby,
black, bent old man with a snivelling cold.
"I remember walking back to the empty house, through the place that
had once been a village and was now patched and tinkered by the
jerry builders into the ugly likeness of a town. Every way the
roads ran out at last into the desecrated fields and ended in
rubble heaps and rank wet weeds. I remember myself as a gaunt black
figure, going along the slippery, shiny pavement, and the strange
sense of detachment I felt from the squalid respectability, the
sordid commercialism of the place.
"I did not feel a bit sorry for my father. He seemed to me to be
the victim of his own foolish sentimentality. The current cant
required my attendance at his funeral, but it was really not my
"But going along the High Street, my old life came back to me
for a space, for I met the girl I had known ten years since.
Our eyes met.
"Something moved me to turn back and talk to her. She was a very
ordinary person.
"It was all like a dream, that visit to the old places. I did not
feel then that I was lonely, that I had come out from the world
into a desolate place. I appreciated my loss of sympathy, but I put
it down to the general inanity of things. Re-entering my room
seemed like the recovery of reality. There were the things I knew
and loved. There stood the apparatus, the experiments arranged and
waiting. And now there was scarcely a difficulty left, beyond the
planning of details.
"I will tell you, Kemp, sooner or later, all the complicated
processes. We need not go into that now. For the most part, saving
certain gaps I chose to remember, they are written in cypher in
those books that tramp has hidden. We must hunt him down. We must
get those books again. But the essential phase was to place the
transparent object whose refractive index was to be lowered between
two radiating centres of a sort of ethereal vibration, of which I
will tell you more fully later. No, not those Roentgen vibrations--I
don't know that these others of mine have been described. Yet
they are obvious enough. I needed two little dynamos, and these I
worked with a cheap gas engine. My first experiment was with a bit
of white wool fabric. It was the strangest thing in the world to
see it in the flicker of the flashes soft and white, and then to
watch it fade like a wreath of smoke and vanish.
"I could scarcely believe I had done it. I put my hand into the
emptiness, and there was the thing as solid as ever. I felt it
awkwardly, and threw it on the floor. I had a little trouble
finding it again.
"And then came a curious experience. I heard a miaow behind me, and
turning, saw a lean white cat, very dirty, on the cistern cover
outside the window. A thought came into my head. 'Everything ready
for you,' I said, and went to the window, opened it, and called
softly. She came in, purring--the poor beast was starving--and
I gave her some milk. All my food was in a cupboard in the
corner of the room. After that she went smelling round the room,
evidently with the idea of making herself at home. The invisible
rag upset her a bit; you should have seen her spit at it! But I
made her comfortable on the pillow of my truckle-bed. And I gave
her butter to get her to wash."
"And you processed her?"
"I processed her. But giving drugs to a cat is no joke, Kemp! And
the process failed."
"In two particulars. These were the claws and the pigment stuff,
what is it?--at the back of the eye in a cat. You know?"
"Yes, the tapetum. It didn't go. After I'd given the stuff to
bleach the blood and done certain other things to her, I gave the
beast opium, and put her and the pillow she was sleeping on, on the
apparatus. And after all the rest had faded and vanished, there
remained two little ghosts of her eyes."
"I can't explain it. She was bandaged and clamped, of course--so
I had her safe; but she woke while she was still misty, and miaowed
dismally, and someone came knocking. It was an old woman from
downstairs, who suspected me of vivisecting--a drink-sodden old
creature, with only a white cat to care for in all the world. I
whipped out some chloroform, applied it, and answered the door.
'Did I hear a cat?' she asked. 'My cat?' 'Not here,' said I, very
politely. She was a little doubtful and tried to peer past me into
the room; strange enough to her no doubt--bare walls, uncurtained
windows, truckle-bed, with the gas engine vibrating, and the
seethe of the radiant points, and that faint ghastly stinging of
chloroform in the air. She had to be satisfied at last and went
away again."
"How long did it take?" asked Kemp.
"Three or four hours--the cat. The bones and sinews and the fat
were the last to go, and the tips of the coloured hairs. And, as I
say, the back part of the eye, tough, iridescent stuff it is,
wouldn't go at all.
"It was night outside long before the business was over, and nothing
was to be seen but the dim eyes and the claws. I stopped the gas
engine, felt for and stroked the beast, which was still insensible,
and then, being tired, left it sleeping on the invisible pillow and
went to bed. I found it hard to sleep. I lay awake thinking weak
aimless stuff, going over the experiment over and over again, or
dreaming feverishly of things growing misty and vanishing about me,
until everything, the ground I stood on, vanished, and so I came to
that sickly falling nightmare one gets. About two, the cat began
miaowing about the room. I tried to hush it by talking to it, and
then I decided to turn it out. I remember the shock I had when
striking a light--there were just the round eyes shining green--and
nothing round them. I would have given it milk, but I hadn't any. It
wouldn't be quiet, it just sat down and miaowed at the door. I tried
to catch it, with an idea of putting it out of the window, but it
wouldn't be caught, it vanished. Then it began miaowing in different
parts of the room. At last I opened the window and made a bustle. I
suppose it went out at last. I never saw any more of it.
"Then--Heaven knows why--I fell thinking of my father's funeral
again, and the dismal windy hillside, until the day had come. I
found sleeping was hopeless, and, locking my door after me,
wandered out into the morning streets."
"You don't mean to say there's an invisible cat at large!" said
"If it hasn't been killed," said the Invisible Man. "Why not?"
"Why not?" said Kemp. "I didn't mean to interrupt."
"It's very probably been killed," said the Invisible Man. "It
was alive four days after, I know, and down a grating in Great
Tichfield Street; because I saw a crowd round the place, trying
to see whence the miaowing came."
He was silent for the best part of a minute. Then he resumed
"I remember that morning before the change very vividly. I must have
gone up Great Portland Street. I remember the barracks in Albany
Street, and the horse soldiers coming out, and at last I found the
summit of Primrose Hill. It was a sunny day in January--one of those
sunny, frosty days that came before the snow this year. My weary
brain tried to formulate the position, to plot out a plan of action.
"I was surprised to find, now that my prize was within my grasp, how
inconclusive its attainment seemed. As a matter of fact I was worked
out; the intense stress of nearly four years' continuous work left
me incapable of any strength of feeling. I was apathetic, and I
tried in vain to recover the enthusiasm of my first inquiries,
the passion of discovery that had enabled me to compass even the
downfall of my father's grey hairs. Nothing seemed to matter. I saw
pretty clearly this was a transient mood, due to overwork and want
of sleep, and that either by drugs or rest it would be possible to
recover my energies.
"All I could think clearly was that the thing had to be carried
through; the fixed idea still ruled me. And soon, for the money I
had was almost exhausted. I looked about me at the hillside, with
children playing and girls watching them, and tried to think of all
the fantastic advantages an invisible man would have in the world.
After a time I crawled home, took some food and a strong dose of
strychnine, and went to sleep in my clothes on my unmade bed.
Strychnine is a grand tonic, Kemp, to take the flabbiness out of
a man."
"It's the devil," said Kemp. "It's the palaeolithic in a bottle."
"I awoke vastly invigorated and rather irritable. You know?"
"I know the stuff."
"And there was someone rapping at the door. It was my landlord
with threats and inquiries, an old Polish Jew in a long grey coat
and greasy slippers. I had been tormenting a cat in the night, he
was sure--the old woman's tongue had been busy. He insisted on
knowing all about it. The laws in this country against vivisection
were very severe--he might be liable. I denied the cat. Then the
vibration of the little gas engine could be felt all over the
house, he said. That was true, certainly. He edged round me into
the room, peering about over his German-silver spectacles, and a
sudden dread came into my mind that he might carry away something
of my secret. I tried to keep between him and the concentrating
apparatus I had arranged, and that only made him more curious. What
was I doing? Why was I always alone and secretive? Was it legal?
Was it dangerous? I paid nothing but the usual rent. His had always
been a most respectable house--in a disreputable neighbourhood.
Suddenly my temper gave way. I told him to get out. He began to
protest, to jabber of his right of entry. In a moment I had him by
the collar; something ripped, and he went spinning out into his own
passage. I slammed and locked the door and sat down quivering.
"He made a fuss outside, which I disregarded, and after a time he
went away.
"But this brought matters to a crisis. I did not know what he
would do, nor even what he had the power to do. To move to fresh
apartments would have meant delay; altogether I had barely twenty
pounds left in the world, for the most part in a bank--and I
could not afford that. Vanish! It was irresistible. Then there
would be an inquiry, the sacking of my room.
"At the thought of the possibility of my work being exposed or
interrupted at its very climax, I became very angry and active. I
hurried out with my three books of notes, my cheque-book--the tramp
has them now--and directed them from the nearest Post Office to a
house of call for letters and parcels in Great Portland Street. I
tried to go out noiselessly. Coming in, I found my landlord going
quietly upstairs; he had heard the door close, I suppose. You would
have laughed to see him jump aside on the landing as came tearing
after him. He glared at me as I went by him, and I made the house
quiver with the slamming of my door. I heard him come shuffling up
to my floor, hesitate, and go down. I set to work upon my
preparations forthwith.
"It was all done that evening and night. While I was still sitting
under the sickly, drowsy influence of the drugs that decolourise
blood, there came a repeated knocking at the door. It ceased,
footsteps went away and returned, and the knocking was resumed.
There was an attempt to push something under the door--a blue
paper. Then in a fit of irritation I rose and went and flung the
door wide open. 'Now then?' said I.
"It was my landlord, with a notice of ejectment or something. He
held it out to me, saw something odd about my hands, I expect, and
lifted his eyes to my face.
"For a moment he gaped. Then he gave a sort of inarticulate cry,
dropped candle and writ together, and went blundering down the dark
passage to the stairs. I shut the door, locked it, and went to the
looking-glass. Then I understood his terror.... My face was
white--like white stone.
"But it was all horrible. I had not expected the suffering. A night
of racking anguish, sickness and fainting. I set my teeth, though my
skin was presently afire, all my body afire; but I lay there like
grim death. I understood now how it was the cat had howled until I
chloroformed it. Lucky it was I lived alone and untended in my room.
There were times when I sobbed and groaned and talked. But I stuck
to it.... I became insensible and woke languid in the darkness.
"The pain had passed. I thought I was killing myself and I did not
care. I shall never forget that dawn, and the strange horror of
seeing that my hands had become as clouded glass, and watching them
grow clearer and thinner as the day went by, until at last I could
see the sickly disorder of my room through them, though I closed my
transparent eyelids. My limbs became glassy, the bones and arteries
faded, vanished, and the little white nerves went last. I gritted
my teeth and stayed there to the end. At last only the dead tips of
the fingernails remained, pallid and white, and the brown stain of
some acid upon my fingers.
"I struggled up. At first I was as incapable as a swathed
infant--stepping with limbs I could not see. I was weak and very
hungry. I went and stared at nothing in my shaving-glass, at nothing
save where an attenuated pigment still remained behind the retina of
my eyes, fainter than mist. I had to hang on to the table and press
my forehead against the glass.
"It was only by a frantic effort of will that I dragged myself back
to the apparatus and completed the process.
"I slept during the forenoon, pulling the sheet over my eyes to shut
out the light, and about midday I was awakened again by a knocking.
My strength had returned. I sat up and listened and heard a
whispering. I sprang to my feet and as noiselessly as possible began
to detach the connections of my apparatus, and to distribute it
about the room, so as to destroy the suggestions of its arrangement.
Presently the knocking was renewed and voices called, first my
landlord's, and then two others. To gain time I answered them. The
invisible rag and pillow came to hand and I opened the window and
pitched them out on to the cistern cover. As the window opened, a
heavy crash came at the door. Someone had charged it with the idea
of smashing the lock. But the stout bolts I had screwed up some
days before stopped him. That startled me, made me angry. I began
to tremble and do things hurriedly.
"I tossed together some loose paper, straw, packing paper and so
forth, in the middle of the room, and turned on the gas. Heavy
blows began to rain upon the door. I could not find the matches. I
beat my hands on the wall with rage. I turned down the gas again,
stepped out of the window on the cistern cover, very softly lowered
the sash, and sat down, secure and invisible, but quivering with
anger, to watch events. They split a panel, I saw, and in another
moment they had broken away the staples of the bolts and stood in
the open doorway. It was the landlord and his two step-sons, sturdy
young men of three or four and twenty. Behind them fluttered the
old hag of a woman from downstairs.
"You may imagine their astonishment to find the room empty. One of
the younger men rushed to the window at once, flung it up and stared
out. His staring eyes and thick-lipped bearded face came a foot
from my face. I was half minded to hit his silly countenance, but I
arrested my doubled fist. He stared right through me. So did the
others as they joined him. The old man went and peered under the
bed, and then they all made a rush for the cupboard. They had to
argue about it at length in Yiddish and Cockney English. They
concluded I had not answered them, that their imagination had
deceived them. A feeling of extraordinary elation took the place
of my anger as I sat outside the window and watched these four
people--for the old lady came in, glancing suspiciously about her
like a cat, trying to understand the riddle of my behaviour.
"The old man, so far as I could understand his patois, agreed with
the old lady that I was a vivisectionist. The sons protested in
garbled English that I was an electrician, and appealed to the
dynamos and radiators. They were all nervous about my arrival,
although I found subsequently that they had bolted the front door.
The old lady peered into the cupboard and under the bed, and one of
the young men pushed up the register and stared up the chimney. One
of my fellow lodgers, a coster-monger who shared the opposite room
with a butcher, appeared on the landing, and he was called in and
told incoherent things.
"It occurred to me that the radiators, if they fell into the hands
of some acute well-educated person, would give me away too much,
and watching my opportunity, I came into the room and tilted one of
the little dynamos off its fellow on which it was standing, and
smashed both apparatus. Then, while they were trying to explain the
smash, I dodged out of the room and went softly downstairs.
"I went into one of the sitting-rooms and waited until they came
down, still speculating and argumentative, all a little disappointed
at finding no 'horrors,' and all a little puzzled how they stood
legally towards me. Then I slipped up again with a box of matches,
fired my heap of paper and rubbish, put the chairs and bedding
thereby, led the gas to the affair, by means of an india-rubber
tube, and waving a farewell to the room left it for the last time."
"You fired the house!" exclaimed Kemp.
"Fired the house. It was the only way to cover my trail--and no
doubt it was insured. I slipped the bolts of the front door quietly
and went out into the street. I was invisible, and I was only just
beginning to realise the extraordinary advantage my invisibility
gave me. My head was already teeming with plans of all the wild and
wonderful things I had now impunity to do.
"In going downstairs the first time I found an unexpected difficulty
because I could not see my feet; indeed I stumbled twice, and there
was an unaccustomed clumsiness in gripping the bolt. By not looking