The Invisible Man is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells. This masterpiece of science fiction is the fascinating
story of Griffin, a scientist who creates a serum to render himself invisible, and his descent into madness that
The invisible man by H. G. Wells
Chapter 1: The Strange Man’s Arrival
The stranger came early one winter’s day in February, through a biting wind and the last snowfall of the year. He walked over the hill from Bramblehurst Station, and carried a little black bag in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the edge of his soft grey hat hid every part of his face except the shiny point of his nose; the snow had piled itself against his shoulders and chest. He almost fell into the Coach and Horses, more dead than alive, and threw his bag down. ‘A fire,’ he cried, ‘in the name of human kindness! A room and a fire!’ He stamped his feet, shook the snow from his coat and followed Mrs Hall, the innkeeper’s wife, into her parlour. There he arranged to take a room in the inn and gave her two pounds.
Mrs Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to prepare him a meal with her own hands. To have a guest at Iping in the winter time was an unusual piece of good fortune, and she was determined to show that she deserved it.
She put some meat on the fire to cook, told Millie, the servant, to get the room ready for the stranger, and carried the cloth, plates and glasses into the parlour, and began to lay the table. Although the fire was burning brightly, she was surprised to see that her visitor still wore his hat and coat, and stood with his back to her, looking out of the window at the falling snow in the yard.
His gloved hands were held behind him, and he seemed to be thinking deeply. She noticed that some melted snow was falling onto the floor from his shoulders.
‘Can I take your hat and coat, sir,’ she said, ‘and dry them in the kitchen?’
‘No,’ he replied, without turning.
She was not sure that she had heard him, and was about to repeat the question.
He turned his head and looked at her over his shoulder. ‘I would rather keep them on,’ he said firmly; and she noticed that he wore big blue glasses, and had a bushy beard over his coat collar that almost hid his face.
‘Very well, sir,’ she said. ‘As you like. Very soon the room will be warmer.’
He made no answer, and turned his face away from her again, and Mrs Hall, feeling that her talk was unwelcome, finished laying the table quickly, and hurried out of the room. When she returned he was still standing there like a man of stone, his collar turned up, the edge of his hat turned down, almost hiding his face and ears. She put down the eggs and meat noisily, and called rather than said to him:
‘Your lunch is served, sir.’
‘Thank you,’ he answered. He did not move until she was closing the door. Then he turned round and walked eagerly up to the table.
Mrs Hall filled the butter dish in the kitchen, and took it to the parlour.
She knocked and entered at once. As she did so her visitor moved quickly, so that she only saw something white disappearing behind the table. He seemed to be picking up something from the floor. She put down the butter dish on the table, and noticed that the visitor’s hat and coat were hanging over a chair in front of the fire.
‘I suppose I may have them to dry now?’ she said, in a voice that could not be refused.
‘Leave the hat,’ said her visitor, and turning, she saw he had raised his head and was looking at her.
For a moment she stood looking at him, too surprised to speak.
He held his napkin over the lower part of his face, so that his mouth and jaws were completely hidden. But it was not that which surprised Mrs Hall. It was the fact that the top of his head above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage, and that another covered his ears, leaving nothing of his face to be seen except his pink, pointed nose. It was bright pink, and shining, just as it had been at first. He wore a dark brown jacket, with a high black collar turned up about his neck. His thick black hair stuck out below and between the bandages. This bandaged head was so unlike what she had expected that for a moment she stood staring at it.
He did not remove the napkin, but remained holding it, as she saw now, with a brown-gloved hand, and looking at her from behind his dark glasses.
‘Leave the hat,’ he said, through the white cloth.
She began to feel less afraid. She put the hat on the chair again by the fire.
‘I didn’t know, sir,’ she began, ‘that—’ And she stopped.
‘Thank you,’ he said shortly, looking from her to the door, and then at her again.
‘I’ll have it nicely dried, sir, at once,’ she said, and carried his coat out of the room. She looked at his bandaged head and dark glasses again as she was going out of the door; but he was still holding his napkin in front of his face. She was shaking a little as she closed the door behind her. ‘My goodness!’ she whispered. She went straight to the kitchen, and did not even think of asking Millie what she was doing now.
The visitor sat and listened to her footsteps. He looked out of the window before he removed his napkin from his face and began his meal again. He took a mouthful, looked again at the window, then rose and, taking the napkin in his hand, walked across the room and pulled down the blind. This darkened the room. He returned more happily to the table and his meal.
‘The poor man’s had an accident, or an operation or something,’ said Mrs Hall. ‘What a shock those bandages gave me.’
She put some more coal on the fire, and hung the traveller’s coat to dry. ‘And the glasses! Why, he doesn’t look human at all. And holding that napkin over his mouth all the time. Talking through it! … Perhaps his mouth was hurt too.’
She turned round, suddenly remembering something. ‘Oh dear!’ she said, ‘Haven’t you done those potatoes yet, Millie?’
When Mrs Hall went to clear away the stranger’s lunch, her idea that his mouth must also have been damaged in an accident was strengthened, for though he was smoking a pipe, all the time that she was in the room he kept the lower part of his face covered. He sat in the corner with his back to the window, and spoke now, having eaten and drunk and being comfortably warmed through, less impatiently than before. The light of the fire shone red in his glasses.
‘I have some boxes,’ he said, ‘at Bramblehurst Station. How can they be brought here?’
Mrs Hall answered his question, and then said, ‘It’s a steep road by the hill, sir. That’s where a carriage was turned over, a year ago and more. A gentleman was killed. Accidents, sir, happen in a moment, don’t they?’
‘But people take long enough to get well, sir, don’t they? There was my sister’s son, Tom, who cut his arm with a scythe – he fell on it out in the fields. He was three months tied up, sir. You’d hardly believe it. I’ve been afraid of scythes ever since, sir.’
‘I can quite understand that,’ said the visitor.
‘We were afraid that he’d have to have an operation, he was so bad, sir.’
The visitor laughed suddenly.
‘He was, sir. And it wasn’t funny for those who had to nurse him as I did, my sister being so busy with her little ones. There were bandages to do, sir, and bandages to undo. So that if I may say, sir-‘
‘Will you get me some matches?’ said the visitor quite suddenly. ‘My pipe is out.’
Mrs Hall stopped. It was certainly rude of him after she had told him so much. But she remembered the two pounds, and went for the matches.
‘Thanks,’ he said shortly, as she put them down, and turned his back upon her and looked out of the window again. Clearly he did not like talking about bandages.
The visitor remained in the room until four o’clock, without giving Mrs Hall an excuse for a visit. He was very quiet during that time: perhaps he sat in the growing darkness smoking by the firelight — perhaps he slept.
Once or twice a listener might have heard him: for five minutes he could be heard walking up and down the room. He seemed to be talking to himself. Then he sat down again in the armchair.
At four o’clock, when it was fairly dark, and Mrs Hall was trying to find the courage to go in and ask her visitor if he would like some tea, Teddy Henfrey, the clock-mender, came into the bar.
‘Good evening, Mrs Hall,’ said he, ‘this is terrible snowy weather for thin boots!’
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 look at the old clock. It’s going, and it strikes loud and clear, but the hour hand does nothing except point to six.’
And, leading the way, she went across to the parlour door and knocked.
As she opened the door, she saw her visitor seated in the armchair in front of the fire, asleep, it seemed, with his bandaged head leaning on one side. The only light in the room was from the fire. Everything seemed hidden in shadows. But for a second it seemed to her that the man she was looking at had a great, wide-open mouth, a mouth that swallowed the whole of the lower part of his face. It was too ugly to believe, the white head, the staring glasses — and then a great hole. He moved, sat up straight and put up his hand. She opened the door wide, so that the room was lighter, and she saw him more clearly, with the napkin held to his face, just as she had seen him hold it before. The shadows, she thought, had tricked her.
‘Would you mind, sir, if this man came to look at the clock, sir?’ she said.
‘Look at the clock?’ he said, staring round sleepily and speaking over his hand; and then, more fully awake, ‘Certainly.’
Mrs Hall went away to get a lamp, and he rose and stretched himself. Then came the light, and at the door Mr Teddy Henfrey was met by this bandaged person. He was, he said later, ‘quite shocked’.
‘Good afternoon,’ said the stranger, staring at him — as Mr Henfrey said — ‘like a fish’.
‘I hope,’ said Mr Henfrey, ‘that you don’t mind.’
‘Not at all,’ said the stranger. ‘Though I understood,’ he said, turning to Mrs Hall, ‘that this room was to be mine for my own use.’
‘I thought, sir,’ said Mrs Hall, ‘you’d like the clock—’
‘Certainly,’ said the stranger, ‘certainly; but at other times I would like to be left alone.’
He turned round with his back to the fireplace, and put his hands behind his back. ‘And soon,’ he said, ‘when the clock is mended, I think I should like to have some tea. But not until then.’
Mrs Hall was about to leave the room — she did not try to talk this time — when her visitor asked her if she had done anything about his boxes at Bramblehurst. She told him that the carrier could bring them over the next day.
‘You are certain that is the earliest?’ he asked. She was quite sure.
‘I should explain,’ he added, ‘but I was really too cold and tired to do so before, that I am a scientist.’
‘Indeed, sir,’ said Mrs Hall, respectfully.
‘And I need things from the boxes for my work.’
‘Of course, sir.’
‘My reason for coming to Iping,’ he went on slowly, ‘was a desire to be alone. I do not wish to be disturbed in my work. Besides my work, an accident—’
‘I thought so,’ said Mrs Hall to herself.
‘—makes it necessary for me to be quiet. My eyes are sometimes so weak and painful that I have to shut myself up in the dark for several hours and lock myself in. Sometimes — now and then. Not at present, certainly. At such times the least thing, even a stranger coming into the room, gives me great pain. It’s important that this should be understood.’
‘Certainly, sir,’ said Mrs Hall. ‘And if I might ask—’
‘That, I think, is all,’ said the stranger quietly.
Mrs Hall said no more.
After Mrs Hall had left the room, he remained standing in front of the fire and watched the clock being mended. Mr Henfrey worked with the lamp close to him, and the green shade threw a bright light onto his hands and onto the frame and wheels, and left the rest of the room in shadow. He took longer than he needed to remove the works, hoping to have some talk with the stranger. But the stranger stood there, perfectly silent and still. So still that it frightened Henfrey. He felt alone in the room and looked up, and there, grey and shadowy, were the bandaged head and large dark glasses staring straight in front of them. It was so strange to Henfrey that for a minute they stood staring at each other. Then Henfrey looked down again. He would have liked to say something. Should he say that the weather was very cold for the time of the year?
‘The weather-‘ he began.
‘Why don’t you finish and go?’ said the stiff figure, angrily. ‘All you’ve got to do is to fix the hour hand. You’re simply wasting time.’
‘Certainly, sir – one minute more. I forgot . . .’ And Mr Henfrey finished and left the room.
‘Really!’ said Mr Henfrey to himself, walking down the village street through the falling snow. ‘A man must mend a clock sometimes, surely’. And then, ‘Can’t a man look at you? Ugly!’
And yet again, ‘It seems he can’t. If you were wanted by the police, you couldn’t be more wrapped and bandaged.’
At the street corner he saw Hall, who had recently married the lady of the inn. ‘Hello, Teddy’ said Hall, as he passed.
‘You’ve got a strange visitor!’ said Teddy.
Hall stopped. ‘What did you say?’ he asked.
‘A strange man is staying at the inn,’ said Teddy. And he described Mrs Hall’s guest. ‘It looks strange, doesn’t it? I’d like to see a man’s face if I had him staying in my house. But women are so foolish with strangers. He’s taken your rooms, and he hasn’t even given a name.’
‘Is that so?’ said Hall, rather stupidly.
‘Yes,’ said Teddy. ‘And he’s got a lot of boxes coming tomorrow, so he says.’
Teddy walked on, easier in his mind.
And after the stranger had gone to bed, which he did at about half past nine, Mr Hall went into the parlour and looked very hard at the furniture, just to show that the stranger wasn’t master there. When he went to bed, he told Mrs Hall to look very closely at the stranger’s boxes when they came next day.
‘You mind your own business, Hall,’ said Mrs Hall, ‘and I’ll mind mine.’
But in the middle of the night she woke up dreaming of great white heads that came after her, at the end of long necks, and with big black eyes. But being a sensible woman, she turned over and went to sleep again.
That was how, on the ninth day of February, the stranger came to Iping village. Next day his boxes arrived. There were two trunks, indeed, such as any man might have, but also there was a box of books — big, fat books, of which some were in handwriting you couldn’t read — and 12 or more boxes and cases full of glass bottles, or so it seemed to Hall, as he pulled at the paper packing material. The stranger, covered up in hat, coat and gloves, came out impatiently to meet the carriage, while Hall was talking to Fearenside, the carrier, before helping to bring the boxes in. The stranger did not notice Fearenside’s dog, who was smelling at Hall’s legs.
‘Come along with those boxes,’ he said.’ ‘I’ve been waiting long enough.’ And he came down the steps, as if to pick up the smaller case.
As soon as Fearenside’s dog caught sight of him, however, it began to growl, and when he ran down the steps it went straight for his hand. Hall cried out and jumped back, for he was not very brave with dogs, and Fearenside shouted, ‘Lie down!’ and reached for his whip.
They saw that the dog’s teeth had missed the stranger’s hand, heard a kick, saw the dog jump and bite the stranger’s leg, and heard the sound of his trousers tearing. Then Fearenside’s whip cut into his dog, who, crying with pain, ran under the wheels of the carriage. It was all done in a quick half minute. No one spoke, everyone shouted. The stranger looked at his torn glove and at his leg, then turned and ran up the steps into the inn. They heard him go across the passage and up the stairs to his bedroom.
‘Come here, you!’ said Fearenside to his dog, climbing off the carriage with his whip in his hand, while the dog watched him through the wheel. ‘Come here!’ he repeated. ‘You’d better!’
Hall stood staring. ‘He was bitten,’ he said. ‘I’d better go and see him.’ And he went to find the stranger. He met his wife in the passage. ‘The carrier’s dog bit him,’ he told her.
He went straight upstairs, pushed open the stranger’s door and went in.
The blind was down and the room dark. He caught sight of a strange thing, a handless arm that seemed to be waving towards him, and a face of three large dark spots on white. Then he was struck in the chest and thrown out of the room, and the door was shut in his face and locked. All this happened so fast that it gave him no time to see anything clearly. A waving of shapes, a blow and a noise like a gun. There he stood in the dark little passage, wondering what he had seen.
After a few minutes he came back to the little group that had formed outside the inn. There was Fearenside telling the story all over again for the second time; there was Mrs Hall saying his dog had no right to bite her guests; there was Huxter, the shopkeeper from over the road, asking questions; Sandy Wadgers looking serious and women and children, all talking.
Mr Hall, staring at them from the steps and listening, found it hard to believe that he had seen anything very strange happen upstairs.
He wants no help, he says,’ he said in answer to his wife’s question. ‘We’d better take his luggage in.’
‘He ought to have his leg looked at immediately,’ said Mr Huxter.
‘I’d shoot the dog, 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 stranger, with his coat collar turned up and the edge of his hat bent down.
‘The sooner you get those things in, the better I’ll be pleased.’ His trousers and gloves had been changed.
‘Were you hurt, sir?’ said Fearenside. ‘I’m very sorry the dog—’
‘Not at all,’ said the stranger. ‘It didn’t even break the skin. Hurry up with those things.’
As soon as the first box was carried into the parlour, the stranger began to unpack it eagerly, and from it he brought out bottles – little fat bottles, small thin bottles, blue bottles, bottles with round bodies and thin necks, large green glass bottles, large white glass bottles, wine bottles, bottles, bottles, bottles — and put them in rows on the table under the window, round the floor, on the shelf — everywhere. Case after case was full of bottles; he emptied six of the cases and piled the packing material high on the floor and table.
As soon as the cases were empty, the stranger went to the window and set to work, not troubling in the least about the paper, the fire which had gone out, the box of books outside or the boxes and other things that had gone upstairs.
When Mrs Hall took his dinner in to him, he did not hear her until she had cleared away most of the paper and had put the food on the table.
Then he half turned his head, and turned it away again. But she saw he had taken off his glasses; they were beside him on the table, and he seemed to her to have no eyes. He put on his glasses again, and then turned and faced her. She was about to complain about the paper on the floor, but he spoke first.
‘I wish you wouldn’t come in without knocking,’ he said, angrily as usual.
‘I knocked, but-‘
‘But in my work I cannot have any – I must ask you—’
‘Certainly, sir. You can turn the key if you want to, you know. Any time.’
‘A very good idea,’ said the stranger.
‘This paper, sir. If I might say—’
‘Don’t. If the paper is a problem, put it on the bill.’
He was so strange, standing there, with his bottles and his bad temper, that Mrs Hall was quite afraid. But she was a strong- minded woman. ‘Then I should like to know, sir, what you consider—’
‘A shilling – put a shilling on my bill. Surely a shilling’s enough?’
‘Very well,’ said Mrs Hall, taking up the tablecloth and beginning to spread it over the table.
‘If you’re satisfied, of course-‘
He turned his back on her and sat down.
All afternoon he worked with the door locked, and almost in silence. But once there was a noise of bottles ringing together, as though the table had been hit, and the crash of glass thrown down, and then came the sound of quick walking up and down the room. Fearing something was the matter, she went to the door and listened, not wanting to knock.
I can’t go on,’ he was shouting; ‘I can’t go on! Three hundred thousand, four hundred thousand! It may take me all my life!… Patience! Patience, indeed! … Fool! Fool!’
There was a noise of boots on the brick floor of the bar, and Mrs Hall could not stay to hear any more. When she returned, the room was silent again except for the faint sound of his chair and now and then of a bottle. It was all over; the stranger had returned to his work.
Later, when she took in his tea, she saw broken glass in the corner of the room. She pointed at it.
‘Put it on the bill,’ he said. ‘In God’s name don’t worry me! If there’s damage done, put it on the bill.’ And he went on with his writing.
‘I’ll tell you something,’ said Fearenside. It was late in the afternoon, and they were in a little inn outside Iping.
‘Well?’ said Teddy Henfrey.
‘This man you’re speaking of, that my dog bit. Well — he’s black. At least his legs are. I saw through the tear in his trousers and the tear in his glove. You’d have expected a sort of pink to show, wouldn’t you? Well — there was just blackness. I tell you he’s as black as my hat.’
‘Good heavens!’ said Henfrey. ‘It’s a very strange case indeed. Why, his nose is as pink as paint!’
‘That’s true,’ said Fearenside. ‘I know that. And I tell you what I’m thinking. That man’s black here and white there – in pieces. And he daren’t show it. He’s a kind of half-breed. I’ve heard of such things before. And it’s common with horses, as anyone can see.’
The stranger rarely left the inn by day, but in the evening he would go out, wrapped up to the eyes, whether the weather was cold or not, and he chose the loneliest paths. His glasses and bandaged face under his great black hat would appear suddenly out of the darkness to one or two workmen going home, and one night Teddy Henfrey, coming out of the Dog and Duck, was frightened by the stranger’s white, round head (he was walking hat in hand) lit by the sudden light of the open inn door. It seemed doubtful whether the stranger hated boys more than they hated him, but there was certainly hatred enough on both sides.
Of course they talked about him in Iping, and were unable to decide what his business was. Mrs Hall said he ‘discovered things’, that he had had an accident, and that he did not like people to see the ugly marks on his body. Some said that he was a criminal hiding from the police, and others that he was part white and part black, and ‘if he chose to show himself at fairs he would make a great deal of money’. A few thought that he was simply and harmlessly mad. And in the end some of the women began to think that he was a spirit or a magician.
No one liked him, for he was always angry and never friendly. They drew to one side as he passed down the village street, and when he had gone by young men would put their coat collars up and turn the edges of their hats down, and follow him for a joke.
Cuss, the doctor, was interested in the bandages and bottles. All through April and May he wanted to talk to the stranger, and at last he could bear it no longer and went to visit him. He was surprised to find that Mr Hall did not know his guest’s name.
‘He gave a name,’ said Mrs Hall – this was untrue – ‘but I didn’t hear it properly.’ She thought it seemed silly not to know the man’s name.
Cuss could hear swearing inside the parlour. He knocked at the door and entered.
‘Please forgive me for breaking in on you,’ said Cuss, and then the door closed and shut out Mrs Hall.
She could hear the sound of voices for the next ten minutes, then a cry of surprise, a moving of feet, a chair being knocked over, a laugh, 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, went across the hall and down the steps, and she heard his feet hurrying along the road. He carried his hat in his hand. She stood behind the bar, looking at the open door of the parlour. Then she heard the stranger laughing quietly, and his footsteps came across the room. She could not see his face from where she stood. The parlour door shut loudly, and the place was silent again.
Cuss went straight up the village to Bunting, the vicar.
‘Am I mad?’ Cuss began, as he entered the little study. ‘Do I NP look like a madman?’
‘What’s happened?’ asked the vicar.
‘That man at the inn …’
‘Give me something to drink,’ said Cuss, and he sat down.
When his nerves had been steadied by a glass of wine he said,
‘As I went in, he put his hands in his pockets and then he sat down in his chair. I told him I’d heard he took an interest in scientific things. He said, “Yes.” I tried to talk to him. He got quite angry …Well, he told me that he had had a piece of paper.
It was important, most important, most valuable. A list of…”Was it medicine?” I asked. “Why do you want to know?” was his answer. In any case, this paper was of great value. He had read it, put it down on the table and looked away. Then the wind had lifted it and blown it into the fire. He saw it go up the chimney.
Just as he told me that, he lifted his arm. The sleeve was empty. I could see right up it. What can keep a sleeve up and open if there’s nothing in it?
‘”How can you move an empty sleeve like that?” I asked.
‘”Empty sleeve?” he said.
‘”Yes,” I said,”an empty sleeve.”
‘”It’s an empty sleeve, is it? You saw it was an empty sleeve?”
He stood up. I stood up too. He came towards me in three very slow steps, and stood quite close.
‘”You said it was an empty sleeve?” he said.
‘”Certainly,” I said.
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, holding my breath. “Well?” I said, clearing my throat; “there’s nothing in it.”
‘I was beginning to feel frightened. I could see right down it. He put it out straight towards me, slowly, slowly —just like that – until it was 6 inches from my face. Just imagine seeing an empty sleeve come at you like that! And then-‘
‘Something — it felt exactly like a finger and a thumb — pulled my nose.’
Bunting began to laugh.
‘There wasn’t anything there!’ said Cuss, his voice rising to a shout at the “there”. ‘You may laugh if you like, but I tell you I was so shocked that I hit his sleeve hard and turned round and ran out of the room I left him—’
Cuss stopped. It was easy to see that he was afraid. He turned round in a helpless way, and took a second glass of wine. ‘When I hit his sleeve,’ he said, ‘I tell you, it felt exactly like hitting an arm. And there wasn’t an arm! There wasn’t any arm at all!’
Mr Bunting thought it over. ‘It’s a very strange story,’ he said. He looked very serious. ‘It really is a very strange story indeed.’
The robbery at the Vicarage happened in the early hours of Whit Monday, the day when Iping held its spring fair. Mrs Bunting, it seems, woke up suddenly in the stillness that comes before the sunrise, with a strong feeling that the door of their bedroom had opened and closed. She did not wake her husband at first, but sat up in bed listening. She then clearly heard the sound of bare feet coming out of the next room and walking along the passage towards the stairs. As soon as she felt sure of this, she woke her husband as quietly as she could. He did not light the lamp, but put on his glasses and a pair of soft shoes, and went out of the bedroom to listen. He heard quite clearly someone moving in the study downstairs, and then the sound of a violent sneeze.
At that he returned to his bedroom, armed himself with the poker, and went downstairs as silently as he could. Mrs Bunting stood at the top of the stairs.
It was about four o’clock, and the last darkness of the night had passed. There was a faint light in the passage; the study door stood half open. Everything was quiet and still, except the sound of the stairs under Mr Bunting’s feet, and the slight movements in the study. He heard a drawer being opened, and a sound of papers. Then came some swearing, and a match was struck, and the study was full of yellow light. Mr Bunting was now in the hall, and through the half-open door he could see the desk, an open drawer, and a lamp burning on the desk. But he could not see the thief. He stood there considering what to do, and Mrs Bunting, her face white with fear, walked slowly downstairs after him.
They heard the noise of coins, and knew that the thief had found the housekeeping money — two pounds and ten shillings in gold and silver. That sound made Mr Bunting very angry. Holding the poker firmly, he ran into the room, closely followed by Mrs Bunting.
‘Come on, my dear,’ and then Mr Bunting stopped. The room was perfectly empty.
But they knew that they had heard someone moving in the room. They stood still for half a minute. Then Mrs Bunting went across the room and looked behind the curtain, while Mr Bunting looked under the desk and up the chimney, and pushed the poker up into the darkness. Then they stood still looking at each other questioningly.
‘I was quite sure-‘ said Mrs Bunting.
‘The lamp!’ said Mr Bunting. ‘Who lit the lamp?’
‘The drawer!’ said Mrs Bunting. ‘And the money’s gone!’
She went quickly to the doorway.
‘Who in the world-‘
There was a loud sneeze in the passage. They rushed out, and as they did so the kitchen door closed!
‘Bring the lamp!’ said Mr Bunting, and led the way.
As he opened the kitchen door, he saw the back door opening. The garden beyond was lit by the first, faint light of sunrise. He was certain that nothing went out of the door. It stood open for a moment, and then closed with a loud bang. They searched outside for a minute or more before they came back into the kitchen.
The place was empty. They locked the back door and examined the kitchen and all the rooms thoroughly. There was no one to be found in the house, though they searched upstairs and down.
When daylight came, the vicar and his wife were still searching; by the unnecessary light of the dying lamp.
‘Of all the surprising events, this is-‘ began the vicar for the twentieth time.
‘My dear,’ said Mrs Bunting, ‘there’s the servant coming down. Just wait here until she has gone into the kitchen, and then go upstairs.’
When Mr Hall came downstairs in the early hours of Whit Monday, he noticed that the stranger’s door was open and the front door unlocked. He remembered holding the lamp while Mrs Hall locked it the night before. At the sight of the front door he stopped; then he went upstairs again. He knocked at the stranger’s door. There was no answer. He knocked again; then pushed the door wide open and entered.
It was as he expected. The bed, the room too, was empty. And what was still more strange, on the bed and chair were scattered the clothes, the only clothes so far as he knew, and the bandages of their guest. His big hat was hanging on the bedpost.
As Mr Hall stood there he heard his wife’s voice coming from the kitchen.
He turned and hurried down to her.
‘Jenny,’ he said, ‘he’s not in his room and the front door is unlocked.’
At first Mrs Hall did not understand, but as soon as she did she determined to see the empty room for herself. Hall went first. ‘If he’s not there, his clothes are. And what is he doing without his clothes?’
As they came out of the kitchen they both thought they heard the front door open and shut but, seeing it closed and seeing 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 on the staircase sneezed. Mr Hall, following six steps behind, thought that he heard her sneeze; she, going first, thought that he was sneezing. She threw open the door and stood looking round the room. ‘What a strange thing!’ she said.
She heard a cough close behind her, as it seemed, and, turning, was surprised to see her husband some distance away on the top stair. But in another moment he was beside her. She put her hand under the bedcovers.
‘Cold,’ she said. ‘He’s been up an hour or more.’
At that point, a most unexpected thing happened. The bedcovers pulled themselves together into a pile, and then jumped violently off the bed. It was just as If a hand had thrown them to one side. Then the stranger’s hat jumped off the bedpost, flew through the air, and came straight at Mrs Hall’s face. Next, a piece of soap flew from the washstand. Finally the chair threw the stranger’s coat and trousers carelessly onto the floor, laughed in a voice very like the stranger’s, turned itself round so that its four legs pointed at Mrs Hall, seemed to take aim at her for a moment, and then moved quickly towards her. She cried out and turned, and the chair legs landed gently but firmly against her back and pushed her and Mr Hall out of the room. The door shut loudly and was locked. The chair and the bed seemed to be dancing for a moment, and then suddenly everything was still.
Mrs Hall was left almost fainting in Mr Hall’s arms in the passage. It was with the greatest difficulty that Mr Hall and Millie, now dressed, succeeded in getting her downstairs.
‘Spirits,’ said Mrs Hall. ‘I know it’s spirits. I’ve read about them in the papers. Tables and chairs dancing.’
‘Lock him out,’ she went on. ‘Don’t let him come in again. I half guessed … I might have known. With those eyes and that bandaged head, and never going to church on Sunday. And all those bottles — more than it’s right for anyone to have. He’s put the spirits into the furniture … My good old furniture! My poor dear mother used to sit in that chair when I was a little girl. And now it rises against me!’
They sent Millie across the street through the golden five o’clock sunshine to wake up Mr Sandy Wadgers, who was clever and might be able to help them.
‘Magic,’ said Mr Wadgers and came to the inn greatly troubled. 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. Then Mr Huxter came and joined in the talk. There was a great deal of talking, but nothing was done.
‘Let’s have the facts first,’ said Mr Sandy Wadgers. ‘Let’s be sure we’d be acting perfectly right in breaking that door open.’
And suddenly the door of the room upstairs opened by itself, and they saw coming down the stairs the wrapped-up figure of the stranger staring more blackly than ever through those large glasses. He came down stiffly and slowly, staring all the time; he walked across the passage, staring, and then stopped.
He entered the parlour, and suddenly and angrily shut the door in their faces.
Not a word was spoken until the noise of the door had died away. They looked at one another.
‘Well, I’ve never seen anything like it!’ said Mr Wadgers, more troubled than ever.
‘If I were you, I’d go in and ask him about it,’ Mr Wadgers advised Mr Hall. ‘I’d demand an explanation.’
It took some time to persuade Mr Hall to do it. At last he knocked, opened the door, and got as far as:
‘Go to the devil!’ said the stranger, ‘and shut that door after you.’
And that was all.
It was half past five when the stranger went into the little parlour of the Coach and Horses, and there he remained until nearly midday, with the blinds down and the door shut, and nobody went near him.
All that time he could have eaten nothing. Three times he rang his bell, the third time loud and long, but no one answered him. ‘Telling us to go to the devil, indeed!’ said Mrs Hall. Soon came the story of the robbery at the Vicarage, and that started them thinking. Hall went off with Wadgers to find Mr Shuckleforth, the lawyer, and take his advice. No one went upstairs, and no one knew what the stranger was doing. Now and then he walked rapidly up and down, and they heard him swearing, tearing paper, breaking bottles.
The little group grew bigger. Mrs Huxter came over; some young fellows joined them. There was a stream of unanswered questions. Young Archie Harker tried to look under the closed curtains. He could see nothing, but he was soon joined by other boys.
And inside in the darkness of the parlour, the stranger, hungry and afraid, hidden in his uncomfortable hot clothes, stared through his dark glasses at his paper, or shook his dirty little bottles or swore at the boys outside the windows. In the corner by the fireplace lay the pieces of several broken bottles, and the sharp smell of a strange gas filled the air.
At about midday he suddenly opened his parlour door and stood looking at the three or four people in the bar. ‘Mrs Hall,’ he said. Somebody went and called for her.
She soon appeared, a little short of breath, and so even more angry. Hall was still out. She had had time to think now, and had brought the stranger’s unpaid bill.
‘Why wasn’t my breakfast laid?’ he asked. ‘Why haven’t you prepared my meals and answered my bell? Do you think I can live without eating?’
‘Why isn’t my bill paid?’ said Mrs Hall. ‘That’s what I want to know.’
‘I told you three days ago I was expecting some money—’
‘I told you three days ago I wasn’t going to wait. You can’t complain if your breakfast waits a bit, when my bill’s been waiting for five days, can you?’
The stranger swore in answer.
‘And I’d thank you, sir, if you’d keep your swearing to yourself, sir,’ said Mrs Hall.
‘Look here, my good woman—’ he began.
‘Don’t call me your good woman,’ said Mrs Hall.
‘I’ve told you my money hasn’t come.’
‘Money indeed!’ said Mrs Hall.
‘Still, in my pocket—’
‘You told me three days ago that you hadn’t anything but a pound’s worth of silver on you.’
‘Well, I’ve found some more.’
‘And where did you find that?’ said Mrs Hall.
He stamped his foot. ‘What do you mean?’ he said.
‘I mean where did you find it?’ said Mrs Hall. ‘And before I take any money, or get any breakfasts, or do any such things, you must tell me one or two things that I don’t understand, and that nobody understands, and that everybody is very anxious to understand. I want to know what you have been doing to my chair upstairs, and I want to know why you went out of your bedroom and how you got in again. Those who stay here come in by the doors — that’s the rule of this house, and you didn’t do that, and what I want to know is how you did come in. And I want to know—’
Suddenly the stranger raised his gloved hands, stamped his foot, and said ‘Stop!’ so loudly that he silenced her at once.
‘You don’t understand,’ he said, ‘who I am or what I am. I’ll show you. By heaven! I’ll show you.’ He put his open hand over his face and then took it away. His face became a black hole. ‘Here,’ he said. He stepped forward and handed Mrs Hall something which she, staring at his face, took without thinking. Then, when she saw what it was, she screamed loudly and dropped it. The nose — it was the stranger’s nose, pink and shining! — rolled on the floor.
Then he removed his glasses, and everyone in the bar breathed deeply. He took off his hat, and tore at his beard and bandages.
It was worse than anything they had ever seen. Mrs Hall, open-mouthed with terror, ran to the door of the house.
Everyone began to move. They had expected burns, wounds, something ugly, but they saw – nothing! The bandages and false hair flew across the passage into the bar. Everyone fell over everyone else down the steps. For the man who stood there shouting was a man up to the shoulders, and then — nothing!
People down in the village heard shouts and saw the people rushing out of the inn. They saw Mrs Hall fall down, and Mr Henfrey jump, so as not to fall over her, and then they heard the frightful cries of Millie, who, running quickly from the kitchen at the noise, had come on the headless stranger from behind. Then her cries stopped suddenly.
Everyone in the village street, old and young, about 40 or more of them, collected in a crowd around the inn door.
‘What was he doing?’
‘Ran at them with a knife.’
‘I heard the girl.’
‘No head, I tell you.’
‘Took off his bandages.’
Everyone spoke at once. Suddenly Mr Hall appeared, very red and determined, then Mr Bobby Jaffers, the village policeman, and then the serious Mr Wadgers.
Mr Hall marched up the steps, walked straight to the door of the parlour and found it open.
‘Policeman,’ he said, ‘do your duty.’
Jaffers marched in, Hall next, Wadgers last. They saw the headless figure facing them, with a half-eaten piece of bread in one gloved hand and a piece of cheese in the other.
‘That’s him,’ said Hall.
‘What the devil’s this?’ came in an angry voice from above the collar of the strange figure.
‘Well, Mister,’ said Jaffers, ‘I’ve got to arrest you, head or no head.’
‘Keep off!’ said the stranger, jumping back.
He took off his glove and with it struck Jaffers in the face. In another moment Jaffers had seized him by the handless wrist, and caught his invisible throat. He got a hard kick that made him shout with pain, but he kept his hold. A chair stood in the way, and fell with a crash as they came down together.
‘Get hold of his feet,’ said Jaffers between his teeth to the other men.
When he tried to obey this order, Mr Hall received a great kick in the chest that finished him for a time; and Mr Wadgers, seeing that the headless stranger had rolled over and got on top of Jaffers, went backwards towards the door, and so fell against Mr Huxter and another man coming to help the policeman. Four bottles fell and broke on the floor, filling the room with a powerful smell.
‘I give in,’ said the stranger, though he had thrown Jaffers down; and in another moment he stood up, shaking, breathless. A strange thing, he looked, without head or hands. His voice seemed to come out of nothing.
Jaffers also got up.
The stranger ran his arm down his coat, and the buttons to which his empty sleeve pointed became undone. Then he bent down and seemed to touch his shoes.
‘Why!’ said Huxter suddenly, ‘That’s not a man at all. It’s just empty clothes. Look! You can see down his collar and his shirt. I could put my arm—’
He stretched out his hand; it seemed to meet something in the air, and he pulled it back with a sharp cry of surprise.
‘I wish you’d keep your fingers out of my eye,’ shouted the voice in anger. ‘The fact is, I’m all here — head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I’m invisible. But that’s no reason why you should put your fingers in my eye, is it?’
The suit of clothes, now all unbuttoned, stood up.
Several other men had now come into the room, so that it was crowded.
‘Invisible, eh?’ said Huxter. ‘Who ever heard of such a-‘
‘It’s strange, perhaps, but it’s not a crime. Why am I attacked by a policeman in this way?’
‘Ah! That’s different,’ said Jaffers. ‘I can’t see you, but I have orders to arrest you, not because you can’t be seen, but because a house has been robbed.’
‘And it looks as if—
‘Nonsense,’ said the Invisible Man.
‘I hope so, sir. But I’ve got my orders.’
Suddenly the man sat down, and before anyone could think of stopping him, he had thrown off all his clothes – all except his shirt.
‘Here, stop that,’ said Jaffers suddenly. ‘Hold him,’ he cried. ‘If he gets his shirt off-‘
‘Hold him,’ shouted everyone, and there was a rush at the white shirt, which was now all that could be seen of the stranger.
The shirt sleeve struck a blow in Hall’s face that sent him backward into old Toothsome, the gravedigger, and in another moment the shirt was lifted up, just like a shirt that is being pulled over a man’s head. Jaffers tore at it but only helped to pull it off. He was struck in the mouth out of the air, and lifted his stick and hit Teddy Henfrey hard on the top of his head.
‘-Look out!’ cried everybody, hitting everywhere at nothing. Hold him! Shut the door! Don’t let him go! I’ve got something! Here he is!’ Everybody was being hit at once, falling on one another. Sandy Wadgers opened the door and they fell out. The hitting went on. One man had a tooth broken, another a swollen ear. Jaffers was struck under the jaw. He caught at something hard that stood between him and Huxter. Then the whole mass of struggling, excited men fell out into the crowded hall.
The battle moved quickly to the house door. There were excited cries of ‘Hold him!’, ‘Invisible!’, and a young man, a stranger to the place, rushed in, caught something, missed his hold, and fell over another man’s body. Halfway across the road a woman fainted as something pushed past her, a dog ran growling into Huxter’s yard, and with that the Invisible Man was gone.
For a moment people stood, not knowing what to do. And then they ran, scattered as the wind scatters dead leaves.
But Jaffers lay quite still, face upward and knees bent.
Mr Thomas Marvel, a tramp, had removed his boots and was sitting by the roadside airing his feet and looking sadly at his toes. They were the best boots he had worn for a long time, but he hated them for their ugliness and their size. ‘The ugliest boots in the whole world, I should think,’ he said.
‘They’re boots, anyway,’ said a Voice.
‘Yes,’ Mr Marvel agreed. ‘They were given to me. Too large. I’m tired of them. That’s why I’ve been begging for boots, boots, boots everywhere, but no one has any to give away.’
‘H’m,’ said the Voice.
‘No. I’ve been begging for boots round here for ten years. I’ve got all my boots around here, and now look at them — they’re the best they can find for me.’
He turned his head over his shoulder to look at the boots of the speaker — but they weren’t there. There were neither boots nor legs — nothing.
‘Where are you?’ he asked. He saw the road, the open country, but no sign of any man except himself. ‘Am I mad? I must be seeing things.’
‘No, you aren’t,’ said the Voice. ‘Don’t be frightened.’
‘Frightened, frightened!’ said Mr Marvel. ‘Come here. Where are you?’
‘Don’t be frightened,’ said the Voice.
‘You’ll be frightened soon. Let me get hold of you. Are you buried?’
There was no answer. Mr Marvel began to put on his coat.
‘I could have sworn I heard a voice.’
‘So you did.’
‘It’s there again,’ said Mr Marvel, closing his eyes and running his hand across his forehead. ‘I must have gone mad.’
‘Don’t be a fool,’ said the Voice. ‘You think I’m just in your imagination —just in your mind?’
‘What else can you be?’ said Mr Marvel, rubbing the back of his neck.
‘Very well,’ said the Voice, ‘I’m going to throw stones at you until you think differently.’
‘But where are you?’
The Voice made no answer. A stone came whistling through the empty air and just missed Mr Marvel’s shoulder. He turned round and saw a stone jump up into the air, hang there for a moment, and fall at his feet. Another came and hit his bare toes, which made Mr Marvel cry aloud. Then he started to run, fell over something unseen, and came to rest sitting by the road.
‘Now,’ said the Voice, ‘am I just in your mind?’
Mr Marvel struggled to his feet, and was immediately rolled over again. He lay quiet for a moment.
‘If you struggle anymore,’ said the Voice,’ I’ll throw this stone at your head.’
‘I’m finished,’ said Mr Thomas Marvel, sitting up and taking his wounded toe in his hand. ‘I don’t understand it. Stones throwing themselves. Stones talking. I’m finished.’
‘It’s very simple,’ said the Voice. ‘I’m an invisible man.’
Tell me something I don’t know,’ said Mr Marvel, white with the pain. ‘Where you’re hidden — how you do it — I don’t know.’
‘I’m invisible,’ said the Voice. ‘That’s what I want you to understand.’
‘Anyone can see that. There’s no need for you to be so angry. Now then. Give us an idea. Where are you hidden?’
‘I’m invisible. That’s the point. And what I want you to understand is this—’
‘But where are you?’ interrupted Mr Marvel.
‘Here — six yards in front of you.’
‘Oh, no! I’m not blind. You’ll be telling me next you’re just thin air.’
‘Yes. I am — thin air. You’re looking through me.’
‘What! Isn’t there anything in you?’
‘I am just a human being — solid, needing food and drink, needing clothes, too… But I’m invisible. You see? Invisible. Simple idea. Invisible.’
‘What, are you real?’
‘Let me feel your hand,’ said Marvel, ‘if you are real.’
He felt with his fingers the hand that had closed round his wrist and his touch went up the arm, found a chest, and touched a bearded face.
Mr Marvel’s own face showed shock and surprise.
‘Of course, all this isn’t half so strange as you think,’ said the Invisible Man.
‘It’s quite strange enough for me,’ said Mr Marvel. ‘How do you manage it? How is it done?’
‘It’s a very long story. And besides—’
‘I tell you, the whole business is — I can’t understand,’ said Mr Marvel.
‘What I want to say now is this: I need help. I need help immediately. I came on you suddenly. I was wandering around helpless, without clothes. And I saw you—’
‘Oh, Lord!’ said Mr Marvel.
‘I came up behind you, stopped, went on, then stopped again. “Here,” I said to myself, “is the man for me.” So I turned and came back to you. You. And—’
‘Oh, Lord? said Mr Marvel. ‘May I ask: What does it feel like? And what kind of help do you need? Invisible!’
‘I want you to help me get clothes and shelter, and then other things. I’ve left those things long enough. If you won’t — well! . .. But you will — you must’
‘Look here,’ said Mr Marvel. ‘Don’t knock me about any more. And let me go. I must get my breath back. And you’ve very nearly broken my toe. It’s all so unreasonable. Empty earth, empty sky. Nothing visible for miles except Nature. And then comes a voice. A voice out of heaven! And stones. And a hand. Lord!’
‘Pull yourself together,’ said the Voice, ‘for you have to do the work I want you to do.’
Mr Marvel’s mouth opened wide, 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 great power.’ He stopped for a moment to sneeze loudly.
‘But if you trick me,’ he said, ‘if you fail to do as I tell you-‘
He paused and took hold of Mr Marvel’s shoulder. Mr Marvel gave a cry of terror at the touch.
‘I don’t want to trick you,’ he said, moving away from the fingers. ‘Don’t think that, whatever you do. All I want to do is help you -just tell me what I have got to do. Whatever you want done, I shall be pleased to do it.’
At about four o’clock, a stranger entered the village from the direction of the hills. He was a short, fat person in a dirty old hat, and he seemed to be very much out of breath. There was fear in his face, and he seemed to be talking to himself. Some of the village men noticed him. Mr Huxter saw him go up the steps of the inn, and turn towards the parlour. Mr Huxter heard voices from the parlour telling the man that he must not go in.
‘That room’s private!’ said Mr Hall, and the stranger shut the door and went into the bar.
A few minutes later he came out again, rubbing his mouth as if he had been having a drink. He stood looking around him for a few moments, and then walked towards the gates of the yard, where the parlour window was. He leant against one of the gateposts and took out a short pipe. Although he seemed calm, his hands were trembling.
Suddenly he put the pipe back in his pocket and disappeared into the yard. Immediately Mr Huxter, guessing that the man was a thief, ran out of his shop to stop him. As he did so, Mr Marvel reappeared, carrying some clothes tied together in one hand and three books in the other. As soon as he saw Huxter he turned and began to run towards the hill road.
‘Stop thief!’ cried Huxter, and set off after him.
Mr Huxter had hardly gone any distance at all when something seized his leg and sent him flying through the air. He saw the ground suddenly move towards his face, and then – nothing.
At the time when Mr Marvel went into the inn, Mr Cuss and Mr Bunting were in the parlour, searching the stranger’s property in the hope of finding something to explain the events of the morning. Jaffers had recovered from his fall and had gone home. Mrs Hall had tidied the stranger’s clothes and put them away. And under the window where the stranger did his work, Mr Cuss found three big books.
‘Now,’ said Cuss, ‘we shall learn something.’
But when they opened the books they could read nothing. Cuss turned the pages.
‘Dear me,’ he said, ‘I can’t understand.’
‘No pictures, nothing to show—?’ asked Mr Bunting.
‘See for yourself,’ said Mr Cuss, ‘it’s all Greek or Russian or some other language.’
The door opened suddenly. Both men looked round. It was Mr Marvel. He held the door open for a moment.
‘I beg your pardon,’ he said.
‘Please shut that door,’ said Mr Cuss, and Mr Marvel went out.
‘My nerves – my nerves are in pieces today,’ said Mr Cuss. ‘It made me jump when the door opened like that.’
Mr Bunting smiled. ‘Now let us look at the books again. It’s true that strange things have been happening in the village. But of course I can’t believe in an invisible man. I can’t’
‘No. Though I tell you I saw right down his sleeve.’
‘But are you sure?’ said Mr Bunting. ‘Are you quite sure?’
‘Quite. I’ve said so. There’s no doubt at all. Now let’s look at these books.’
They turned over the pages, unable to read a word of their strange language. Suddenly Mr Bunting felt something take hold of the back of his neck. He was unable to lift his head.
‘Don’t move, little men, or I’ll knock your brains out.’
Mr Bunting looked at Cuss, whose face had turned white with fear.
‘I am sorry to be rough,’ said the Voice. ‘Since when did you learn to look through other men’s possessions?’
Two noses struck the table. ‘To come unasked into a stranger’s private room! Listen. I am a strong man. I could kill you both and escape unseen, if I wanted to. If I let you go, you must promise to do as I tell you.’
‘Yes,’ said Mr Bunting.
Then the hands let their necks go and the two men sat up, now very red in the face.
‘Don’t move,’ said the Voice. ‘Here’s the poker, you see.’
They saw the poker dance in the air. It touched Mr Bunting’s nose.
‘Now, where are my clothes? Just now, though the days are quite warm enough for an invisible man to run about without anything on, the evenings are cold. I want some clothes. And I must also have those three books.’
While these things were going on in the parlour, and while Mr Huxter was watching Mr Marvel as he leaned smoking his pipe against the gate, Mr Hall and Teddy Henfrey stood talking nearby.
Suddenly there came a loud knock on the door of the parlour, a cry, and then — silence.
‘Hel-lo!’ said Teddy Henfrey.
‘Hel-lo!’ from the bar.
Mr Hall and Teddy looked at the door.
‘Something’s wrong,’ said Hall.
For a long time they listened. Strange noises were coming from behind the closed door, as if something was falling about. Then a sharp cry.
‘No! No, you don’t.’ Then silence.
‘What’s that?’ exclaimed Henfrey in a low voice.
‘Is everything all right there?’ called Hall.
‘Quite ri-ight,’ came Mr Bunting’s voice, ‘qui-ite! Don’t come in!’
They stood listening.
‘I can’t’, they heard Mr Bunting say. ‘I tell you, sir, I will not.’ ‘Who’s that speaking now?’ asked Henfrey.
‘Mr Cuss, I suppose,’ said Hall. ‘Can you hear anything?’
‘Someone is throwing the table around,’ said Hall.
Mrs Hall appeared behind the bar. When they told her, she would not believe anything strange was happening. Perhaps they were moving the chairs and table.
‘Didn’t I hear the window?’ said Henfrey.
‘What window?’ asked Mrs Hall.
‘The parlour window,’ said Henfrey.
Everyone stood listening. Mrs Hall, looking straight in front of her, saw, without seeing, the bright shape of the inn door, the white road, and Huxter’s shop-front shining in the June sun. Suddenly Huxter’s door opened, and Huxter appeared, his eyes staring with excitement, his arms waving in the air.
‘Stop thief’ cried Huxter, and he ran towards the yard gates and disappeared.
At the same time a noise came from the parlour, and there was the sound of windows being closed.
Hall, Henfrey, and everyone in the bar rushed out into the street. They saw someone run round the corner towards the hill road, and Mr Huxter jump into the air and fall on his face and shoulder. Hall and two workmen ran down the street and saw Mr Marvel disappearing past the church wall.
But Hall had hardly run 12 yards when he gave a loud shout and fell on his side, pulling one of the workmen with him. The second workman came up, and he too was knocked down. Then came the rush of the village crowd. The first man was surprised to see Huxter and Hall on the ground. Suddenly something happened to his feet, and he was lying on his back, the crowd was falling over him, and he was being sworn at by a number of angry people.
When Hall, Henfrey and the workmen ran out of the house, Mrs Hall had remained in the bar. Suddenly the parlour door was opened, Mr Cuss appeared and, without looking at her, rushed down the steps towards the corner of the street.
‘Hold him!’ he cried. ‘Don’t let him drop those books and clothes! You can see him so long as he holds them.’
He knew nothing of Marvel; for the Invisible Man had handed over the books and clothes to him in the yard. The face of Mr Cuss was angry and determined, but there was something wrong with his clothes: he was wearing a tablecloth.
‘Hold him!’ he shouted. ‘He’s got my trousers — and all the vicar’s clothes!’
Coming round the corner to join the crowd, he was knocked off his feet and lay kicking on the ground. Somebody stepped on his finger. He struggled to his feet, something knocked against him and threw him on his knees again, and he saw that everyone was running back to the village. He rose again, and was hit behind the ear. He set off straight back to the village inn as fast as he could run, and on his way jumped over the body of Huxter, who was now sitting up.
Behind him, as he was halfway up the inn steps, he heard a sudden cry of anger above the noise, and the sound of someone being struck in the face. He knew the voice as that of the Invisible Man.
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, trying to dress himself in the curtains and a newspaper.
‘Who’s coming?’ he said, so surprised that his dress nearly fell off him.
‘The Invisible Man!’ said Cuss, and rushed to the window. ‘We’d better move — quick. He’s fighting like a madman!’
In another moment he was out in the yard.
Mr Bunting heard a frightful struggle in the passage of the inn, and decided to leave. He climbed out of the window, and ran up the village street as fast as his fat little legs could carry him.
Mr Marvel was walking painfully through the thick woods on the road to Bramblehurst. He looked very unhappy and was carrying three books and some clothes wrapped in a blue tablecloth. A Voice went with him and he was held tightly by unseen hands.
‘If you try to escape again,’ said the Voice,’I will kill you.’
‘I didn’t try to escape,’ said Mr Marvel.
The Voice swore a few times and then stopped. Mr Marvel, who was not used to so much work, was very tired. There was silence for a time. Then,’I shall have to make use of you. You are a poor creature, but I must.’
‘Yes, I am,’ said Marvel.
‘You are,’ said the Voice.
‘I’m not strong,’ said Marvel. Then after a short silence he repeated, ‘I’m not strong. I’ve got a weak heart. I can’t do what you want.’
‘I’ll make you,’ said the Voice.
‘I wish I was dead,’ said Marvel.
‘Go on! Walk! Move!’ said the Voice.
‘It’s cruel,’ said Marvel.
‘Be quiet,’ said the Voice. ‘I’ll see that you’re all right. But be quiet. I want to think.’
Soon they saw the lights of a village.
‘I shall keep my hand on your shoulder,’ said the Voice. ‘Go straight through the village, and don’t try to say anything to anybody.’
At ten o’clock the next morning Mr Marvel, dirty, tired, and worried, sat outside a little inn at Port Stowe. Beside him were the books, but now they were tied up with string. He had left the clothes in the woods beyond Bramblehurst. Mr Marvel sat on a wooden seat and, although no one took any notice of him, he seemed excited.
When he had been sitting for nearly an hour an old sailor, with a newspaper in his hand, came out of the inn and sat down beside him.
‘Pleasant day,’ said the sailor.
Mr Marvel looked around him with eyes that were full of terror. ‘Very,’ he replied.
The sailor looked around him as if he had nothing to do, and then at Mr Marvel’s dusty clothes and the books beside him. He had heard the sound of money being dropped into a pocket, and thought that Mr Marvel did not look like a man who would carry much money.
‘Books?’ he said suddenly.
Mr Marvel jumped and looked at them. ‘Oh, yes,’ he said. ‘Yes, they’re books.’
‘There are some strange things in books,’ said the sailor.
‘There are,’ said Mr Marvel.
‘And some strange things out of them,’ said the sailor.
‘True,’ said Mr Marvel.
‘There are some strange things in newspapers, for example,’ said the sailor.
‘In this newspaper,’ said the sailor.
‘Ah!’ said Mr Marvel.
‘There’s a story,’ said the sailor, ‘there’s a story about an Invisible Man.’ And he told Mr Marvel as much of the story as the newspaper contained. ‘I don’t like it,’ he said. ‘He might be anywhere, might be here at this moment listening to us. And just think, if he wanted to steal or kill, what is there to stop him?’
Mr Marvel seemed to be listening for the least sound.
‘Ah – and – well—’ he said. And lowering his voice, ‘I know something about this Invisible Man.’
‘Oh,’ said the sailor, ‘you?’
‘Yes,’ said Mr Marvel, ‘me.’
The sailor did not seem to believe Mr Marvel.
‘It happened like this,’ Mr Marvel began, and then his expression changed suddenly.
‘Ow!’ he said. He rose stiffly from his seat, as if in pain.
‘What’s the matter?’ said the sailor.
‘I — I think I must be going,’ said Mr Marvel.
‘But you were just going to tell me about this Invisible Man,’ said the sailor.
Mr Marvel seemed to think carefully.
‘A lie,’ said a Voice.
‘It’s a lie,’ said Mr Marvel.
‘But it’s in the paper,’ said the sailor.
‘Yes,’ said Mr Marvel loudly, ‘but it’s a lie. I know the man who started it. There isn’t any Invisible Man at all.’
‘But this paper? D’you mean to say—?’
‘Not a word of truth in it,’ said Mr Marvel firmly.
The sailor stared, the paper in his hand. Mr Marvel turned round.
‘Wait a bit,’ said the sailor, 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, then? What do you mean by letting a man make a fool of himself like that for, eh?’
‘Come along,’ said a Voice, and Mr Marvel was suddenly turned round and he started marching off in a strange, jumpy manner.
‘Silly devil,’ said the sailor, legs wide apart, watching the little man go. ‘I’ll show you, you silly fool! It’s here in the paper!’
And there was another strange thing he was soon to hear about, that had happened quite close to him. And that was a ‘hand full of money’ travelling by itself along by the wall. A sailor friend had seen this strange sight that very morning. He had tried to take the money and had been knocked down by an unseen hand, and when he had got to his feet the money had disappeared.
The story of the flying money was true. And all round that neighbourhood, even from the bank, from shops and inns, money had quietly walked away. And it had found its way into Mr Marvel’s pocket, so the sailor had heard.
In the early evening time, Dr Kemp was sitting in his study on the hill above Burdock. It was a pleasant little upstairs room, with three windows — north, west, and south — with bookshelves crowded with books and with a broad writing table. Dr Kemp was a tall, thin man of about thirty-five, with fair hair. He was writing.
His eye, soon wandering from his work, caught the sunset behind the hill opposite his house. For a minute, perhaps, he sat, pen in mouth, admiring the rich golden colour, and then he saw the little figure of a man running over the hill towards him. He was a shortish little man, in a dirty old hat, and he was running fast.
Dr Kemp got up, went to the window, and stared at the hillside and the dark little figure running down it. ‘He seems to be in a hurry,’ said Dr Kemp to himself.
Then the running man was hidden behind some houses; he came into sight and disappeared again — still running.
But those who were nearer to him saw the terror in his face. He looked neither to the right nor left, but his wide eyes stared straight down the hill to where the lamps were being lit and there were people crowding together in the street. Everybody he passed stopped and began staring up and down the road, and asking one another, half afraid, why the man was running so hard.
And then, far up the hill, a dog playing in the road growled and ran under a gate, and something — a wind — a noise of feet, a sound like heavy breathing — rushed by.
People cried out. People jumped off the footpath. They shouted as the thing rushed past them down the hill, and they were still shouting in the street before Marvel was halfway there. They were running into houses with the news and shutting the doors behind them. He heard it, and ran even faster. Fear came hurrying by, rushed ahead of him, and in a moment had seized the town.
‘The Invisible Man is coming! The Invisible Man?