The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance

       H. G. Wells / Science Fiction
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The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance
Produced by Andrew Sly

The Invisible Man

A Grotesque Romance

By H. G. Wells

CONTENTS

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

CHAPTER I

THE STRANGE MAN'S ARRIVAL

The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through abiting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, overthe down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying alittle black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrappedup from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid everyinch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had pileditself against his shoulders and chest, and added a white crest tothe burden he carried. He staggered into the ”Coach and Horses” moredead than alive, and flung his portmanteau down. ”A fire,” he cried,”in the name of human charity! A room and a fire!” He stamped andshook the snow from off himself in the bar, and followed Mrs. Hallinto her guest parlour to strike his bargain. And with that muchintroduction, 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 preparehim a meal with her own hands. A guest to stop at Iping in thewintertime was an unheard-of piece of luck, let alone a guest whowas no ”haggler,” and she was resolved to show herself worthy of hergood fortune. As soon as the bacon was well under way, and Millie,her lymphatic maid, had been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosenexpressions of contempt, she carried the cloth, plates, and glassesinto the parlour and began to lay them with the utmost _eclat_.Although the fire was burning up briskly, she was surprised to seethat her visitor still wore his hat and coat, standing with his backto her and staring out of the window at the falling snow in the yard.His gloved hands were clasped behind him, and he seemed to be lostin thought. She noticed that the melting snow that still sprinkledhis 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 herquestion.

He turned his head and looked at her over his shoulder. ”I prefer tokeep them on,” he said with emphasis, and she noticed that he worebig blue spectacles with sidelights, and had a bush side-whiskerover his coat-collar that completely hid his cheeks and face.

”Very well, sir,” she said. ”_As_ you like. In a bit the room willbe warmer.”

He made no answer, and had turned his face away from her again, andMrs. Hall, feeling that her conversational advances were ill-timed,laid the rest of the table things in a quick staccato and whiskedout of the room. When she returned he was still standing there, likea man of stone, his back hunched, his collar turned up, his drippinghat-brim turned down, hiding his face and ears completely. She putdown the eggs and bacon with considerable emphasis, and calledrather than said to him, ”Your lunch is served, sir.”

”Thank you,” he said at the same time, and did not stir until shewas closing the door. Then he swung round and approached the tablewith a certain eager quickness.

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

She rapped and entered promptly. As she did so her visitor movedquickly, so that she got but a glimpse of a white object disappearingbehind the table. It would seem he was picking something from thefloor. She rapped down the mustard pot on the table, and then shenoticed the overcoat and hat had been taken off and put over a chairin front of the fire, and a pair of wet boots threatened rust to hersteel fender. She went to these things resolutely. ”I suppose I mayhave them to dry now,” she said in a voice that brooked no denial.

”Leave the hat,” said her visitor, in a muffled voice, and turningshe 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 withhim--over the lower part of his face, so that his mouth and jawswere completely hidden, and that was the reason of his muffledvoice. But it was not that which startled Mrs. Hall. It was the factthat all his forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a whitebandage, and that another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap ofhis 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-brownvelvet jacket with a high, black, linen-lined collar turned up abouthis neck. The thick black hair, escaping as it could below andbetween the cross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns,giving him the strangest appearance conceivable. This muffled andbandaged head was so unlike what she had anticipated, that for amoment she was rigid.

He did not remove the serviette, but remained holding it, as shesaw now, with a brown gloved hand, and regarding her with hisinscrutable blue glasses. ”Leave the hat,” he said, speaking verydistinctly through the white cloth.

Her nerves began to recover from the shock they had received. Sheplaced the hat on the chair again by the fire. ”I didn't know, sir,”she began, ”that--” and she stopped embarrassed.

”Thank you,” he said drily, glancing from her to the door and thenat her again.

”I'll have them nicely dried, sir, at once,” she said, and carriedhis clothes out of the room. She glanced at his white-swathed headand blue goggles again as she was going out of the door; but hisnapkin was still in front of his face. She shivered a little as sheclosed the door behind her, and her face was eloquent of her surpriseand perplexity. ”I _never_,” she whispered. ”There!” She went quitesoftly to the kitchen, and was too preoccupied to ask Millie whatshe was messing about with _now_, when she got there.

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

”The poor soul's had an accident or an op'ration or somethin',” saidMrs. Hall. ”What a turn them bandages did give me, to be sure!”

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

She turned round, as one who suddenly remembers. ”Bless my soulalive!” she said, going off at a tangent; ”ain't you done themtaters _yet_, Millie?”

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

”I have some luggage,” he said, ”at Bramblehurst station,” and heasked her how he could have it sent. He bowed his bandaged headquite politely in acknowledgment of her explanation. ”To-morrow?” hesaid. ”There is no speedier delivery?” and seemed quite disappointedwhen she answered, ”No.” Was she quite sure? No man with a trap whowould go over?

Mrs. Hall, nothing loath, answered his questions and developed aconversation. ”It's a steep road by the down, sir,” she said inanswer to the question about a trap; and then, snatching at anopening, said, ”It was there a carriage was upsettled, a year agoand 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 saidthrough his muffler, eyeing her quietly through his impenetrableglasses.

”But they take long enough to get well, don't they? ... There wasmy sister's son, Tom, jest cut his arm with a scythe, tumbled on itin the 'ayfield, and, bless me! he was three months tied up sir.You'd hardly believe it. It's regular given me a dread of a scythe,sir.”

”I can quite understand that,” said the visitor.

”He was afraid, one time, that he'd have to have an op'ration--hewas that bad, sir.”

The visitor laughed abruptly, a bark of a laugh that he seemed tobite and kill in his mouth. ”_Was_ he?” he said.

”He was, sir. And no laughing matter to them as had the doing forhim, as I had--my sister being took up with her little ones somuch. There was bandages to do, sir, and bandages to undo. So thatif 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 hisshoulder upon her and stared out of the window again. It wasaltogether too discouraging. Evidently he was sensitive on thetopic of operations and bandages. She did not ”make so bold as tosay,” 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, withoutgiving the ghost of an excuse for an intrusion. For the most parthe was quite still during that time; it would seem he sat in thegrowing 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 ashe sat down again.


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