THE SIEGE OF KEMP’S HOUSE
Kemp read a strange missive, written in pencil on a greasy sheet of
“You have been amazingly energetic and clever,” this letter ran,
“though what you stand to gain by it I cannot imagine. You are against
me. For a whole day you have chased me; you have tried to rob me of a
night’s rest. But I have had food in spite of you, I have slept in
spite of you, and the game is only beginning. The game is only
beginning. There is nothing for it, but to start the Terror. This
announces the first day of the Terror. Port Burdock is no longer under
the Queen, tell your Colonel of Police, and the rest of them; it is
under me—the Terror! This is day one of year one of the new epoch—the
Epoch of the Invisible Man. I am Invisible Man the First. To begin with
the rule will be easy. The first day there will be one execution for
the sake of example—a man named Kemp. Death starts for him to-day. He
may lock himself away, hide himself away, get guards about him, put on
armour if he likes—Death, the unseen Death, is coming. Let him take
precautions; it will impress my people. Death starts from the pillar
box by midday. The letter will fall in as the postman comes along, then
off! The game begins. Death starts. Help him not, my people, lest Death
fall upon you also. To-day Kemp is to die.”
Kemp read this letter twice, “It’s no hoax,” he said. “That’s his
voice! And he means it.”
He turned the folded sheet over and saw on the addressed side of it the
postmark Hintondean, and the prosaic detail “2d. to pay.”
He got up slowly, leaving his lunch unfinished—the letter had come by
the one o’clock post—and went into his study. He rang for his
housekeeper, and told her to go round the house at once, examine all
the fastenings of the windows, and close all the shutters. He closed
the shutters of his study himself. From a locked drawer in his bedroom
he took a little revolver, examined it carefully, and put it into the
pocket of his lounge jacket. He wrote a number of brief notes, one to
Colonel Adye, gave them to his servant to take, with explicit
instructions as to her way of leaving the house. “There is no danger,”
he said, and added a mental reservation, “to you.” He remained
meditative for a space after doing this, and then returned to his
He ate with gaps of thought. Finally he struck the table sharply. “We
will have him!” he said; “and I am the bait. He will come too far.”
He went up to the belvedere, carefully shutting every door after him.
“It’s a game,” he said, “an odd game—but the chances are all for me,
Mr. Griffin, in spite of your invisibility. Griffin contra mundum …
with a vengeance.”
He stood at the window staring at the hot hillside. “He must get food
every day—and I don’t envy him. Did he really sleep last night? Out in
the open somewhere—secure from collisions. I wish we could get some
good cold wet weather instead of the heat.
“He may be watching me now.”
He went close to the window. Something rapped smartly against the
brickwork over the frame, and made him start violently back.
“I’m getting nervous,” said Kemp. But it was five minutes before he
went to the window again. “It must have been a sparrow,” he said.
Presently he heard the front-door bell ringing, and hurried downstairs.
He unbolted and unlocked the door, examined the chain, put it up, and
opened cautiously without showing himself. A familiar voice hailed him.
It was Adye.
“Your servant’s been assaulted, Kemp,” he said round the door.
“What!” exclaimed Kemp.
“Had that note of yours taken away from her. He’s close about here. Let
Kemp released the chain, and Adye entered through as narrow an opening
as possible. He stood in the hall, looking with infinite relief at Kemp
refastening the door. “Note was snatched out of her hand. Scared her
horribly. She’s down at the station. Hysterics. He’s close here. What
was it about?”
“What a fool I was,” said Kemp. “I might have known. It’s not an hour’s
walk from Hintondean. Already?”
“What’s up?” said Adye.
“Look here!” said Kemp, and led the way into his study. He handed Adye
the Invisible Man’s letter. Adye read it and whistled softly. “And
you—?” said Adye.
“Proposed a trap—like a fool,” said Kemp, “and sent my proposal out by
a maid servant. To him.”
Adye followed Kemp’s profanity.
“He’ll clear out,” said Adye.
“Not he,” said Kemp.
A resounding smash of glass came from upstairs. Adye had a silvery
glimpse of a little revolver half out of Kemp’s pocket. “It’s a window,
upstairs!” said Kemp, and led the way up. There came a second smash
while they were still on the staircase. When they reached the study
they found two of the three windows smashed, half the room littered
with splintered glass, and one big flint lying on the writing table.
The two men stopped in the doorway, contemplating the wreckage. Kemp
swore again, and as he did so the third window went with a snap like a
pistol, hung starred for a moment, and collapsed in jagged, shivering
triangles into the room.
“What’s this for?” said Adye.
“It’s a beginning,” said Kemp.
“There’s no way of climbing up here?”
“Not for a cat,” said Kemp.
“Not here. All the downstairs rooms—Hullo!”
Smash, and then whack of boards hit hard came from downstairs.
“Confound him!” said Kemp. “That must be—yes—it’s one of the bedrooms.
He’s going to do all the house. But he’s a fool. The shutters are up,
and the glass will fall outside. He’ll cut his feet.”
Another window proclaimed its destruction. The two men stood on the
landing perplexed. “I have it!” said Adye. “Let me have a stick or
something, and I’ll go down to the station and get the bloodhounds put
on. That ought to settle him! They’re hard by—not ten minutes—”
Another window went the way of its fellows.
“You haven’t a revolver?” asked Adye.
Kemp’s hand went to his pocket. Then he hesitated. “I haven’t one—at
least to spare.”
“I’ll bring it back,” said Adye, “you’ll be safe here.”
Kemp, ashamed of his momentary lapse from truthfulness, handed him the
“Now for the door,” said Adye.
As they stood hesitating in the hall, they heard one of the first-floor
bedroom windows crack and clash. Kemp went to the door and began to
slip the bolts as silently as possible. His face was a little paler
than usual. “You must step straight out,” said Kemp. In another moment
Adye was on the doorstep and the bolts were dropping back into the
staples. He hesitated for a moment, feeling more comfortable with his
back against the door. Then he marched, upright and square, down the
steps. He crossed the lawn and approached the gate. A little breeze
seemed to ripple over the grass. Something moved near him. “Stop a
bit,” said a Voice, and Adye stopped dead and his hand tightened on the
“Well?” said Adye, white and grim, and every nerve tense.
“Oblige me by going back to the house,” said the Voice, as tense and
grim as Adye’s.
“Sorry,” said Adye a little hoarsely, and moistened his lips with his
tongue. The Voice was on his left front, he thought. Suppose he were to
take his luck with a shot?
“What are you going for?” said the Voice, and there was a quick
movement of the two, and a flash of sunlight from the open lip of
Adye desisted and thought. “Where I go,” he said slowly, “is my own
business.” The words were still on his lips, when an arm came round his
neck, his back felt a knee, and he was sprawling backward. He drew
clumsily and fired absurdly, and in another moment he was struck in the
mouth and the revolver wrested from his grip. He made a vain clutch at
a slippery limb, tried to struggle up and fell back. “Damn!” said Adye.
The Voice laughed. “I’d kill you now if it wasn’t the waste of a
bullet,” it said. He saw the revolver in mid-air, six feet off,
“Well?” said Adye, sitting up.
“Get up,” said the Voice.
Adye stood up.
“Attention,” said the Voice, and then fiercely, “Don’t try any games.
Remember I can see your face if you can’t see mine. You’ve got to go
back to the house.”
“He won’t let me in,” said Adye.
“That’s a pity,” said the Invisible Man. “I’ve got no quarrel with
Adye moistened his lips again. He glanced away from the barrel of the
revolver and saw the sea far off very blue and dark under the midday
sun, the smooth green down, the white cliff of the Head, and the
multitudinous town, and suddenly he knew that life was very sweet. His
eyes came back to this little metal thing hanging between heaven and
earth, six yards away. “What am I to do?” he said sullenly.
“What am I to do?” asked the Invisible Man. “You will get help. The
only thing is for you to go back.”
“I will try. If he lets me in will you promise not to rush the door?”
“I’ve got no quarrel with you,” said the Voice.
Kemp had hurried upstairs after letting Adye out, and now crouching
among the broken glass and peering cautiously over the edge of the
study window sill, he saw Adye stand parleying with the Unseen. “Why
doesn’t he fire?” whispered Kemp to himself. Then the revolver moved a
little and the glint of the sunlight flashed in Kemp’s eyes. He shaded
his eyes and tried to see the source of the blinding beam.
“Surely!” he said, “Adye has given up the revolver.”
“Promise not to rush the door,” Adye was saying. “Don’t push a winning
game too far. Give a man a chance.”
“You go back to the house. I tell you flatly I will not promise
Adye’s decision seemed suddenly made. He turned towards the house,
walking slowly with his hands behind him. Kemp watched him—puzzled. The
revolver vanished, flashed again into sight, vanished again, and became
evident on a closer scrutiny as a little dark object following Adye.
Then things happened very quickly. Adye leapt backwards, swung around,
clutched at this little object, missed it, threw up his hands and fell
forward on his face, leaving a little puff of blue in the air. Kemp did
not hear the sound of the shot. Adye writhed, raised himself on one
arm, fell forward, and lay still.
For a space Kemp remained staring at the quiet carelessness of Adye’s
attitude. The afternoon was very hot and still, nothing seemed stirring
in all the world save a couple of yellow butterflies chasing each other
through the shrubbery between the house and the road gate. Adye lay on
the lawn near the gate. The blinds of all the villas down the hill-road
were drawn, but in one little green summer-house was a white figure,
apparently an old man asleep. Kemp scrutinised the surroundings of the
house for a glimpse of the revolver, but it had vanished. His eyes came
back to Adye. The game was opening well.
Then came a ringing and knocking at the front door, that grew at last
tumultuous, but pursuant to Kemp’s instructions the servants had locked
themselves into their rooms. This was followed by a silence. Kemp sat
listening and then began peering cautiously out of the three windows,
one after another. He went to the staircase head and stood listening
uneasily. He armed himself with his bedroom poker, and went to examine
the interior fastenings of the ground-floor windows again. Everything
was safe and quiet. He returned to the belvedere. Adye lay motionless
over the edge of the gravel just as he had fallen. Coming along the
road by the villas were the housemaid and two policemen.
Everything was deadly still. The three people seemed very slow in
approaching. He wondered what his antagonist was doing.
He started. There was a smash from below. He hesitated and went
downstairs again. Suddenly the house resounded with heavy blows and the
splintering of wood. He heard a smash and the destructive clang of the
iron fastenings of the shutters. He turned the key and opened the
kitchen door. As he did so, the shutters, split and splintering, came
flying inward. He stood aghast. The window frame, save for one
crossbar, was still intact, but only little teeth of glass remained in
the frame. The shutters had been driven in with an axe, and now the axe
was descending in sweeping blows upon the window frame and the iron
bars defending it. Then suddenly it leapt aside and vanished. He saw
the revolver lying on the path outside, and then the little weapon
sprang into the air. He dodged back. The revolver cracked just too
late, and a splinter from the edge of the closing door flashed over his
head. He slammed and locked the door, and as he stood outside he heard
Griffin shouting and laughing. Then the blows of the axe with its
splitting and smashing consequences, were resumed.
Kemp stood in the passage trying to think. In a moment the Invisible
Man would be in the kitchen. This door would not keep him a moment, and
A ringing came at the front door again. It would be the policemen. He
ran into the hall, put up the chain, and drew the bolts. He made the
girl speak before he dropped the chain, and the three people blundered
into the house in a heap, and Kemp slammed the door again.
“The Invisible Man!” said Kemp. “He has a revolver, with two
shots—left. He’s killed Adye. Shot him anyhow. Didn’t you see him on
the lawn? He’s lying there.”
“Who?” said one of the policemen.
“Adye,” said Kemp.
“We came in the back way,” said the girl.
“What’s that smashing?” asked one of the policemen.
“He’s in the kitchen—or will be. He has found an axe—”
Suddenly the house was full of the Invisible Man’s resounding blows on
the kitchen door. The girl stared towards the kitchen, shuddered, and
retreated into the dining-room. Kemp tried to explain in broken
sentences. They heard the kitchen door give.
“This way,” said Kemp, starting into activity, and bundled the
policemen into the dining-room doorway.
“Poker,” said Kemp, and rushed to the fender. He handed the poker he
had carried to the policeman and the dining-room one to the other. He
suddenly flung himself backward.
“Whup!” said one policeman, ducked, and caught the axe on his poker.
The pistol snapped its penultimate shot and ripped a valuable Sidney
Cooper. The second policeman brought his poker down on the little
weapon, as one might knock down a wasp, and sent it rattling to the
At the first clash the girl screamed, stood screaming for a moment by
the fireplace, and then ran to open the shutters—possibly with an idea
of escaping by the shattered window.
The axe receded into the passage, and fell to a position about two feet
from the ground. They could hear the Invisible Man breathing. “Stand
away, you two,” he said. “I want that man Kemp.”
“We want you,” said the first policeman, making a quick step forward
and wiping with his poker at the Voice. The Invisible Man must have
started back, and he blundered into the umbrella stand.
Then, as the policeman staggered with the swing of the blow he had
aimed, the Invisible Man countered with the axe, the helmet crumpled
like paper, and the blow sent the man spinning to the floor at the head
of the kitchen stairs. But the second policeman, aiming behind the axe
with his poker, hit something soft that snapped. There was a sharp
exclamation of pain and then the axe fell to the ground. The policeman
wiped again at vacancy and hit nothing; he put his foot on the axe, and
struck again. Then he stood, poker clubbed, listening intent for the
He heard the dining-room window open, and a quick rush of feet within.
His companion rolled over and sat up, with the blood running down
between his eye and ear. “Where is he?” asked the man on the floor.
“Don’t know. I’ve hit him. He’s standing somewhere in the hall. Unless
he’s slipped past you. Doctor Kemp—sir.”
“Doctor Kemp,” cried the policeman again.
The second policeman began struggling to his feet. He stood up.
Suddenly the faint pad of bare feet on the kitchen stairs could be
heard. “Yap!” cried the first policeman, and incontinently flung his
poker. It smashed a little gas bracket.
He made as if he would pursue the Invisible Man downstairs. Then he
thought better of it and stepped into the dining-room.
“Doctor Kemp—” he began, and stopped short.
“Doctor Kemp’s a hero,” he said, as his companion looked over his
The dining-room window was wide open, and neither housemaid nor Kemp
was to be seen.
The second policeman’s opinion of Kemp was terse and vivid.
see you tomorrow for CHAPTER XXVIII: THE HUNTER HUNTED