THE HUNTER HUNTED
Mr. Heelas, Mr. Kemp’s nearest neighbour among the villa holders, was
asleep in his summer house when the siege of Kemp’s house began. Mr.
Heelas was one of the sturdy minority who refused to believe “in all
this nonsense” about an Invisible Man. His wife, however, as he was
subsequently to be reminded, did. He insisted upon walking about his
garden just as if nothing was the matter, and he went to sleep in the
afternoon in accordance with the custom of years. He slept through the
smashing of the windows, and then woke up suddenly with a curious
persuasion of something wrong. He looked across at Kemp’s house, rubbed
his eyes and looked again. Then he put his feet to the ground, and sat
listening. He said he was damned, but still the strange thing was
visible. The house looked as though it had been deserted for
weeks—after a violent riot. Every window was broken, and every window,
save those of the belvedere study, was blinded by the internal
“I could have sworn it was all right”—he looked at his watch—“twenty
He became aware of a measured concussion and the clash of glass, far
away in the distance. And then, as he sat open-mouthed, came a still
more wonderful thing. The shutters of the drawing-room window were
flung open violently, and the housemaid in her outdoor hat and
garments, appeared struggling in a frantic manner to throw up the sash.
Suddenly a man appeared beside her, helping her—Dr. Kemp! In another
moment the window was open, and the housemaid was struggling out; she
pitched forward and vanished among the shrubs. Mr. Heelas stood up,
exclaiming vaguely and vehemently at all these wonderful things. He saw
Kemp stand on the sill, spring from the window, and reappear almost
instantaneously running along a path in the shrubbery and stooping as
he ran, like a man who evades observation. He vanished behind a
laburnum, and appeared again clambering over a fence that abutted on
the open down. In a second he had tumbled over and was running at a
tremendous pace down the slope towards Mr. Heelas.
“Lord!” cried Mr. Heelas, struck with an idea; “it’s that Invisible Man
brute! It’s right, after all!”
With Mr. Heelas to think things like that was to act, and his cook
watching him from the top window was amazed to see him come pelting
towards the house at a good nine miles an hour. There was a slamming of
doors, a ringing of bells, and the voice of Mr. Heelas bellowing like a
bull. “Shut the doors, shut the windows, shut everything!—the Invisible
Man is coming!” Instantly the house was full of screams and directions,
and scurrying feet. He ran himself to shut the French windows that
opened on the veranda; as he did so Kemp’s head and shoulders and knee
appeared over the edge of the garden fence. In another moment Kemp had
ploughed through the asparagus, and was running across the tennis lawn
to the house.
“You can’t come in,” said Mr. Heelas, shutting the bolts. “I’m very
sorry if he’s after you, but you can’t come in!”
Kemp appeared with a face of terror close to the glass, rapping and
then shaking frantically at the French window. Then, seeing his efforts
were useless, he ran along the veranda, vaulted the end, and went to
hammer at the side door. Then he ran round by the side gate to the
front of the house, and so into the hill-road. And Mr. Heelas staring
from his window—a face of horror—had scarcely witnessed Kemp vanish,
ere the asparagus was being trampled this way and that by feet unseen.
At that Mr. Heelas fled precipitately upstairs, and the rest of the
chase is beyond his purview. But as he passed the staircase window, he
heard the side gate slam.
Emerging into the hill-road, Kemp naturally took the downward
direction, and so it was he came to run in his own person the very race
he had watched with such a critical eye from the belvedere study only
four days ago. He ran it well, for a man out of training, and though
his face was white and wet, his wits were cool to the last. He ran with
wide strides, and wherever a patch of rough ground intervened, wherever
there came a patch of raw flints, or a bit of broken glass shone
dazzling, he crossed it and left the bare invisible feet that followed
to take what line they would.
For the first time in his life Kemp discovered that the hill-road was
indescribably vast and desolate, and that the beginnings of the town
far below at the hill foot were strangely remote. Never had there been
a slower or more painful method of progression than running. All the
gaunt villas, sleeping in the afternoon sun, looked locked and barred;
no doubt they were locked and barred—by his own orders. But at any rate
they might have kept a lookout for an eventuality like this! The town
was rising up now, the sea had dropped out of sight behind it, and
people down below were stirring. A tram was just arriving at the hill
foot. Beyond that was the police station. Was that footsteps he heard
behind him? Spurt.
The people below were staring at him, one or two were running, and his
breath was beginning to saw in his throat. The tram was quite near now,
and the “Jolly Cricketers” was noisily barring its doors. Beyond the
tram were posts and heaps of gravel—the drainage works. He had a
transitory idea of jumping into the tram and slamming the doors, and
then he resolved to go for the police station. In another moment he had
passed the door of the “Jolly Cricketers,” and was in the blistering
fag end of the street, with human beings about him. The tram driver and
his helper—arrested by the sight of his furious haste—stood staring
with the tram horses unhitched. Further on the astonished features of
navvies appeared above the mounds of gravel.
His pace broke a little, and then he heard the swift pad of his
pursuer, and leapt forward again. “The Invisible Man!” he cried to the
navvies, with a vague indicative gesture, and by an inspiration leapt
the excavation and placed a burly group between him and the chase. Then
abandoning the idea of the police station he turned into a little side
street, rushed by a greengrocer’s cart, hesitated for the tenth of a
second at the door of a sweetstuff shop, and then made for the mouth of
an alley that ran back into the main Hill Street again. Two or three
little children were playing here, and shrieked and scattered at his
apparition, and forthwith doors and windows opened and excited mothers
revealed their hearts. Out he shot into Hill Street again, three
hundred yards from the tram-line end, and immediately he became aware
of a tumultuous vociferation and running people.
He glanced up the street towards the hill. Hardly a dozen yards off ran
a huge navvy, cursing in fragments and slashing viciously with a spade,
and hard behind him came the tram conductor with his fists clenched. Up
the street others followed these two, striking and shouting. Down
towards the town, men and women were running, and he noticed clearly
one man coming out of a shop-door with a stick in his hand. “Spread
out! Spread out!” cried some one. Kemp suddenly grasped the altered
condition of the chase. He stopped, and looked round, panting. “He’s
close here!” he cried. “Form a line across—”
He was hit hard under the ear, and went reeling, trying to face round
towards his unseen antagonist. He just managed to keep his feet, and he
struck a vain counter in the air. Then he was hit again under the jaw,
and sprawled headlong on the ground. In another moment a knee
compressed his diaphragm, and a couple of eager hands gripped his
throat, but the grip of one was weaker than the other; he grasped the
wrists, heard a cry of pain from his assailant, and then the spade of
the navvy came whirling through the air above him, and struck something
with a dull thud. He felt a drop of moisture on his face. The grip at
his throat suddenly relaxed, and with a convulsive effort, Kemp loosed
himself, grasped a limp shoulder, and rolled uppermost. He gripped the
unseen elbows near the ground. “I’ve got him!” screamed Kemp. “Help!
Help—hold! He’s down! Hold his feet!”
In another second there was a simultaneous rush upon the struggle, and
a stranger coming into the road suddenly might have thought an
exceptionally savage game of Rugby football was in progress. And there
was no shouting after Kemp’s cry—only a sound of blows and feet and
Then came a mighty effort, and the Invisible Man threw off a couple of
his antagonists and rose to his knees. Kemp clung to him in front like
a hound to a stag, and a dozen hands gripped, clutched, and tore at the
Unseen. The tram conductor suddenly got the neck and shoulders and
lugged him back.
Down went the heap of struggling men again and rolled over. There was,
I am afraid, some savage kicking. Then suddenly a wild scream of
“Mercy! Mercy!” that died down swiftly to a sound like choking.
“Get back, you fools!” cried the muffled voice of Kemp, and there was a
vigorous shoving back of stalwart forms. “He’s hurt, I tell you. Stand
There was a brief struggle to clear a space, and then the circle of
eager faces saw the doctor kneeling, as it seemed, fifteen inches in
the air, and holding invisible arms to the ground. Behind him a
constable gripped invisible ankles.
“Don’t you leave go of en,” cried the big navvy, holding a
blood-stained spade; “he’s shamming.”
“He’s not shamming,” said the doctor, cautiously raising his knee; “and
I’ll hold him.” His face was bruised and already going red; he spoke
thickly because of a bleeding lip. He released one hand and seemed to
be feeling at the face. “The mouth’s all wet,” he said. And then, “Good
He stood up abruptly and then knelt down on the ground by the side of
the thing unseen. There was a pushing and shuffling, a sound of heavy
feet as fresh people turned up to increase the pressure of the crowd.
People now were coming out of the houses. The doors of the “Jolly
Cricketers” stood suddenly wide open. Very little was said.
Kemp felt about, his hand seeming to pass through empty air. “He’s not
breathing,” he said, and then, “I can’t feel his heart. His side—ugh!”
Suddenly an old woman, peering under the arm of the big navvy, screamed
sharply. “Looky there!” she said, and thrust out a wrinkled finger.
And looking where she pointed, everyone saw, faint and transparent as
though it was made of glass, so that veins and arteries and bones and
nerves could be distinguished, the outline of a hand, a hand limp and
prone. It grew clouded and opaque even as they stared.
“Hullo!” cried the constable. “Here’s his feet a-showing!”
And so, slowly, beginning at his hands and feet and creeping along his
limbs to the vital centres of his body, that strange change continued.
It was like the slow spreading of a poison. First came the little white
nerves, a hazy grey sketch of a limb, then the glassy bones and
intricate arteries, then the flesh and skin, first a faint fogginess,
and then growing rapidly dense and opaque. Presently they could see his
crushed chest and his shoulders, and the dim outline of his drawn and
When at last the crowd made way for Kemp to stand erect, there lay,
naked and pitiful on the ground, the bruised and broken body of a young
man about thirty. His hair and brow were white—not grey with age, but
white with the whiteness of albinism—and his eyes were like garnets.
His hands were clenched, his eyes wide open, and his expression was one
of anger and dismay.
“Cover his face!” said a man. “For Gawd’s sake, cover that face!” and
three little children, pushing forward through the crowd, were suddenly
twisted round and sent packing off again.
Someone brought a sheet from the “Jolly Cricketers,” and having covered
him, they carried him into that house. And there it was, on a shabby
bed in a tawdry, ill-lighted bedroom, surrounded by a crowd of ignorant
and excited people, broken and wounded, betrayed and unpitied, that
Griffin, the first of all men to make himself invisible, Griffin, the
most gifted physicist the world has ever seen, ended in infinite
disaster his strange and terrible career.
See you tomorrow for the conclusion of The Invisible Man: THE EPILOGUE