So ends the story of the strange and evil experiments of the Invisible
Man. And if you would learn more of him you must go to a little inn
near Port Stowe and talk to the landlord. The sign of the inn is an
empty board save for a hat and boots, and the name is the title of this
story. The landlord is a short and corpulent little man with a nose of
cylindrical proportions, wiry hair, and a sporadic rosiness of visage.
Drink generously, and he will tell you generously of all the things
that happened to him after that time, and of how the lawyers tried to
do him out of the treasure found upon him.
“When they found they couldn’t prove whose money was which, I’m
blessed,” he says, “if they didn’t try to make me out a blooming
treasure trove! Do I look like a Treasure Trove? And then a gentleman
gave me a guinea a night to tell the story at the Empire Music
’All—just to tell ’em in my own words—barring one.”
And if you want to cut off the flow of his reminiscences abruptly, you
can always do so by asking if there weren’t three manuscript books in
the story. He admits there were and proceeds to explain, with
asseverations that everybody thinks he has ’em! But bless you! he
hasn’t. “The Invisible Man it was took ’em off to hide ’em when I cut
and ran for Port Stowe. It’s that Mr. Kemp put people on with the idea
of my having ’em.”
And then he subsides into a pensive state, watches you furtively,
bustles nervously with glasses, and presently leaves the bar.
He is a bachelor man—his tastes were ever bachelor, and there are no
women folk in the house. Outwardly he buttons—it is expected of him—but
in his more vital privacies, in the matter of braces for example, he
still turns to string. He conducts his house without enterprise, but
with eminent decorum. His movements are slow, and he is a great
thinker. But he has a reputation for wisdom and for a respectable
parsimony in the village, and his knowledge of the roads of the South
of England would beat Cobbett.
And on Sunday mornings, every Sunday morning, all the year round, while
he is closed to the outer world, and every night after ten, he goes
into his bar parlour, bearing a glass of gin faintly tinged with water,
and having placed this down, he locks the door and examines the blinds,
and even looks under the table. And then, being satisfied of his
solitude, he unlocks the cupboard and a box in the cupboard and a
drawer in that box, and produces three volumes bound in brown leather,
and places them solemnly in the middle of the table. The covers are
weather-worn and tinged with an algal green—for once they sojourned in
a ditch and some of the pages have been washed blank by dirty water.
The landlord sits down in an armchair, fills a long clay pipe
slowly—gloating over the books the while. Then he pulls one towards him
and opens it, and begins to study it—turning over the leaves backwards
His brows are knit and his lips move painfully. “Hex, little two up in
the air, cross and a fiddle-de-dee. Lord! what a one he was for
Presently he relaxes and leans back, and blinks through his smoke
across the room at things invisible to other eyes. “Full of secrets,”
he says. “Wonderful secrets!”
“Once I get the haul of them—Lord!”
“I wouldn’t do what he did; I’d just—well!” He pulls at his pipe.
So he lapses into a dream, the undying wonderful dream of his life. And
though Kemp has fished unceasingly, no human being save the landlord
knows those books are there, with the subtle secret of invisibility and
a dozen other strange secrets written therein. And none other will know
of them until he dies.
Join us in April for the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe!