The Invisible Man Ch 10 by H. G. Wells


After the first gusty panic had spent itself Iping became
argumentative. Scepticism suddenly reared its head—rather nervous
scepticism, not at all assured of its back, but scepticism
nevertheless. It is so much easier not to believe in an invisible man;
and those who had actually seen him dissolve into air, or felt the
strength of his arm, could be counted on the fingers of two hands. And
of these witnesses Mr. Wadgers was presently missing, having retired
impregnably behind the bolts and bars of his own house, and Jaffers was
lying stunned in the parlour of the “Coach and Horses.” Great and
strange ideas transcending experience often have less effect upon men
and women than smaller, more tangible considerations. Iping was gay
with bunting, and everybody was in gala dress. Whit Monday had been
looked forward to for a month or more. By the afternoon even those who
believed in the Unseen were beginning to resume their little amusements
in a tentative fashion, on the supposition that he had quite gone away,
and with the sceptics he was already a jest. But people, sceptics and
believers alike, were remarkably sociable all that day.

Haysman’s meadow was gay with a tent, in which Mrs. Bunting and other
ladies were preparing tea, while, without, the Sunday-school children
ran races and played games under the noisy guidance of the curate and
the Misses Cuss and Sackbut. No doubt there was a slight uneasiness in
the air, but people for the most part had the sense to conceal whatever
imaginative qualms they experienced. On the village green an inclined
strong [rope?], down which, clinging the while to a pulley-swung
handle, one could be hurled violently against a sack at the other end,
came in for considerable favour among the adolescents, as also did the
swings and the cocoanut shies. There was also promenading, and the
steam organ attached to a small roundabout filled the air with a
pungent flavour of oil and with equally pungent music. Members of the
club, who had attended church in the morning, were splendid in badges
of pink and green, and some of the gayer-minded had also adorned their
bowler hats with brilliant-coloured favours of ribbon. Old Fletcher,
whose conceptions of holiday-making were severe, was visible through
the jasmine about his window or through the open door (whichever way
you chose to look), poised delicately on a plank supported on two
chairs, and whitewashing the ceiling of his front room.

About four o’clock a stranger entered the village from the direction of
the downs. He was a short, stout person in an extraordinarily shabby
top hat, and he appeared to be very much out of breath. His cheeks were
alternately limp and tightly puffed. His mottled face was apprehensive,
and he moved with a sort of reluctant alacrity. He turned the corner of
the church, and directed his way to the “Coach and Horses.” Among
others old Fletcher remembers seeing him, and indeed the old gentleman
was so struck by his peculiar agitation that he inadvertently allowed a
quantity of whitewash to run down the brush into the sleeve of his coat
while regarding him.

This stranger, to the perceptions of the proprietor of the cocoanut
shy, appeared to be talking to himself, and Mr. Huxter remarked the
same thing. He stopped at the foot of the “Coach and Horses” steps,
and, according to Mr. Huxter, appeared to undergo a severe internal
struggle before he could induce himself to enter the house. Finally he
marched up the steps, and was seen by Mr. Huxter to turn to the left
and open the door of the parlour. Mr. Huxter heard voices from within
the room and from the bar apprising the man of his error. “That room’s
private!” said Hall, and the stranger shut the door clumsily and went
into the bar.

In the course of a few minutes he reappeared, wiping his lips with the
back of his hand with an air of quiet satisfaction that somehow
impressed Mr. Huxter as assumed. He stood looking about him for some
moments, and then Mr. Huxter saw him walk in an oddly furtive manner
towards the gates of the yard, upon which the parlour window opened.
The stranger, after some hesitation, leant against one of the
gate-posts, produced a short clay pipe, and prepared to fill it. His
fingers trembled while doing so. He lit it clumsily, and folding his
arms began to smoke in a languid attitude, an attitude which his
occasional glances up the yard altogether belied.

All this Mr. Huxter saw over the canisters of the tobacco window, and
the singularity of the man’s behaviour prompted him to maintain his

Presently the stranger stood up abruptly and put his pipe in his
pocket. Then he vanished into the yard. Forthwith Mr. Huxter,
conceiving he was witness of some petty larceny, leapt round his
counter and ran out into the road to intercept the thief. As he did so,
Mr. Marvel reappeared, his hat askew, a big bundle in a blue
table-cloth in one hand, and three books tied together—as it proved
afterwards with the Vicar’s braces—in the other. Directly he saw Huxter
he gave a sort of gasp, and turning sharply to the left, began to run.
“Stop, thief!” cried Huxter, and set off after him. Mr. Huxter’s
sensations were vivid but brief. He saw the man just before him and
spurting briskly for the church corner and the hill road. He saw the
village flags and festivities beyond, and a face or so turned towards
him. He bawled, “Stop!” again. He had hardly gone ten strides before
his shin was caught in some mysterious fashion, and he was no longer
running, but flying with inconceivable rapidity through the air. He saw
the ground suddenly close to his face. The world seemed to splash into
a million whirling specks of light, and subsequent proceedings
interested him no more.

See you tomorrow for CHAPTER XI: IN THE “COACH AND HORSES”

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.