The Invisible Man – Day 13 of 66

Chapter VII: The Unveiling of the Stranger

The stranger went into the little parlour of the “Coach and Horses” about half-past five in the morning, and there he remained until near midday, the blinds down, the door shut, and none, after Hall’s repulse, venturing near him.

All that time he must have fasted. Thrice he rang his bell, the third time furiously and continuously, but no one answered him. “Him and his ‘go to the devil’ indeed!” said Mrs. Hall. Presently came an imperfect rumour of the burglary at the vicarage, and two and two were put together. Hall, assisted by Wadgers, went off to find Mr. Shuckleforth, the magistrate, and take his advice. No one ventured upstairs. How the stranger occupied himself is unknown. Now and then he would stride violently up and down, and twice came an outburst of curses, a tearing of paper, and a violent smashing of bottles.

The little group of scared but curious people increased. Mrs. Huxter came over; some gay young fellows resplendent in black ready-made jackets and piqué paper ties—for it was Whit Monday—joined the group with confused interrogations. Young Archie Harker distinguished himself by going up the yard and trying to peep under the window-blinds. He could see nothing, but gave reason for supposing that he did, and others of the Iping youth presently joined him.

It was the finest of all possible Whit Mondays, and down the village street stood a row of nearly a dozen booths, a shooting gallery, and on the grass by the forge were three yellow and chocolate waggons and some picturesque strangers of both sexes putting up a cocoanut shy. The gentlemen wore blue jerseys, the ladies white aprons and quite fashionable hats with heavy plumes. Wodger, of the “Purple Fawn,” and Mr. Jaggers, the cobbler, who also sold old second-hand ordinary bicycles, were stretching a string of union-jacks and royal ensigns (which had originally celebrated the first Victorian Jubilee) across the road.

And inside, in the artificial darkness of the parlour, into which only one thin jet of sunlight penetrated, the stranger, hungry we must suppose, and fearful, hidden in his uncomfortable hot wrappings, pored through his dark glasses upon his paper or chinked his dirty little bottles, and occasionally swore savagely at the boys, audible if invisible, outside the windows. In the corner by the fireplace lay the fragments of half a dozen smashed bottles, and a pungent twang of chlorine tainted the air. So much we know from what was heard at the time and from what was subsequently seen in the room.

About noon he suddenly opened his parlour door and stood glaring fixedly at the three or four people in the bar. “Mrs. Hall,” he said. Somebody went sheepishly and called for Mrs. Hall.

Mrs. Hall appeared after an interval, a little short of breath, but all the fiercer for that. Hall was still out. She had deliberated over this scene, and she came holding a little tray with an unsettled bill upon it. “Is it your bill you’re wanting, sir?” she said.

“Why wasn’t my breakfast laid? Why haven’t you prepared my meals and answered my bell? Do you think I live without eating?”

“Why isn’t my bill paid?” said Mrs. Hall. “That’s what I want to know.”

“I told you three days ago I was awaiting a remittance—”

“I told you two days ago I wasn’t going to await no remittances. You can’t grumble if your breakfast waits a bit, if my bill’s been waiting these five days, can you?”

The stranger swore briefly but vividly.

“Nar, nar!” from the bar.

“And I’d thank you kindly, sir, if you’d keep your swearing to yourself, sir,” said Mrs. Hall.

The stranger stood looking more like an angry diving-helmet than ever. It was universally felt in the bar that Mrs. Hall had the better of him. His next words showed as much.

Comments

  1. TurtleReader Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    TurtleReader wrote:

    Whit Monday
    The holiday celebrated the day after Pentecost (50 days after Easter).
    piqué
    A tightly woven fabric with various raised patterns, produced especially by a double warp

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