The Invisible Man – Day 15 of 66

There was a disturbance behind, and the speaker stopped to step aside for a little procession that was marching very resolutely towards the house; first Mr. Hall, very red and determined, then Mr. Bobby Jaffers, the village constable, and then the wary Mr. Wadgers. They had come now armed with a warrant.

People shouted conflicting information of the recent circumstances. “’Ed or no ’ed,” said Jaffers, “I got to ’rest en, and ’rest en I will.”

Mr. Hall marched up the steps, marched straight to the door of the parlour and flung it open. “Constable,” he said, “do your duty.”

Jaffers marched in. Hall next, Wadgers last. They saw in the dim light the headless figure facing them, with a gnawed crust of bread in one gloved hand and a chunk of cheese in the other.

“That’s him!” said Hall.

“What the devil’s this?” came in a tone of angry expostulation from above the collar of the figure.

“You’re a damned rum customer, mister,” said Mr. Jaffers. “But ’ed or no ’ed, the warrant says ‘body,’ and duty’s duty—”

“Keep off!” said the figure, starting back.

Abruptly he whipped down the bread and cheese, and Mr. Hall just grasped the knife on the table in time to save it. Off came the stranger’s left glove and was slapped in Jaffers’ face. In another moment Jaffers, cutting short some statement concerning a warrant, had gripped him by the handless wrist and caught his invisible throat. He got a sounding kick on the shin that made him shout, but he kept his grip. Hall sent the knife sliding along the table to Wadgers, who acted as goal-keeper for the offensive, so to speak, and then stepped forward as Jaffers and the stranger swayed and staggered towards him, clutching and hitting in. A chair stood in the way, and went aside with a crash as they came down together.

“Get the feet,” said Jaffers between his teeth.

Mr. Hall, endeavouring to act on instructions, received a sounding kick in the ribs that disposed of him for a moment, and Mr. Wadgers, seeing the decapitated stranger had rolled over and got the upper side of Jaffers, retreated towards the door, knife in hand, and so collided with Mr. Huxter and the Sidderbridge carter coming to the rescue of law and order. At the same moment down came three or four bottles from the chiffonnier and shot a web of pungency into the air of the room.

“I’ll surrender,” cried the stranger, though he had Jaffers down, and in another moment he stood up panting, a strange figure, headless and handless—for he had pulled off his right glove now as well as his left. “It’s no good,” he said, as if sobbing for breath.

It was the strangest thing in the world to hear that voice coming as if out of empty space, but the Sussex peasants are perhaps the most matter-of-fact people under the sun. Jaffers got up also and produced a pair of handcuffs. Then he stared.

“I say!” said Jaffers, brought up short by a dim realization of the incongruity of the whole business, “Darn it! Can’t use ’em as I can see.”

The stranger ran his arm down his waistcoat, and as if by a miracle the buttons to which his empty sleeve pointed became undone. Then he said something about his shin, and stooped down. He seemed to be fumbling with his shoes and socks.

“Why!” said Huxter, suddenly, “that’s not a man at all. It’s just empty clothes. Look! You can see down his collar and the linings of his clothes. I could put my arm—”

He extended his hand; it seemed to meet something in mid-air, and he drew it back with a sharp exclamation. “I wish you’d keep your fingers out of my eye,” said the aerial voice, in a tone of savage expostulation. “The fact is, I’m all here—head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I’m invisible. It’s a confounded nuisance, but I am. That’s no reason why I should be poked to pieces by every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?”

The suit of clothes, now all unbuttoned and hanging loosely upon its unseen supports, stood up, arms akimbo.

Several other of the men folks had now entered the room, so that it was closely crowded. “Invisible, eh?” said Huxter, ignoring the stranger’s abuse. “Who ever heard the likes of that?”

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