The Invisible Man – Day 17 of 66

Chapter VIII: In Transit

The eighth Chapter is exceedingly brief, and relates that Gibbons, the amateur naturalist of the district, while lying out on the spacious open downs without a soul within a couple of miles of him, as he thought, and almost dozing, heard close to him the sound as of a man coughing, sneezing, and then swearing savagely to himself; and looking, beheld nothing. Yet the voice was indisputable. It continued to swear with that breadth and variety that distinguishes the swearing of a cultivated man. It grew to a climax, diminished again, and died away in the distance, going as it seemed to him in the direction of Adderdean. It lifted to a spasmodic sneeze and ended. Gibbons had heard nothing of the morning’s occurrences, but the phenomenon was so striking and disturbing that his philosophical tranquillity vanished; he got up hastily, and hurried down the steepness of the hill towards the village, as fast as he could go.

Chapter IX: Mr. Thomas Marvel

You must picture Mr. Thomas Marvel as a person of copious, flexible visage, a nose of cylindrical protrusion, a liquorish, ample, fluctuating mouth, and a beard of bristling eccentricity. His figure inclined to embonpoint; his short limbs accentuated this inclination. He wore a furry silk hat, and the frequent substitution of twine and shoe-laces for buttons, apparent at critical points of his costume, marked a man essentially bachelor.

Mr. Thomas Marvel was sitting with his feet in a ditch by the roadside over the down towards Adderdean, about a mile and a half out of Iping. His feet, save for socks of irregular open-work, were bare, his big toes were broad, and pricked like the ears of a watchful dog. In a leisurely manner—he did everything in a leisurely manner—he was contemplating trying on a pair of boots. They were the soundest boots he had come across for a long time, but too large for him; whereas the ones he had were, in dry weather, a very comfortable fit, but too thin-soled for damp. Mr. Thomas Marvel hated roomy shoes, but then he hated damp. He had never properly thought out which he hated most, and it was a pleasant day, and there was nothing better to do. So he put the four shoes in a graceful group on the turf and looked at them. And seeing them there among the grass and springing agrimony, it suddenly occurred to him that both pairs were exceedingly ugly to see. He was not at all startled by a voice behind him.

“They’re boots, anyhow,” said the Voice.

“They are—charity boots,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with his head on one side regarding them distastefully; “and which is the ugliest pair in the whole blessed universe, I’m darned if I know!”

“H’m,” said the Voice.

“I’ve worn worse—in fact, I’ve worn none. But none so owdacious ugly—if you’ll allow the expression. I’ve been cadging boots—in particular—for days. Because I was sick of them. They’re sound enough, of course. But a gentleman on tramp sees such a thundering lot of his boots. And if you’ll believe me, I’ve raised nothing in the whole blessed country, try as I would, but them. Look at ’em! And a good country for boots, too, in a general way. But it’s just my promiscuous luck. I’ve got my boots in this country ten years or more. And then they treat you like this.”

“It’s a beast of a country,” said the Voice. “And pigs for people.”

“Ain’t it?” said Mr. Thomas Marvel. “Lord! But them boots! It beats it.”

He turned his head over his shoulder to the right, to look at the boots of his interlocutor with a view to comparisons, and lo! where the boots of his interlocutor should have been were neither legs nor boots. He was irradiated by the dawn of a great amazement. “Where are yer?” said Mr. Thomas Marvel over his shoulder and coming on all fours. He saw a stretch of empty downs with the wind swaying the remote green-pointed furze bushes.

“Am I drunk?” said Mr. Marvel. “Have I had visions? Was I talking to myself? What the—”

“Don’t be alarmed,” said a Voice.

“None of your ventriloquising me,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rising sharply to his feet. “Where are yer? Alarmed, indeed!”

“Don’t be alarmed,” repeated the Voice.

You’ll be alarmed in a minute, you silly fool,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel. “Where are yer? Lemme get my mark on yer…

“Are yer buried?” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, after an interval.

There was no answer. Mr. Thomas Marvel stood bootless and amazed, his jacket nearly thrown off.

“Peewit,” said a peewit, very remote.

“Peewit, indeed!” said Mr. Thomas Marvel. “This ain’t no time for foolery.” The down was desolate, east and west, north and south; the road with its shallow ditches and white bordering stakes, ran smooth and empty north and south, and, save for that peewit, the blue sky was empty too. “So help me,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, shuffling his coat on to his shoulders again. “It’s the drink! I might ha’ known.”

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