The Invisible Man – Day 60 of 66

Kemp swore.

“What a fool I was,” said Kemp. “I might have known. It’s not an hour’s walk from Hintondean. Already?”

“What’s up?” said Adye.

“Look here!” said Kemp, and led the way into his study. He handed Adye the Invisible Man’s letter. Adye read it and whistled softly. “And you—?” said Adye.

“Proposed a trap—like a fool,” said Kemp, “and sent my proposal out by a maid servant. To him.”

Adye followed Kemp’s profanity.

“He’ll clear out,” said Adye.

“Not he,” said Kemp.

A resounding smash of glass came from upstairs. Adye had a silvery glimpse of a little revolver half out of Kemp’s pocket. “It’s a window, upstairs!” said Kemp, and led the way up. There came a second smash while they were still on the staircase. When they reached the study they found two of the three windows smashed, half the room littered with splintered glass, and one big flint lying on the writing table. The two men stopped in the doorway, contemplating the wreckage. Kemp swore again, and as he did so the third window went with a snap like a pistol, hung starred for a moment, and collapsed in jagged, shivering triangles into the room.

“What’s this for?” said Adye.

“It’s a beginning,” said Kemp.

“There’s no way of climbing up here?”

“Not for a cat,” said Kemp.

“No shutters?”

“Not here. All the downstairs rooms—Hullo!”

Smash, and then whack of boards hit hard came from downstairs. “Confound him!” said Kemp. “That must be—yes—it’s one of the bedrooms. He’s going to do all the house. But he’s a fool. The shutters are up, and the glass will fall outside. He’ll cut his feet.”

Another window proclaimed its destruction. The two men stood on the landing perplexed. “I have it!” said Adye. “Let me have a stick or something, and I’ll go down to the station and get the bloodhounds put on. That ought to settle him! They’re hard by—not ten minutes—”

Another window went the way of its fellows.

“You haven’t a revolver?” asked Adye.

Kemp’s hand went to his pocket. Then he hesitated. “I haven’t one—at least to spare.”

“I’ll bring it back,” said Adye, “you’ll be safe here.”

Kemp, ashamed of his momentary lapse from truthfulness, handed him the weapon.

“Now for the door,” said Adye.

As they stood hesitating in the hall, they heard one of the first-floor bedroom windows crack and clash. Kemp went to the door and began to slip the bolts as silently as possible. His face was a little paler than usual. “You must step straight out,” said Kemp. In another moment Adye was on the doorstep and the bolts were dropping back into the staples. He hesitated for a moment, feeling more comfortable with his back against the door. Then he marched, upright and square, down the steps. He crossed the lawn and approached the gate. A little breeze seemed to ripple over the grass. Something moved near him. “Stop a bit,” said a Voice, and Adye stopped dead and his hand tightened on the revolver.

“Well?” said Adye, white and grim, and every nerve tense.

“Oblige me by going back to the house,” said the Voice, as tense and grim as Adye’s.

“Sorry,” said Adye a little hoarsely, and moistened his lips with his tongue. The Voice was on his left front, he thought. Suppose he were to take his luck with a shot?

“What are you going for?” said the Voice, and there was a quick movement of the two, and a flash of sunlight from the open lip of Adye’s pocket.

Adye desisted and thought. “Where I go,” he said slowly, “is my own business.” The words were still on his lips, when an arm came round his neck, his back felt a knee, and he was sprawling backward. He drew clumsily and fired absurdly, and in another moment he was struck in the mouth and the revolver wrested from his grip. He made a vain clutch at a slippery limb, tried to struggle up and fell back. “Damn!” said Adye. The Voice laughed. “I’d kill you now if it wasn’t the waste of a bullet,” it said. He saw the revolver in mid-air, six feet off, covering him.

“Well?” said Adye, sitting up.

“Get up,” said the Voice.

Adye stood up.

“Attention,” said the Voice, and then fiercely, “Don’t try any games. Remember I can see your face if you can’t see mine. You’ve got to go back to the house.”

“He won’t let me in,” said Adye.

“That’s a pity,” said the Invisible Man. “I’ve got no quarrel with you.”

Adye moistened his lips again. He glanced away from the barrel of the revolver and saw the sea far off very blue and dark under the midday sun, the smooth green down, the white cliff of the Head, and the multitudinous town, and suddenly he knew that life was very sweet. His eyes came back to this little metal thing hanging between heaven and earth, six yards away. “What am I to do?” he said sullenly.

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