The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells

Chapter 18

The Invisible Man Sleeps

Exhausted and wounded as the Invisible Man was, he refused to accept Kemp’s word that his freedom should be respected. He examined the two windows of the bedroom, drew up the blinds and opened the sashes, to confirm Kemp’s statement that a retreat by them would be possible. Outside the night was very quiet and still, and the new moon was setting over the down. Then he examined the keys of the bedroom and the two dressing-room doors, to satisfy himself that these also could be made an assurance of freedom. Finally he expressed himself satisfied. He stood on the hearth rug and Kemp heard the sound of a yawn.

“I’m sorry,” said the Invisible Man, “if I cannot tell you all that I have done to-night. But I am worn out. It’s grotesque, no doubt. It’s horrible! But believe me, Kemp, in spite of your arguments of this morning, it is quit a possible thing. I have made a discovery. I meant to keep it to myself. I can’t. I must have a partner. And you. . . . We can do such things . . . But to-morrow. Now, Kemp, I feel as though I must sleep or perish.”

Kemp stood in the middle of the room staring at the headless garment. “I suppose I must leave you,” he said. “It’s — incredible. Three things happening like this, overturning all my preconceptions — would make me insane. But it’s real! Is there anything more that I can get you?”

“Only bid me good-night,” said Griffin.

“Good-night,” said Kemp, and shook an invisible hand. He walked sideways to the door. Suddenly the dressing-gown walked quickly towards him. “Understand me!” said the dressing-gown. “No attempts to hamper me, or capture me! Or — ”

Kemp’s face changed a little. “I thought I gave you my word,” he said.

Kemp closed the door softly behind him, and the key was turned upon him forthwith. Then, as he stood with an expression of passive amazement on his face, the rapid feet came to the door of the dressing-room and that too was locked. Kemp slapped his brow with his hand. “Am I dreaming? Has the world gone mad — or have I?”

He laughed, and put his hand to the locked door. “Barred out of my own bedroom, by a flagrant absurdity!” he said.

He walked to the head of the staircase, turned, and stared at the locked doors. “It’s fact,” he said. He put his fingers to his slightly bruised neck. “Undeniable fact!

“But — ”

He shook his head hopelessly, turned, and went downstairs.

He lit the dining-room lamp, got out a cigar, and began pacing the room, ejaculating. Now and then he would argue with himself.

“Invisible!” he said.

“Is there such a thing as an invisible animal? . . . In the sea, yes. Thousands — millions. All the larvae, all the little nauplii and tornarias, all the microscopic things, the jelly-fish. In the sea there are more things invisible than visible! I never thought of that before. And in the ponds too! All those little pond-life things — specks of colourless translucent jelly! But in air? No!

“It can’t be.

“But after all — why not?

“If a man was made of glass he would still be visible.”

His meditation became profound. The bulk of three cigars had passed into the invisible or diffused as a white ash over the carpet before he spoke again. Then it was merely an exclamation. He turned aside, walked out of the room, and went into his little consulting-room and lit the gas there. It was a little room, because Dr. Kemp did not live by practice, and in it were the day’s newspapers. The morning’s paper lay carelessly opened and thrown aside. He caught it up, turned it over, and read the account of a “Strange Story from Iping” that the mariner at Port Stowe had spelt over so painfully to Mr. Marvel. Kemp read it swiftly.

“Wrapped up!” said Kemp. “Disguised! Hiding it! ‘No one seems to have been aware of his misfortune.’ What the devil is his game?”

He dropped the paper, and his eye went seeking. “Ah!” he said, and caught up the St. James’ Gazette, lying folded up as it arrived. “Now we shall get at the truth,” said Dr. Kemp. He rent the paper open; a couple of columns confronted him. “An Entire Village in Sussex goes Mad” was the heading.

“Good Heavens!” said Kemp, reading eagerly an incredulous account of the events in Iping, of the previous afternoon, that have already been described. Over the leaf the report in the morning paper had been reprinted.

He re-read it. “Ran through the streets striking right and left. Jaffers insensible. Mr. Huxter in great pain — still unable to describe what he saw. Painful humiliation — vicar. Woman ill with terror! Windows smashed. This extraordinary story probably a fabrication. Too good not to print — cum grano!”

He dropped the paper and stared blankly in front of him. “Probably a fabrication!”

He caught up the paper again, and re-read the whole business. “But when does the Tramp come in? Why the deuce was he chasing a tramp?”

He sat down abruptly on the surgical bench. “He’s not only invisible,” he said, “but he’s mad! Homicidal!”

When dawn came to mingle its pallor with the lamp-light and cigar smoke of the dining-room, Kemp was still pacing up and down, trying to grasp the incredible.

He was altogether too excited to sleep. His servants, descending sleepily, discovered him, and were inclined to think that over-study had worked this ill on him. He gave them extraordinary but quite explicit instructions to lay breakfast for two in the belvedere study — and then to confine themselves to the basement and ground-floor. Then he continued to pace the dining-room until the morning’s paper came. That had much to say and little to tell, beyond the confirmation of the evening before, and a very badly written account of another remarkable tale from Port Burdock. This gave Kemp the essence of the happenings at the “Jolly Cricketers,” and the name of Marvel. “He has made me keep with him twenty-four hours,” Marvel testified. Certain minor facts were added to the Iping story, notably the cutting of the village telegraph-wire. But there was nothing to throw light on the connexion between the Invisible Man and the Tramp; for Mr. Marvel had supplied no information about the three books, or the money with which he was lined. The incredulous tone had vanished and a shoal of reporters and inquirers were already at work elaborating the matter.

Kemp read every scrap of the report and sent his housemaid out to get everyone of the morning papers she could. These also he devoured.

“He is invisible!” he said. “And it reads like rage growing to mania! The things he may do! The things he may do! And he’s upstairs free as the air. What on earth ought I to do?”

“For instance, would it be a breach of faith if —? No.”

He went to a little untidy desk in the corner, and began a note. He tore this up half written, and wrote another. He read it over and considered it. Then he took an envelope and addressed it to “Colonel Adye, Port Burdock.”

The Invisible Man awoke even as Kemp was doing this. He awoke in an evil temper, and Kemp, alert for every sound, heard his pattering feet rush suddenly across the bedroom overhead. Then a chair was flung over and the wash-hand stand tumbler smashed. Kemp hurried upstairs and rapped eagerly.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30