In the Coach and the Horses
NOW IN ORDER clearly to understand what had happened in the inn, it is necessary to go back to the moment when Mr. Marvel first came into view of Mr. Huxter's window.
At that precise moment Mr. Cuss and Mr. Bunting were in the parlour. They were seriously investigating the strange occurrences of the morning, and were, with Mr. Hall's permission, making a thorough examination of the Invisible Man's belongings. Jaffers had partially recovered from his fall and had gone home in the charge of his sympathetic friends. The stranger's scattered garments had been removed by Mrs. Hall and the room tidied up. And on the table under the window where the stranger had been wont to work, Cuss had hit almost at once on three big books in manuscript labelled “Diary.”
“Diary!” said Cuss, putting the three books on the table. “Now, at any rate, we shall learn something.” The vicar stood with his hands on the table.
“Diary,” repeated Cuss, sitting down, putting two volumes to support the third, and opening it. “H'm—no name on the fly-leaf. Bother!—cypher. And figures.”
The vicar came round to look over his shoulder.
Cuss turned the pages over with a face suddenly disappointed. “I'm—dear me! It's all cypher, Bunting.”
“There are no diagrams?” asked Mr. Bunting. “No illustrations throwing light—”
“See for yourself,” said Mr. Cuss. “Some of it's mathematical and some of it's Russian or some such language (to judge by the letters), and some of it's Greek. Now the Greek I thought you—”
“Of course,” said Mr. Bunting, taking out and wiping his spectacles and feeling suddenly very uncomfortable—for he had no Greek left in his mind worth talking about; “yes—the Greek, of course, may furnish a clue.”
“I'll find you a place.”
“I'd rather glance through the volumes first,” said Mr. Bunting, still wiping. “A general impression first, Cuss, and then, you know, we can go looking for clues.”
He coughed, put on his glasses, arranged them fastidiously, coughed again, and wished something would happen to avert the seemingly inevitable exposure. Then he took the volume Cuss handed him in a leisurely manner. And then something did happen.
The door opened suddenly.
Both gentlemen started violently, looked round, and were relieved to see a sporadically rosy face beneath a furry silk hat. “Tap?” asked the face, and stood staring.
“No,” said both gentlemen at once.
“Over the other side, my man,” said Mr. Bunting. And “Please shut that door,” said Mr. Cuss, irritably.
“All right,” said the intruder, as it seemed in a low voice curiously different from the huskiness of its first inquiry. “Right you are,” said the intruder in the former voice. “Stand clear!” and he vanished and closed the door.
“A sailor, I should judge,” said Mr. Bunting. “Amusing fellows, they are. Stand clear! indeed. A nautical term, referring to his getting back out of the room, I suppose.”
“I daresay so,” said Cuss. “My nerves are all loose to-day. It quite made me jump—the door opening like that.”
Mr. Bunting smiled as if he had not jumped. “And now,” he said with a sigh, “these books.”
Someone sniffed as he did so.
“One thing is indisputable,” said Bunting, drawing up a chair next to that of Cuss. “There certainly have been very strange things happen in Iping during the last few days—very strange. I cannot of course believe in this absurd invisibility story—”
“It's incredible,” said Cuss—“incredible. But the fact remains that I saw—I certainly saw right down his sleeve—”
“But did you—are you sure? Suppose a mirror, for instance—hallucinations are so easily produced. I don't know if you have ever seen a really good conjuror—”
“I won't argue again,” said Cuss. “We've thrashed that out, Bunting. And just now there's these books—Ah! here's some of what I take to be Greek! Greek letters certainly.”
He pointed to the middle of the page. Mr. Bunting flushed slightly and brought his face nearer, apparently finding some difficulty with his glasses. Suddenly he became aware of a strange feeling at the nape of his neck. He tried to raise his head, and encountered an immovable resistance. The feeling was a curious pressure, the grip of a heavy, firm hand, and it bore his chin irresistibly to the table. “Don't move, little men,” whispered a voice, “or I'll brain you both!” He looked into the face of Cuss, close to his own, and each saw a horrified reflection of his own sickly astonishment.
“I'm sorry to handle you so roughly,” said the Voice, “but it's unavoidable.”
“Since when did you learn to pry into an investigator's private memoranda,” said the Voice; and two chins struck the table simultaneously, and two sets of teeth rattled.
“Since when did you learn to invade the private rooms of a man in misfortune?” and the concussion was repeated.
“Where have they put my clothes?”
“Listen,” said the Voice. “The windows are fastened and I've taken the key out of the door. I am a fairly strong man, and I have the poker handy—besides being invisible. There's not the slightest doubt that I could kill you both and get away quite easily if I wanted to—do you understand? Very well. If I let you go will you promise not to try any nonsense and do what I tell you?”
The vicar and the doctor looked at one another, and the doctor pulled a face. “Yes,” said Mr. Bunting, and the doctor repeated it. Then the pressure on the necks relaxed, and the doctor and the vicar sat up, both very red in the face and wriggling their heads.
“Please keep sitting where you are,” said the Invisible Man. “Here's the poker, you see.”
“When I came into this room,” continued the Invisible Man, after presenting the poker to the tip of the nose of each of his visitors, “I did not expect to find it occupied, and I expected to find, in addition to my books of memoranda, an outfit of clothing. Where is it? No—don't rise. I can see it's gone. Now, just at present, though the days are quite warm enough for an invisible man to run about stark, the evenings are quite chilly. I want clothing—and other accommodation; and I must also have those three books.”