The Invisible Man
1. The Strange Man's Arrival
The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving
snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from
Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly
gloved hand. He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid
every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had piled itself against his
shoulders and chest, and added a white crest to the burden he carried. He staggered into
the Coach and Horses, more dead than alive as it seemed, and flung his portmanteau
down. "A fire," he cried, "in the name of human charity! A room and a fire!" He stamped
and shook the snow from off himself in the bar, and followed Mrs. Hall into her guest
parlour to strike his bargain. And with that much introduction, that and a ready
acquiescence to terms and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up his
quarters in the inn.
Mrs. Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to prepare him a meal with her
own hands. A guest to stop at Iping in the wintertime was an unheard-of piece of luck, let
alone a guest who was no "haggler," and she was resolved to show herself worthy of her
good fortune. As soon as the bacon was well under way, and Millie, her lymphatic aid,
had been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt, she carried the
cloth, plates, and glasses into the parlour and began to lay them with the utmost eclat.
Although the fire was burning up briskly, she was surprised to see that her visitor still
wore his hat and coat, standing with his back to her and staring out of the window at the
falling snow in the yard. His gloved hands were clasped behind him, and he seemed to be
lost in thought. She noticed that the melted snow that still sprinkled his shoulders
dropped upon her carpet. "Can I take your hat and coat, sir," she said, "and give them a
good dry in the kitchen?"
"No," he said without turning.
She was not sure she had heard him, and was about to repeat her question.
He turned his head and looked at her over his shoulder. "I prefer to keep them on," he
said with emphasis, and she noticed that he wore big blue spectacles with sidelights, and
had a bushy side-whisker over his coat-collar that completely hid his cheeks and face.
"Very well, sir," she said. "As you like. In a bit the room will be warmer."
He made no answer, and had turned his face away from her again, and Mrs. Hall,
feeling that her conversational advances were ill-timed, laid the rest of the table things in
a quick staccato and whisked out of the room. When she returned he was still standing
there, like a man of stone, his back hunched, his collar turned up, his dripping hat-brim
turned down, hiding his face and ears completely. She put down the eggs and bacon with
considerable emphasis, and called rather than said to him, "Your lunch is served, sir."