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The Invisible Man

21.
In Oxford Street
"In going downstairs the first time I found an unexpected difficulty because I could not
see my feet; indeed I stumbled twice, and there was an unaccustomed clumsiness in
gripping the bolt. By not looking down, however, I managed to walk on the level
passably well.
"My mood, I say, was one of exaltation. I felt as a seeing man might do, with padded
feet and noiseless clothes, in a city of the blind. I experienced a wild impulse to jest, to
startle people, to clap men on the back, fling people's hats astray, and generally revel in
my extra-ordinary advantage.
"But hardly had I emerged upon Great Portland Street, however (my lodging was
close to the big draper's shop there), when I heard a clashing concussion and was hit
violently behind, and turning saw a man carrying a basket of soda-water syphons, and
looking in amazement at his burden. Although the blow had really hurt me, I found
something so irresistible in his astonishment that I laughed aloud. 'The devil's in the
basket,' I said, and suddenly twisted it out of his hand. He let go incontinently, and I
swung the whole weight into the air.
"But a fool of a cabman, standing outside a public house, made a sudden rush for this,
and his extending fingers took me with excruciating violence under the ear. I let the
whole down with a smash on the cabman, and then, with shouts and the clatter of feet
about me, people coming out of shops, vehicles pulling up, I realised what I had done for
myself, and cursing my folly, backed against a shop window and prepared to dodge out
of the confusion. In a moment I should be wedged into a crowd and inevitably
discovered. I pushed by a butcher boy, who luckily did not turn to see the nothingness
that shoved him aside, and dodged behind the cabman's four-wheeler. I do not know how
they settled the business. I hurried straight across the road, which was happily clear, and
hardly heeding which way I went, in the fright of detection the incident had given me,
plunged into the afternoon throng of Oxford Street.
"I tried to get into the stream of people, but they were too thick for me, and in a
moment my heels were being trodden upon. I took to the gutter, the roughness of which I
found painful to my feet, and forthwith the shaft of a crawling hansom dug me forcibly
under the shoulder blade, reminding me that I was already bruised severely. I staggered
out of the way of the cab, avoided a perambulator by a convulsive movement, and found
myself behind the hansom. A happy thought saved me, and as this drove slowly along I
followed in its immediate wake, trembling and astonished at the turn of my adventure.
And not only trembling, but shivering. It was a bright day in January and I was stark
naked and the thin slime of mud that covered the road was freezing. Foolish as it seems to
me now, I had not reckoned that, transparent or not, I was still amenable to the weather
and all its consequences.
 
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