The Invisible Man HTML version
4. Mr. Cuss Interviews the Stranger
I have told the circumstances of the stranger's arrival in Iping with a certain fulness of
detail, in order that the curious impression he created may be understood by the reader.
But excepting two odd incidents, the circumstances of his stay until the extraordinary day
of the Club Festival may be passed over very cursorily. There were a number of
skirmishes with Mrs. Hall on matters of domestic discipline, but in every case until late in
April, when the first signs of penury began, he over-rode her by the easy expedient of an
extra payment. Hall did not like him, and whenever he dared he talked of the advisability
of getting rid of him; but he showed his dislike chiefly by concealing it ostentatiously,
and avoiding his visitor as much as possible. "Wait till the summer," said Mrs. Hall,
sagely, "when the artisks are beginning to come. Then we'll see. He may be a bit
overbearing, but bills settled punctual is bills settled punctual, whatever you like to say."
The stranger did not go to church, and indeed made no difference between Sunday and
the irreligious days, even in costume. He worked, as Mrs. Hall thought, very fitfully.
Some days he would come down early and be continuously busy. On others he would rise
late, pace his room, fretting audibly for hours together, smoke, sleep in the arm-chair by
the fire. Communication with the world beyond the village he had none. His temper
continued very uncertain; for the most part his manner was that of a man suffering under
almost unendurable provocation, and once or twice things were snapped, torn, crushed, or
broken in spasmodic gusts of violence. He seemed under a chronic irritation of the
greatest intensity. His habit of talking to himself in a low voice grew steadily upon him,
but though Mrs. Hall listened conscientiously she could make neither head nor tail of
what she heard.
He rarely went abroad by daylight, but at twilight he would go out muffled up
invisibly, whether the weather were cold or not, and he chose the loneliest paths and
those most overshadowed by trees and banks. His goggling spectacles and ghastly
bandaged face under the penthouse of his hat, came with a disagreeable suddenness out
of the darkness upon one or two home-going labourers, and Teddy Henfrey, tumbling out
of the Scarlet Coat one night, at half-past nine, was scared shamefully by the stranger's
skull-like head (he was walking hat in hand) lit by the sudden light of the opened inn
door. Such children as saw him at nightfall dreamt of bogies, and it seemed doubtful
whether he disliked boys more than they disliked him, or the reverse, -- but there was
certainly a vivid dislike enough on either side.
It was inevitable that a person of so remarkable an appearance and bearing should
form a frequent topic in such a village as Iping. Opinion was greatly divided about his
occupation. Mrs. Hall was sensitive on the point. When questioned, she explained very
carefully that he was an "experimental investigator," going gingerly over the syllables as
one who dreads pitfalls. When asked what an experimental investigator was, she would
say with a touch of superiority that most educated people knew such things as that, and
would thus explain that he "discovered things." Her visitor had had an accident, she said,