The Invisible Man HTML version

5. The Burglary at the Vicarage
The facts of the burglary at the vicarage came to us chiefly through the medium of the
vicar and his wife. It occurred in the small hours of Whit-Monday, -- the day devoted in
Iping to the Club festivities. Mrs. Bunting, it seems, woke up suddenly in the stillness
that comes before the dawn, with the strong impression that the door of their bedroom
had opened and closed. She did not arouse her husband at first, but sat up in bed listening.
She then distinctly heard the pad, pad, pad of bare feet coming out of the adjoining
dressing-room and walking along the passage towards the staircase. As soon as she felt
assured of this, she aroused the Rev. Mr. Bunting as quietly as possible. He did not strike
a light, but putting on his spectacles, her dressing-gown and his bath slippers, he went out
on the landing to listen. He heard quite distinctly a fumbling going on at his study desk
down-stairs, and then a violent sneeze.
At that he returned to his bedroom, armed himself with the most obvious weapon, the
poker, and descended the staircase as noiselessly as possible. Mrs. Bunting came out on
the landing.
The hour was about four, and the ultimate darkness of the night was past. There was a
faint shimmer of light in the hall, but the study doorway yawned impenetrably black.
Everything was still except the faint creaking of the stairs under Mr. Bunting's tread, and
the slight movements in the study. Then something snapped, the drawer was opened, and
there was a rustle of papers. Then came an imprecation, and a match was struck and the
study was flooded with yellow light. Mr. Bunting was now in the hall, and through the
crack of the door he could see the desk and the open drawer and a candle burning on the
desk. But the robber he could not see. He stood there in the hall undecided what to do,
and Mrs. Bunting, her face white and intent, crept slowly downstairs after him. One thing
kept Mr. Bunting's courage: the persuasion that this burglar was a resident in the village.
They heard the chink of money, and realised that the robber had found the
housekeeping reserve of gold, -- two pounds ten in half-sovereigns altogether. At that
sound Mr. Bunting was nerved to abrupt action. Gripping the poker firmly, he rushed into
the room, closely followed by Mrs. Bunting. "Surrender!" cried Mr. Bunting, fiercely,
and then stooped amazed. Apparently the room was perfectly empty.
Yet their conviction that they had, that very moment, heard somebody moving in the
room had amounted to a certainty. For half a minute, perhaps, they stood gaping, then
Mrs. Bunting went across the room and looked behind the screen, while Mr. Bunting, by
a kindred impulse, peered under the desk. Then Mrs. Bunting turned back the window-
curtains, and Mr. Bunting looked up the chimney and probed it with the poker. Then Mrs.
Bunting scrutinised the waste-paper basket and Mr. Bunting opened the lid of the coal-
scuttle. Then they came to a stop and stood with eyes interrogating each other.
"I could have sworn -- " said Mr. Bunting.