The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance (Paperback)
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 from Bramblehurst railway station, and carryinga little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrapped up from head to foot, and thebrim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had pileditself against his shoulders and chest, and added a white crest to the burden he carried. He staggeredinto the "Coach and Horses" more dead than alive, and flung his portmanteau down. "A fire," hecried, "in the name of human charity A room and a fire " He stamped and shook the snow from offhimself in the bar, and followed Mrs. Hall into her guest parlour to strike his bargain. And with thatmuch introduction, that and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up his quarters inthe 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 wasno "haggler," and she was resolved to show herself worthy of her good fortune. As soon as thebacon was well under way, and Millie, her lymphatic maid, had been brisked up a bit by a few deftlychosen expressions of contempt, she carried the cloth, plates, and glasses into the parlour and beganto lay them with the utmost clat. Although the fire was burning up briskly, she was surprised to seethat her visitor still wore his hat and coat, standing with his back to her and staring out of thewindow at the falling snow in the yard. His gloved hands were clasped behind him, and he seemedto be lost in thought. She noticed that the melting snow that still sprinkled his shoulders drippedupon her carpet. "Can I take your hat and coat, sir?" she said, "and give them a good dry in thekitchen?""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 withemphasis, and she noticed that he wore big blue spectacles with sidelights, and had a bush sidewhisker 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 herconversational advances were ill-timed, laid the rest of the table things in a quick staccato andwhisked out of the room. When she returned he was still standing there, like a man of stone, hisback hunched, his collar turned up, his dripping hat-brim turned down, hiding his face and earscompletely. She put down the eggs and bacon with considerable emphasis, and called rather thansaid to him, "Your lunch is served, sir.""Thank you," he said at the same time, and did not stir until she was closing the door. Then heswung round and approached the table with a certain eager quickness.