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CHAPTER IX

MR. THOMAS MARVEL

You must picture Mr. Thomas Marvel as a person of copious, flexible visage, a nose of cylindrical protrusion, a liquorish, ample, fluctuating mouth, and a beard of bristling eccentricity. His figure inclined to embonpoint,1 his short limbs accentuated this inclination. He wore a furry silk hat,2 and the frequent substitution of twine and shoelaces for buttons,3 apparent at critical points of his costume, marked a man essentially bachelor.

Mr. Thomas Marvel was sitting with his feet in a ditch by the roadside over the down towards Adderdean, about a mile and a half out of Iping. His feet, save for socks of irregular openwork,4 were bare, his big toes were broad, and pricked like the ears of a watchful dog. In a leisurely mannerhe did everything in a leisurely mannerhe was contemplating a pair of laceup boots. They were the soundest boots he had come across for a long time, but too large for him, whereas those he had had were, in dry weather, a very comfortable fit, but too thin soled for damp. Mr. Thomas Marvel hated roomy boots, but then he hated damp. He had never properly thought out which he hated most, and it was a pleasant day, and there was nothing better to do. So he put the four boots in a graceful group on the turf, and looked at them. And seeing them there among the grass and springing agrimony, it suddenly occurred to him that both pairs were exceeding ugly to see. He was not at all startled by a voice behind him.

Theyre boots, anyhow, said the Voice.

They areCharity Boots, said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with his head on one side regarding them distastefully; and which is the ugliest pair in the whole blessed universe, Im darned if I know!

Hm, said the Voice.

Ive worn worsein fact, Ive worn none. But none so owdacious ugly5 if youll allow the expression. Ive been cadging bootsin particularfor days, becauseI was sick of them. Theyre sound enough, of course. But a gentleman on tramp6 sees such a thundering7 lot of his boots. And if youll believe me, Ive raised nothing in the whole blessed county, try as I would, but them. Look at em! And a good county for boots, too,8 in a general way. But its just my promiscuous luck. Ive got my boots in this county ten years or more. And then they treat you like this.

Its a beast of a county, said the Voice, and pigs for people.

Aint it? said Mr. Thomas Marvel. Lord! But them boots! It beats it.9

He turned his head over his shoulder to the right, to look at the boots of his interlocutor, with a view to comparisons, and lo! where the boots of his interlocutor should have been were neither legs nor boots. He turned his head over his shoulder to the left, and there also were neither legs nor boots. He was irradiated by the dawn of a great amazement. Where are yer? said Mr. Thomas Marvel over his shoulder, and coming on all fours.10 He saw a stretch of empty down, with the wind swaying the remote greenpointed furze bushes.

Am I drunk? said Mr. Marvel. Have I had visions? Was I talking to myself? What the

Dont be alarmed, said a Voice.

None of your ventriloquising me, said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rising sharply to his feet. Where are yer? Alarmed, indeed!

Dont be alarmed, repeated the Voice.

Youll be alarmed in a minute, you silly fool, said Mr. Thomas Marvel. Where are yer? Lemme11 get my mark on yer

Are yer buried? said Mr. Thomas Marvel after an interval.

There was no answer. Mr. Thomas Marvel stood bootless and amazed, his jacket nearly thrown off.

Peewit,12 said a peewit very remote.

Peewit, indeed! said Mr. Thomas Marvel. This aint no time for foolery. The down was desolate east and west, north and south; the road, with its shallow ditches and white bordering stakes, ran smooth and empty north and south, and, save for that peewit, the blue sky was empty too. So help me,13 said Mr. Thomas Marvel, shuffling his coat on to his shoulders again. Its the drink. I might ha known.

Its not the drink, said the Voice. You keep your nerves steady.

Ow! said Mr. Marvel, and his face grew white amidst its patches. Its the drink, his lips repeated noiselessly. He remained staring about him, rotating slowly backwards. I could have swore I heard a voice, he whispered.

Of course you did.

Its there again, said Mr. Marvel, closing his eyes and clasping his hand on his brow with a tragic gesture. He was suddenly taken by the collar and shaken violently, and left more dazed than ever. Dont be a fool! said the Voice.

Imoffmy bloomingchump!14 said Mr. Marvel.

Its no good. Its fretting about them blarsted15 boots. Im off my blessed, blooming chump. Or its spirits!

Neither one thing nor the other, said the Voice. Listen!

Chump! said Mr. Marvel.

One minute, said the Voice penetratingly, tremulous with selfcontrol.

Well? said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with a strange feeling of having been dug in the chest by a finger.

You think Im just imaginationjust imagination?

What else can you be? said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rubbing the back of his neck.

Very well, said the Voice in a tone of relief. Then Im going to throw flints at you till you think differently.

But where are yer?

The Voice made no answer. Whizz came a flint,16 apparently out of the air, and missed Mr. Marvels shoulder by a hairs breadth. Mr. Marvel, turning, saw a flint jerk up into the air, trace a complicated path, hang for a moment, and then fall at his feet with almost invisible rapidity. He was too amazed to dodge. Whizz it came, and ricocheted from a bare toe into the ditch. Mr. Thomas Marvel jumped a foot, and howled aloud. Then he started to run, tripped over an unseen obstacle, and came head over heels into a sitting position.

Now, said the Voice, as a third stone curved upward and hung in the air above the tramp, am I imagination?

Mr. Marvel, by way of reply, struggled to his feet, and was immediately rolled over again. He lay quiet for a moment.

If you struggle any more, said the Voice, I shall throw the flint at your head.

Its a fair do,17 said Mr. Thomas Marvel, sitting up, taking his wounded toe in hand, and fixing his eye on the third missile. I dont understand it. Stones flinging themselves. Stones talking. Put yourself down. Rot away. Im done.18

The third flint fell.

Its very simple, said the Voice. Im an invisible man.

Tell us something I dont know,19 said Mr. Marvel, gasping with pain. Where youve hidhow you do it I dont know. Im beat.

Thats all, said the Voice. Im invisible. Thats what I want you to understand.

Any one could see that. There is no need for you to be so confounded impatient, mister. Now, then. Give us a notion. How are you hid?

Im invisible. Thats the great point. And what I want you to understand is this

But whereabouts? interrupted Mr. Marvel.

Heresix yards in front of you.

Oh, come! I aint blind. Youll be telling me next youre just thin air. Im not one of your ignorant tramps

Yes. I amthin air. Youre looking through me.

What! Aint there any stuff to you? Vox et20 what is it?jabber. Is it that?

I am just a human beingsolid, needing food and drink, needing covering, too But Im invisible. You see? Invisible. Simple idea. Invisible.

What, real like?

Yes, real.

Lets have a hand of you, said Marvel, if you are real. It wont be so darn outoftheway like, then21

Lord! he said, how you made me jump!gripping me like that!

He felt the hand that had closed round his wrist with his disengaged fingers, and his touch went timorously up the arm, patted a muscular chest, and explored a bearded face. Marvels face was astonishment.

Im dashed! he said. If this dont beat cockfighting! Most remarkable!And there I can see a rabbit clean through you arf22 a mile away! Not a bit of you visibleexcept

He scrutinised the apparently empty space keenly. You avent been eatin bread and cheese? he asked, holding the invisible arm.

You are quite right. Its not assimilated into the system.

Ah! said Mr. Marvel. Sort of ghostly, though.

Of course, all this isnt half so wonderful as you think.

Its quite wonderful enough for my modest wants, said Mr. Thomas Marvel. Howjer23 manage it? How the dooce is it done?24

Its too long a story. And besides

I tell you, the whole business fair25 beats me, said Mr. Marvel.

What I want to say at present is this: I need help. I have come to that. I came upon you suddenly. I was wandering, mad with rage, naked, impotent, I could have murdered And I saw you

Lord! said Mr. Marvel.

I came up behind youhesitatedwent on.

Mr. Marvels expression was eloquent.

Then stopped. Here, I said is an outcast like myself. This is the man for me. So I turned back and came to you. You. And

Lord! said Mr. Marvel. But Im all in a dizzy.26 May I ask: How is it?and what you may be requiring in the way of help? Invisible!

I want you to help me get clothes and shelter, and then with other things. Ive left them long enough. If you wontwell! . .. But you willmust.

Look here, said Mr. Marvel. Im too flabbergasted. Dont knock me about any more. And leave me go. I must get steady a bit. And youve pretty near broken my toe. Its all so unreasonable. Empty downs, empty sky. Nothing visible for miles except the bosom of Nature. And then comes a voice. A voice out of heaven! And stones. And a fist. Lord!

Pull yourself together, said the Voice, for you have to do the job Ive chosen for you.

Mr. Marvel blew out his cheeks, and his eyes were round.

Ive chosen you, said the Voice. You are the only man, except some of those fools down there, who knows there is such a thing as an Invisible Man. You have to be my helper. Help meand I will do great things for you. An Invisible Man is a man of power. He stopped for a moment to sneeze violently.

But if you betray me, he said, if you fail to do as I direct you

He paused and tapped Mr. Marvels shoulder smartly. Mr. Marvel gave a yelp of terror at the touch. I dont want to betray you, said Mr. Marvel, edging away from the direction of the fingers. Dont you go athinking that, whatever you do. All I want to do is to help youjust tell me what I got to do. (Lord!) Whatever you want done, that Im most willing to do.


CHAPTER VIII IN TRANSIT 1 | The Invisible Man | CHAPTER X MR. MARVEL S VISIT TO IPING