Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > H. G. Wells > Invisible Man > This page

The Invisible Man, a novel by H. G. Wells

Chapter XVII - Dr. Kemp's Visitor

< Previous
Table of content
Next >
_ Dr. Kemp had continued writing in his study until the shots
aroused him. Crack, crack, crack, they came one after the other.

"Hullo!" said Dr. Kemp, putting his pen into his mouth again and
listening. "Who's letting off revolvers in Burdock? What are the
asses at now?"

He went to the south window, threw it up, and leaning out stared
down on the network of windows, beaded gas-lamps and shops, with its
black interstices of roof and yard that made up the town at night.
"Looks like a crowd down the hill," he said, "by 'The Cricketers,'"
and remained watching. Thence his eyes wandered over the town to far
away where the ships' lights shone, and the pier glowed--a little
illuminated, facetted pavilion like a gem of yellow light. The moon
in its first quarter hung over the westward hill, and the stars were
clear and almost tropically bright.

After five minutes, during which his mind had travelled into a
remote speculation of social conditions of the future, and lost
itself at last over the time dimension, Dr. Kemp roused himself
with a sigh, pulled down the window again, and returned to his
writing desk.

It must have been about an hour after this that the front-door bell
rang. He had been writing slackly, and with intervals of
abstraction, since the shots. He sat listening. He heard the servant
answer the door, and waited for her feet on the staircase, but she
did not come. "Wonder what that was," said Dr. Kemp.

He tried to resume his work, failed, got up, went downstairs from
his study to the landing, rang, and called over the balustrade to
the housemaid as she appeared in the hall below. "Was that a
letter?" he asked.

"Only a runaway ring, sir," she answered.

"I'm restless to-night," he said to himself. He went back to his
study, and this time attacked his work resolutely. In a little
while he was hard at work again, and the only sounds in the room
were the ticking of the clock and the subdued shrillness of his
quill, hurrying in the very centre of the circle of light his
lampshade threw on his table.

It was two o'clock before Dr. Kemp had finished his work for the
night. He rose, yawned, and went downstairs to bed. He had already
removed his coat and vest, when he noticed that he was thirsty. He
took a candle and went down to the dining-room in search of a
syphon and whiskey.

Dr. Kemp's scientific pursuits have made him a very observant
man, and as he recrossed the hall, he noticed a dark spot on the
linoleum near the mat at the foot of the stairs. He went on
upstairs, and then it suddenly occurred to him to ask himself what
the spot on the linoleum might be. Apparently some subconscious
element was at work. At any rate, he turned with his burden, went
back to the hall, put down the syphon and whiskey, and bending
down, touched the spot. Without any great surprise he found it had
the stickiness and colour of drying blood.

He took up his burden again, and returned upstairs, looking about
him and trying to account for the blood-spot. On the landing he saw
something and stopped astonished. The door-handle of his own room
was blood-stained.

He looked at his own hand. It was quite clean, and then he
remembered that the door of his room had been open when he came down
from his study, and that consequently he had not touched the handle
at all. He went straight into his room, his face quite calm--perhaps
a trifle more resolute than usual. His glance, wandering
inquisitively, fell on the bed. On the counterpane was a mess of
blood, and the sheet had been torn. He had not noticed this before
because he had walked straight to the dressing-table. On the further
side the bedclothes were depressed as if someone had been recently
sitting there.

Then he had an odd impression that he had heard a low voice say,
"Good Heavens!--Kemp!" But Dr. Kemp was no believer in voices.

He stood staring at the tumbled sheets. Was that really a voice? He
looked about again, but noticed nothing further than the disordered
and blood-stained bed. Then he distinctly heard a movement across
the room, near the wash-hand stand. All men, however highly
educated, retain some superstitious inklings. The feeling that is
called "eerie" came upon him. He closed the door of the room, came
forward to the dressing-table, and put down his burdens. Suddenly,
with a start, he perceived a coiled and blood-stained bandage of
linen rag hanging in mid-air, between him and the wash-hand stand.

He stared at this in amazement. It was an empty bandage, a bandage
properly tied but quite empty. He would have advanced to grasp it,
but a touch arrested him, and a voice speaking quite close to him.

"Kemp!" said the Voice.

"Eh?" said Kemp, with his mouth open.

"Keep your nerve," said the Voice. "I'm an Invisible Man."

Kemp made no answer for a space, simply stared at the bandage.
"Invisible Man," he said.

"I am an Invisible Man," repeated the Voice.

The story he had been active to ridicule only that morning rushed
through Kemp's brain. He does not appear to have been either very
much frightened or very greatly surprised at the moment.
Realisation came later.

"I thought it was all a lie," he said. The thought uppermost in his
mind was the reiterated arguments of the morning. "Have you a
bandage on?" he asked.

"Yes," said the Invisible Man.

"Oh!" said Kemp, and then roused himself. "I say!" he said. "But
this is nonsense. It's some trick." He stepped forward suddenly,
and his hand, extended towards the bandage, met invisible fingers.

He recoiled at the touch and his colour changed.

"Keep steady, Kemp, for God's sake! I want help badly. Stop!"

The hand gripped his arm. He struck at it.

"Kemp!" cried the Voice. "Kemp! Keep steady!" and the grip

A frantic desire to free himself took possession of Kemp. The hand
of the bandaged arm gripped his shoulder, and he was suddenly
tripped and flung backwards upon the bed. He opened his mouth to
shout, and the corner of the sheet was thrust between his teeth.
The Invisible Man had him down grimly, but his arms were free and
he struck and tried to kick savagely.

"Listen to reason, will you?" said the Invisible Man, sticking to
him in spite of a pounding in the ribs. "By Heaven! you'll madden
me in a minute!

"Lie still, you fool!" bawled the Invisible Man in Kemp's ear.

Kemp struggled for another moment and then lay still.

"If you shout, I'll smash your face," said the Invisible Man,
relieving his mouth.

"I'm an Invisible Man. It's no foolishness, and no magic. I really
am an Invisible Man. And I want your help. I don't want to hurt
you, but if you behave like a frantic rustic, I must. Don't you
remember me, Kemp? Griffin, of University College?"

"Let me get up," said Kemp. "I'll stop where I am. And let me sit
quiet for a minute."

He sat up and felt his neck.

"I am Griffin, of University College, and I have made myself
invisible. I am just an ordinary man--a man you have known--made

"Griffin?" said Kemp.

"Griffin," answered the Voice. A younger student than you were,
almost an albino, six feet high, and broad, with a pink and white
face and red eyes, who won the medal for chemistry."

"I am confused," said Kemp. "My brain is rioting. What has this to
do with Griffin?"

"I _am_ Griffin."

Kemp thought. "It's horrible," he said. "But what devilry must
happen to make a man invisible?"

"It's no devilry. It's a process, sane and intelligible enough--"

"It's horrible!" said Kemp. "How on earth--?"

"It's horrible enough. But I'm wounded and in pain, and tired ...
Great God! Kemp, you are a man. Take it steady. Give me some food
and drink, and let me sit down here."

Kemp stared at the bandage as it moved across the room, then saw a
basket chair dragged across the floor and come to rest near the bed.
It creaked, and the seat was depressed the quarter of an inch or so.
He rubbed his eyes and felt his neck again. "This beats ghosts," he
said, and laughed stupidly.

"That's better. Thank Heaven, you're getting sensible!"

"Or silly," said Kemp, and knuckled his eyes.

"Give me some whiskey. I'm near dead."

"It didn't feel so. Where are you? If I get up shall I run into you?
_There_! all right. Whiskey? Here. Where shall I give it to you?"

The chair creaked and Kemp felt the glass drawn away from him. He
let go by an effort; his instinct was all against it. It came to
rest poised twenty inches above the front edge of the seat of the
chair. He stared at it in infinite perplexity. "This is--this
must be--hypnotism. You have suggested you are invisible."

"Nonsense," said the Voice.

"It's frantic."

"Listen to me."

"I demonstrated conclusively this morning," began Kemp, "that

"Never mind what you've demonstrated!--I'm starving," said the
Voice, "and the night is chilly to a man without clothes."

"Food?" said Kemp.

The tumbler of whiskey tilted itself. "Yes," said the Invisible Man
rapping it down. "Have you a dressing-gown?"

Kemp made some exclamation in an undertone. He walked to a wardrobe
and produced a robe of dingy scarlet. "This do?" he asked. It was
taken from him. It hung limp for a moment in mid-air, fluttered
weirdly, stood full and decorous buttoning itself, and sat down in
his chair. "Drawers, socks, slippers would be a comfort," said the
Unseen, curtly. "And food."

"Anything. But this is the insanest thing I ever was in, in my

He turned out his drawers for the articles, and then went downstairs
to ransack his larder. He came back with some cold cutlets and
bread, pulled up a light table, and placed them before his guest.
"Never mind knives," said his visitor, and a cutlet hung in mid-air,
with a sound of gnawing.

"Invisible!" said Kemp, and sat down on a bedroom chair.

"I always like to get something about me before I eat," said the
Invisible Man, with a full mouth, eating greedily. "Queer fancy!"

"I suppose that wrist is all right," said Kemp.

"Trust me," said the Invisible Man.

"Of all the strange and wonderful--"

"Exactly. But it's odd I should blunder into _your_ house to get my
bandaging. My first stroke of luck! Anyhow I meant to sleep in this
house to-night. You must stand that! It's a filthy nuisance, my
blood showing, isn't it? Quite a clot over there. Gets visible as
it coagulates, I see. It's only the living tissue I've changed, and
only for as long as I'm alive.... I've been in the house three hours."

"But how's it done?" began Kemp, in a tone of exasperation.
"Confound it! The whole business--it's unreasonable from
beginning to end."

"Quite reasonable," said the Invisible Man. "Perfectly reasonable."

He reached over and secured the whiskey bottle. Kemp stared at the
devouring dressing gown. A ray of candle-light penetrating a torn
patch in the right shoulder, made a triangle of light under the
left ribs. "What were the shots?" he asked. "How did the shooting

"There was a real fool of a man--a sort of confederate of
mine--curse him!--who tried to steal my money. Has done so."

"Is he invisible too?"



"Can't I have some more to eat before I tell you all that? I'm
hungry--in pain. And you want me to tell stories!"

Kemp got up. "_You_ didn't do any shooting?" he asked.

"Not me," said his visitor. "Some fool I'd never seen fired at
random. A lot of them got scared. They all got scared at me. Curse
them!--I say--I want more to eat than this, Kemp."

"I'll see what there is to eat downstairs," said Kemp. "Not much,
I'm afraid."

After he had done eating, and he made a heavy meal, the Invisible
Man demanded a cigar. He bit the end savagely before Kemp could
find a knife, and cursed when the outer leaf loosened. It was
strange to see him smoking; his mouth, and throat, pharynx and
nares, became visible as a sort of whirling smoke cast.

"This blessed gift of smoking!" he said, and puffed vigorously.
"I'm lucky to have fallen upon you, Kemp. You must help me. Fancy
tumbling on you just now! I'm in a devilish scrape--I've been mad,
I think. The things I have been through! But we will do things yet.
Let me tell you--"

He helped himself to more whiskey and soda. Kemp got up, looked
about him, and fetched a glass from his spare room. "It's wild--but
I suppose I may drink."

"You haven't changed much, Kemp, these dozen years. You fair men
don't. Cool and methodical--after the first collapse. I must tell
you. We will work together!"

"But how was it all done?" said Kemp, "and how did you get like

"For God's sake, let me smoke in peace for a little while! And then
I will begin to tell you."

But the story was not told that night. The Invisible Man's wrist
was growing painful; he was feverish, exhausted, and his mind came
round to brood upon his chase down the hill and the struggle about
the inn. He spoke in fragments of Marvel, he smoked faster, his
voice grew angry. Kemp tried to gather what he could.

"He was afraid of me, I could see that he was afraid of me," said
the Invisible Man many times over. "He meant to give me the slip--he
was always casting about! What a fool I was!"

"The cur!

"I should have killed him!"

"Where did you get the money?" asked Kemp, abruptly.

The Invisible Man was silent for a space. "I can't tell you
to-night," he said.

He groaned suddenly and leant forward, supporting his invisible
head on invisible hands. "Kemp," he said, "I've had no sleep for
near three days, except a couple of dozes of an hour or so. I
must sleep soon."

"Well, have my room--have this room."

"But how can I sleep? If I sleep--he will get away. Ugh! What
does it matter?"

"What's the shot wound?" asked Kemp, abruptly.

"Nothing--scratch and blood. Oh, God! How I want sleep!"

"Why not?"

The Invisible Man appeared to be regarding Kemp. "Because I've a
particular objection to being caught by my fellow-men," he said

Kemp started.

"Fool that I am!" said the Invisible Man, striking the table
smartly. "I've put the idea into your head." _

Read next: Chapter XVIII - The invisible Man sleeps

Read previous: Chapter XVI - In the "Jolly Cricketers"

Table of content of Invisible Man


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book