On February 29, while the last snow of the year was falling, a strange man came to Iping and lodged in an inn called Coach and Horses. He seemed reluctant to show his features. He wore goggles, and when Mrs. Hall, the proprietor of the inn, finally managed to see part of his face, it was bandaged. Mrs. Hall figured that he must have suffered some accident.
The stranger had the parlor to himself and a bedroom upstairs. Mrs. Hall asked Teddy Henfrey to fix the clock in the parlor. After viewing the stranger and noticing his reticent attitude, he suspected that the stranger had committed some crime and that the bandaged face was a disguise. When he communicated his suspicions to Mr. Hall, the latter also became suspicious.
The stranger’s luggage had not yet arrived. Mr. Hall encouraged his wife to inspect it when it came.
When Mr. Fearenside brought the luggage, the stranger immediately opened a box filled with bottles of chemicals and began to work with them. Since he did not want to be disturbed, he locked his door while he was working.
Because of his strange ways and irritable temperament, the residents of the village disliked the stranger. They entertained various theories about him. Some thought that he might be an anarchist preparing explosives with his chemicals. Mr. Fearenside thought that he kept himself wrapped up because his skin was piebald. Some of the women even suggested that there was something supernatural about him.
Cuss, the doctor, managed to have a private conversation with him in his room. Because the wind blew an important prescription into the fireplace, Cuss noticed that the stranger’s sleeve seemed to be empty. When he expressed his amazement, the stranger extended his empty sleeve toward the face of his visitor, and Cuss seemed to feel invisible fingers tweaking his nose. He fled from the room in alarm while the stranger laughed. He told Mr. Bunting, the vicar, about his experiences.
One night, a burglar entered the vicarage. The vicar’s wife realized that someone was in the house and alerted her husband. However, when he investigated the room where the burglar was searching for money, he saw no one in the room. The robber seemed to be invisible. The robber managed to find the vicar’s money and left the house.
In the meantime, Mr. Hall noticed that the stranger had apparently left the inn at night. He went up to the stranger’s bedroom and noticed that all his clothes, his goggles, and the bandages of his head were lying around. Apparently he had gone out without any clothes, even though it was a chilly night.
Mr. Hall told his wife what they saw, and the two went up to investigate. On the way, Mrs. Hall heard an inexplicable sneeze behind her. When she entered the stranger’s room, the furniture started acting crazy. A chair approached her and pushed her out of the room. The door then closed and locked itself. Mrs. Hall thought that the stranger had bewitched her furniture.
A little later, the stranger came down from his bedroom and entered his parlor. Mr. and Mrs. Hall wondered how he had got into his bedroom, since they had not seen him enter the inn. When Mr. Hall approached the door to demand an explanation, the stranger rudely repulsed him.
That day, Mrs. Hall did not send him any meals. Besides the rebuff that Mr. Hall received, the stranger’s rent was five days overdue; so Mrs. Hall figured that she had a good excuse not to feed him.
When Mr. and Mrs. Hall learned about the burglary at the vicarage, they correctly figured that the stranger was guilty. Mr. Hall left to alert the authorities.
Before Mr. Hall returned, the stranger came out and protested his lack of food. In the ensuing argument, the stranger tried to overawe Mrs. Hall by showing her that he was an invisible man.
At this point, Mr. Hall returned with Mr. Bobby Jeffers, the village constable. He attempted to arrest the stranger for the burglary at the vicarage. There was a fierce struggle. The stranger managed to doff his clothes. No one could see him, and they started hitting one another. Jeffers was seriously hurt.
The invisible man left Iping and headed down the road to Adderdean. On the way, he encountered an outcast named Mr. Marvel. By threats and persuasion, he forced Mr. Marvel to come with him to Iping and help him get some clothes.
When the invisible man and Mr. Marvel entered the Coach and Horses, the doctor and the vicar were studying the diary of the invisible man. The clothes of the invisible man were no longer in his room, so the invisible man forced the doctor and the vicar to take off some of their clothes and give them to him. The invisible man gave these clothes and some of his books to Mr. Marvel, and the latter climbed out of the window of the inn and started to leave Iping.
A man named Mr. Huxter saw him climb out the window and figured that he was a thief. He started pursuing him, but the invisible man tripped him.
Others began to pursue Mr. Marvel. The invisible man facilitated his escape by pushing and tripping people. When a chance blow struck the invisible man, he became angry and went on a rampage. He struck and pushed people even though Mr. Marvel had already escaped. He caused considerable damage, breaking all the windows of the Coach and Horses. When his lust for revenge was satisfied, he left Iping and never returned.
The invisible man forced Mr. Marvel to continue serving as his aide. The two men journeyed for several days. As they traveled, the invisible man stole a fistful of money and deposited it in the pocket of Mr. Marvel. While the money was still in the hands off the invisible man, people were surprised to see it flying through the air.
Mr. Marvel was anxious to escape the clutches of his persecutor. When he thought that he could get away, he started running. He rushed to an inn near Port Stowe called the Jolly Cricketers and asked the barman and others to protect him from the invisible man.
Some of the people present had heard of this mysterious figure, and there was a concerted effort to keep him out. Nevertheless, he managed to enter and started dragging Mr. Marvel away. A policeman and a cabman intervened. Mr. Marvel escaped, and a terrific struggle ensued.
The invisible man decided that it was time to leave. Before he escaped, a man with a black beard fired five shots in his general direction. One of them hit the invisible man in the wrist.
The invisible man went to the residence of Dr. Kemp, which was reasonably close to the Jolly Cricketers. Dr. Kemp did not believe in the invisible man and fought back when grasped by an invisible bandaged arm. Eventually Dr. Kemp was reduced to docility.
He told Dr. Kemp that his name was Griffin, a student whom Dr. Kemp knew at University College. He explained that he was wounded and hungry and asked for help.
Dr. Kemp gave him some food and drink and allowed him to sleep in his own bedroom. Although Dr. Kemp had assured Griffin that he would make no attempt to deprive him of his freedom, Griffin was distrustful and locked Dr. Kemp out of his own bedroom.
The next morning, before Griffin got up, Dr. Kemp read about the events in Iping in various newspapers. He concluded that Griffin was a dangerous maniac. In spite of his promise, he wrote a note to Colonel Adye of Port Burdock.
When Griffin rose, he explained how he became invisible. As a student, he decided to take up the study of physics. In particular, he concentrated on optics and learned how to lower the refractive index of a substance.
It took several years of study before he succeeded in creating invisibility. When he needed money to continue his study and experimentation, he stole some money which a friend had entrusted to his father for safekeeping. Although his father committed suicide because of it, Griffin had no qualms of conscience.
Griffin finally succeeded in making a cloth disappear. He also had partial success with a cat, but the back of its eyes and its claws could still be seen.
Because of a row with his landlord, he hurriedly made himself invisible. Then he smashed his apparatus and set fire to the building. He wanted to make certain that no one could steal his secret.
As he walked the streets without clothes, Griffin soon learned the disadvantages of being invisible. Since people did not see him, he received many bumps and bruises. A dog smelled him and began to chase him. His feet became muddy, and a couple sharp-eyed children began to chase the peculiar ghost feet. Since he was outside in January without clothes, he became cold, and he had no footwear to protect him when he stepped on rough objects.
An impending snowstorm worried him. He sneaked into Omnium, an emporium that sold clothing, mattresses, etc. After everyone had left, he stole some clothes and food, found some warm blankets, and went to sleep.
In the morning, his presence was discovered. He had to remove his clothing in order to escape.
Back in the streets, he worried that snow, rain, or dust settling on his skin would make him more or less visible. Moreover, the food that he had eaten could be seen until his body assimilated it. Besides, when he developed a cold, people could detect his presence when he sneezed.
To equip himself with an outfit that would make him look more or less human, he went to a shop where theatrical customs were sold. When he discovered that the owner was alone, Griffin knocked him out with a stool and tied him in a sort of sack. Then he stole the outfit that he needed and any money that he happened to find.
When he came to Iping, he was trying to find a way to reverse invisibility, so that he could become normal after he had done everything that he wished to do as an invisible man. However, Mr. Marvel had the books that contained his calculations.
Griffin had planned to leave England, but his chance meeting with Mr. Kemp had changed his mind. He realized that with Mr. Kemp as his confederate, he could work successfully in England. He could even start a reign of terror in Port Burdock and take over the town.
Through the window, Mr. Kemp noticed that the authorities were approaching. He tried to distract and detain Griffin with further conversation. However, Griffin heard them coming and managed to escape.
Mr. Kemp and Colonel Adye made plans to capture Griffin. Mr. Kemp made use of the knowledge that he gained from his conversation with Griffin. For example, He suggested the use of dogs and mentioned that Griffin’s food was visible shortly after he ate it. He also suggested that powdered glass should be strewn on the roads.
Griffin sent Kemp a letter announcing the beginning of his reign of terror. Kemp would be the first victim. In the letter, he proudly asserted that it was day one of the Epoch of the Invisible Man, and he referred to himself as Invisible Man the First.
After breaking all the windows in Kemp’s house, Griffin chopped his way in with an axe. Policemen vainly tried to help.
Kemp left his house and ran with a terrified look on his face. However, when some people gathered around with crude weapons, Kemp told them to form a line so that the invisible man could not escape.
Griffin attacked Kemp, threw him to the ground, and started to choke him. However, many hands came to his assistance, and after a terrific struggle, the invisible man died.
After his death, his body gradually became visible. He was an albino who was about 30 years old.
Since I no longer have easy access to a hard cover of this small novel, I am indebted to the Gutenberg Project for presenting it online.
Gutenberg Project: The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells