Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 2 Mr. Teddy Henfrey's First Impressions

  • At four o'clock, when it was fairly dark and Mrs. Hall was screwing up he_ourage to go in and ask her visitor if he would take some tea, Teddy Henfrey, the clock-jobber, came into the bar. "My sakes! Mrs. Hall," said he, "but thi_s terrible weather for thin boots!" The snow outside was falling faster.
  • Mrs. Hall agreed, and then noticed he had his bag with him. "Now you're here, Mr. Teddy," said she, "I'd be glad if you'd give th' old clock in the parlou_ bit of a look. 'Tis going, and it strikes well and hearty; but the hour-han_on't do nuthin' but point at six."
  • And leading the way, she went across to the parlour door and rapped an_ntered.
  • Her visitor, she saw as she opened the door, was seated in the armchair befor_he fire, dozing it would seem, with his bandaged head drooping on one side.
  • The only light in the room was the red glow from the fire—which lit his eye_ike adverse railway signals, but left his downcast face in darkness—and th_canty vestiges of the day that came in through the open door. Everything wa_uddy, shadowy, and indistinct to her, the more so since she had just bee_ighting the bar lamp, and her eyes were dazzled. But for a second it seeme_o her that the man she looked at had an enormous mouth wide open—a vast an_ncredible mouth that swallowed the whole of the lower portion of his face. I_as the sensation of a moment: the white-bound head, the monstrous goggl_yes, and this huge yawn below it. Then he stirred, started up in his chair, put up his hand. She opened the door wide, so that the room was lighter, an_he saw him more clearly, with the muffler held up to his face just as she ha_een him hold the serviette before. The shadows, she fancied, had tricked her.
  • "Would you mind, sir, this man a-coming to look at the clock, sir?" she said, recovering from the momentary shock.
  • "Look at the clock?" he said, staring round in a drowsy manner, and speakin_ver his hand, and then, getting more fully awake, "certainly."
  • Mrs. Hall went away to get a lamp, and he rose and stretched himself. The_ame the light, and Mr. Teddy Henfrey, entering, was confronted by thi_andaged person. He was, he says, "taken aback."
  • "Good afternoon," said the stranger, regarding him—as Mr. Henfrey says, with _ivid sense of the dark spectacles—"like a lobster."
  • "I hope," said Mr. Henfrey, "that it's no intrusion."
  • "None whatever," said the stranger. "Though, I understand," he said turning t_rs. Hall, "that this room is really to be mine for my own private use."
  • "I thought, sir," said Mrs. Hall, "you'd prefer the clock—"
  • "Certainly," said the stranger, "certainly—but, as a rule, I like to be alon_nd undisturbed.
  • "But I'm really glad to have the clock seen to," he said, seeing a certai_esitation in Mr. Henfrey's manner. "Very glad." Mr. Henfrey had intended t_pologise and withdraw, but this anticipation reassured him. The strange_urned round with his back to the fireplace and put his hands behind his back.
  • "And presently," he said, "when the clock-mending is over, I think I shoul_ike to have some tea. But not till the clock-mending is over."
  • Mrs. Hall was about to leave the room—she made no conversational advances thi_ime, because she did not want to be snubbed in front of Mr. Henfrey—when he_isitor asked her if she had made any arrangements about his boxes a_ramblehurst. She told him she had mentioned the matter to the postman, an_hat the carrier could bring them over on the morrow. "You are certain that i_he earliest?" he said.
  • She was certain, with a marked coldness.
  • "I should explain," he added, "what I was really too cold and fatigued to d_efore, that I am an experimental investigator."
  • "Indeed, sir," said Mrs. Hall, much impressed.
  • "And my baggage contains apparatus and appliances."
  • "Very useful things indeed they are, sir," said Mrs. Hall.
  • "And I'm very naturally anxious to get on with my inquiries."
  • "Of course, sir."
  • "My reason for coming to Iping," he proceeded, with a certain deliberation o_anner, "was … a desire for solitude. I do not wish to be disturbed in m_ork. In addition to my work, an accident—"
  • "I thought as much," said Mrs. Hall to herself.
  • "—necessitates a certain retirement. My eyes—are sometimes so weak and painfu_hat I have to shut myself up in the dark for hours together. Lock myself up.
  • Sometimes—now and then. Not at present, certainly. At such times the slightes_isturbance, the entry of a stranger into the room, is a source o_xcruciating annoyance to me—it is well these things should be understood."
  • "Certainly, sir," said Mrs. Hall. "And if I might make so bold as to ask—"
  • "That I think, is all," said the stranger, with that quietly irresistible ai_f finality he could assume at will. Mrs. Hall reserved her question an_ympathy for a better occasion.
  • After Mrs. Hall had left the room, he remained standing in front of the fire, glaring, so Mr. Henfrey puts it, at the clock-mending. Mr. Henfrey not onl_ook off the hands of the clock, and the face, but extracted the works; and h_ried to work in as slow and quiet and unassuming a manner as possible. H_orked with the lamp close to him, and the green shade threw a brilliant ligh_pon his hands, and upon the frame and wheels, and left the rest of the roo_hadowy. When he looked up, coloured patches swam in his eyes. Bein_onstitutionally of a curious nature, he had removed the works—a quit_nnecessary proceeding—with the idea of delaying his departure and perhap_alling into conversation with the stranger. But the stranger stood there, perfectly silent and still. So still, it got on Henfrey's nerves. He fel_lone in the room and looked up, and there, grey and dim, was the bandage_ead and huge blue lenses staring fixedly, with a mist of green spots driftin_n front of them. It was so uncanny to Henfrey that for a minute they remaine_taring blankly at one another. Then Henfrey looked down again. Ver_ncomfortable position! One would like to say something. Should he remark tha_he weather was very cold for the time of year?
  • He looked up as if to take aim with that introductory shot. "The weather—" h_egan.
  • "Why don't you finish and go?" said the rigid figure, evidently in a state o_ainfully suppressed rage. "All you've got to do is to fix the hour-hand o_ts axle. You're simply humbugging—"
  • "Certainly, sir—one minute more. I overlooked—" and Mr. Henfrey finished an_ent.
  • But he went feeling excessively annoyed. "Damn it!" said Mr. Henfrey t_imself, trudging down the village through the thawing snow; "a man must do _lock at times, sure-ly."
  • And again "Can't a man look at you?—Ugly!"
  • And yet again, "Seemingly not. If the police was wanting you you couldn't b_ore wropped and bandaged."
  • At Gleeson's corner he saw Hall, who had recently married the stranger'_ostess at the "Coach and Horses," and who now drove the Iping conveyance, when occasional people required it, to Sidderbridge Junction, coming toward_im on his return from that place. Hall had evidently been "stopping a bit" a_idderbridge, to judge by his driving. "'Ow do, Teddy?" he said, passing.
  • "You got a rum un up home!" said Teddy.
  • Hall very sociably pulled up. "What's that?" he asked.
  • "Rum-looking customer stopping at the 'Coach and Horses,'" said Teddy. "M_akes!"
  • And he proceeded to give Hall a vivid description of his grotesque guest.
  • "Looks a bit like a disguise, don't it? I'd like to see a man's face if I ha_im stopping in my place," said Henfrey. "But women are that trustful—wher_trangers are concerned. He's took your rooms and he ain't even given a name, Hall."
  • "You don't say so!" said Hall, who was a man of sluggish apprehension.
  • "Yes," said Teddy. "By the week. Whatever he is, you can't get rid of hi_nder the week. And he's got a lot of luggage coming to-morrow, so he says.
  • Let's hope it won't be stones in boxes, Hall."
  • He told Hall how his aunt at Hastings had been swindled by a stranger wit_mpty portmanteaux. Altogether he left Hall vaguely suspicious. "Get up, ol_irl," said Hall. "I s'pose I must see 'bout this."
  • Teddy trudged on his way with his mind considerably relieved.
  • Instead of "seeing 'bout it," however, Hall on his return was severely rate_y his wife on the length of time he had spent in Sidderbridge, and his mil_nquiries were answered snappishly and in a manner not to the point. But th_eed of suspicion Teddy had sown germinated in the mind of Mr. Hall in spit_f these discouragements. "You wim' don't know everything," said Mr. Hall, resolved to ascertain more about the personality of his guest at the earlies_ossible opportunity. And after the stranger had gone to bed, which he di_bout half-past nine, Mr. Hall went very aggressively into the parlour an_ooked very hard at his wife's furniture, just to show that the strange_asn't master there, and scrutinised closely and a little contemptuously _heet of mathematical computations the stranger had left. When retiring fo_he night he instructed Mrs. Hall to look very closely at the stranger'_uggage when it came next day.
  • "You mind you own business, Hall," said Mrs. Hall, "and I'll mind mine."
  • She was all the more inclined to snap at Hall because the stranger wa_ndoubtedly an unusually strange sort of stranger, and she was by no mean_ssured about him in her own mind. In the middle of the night she woke u_reaming of huge white heads like turnips, that came trailing after her, a_he end of interminable necks, and with vast black eyes. But being a sensibl_oman, she subdued her terrors and turned over and went to sleep again.