So it was that on the twenty-ninth day of February, at the beginning of th_haw, this singular person fell out of infinity into Iping village. Next da_is luggage arrived through the slush—and very remarkable luggage it was.
There were a couple of trunks indeed, such as a rational man might need, bu_n addition there were a box of books—big, fat books, of which some were jus_n an incomprehensible handwriting—and a dozen or more crates, boxes, an_ases, containing objects packed in straw, as it seemed to Hall, tugging wit_ casual curiosity at the straw—glass bottles. The stranger, muffled in hat, coat, gloves, and wrapper, came out impatiently to meet Fearenside's cart, while Hall was having a word or so of gossip preparatory to helping being the_n. Out he came, not noticing Fearenside's dog, who was sniffing in _ilettante spirit at Hall's legs. "Come along with those boxes," he said.
"I've been waiting long enough."
And he came down the steps towards the tail of the cart as if to lay hands o_he smaller crate.
No sooner had Fearenside's dog caught sight of him, however, than it began t_ristle and growl savagely, and when he rushed down the steps it gave a_ndecided hop, and then sprang straight at his hand. "Whup!" cried Hall, jumping back, for he was no hero with dogs, and Fearenside howled, "Lie down!"
and snatched his whip.
They saw the dog's teeth had slipped the hand, heard a kick, saw the do_xecute a flanking jump and get home on the stranger's leg, and heard the ri_f his trousering. Then the finer end of Fearenside's whip reached hi_roperty, and the dog, yelping with dismay, retreated under the wheels of th_aggon. It was all the business of a swift half-minute. No one spoke, everyon_houted. The stranger glanced swiftly at his torn glove and at his leg, mad_s if he would stoop to the latter, then turned and rushed swiftly up th_teps into the inn. They heard him go headlong across the passage and up th_ncarpeted stairs to his bedroom.
"You brute, you!" said Fearenside, climbing off the waggon with his whip i_is hand, while the dog watched him through the wheel. "Come here," sai_earenside—"You'd better."
Hall had stood gaping. "He wuz bit," said Hall. "I'd better go and see to en,"
and he trotted after the stranger. He met Mrs. Hall in the passage. "Carrier'_arg," he said "bit en."
He went straight upstairs, and the stranger's door being ajar, he pushed i_pen and was entering without any ceremony, being of a naturally sympatheti_urn of mind.
The blind was down and the room dim. He caught a glimpse of a most singula_hing, what seemed a handless arm waving towards him, and a face of three hug_ndeterminate spots on white, very like the face of a pale pansy. Then he wa_truck violently in the chest, hurled back, and the door slammed in his fac_nd locked. It was so rapid that it gave him no time to observe. A waving o_ndecipherable shapes, a blow, and a concussion. There he stood on the dar_ittle landing, wondering what it might be that he had seen.
A couple of minutes after, he rejoined the little group that had forme_utside the "Coach and Horses." There was Fearenside telling about it all ove_gain for the second time; there was Mrs. Hall saying his dog didn't have n_usiness to bite her guests; there was Huxter, the general dealer from ove_he road, interrogative; and Sandy Wadgers from the forge, judicial; beside_omen and children, all of them saying fatuities: "Wouldn't let en bite me, _nows"; "'Tasn't right have such dargs"; "Whad 'e bite 'n for, than?" and s_orth.
Mr. Hall, staring at them from the steps and listening, found it incredibl_hat he had seen anything so very remarkable happen upstairs. Besides, hi_ocabulary was altogether too limited to express his impressions.
"He don't want no help, he says," he said in answer to his wife's inquiry.
"We'd better be a-takin' of his luggage in."
"He ought to have it cauterised at once," said Mr. Huxter; "especially if it'_t all inflamed."
"I'd shoot en, that's what I'd do," said a lady in the group.
Suddenly the dog began growling again.
"Come along," cried an angry voice in the doorway, and there stood the muffle_tranger with his collar turned up, and his hat-brim bent down. "The soone_ou get those things in the better I'll be pleased." It is stated by a_nonymous bystander that his trousers and gloves had been changed.
"Was you hurt, sir?" said Fearenside. "I'm rare sorry the darg—"
"Not a bit," said the stranger. "Never broke the skin. Hurry up with thos_hings."
He then swore to himself, so Mr. Hall asserts.
Directly the first crate was, in accordance with his directions, carried int_he parlour, the stranger flung himself upon it with extraordinary eagerness, and began to unpack it, scattering the straw with an utter disregard of Mrs.
Hall's carpet. And from it he began to produce bottles—little fat bottle_ontaining powders, small and slender bottles containing coloured and whit_luids, fluted blue bottles labeled Poison, bottles with round bodies an_lender necks, large green-glass bottles, large white-glass bottles, bottle_ith glass stoppers and frosted labels, bottles with fine corks, bottles wit_ungs, bottles with wooden caps, wine bottles, salad-oil bottles—putting the_n rows on the chiffonnier, on the mantel, on the table under the window, round the floor, on the bookshelf—everywhere. The chemist's shop i_ramblehurst could not boast half so many. Quite a sight it was. Crate afte_rate yielded bottles, until all six were empty and the table high with straw; the only things that came out of these crates besides the bottles were _umber of test-tubes and a carefully packed balance.
And directly the crates were unpacked, the stranger went to the window and se_o work, not troubling in the least about the litter of straw, the fire whic_ad gone out, the box of books outside, nor for the trunks and other luggag_hat had gone upstairs.
When Mrs. Hall took his dinner in to him, he was already so absorbed in hi_ork, pouring little drops out of the bottles into test-tubes, that he did no_ear her until she had swept away the bulk of the straw and put the tray o_he table, with some little emphasis perhaps, seeing the state that the floo_as in. Then he half turned his head and immediately turned it away again. Bu_he saw he had removed his glasses; they were beside him on the table, and i_eemed to her that his eye sockets were extraordinarily hollow. He put on hi_pectacles again, and then turned and faced her. She was about to complain o_he straw on the floor when he anticipated her.
"I wish you wouldn't come in without knocking," he said in the tone o_bnormal exasperation that seemed so characteristic of him.
"I knocked, but seemingly—"
"Perhaps you did. But in my investigations—my really very urgent and necessar_nvestigations—the slightest disturbance, the jar of a door—I must ask you—"
"Certainly, sir. You can turn the lock if you're like that, you know. An_ime."
"A very good idea," said the stranger.
"This stror, sir, if I might make so bold as to remark—"
"Don't. If the straw makes trouble put it down in the bill." And he mumbled a_er—words suspiciously like curses.
He was so odd, standing there, so aggressive and explosive, bottle in one han_nd test-tube in the other, that Mrs. Hall was quite alarmed. But she was _esolute woman. "In which case, I should like to know, sir, what yo_onsider—"
"A shilling—put down a shilling. Surely a shilling's enough?"
"So be it," said Mrs. Hall, taking up the table-cloth and beginning to sprea_t over the table. "If you're satisfied, of course—"
He turned and sat down, with his coat-collar toward her.
All the afternoon he worked with the door locked and, as Mrs. Hall testifies, for the most part in silence. But once there was a concussion and a sound o_ottles ringing together as though the table had been hit, and the smash of _ottle flung violently down, and then a rapid pacing athwart the room. Fearing
"something was the matter," she went to the door and listened, not caring t_nock.
"I can't go on," he was raving. "I can't go on. Three hundred thousand, fou_undred thousand! The huge multitude! Cheated! All my life it may take me! … Patience! Patience indeed! … Fool! fool!"
There was a noise of hobnails on the bricks in the bar, and Mrs. Hall had ver_eluctantly to leave the rest of his soliloquy. When she returned the room wa_ilent again, save for the faint crepitation of his chair and the occasiona_link of a bottle. It was all over; the stranger had resumed work.
When she took in his tea she saw broken glass in the corner of the room unde_he concave mirror, and a golden stain that had been carelessly wiped. Sh_alled attention to it.
"Put it down in the bill," snapped her visitor. "For God's sake don't worr_e. If there's damage done, put it down in the bill," and he went on ticking _ist in the exercise book before him.
"I'll tell you something," said Fearenside, mysteriously. It was late in th_fternoon, and they were in the little beer-shop of Iping Hanger.
"Well?" said Teddy Henfrey.
"This chap you're speaking of, what my dog bit. Well—he's black. Leastways, his legs are. I seed through the tear of his trousers and the tear of hi_love. You'd have expected a sort of pinky to show, wouldn't you? Well—ther_asn't none. Just blackness. I tell you, he's as black as my hat."
"My sakes!" said Henfrey. "It's a rummy case altogether. Why, his nose is a_ink as paint!"
"That's true," said Fearenside. "I knows that. And I tell 'ee what I'_hinking. That marn's a piebald, Teddy. Black here and white there—in patches.
And he's ashamed of it. He's a kind of half-breed, and the colour's come of_atchy instead of mixing. I've heard of such things before. And it's th_ommon way with horses, as any one can see."