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Chapter 3 The Thousand and One Bottles

  • 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."