You must picture Mr. Thomas Marvel as a person of copious, flexible visage, _ose of cylindrical protrusion, a liquorish, ample, fluctuating mouth, and _eard of bristling eccentricity. His figure inclined to embonpoint; his shor_imbs accentuated this inclination. He wore a furry silk hat, and the frequen_ubstitution of twine and shoe-laces for buttons, apparent at critical point_f his costume, marked a man essentially bachelor.
Mr. Thomas Marvel was sitting with his feet in a ditch by the roadside ove_he down towards Adderdean, about a mile and a half out of Iping. His feet, save for socks of irregular open-work, were bare, his big toes were broad, an_ricked like the ears of a watchful dog. In a leisurely manner—he di_verything in a leisurely manner—he was contemplating trying on a pair o_oots. They were the soundest boots he had come across for a long time, bu_oo large for him; whereas the ones he had were, in dry weather, a ver_omfortable fit, but too thin-soled for damp. Mr. Thomas Marvel hated room_hoes, but then he hated damp. He had never properly thought out which h_ated most, and it was a pleasant day, and there was nothing better to do. S_e put the four shoes in a graceful group on the turf and looked at them. An_eeing them there among the grass and springing agrimony, it suddenly occurre_o him that both pairs were exceedingly ugly to see. He was not at al_tartled by a voice behind him.
"They're boots, anyhow," said the Voice.
"They are—charity boots," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with his head on one sid_egarding them distastefully; "and which is the ugliest pair in the whol_lessed universe, I'm darned if I know!"
"H'm," said the Voice.
"I've worn worse—in fact, I've worn none. But none so owdacious ugly—if you'l_llow the expression. I've been cadging boots—in particular—for days. Becaus_ was sick of them. They're sound enough, of course. But a gentleman on tram_ees such a thundering lot of his boots. And if you'll believe me, I've raise_othing in the whole blessed country, try as I would, but them. Look at 'em!
And a good country for boots, too, in a general way. But it's just m_romiscuous luck. I've got my boots in this country ten years or more. An_hen they treat you like this."
"It's a beast of a country," said the Voice. "And pigs for people."
"Ain't it?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel. "Lord! But them boots! It beats it."
He turned his head over his shoulder to the right, to look at the boots of hi_nterlocutor with a view to comparisons, and lo! where the boots of hi_nterlocutor should have been were neither legs nor boots. He was irradiate_y the dawn of a great amazement. "Where are yer?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel ove_is shoulder and coming on all fours. He saw a stretch of empty downs with th_ind swaying the remote green-pointed furze bushes.
"Am I drunk?" said Mr. Marvel. "Have I had visions? Was I talking to myself?
"Don't be alarmed," said a Voice.
"None of your ventriloquising me," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rising sharply t_is feet. "Where are yer? Alarmed, indeed!"
"Don't be alarmed," repeated the Voice.
"You'll be alarmed in a minute, you silly fool," said Mr. Thomas Marvel.
"Where are yer? Lemme get my mark on yer…
"Are yer buried?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel, after an interval.
There was no answer. Mr. Thomas Marvel stood bootless and amazed, his jacke_early thrown off.
"Peewit," said a peewit, very remote.
"Peewit, indeed!" said Mr. Thomas Marvel. "This ain't no time for foolery."
The down was desolate, east and west, north and south; the road with it_hallow ditches and white bordering stakes, ran smooth and empty north an_outh, and, save for that peewit, the blue sky was empty too. "So help me,"
said Mr. Thomas Marvel, shuffling his coat on to his shoulders again. "It'_he drink! I might ha' known."
"It's not the drink," said the Voice. "You keep your nerves steady."
"Ow!" said Mr. Marvel, and his face grew white amidst its patches. "It's th_rink!" his lips repeated noiselessly. He remained staring about him, rotatin_lowly backwards. "I could have swore I heard a voice," he whispered.
"Of course you did."
"It's there again," said Mr. Marvel, closing his eyes and clasping his hand o_is brow with a tragic gesture. He was suddenly taken by the collar and shake_iolently, and left more dazed than ever. "Don't be a fool," said the Voice.
"I'm—off—my—blooming—chump," said Mr. Marvel. "It's no good. It's frettin_bout them blarsted boots. I'm off my blessed blooming chump. Or it'_pirits."
"Neither one thing nor the other," said the Voice. "Listen!"
"Chump," said Mr. Marvel.
"One minute," said the Voice, penetratingly, tremulous with self-control.
"Well?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with a strange feeling of having been dug i_he chest by a finger.
"You think I'm just imagination? Just imagination?"
"What else can you be?" said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Very well," said the Voice, in a tone of relief. "Then I'm going to thro_lints at you till you think differently."
"But where are yer?"
The Voice made no answer. Whizz came a flint, apparently out of the air, an_issed Mr. Marvel's shoulder by a hair's-breadth. Mr. Marvel, turning, saw _lint jerk up into the air, trace a complicated path, hang for a moment, an_hen fling at his feet with almost invisible rapidity. He was too amazed t_odge. Whizz it came, and ricochetted from a bare toe into the ditch. Mr.
Thomas Marvel jumped a foot and howled aloud. Then he started to run, trippe_ver an unseen obstacle, and came head over heels into a sitting position.
"Now," said the Voice, as a third stone curved upward and hung in the ai_bove the tramp. "Am I imagination?"
Mr. Marvel by way of reply struggled to his feet, and was immediately rolle_ver again. He lay quiet for a moment. "If you struggle any more," said th_oice, "I shall throw the flint at your head."
"It's a fair do," said Mr. Thomas Marvel, sitting up, taking his wounded to_n hand and fixing his eye on the third missile. "I don't understand it.
"It's very simple," said the Voice. "I'm an invisible man."
"Tell us something I don't know," said Mr. Marvel, gasping with pain. "Wher_ou've hid—how you do it—I don't know. I'm beat."
"That's all," said the Voice. "I'm invisible. That's what I want you t_nderstand."
"Anyone could see that. There is no need for you to be so confounde_mpatient, mister. Now then. Give us a notion. How are you hid?"
"I'm invisible. That's the great point. And what I want you to understand i_his—"
"But whereabouts?" interrupted Mr. Marvel.
"Here! Six yards in front of you."
"Oh, come! I ain't blind. You'll be telling me next you're just thin air. I'_ot one of your ignorant tramps—"
"Yes, I am—thin air. You're looking through me."
"What! Ain't there any stuff to you. Vox et—what is it?—jabber. Is it that?"
"I am just a human being—solid, needing food and drink, needing coverin_oo—But I'm invisible. You see? Invisible. Simple idea. Invisible."
"What, real like?"
"Let's have a hand of you," said Marvel, "if you are real. It won't be so dar_ut-of-the-way like, then—Lord!" he said, "how you made me jump!—gripping m_ike that!"
He felt the hand that had closed round his wrist with his disengaged fingers, and his fingers went timorously up the arm, patted a muscular chest, an_xplored a bearded face. Marvel's face was astonishment.
"I'm dashed!" he said. "If this don't beat cock-fighting! Most remarkable!—An_here I can see a rabbit clean through you, 'arf a mile away! Not a bit of yo_isible—except—"
He scrutinised the apparently empty space keenly. "You 'aven't been eatin'
bread and cheese?" he asked, holding the invisible arm.
"You're quite right, and it's not quite assimilated into the system."
"Ah!" said Mr. Marvel. "Sort of ghostly, though."
"Of course, all this isn't half so wonderful as you think."
"It's quite wonderful enough for my modest wants," said Mr. Thomas Marvel.
"Howjer manage it! How the dooce is it done?"
"It's too long a story. And besides—"
"I tell you, the whole business fairly beats me," said Mr. Marvel.
"What I want to say at present is this: I need help. I have come to that—_ame upon you suddenly. I was wandering, mad with rage, naked, impotent. _ould have murdered. And I saw you—"
"Lord!" said Mr. Marvel.
"I came up behind you—hesitated—went on—"
Mr. Marvel's expression was eloquent.
"—then stopped. 'Here,' I said, 'is an outcast like myself. This is the ma_or me.' So I turned back and came to you—you. And—"
"Lord!" said Mr. Marvel. "But I'm all in a tizzy. May I ask—How is it? An_hat you may be requiring in the way of help?—Invisible!"
"I want you to help me get clothes—and shelter—and then, with other things.
I've left them long enough. If you won't—well! But you will—must."
"Look here," said Mr. Marvel. "I'm too flabbergasted. Don't knock me about an_ore. And leave me go. I must get steady a bit. And you've pretty near broke_y toe. It's all so unreasonable. Empty downs, empty sky. Nothing visible fo_iles except the bosom of Nature. And then comes a voice. A voice out o_eaven! And stones! And a fist—Lord!"
"Pull yourself together," said the Voice, "for you have to do the job I'v_hosen for you."
Mr. Marvel blew out his cheeks, and his eyes were round.
"I've chosen you," said the Voice. "You are the only man except some of thos_ools down there, who knows there is such a thing as an invisible man. Yo_ave to be my helper. Help me—and I will do great things for you. An invisibl_an is a man of power." He stopped for a moment to sneeze violently.
"But if you betray me," he said, "if you fail to do as I direct you—" H_aused and tapped Mr. Marvel's shoulder smartly. Mr. Marvel gave a yelp o_error at the touch. "I don't want to betray you," said Mr. Marvel, edgin_way from the direction of the fingers. "Don't you go a-thinking that, whatever you do. All I want to do is to help you—just tell me what I got t_o. (Lord!) Whatever you want done, that I'm most willing to do."