THE JOLLY CRICKETERS is just at the bottom of the hill, where the tram-lines begin. The barman leant his fat red arms on the counter and talked of horses with an anaemic cabman, while a black-bearded man in grey snapped up biscuit and cheese, drank Burton, and conversed in American with a policeman off duty.
Whats the shouting about? said the anaemic cabman going off at a tangent, trying to see up the hill over the dirty yellow blind in the low window of the inn. Somebody ran by outside. Fire, perhaps, said the barman.
Footsteps approached, running heavily, the door was pushed open violently, and Marvel, weeping and dishevelled, his hat gone, the neck of his coat torn open, rushed in, made a convulsive turn, and attempted to shut the door. It was held half open by a strap.
Lemme go inside, said Marvel, staggering and weeping, but still clutching the books. Lemme go inside. Lock me insomewhere. I tell you hes after me. I give him the slip. He said hed kill me and he will.
Lemme go inside, said Marvel, and shrieked aloud as a blow suddenly made the fastened door shiver and was followed by a hurried rapping and a shouting outside. Hullo, cried the policeman, whos there? Mr. Marvel began to make frantic dives at panels that looked like doors. Hell kill mehes got a knife or something. For Gawds sake!
The window of the inn was suddenly smashed in, and there was a screaming and running to and fro in the street. The policeman had been standing on the settee staring out, craning to see who was at the door. He got down with raised eyebrows. Its that, he said. The barman stood in front of the bar-parlour door which was now locked on Mr. Marvel, stared at the smashed window and came round to the two other men.
Come in, said the bearded man in an undertone, standing back and facing the unbolted doors with his pistol behind him. No one came in, the door remained closed. Five minutes afterwards when a second cabman pushed his head in cautiously, they were still waiting, and an anxious face peered out of the bar-parlour and supplied information. Are all the doors of the house shut? asked Marvel. Hes going roundprowling round. Hes as artful as the devil.
Good Lord! said the burly barman. Theres the back! Just watch them doors! I say! He looked about him helplessly. The bar-parlour door slammed and they heard the key turn. Theres the yard door and the private door. The yard door
The man with the beard replaced his revolver. And even as he did so the flap of the bar was shut down and the bolt clicked, and then with a tremendous thud the catch of the door snapped and the bar-parlour door burst open. They heard Marvel squeal like a caught leveret, and forthwith they were clambering over the bar to his rescue. The bearded mans revolver cracked and the looking-glass at the back of the parlour was starred brightly and came smashing and tinkling down.
As the barman entered the room he saw Marvel, curiously crumpled up and struggling against the door that led to the yard and kitchen. The door flew open while the barman hesitated, and Marvel was dragged into the kitchen. There was a scream and a clatter of pans. Marvel, head down, and lugging back obstinately, was forced to the kitchen door, and the bolts were drawn.
Then the policeman, who had been trying to pass the barman, rushed in, followed by one of the cabmen, gripped the wrist of the invisible hand that collared Marvel, was hit in the face and went reeling back. The door opened, and Marvel made a frantic effort to obtain a lodgment behind it. Then the cabman clutched something. I got him, said the cabman. The barmans red hands came clawing at the unseen. Here he is! said the barman.
Mr. Marvel, released, suddenly dropped to the ground and made an attempt to crawl behind the legs of the fighting men. The struggle blundered round the edge of the door. The voice of the Invisible Man was heard for the first time, yelling out sharply, as the policeman trod on his foot. Then he cried out passionately and his fists flew round like flails. The cabman suddenly whooped and doubled up, kicked under the diaphragm. The door into the bar-parlour from the kitchen slammed and covered Mr. Marvels retreat. The men in the kitchen found themselves clutching at and struggling with empty air.
Ill show him, shouted the man with the black beard, and suddenly a steel barrel shone over the policemans shoulder, and five bullets had followed one another into the twilight whence the missle had come. As he fired, the man with the beard moved his hand in a horizontal curve, so that his shots radiated out into the narrow yard like spokes from a wheel.