Chapter XVI-In the ‘Jolly Cricketers’


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 anæmic cabman, while a black-bearded man in grey snapped up biscuit and cheese, drank Burbon, and conversed in American with a policeman off duty. "What’s the shouting about!” said the anæmic 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.

"Coming!” he bawled, his voice shrieking with terror. "He’s coming. The ’Visible Man! After me! For Gawd’s sake! ’Elp! ’Elp! ’Elp!”

"Shut the doors,” said the policeman. "Who’s coming? What’s the row?” He went to the door, released the strap, and it slammed. The American closed the other door.

"Lemme go inside,” said Marvel, staggering and weeping, but still clutching the books. "Lemme go inside. Lock me in—somewhere. I tell you he’s after me. I give him the slip. He said he’d kill me and he will.”

"You’re safe,” said the man with the black beard. "The door’s shut. What’s it all about?”

"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, "who’s there?” Mr. Marvel began to make frantic dives at panels that looked like doors. "He’ll kill me—he’s got a knife or something. For Gawd’s sake—!”

"Here you are,” said the barman. "Come in here.” And he held up the flap of the bar.

Mr. Marvel rushed behind the bar as the summons outside was repeated. "Don’t open the door,” he screamed. "Please don’t open the door. Where shall I hide?”

"This, this Invisible Man, then?” asked the man with the black beard, with one hand behind him. "I guess it’s about time we saw him.”

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. "It’s 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.

Everything was suddenly quiet. "I wish I had my truncheon,” said the policeman, going irresolutely to the door. "Once we open, in he comes. There’s no stopping him.”

"Don’t you be in too much hurry about that door,” said the anæmic cabman, anxiously.

"Draw the bolts,” said the man with the black beard, "and if he comes—” He showed a revolver in his hand.

"That won’t do,” said the policeman; "that’s murder.”

"I know what country I’m in,” said the man with the beard. "I’m going to let off at his legs. Draw the bolts.”

"Not with that blinking thing going off behind me,” said the barman, craning over the blind.

"Very well,” said the man with the black beard, and stooping down, revolver ready, drew them himself. Barman, cabman, and policeman faced about.

"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,