THUS it was that on the ninth day of February, at the beginning of the thaw, this singular person fell out of infinity into Iping Village. Next day his luggage arrived through the slush. And very remarkable luggage it was. There was a couple of trunks indeed, such as a rational man might need, but in addition there were a box of books,big, fat books, of which some were just in an incomprehensible handwriting,and a dozen or more crates, boxes, and cases, containing objects packed in straw, as it seemed to Hall, tugging with a casual curiosity at the strawglass bottles. The stranger, muffled in hat, coat, gloves, and wrapper, came out impatiently to meet Fearensides cart, while Hall was having a word or so of gossip preparatory to helping bring them in. Out he came, not noticing Fearensides dog, who was sniffing in a dilettante spirit at Halls legs. Come along with those boxes, he said. Ive been waiting long enough.
No sooner had Fearensides dog caught sight of him, however, than it began to bristle and growl savagely, and when he rushed down the steps it gave an undecided 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 dogs teeth had slipped the hand, heard a kick, saw the dog execute a flanking jump and get home on the strangers leg, and heard the rip of his trousering. Then the finer end of Fearensides whip reached his property, and the dog, yelping with dismay, retreated under the wheels of the waggon. It was all the business of a half-minute. No one spoke, every one shouted. The stranger glanced swiftly at his torn glove and at his leg, made as if he would stoop to the latter, then turned and rushed up the steps into the inn. They heard him go headlong across the passage and up the uncarpeted stairs to his bedroom.
The blind was down and the room dim. He caught a glimpse of a most singular thing, what seemed a handless arm waving towards him, and a face of three huge indeterminate spots on white, very like the face of a pale pansy. Then he was struck violently in the chest, hurled back, and the door slammed in his face and locked, all so rapidly that he had no time to observe. A waving of indecipherable shapes, a blow, and a concussion. There he stood on the dark little landing, wondering what it might be that he had seen.
After a couple of minutes he rejoined the little group that had formed outside the Coach and Horses. There was Fearenside telling about it all over again for the second time; there was Mrs. Hall saying his dog didnt have no business to bite her guests; there was Huxter, the general dealer from over the road, interrogative; and Sandy Wadgers from the forge, judicial; besides women and children,all of them saying fatuities: Wouldnt let en bite me, I knows; Tasnt right have such dargs; Whad e biten for then? and so forth.
Mr. Hall, staring at them from the steps and listening, found it incredible that he had seen anything very remarkable happen upstairs. Besides, his vocabulary was altogether too limited to express his impressions.
Come along, cried an angry voice in the doorway, and there stood the muffled stranger with his collar turned up, and his hat-brim bent down. The sooner you get those things in the better Ill be pleased. It is stated by an anonymous bystander that his trousers and gloves had been changed.
Directly the first crate was carried into the parlour, in accordance with his directions, the stranger flung himself upon it with extraordinary eagerness, and began to unpack it, scattering the straw with an utter disregard of Mrs. Halls carpet. And from it he began to produce bottleslittle fat bottles containing powders, small and slender bottles containing coloured and white fluids, fluted blue bottles labelled Poison, bottles with round bodies and slender necks, large green-glass bottles, large white-glass bottles, bottles with glass stoppers and frosted labels, bottles with fine corks, bottles with bungs, bottles with wooden caps, wine bottles, salad-oil bottlesputting them in rows on the chiffonier, on the mantel, on the table under the window, round the floor, on the book-shelfeverywhere. The chemists shop in Bramblehurst could not boast half so many. Quite a sight it was. Crate after crate 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 a number of test-tubes and a carefully packed balance.
And directly the crates were unpacked, the stranger went to the window and set to work, not troubling in the least about the litter of straw, the fire which had gone out, the box of books outside, nor for the trunks and other luggage that had gone upstairs.
When Mrs. Hall took his dinner in to him, he was already so absorbed in his work, pouring little drops out of the bottles into test-tubes, that he did not hear her until she had swept away the bulk of the straw and put the tray on the table, with some little emphasis perhaps, seeing the state that the floor was in. Then he half turned his head and immediately turned it away again. But she saw he had removed his glasses; they were beside him on the table, and it seemed to her that his eye sockets were extraordinarily hollow. He put on his spectacles again, and then turned and faced her. She was about to complain of the straw on the floor when he anticipated her.
He was so odd, standing there, so aggressive and explosive, bottle in one hand and test-tube in the other, that Mrs. Hall was quite alarmed. But she was a resolute woman. In which case, I should like to know, sir, what you consider
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 of bottles ringing together as though the table had been hit, and the smash of a bottle 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 to knock.
There was a noise of hobnails on the bricks in the bar, and Mrs. Hall very reluctantly had to leave the rest of his soliloquy. When she returned the room was silent again, save for the faint crepitation of his chair and the occasional clink of a bottle. It was all over. The stranger had resumed work.
This chap youre speaking of, what my dog bit. Wellhes black. Leastways, his legs are. I seed through the tear of his glove. Youd have expected a sort of pinky to show, wouldnt you? Wellthere wasnt none. Just blackness. I tell you, hes as black as my hat.
Thats true, said Fearenside. I knows that. And I tell ee what Im thinking. That marns a piebald, Teddy. Black here and white therein patches. And hes ashamed of it. Hes a kind of half-breed, and the colours come off patchy instead of mixing. Ive heard of such things before. And its the common way with horses, as anyone can see.