فصل 12

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فصل 12

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CHAPTER TWELVE

At Port Stowe

At ten o’clock the next morning Mr Marvel, dirty, tired, and worried, sat outside a little inn at Port Stowe. Beside him were the books, but now they were tied up with string. He had left the clothes in the woods beyond Bramblehurst. Mr Marvel sat on a wooden seat and, although no one took any notice of him, he seemed excited.

When he had been sitting for nearly an hour an old sailor, with a newspaper in his hand, came out of the inn and sat down beside him.

‘Pleasant day,’ said the sailor.

Mr Marvel looked around him with eyes that were full of terror. ‘Very,’ he replied.

The sailor looked around him as if he had nothing to do, and then at Mr Marvel’s dusty clothes and the books beside him. He had heard the sound of money being dropped into a pocket, and thought that Mr Marvel did not look like a man who would carry much money.

‘Books?’ he said suddenly.

Mr Marvel jumped and looked at them. ‘Oh, yes,’ he said. ‘Yes, they’re books.’

‘There are some strange things in books,’ said the sailor.

‘There are,’ said Mr Marvel.

‘And some strange things out of them,’ said the sailor.

‘True,’ said Mr Marvel.

‘There are some strange things in newspapers, for example,’ said the sailor.

‘There are.’

‘In this newspaper,’ said the sailor.

‘Ah!’ said Mr Marvel.

‘There’s a story,’ said the sailor, ‘there’s a story about an Invisible Man.’ And he told Mr Marvel as much of the story as the newspaper contained. ‘I don’t like it,’ he said. ‘He might be anywhere, might be here at this moment listening to us. And just think, if he wanted to steal or kill, what is there to stop him?’

Mr Marvel seemed to be listening for the least sound.

‘Ah - and - well-‘ he said. And lowering his voice, ‘I know something about this Invisible Man.’

‘Oh,’ said the sailor, ‘you?’

‘Yes,’ said Mr Marvel, ‘me.’

The sailor did not seem to believe Mr Marvel.

‘It happened like this,’ Mr Marvel began, and then his expression changed suddenly.

‘Ow!’ he said. He rose stiffly from his seat, as if in pain.

‘What’s the matter?’ said the sailor.

‘I - I think I must be going,’ said Mr Marvel.

‘But you were just going to tell me about this Invisible Man,’ said the sailor.

Mr Marvel seemed to think carefully.

‘A lie,’ said a Voice.

‘It’s a lie,’ said Mr Marvel.

‘But it’s in the paper,’ said the sailor.

‘Yes,’ said Mr Marvel loudly, ‘but it’s a lie. I know the man who started it. There isn’t any Invisible Man at all.’

‘But this paper? Do you mean to say-?’

‘Not a word of truth in it,’ said Mr Marvel firmly.

The sailor stared, the paper in his hand. Mr Marvel turned round.

‘Wait a bit,’ said the sailor, rising and speaking slowly. ‘Do you mean to say-?’

‘I do,’ said Mr Marvel.

‘Then why did you let me go on and tell you all this, then? What do you mean by letting a man make a fool of himself like that for, eh?’

‘Come along,’ said a Voice, and Mr Marvel was suddenly turned round and he started marching off in a strange, jumpy manner.

‘Silly devil,’ said the sailor, legs wide apart, watching the little man go. ‘I’ll show you, you silly fool! It’s here in the paper!’

And there was another strange thing he was soon to hear about, that had happened quite close to him. And that was a ‘hand full of money’ travelling by itself along by the wall. A sailor friend had seen this strange sight that very morning. He had tried to take the money and had been knocked down by an unseen hand, and when he had got to his feet the money had disappeared.

The story of the flying money was true. And all round that neighbourhood, even from the bank, from shops and inns, money had quietly walked away. And it had found its way into Mr Marvel’s pocket, so the sailor had heard.

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