فصل 22

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فصل 22

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CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

The Hunter Hunted

Kemp had set off running, running to save his life as he had seen Mr Marvel run down the hill road. Never, he thought, had he seemed to run so slowly.

People looked at him. They saw fear in his face.

Now he was rushing to the town below, where people were standing or walking in groups.

He slowed down and then heard rapid footsteps behind.

‘The Invisible Man,’ he cried. He thought of going into the police station, but changed his mind, turned down a side street and then into a yard, into a little house and so back into the main road.

A crowd had collected in the street; there was a noise of running feet. A big man, a few yards away, was swinging a heavy spade, striking at something. Another man came out of a shop with a thick stick in his hand. ‘Spread out! Spread out!’ cried someone. Kemp stopped and looked round, breathing heavily. ‘He’s close!’ he cried. ‘Form a line across-‘

He was hit hard under the ear and tried to turn round towards his unseen enemy. Then he was hit again under the jaw, and fell to the ground. In another moment a knee was digging into his chest and hands held his throat, but one hand was weaker than the other; then the spade of the big man came through the air above him, and struck something. He felt warm blood on his face. The hold on his throat was loosened and Kemp rolled on top of his enemy.

‘I’ve got him!’ cried Kemp. ‘Help! Help - hold him! He’s down! Hold his feet!’

In another second there was a rush of people to the struggle. There was no shouting after Kemp’s cry - only a sound of blows and feet and heavy breathing.

Then the Invisible Man got to his feet. Kemp still held his legs. Then someone got hold of his neck and pulled him back. Down went the pile of struggling, kicking men again. Then suddenly came a wild cry that died away into silence.

‘Get back!’ cried Kemp. ‘He’s hurt, I tell you. Stand back.’

A doctor was feeling the unseen body.

‘The mouth is all wet,’ he said.

He stood up quickly, and then knelt down on the ground by the side of the unseen thing. More people joined the pushing crowd. Men were coming out of the houses. The doors of the inn stood wide open. Very little was said. Kemp felt around him; his hands seemed to pass through empty air. ‘He’s not breathing,’ he said, and then, ‘I cannot feel his heart. His side - ugh!’

An old woman, looking under the arm of the big man with the spade, cried out. ‘Look there!’ she said, and pointed. And looking where she pointed, everyone saw a shadowy, cloudy body. At first, they could see through it, but it was becoming more solid every moment.

‘Hello!’ cried the policeman. ‘Here are his feet showing!’

And so, slowly, beginning at his hands and feet, and spreading slowly to the centre of his body, that strange change continued. It was like the slow movement of a poison. They saw the glassy bones, then the flesh and skin, misty at first but slowly growing thicker and harder and more solid. Soon they could see his chest and his shoulders, and the faint shape of his face.

When at last the crowd made way for Kemp to stand back, there lay the bare and broken body of a young man of about thirty. His hair was white - not grey with age, but white as snow - and his eyes were bright like jewels. His expression was one of anger and fear.

‘Cover his face!’ cried a man. ‘In God’s name, cover that face!’

Someone brought a sheet. They covered him, and carried him into the inn. And there it was, on a bed in an ill-lighted bedroom, among a crowd of excited people, that Griffin, the first of all men to make himself invisible, ended his strange and terrible life.

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