Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Invisible Man V: The Burglary at the Vicarage


We take up the story of The Invisible Man with chapter V, "The Burglary at the Vicarage". A vicarage, btw, is the residence of the vicar, the local Anglican parish priest. The vicarage belongs to the local parish of the Church of England, and the vicar and his family (if he has one) live there during his tenure as parish priest.

We met the Vicar of Iping, the Reverend Mr. Bunting, in chapter IV, when the village doctor, Mr. Cuss, had his curious interview with the mysterious boarder at the Coach and Horses Inn. Wells records that the vicar's only reaction to Mr. Cuss's peculiar tale was "It's a most remarkable story. It's really a most remarkable story."

Our story resumes in the early hours of Whit Monday, the day after Pentacost, known in England as Whitsunday. In 1896, the leap year in which The Invisible Man seems to take place,  Whit Monday falls on May 25. This would be a few days after Mr. Cuss's interview with the stranger.

The Rev. Mr. Bunting and his wife are asleep, when Mrs. Bunting is awakened by the sound of their bedroom door opening and closing. She hears the sound of bare feet creeping along the hall outside their room, and she wakes her husband. He does not light a candle, but instead puts on his glasses and a dressing gown and slippers in the dark and slips out of their room. He hears someone in his study downstairs, along with a violent sneeze. Having confirmed that someone has broken into their house, he returns to the bedroom, grabs the poker from the fireplace, and heads downstairs. His wife follows him, but remains for the moment at the top of the landing.

As the Rev. Mr. Bunting makes his way downstairs, he hears the snap of a desk drawer's lock being forced, the drawer opening, the rustle of papers being moved, a muttered curse, and the sound of a match being struck and a candle lit. When the Rev. Mr. Bunting reaches the bottom of the stairs, he can see into his study. He can see the desk with the open drawer and the candle resting on it, but not the burglar.

As the Rev. Mr. Bunting stands indecisively in the hall, his wife joins him. Then he hears the sounds of gold coins clinking. The burglar (wherever he is) has found the household cash: five gold half sovereigns. This the vicar cannot allow, and he rushes into the room and yells "Surrender!"

The room is empty, yet the vicar and his wife are certain they can hear someone inside. The search the room, but can find nobody there. The couple stand there befuddled until they hear a sneeze out in the passageway. They rush out, carrying the candle, and hear the kitchen door slam shut. The vicar opens it, and through the kitchen he sees through the scullery that the back door has opened. They can see the garden beyond the back door in the dawn's early light, but no burglar.

The couple close the back door and thoroughly search kitchen, scullery, and cellar, but they are alone in the house. Sunrise finds them still standing on the ground floor of the vicarage, utterly perplexed.

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