Footprints Without Feet By HG Wells

The two boys started in surprise at the fresh muddy imprints of a pair of bare feet. What was barefooted man doing on the steps of a house in the middle of London? And where was the man?

As they gazed, a remarkable sight met their eyes.  A fresh footmark appeared from nowhere!. 

Further footprints followed, one after another, descending the steps and progressing down the street. The boys followed, fascinated, until the muddy impressions became fainter and fainter and at last disappeared altogether.

The explanation of the mystery was really simple enough.  The bewildered boys had been following a scientist who had just discovered how to make the human body transparent.

Griffin, the scientist, had carried out experiment after experiment to prove that the human body could become invisible. Finally, he swallowed certain rare drugs and his body became as transparent as a sheet of glass –  though it also remained as solid as glass.

Brilliant scientist though he was, Griffin was rather lawless person. His landlord disliked him and tried to eject him. In revenge, Griffin set fire to the house. To get away without being seen, he had to remove his clothes. Thus it was that he became a homeless wanderer without clothes, without money, and quite invisible –  until he happened to step in some mud, and left footprints as he walked!

He escaped easily enough from the boys who followed his footprints in London.  But his adventures were by no means over. He has chosen a bad time of the year to wander about London without clothes. It was mid-winter. The air was bitterly cold. He could not do without clothes. Instead of walking about the streets, he decided to slip into a big London store for warmth.

Closing time arrived, and as soon as the doors were shut, Griffin was able to give himself the pleasure of clothing and feeding himself without regard to expense. He broke open boxes and wrappers and fitted himself out with warm clothes.  Soon, with shoes, an overcoat and a wide-brimmed hat, he became a fully dressed and visible person. In the kitchen of the restaurant he found cold meat and coffee, and he followed up the meal with sweets and wine taken from the grocery store. Finally he settled down to sleep on a pile of quilts.

If only Griffin had managed to wake up in good time all might have been well. As it was, he did not wake up until the assistants were already arriving next morning. When he saw a couple of them approaching, he panicked and began to run.  They naturally gave chase. In the end, he was able to escape only by quickly taking off his newly found clothes. So once more, he found himself invisible but naked in the chill January air.

This time he decided to try the stock of a theatrical company in the hope of finding not only clothes but also something that would hide the empty space above his shoulders.  Shivering with cold, he hurried to Drury Lane, the centre of the theatre world.

He soon found a suitable shop. He made his way invisible, upstairs and came out a little later wearing bandages round his forehead, dark glasses, false nose, big bushy side-whiskers and a large hat.  To escape without being seen, he callously attacked the shopkeeper from behind, after which he robbed him of all the money he could find.

Eager to get away from crowded London, he took a train to the village of Iping, where he booked two rooms at the local inn.

The arrival of a stranger at an inn in winter was in any case unusual even. A stranger of such uncommon appearance set all tongues wagging. Mrs. Hall, the landlord’s wife, made every effort to be friendly. But Griffin had no desire to talk, and told her, “My reason for coming to Iping is a desire for solitude.  I do not wish to be disturbed in my work. Besides, an accident has affected my face.”

Satisfied that her guest was an eccentric scientist, and in view of the fact that he had paid her in advance, Mrs. Hall was prepared to excuse his strange habits and irritable temper. But the stolen money did not last long, and presently, Griffin had to admit that he had no more ready cash, however, he pretended that he was expecting a cheque at any moment.

Shortly afterwards, a curious episode occurred.  Very early in the morning, a clergyman and his wife were awakened by noise in the study. Creeping downstairs, they heard the chink of money being taken from the clergyman’s desk.

Without making noise and with a poker grasped firmly in his hand, the clergyman flung open the door.  “Surrender!

Then to his amazement he realised that the room appeared to be empty. He and his wife looked under the desk, and behind the curtains, and even up the chimney. There wasn’t a sign of anybody. Yet the desk had been opened and the housekeeping money was missing.

 “Extraordinary affair!” the clergyman kept saying for the rest of the day.

But it was not as extraordinary as the behaviour of Mrs. Hall’s furniture a little later that morning.

The landlord and his wife were up very early, and were surprised to see the scientist’s door wide open. Usually it was shut and locked, and he was furious if anyone entered his room. The opportunity seemed too good to be missed. They peeped round the door, saw nobody, and decided to investigate. The bedclothes were cold, showing that the scientist must have been up for some time; and stranger still, the clothes and bandages that he always wore were lying about the room.

All of a sudden Mrs. Hall heard a sniff close to her ear. A moment later the hat on the bedpost leapt up and dashed itself into her face. Then the bedroom chair became alive. Springing into the air it charged straight at her, legs foremost. As she and her husband turned away in terror, the extraordinary chair pushed them both out of the room and then appeared to slam and lock the door after them.

Mrs. Hall almost fell down the stairs in hysterics. She was convinced that the room was haunted by spirits, and that the stranger had somehow caused these to enter into her furniture.

“My poor mother used to sit in that chair,” she moaned. “To think it should rise up against me now!”

The feeling among the neighbours was that the trouble was caused by witchcraft. But witchcraft or not, when news of the burglary at the clergyman’s home became known, the strange scientist was strongly suspected of having had a hand in it. Suspicion grew even stronger when he suddenly produced some ready cash, though he had admitted not long before that he had no money.

The village constable was secretly sent for. Instead of waiting for the constable, Mrs. Hall went to the scientist, who had somehow mysteriously appeared from his empty bedroom.

 “I want to know what you have been doing to my chair upstairs,” she demanded. “And I want to know how it is you came out of an empty room and how you entered a locked room.”

The scientist was always quick-tempered; now he became furious. “You don’t understand who or what I am!” he shouted. “Very well — I’ll show you.”

Suddenly he threw off bandages, whiskers, spectacles, and even nose. It took him only a minute to do this. The horrified people in the bar found themselves staring at a headless man!

Mr Jaffers, the constable, now arrived, and was quite surprised to find that he had to arrest a man without a head. But Jaffers was not easily prevented from doing his duty. If a magistrate’s warrant ordered a person’s arrest, then that person had to be arrested, with or without his head.

There followed a remarkable scene as the policeman tried to get hold of a man who was becoming more and more invisible as he threw off one garment after another. Finally a shirt flew into the air, and the constable found himself struggling with someone he could not see at all. Some people tried to help him, but found themselves hit by blows that seemed to come from nowhere.

In the end Jaffers was knocked unconscious as he made a last attempt to hold on to the unseen scientist.

There were nervous, excited cries of “Hold him!” But this was easier said than done. Griffin had shaken himself free, and no one knew where to lay hands on him.

 

Footprints Without Feet Summary

Boys See Footprints in Street

Two boys on a street in London were surprised to see fresh muddy footprints of bare feet on the steps of a house without finding who was making them. Further on, the footprints disappeared. These footprints had been made by Griffin, an eccentric scientist who had discovered how to make his body transparent. He could only be seen with the clothes he was wearing.

Griffin: A Lawless Person

Griffin was having a criminal bent of mind and was a lawless person. He set fire to his landlord’s house to take revenge against him for trying to evict (throw out) him. To get away, he had to remove his clothes so that he became invisible. He was a homeless wanderer in London without clothes or money during winter.

Escape of Griffin

Griffin managed to escape from the two teen boys’ observation and entered unseen into a big store to get warm. After the store was closed at night, Griffin put on some new clothes, consumed meat and coffee from the restaurant in the store and went to sleep on a pile of quilts. He overslept and only woke up when the shop had opened and the assistants had arrived. On being seen and chased by them, he again took off his clothes so that they could not see him.

Griffin at a Theatrical Company

Then Griffin entered a theatrical company which gave items used in plays. There he wore bandages to outline his face, dark glasses, a false nose and bushy side whiskers. He robbed the shopkeeper of his money and escaped to a village away from London to avoid being caught.

Griffin Arrives at Iping Village

Griffin looked two rooms at an inn belonging to Mrs. Hall in the village Iping. He explained to her that he had an accident and did not want to disturbed, as Mrs. Hall tried to be social with him. Soon his money was finished and so he robbed a clergyman’s house by using his invisibility.

Mrs Hall Enters Griffins Room

The same day when Mrs. Hall found Griffin’s room open, with his bandages and clothes lying around, she and her husband entered the room. Suddenly both of them were attacked by the furniture being flying at them, but they could not see who was doing this. Mrs. Hall felt that the furniture was haunted by spirits, as she could not see Griffin.

Griffin Becomes Invisible and Escape from Iping

When the clergyman reported the burglary to the police, most people in the village felt that the strange scientist had a hand in it, because he paid his due rent, whereas earlier he was not able to do so. So Mr. Jaffers, the village police constable, was called to arrest. Griffin on suspicion. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hall asked Griffin to explain all the unusual happenings. Griffin lost his temper and decided to tell everything. He started removing his clothes and even Jaffers could not catch someone whom he could not see. He was knocked unconsciously by the invisible man, who escaped.

Chapter Sketch

This story is about a scientist who discovers how to make himself invisible. As he was afraid of being discovered in London, where he had committed some crimes, he runs away to a remote village. However, he runs out of money and resorts to robbery, using his advantage of invisibility.

About the Characters

This story is about a scientist who discovers how to make himself invisible. As he was afraid of being discovered in London, where he had committed some crimes, he runs away to a remote village. However, he runs out of money and resorts to robbery, using his advantage of invisibility.

Griffin : He is the eccentric scientist who makes himself invisible. He does not hesitate to resort to criminal activities to remain a mystery.

Mrs Hall : She is a resolute but superstitious owner of the inn of Iping where Griffin stays.

Mr Jaffers : He is a dutiful policeman who fails to arrest the ‘invisible’ scientist.

Chapter Highlights

  1. Two boys on a London Street was surprised to see fresh muddy footprints of bare feet without finding who was making them.
  2. These footprints had been made by Griffin an eccentric scientist who had discovered how to make his body transparent.
  3. To get away after he had burnt his landlord’s house down, he had to remove his clothes so that he became invisible.
  4. Griffin entered unseen into a big store to get warm. When the store closed at night, he put on new clothes, consumed meat and coffee from the restaurant and went to sleep on a pile of quilts.
  5. He overslept and was seen by the shop assistants in the morning. He again took off his clothes to escape from them.
  6. Then he entered a theatrical company and wore bandages on his face, dark glasses, if false nose and bushy side whiskers. He robbed the shopkeeper of his money and escaped to Iping village by train to avoid being caught.
  7. He rented two rooms at an inn the village. He explained to Mrs Hall, its owner, that he had an accident and did not want to be disturbed. Soon his money finished and so he robbed a clergyman’s house by using his invisibility.
  8. That same day, when Mrs Hall entered his room, she and her husband were ‘attacked’ by the furniture This made Mrs Hall think that the furniture was haunted by spirits.
  9. When the clergyman reported the burglary to the police, Griffin was suspected of having a hand in it. So the village constable, Jaffers came to arrest him on suspicion.
  10. Meanwhile, Mrs Hall asked Griffin to explain all the unusual happenings. Griffin lost his temper and took off all his clothes (thus becoming invisible), knocked Jaffers unconscious and ran away.

Word Meanings

started : jumped with surprise

imprints: marks due to pressure

progressing: moving

impressions: footmarks

altogether: totally

bewildered: puzzled

transparent: invisible

rare drugs: chemical/medicines not easily made

eject: remove

by no means: not yet

warmth: keeping warm

pile: heap lying one on top of another

panicked : got alarmed

stock : items

callously : without caring

set all tongues wagging : started people gossiping

eccentric : strange

ready cash : money

clergyman : Christian priest

chink : high pitched ringing sound

poker : metal rod

flung : suddenly opened

sniff : sound made by nose drawing in air

bedpost : upright support of bed

dashed : struck

springing : jumping

foremost : in front

slam : quickly close

hysterics : wildly emotional reaction

witchcraft practice of magic

quick tempered : losing temper quickly

warrant : official authorisation

blows : powerful hits with the hands

knocked : forced to fall

 

Questions and Answers

NCERT Solutions

Read and Find Out

1. How did the invisible man first become visible?

Answer: The invisible man (Griffin) first became visible after he slipped into a big London store for keeping warm and overslept there while wearing some clothes taken from the store. The clothes made him visible to the shop assistants when the cloth when the shop opened in the morning. To escape from them, he had to shed all his clothes to become invisible again.

 2. Why was he wandering the streets?

Answer: Though he was brilliant scientist, he was a lawless person. His landlord disliked him and wanted to evict Griffin. In revenge, he set fire to the house. To escape, he removed his clothes, becoming invisible. Thus, he became homeless and was wandering the streets of London.

3. Why does Mrs Hall find the scientist eccentric?

Answer: Mrs Hall found the scientist eccentric because of his strange appearance and also, when she tried to be friendly with him, he rebuffed (rejected) her by saying that he had come there for solitude and did not wish to be disturbed in his work.

4. What curious episode occurs in the study?

Answer : Very early one morning, a clergyman and his wife were awakened by noises coming from their study. Then they heard the sound of coins being taken from the desk there. However, when they entered the study, they did not find anybody there, which was curious.

5. What other extraordinary things happen at the inn?

Answer: At the inn Mrs Hall and her husband went into the scientist’s room on finding its door open. However, he was not seen in the room, but Mrs Hall heard sniff and the hat on the bed post leapt up and dashed into her face. Then the bedroom chair sprang into the air and pushed them both out of the room This made Mrs Hall think that the furniture was haunted.

 

Think About It

1. “Griffin was rather a lawless person.” Comment.

Answer: Griffin was not bothered if he had harmed anybody in the fulfilment of what he wanted. He set his landlord’s house on fire because his landlord tried to make him leave.  Then his robberies at shops and later in the village indicates that he was a lawless person. When he encountered the landlady of the inn, he threw chair at her and her husband. Lawless person like Griffin never think about the safety and well-being of others.  They are only concerned about themselves.

2. How would you assess Griffin as a scientist?

Answer: Griffin is a brilliant scientist , as he discovers how to make himself invisible. But he seems to enjoy the feeling of power which he gets out of his invisibility.  The power to hurt anybody without getting noticed can give sadistic pleasure to some people.  A true scientist should make discoveries for the larger benefit of society, not just for his own benefit.

Think About It

1. Would you like to become invisible? What advantages and disadvantages do you foresee, if you did?

Answer: It can be an exciting idea for most people. Like two facets of a coin, invisibility can have many advantages and disadvantages. For a child, invisibility may mean a licence for all kinds of pranks without getting caught. Like a Hindi movie, invisibility can help you beat all the villains black and blue and get rid of them. Once you become invisible, nobody would notice you. Within not time, the sadness of isolation will take out the excitement of being invisible. You will have no friend. You will tend to behave like the eccentric scientist in this story.

Extra Questions

Extract Based Questions

Read the following extracts carefully and choose the correct option.

1. As they gazed, a remarkable sight met their eyes. A  fresh footmark appeared from nowhere!

Further footprints followed, one after another, descending the steps and progressing down the street.

(i) Who are they in the  above extract?

(a) two girls on a street in London

(b) two boys on a street in Iping

(c) two boys on a street in Vienna

(d) two boys on a street in London

(ii) Who is making these  footprints?

(a) The scientist Jaffers

(b) The scientist Griffin

(c) Mr. Hall

(d) The boy on the street.

(iii) …..From the extract means the same as ‘continuing’ 

(a) descending

(b) pursuing

(c) progressing

(d) further

(iv) What is the opposite of ‘remarkable’? 

(a) Ordinal

(b) Astounding

(c) Solitary

(d) Ordinary

Answer: (i) (d)  Two boys on the street in London

(ii) (b) The scientist Griffin

(iii) (c) Progressing

(iv) (d) Ordinary

2. The air was bitterly cold and he could not do without clothes. Instead of walking about the street he decided to slip into a big London store for warmth.

(i) Who is ‘he’ in the above extract?

(a) Griffin’s landlord

(b) Griffin

(c) Mr. Jaffers

(d) The shopkeeper

(ii) Why was the air bitterly cold?

(a) because the AC was on

(b) because there was a cold wind blowing

(c) because it was mid-winter

(d) because it was autumn

(iii) …… From the extract means the same as ‘quietly enter’

(a) Slip

(b) Secretly

(c) Stealthily

(d) Hushing

(iv) The word ‘warmth’ in the extract is

(a) Noun

(b) Verb

(c) Adverb

(d) adjective

Answer: (i) (b) Griffins

(ii) (c) because it was mid-winter

(iii) (a) Slip

(iv) (a) Noun

3. They naturally gave chase. In the end, he was able to escape only by quickly taking off his newly found clothes. So once more he found himself invisible but naked in the chill January air.

(i) Who are ‘they’ and ‘he’ referred to in the above extract?

(a) ‘They’ are shopkeepers and ‘he’ is Griffin

(b) ‘They’ are shop assistants and ‘he’ is Griffin’s landlord

(c) ‘They’ are shop assistants and ‘he’ is Griffin

(d) ‘They’ are theatre assistants and ‘he’ is Griffin

(ii) Why has the author used the phrase ‘once more’?

(a) Because Griffin was naked before he had entered the theatre

(b) Because Griffin was naked before he had entered his landlord’s house

(c) Because Griffin was naked before he had entered the restaurant 

(d) Because Griffin was naked before he had entered the large store

(iii) Find a word from the extract that means the same as ‘run away’.

(a) Escape

(b) Taking off

(c) Abscond

(d) Flee

(iv) The word ‘quickly’ is a/an

(a) Adjective

(b) Noun

(c) Adverb

(d) Pronoun

Answer: (i) (c) ‘They’ are shop assistants and ‘he’ is Griffin

(ii) (d) Because Griffin was naked before he had entered the large store

 (iii) (a) Escape

(iv) (c) Adverb

4. Suspicion grew even stronger when he suddenly produced some ready cash, though he had admitted not long before that he had no money.

(i) Who is ‘he’ in the above extract?

(a) Mr. Jaffers

(b) The clergyman

(c) Mrs. Hall’s husband

(d) Griffin

(ii) What was ‘he’ suspected for?

(a) For having a role in the burglary at the clergyman’s home

(b) For setting fire to his landlord’s house

(c)  For robbing the shopkeeper of his money

(d) For taking off his clothes

(iii) Find a word/phrase from the  extract that means the same as ‘money’.

(a) Ready cash

(b) Assets

(c) Currency

(d) Coins

(iv) What is the opposite of ‘admitted’.

(a) Accepted

(b) Denied

(c) Devised

(d) Supported

Answer: (i) (d) Griffin

(ii) (a) For having a role in the burglary at the clergyman’s home

 (iii) (a) Ready cash

(iv) (b) Denied

Short Questions and Answers

1. Why were the two boys in London surprised and fascinated?

Answer: The two boys in London were surprised and fascinated when they saw fresh muddy footprints of human being on the steps of a house, but no man was there making them! As they looked, a fresh footprint appeared from nowhere. The boys followed, fascinated until the footprints got disappeared.

2. Why did Griffin decide to slip into a big London store?

Answer: Griffin decided to slip into a big London store, because the reason was mid-winter, due to which it became difficult to wander around without clothes in London. He had chosen a bad time of the year to wander about London without clothes and he wanted to keep himself warm.

3. How was Griffin a lawless man?

Answer: Griffin was lawless because he had committed many anti-social deeds for which he never felt guilty. He set fire to his landlord’s house and ran away, he stole foodstuffs and clothes from a London store, stole other goods from a theatrical company and also stole money from a clergyman’s house to pay his bills.

4. What did Griffin do in the shop of a theatrical company?

 Answer:  The second time Griffin tried the stock of a theatrical company in the hope of finding not only clothes but also something like side whiskers, false nose, bandages, hat etc that would hide the empty space above his shoulders.

 5. What did the Halls see in the scientist’s room?

 Answer:  As the door of the room was open and nobody appeared to be inside, the Halls entered the scientist’s room. They saw that the bedclothes were cold, showing that the scientist must have been up for sometime; and strange still, the clothes and bandages that he always wore were lying around the room.

6. How did the visible man become invisible? What did he do then?

 Answer:  The invisible man got angry with Mrs Hall and threw of all he was wearing on his head so that he became a man without a head. Soon the constable Jaffers arrived to arrest him, but the invisible man threw off all his clothes to become invisible and, in the ensuing scuffle, knocked Jaffers unconscious and escaped.

 

Long Questions and Answers

1. Describe the landlord’s and his wife experience with the strange scientist.

Answer: Both Mrs. Hall and her husband were surprised to find the scientist’s room open because it is always locked. So they peeped in but found nobody there. The clothes and bandages that he always wore were lying about the room. Suddenly Mrs. Hall heard a sniff close to her ear and the hat on the bedpost leapt up and dashed itself into her face. Then the bedroom chair sprang into the air and pushed both of them out of the room and then appeared to slam and lock the door after them.

Mrs. Hall became hysterical and almost fell down the stairs. She thought that her furniture was haunted. They decided to confront the scientist next time when they met him.

2. What impression do you form of Griffin after reading lesson “Footprints without Feet”?Answer: Griffin was a brilliant scientist as he discovered a drug due to which his body became transparent as a sheet of glass after swallowing it.  This made him invisible. But he was a lawless person. Because of his misdeeds, he became a homeless wanderer without clothes and money.

He was an introvert with a desire for solitude. He was always seeking adventure, being found of mysterious things. However, he was unscrupulous (immoral) , as he robbed various people to finance his work, besides he got angry very quickly which caused him to become a fugitive (run away).  He set fire to the landlord’s house as his landlord had ejected him from his house. He was a revengeful man.  When he stole the clergyman’s money, he threatened his wife by swinging the chair on her.  He was lawless person so he even hit a policeman to unconsciousness.  So, it can be said that even he was a great scientist but a lawless and eccentric and did activities like a criminal.

3. If somehow you discover how to become invisible, how to use that opportunity?

Answer: If I discover how to become invisible, I would use this opportunity to punish all those people who cause trouble to others for their own selfish motives. I would catch them and hand them over to the police without letting them know that I was behind them. I will also help the law-enforcing agencies when they conduct raids on criminal hideouts, as I will be able to move in the open without fear of being seen. This will help the people of the country to become law-abiding citizens.

We all should also realise this  that if we are bestowed with a power, We have to follow some duties and fulfil some responsibilities towards our society, our nation and the world. We have to use those powers in other’s welfare.

A misuse of power can make us devil, while it’s proper and good news will definitely make us angel or superhero in other’s eyes. So it is up to our senses to choose the right path.