"But it must be somewhere," objected Arthur, "that's obvious."He broke off and struggled with some queer kind of mechanical emotion. "And now they play games with us. They wind us up and make us do all sorts of things, just for fun. They try all sorts of experiments with us, and we can't help ourselves because we're in their power; and if they like they can stop the clock, and then we aren't anything at all."The commotion subsided as abruptly as it had begun, and the Doctor enquired, with as much grace as his outraged instincts would allow, whether he could offer him any more.
"To having the clock fitted into them."CHAPTER TWO"It's an instrument," rejoined Gregg, leaning over the side of the car. "Evidently it has some sort of effect upon the fundamental processes of the human organism. That's clear, to me. Probably it replaces some of the ordinary functions and alters others. One gets a sort of glimmer鈥攐f an immense speeding up of the entire organism, and the brain of man developing new senses and powers of apprehension. They would have all sorts of second sights and subsidiary senses. They would feel their way about in a larger universe, creep into all sorts of niches and corners unknown to us, because of their different construction."
One evening Arthur Withers and Rose Lomas sat together on their favourite stile talking in low whispers. The summer dusk lagged, and the air about them was so still that between their softly spoken words they could hear the talk of innumerable insects in the grass at their feet. There had been few interruptions. So familiar had their figures become in that position, that it had grown to be almost a tradition among the people who passed that way during the evening to cross the stile without disturbing the lovers. There are ways, too, of sitting upon a stile without incommoding the casual pedestrian.But it was not to be yet. That was the burden of their subdued murmurings. It couldn't be done on Arthur's present income, and he was still less certain than ever that it could be regarded as cumulative or even permanent. Rose understood. To her country-bred mind it was marvellous that Arthur should succeed in adding up so many figures during the course of a day, even though the result did not always meet with the approval of the bank authorities. They would have to wait."I'm not. I really noticed them. Of course, I didn't attach much importance to them at the time, but afterwards, when Arthur[Pg 56] Withers was telling his story, all that queer feeling about the strange figure came back to me. It took possession of me. After all, suppose he is a clockwork man?"
"No, sir, not then. But the 'ands was moving very fast, and there was a sort of 'umming going on like a lot of clocks all going on at once, only quiet like. I was so taken back I didn't know what to do, but presently I caught 'old of 'is legs and tried to pull 'im out. It weren't a easy job, 'cos 'is legs was kicking all the time, and although I 'ollered out to 'im 'e took no notice. At last I dragged 'im out, and 'e lay on the grass, still kicking. 'E never even tried to get up, and at last I took 'old of his shoulders and picked 'im up. And then, as soon as I got 'im up and stood 'im on his feet, and afore I 'ad time to 'ave a good look at 'im, off he goes, like greased lightning. An awful noise started, like[Pg 61] machinery, and afore I 'ad time to turn round 'e was down the path towards Bapchurch and out of sight. I tell you, sir, it gave me a proper turn.""Yes, you wouldn't know about them, although you're not unlike a maker yourself. Only you wear clothes like us, and the makers don't wear clothes. That was what puzzled[Pg 207] me about you. The look in your eyes reminded me of a maker. They came after the last wars. It's all written in history. There was a great deal of fighting and killing and blowing up and poisoning, and then the makers came and they didn't fight. It was they who invented the clock for us, and after that every man had to have a clock fitted into him, and then he didn't have to fight any more, because he could move about in a multiform world where there was plenty of room for everybody.""Yes," echoed Gregg enthusiastically, "a multiform world. A world in which man moves as he will, grows as he will, behaves in every way exactly as he wills. A world set free! Think of what it means!"
And yet this wildly incredible being, this unspeakable travesty of all living organisms, this thing most opposite to humanity, actually breathed and conversed. He was a sentient being. He was more than man, for he could[Pg 169] be turned into something else by simply pressing a stop. Properly understood, there was no doubt that the mechanism permitted the owner of it to run up and down the evolutionary scale of species according to adjustment."Oh, wait," said Lilian, "I had to have it out with you. I had to talk of these things,[Pg 202] as though talking's any good! I couldn't let you just take me for granted. Don't you see? I suppose all this talk between us is nothing but an extension of the age-long process of mating. I'm just like the primitive woman running away from her man.""What!" rapped out Allingham.
"It's an instrument," rejoined Gregg, leaning over the side of the car. "Evidently it has some sort of effect upon the fundamental processes of the human organism. That's clear, to me. Probably it replaces some of the ordinary functions and alters others. One gets a sort of glimmer鈥攐f an immense speeding up of the entire organism, and the brain of man developing new senses and powers of apprehension. They would have all sorts of second sights and subsidiary senses. They would feel their way about in a larger universe, creep into all sorts of niches and corners unknown to us, because of their different construction.""But what is it for?" gasped Arthur.An extra gleam of light shone in the other's eye, and he seemed to ponder deeply over this statement.
"Let me explain," urged the Clockwork man, who was gaining in verbal ease and intellectual elasticity every moment. "Supposing[Pg 90] I was to hit you hard. You would fall down. You would become supine. You would assume a horizontal position at right angles to your present perpendicularity." He gazed upwards at the tall figure of the constable. "But if you were to hit me, I should have an alternative. I could, for example, fall into the middle of next week.""Is that how you feel?" Arthur enquired. He came nearer still, as though to hear better. But the other got into a muddle with his affirmative. He flapped an ear in staccato fashion, and Arthur hastily withdrew."Perhaps I ought to explain," he continued. "You see, I'm a clockwork man."
The Doctor harked back in his mind to the beginning of their talk. "But you objected to[Pg 200] my house," he mused, "that was how the discussion arose. And now we've got somewhere up in the stars."His voice trailed away and ended in a soft, tinkling sound, like sheep bells heard in the distance. During the long pause that followed Arthur had time to recall that sense of pity for this grotesque being which had accompanied his first impression of him; but now his feeling swelled into an infinite compassion, and with it there came to him a fierce questioning fever."A young lady called to see you this evening," she announced, smilingly.
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"Was he going very fast?" said Gregg."I begin to grasp what you mean," said Allingham, digging his chin into his hands, "as an idea, that is. It seems to me that, to borrow the words of Shakespeare, I have long dreamed of such a kind of man as you. But now that you are before me, in the鈥攅r鈥攆lesh, I find myself unable to accept you."All these clamouring reforms represented to him merely a disinclination to bother about the necessary affairs of life, an evasion of inevitable evils, a refusal to accept life as a school of learning by trial and error. Besides, if women got hold of the idea of efficiency there would be an end to all things. They would make a worse muddle of the "mad dream" than the men. Women made fewer mistakes and they were temperamentally inclined towards the pushing of everything that they undertook to the point of violent and uncomfortable success.
Arthur felt a sudden clutching sensation in the region of his heart. Of course, he had[Pg 11] heard of people being able to move their ears slightly. That was common knowledge. But the ears of this man positively vibrated. They were more like the wings of some strange insect than human ears. It was a ghastly spectacle鈥攗nbelievable, yet obvious. Arthur tried to walk away; he looked this way and that, but it was impossible to resist the fascination of those flapping ears. Besides, the strange figure had seen him. He was fixing him with eyes that did not move in their sockets, but stared straight ahead; and Arthur had placed himself in the direct line of their vision. The expression in the eyes was compelling, almost hypnotic."But that's not very kind of them," suggested Arthur."Lovely evening," she remarked, presently.详情
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