类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-09-22 15:17:39


The face disappeared, and the Curate's doubts evaporated for the moment. "Will you come this way?" he continued, and led the way through a long, dark passage to the back of the hall. Behind the screen, upon which the picture was being shown, there was a small space, and here a stage had been erected. Upon a small table in the centre stood a large bag and some packages. The Curate adjusted the small gas-jet so as to produce an illumination sufficient to move about. "We must talk low," he explained, pointing to the screen in front of them, "the cinematograph is still showing. We shall be ready in about ten minutes. Can you manage in that time?""Well, of course I can't explain that exactly, but the term so obviously explains itself. Damn it, he is a clockwork man. He walks, talks, and behaves exactly like one would imagine鈥"Arthur swallowed quickly and tried to[Pg 65] explain. But, although the affair was still hot in his mind, he found it exceedingly difficult to describe exactly what had taken place. The doings of the Clockwork man were at once obvious and inexplicable. It was almost impossible to intrigue people who had not actually witnessed the affair into a realisation of such extraordinary happenings. Arthur had to resort to abrupt movements of his arms and legs in order to produce an effect. But he made a great point of insistence upon the ear-flapping.

It would require a mathematical diagram to describe the incident with absolute accuracy. The Curate, of course, had heard nothing about the Clockwork man's other performances; he had scarcely heeded the hints thrown out about the possibility of movement in other dimensions. It seemed to him, in the uncertain light of their surroundings, that the Clockwork man's right arm gradually disappeared into space. There was no arm there at all. Afterwards, he remembered a brief moment when the arm had begun to grow vague and transparent; it was moving very rapidly, in some direction, neither up nor down, nor this way or that, but along some shadowy plane. Then it went into nothing, evaporated from view. And just as suddenly, it swung back into the plane of the curate's vision, and the hand at the end of it grasped a silk hat.The Doctor shut the door carefully and lifted a warning finger. "Gregg, this thing must never be known. It must never go beyond ourselves.""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."

The Clockwork man shook his head. "We have houses, but they are not full of things like yours are, and we don't live in them. They are simply places where we go when we take ourselves to pieces or overhaul ourselves. They are鈥" his mouth opened very wide, "the nearest approach to fixed objects that we have, and we regard them as jumping-off places for successive excursions into various dimensions. Streets are of course unnecessary, since the only object of a street is to lead from one place to another, and we do that sort of thing in other ways. Again, our houses are[Pg 146] not placed together in the absurd fashion of yours. They are anywhere and everywhere, and nowhere and nowhen. For instance, I live in the day before yesterday and my friend in the day after to-morrow."A faint wrinkle of perplexity appeared on the other's forehead. He shook his head once "Place. There, again, I can't grasp that idea. What is a place? And how does a thing come to be in one place and not in another?" He jerked a hand up as though to emphasise the point. "A thing either is or it isn't. It can't be in a place."He broke off abruptly. Gregg was standing with his hands behind him. He shook his head gravely.

"Everything happens," said the other, "exactly as you want it to happen."It was just as Doctor Allingham had congratulated himself upon the fact that the bowling was broken, and that he had only to hit now and save the trouble of running, just as he was scanning the boundaries with one eye and with the other following Tanner's short, crooked arm raised high above the white sheet at the back of the opposite wicket, that he noticed the strange figure. Its abrupt appearance, at first sight like a scare-crow dumped suddenly on the horizon, caused him to lessen his grip upon the bat in his hand. His mind wandered for just that fatal moment, and his vision of the on-coming bowler was swept away and its place taken by that arresting figure of a man coming over the path at the top of the hill, a man whose attitude, on closer examination, seemed extraordinarily like another man in the act of bowling.[Pg 211]

Her tears gushed forth, inexplicably, even to Arthur, who thought he understood so much that was difficult to understand. He had let loose his feeling without any real knowledge of its depth, or that which it aroused in Rose.The Doctor found his voice again. "Great heavens," he burst out, in a hysterical shout. "Stop it. You must stop it鈥擨 simply can't stand it.""But what is the real world like?" questioned Arthur.

ESTABLISHED OVER 2,000 YEARS.But at that moment, as the constable afterwards described it to himself, it seemed to him that there came before his eyes a sort of mist. The figure leaning against the lamp-post looked less obvious. He did not appear now to be a palpable individual at all, but a sort of shadowy outline of himself, blurred and in[Pg 91]distinct. The constable rubbed his eyes and stretched out a hand."It was not until the fifty-ninth century," continued the Clockwork man, speaking with a just perceptible click, "that man became a conjurer in real life. We have here an instance of the complete turning over of human ideas. Ancient man conjured for amusement; modern man conjures as a matter of course. Since the[Pg 99] invention of the clock and all that its action implies, including the discovery of at least three new dimensions, or fields of action, man's simplest act of an utilitarian nature may be regarded as a sort of conjuring trick. Certainly our forefathers, if they could see us as we are now constituted, would regard them as such鈥"

"But what happens," Arthur wanted to know, "when the clock works properly?""No," said Arthur, and he glanced at the Clockwork man's bald forehead and noticed something peculiar about the construction of the back of his head; there seemed to be[Pg 78] some object there which he could not see because they were facing each other. "I'm sorry," he continued, looking rather hopelessly around him, "perhaps we could find them somewhere."I

The game restarted. Tanner, who had by this time taken eight wickets for just under a hundred runs, put down a slow, tricky one. Everybody agreed, in discussing the matter afterwards, that the Clockwork man never shifted his position or moved a muscle until the ball pitched, slightly to the off. Nobody seems to have seen exactly what happened, but there was a sudden ear-piercing crack and a swoop of dust.4. Press stops A and B well home, and wind up by turning red hand.But the Clockwork man paid not the slightest heed to the command. He remained, statuesque, a figure of gross indifference. Mr. Bumpus pulled himself up sharply, mid-way between the two wickets; his red face was a study in bewilderment. He slid a few paces, cast one imploring glance in the direction of the Clockwork man, and then rushed desperately back to his own crease. But he was too late; his wicket had been put down.

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Now, the afternoon was very warm and very still. Where they stood the only sounds that could reach them were the slight crack of the batted ball, and the soft padding of the fielders.[Pg 15] That was why the thing that happened next could hardly be mistaken. It began by the strange figure suddenly putting both hands upon the top of the hurdle and raising himself up about an inch off the ground. He looked all at once enormously alive and vital. Light flashed in his eyes.But he was alive. The Doctor had made sure of that by certain tentative experiments; and he had also taken advantage of his passive condition in order to make a thorough examination鈥攕o far as was possible鈥攐f this marvel of the future. As a result of his investigation, the Doctor had failed to come to any definite conclusion; there was merely deepened in him a sense of outrage and revolt. It was impossible to accept the Clockwork man as a human being.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."

Here, however, the discussion came to an abrupt conclusion, for something was happening to the Clockwork man.He passed into the interior of the pavilion. Someone said, "Hard luck, Allingham," and he kept his eyes to the ground for fear of the malice that might shoot from them. He flung his bat in a corner and sat down to unstrap his pads. Gregg, the captain, came in. He was a cool, fair young man, fresh from Cambridge. He came in grinning, and only stopped when he saw the expression on Allingham's face."Of course, I'm only a sort of amateur," Arthur continued, modestly. "But I do like books, and I can generally get at what a chap's driving at鈥攊n a way."




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