类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-08-06 06:31:47


Again the tears flowed down the Clockwork man's cheeks, this time in a sequence of regular streams.Then the Clockwork man turned himself slowly round.Allingham had an explanation for everything. He said that the loud noise was due to some kind of machine that this ingenious lunatic carried in his pocket. He argued that the rapid flight was probably to be accounted for by a sort of electric shoe. Nothing was impossible so long as you could adduce some explanation that was just humanly credible. And the strange antics of the Clockwork man, his sudden stoppings and beginnings, his[Pg 44] "Anglo-Saxon" gestures and his staccato gait, all came under the heading of locomotor ataxia in an advanced form.

He held his breath and turned his head slowly to the right. For a long time the sound increased only very slightly. And then, there broke upon the general stillness a series of abrupt explosions.But what could it mean? Gregg rather prided himself upon the resiliency of his mind, but not all the elasticity of which he was capable could enable him to overcome a sudden sense of uneasiness. Was the Clockwork man, after all, no more than a very elaborate and highly complex puppet? But how could that be, since he breathed and spoke and gave every sign of the possession of an individual consciousness? Considered in this new light he was even more difficult to explain."Look here," he broke out, after a collected pause, "once and for all, who are you?"

His face suddenly cleared, and all trace of the canine resemblance vanished as if by magic. He got up and took two or three jerk-like strides up and down the room. "Must keep going鈥攚hen I feel like this鈥攅ither food or violent stimulus鈥攐therwise the confounded thing runs down鈥攁nd there you are.""Only about old Mr. Winchape," said Mrs. Masters, as she packed the tea things. "He's seen the man that knocked the cricketers down with the bat. That is, if he is a man, but they do say鈥"N.B.鈥擥reat care should be taken not to over-wind.

"You mustn't do anything like that again," he muttered hoarsely. "You鈥攎ust鈥攍et鈥攎e鈥攌now鈥攚hen鈥攜ou鈥攆eel it鈥攃oming on."He waddled swiftly along, and, to Arthur's great disappointment, disappeared round the corner of the hedge, so that it was impossible to get more than a fleeting glimpse of that fascinating object at the back of his head. But he was still speaking.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.

Allingham passed a hand across his forehead. "It all seems so feasible," he remarked, "once you grasp the mechanism. But what I don't understand鈥""Of course," replied the Clockwork man, clicking slightly, "quite different. The clock, you see, made man independent of Time and Space. It solved everything."V

"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."It must remain for ever a question for curious speculation as to what action might have been taken by Doctor Allingham and Gregg in conjunction, had they been able to pursue their investigation of the Clockwork man upon a thorough-going scale; for while their discussions were taking place the subject of them escaped from his confinement in the coal cellar.But a second later there was stony silence. For the thing that happened next was as unexpected as it was startling. Nobody, save perhaps Dr. Allingham, anticipated that the Clockwork man was capable of adding violence to eccentricity; he looked harmless enough. But apparently there lurked a d?monic temper behind those bland, meaningless features. The thing happened in a trice; and all that followed occupied but a few catastrophic seconds. The umpire had stepped up to the Clockwork man in order to explain to him that he was expected to retire from the wicket. Not hearing any coherent reply, he emphasised his request by placing a hand suggestively on the other's[Pg 37] shoulder. Instantly, something blade-like flashed in the stammering air, a loud thwack broke upon the silence, and the unfortunate umpire lay prostrate. He had gone down like a log of wood.

Tom paused for a moment and began to tremble. His teeth chattered violently, and he looked appealingly at his listeners as though afraid to continue.But he did not hurry. He twisted his head gradually round as though to embrace as much as possible in his last survey of a shapely, if limited world.Arthur became aware of two other figures approaching the one he was watching so intently. They were Gregg, the captain of the team, and Doctor Allingham. The yellow braid on their blazers shone in the sunlight, and Arthur could see the blue emblem on Gregg's pocket. There would have to be a meeting. The two flanelled figures were strolling along in a direct line towards that other oddly insistent form. Arthur caught his breath. Somehow he dreaded that encounter. When he looked again there was some kind of confabulation going on. Curiously enough, it was Doctor Allingham and Gregg who seemed[Pg 23] incapable of movement now. They stood there, with their hands in their pockets, staring, listening. But the Clockwork man was apparently making the utmost use of his limited range of action. His arms were busy. Sometimes he kicked a leg up, as though to emphasise some tremendously important point. And now and again he jabbed a finger out-wards in the direction of the field of play. Arthur caught the sound of a high, squeaky voice borne upon the light breeze.

The Doctor shut the door carefully and lifted a warning finger. "Gregg, this thing must never be known. It must never go beyond ourselves."Arthur considered. "I'm afraid it can't be explained," he murmured, "it just is."IV

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[Pg 106]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."I doubt if we shall see him before midnight," said the latter. "Even supposing he catches his man before dusk, which is unlikely, it will take him another hour or so to drive to the Asylum."

"Wallabaloo," replied the other, eagerly. "Walla鈥擮h, hang it鈥擧ulloa, now we've got it鈥擶allabaloo鈥擭o, we haven't鈥擝ang Wallop鈥攏ine and ninepence鈥"[Pg 98]"But what is it for?" gasped Arthur.




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