CHAPTER SIX"The dream states," explained the Clockwork man, "are the highest point in clock evolution. They are very expensive, because it is a costly process to manufacture a dream. It's all rolled up in a spool, you see, and then you fit it into the clock and unroll it. The dreams are like life, only of course they aren't real. And then there are the records, you know, the music records. They fit into the clock as well."Still pressing his hands on the hurdle, he leaned upon them until the top part of his body hung perilously over. His face wore an expression of unutterable relief.Upstairs in the bedroom, Arthur hastily removed his flannels and paced the limited amount of floor space between the two beds. What a little box of a place it was, and how absurdly crammed with furniture! You couldn't move an inch without bumping into things or knocking something over. There wasn't room to swing a cat, much less to perform an elaborate toilet with that amount of leisurely comfort necessary to its successful accomplishment. Ordinarily he didn't notice these things; it was only when he was in a[Pg 68] hurry, and had all sorts of little duties to carry out, that the awkwardness of his surroundings forced themselves into his mind and produced a sense of revolt. There were times when everything seemed a confounded nuisance and a chair stuck in your way made you feel inclined to pitch it out of the window. Just when you wanted to enjoy simply being yourself, when your thoughts were running in a pleasant, easeful way, you had to turn to and dress or undress, shave or wash, prepare yourself for the conventions of life. So much of existence was spent in actions that were obligatory only because other people expected you to do the same as themselves. It wasn't so much a waste of time as a waste of life.But the Clockwork man made no reply. He was evidently absorbed in the effort to restart some process in himself. Presently his foot went down on the pavement with a smart bang. There followed a succession of sharp explosions, and the next second he glided smoothly away.That was why its effect was so distracting. It seemed to the doctor that the figure had popped up there on purpose to imitate the[Pg 2] action of a bowler and so baulk him. During the fraction of a second in which the ball reached him, this secondary image had blotted out everything else. But the behaviour of the figure was certainly abnormal. Its movements were violently ataxic. Its arms revolved like the sails of a windmill. Its legs shot out in all directions, enveloped in dust. 幸运飞艇倍投规律 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.IEfficiency! How he hated the word! It reminded him of his own heart-breaking struggles, not only with the difficulties of an exacting science, but with the complexities of the time in which his youth had been spent, a time when all the intelligent young men had been trying to find some way out of the social evils that then existed—and still existed, as an ironical memorial to their futile efforts. In those days one scarcely dared to move in intellectual circles without having evolved one's personal solution of the social problem, an achievement that implied a great deal of hard reading, attendance at Fabian meetings, and a certain amount of voluntary thinking.[Pg 39]Gregg smiled. "After all," he remarked, allowing a suitable pause to follow the Doctor's impassioned words, "it will not be for you or[Pg 187] me to decide the matter. Our humble part will be to produce the object of the problem. Wiser men than ourselves will have to interpret its significance.""I said next week," explained the other, "in order to make my meaning clear. Actually, of course, I don't describe time in such arbitrary terms. But when one is in Rome, you know. What I mean to convey is that I am capable of going not only somewhere, but also somewhen." [Pg 128]"Wait," said the Clockwork man, without altering his position, "moment of lucidity—see things as they are—begin to understand—[Pg 89]finite world—only one thing at a time. Now we've got it—a place for everything and everything in its place."The Doctor shut the door carefully and lifted a warning finger. "Gregg, this thing must never be known. It must never go beyond ourselves.""Dear me," the Curate resumed at last, "there must be some mistake. You don't look to me like a conjurer. You see, I wrote to Gamages, and they promised they would send a man. Naturally, I thought when you—""But the streets and houses?" hazarded Allingham, "aren't they like ours?"It followed upon this experiment that the Clockwork man presently emitted a faint, quavering protest. He had certainly dwindled in bulk. His clothes hung upon him, and there was a distressing feebleness of frame. Slowly it dawned upon the Doctor that the face peering up at him was that of a very old and decrepit individual. Painful lines crossed his forehead, and there were rheumy lodgements in the corner of each eye. The change was rapidly progressive. As the car sped swiftly along, Gregg sat back with folded arms and gazed upwards at the now crystalline skies, wondering, as he had never wondered before, about that incomprehensible immensity which for centuries of successive generations man had silently respected. No authoritative voice had ever claimed to penetrate that supreme mystery. Priests had evoked the gods from that starry depth, poets had sung of the swinging hemispheres, scientists had traced comets and knew the quality of each solar earth; but still that vast arch spanned all the movements of crawling mankind, and closed him in like a basin placed over a colony of ants."Stop a minute," exclaimed Gregg, arising in sheer astonishment, "you seem to be upset. I don't understand what you are raving about."THE COMING OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN"It's a harmless enough assumption," laughed Allingham.Pfft—Pfft—Pfft—Pfft—Pfft—He rescued his trousers from underneath the mattress. It was only recently that he had discovered this obvious substitute for a trouser press, and so added one more nuisance to existence. It was something else to be remembered. He grinned pleasantly at the thought of the circumstance which had brought about these careful habits. Rose Lomas liked him to look smart, and he had managed it somehow. There were plenty of dapper youths in Great Wymering, and Arthur had been astute enough to notice wherein he had differed from them, in the first stages of his courting. Early rebuffs had led him to perceive that the[Pg 69] eye of love rests primarily upon a promising exterior, and only afterwards discovers the interior qualities that justify a wise choice. Arthur had been spurned at first on account of a slovenliness that, to do him justice, was rather the result of personal conviction, however erring, than mere carelessness. He really had felt that it was a waste of life even to spend half an hour a month inside a barber's shop. Not only that, but the experience was far-reaching in its unpleasant consequences. You went into the shop feeling agreeably familiar with yourself, conscious of intense personality; and you came out a nonentity, smelling of bay-rum. The barber succeeded in transforming you from an individual brimming over with original reflections and impulses into a stranger without a distinctive notion in your head. The barber, in fact, was a Delilah in trousers; he ravished the locks from your head and bewitched you into the bargain. He glanced up at her photograph on the mantelpiece. If there was a flaw in the composition of her fair, Saxon beauty, it was that the mouth was a little too large and opened rather too easily, disclosing teeth that were not as regular as they should be. But nature's blunder often sets the seal on man's choice, and to the Doctor this trifling fault gave warmth and vivacity to a face that might easily have been cold and impassive, especially as her eyes were steel blue and she had no great art in the use of them. Her voice, too, often startled the listener by its occasional note that[Pg 125] suggested an excitability of temperament barely under control."That was what the makers did for man," resumed the other. "Life had become impossible, and it was the only practical way out of the difficulty. You see, the makers were very clever, and very mild and gentle. They were quite different to ordinary human beings. To begin with, they were real."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—so far as was possible—of 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 Curate's heart thumped slowly. "But how did you do it?" he gasped. "And your arm, you know—it wasn't there!""I cannot," groaned the Doctor, his face hidden between his hands. And then he looked up quickly, and his eyes cleared. "Perhaps, after all, that is the consoling feature of the affair. If the Clockwork man were really capable of explanation, then indeed there would be an end to all sanity. But since he is inexplicable, there still remains the chance that we may be able to put all thought of him out of our minds. I tell you, Gregg, I can live this down, I can forget this night of horror; but not if there is an explanation to fit the case. Not if I can satisfy my reason!"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. 幸运飞艇倍投规律 He glanced up at her photograph on the mantelpiece. If there was a flaw in the composition of her fair, Saxon beauty, it was that the mouth was a little too large and opened rather too easily, disclosing teeth that were not as regular as they should be. But nature's blunder often sets the seal on man's choice, and to the Doctor this trifling fault gave warmth and vivacity to a face that might easily have been cold and impassive, especially as her eyes were steel blue and she had no great art in the use of them. Her voice, too, often startled the listener by its occasional note that[Pg 125] suggested an excitability of temperament barely under control."Sometimes. Chaps people don't understand. That's because they like beauty more than anything else, and not many people really care about beauty. They only think of it when they see a sunset or look at pictures. If you can forget beauty, then you're alright. Nobody thinks you're strange. You don't have any difficulties.""Excuse me," Arthur ventured, huskily, "did you wish to speak to me?"The doctor's astonishment was turned into annoyance by the spectacle of his shattered wicket. A vague clatter of applause broke out. The wicket-keeper stooped down to pick up the bails. The fielders relaxed and flopped down on the grass. They seemed to have discovered suddenly that it was a hot afternoon, and that cricket was, after all, a comparatively strenuous game. One of the umpires, a sly, nasty fellow, screwed up his eyes and looked hard at the doctor as the latter passed him, walking with the slow, meditative gait of the bowled out, and swinging his gloves. There was nothing to do but to glare back, and make the umpire feel a worm. The doctor wore an eye-glass, and he succeeded admirably. His irritation boiled over and produced a sense of ungovernable, childish rage. Somehow, he had not been able to make any runs this season, and his bowling average was all to pieces. He began to think he ought to give up cricket. He was getting[Pg 3] past the age when a man can accept reverses in the spirit of the game, and he was sick and tired of seeing his name every week in the Great Wymering Gazette as having been dismissed for a "mere handful."Gregg smiled. "After all," he remarked, allowing a suitable pause to follow the Doctor's impassioned words, "it will not be for you or[Pg 187] me to decide the matter. Our humble part will be to produce the object of the problem. Wiser men than ourselves will have to interpret its significance."It was also manifest that the Clockwork man was capable of almost limitless adaptability. Several of the stops produced only slight changes or the first beginnings of some fundamental alteration of structure. Usually these changes were of a sufficiently alarming character to cause the Doctor immediately to check them by further experiments. The Clockwork man seemed to be an epitome of everything that had ever existed. After one experiment he developed gills. Another produced frightful atavistic snortings. There was one short-lived episode of a tail. "I see," said Allingham, slowly, "it is because you are, so to speak, temporarily incapacitated, that you are able to come down to the level of our world.""But I can't help it," pleaded the Doctor. "Take away my humour and I'm frightened at what's left of myself. There's nothing but an appalling chaos.""But didn't the other people object?" said Arthur.IIAnd then, when that change had been wrought, that physical reconstruction, what else might follow in its train? The Truth at last, an end to all suffering and pain, a solution[Pg 113] of the problems of civilisation, such as overpopulation and land distribution, the beginning of human sovereignty in the universe."Exceedingly." The Clockwork man's head nodded up and down with a regular rhythm. "The whole aim of man is convenience." He jerked himself forward a few paces, as though[Pg 81] impelled against his will. "But my present situation, you know, is extremely inconvenient." "None," he admitted, "but I was not out."Allingham stood up and slowly rolled down his sleeves and put on his blazer. Of course, Gregg was like that, a thorough sportsman, taking the good with the bad. But then he was only twenty-four. You could be like that then, so full of life and high spirits that generosity flowed from you imperceptibly and without effort. At forty you began to shrivel up. Atrophy of the finer feelings. You began to be deliberately and consistently mean and narrow. You took a savage delight in making other people pay for your disappointments."Ignoramus," laughed the Doctor. "A woman's first child is always her husband."He was still a little sorry for the Clockwork man."Einstein!" The Clockwork man's features altered just perceptibly to an expression of faint surprise. "Is he already born?"Yes, love made everything different! You were ready to put up with all inconveniences and indignities for the sake of that strange obsession. That thought consoled him as he[Pg 71] crept on hands and knees in order to pick up his safety razor that had dropped behind the bulky chest of drawers. Love accounted for everything, both serious and comic. Along the path that led from Bapchurch to Great Wymering there walked two persons, slowly, and with an air of having talked themselves into embarrassed silence. Their steps[Pg 199] were gradually bringing them to the stile upon which Arthur and Rose sat."Did the legs go on kicking?" said Gregg, quickly.Attention was diverted by something of minor importance, that showed the Clockwork man in an altogether new and puzzling light. There had been some delay over the procuring of the third ball, and when this was forthcoming the over was called. The fielders changed about, but the Clockwork man made no attempt to move and manifested no interest in the immediate proceedings. He remained, with the bat in his hands, as though waiting for another ball to be delivered."I see the man," he began, timidly, "I see 'im as I was going along the path to Bapchurch.""I think," said Gregg, with curious calmness, "I think we had better warn the police. He's likely to be dangerous.""That I can follow," said the Doctor, wrinkling his brows, "that seems to me fairly clear. I can just grasp that, as the hypothesis of another sort of world. But what I don't understand, what I can't begin to understand, is how you work, how this mechanism which you talk about functions." 幸运飞艇倍投规律 "Go hon!" exclaimed Mrs. Flack, leaning her red folded arms upon the table, "well I never!"Presently the Clockwork man got up and began walking up and down the room, in his slow, flat-footed manner."Gawd," he gasped, "it's a blooming ghost."He threw the hat into infinity and produced a parrot cage with parrot."I meant it to," said Lilian, firmly. "I want you to be cut to the quick. It's our only chance.""All this is obvious," said the Doctor, "I have seen enough to convince me of that." Allingham paused in the turning of the handle and stared, aghast, at his companion. There was no mistaking the significance of the remark, and it had been spoken in tones of strange tenderness. Rapidly there swept across the Doctor's mind a sensation of complete conviction. If there was any further proof required of the truth of Gregg's conjecture, surely it was expressed in this apparently insane and yet obviously sincere solicitude on the part of the Clockwork man for an inanimate machine? He recognised in the mechanism before him a member of his own species!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.[Pg 208]"Bring up anything you can find," the Doctor whispered in Mrs. Masters' ear, "my friend has had rather a long journey. Anything you can find. Surely we have things in tins."Besides, it was distressing to discover that, in middle life, he was no longer in the vanguard of human hopes and fears; but a miserable backslider, dating back to the time when thought and serious living had become[Pg 115] too difficult for comfort. Regarded in this way, nothing could ever compensate for the wasted years, the ideals extinguished, the rich hopes bargained for cheap doubts—unless, indeed, it was the reflection that such was the common lot of mankind. The comfortable old world rolled on from generation to generation, and nothing extraordinary happened to startle people out of their complacent preoccupation with passions, desires and ambitions. Miracles were supposed to have happened at certain stages in world-history, but they were immediately obliterated by a mass of controversial comment, or hushed up by those whose axes were ground in a world that could be relied upon to go on repeating itself.Gregg beat his fist into his open palm. "But that's just what has happened," he exclaimed, "they've found a way of keeping on just the same. That explains the Clarkson business. If the clock is what I think it is, that precisely is its function."