IAnd then he remembered the sudden growth of beard, and decided that it was useless to pursue that last thin thread of suspicion in his mind. For several seconds he said nothing at all, and the Clockwork man seemed to take advantage of the pause in order to wind himself up to a new pitch of coherency.So the argument had waged since the telling of Tom Driver's story. Gregg's chief difficulty was to get Allingham to see that there really might be something in this theory of a world in which merely trivial things had become permanent, whilst the cosmos itself, the hitherto unchanging outer environment of man's existence, might have opened up in many new directions. Man might have tired of waiting for a so long heralded eternity, and made one out of his own material tools. The Clockwork man, now crystallised in Gregg's mind as an unforgetable figure, seemed to him to stand for a sort of rigidity of personal being as opposed to the fickleness of mere[Pg 110] flesh and blood; but the world in which he lived probably had widely different laws, if indeed it had humanly comprehensible laws at all.I"He—he made things appear," gasped the Curate, with a great effort, "out of nowhere—positively.""Where did Mr. Winchape see him?" broke in Allingham, abruptly. 急速飞艇彩票手机app下载 Now the Curate, apart from a tendency to lose his head on occasion, was a perfectly[Pg 101] normal individual. There was nothing myopic about him. The human mind is so constituted that it can only receive certain impressions of abnormal phenomena slowly and through the proper channels. All sorts of fantastic ideas, intuitions, apprehensions and vague suspicions had been dancing upon the floor of the Curate's brain as he noticed certain peculiarities about his companion. But he would probably not have given them another thought if it had not been for what now happened.[Pg 153]"Gawd, it's spirits—that's what it is."Uppermost in the Doctor's mind was the reflection that he of all persons should have been selected by an undiscriminating providence to undergo this distressing and entirely unprecedented experience. It was an ironic commentary upon his reactionary views and his comfortable doctrine of common sense. He had been convinced in spite of himself, and the effort to resist conviction had strained his mental powers uncomfortably. He felt very strongly his inability to cope with the many problems that would be sure to arise in[Pg 156] connection with the Clockwork man. It was too much for one man's brain. There would have to be a convocation of all the cleverest men in Europe in order to investigate such an appalling revelation. He pictured himself in the act of introducing this genuine being from a future age, and the description he would have to give of all that had happened in connection with him. Even that prospect set his brain reeling. He would like to be able to shirk the issue. It was enough to have looked upon this archetype of the future; the problem now was to forget his existence."Unless what?" eagerly enquired Arthur, fearful of a final collapse."Incorrigible man," said Mrs. Masters. But the Doctor had turned his back upon her, unwilling to reveal the sudden change in his features. Even as he spoke those light words, there came to him the reflection that he did not really mean them, and his pose seemed to crumble to dust. He had lived up to these nothings for years, but now he knew that they were nothings. As though to crown the irritations of a trying day, there came to him the conviction that his whole life had been an affair of studied gestures, of meticulous gesticulations. "It would be ridiculous," he began, after several thoracic bifurcations, "for me to explain myself more fully to you. Unless you had a clock you couldn't possibly understand. But I hope I have made it clear that my world is a multiform world. It has a thousand[Pg 147] manifestations as compared to one of yours. It is a world of many dimensions, and every dimension is crowded with people and things. Only they don't get in each other's way, like you do, because there are always other dimensions at hand."Latterly he had suffered from strange irritations not easily to be ascribed to liver, misgivings, a sense of having definitely accepted a secondary edition of himself. An old acquaintance would have detected at once the change in his character, the marked leaning towards conservatism in politics and a certain reactionary tendency in his general ideas. He was becoming fixed in his views, and believed in a stable universe. His opinions, in fact, were as automatic as his Swedish exercises in the morning and his apple before breakfast. There was a slight compensatory increase in his sense of humour, and there was his approaching marriage to Lilian Payne, the gifted daughter of a wealthy town councillor.The Clockwork man looked as though he wanted to smile and didn't know how. His eyes twinkled faintly, but the rest of his face remained immobile, formal. "Very nearly right," he said, in quick, precise accents, "but not quite.""But do you all have clocks?" Arthur ventured. "Are you born with them?"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."He moved his arm slowly round in a circle, as though to reassure himself. The arm worked in a lop-sided fashion, like a badly shaped wheel, stiffly upwards and then quickly dropping down the curve. Then the Clockwork man lifted a leg and swung it swiftly backwards and forwards. At first the leg shot out sharply, and there seemed to be some difficulty about its withdrawal; but after a little practice it moved quite smoothly. He continued these experiments for a few moments, in complete silence and with a slightly anxious expression upon his face, as though he were really afraid things were not quite as they should be. "Tell me," said the Doctor, without moving a muscle in his face, "was she satisfied with her tour of my premises?"Gregg rested his head upon the back of the chair and puffed smoke out. "We will pass over the circumstance of his abrupt appearance at the top of the hill, for it is obvious that he might have come from one of the neighbouring villages, although I don't think he did. You yourself admit that his manner of approach was startling, and that it almost seemed as though he had come from nowhere. But let that be. There are, I admit, as yet few facts in support of my theory, but it is at least significant that one of the first questions he[Pg 53] asked should have been, not where he was but when he was.""Superstitious nonsense," snorted Allingham. And he continued to snort at intervals while Mrs. Masters hastily collected cups and plates, and retreated with dignity to the kitchen."Now that sounds interesting," murmured the Curate, as the other paused, although rather for matter than for breath, "it's so authoritative—as though it were a quotation from some standard work. All the same, and much as I should like to hear more—""Well, you prove yourself in the right," he muttered, "and then I'll apologise. I'm going to let the Clockwork man drop. I've got other things to think about. And I don't mind telling you that if the Clockwork man turns out to be all that you claim for him, I shall still wish him at the other end of the earth." At these words the Doctor threw up his arms in despair. "Then I write myself down a fool," he exclaimed, "I had no such wild hope, or such equally wild despair, with regard to the future of the human race. I admit that I have been behindhand. These matters have slipped from my grasp. The calls of ordinary life have claimed me, as they must every man past his first youth. But I am ready to believe anything that can be explained.""If you open the lid," explained the Clockwork man (and at the sound of that human[Pg 162] voice the doctor jumped violently), "you will see certain stops, marked with numbers."Allingham sat in stony silence, sipping tea at intervals and cutting pieces of cake into[Pg 41] neat little squares, which he slipped into his mouth spasmodically. Now and again he passed a hand across his big tawny moustache and pulled it savagely. His state of tense nervous irritation was partly due to the fact that he had been obliged to wait so long for his tea; but he had also violently disagreed with Gregg in their discussion about the Clockwork man. At the present moment the young student stood by the window, watching the animated crowd outside the inn. He had finished his tea, and he had no wish to push his own theory about the mysterious circumstance to the extent of quarrelling with his friend."Gamages," interrupted the Clockwork man, "wait—I seem to understand—it comes back to me—universal providers—cash account—nine and ninepence—nine and nine[Pg 97]pence—nine and ninepence—I beg your pardon."Gregg rested his head upon the back of the chair and puffed smoke out. "We will pass over the circumstance of his abrupt appearance at the top of the hill, for it is obvious that he might have come from one of the neighbouring villages, although I don't think he did. You yourself admit that his manner of approach was startling, and that it almost seemed as though he had come from nowhere. But let that be. There are, I admit, as yet few facts in support of my theory, but it is at least significant that one of the first questions he[Pg 53] asked should have been, not where he was but when he was."CHAPTER NINE 急速飞艇彩票手机app下载 "I grant you that," said the Doctor, hollowly, "I know only too well what effect this shock will have upon me. You are a younger man than I am, Gregg. I am glad you have been spared this sight.""Because," said Gregg, purposely adopting a monotonous drawl as though to conceal his eagerness, "if my theory is correct, then I assume that the Clockwork man comes from the future.""What year is it?" enquired the other suddenly, and without altering a muscle of his face.He took his place at the wicket. The first ball was an easy one, and he managed to hit it fair and square to mid-on. Scarcely hoping for response, he called to the Clockwork man, and began to run. To his immense astonishment, the latter passed him half-way down the pitch, his legs jumping from side to side, his arms swinging round irresponsibly. It might be said that his run was merely an exaggeration of his walk. Arthur dumped his bat down quickly, and turned. As he looked up, on the return journey, he was puzzled by the fact that there was no sign of his partner. He paused and looked around him."And yet, you look an intelligent sort of being," he continued, "even though you are an anachronism."Arthur heard a slight noise somewhere round the back of the cottage. "Someone coming," he warned. True, it was an illusion, and man had always known that. For generations he had known that the universe contained more than his limited faculties could perceive. And beauty. There had always been the consoling fact of beauty, lulling the race of man to content, while every now and again a great mind arose and made one more effort to sweep aside the bejewelled splendour that hung between man and his final destiny—to know."Walk up the lane," she whispered, "I'll come presently."[Pg 197]"Wallabaloo," echoed through the months. "Wum—wum—"Allingham frowned. His intuitions, nowadays, were few and far between.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. [Pg 188]The batsman at the other end was a stout, rather plethoric individual. He missed the first two balls, and the third struck him full in the stomach. There was a sympathetic pause whilst Mr. Bumpus, who was well known and respected in the town, rubbed this rather prominent part of his anatomy to the accompaniment of fish-like gaspings and excusable ejaculations. Mr. Bumpus was middle-aged and bald as well as corpulent, and although he did his best to endure the mishap with sportsman-like stoicism, the dismay written upon his perspiring features was certainly an excitant to mirth. Some of the fielders turned their heads for a few moments as though to spare themselves a difficult ordeal; but on the whole there was discreet silence.So the argument had waged since the telling of Tom Driver's story. Gregg's chief difficulty was to get Allingham to see that there really might be something in this theory of a world in which merely trivial things had become permanent, whilst the cosmos itself, the hitherto unchanging outer environment of man's existence, might have opened up in many new directions. Man might have tired of waiting for a so long heralded eternity, and made one out of his own material tools. The Clockwork man, now crystallised in Gregg's mind as an unforgetable figure, seemed to him to stand for a sort of rigidity of personal being as opposed to the fickleness of mere[Pg 110] flesh and blood; but the world in which he lived probably had widely different laws, if indeed it had humanly comprehensible laws at all."Be quick," said the Clockwork man, in a squeaky undertone, "something is going to happen.""You must explain that to me. I've forgotten the formula.""Well, isn't that what conjurers are supposed to do?" observed the Doctor, blandly. "None," he admitted, "but I was not out."Then the Clockwork man raised a hand slowly to his face, and Arthur knew that he was repeating his former meditative action, finger to nose. He remained in that position for another minute, as though the problem of which way to turn was almost too much for him. Finally, he turned sharp to the right and began to walk again."Really!" The Curate's jaw dropped several inches. "I must apologise. You see, I'm really rather flurried. I have the burden of this entertainment upon my shoulders. It was I who arranged the conjuring. I thought it would be so nice for the children." He started rubbing his hands together vigorously, as though to cover up his embarrassment. "Then—then you aren't the man from Gamages?""How can I help it?" implored the Clockwork man, in despair. "They made me like this. I don't want to alarm you—but, you know, it alarms me sometimes. You can't imagine how trying it is to feel that at any moment you might change into something else—some horrible tree-climbing ancestor. The thing ought not to happen, but it's always possible. They should have thought of that when they made the clock."The Doctor was scarcely as yet in the mind to study these phenomena accurately. At the back of his mind there was the thought of Mrs. Masters returning with the supper. He tried to resume ordinary speech, but the Clockwork man seemed abstracted, and the unfamiliarity of his appearance increased every second. It seemed to the Doctor that he had remembered a little dimple on the middle of the Clockwork man's chin, but now he couldn't see the dimple. It was covered with something brownish and delicate, something that was rapidly spreading until it became almost obvious.2. Open lid of Clock by means of catch. 急速飞艇彩票手机app下载 II"He asked Arthur Withers what year it was. Naturally, if he did come from the future, his first anxiety would be to know into what period of man's history he had, possibly by some accident, wandered.""Was he going very fast?" said Gregg.CHAPTER FIVEThey were in the hall now, and the Doctor was holding the street door open."Indeed, no," retorted Mrs. Masters, "it wouldn't be my place to give such messages. Not as though she weren't inquisitive enough[Pg 117]—with asking questions about this and that. As though it were any business of 'ers 'ow you choose to arrange your house'old." But there was no accounting for the activities of the Clockwork man. At a distance of about a yard from the barrier his whole body took off from the ground, and he literally floated in space over the obstacle. It was not jumping; it was more like flying. He landed lightly upon his feet, without the least difficulty; and, before the onlookers could recover from their amazement, this extraordinary personage had shot like a catapult, straight up the path along which he had travelled so precariously half an hour before. In a few seconds his diminutive figure passed into the horizon, leaving a faint trail of dust and the dying echo of that appalling noise.Fitted into the clock, in such a way that they could be removed, were a series of long tubes with valve-like endings. The Doctor had removed one or two of these and examined them very closely, but he could not arrive at any idea of their purpose.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—unbelievable, 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."We ought not to have let him play," said Allingham, irritably. He was standing beside Gregg in the pavilion.He broke off abruptly. Gregg was standing with his hands behind him. He shook his head gravely."No," said the Clockwork man, with a certain amount of dignity, "I am the man from nowhere."