"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."The Clockwork man shifted his head very slightly, and one eye screwed slowly round."But didn't the other people object?" said Arthur.CHAPTER FIVESo far as the Clockwork man's features were capable of change, there passed across them a faint expression of triumph and satisfaction. "I perceive," he remarked, "that I have indeed lapsed into a world of curiously insufficient and inefficent beings. I have fallen amongst the Unclocked. They cannot perceive Nowhere. They do not understand Nowhen. They lack senses and move about on a single plane. Henceforth, I shall act with greater confidence."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. 时时彩任四直选单式 THE CLOCKWORK MAN."You're right, Sam," said George Bynes, who had hit up many a century for his town in bygone days, "tain't cricket. Else it's a[Pg 28] fluke; the man didn't ought to be allowed to hold bat in his hand. It's spoiling other folks' sport.""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."[Pg 133]He found his razor, plunged it into cold water—he had forgotten to ask Mrs. Flack for hot, and couldn't be bothered now—and lathered his face thoughtfully."But how could it be?" exclaimed[Pg 107] Allingham, kicking a loose stone in his walk. "This clock, I mean. It's—" He fumbled hopelessly for words with which to express new doubts. "What is this clock?" III"But must you always be like this?" he began, with a suppressed crying note in his voice. "Is there no hope for you?""Let's go back," whispered Lilian, and they turned and retraced their steps. The sight of the lovers sealed their lips. Doctor Allingham struggled for a few moments with a strange sense of bigness wanting to escape. Almost it was a physical sensation; as though the nervous energy in his brain had begun to flow independently of the controls that usually guided it through the channels graven by knowledge and experience. It was Lilian who spoke next, and there was a note of pain in her voice."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—in a way.""Quite," murmured the Doctor. He was leaning forward now, with his elbows resting on the table and his head on one side. "I can see that. There are certain things about you that strike one as being obvious. But what beats me at present is how—and where—" he looked, figuratively speaking, at the inside of the Clockwork man, "I mean, in what part of your anatomy the—er—motive force is situated.""But—surely!" The Doctor sat down again and groaned. "Surely you cannot accept such a story without a sign of incredulity? What state of mind is that which can believe such things without having seen them? Why, you credulous fool, I might have invented the whole thing!" It was this circumstance that accounted for the Vicar's late arrival at the entertainment given in aid of the church funds that night. He had lingered over his sermon until the last moment, and then hurried off with only a slight pause in which to glance at himself in the hall mirror. He walked swiftly along the dark streets in the direction of the Templars' Hall, which was situated at the lower end of the town. Perhaps it was because of his own desperate hurry that he scarcely noticed that other figure approaching him, and in a straight line. He swerved slightly in order to allow the figure to pass, and continued on his way."I must be getting back," said the Clockwork man to himself, as he trundled slowly over the hump of the meadow and approached the stile. "I shall only make a muddle of things here.""On the contrary, I am flattered," said the Doctor, inwardly chafing at this new example of Lilian's originality. "But tell me, Mrs. Masters, am I not becoming more successful with the ladies?" As he spoke, he flicked with his gloves the reflection of himself in the mirror."Well," the reply was shot out at last, "how do you work?" The repartee of the Clockwork man was none the less effective for being suspended, as it were, for a second or two before delivery.He was still a little sorry for the Clockwork man."If you like," admitted Gregg, "only it does help them to understand, just as all our scientific knowledge helps us to understand, the future." "The makers?" echoed Arthur."Does that mean that you can mend people?" he enquired, at last."If you saw him," said Arthur, emphatically, "you'd have to believe. It's just that, and nothing else. He's like one of those mechanical toys come to life. And it's so funny. You'd never guess.""Was there a loud noise?" asked Gregg.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.And then Arthur was quite sure about something that he had been vaguely hearing for some moments. It sounded like about a hundred alarum clocks all going off at once, muffled somehow, but concentrated. It was a sort of whirring, low and spasmodic at first, but broadening out into something more regular, less frantic. 时时彩任四直选单式 "Then why—" began the Doctor, as though this begged the whole question.He hovered on the doorstep, rubbing his hands together and looking timidly up at the stars as though half expecting to see a sign. "It distressed me at first," he resumed, "because he was such an odd-looking person, and the whole experience was really on the humorous side. I wanted to laugh at him,[Pg 130] and it made me feel so disgraceful. But I'm quite sure he was a manifestation of something, perhaps an apotheosis."Slowly, with his customary stiffness of movement, the Clockwork man raised his arms upwards and removed the soft clerical hat. He held it aloft, as though uncertain what to do with it, and the Doctor took it from him with a shaking hand.The surgery was a low-pitched apartment, and it was approached by patients from the outside by way of the area steps. One door communicated with the dark passage that led to the kitchen quarters, and the other opened directly upon the area. A double row of shelves, well stocked with bottles, occupied the centre of the room and divided it into two halves. Beneath the window stood the Doctor's neat bureau, and to the left of this was a low couch beside the wall. A shaded lamp on the desk was sufficient to light the room for ordinary purposes; but there was a gas burner near the further door, which had to be lit when the Doctor was engaged upon[Pg 155] some very close examination or had to perform a slight operation. Directly underneath this burner there stood an arm-chair of ample proportions, and it was here that the Clockwork man had seated himself at the beginning of his orgy.The Clockwork man lay in the coal cellar, which was situated in the area, just opposite the surgery door. He lay there, stiff and stark, with an immobile expression upon his features, and his eyes and mouth wide open.IV IVSlowly, with a wildly beating heart, the Doctor inserted a trembling finger among the interstices of those multitudinous stops and hands, and as slowly withdrew it again. He could not do this thing. For one thing, his finger was too large. It was a ridiculously clumsy instrument for so fine a purpose. What if he failed? Pressed a knob too hard or set a hand spinning in the wrong direction? The least blunder—"What's that noise?" he demanded thoroughly frightened by now."Was there a loud noise?" asked Gregg.The Clockwork man stared blankly at his interrogator. "Watercress," he remarked, "is not much in my line. Something solid, if you have it, and as much as possible. I feel a trifle faint.""On the contrary, I am flattered," said the Doctor, inwardly chafing at this new example of Lilian's originality. "But tell me, Mrs. Masters, am I not becoming more successful with the ladies?" As he spoke, he flicked with his gloves the reflection of himself in the mirror. The Clockwork man sighed, a long, whistling sigh. "I wish you would mend me. I'm all wrong you know. Something has got out of place, I think. My clock won't work properly.""But—surely!" The Doctor sat down again and groaned. "Surely you cannot accept such a story without a sign of incredulity? What state of mind is that which can believe such things without having seen them? Why, you credulous fool, I might have invented the whole thing!""I meant it to," said Lilian, firmly. "I want you to be cut to the quick. It's our only chance.""I beg your pardon," said Arthur, hastily.What was he going to do next? He had[Pg 22] reached to the end of the field and stopped abruptly. Apparently, the presence of another barrier acted as a complete check to further movement. For several seconds he remained perfectly still. He was now about a hundred yards from Arthur, but the latter had good eyesight, and he was determined to miss nothing.But duty to his parishioners remained uppermost in the conscientious Vicar's mind, and it was not fair to them that he should[Pg 86] catch his death of cold. He hurried back to the vicarage. For a quarter of an hour he pulled open drawers, ransacked cupboards, searching everywhere for an old wig that had been discarded and a new hat that had never been worn. He found them at last and arrived, breathless and out of temper, in the middle of the cinematograph display which constituted the first part of the performance. "You're simply imagining all these things," said Allingham, hotly, as he rammed tobacco into his pipe.CHAPTER NINEBy this time the Doctor's condition of hysteria had given way to a sort of desperate recklessness. He had somehow to restore the Clockwork man to some semblance of passable humanity. He pressed stops and twisted hands[Pg 165] with an entire disregard for the occasional instructions bellowed at him by the unfortunate object of his random experiments. He felt that the very worst could scarcely surpass what had already taken place. And it was obvious that the Clockwork man had but the haziest notions about his own mechanism. Evidently he was intended to be adjusted by some other person. He was not, in that sense, autonomous."I don't quite follow you," interjected Allingham."'Ere, stow that gammon," broke in the constable, impatiently, "s'nuff of that sort of talk. You come along with me." He spat determinedly and prepared to take action."I suppose not," Arthur admitted, humbly. 时时彩任四直选单式 He sank into a chair and covered his face with his hands. The presence of another person brought a kind of relief to his pent up feelings. He let himself go.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.ICHAPTER FIVE"Besides," he added, in a formal whisper, "there's the children.""Whoever was that person you were talking to?" she enquired, as soon as they stood together. "It mustn't happen," said the Doctor, recovering slightly, "that's the flat fact. If it's food you require, then food you shall have.""But this does not explain him," broke in the Doctor, bitterly.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.""You see," said Allingham, nodding his head and wiping his moustache with a handkerchief, "let the thing work on your[Pg 49] mind and you ally yourself with these town gossips. They'll talk this affair into a nine days wonder."III"I am a doctor," said Allingham, rather taken back, "a medical man. If you are hurt at all—"