2021-04-17 10:43:24

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ENGLISH 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.After that last glimpse of the Clockwork man, and the conversation with Doctor Allingham and Gregg that followed, Arthur had hurried home to his tea. No amount of interest in the affair, however stupendous it might appear both to himself and others, could dissuade him from his usual Saturday night's programme. Rose Lomas, to whom he had recently become engaged, was a hundred times more important than a clockwork man, and whether a human being could actually exist who walked and talked by mechanical means was a small problem in comparison with that of changing his clothes, washing and tidying himself up in time for his assignation. As soon as the cricketers showed signs of stirring themselves, and so conveyed the comforting impression that they were not dead, Arthur felt himself able to resume normal existence.

"Not for a few thousand years," replied the Clockwork man, with a slight twisting of his lip. "Perhaps never."The General shook his head. "Your registration has been in the open field of military action; sometimes, I fear, between the lines. At least it has been with your pen."

"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 walked a few yards up the road, and then turned through a wicket gate and mounted the hump of a meadow. The narrow path swerved slightly to right and left. Arthur fell to meditating upon paths in general and how they came into existence. Obviously, it was because people always walked in the same way. Countless footsteps, following the same line until the grass wore away. That was very odd when you came to think about it. Why didn't people choose different ways of crossing that particular meadow? Then there would[Pg 75] be innumerable paths, representing a variety of choice. It would be interesting to start a path of your own, and see how many people would follow you, even though you deliberately chose a circuitous or not obviously direct route. You could come every day until the path was made.Allingham watched the ball disappear, for the fourth time since the Clockwork man started his innings, somewhere in the direction of a big brewery that stood mid-way between the ground and the distant town. It was an incredible hit. No one had ever achieved such colossal drives in all the history of Great Wymering cricket. There was a certain absurdity about the thing. Already the club had been obliged to supply three extra balls, for it would have been useless to try and find those that had been lifted so far beyond the ground.

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"I have tried," she confessed, "and I have failed. She fascinates and yet repels me. There is some strange mystery about her. Gordon, I feel sure that there is the shadow of some great crime on her house. It sounds weak, hysterical, perhaps, but I can't get it out of my mind.""You see," exclaimed the Doctor, making a violent effort to ignore his own perceptions, "it's all so unexpected. I'm afraid I shan't be able to render you much assistance until I know the actual facts, and even then"

If necessary, one could brush all that up again. How different life was, when it came to be lived; how unlike the sagacious prognostications of doubting youth! There was a substratum underneath all that surge of enquiry and inquisitiveness, all that worry and distress; and that was life itself, known and valued, something that one clung to with increasing strength. The mind grew out of its speculative stage and settled down to a careful consideration of concrete existence.[Pg 144]

CHAPTER FOURGregg sat up in his chair and became more serious. Allingham fidgeted without actually interrupting.And then there was the Clockwork mansomething else to think about, to be wondered at.

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"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.The next day found me so robustly happy that I was allowed to dress and walk out to the front door. Three days later the surgeons were gone, all three, and at the approach of dew-fall Ccile and Harry, Camille and I, walked in a field-path, gathered hedge roses, and debated the problem of Mrs. Roy's daughter's book, which all of us were reading and none had finished.The Doctor shut the door carefully and lifted a warning finger. "Gregg, this thing must never be known. It must never go beyond ourselves."

One night the fellows gave a dance in Brookhaven. We went in two wagons and by the light of mounted torch-bearers, and Charlotte and Ferry stood at the dooryard gate and sent after us their mirthful warnings and good-byes. It set some of us a-hoping--to see them there--a dooryard gate means so much. We fairly prayed he might compel her decision before she should turn to re-enter the house. But the following morning it was evident we had prayed in vain.

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