2021-04-17 10:35:03

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ENGLISH As he drew nearer, Arthur's impression of an unearthly being was sobered a little by the discovery that the strange figure wore a wig. It was a very red wig, and over the top of it was jammed a brown bowler hat. The face underneath was crimson and flabby. Arthur decided that it was not a very interesting face. Its features seemed to melt into each other in an odd sort of way, so that you knew that you were looking at a face and that was about all. He was about to turn his head politely and pass on, when he was suddenly rooted to the ground by the observation of a most singular circumstance."Yes?" Arthur murmured, interested."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."

Gregg shrugged his shoulders in silence. Presently he looked at his watch. "I wonder if Grey will be back soon." Grey was the local inspector of police, in whose hands they had placed the business of rounding up the Clockwork man. Allingham had loaned out his car for the purpose.Allingham couldn't say a word. He stood there panting and swallowing quickly. Arthur Withers caught up to them.Gregg sat up in his chair and became more serious. Allingham fidgeted without actually interrupting.

She rose. "As a prisoner under guard, General, I can nurse the sick, but I will not dance.""Gawd," he gasped, "it's a blooming ghost."The Doctor removed his hat as though in honour of the mere mention of his visitor. "Did you give her my love?" was his light rejoinder, hat still poised at an elegant angle.

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"No, sir, he weren't walking at all. He'd fallen into the chalk pit just by Rock's Bottom."

Black, dark, deserted, grimy shuttered windows--a suggestion of creeping mystery about it. Time ago the Corner House was the centre of what might have been a thrilling tragedy. Some of the older neighbours could tell of a cry in the night, of the tramping of feet, of a beautiful woman with the poison still in her hand, of the stern, dark husband who said never a word, though the shadow of the scaffold lay heavily upon him."Registered," exclaimed the latter, triumphantly. "Now, the hand."

Some seconds elapsed before anyone realised that the ball had been hit at all. It was the Clockwork man who drew attention to the fact by gazing steadily upwards in the direction of the town. And then, suddenly, everybody was straining their eyes in the same direction to watch that little flying spot grow smaller and smaller until it seemed to merge into space. (As a matter of fact, this particular ball was discovered, three weeks later, lying in a disused yard three miles from the cricket ground.)But it was not a human noise. It began with a succession of deep-toned growls and grunts, and ended abruptly in a distinct bark.

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"Who was it?" I asked. "Where is he?"There was further delay. The bowler at the other end objected to the position of the Clockwork man. He argued, reasonably enough, that the non-participating batsman ought to stand quite clear of the wicket. The umpire had to be consulted, and, as a result of his decision, the Clockwork man was gently but firmly induced to move further away. He then remained, in the same attitude, at the extreme edge of the crease. His obtuseness was certainly remarkable, and comment among the spectators now became general and a trifle heated.

"Precisely," said Gregg, who was beginning to grow impatient with the other's manner, "and since the facts have revealed themselves, what is the use of trying to evade them? Here we have a Clockwork man, a creature entirely without precedent, for there is no record of his having existed in the past, and so far as we know there has been no successful attempt to create such a being in our own times. Everything favours my original hypothesis; that he has in some way, and probably through some fault in the mechanism that controls him, lapsed into these earlier years of human existence. That seems to me feasible. If man has indeed conquered time and space, then the slightest irregularity in this new functioning principle would result in a catastrophe such as we must suppose has happened to the Clockwork man. It is more than probable that a slight adjustment would result in his speedy return to conditions more proper to his true state."And now that he had disappeared there was a strong chance that he would never return, and that his personality and all that was connected with him would dissolve from[Pg 193] memory of man or crystallise into a legend. That seemed a legitimate consummation of the affair, and it was the one that Doctor Allingham finally accepted. This visitation, like other alleged miracles in the past, had a meaning; and it was the meaning that mattered more than the actual miracle. To discover the significance of the Clockwork man seemed to Doctor Allingham a task worthy of the highest powers of man.

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Apr-17 10:35:03