类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-11-25 12:32:57


The Curate's last remark was rapped out on a sharp note of fright and astonishment, for the Clockwork man, as though anxious to demonstrate his willingness to oblige, had performed his first conjuring trick."Imagine an exceedingly complex kind of mechanism," Gregg resumed, "an exaggeration of the many intricate types of modern machines in use to-day. It would have to be something of a very delicate description, and yet rather crude at first in its effect. One thinks of[Pg 55] something that would work accurately if in rather a limited sort of way. You see, they would have to ensure success in some things at first even at the sacrifice of a certain general awkwardness. It would be a question of taking one thing at a time. Thus, when the Clockwork man came to play cricket, all he could do was to hit the ball. We have to admit that he did that efficiently enough, however futile were the rest of his actions.""Only about old Mr. Winchape," said Mrs. Masters, as she packed the tea things. "He's seen the man that knocked the cricketers down with the bat. That is, if he is a man, but they do say鈥"

"I see," the Clockwork man nodded sagely. "But they wouldn't be any use to me. What I need is adjustment, regulation." He looked hard at the doctor, with a pathetic expression of enquiry. "My clock鈥" he began, and stopped abruptly.He had been glad to abandon the hospitals in favour of a comfortable practice and the leisured life of a country town. Great Wymering had offered him plenty of distractions that soothed the slight wound to his vanity caused by the discovery that he had over-estimated his originality. In a few years much had happened that helped to confirm his new view of himself as a social creature with a taste for the amenities of existence. And then he had been able to keep up his cricket. In the winter there were bridge parties, amateur theatricals, dinner parties with quite ordinary but agreeable people, local affairs into which a man whose health was under suspicion and whose sympathies were just perceptibly narrowing, could plunge without too much effort being required in order to rise to such occasions. And he had the witty temperament. Quite easily, he maintained a reputation for turning out a bon-mot on the spur of the moment, something with a faint element of paradox. He would say such things as, "Only those succeed in life who have brains and can forget the fact," or "To be idle is the goal of all men, but only the industrious achieve it." When taunted by[Pg 46] a young lady who suspected him of wasted talents, even genius, he retorted that "Genius is only an accumulation of neglected diseases."When the Doctor found him, he appeared to be about six weeks old, and rapidly growing smaller and smaller.

"It's only breakdown," said the Clockwork man, sadly. "With us laughing or crying are symptoms of breakdown. When we laugh or cry that means that we have to go and get oiled or adjusted. Something has got out of gear. Because in our life there's no necessity for these things."But he did not hurry. He twisted his head gradually round as though to embrace as much as possible in his last survey of a shapely, if limited world.He glided along the deserted High Street. The Doctor held the door ajar for a long while and watched that frail figure, nursing a tremendous conviction and hurrying along, in spite of instructions to the contrary.

"It's the regulating mechanism," said the other, monotonously, "I keep on forgetting that you can't know these things. You see, it controls me. But, of course, it's out of order. That's how I came to be here, in this absurd world. There can't be any other reason, I'm sure." He looked so childishly perplexed that Arthur's sense of pity was again aroused, and he listened in respectful silence.An extra gleam of light shone in the other's eye, and he seemed to ponder deeply over this statement.THE WONDERFUL CRICKETER

"There was a man," continued the Curate, in ancient-mariner-like tones, "at the Templars' Hall. I thought he was the conjurer, but he wasn't鈥攁t least, I don't think so. He did things鈥攊mpossible things鈥"[Pg 172]Of course, Lilian's impression of his menag茅 would have been unsatisfactory, even though he had escorted her over the house himself; but it was highly significant that she should have preferred to come alone. Holding advanced opinions about the simplification of the house, and of the woman's duties therein,[Pg 121] she would regard his establishment as unwieldy, overcrowded, old-fashioned, even musty. It would represent to her unnecessary responsibilities, labour without reward, meaningless ostentation. The Doctor's own tastes lay in the direction of massive, ornate furniture, rich carpets and hangings, a multiplicity of ornaments. He liked a house filled to the brim with expensive things. He was a born collector and accumulator of odds and ends, of things that had become necessary to his varying moods. He was proud of his house, with its seventeen rooms, including two magnificent reception rooms, four spare bedrooms in a state of constant readiness, like fire-stations, for old friends who always said they were coming and never did; its elaborate kitchen arrangements and servants' quarters. Then there were cosy little rooms which a woman of taste would be able to decorate according to her whim, workrooms, snuggeries, halls and landings. There was much in the place that ought to appeal to a woman with right instincts.

"H'm, yes鈥攃hemical action鈥攖onics. People get run down, and I have to give them something to stimulate the system."[Pg 116]"Heroes," suggested Rose, whose knowledge of literature was not very wide.

"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."When the Doctor found him, he appeared to be about six weeks old, and rapidly growing smaller and smaller."I'm afraid I put you to great inconvenience," murmured the visitor, still yawning and rolling about on the couch. "The fact is, I ought to be able to produce things鈥攂ut that part of me seems to have gone wrong again. I did make a start鈥攂ut it was only a flash in the pan. So sorry if I'm a nuisance."

"How can I know?" said the Clockwork man, flapping his ears in despair. "I'm fixed. I can't be anything beyond what the clock permits me to be. Only, since I've been in your world, I've had a suspicion. It's such a jolly little place. And you have women."The Doctor's finger again indicated the coal cellar. "He鈥攈e's in there鈥擨鈥擨 managed to stop him. He鈥攈e's in a kind of sleep.""Would you object," said the Clockwork man, "to having all your difficulties solved for you?"

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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."After that final collapse, the Doctor had succeeded somehow in restoring him to his normal shape; and then, by miraculous chance, he discovered a hand that, when turned, had[Pg 168] the effect of producing in the Clockwork man an appearance of complete quiescence. He looked now more like a tailor's dummy than anything else; and the apparent absence of blood circulation and even respiration rendered the illusion almost perfect. He looked life-like without seeming to be alive."No, I'm not," grumbled the Doctor, "I've had enough of this wild-goose chase. And besides, it's nearly dinner time."

"Only about old Mr. Winchape," said Mrs. Masters, as she packed the tea things. "He's seen the man that knocked the cricketers down with the bat. That is, if he is a man, but they do say鈥""Very likely," the Doctor suggested, "someone has played a trick upon you. Perhaps your own nerves are partly to blame. Men with highly strung nerves like you are very liable to鈥攅r鈥攈allucinations."By this time a certain sense of panic was beginning to be displayed by the restless attitudes of the fielders; and the spectators, instead of leaning against the barriers, stood about in groups discussing the most extraordinary cricketing event of their lives. There was much head shaking and harking back to precedent among the old cronies present, but it was generally agreed that such hitting was abnormal. Indeed, it was something outside the pale of cricket altogether.




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