时间：<2020-06-06 08:56:17 作者：ip龙族w9B 浏览量：9777
"A young lady called to see you this evening," she announced, smilingly."The makers?" echoed Arthur.
"Lapsed!" queried Arthur.The truth is that Doctor Allingham had not been able to summon the courage to make a further examination of the Clockwork man; and he had permitted himself to assume that there would be no immediate developments. So far as was possible he had allowed himself that very necessary relaxation, and he had insisted upon Gregg sharing it with him. The Clockwork man was not quite what either of them had, alternatively, hoped or feared. From Allingham's point of view, in particular, he was not that bogey of the inhuman fear which his original conduct had suggested. True, he was still an unthinkable monstrosity, an awful revelation; but since the discovery of the printed instructions it had been possible to regard him with a little more equanimity. The Clockwork man was a figment of the future, but he was not the whole future."I cannot," groaned the Doctor, his face hidden between his hands. And then he looked up quickly, and his eyes cleared. "Perhaps, after all, that is the consoling feature of the affair. If the Clockwork man were really capable of explanation, then indeed there would be an end to all sanity. But since he is inexplicable, there still remains the chance that we may be able to put all thought of him out of our minds. I tell you, Gregg, I can live this down, I can forget this night of horror; but not if there is an explanation to fit the case. Not if I can satisfy my reason!"
"You see," the mechanical voice went on, "only about half the clock is in action. That accounts for my present situation." There was a pause, broken only by obscure tickings, regular but thin in sound. "I had been feeling very run down, and went to have myself[Pg 80] attended to. Then some careless mechanic blundered, and of course I went all wrong." He turned swiftly and looked hard at Arthur. "All wrong. Absolutely all wrong. And of course, I—I—lapsed, you see."It was also manifest that the Clockwork man was capable of almost limitless adaptability. Several of the stops produced only slight changes or the first beginnings of some fundamental alteration of structure. Usually these changes were of a sufficiently alarming character to cause the Doctor immediately to check them by further experiments. The Clockwork man seemed to be an epitome of everything that had ever existed. After one experiment he developed gills. Another produced frightful atavistic snortings. There was one short-lived episode of a tail.He despised himself for feeling such intense annoyance. It was extraordinary how, as one grew older, it became less possible to restrain primitive and savage impulses. When things went wrong, you wanted to do something violent and unforgivable, something that you would regret afterwards, but which you would be quite willing to do for the sake of immediate satisfaction. As he approached the pavilion, he wanted to charge into the little group of players gathered around the scoring table—he wanted to rush at them and clump their heads with his bat. His mind was so full of the ridiculous impulse that his body actually jolted forward as though to carry it out, and he stumbled slightly. It was absurd to feel like this, every little incident pricking him to the point of exasperation, everything magnified and translated into a conspiracy against him. Someone was manipulating the metal figure plates on the black index board. He saw a "1" hung up for the last player. Surely he had made more than One! All that swiping and thwacking, all that anxiety and suspense, and nothing to show for it! But, he re[Pg 4]membered, he had only scored once, and that had been a lucky scramble. The fielders had been tantalisingly alert. They had always been just exactly where he had thought they were not.
"We had an argument about that," said the[Pg 178] Doctor, dismally. "He tried to explain that to me, but I must say he was no more successful than you are. The whole thing is a complete haze."Gregg paused abruptly, as though arriving at some crisis in his thought. "It must be so. There is no other explanation to cover what we have seen. Man, as we know him, is no more or less than what his nervous system allows him[Pg 183] to be. A creature of action, his actions are nevertheless strictly prescribed by the limitations of his neural organism. In the case of the Clockwork man we are confronted by the phenomenon of an enormous extension of nervous activity. One imagines terrific waves of energy unimpeded—or, relatively unimpeded—by the inhibitory processes that check expenditure in the case of a normal organism. Of course, there must be inhibition of some sort, but the whole system of the Clockwork man is on so grand a scale that his actions take place in a different order of time. His relapses, as he describes them, are simply the parallel of that degeneration of tissue which accompanies ordinary human fatigue. That is why his ineptitude appears ghastly to us. Again, his perceptions would be different. He would see relatively far more of the universe, and his actions would carry him further and further into the future, far beyond those laws which we have fashioned for ourselves, in accordance with our neural limitations. For, just as man is at the mercy of his nervous system, so his conception of universal laws is the natural outcome of nervous apprehension; and the universe is no more or less than what we think it is.""But you agree," said Gregg, unperturbed, "that it might be possible in the future?"
It was fortunate, perhaps, that the Great Wymering people took their cricket rather seriously. Otherwise, they might have felt, as Doctor Allingham already felt, that there was something impossible about the Clockwork man's performance. He had walked out to the wicket amidst comparative indifference. His peculiar gait might easily have been attributed to sheer nervousness, and his appearance, without flannels, provoked only a slight degree of merriment. When he arrived at the wicket he paused and examined the stumps with great attention, as though wondering what they were for; and it was quite a little while before he arranged himself in the correct attitude before them. He remained standing still, holding the bat awkwardly in the air, and no amount of persuasion on the part of the umpire could induce him to take centre or place his bat to the ground in the recognised fashion. He offered no explanation for his eccentric behaviour, and the fact simply had to be accepted.Arthur was startled back to common sense. "They don't," he whispered, as they held one another in trembling arms. "If they did they would be like us."[Pg 116]
THE MYSTERY OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN"I regard that statement of his as highly significant," resumed Gregg, after a slight pause. "For, of course, if the Clockwork man really is, as suggested, a semi-mechanical being, then he could only have come from the future. So far as I am aware, the present has not yet evolved sufficiently even to consider seriously the possibility of introducing mechanical reinforcements into the human body, although there has been tentative speculation on the subject. We are thousands of years away from such a proposition; on the other[Pg 54] hand, there is no reason why it should not have already happened outside of our limited knowledge of futurity. It has often occurred to me that the drift of scientific progress is slowly but surely leading us in the direction of some such solution of physiological difficulties. The human organism shows signs of breaking down under the strain of an increasingly complex civilisation. There may be a limit to our power of adaptability, and in that case humanity will have to decide whether it will alter its present mode of living or find instead some means of supplementing the normal functions of the body. Perhaps that has, as I suggest, already happened; it depends entirely upon which road humanity has taken. If the mechanical side of civilisation has developed at its present rate, I see no reason why the man of the future should not have found means to ensure his efficiency by mechanical means applied to his natural functions."The Doctor scarcely heard this. He had[Pg 134] turned aside and stooped down in order to rewind the engine of his car. When he looked up again he beheld an extraordinary sight.
It was also manifest that the Clockwork man was capable of almost limitless adaptability. Several of the stops produced only slight changes or the first beginnings of some fundamental alteration of structure. Usually these changes were of a sufficiently alarming character to cause the Doctor immediately to check them by further experiments. The Clockwork man seemed to be an epitome of everything that had ever existed. After one experiment he developed gills. Another produced frightful atavistic snortings. There was one short-lived episode of a tail."Where I come from," was the astonishing reply, "we are all conjurers. We are always doing conjuring tricks.""Oh, well, you may be right there," blustered Allingham, "I don't know. I admit I'm not quite up to date in these abstruse speculations."
The clock, perhaps, was the index of a new and enlarged order of things. Man had altered the very shape of the universe in order to be able to pursue his aims without frustration. That was an old dream of Gregg's. Time and Space were the obstacles to man's aspirations, and therefore he had invented this cunning device, which would adjust his faculties to some mightier rhythm of universal forces. It was a logical step forward in the path of material progress.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.)"I see," said Allingham, slowly, "it is because you are, so to speak, temporarily incapacitated, that you are able to come down to the level of our world."
Pandemonium ensued. The scene of quiet play was transformed into a miniature battle-field. The fielders rushed in a body at the Clockwork man, only to go down one after the other, like so many ninepins. They lay, stunned and motionless. The Clockwork man spun round like a teetotum, his bat flashing in the sun, whilst the flannelled figures flying from all parts of the field approached him, only to be sent reeling and staggering to earth. Some dodged for a moment only to be caught on the rebound. Dust flew up, and to add to the whirl and confusion the unearthly noise that had so startled Arthur Withers broke out again, with terrific force, like the engine of a powerful motor suddenly started."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.""What did she say," demanded the Doctor, irritably.
"No, sir, he weren't walking at all. He'd fallen into the chalk pit just by Rock's Bottom.""Eggs," announced the figure on the couch. "Large quantities of eggs—infinite eggs.""But what is a clockwork man?" demanded Allingham.