时间：<2020-07-07 13:47:09 作者：4Q杭州到武汉RrO 浏览量：9777
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.All really important questions in life came under the heading of Time and Space, thought of in capital letters. Recently, he had struggled through a difficult book, in which the author used these expressions a great many times, although in a sense difficult to grasp. Nevertheless, it suddenly became obvious, in a small way, exactly what the chap had been driving at.
Arthur was accustomed to be allowed to do things. He accepted his fate with a broad grin and a determination to do whatever was cricket in life. Everybody in Great Wymering knew that he was a bit of a fool, and rather simple. They knew that his career at the bank had been one wild story of mistakes and narrow escapes from dismissal. But even that didn't really matter. Things happened to him just as much as to other and more efficient individuals, little odd circumstances that made the rest of life curiously unimportant by comparison. Every day, for example, something humorous occurred in life, something that obliterated all the worries, something worth waking up in the middle of the night in order to laugh at it again. That was why the appearance of the odd-looking figure had been so welcome to him. It was distinctly amusing. It made him forget his fears. Like all funny things or happenings, it made you for the moment impersonal."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—er—hallucinations."Next moment the wig came off, and there was disclosed to the Doctor's gaze a bald cranium.
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."I ain't a going to laugh," said Mr. Flack, "not unless I see fit to laugh." And he continued to stare gravely at Arthur's elaborate posturing. Presently the latter remembered his urgent appointment and disappeared through the narrow door that led upstairs.CHAPTER SIX
"Well, of course I can't explain that exactly, but the term so obviously explains itself. Damn it, he is a clockwork man. He walks, talks, and behaves exactly like one would imagine—"Arthur swallowed quickly and tried to[Pg 65] explain. But, although the affair was still hot in his mind, he found it exceedingly difficult to describe exactly what had taken place. The doings of the Clockwork man were at once obvious and inexplicable. It was almost impossible to intrigue people who had not actually witnessed the affair into a realisation of such extraordinary happenings. Arthur had to resort to abrupt movements of his arms and legs in order to produce an effect. But he made a great point of insistence upon the ear-flapping.There was some organ faintly approximating to the human heart, but it was infinitely more powerful, and the valvular action was exceedingly complex.
The expression on Gregg's face, as he read these amazing instructions, changed slowly from avid curiosity to puzzled alarm. He was frankly embarrassed by this sudden turn of events, and for a few moments he could make nothing at all of the matter. Yet the wording was intelligible enough, and its application to the Clockwork man only too obvious. The little piece of thin metal must have slipped from his pocket during the Doctor's examination, and its discovery was undoubtedly of supreme importance."Well, I admit I was rather mystified by that hat and wig. But when you come to rationalise the thing, what is there in it?" The Doctor was taking long strides and flourishing his leather gloves in the air. "How could such a thing be? How can anybody in his right senses entertain the notion that Dunn Brothers are still in existence two thousand years hence? And the Clarkson business. It's absurd on the face of it."Whatever the argument was about, the Clockwork man seemed to gain his point, for presently the three figures turned together and proceeded in a bee-line towards the pavilion, Doctor Allingham and Gregg dodging about absurdly in their effort to accommodate themselves to the gyrations of their companion.
"I beg your pardon," said Arthur, hastily."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.""You get along," he persuaded, "before there's trouble. I don't want to be 'arsh with you."
The Doctor shut the door carefully and lifted a warning finger. "Gregg, this thing must never be known. It must never go beyond ourselves."He broke off abruptly. Gregg was standing with his hands behind him. He shook his head gravely.Arthur remained in stupefied silence. He did not know what to make of these antics. The Clockwork man looked at him, and seemed to be trying hard to remould his features into a new expression, faintly benevolent. Apparently, however, it was a tremendous effort for him to move any part of[Pg 18] his face; and any change that took place merely made him look rather like a caricature of himself.
He began to grow dim. Arthur, instinctively polite, stretched out a hand, keeping his left arm round Rose. The Clockwork man veered[Pg 213] slightly forward. He seemed to realise Arthur's intention and offered a vibrating hand. But they missed each other by several days.As he approached the figure standing beneath the incandescent lamp, the clerical beam upon the Curate's clean-shaven features deepened into a more secular expression of heartfelt relief.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.
Whatever the argument was about, the Clockwork man seemed to gain his point, for presently the three figures turned together and proceeded in a bee-line towards the pavilion, Doctor Allingham and Gregg dodging about absurdly in their effort to accommodate themselves to the gyrations of their companion.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."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 attacked the problem of his upper lip with sturdy resolution. It was important that this part of his face should be quite smooth. There must not be even a suspicion of roughness. Tears started into his eyes as he harrowed that tender surface. He drew in his breath sharply, and in that moment of voluntary and glad travail achieved a metaphysical conception of the first magnitude.1. Remove hat and wig and disclose Clock.IV