The clockwork man

previous item | next item

The clockwork man

Material Information

The clockwork man
E.V. Odle
Place of Publication:
W. Heinemann
Publication Date:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
035977470 ( ALEPH )
01247421 ( OCLC )
S32-00007 ( USFLDC DOI )
s32.7 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information



This item has the following downloads:

Full Text


/ , ,.. ;io o e'>' 'So l d. 4 •




N.EW FICTION. TWO SHALL BE BORN. By Mai•ie Conway Oemler. THE MUTINEERS. By C h arles Boardman H awes. MR. BAILEYltlARTIN, O.B.E. By Peicy Wh i t e . CHILDREN OF 7'HE DAWN. By Mar y Carb e •y. THE BRIGHT SHAWL. By Joseph Hergeaheimer. ACCORDING TO GIBSON. By Denis Macka il. BABEL. By John Cottt"1lOB. London: WILLIAM HEINEMANN LTD.


First published Apri l 1923 Pr111tcd in G1eat Britai n




" Consciousn ess in a mere automaton is a useless and unnece ssary epi phenomenon ."-Prof. LLOYD MORGAN. ..






CHAPTER ONE THE COMING OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN IT was ju st as Doctor Allingham h a d congratulated himself upon the fact that the bowling was broken, and that he had only to hit now and s ave the trouble of running , just as he was scanning the boundaries with one eye and with the other following Tanner's short, croo ked arm raised high above the white sheet at the back of the opposite wicket, that he noticed the strange figure. Its abrupt ap pearance, at fir s t sight like a scare-crow dumped sudde nly on the horizon, caused him to lessen his grip upon the bat in his hand. His mind wandered for just that fatal moment, and his vision of the on-coming bowler was swept a way and its place t a ken by that arresting figure of a m a n coming over the path at the top of the hill, a m a n whose attitude, on closer examination, seemed extraordinarily like another man in the act of bowling. That was why its effect was so distracting. It seemed to the doctor that the figure had popped up there on purpose to imitate the I B


2 THE CLOCK W O R K MAN action of a bowler and so baulk him. During the fraction of a second in which the ball reached him, this seconda r y im age h a d bl o tted out ev e rything e lse. But th e b e h av i ou r o f the figur e was c erta inly abnorma l. It s m ov em e nts were violently at ax ic. Its ar m s r evo l ved l i k e the sails of a windmill. Its l e g s s h o t out in all direction s , e nveloped i n d u st. The d o ctor' s a s t o nishment was turn e d into ann o yance by the spec t a cl e o f hi s s h a tter e d wicket. A v ag u e cl a tter o f a ppl a u se brok e out. The wick e t-k ee p e r s t oo ped down to pi c k up the bails. The fie ld e r s r e l axe d and flo pped down on the gra s s. They seemed to hav e discovered sudde nly that it w as a hot after noon, and that cricket w a s , a fter a ll, a comparatively stre nuous g a m e . One of the umpires, a sly, n ast y f e ll o w, s c rewe d up hi s eyes and lo oke

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 3 past the age when a man can accept reverses in the spirit of the game, and he was s ick and tired of seei ng his name every week in the Great Wymering Gazet t e as h aving been dis missed for a "mere h andfu l." He despised hims e lf for feelin g such intense annoyance. It was extraordinary how, as one grew older, it bec ame 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 player s 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 forw ar d as though to carry it out, and he stumbled slightly. It was absurd to feel like this, every little incid ent pricking him to the point of exasperation, everythin g magnified and transl a ted into a c o nspiracy against him. Someone was manipulating th e 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 I All that swiping and thwa cking, all tha t anxiety and suspense, and nothing to show for it I But, he re-


4 THE CLOCKWORK MAN 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 h a d thought they were not. He passed into the interior of the pavilion. Someone said, " Hard luck, Allingham," and he kept his eyes to the ground for fear of the malice that might shoot from them. He flung his bat in a corner and sat down to unstrap his pads. Gregg, the c;:aptain, came in. He was a cool, fair young man, fresh from Cambridge. He came in grinning, a nd only stopped when he saw the expression on Allingham's face. "I thought you were pr e tty well set," he remarked, casually. " So I was," said Allingham, aiming a pad at the opposite wall. "So I was. Never felt more like it in my life. And then some idiot goes and sticks himself right over the top of the sheet. An escaped lunatic. A chap with a lot of extra arms and legs. You never saw anything like it in your life I" "Rea lly," s aid Gr e g g , and grinned again. " H'm, " he rem a rked, pr e sently, "six wickets down, and all the best m e n out. We look like going to pi e ces. Especi a lly as we're a man short." "Well, I can't help it," said Allingham, "you don't expect a thing like that to happen. What's the white sheet for? So that you can


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 5 see the bowler's arm. But when something gets in the way, just over the sheet-just where you've got your eye fixed. It wouldn't happen once in a million times." "Never mind," said Gregg, cheerfully," it's all in the game." "It isn't in the game," Allingham began. But the other had gone out. Allingham stood up and slowly rolled down his sleeves and put on his blazer. Of course, Gregg was like that, a thorough sportsman, taking the good with the bad. But then he was only twenty-four. You could be like that then, so full of life and high spirits that generosity flowed from you imperceptibly and without effort. At forty you began to shrivel up. Atrophy of the finer feelings. You began to be deliberately and consistently mean and narrow, You took a savage delight in making other people pay for your disappointments. He looked out of the window, and there was that confounded figure still jigging about. It had come nearer to the ground. It hovered, with a curious air of not being related to its surroundings that was more than puzzling. It did not seem to know what it was about, but hopped along aimlessly, as though scenting a track, stopped for a moment, blundered for ward again and made a zig-zag course towards the ground. The doctor watched it advancing


6 THE CLOCKWORK MAN through the broad meadow that bounded the pitch, threading its way between the little groups of grazing cows, that raised their heads with mo re than their ordinary, s low persi s tency, as though s tartled by some noise. The figure seemed to be aiming for the barrier of hurdles that surrounded the pitch, but whether its desire was for cricket or merely to reach some kind of goal, whether it sought recr ea tion or a mere pause from its restle ss convulsions, it was difficult to tell. Finally, it fell against the fence and hung there , two hands crooked over the hurdle and its l egs drawn together at the kne es . It became ' sud d en ly very still-so still that it was hard to believe that it had ever moved. It was certainly very odd. The doctor was so struck by somet hin g a lto gether wrong about the figure, something so suggestive of a pathological phenomenon, that he almost forgot his annoyance and remained watching it with an unlighted cigar e tte b e tween his lips. II There was another person present at the cricket m atc h to whom the appearance of the strange figure upon the hill seemed an unusual circumstance, only in hi s case it provided rather an agreeable diversion than an irritating


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 7 disturbance. It had b ee n something to look at, and much more inte restin g th a n cricket. All the afternoo n Arthur Withers had been lyin g in th e long g r ass, chewing bits of it at in terva l s and hoping agains t hope that s omething would h appe n to prevent hi s h aving to go out to the pitch and make a fool of himself. He knew perf e ctl y well th a t Tanner, the demon bowler of the opposing t ea m, would get him out fir s t ball. H e might lin ge r at the seat of operations whilst one o r two byes were run ; but there were few quests more unwarranted and hope l ess than tha t excursion, duly padded and gloved, t o the scene of in stant disaster. He dreaded th e unne ces sary trouble he was b ound to give, the waiting while he w a lked with shaking knee s to the wicket ; the careful a ssis tance of th e umpire in finding centre for him ; all the c ere mony of cricke t rehearsed for his special and quite undese rved b e nefit. And afterwards he w ould b e put to field where there was a lot of running to do, and only dead ball s to pick up. Of course , he wasn't funking ; tha t wouldn't be cricket. But he had been very miserable. He sometimes wondere d why h e paid a subscription in order to t a k e part in a game th a t cost him such agony o f mind to p l ay . But it was the privileg e that matte r ed as much as anything. Ju s t to be allowe d t o p l ay .


8 THE CLOCKWORK MAN Arthur wa s accustomed to be allowed to do things. He accepted his fate with a b road grin and a determination to do wh ateve r was cricket in life. Everybody in Great Wymering knew that he was a bit of a fool, and r a ther simple. They knew that his career at the bank had been one wild story of mistakes and narrow escapes from dismi ssal. But even that didn't really matter. Things happened to him just as much as to other and more efficient individu a l s , little odd circumstances that made the rest of life curiou s ly 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 di s tinctly amusing. It made him forget his fea rs. Like all funny things or happeni n gs , it m ade you for the moment impersonal. He was so interes ted tha t presently he g ot up and wandered along the line of hurdles towards the spot where the strange figure had come to rest. It had not moved at all, and this fact added astonishment to curiosity. It clung desperately to the barrier, as though glad to ha ve got there. Its attitude was awkward in the extreme, hunc hed up, ill-


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 9 adjusted, but it made no attempt to achieve comfort. Further along, little groups of spectators were leaning against the barrier in nearly similar positions, smoking pipes, fidg e ting and watching the game intently. But the strange figure was not doing anything at all, and if he looked at the players it was with an unnatural degree of intense observation. Arthur walked slowly along, wondering how clo s e he could get to his objective without appearing rude. But, somehow, he did not think this difficulty would arise. There was something singularly forlorn and wretched about thi s curious individual, a suggestion of incon se quence. Arthur could have sworn that he was home less and had no purpose or occupation. He was not in the picture of life, but something bl o bbed on by accident. Other people gave some sharp hint by their manner or d eportment that they belong e d to some roughly defined cla ss . You could guess something about them. But this extraordinary personage, who had emerged so suddenly from the line of the sky and streaked aimlessly a cros s the land s cape, bore not even the vaguest mark s o f h ome l y origi n. He had staggered along the path, not with the recognisable gait o f a drunke n man, but with a sort of desperate decision, as th o u g h convinced in his mind that the path he wa s treading was really only a


10 THE CLOCKWORK MAN thin plank stretched from heaven to earth upon which he had been obliged to balance himself. And now he was h a ngi ng upon the hurdle, and it was just as though someone had thrown a great piece of clay there, and with a f ew deft strokes shaped it into the vague likeness of a man. III 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 m e lt 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. The strange figure was flapping his earsfiapping them violently backwards and forwards, with an a lmost inconceivable rapidity! Arthur felt a sudden clutching se nsation in the region of his heart. Of course, he had


THE CLOCKWORK MAN II heard of people being able to move their ears slightly. That was common knowledge. But the ears of this man positively vibrated. They were more like the wings of some strange insect than human ears. It was . a ghastly spectacle-unbelievable, yet obvious. Arthur tried to walk away; he looked this way and that, but it was impos s ible to resist the fascination of those flapping ears. Besides, the strange figure had seen him. He was fixing him with eyes tha t did not move in their socket s , but st a red s traight ahead; and Arthur had placed himself in the direct line of their v1s1on. The expression in the eyes was compelling, almost hypnotic. " Excuse me," Arthur ventured, huskily, "did you wish to sp ea k to me ? " The str a nge fig ure stopp e d flapping his ears and opened his mouth. He opened it un pleasantly wide, as though trying to yawn. Then he shut it with a sharp snap, and without yawning. After that he shifted his whole body very slowly, a s though endeavouring to arous e himself from an enormous apathy. And then he appeared to be waiting for some-thing to happen. Arthur fidgeted, and look e d nervously around him. It was an awkward situation, but, after all, he had brought it on himself He did not like to move away. Besides,


12 THE CLOCKWORK MAN having started the conversation, it was only common politeness to wait until the stranger offered a remark. And presently, the latter opened his mouth again. This time he actually spoke. "Wallabaloo Wallabaloo Bompadi Bompadi Wum. Wum-Wum Nine and ninepence-" he announced. "I beg your pardon," said Arthur, hastily. "Wallabaloo," replied the other, eagerly. "Walla-Oh, hang it-Hulloa, now we've got it Wallabaloo No, we haven't Bang Wallop-nine and ninepence-" Arthur swallowed several times in rapid succession. His mind relapsed into a curious state of blankness. For some minutes he was not aware of any thinking processes at all. He began to feel dizzy and faint, from sheer bewilderment. And then the idea of escape crept into his consciousne ss . He moved one foot, intending to walk a w ay. But the strange figure suddenly lifted up a hand, with an abrupt, jerky movement, lik e a signal jumping up, He said "nine and ninepence" three times very slowly and solemnly, and flapped his right ear twice. In spite of his confusion, Arthur could not help noticing the peculi ar and awful synchronisation of these movements. At any rate, they seemed to help this unfortunate individual out of his diffi-


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 13 culti es . S t i ll holding a h and upright, he a c hi eve d hi s fir s t c o m p l e te sentence , "Not a n escaped lun a tic," he protested, and tried t o sh a k e hi s he a d. But the attempt to d o so mere l y s ta r ted hi s ears flapping again, And the n, as tho u g h e x h a ust e d by these eff o rt s , h e r e l a p sed a lt ogether into a sort of lumpine ss and ge neral re se mblanc e to nothing on earth, The hand dropp ed h eav ily, The ear s twitc h ed spas modically, the right one re v ersing the actio n o f the l e ft. He seemed to sink d ow n, l ike a d efla t e d b a lloon, and a faint whistling sig h es c a p e d his lips. His face assumed a n exp r ession tha t w as humble in the ex tr em e , as thou g h h e were d e sirou s of apologising to the air for t he bother of k ee ping him aliv e . Arthu r s t a r e d, e x pe cting eve ry moment to s e e the figu re b efor e him fall to the ground or ev e n di sa p p e a r throug h the ea rth. But just whe n hi s l oose n es s and l i m p n es s reach e d to the low es t ebb a sudden p u l s e would shake the strange r fr o m h ea d to foot; noises that were scarce l y human i ss u e d from him, puffings a nd b l o w i n gs , a sort of j e rky grinding and grati ng. H e would re a r up for a moment, appear al er t and li ve ly, hitch his w hole body firmly and s martly, only to collapse again, s lowly and sa dl y , hi s head falling to one s ide,


14 THE CLOCKWORK MAN his arms fluttering feebly like the wings of a wounded bird. Arthur's chief sensation now was one of pity for a fellow creature obviously in such a hopeless state. He almost forget his alarm in his sympathy for the difficulties of the strange figure. That struggle to get alive, to produce the elementary effects of existence, made him think of his own moods of failure, his own helplessness. He took a step nearer to the hurdle. "Can I do anything for you ? " he enquired, almost in a whisper. Suddenly, the strange figure seemed to achieve a sort of mastery of himself. He began opening and shutting his mouth very rapidly, to the accompaniment of sharp clicking noises. 1 ' I ts devilish hard," he announced, presently, 11 this feeling, you know Click All dressed up and nowhere to go -ClickClick-" "Is that how you feel ? " Arthur enquired. He came nearer still, as though to hear better. But the other got into a muddle with his affirmative. He flapped an ear in staccato fashion, and Arthur hastily withdrew . Now, the afternoon was very warm and very still. Where they stood the only sounds that could reach them were the slight crack of the b atted ball, and the soft padding of the fielders.


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 15 That was why the thing that happened next could hardly be mistaken. It began by the strange figure suddenly putting both hands upon the top of the hurdle and raising himself up about an inch off the ground. He looke d all at once enormously alive and vital. Light flashed in his eyes . "Eureka ! " he dicked, "I'm working I" "What's that ?" shouted Arthur, backing away." "What's that you said?" "L-L-L-L-L-L-Listen," vibrated the other. Still pressing his hands on the hurdle-, he leaned upon them until the top part of his body hung perilously over. His face wore an expression of unutterable relief. " Can't you hear," he squeaked , red in the face. And then Arthur was quite sure about some thing that he had been vaguely hearing for some moments . It sounded like about a hundred alarum clocks all going off at once, muffled somehow, but concentrated. It was a sort of whirring, low and spasmodic at first, but broadening out into some thing more regular, less frantic. "What's that noise ? " he demanded t horoughl y frightened by now. "It's only my clock," said the other. He clambered over the hurdle, a littl e stiffly, as though not quite sure of his limbs, Except


16 THE CLOCKWORK MAN for a general awkwardness, a n abrupt tremor now and again, he seemed to have become quite rational and ordinary. Arthur scarcely comprehended the remark, and it certainly did not explain the origin of that harassing noise. He gaped at the figure-less strange now, although still puzzling-and noticed for the first time his snuff-coloured suit of rather odd pattern, his boots of a curious leaden hue, his podgy face with a snub nose in the middle of it, his broad forehead surmounted by the funny fringe of the wig. His voice, as he went on speaking, gradually increased in pitch until it reached an even tenor. "Perhaps I ought to explain," he continued. "You see, I'm a clo c kwork m an." "Oh," said Arthur, his mouth opening wide. And then he stamme red quickly, "that noise, you know." The Clockwork man nodded quickly, as though recollecting something. Then he moved his right hand spasmodically upwards and inserted it between the lapels of his jacket, somewhere in the region of his waistcoat. He appeared to be trying to find something. P;esently he found what it was he looked for, and his hand moved again with a sharp, deliberate action. The noise stopped at once. "The silencer," he explained, " I forgot to put it on. It was such a relief to be working


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 17 again. I mu s t h a ve n e arly s topp e d altogether. Very awkward. Very awkward, indeed." H e appeared to be addressing the air gener a lly. " The fact is, I need a thorough overhauling. I ' m all to piece s . Nothing seems right. I oughtn't to creak like this. I'm sure there's a screw loose somewhere." He moved his arm slowly round in a circle, as though to reassure himself. The arm worked in a lop-sided fashion, like a badly shaped wheel, stiffly upwards and then quickly dropping down the curve. Then the Clockwork man lifted a leg and swung it swiftly backwards and forwards. At first the leg shot out sharply, and there seemed to be some difficulty about its withdrawal ; but after a little practice it moved quite smoothly. He continued these experiments for a few moments , in complete silence and with a slightly anxious expression upon his face, a s though he were really afraid things were not quite as they should be. Arthur remained in s tupefied 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 be nevolent. Apparently, however, it was a tremendous effort for him to move any part of c


18 THE CLOCKWORK MAN hi s face ; and a ny ch a n ge tha t t o ok plac e mere ly m a d e him lo o k r a th e r like a c a ricatur e of himse lf. "Of c o ur se ," h e said, s l o wl y , " yo u don't unders t a nd . It i sn't t o b e ex p ecte d th a t y ou would unde r s tand. Why , y ou h aven't e v en got a cl oc k ! Tha t was the firs t thin g I noticed about y o u.'' He c a me a littl e n ea r e r t o Arthur, wa lking with a hop, skip and jump, r a th er lik e a m a n with hi s f ee t ti e d t oge th e r. "And y e t, you l oo k a n inte lli gent sort o f b e ing, " he c o nti n u e d, " eve n th o u g h you a re a n anachronis m." "Arthur wa s n o t s ur e w h a t this t erm implied. In s pite of hi s confu s ion h e c o uldn ' t help feeling a little amu s ed. The figu r e s t a ndin g by his sid e wa s s o exa ctly lik e a w ax -w o rk come t o life, and hi s t a lk w as faintly r e mini scent o f a gramophone r e cord. "Wha t y ear i s it ? " e nquired th e other s ud denly, and without altering a musc l e o f his face. ''Nineteen hundre d and twenty-thr e e," sa id Arthur, smiling faintly. The Clockwork man lift e d a hand to his fac e , and with gre a t difficulty lod ge d a fing e r r e flectively again s t hi s n o se. "Nine teen hundred and t we nty-three, " h e r epea t e d, "that's inter e s tin g . Very int e r es tin g , indee d. No t that I have a ny use for time, you know."


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 19 He appeared to ruminate, still holding a finger against his nose. Then he shot his left arm out with a swift, gymnastic action and laid the flat palm of his hand upon Arthur's shoulder. " Did you see me coming over the hill ? " he enquired. Arthur nodded. " Where did you think I came from ? "To tell the truth," said Arthur, after a moment's consideration," I thought you came out of the sky." The Clockwork man looked as though he wanted to s mile and didn't know how. His eyes twinkled faintly, but the rest of his face remained immobile, formal. "Very nearly right," he said, in quick, precise accents, "but not quite." He offered no further information. For a long while Arthur was puzzled by the movements that followed this last remark. Apparently the Clockwork man desired to change his tactics; he did not wish to prolong the conversation. But, in his effort to move away, he was obviously hampered by the fact that his hand still rested upon Arthur's shoulder. He did not seem to be able to bend his arm in a natural fashion. Instead, he kept on making a half-right movement of his body, with the result that every time he so moved he was


20 THE CLOCKWORK MAN stopped by the impingement of his hand against Arthur's neck. At l ast he solved the problem. He took a quick step backwards, nearly losing his balance in the process, and cleared his arm, which he then lowered in the usual fashion. Then he turned sharply to the left, considered for a moment, and waddled away. There was no other term, in Arthur's estimation, to describe his peculiar gait. He took no stride ; he simp ly lifted one foot up and then the other, and then placed them down again slightly ahead of their former positions. His body swayed from side to side in tune with his strange walk. After he h ad progressed a few yards he turned to the right, with a smart movement, and looked approximately in Arthur's direction. His mouth opened and shut very rapidly, and there floated across the intervening space some vague and very unsatisfactory human noise, obviously intended as an expression of leave-taking. Then he turned to the left again, with the same drill like action, and waddled along. IV Arthur watched him, feeling diffident, half inclined to follow him in case he fell over. For there was not much stability about the Clockwork man. It was clear that the slightest


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 21 obstacle would h ave precipitated him upon hi s nose. He kept his head erect , and looked neither downwards or to right and left. He seemed wholly absorbed in his eccentric mode of locomotion, as thou g h he found it interesting just to be moving along. Arthur kept his eyes glued upon that stiff, upright back, surmounted by the wig and h a t, and he wondered what would happen when the Clockwork man reached to the end of the line of hurdles, where another barrier s t a rted at right angles across the end of the cricket ground. It was a sight to at tract attention, but fortunately, as Arthur thought, everybody seemed to o absorbed in the game to notice what was h appe ning . The dawning of humour saved him from some uncomfortable mis givings. There was something uncanny about the experience. Somehow, it didn't seem natural, but it was certainly funny. It was grotesqu e . You had to laugh at that oddlooking figure, or else feel c o ld all over with another kind of sensation. Of course, the man was mad, He was, in spite of his denial, an escaped lunatic. But the noise ? That was certainly difficult to explain. Perhaps he had some kind of infernal machine hidden in his pocket, in which case h e would be a dangerous kind of lunatic. What was he going to do next ? He had


22 ,THE CLOCKWORK MAN reached to the end of the field and stopped abruptly. Apparently, the presence of another barrier acted as a complete check to further movement. For several seconds he remained perfectly still. He was now about a hundred yards from Arthur, but the latter had good eyesight, and he was determined to miss nothing. Then the Clockwork man raised a hand slowly to his face, and Arthur knew that he was repeating his former meditative action, finger to nose. He remained in that position for another minute, as though the problem of which way to turn was almost too much for him. Finally, he turned sharp to the right and began to walk again. Arthur became aware of two other figures approaching the one he was watching so intently. They were Gregg, the captain of the team, and Doctor Allingham. The yellow braid on their blazers shone in the sunlight, and Arthur could see the blue emblem on Gregg's pocket. There would have to be a meeting. The two flanelled figures were strolling along in a direct line towards that other oddly insistent form. Arthur caught his breath. Somehow he dreaded that encounter. When he looked again there was some kind of confabulation going on. Curiously enough, it was Doctor Allingham and Gregg who seemed


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 23 incapable of movement now. They stood there, with their hands in their pockets, staring, listening. But the Clockwork man was apparently making the utmost use of his limited range of action. His arms were busy, Sometimes he kicked a leg up, as though to emphasise some tremendously important point. And now and again he jabbed a finger out wards in the direction of the field of play. Arthur caught the sound of a high, squeak y voice borne upon the light breeze. 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.


CHAPTER TWO THE WONDERFUL CRICKETER I ''WE ought not to have let him play," said Allingham, irritably. He was standing beside Gregg in the pavilion. "Well, he would insist," said the latter, laughing lightly, "and we're at least entitled to put eleven men in the field. There he goes again I That a six for certain." 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 hi story of Great Wymering cricket. There was a certain ab surdity about the thing. Already the club had been obli g ed 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. "The man's a dangerous lunatic," asserted ;\llingham, who had not yet overcome his 24


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 125 original annoyance with the strange figure, whose sudden advent had lost him his wicket. "It's uncanny, this sort of thing. You can't call it cricket." "Well, he's making runs, anyhow," rejoined Gregg, his eye falling upon the score-board. "At this rate we shall stand a chance after all." 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 ap pearance, 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 won dering 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 persua s ion 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 ,


26 THE CLOCKWORK MAN The game restarted. Tanner, who had by this time taken eight wickets for just under a hundred runs, put down a slow, tricky one. Everybody agreed, in discussing the matter afterwards, that the Clockwork man never shifted his position or moved a muscle until the ball pitched, slightly to the off . Nobody seems to have seen exactly what happened, but there was a sudden ear piercing crack and a swoop of dust. 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.) There was a certain amount of applause, followed by an embarrassing silence. Presently someone threw another ball out into the field, and the game was resumed. But the Clockwork man treated Tanner's next delivery, which was a fast one, in exactly the same manner. Again nobody could say exactly what happened -for the action was swifter than the quickest eye could follow-but the ball disappeared


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 27 again, this time in the direction of a fringe of poplars far away on the horizon. Again there was a lull, but the applause this time was modified. Another ball was supplied, and this also was dispatched with equal force and in a third direction, almost unanimously decided by the now bewildered spectators to be the flag staff of the church that stood in the middle of the High Street, Great Wymering. 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 extra ordinary 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. "If everyb ody was to start 'itting like that," pronounced Samuel Bynes, a local expert, " there wouldn't be no sense in cricket. It ain't in the game." And he spat decisively as though to emphasise his opinion that such proficiency should be deplored rather than commended. "You're ri g ht, Sam," said George Bynes, who had hit up many a century for his town in bygone days, "tain't cricket. Else it's a


28 THE CLOCKWORK MAN fluke ; the m a n didn' t ought to be a llowed t o hold bat in his hand. It' s spo ilin g other folks' sport." Attention was diverted by something of minor importance, tha t showed the Clockwork man in an alto g ether new and puzzling lig ht. There h a d been some delay over the procuring of the third b a ll, and when this w a s forthcoming the over was called. The fielders changed about, but the Cl ockwork man made no attempt to m ov e and manifested no interest in th e imme di a te pro c e edings. He r e mained, with the b a t in hi s hands, as thoug h waiting for another ball to be delivered. "Se ems as tho u g h 'e's only ' alf th e re," commented Mr. Bynes, noticing this incident, "Dreaming like," suggested his companion, There was further delay. The bowler at the other end objected to the position of the Clockwork m a n. He argued, reasonably e nou g h, that the non-pa rticipating batsman ought to stand quite clear of the wicket. The umpire h a d to be consult e d, a nd, as a result of r his d e ci s ion, the Clock wor k m a n was gently but firmly induced to move further aw a y. He then rem a ined, in the s a m e a ttitud e , at the extreme ed g e of the c re ase. His obtuse ness was certainly remarkable, and comment among the spect a tors now became gener a l and a trifle


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 29 "Play," said the umpire. The batsman at the other end was a stout, rather plethoric individual. He missed the first two balls, and the third struck him full in the stomach. There was a sympathetic pause whilst Mr. Bumpus, who was well known and respected in the town, rubbed thi s rather prominent part of hi s an atomy to the accompaniment of fish-like gaspings and ex cu sable ejaculations. Mr. Bumpus was middle-aged and bald as well as corpulent, and although he did his best to endure the mishap with sportsman-like stoicism, the dismay written upon his perspiring f e atures was certainly an excitant to mirth. Some of th e fielders turned their heads for a few moments as though to spare themselves a difficult ordeal; but on the whole there was discreet silence. It was for this reason, perhaps, that the action of the Clockwork man was all the more notice a ble. To this d ay , not one ofthe persons present is cert a in as to whether or not this eccentric individual actually did laugh; but everybody is sure that such was his intention. There issued from his mouth, without a moment's warning, a series of harsh, metallic explosions, loud enough to be heard all over the ground. One compared the noise to the ringing of bells hopeles s ly cracked and out of tune. Others described it as being similar to


50 THE CLOCKWORK MAN the sound produced by some person passing a stick swiftly across an iron railing. There was that suggestion of rattling, of the impingement of one hard thing against another, or the clapping together of steel plates. It was a horrible, discordant sound, brassy and resonant, varied between the louder outbursts by a sort of whirring and humming. Those who ventured to look at the Clockwork man's face during this extraordinary performance said that there was little change of expression. His mouth had opened slightly, but the laugh, if indeed it could be described as anything but a lugubrious travesty of human mirth, seemed to proceed from far down within him. And then the hideous clamour stopped as abruptly as it began. The Clockwork man had not altered his position during the proceedings ; but Arthur Withers, who was watching him with feverish intensity from the pavilion, fancied that his ears flapped twice just after the noise had subsided. It was an unpleasant episode, but fortunately the object of such misplaced and ugly hilarity scarcely seemed to notice the outrage. Mr. Bumpus was not lacking in courage. After a few more groans and sighs, and a final rubbing of that part of him that had been injured, he placed himself in preparation to receive the next ball. The spectators loudly applauded


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 31 him, and the bowler, perhaps unwilling to risk another misadventure, moderated his delivery. Mr. Bumpus struck the ball lightly, and it sped away through the slips. A fielder darted after it, but there was ample time for a run. "Come on!" shouted Mr. Bumpus, and started to puff and blow his way down the pitch. But the Clockwork man paid not the slightest heed to the command. He remained, statuesque, a figure of gross indifference. Mr. Bumpus pulled himself up sharply, midway between the two wickets ; his red face was a study in bewilderment. He slid a few paces, cast one imploring glance in the direction of the Clockwork man, and then rushed des perately back to his own crease. But he was too late ; his wicket had been put down. Etiquette plays an important part in the noble game of cricket. It may be bad form to refuse an obvious run ; but to complain of your partner in public is still worse. Besides, Mr. Bumpus was too aghast for speech, and his stomach still pained him. He walked very slowly and with great dignity back to the pavilion, and his annoyance was no doubt amply soothed by the loud cheers that greeted his return. Gregg came out to meet him, with a rather shamefaced smile upon his features. "I'm sorry," he murmured, 11 our recruit


32 THE CLOCKWORK MAN seems to be a little awkward. I don't think he quite understands." "He can hit," said Mr. Bumpus, mopping his brow, "but he's certainly an eccentric sort of individual. I called to him to run, and apparently he did not or would not hear me." Gregg caught hold of Arthur Withers, who was just going out to bat. "Look her e," he said, "just tell our friend that he mu s t run, I don't think he quite grasps the situation." "No," said Arthur, slowly, "I don't think he does. He's rather a peculi a r sort of person. I-I-spoke to him. He-he-says he's a clockwork man." "Oh," said Gre gg, a nd his face b e came blank. "Anyhow, just tell him that he must run when he' s called." Arthur walked out to the wicket. His usual knee-shaking seemed les s pronounced, and he felt more anxious about the Clockwork man than about himself. He paused as he drew near to him, and whispered in an ear-rather fearfully, for he dreaded a recurrence of the ear-flapping business. "The captain says will you run, please, when you're asked." The Clockwork man turned his head slightly to the right, and his mouth opened very wide. But he said nothing. "You have to run," repeated Arthur, in louder tones.


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 33 The other flapped an e a r. Arthur hastened away. Nothing wa s wo rth whil e ri s kin g an e x hibition in public s uch a s h e had witn e s sed in compa r a ti ve se clu s ion. H e s upp ose d there was som e thing a b o ut the Clockwork man really phenomenal, something tha t was beyond his own r a th e r limit e d pow e r s of comprehension. P erha ps cleverer people than hims e lf might understand wh a t wa s the m a tt e r with this queer being. He couldn't. He too k hi s pl a ce a t th e wicket. The firs t ball wa s a n ea s y one, and h e manag e d to hit it fair and s quare to mid-on. Scarc e ly hoping for re s p o ns e , h e c alle d to th e Cl ockwork man, and b e g a n to run . To hi s immens e astonish ment, th e latt e r p as s e d him h a lf-way down the pitch, hi s l egs jumping fr o m side to s id e , his arms s win gi ng round irr es p o n s ibly. It might be s aid tha t hi s run w as m e r e l y a n ex a g g e ration of his walk. Arthur dumpe d hi s bat down quickly, and turne d. A s he l oo ked up, on the return j o urn e y, he w a s puzzl e d by the fact that the r e w as no s ign of his p artne r. He paused and l o oked around him. The r e h a d b e en a n outburs t of derisive chee ring wh e n the Clock wo rk m a n actually comme nc e d to run, but thi s n o w s welled up into a roar of m e rriment. And then Arthur saw what h a d h a ppen ed, The Clo ckwork man had not st opped at th e opposite wicket. He D


34 THE CLOCKWORK MAN had run straight on, past the wicket-keeper, past the fielders, and at the moment when Arthur spotted him he was making straight for the white sheet at the back of the ground. No wonder the crowd laughed I It was so utterly absurd ; and the Clockwork man ran as though nothing could stop him, as though, indeed, he had been wound up and was without power to check his own ridiculous progress. The next moment he collided with the sheet; but even this could only prevent him from going further. His legs continued to work rapidly with the action of running, whilst his body billowed into the sagging sheet. The spectators gave themselves up wholly to the fun. It must have seemed to them that this extraordinary cricketer was also gifted with a sense of humour, however eccentric; and that his nonsensical action was intended by way of retaliation for the ir onic cheers that had greeted his running at all. Nobody, except Arthur Withers, realised that the Clockwork man run thus far because for some reason he had been unable to stop himself. It may be remarked here that many of the Clockwork man's subsequent performances had this same accidental air of humour ; and that even his most grotesque attitudes gave the observer an impression of some wild practical joke. He was so far human, in appearance and


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 35 mann er, in s pite of tho s e peculiar internal arran g em e nt s , whi c h will b e de a lt with later, that his a cti o n s pro duc e d a n in s tantaneous appeal to the comic in stinct; and in laughing at him p e opl e for go t to t a k e him s e riou s ly. But Arthur Withers, still fee ling a certain sense of duty towards th a t h e lple s s figure battening him se lf a g a in s t the sheet, ran up to him. H e decid e d th a t it would be useless to try and ex pl a in m a tt e r s . The Cloc kwork man w a s obviou s ly quit e irr es p o nsibl e . Arthur laid his h ands o n hi s s hould e rs and turned him round, much in the w a y that a child turns a m e ch a nic a l toy aft e r it ha s come to rest. Thus rele a sed, the running figure proceeded back toward s the wicket, follow e d close at heel s by Arthur, who hop e d, by means of a pu s h h e r e and a s h ove there , to gu i d e him back to th e pa v ilion and s o out of h a rm's way. But in thi s a tt empt h e was une x pectedly thwart e d. The Cl o ckwork man reco v ered him self ; he r a n str a i ght back to the wicket and the n s t o pped d ead . The umpir e w a s in the act o f r epla cing th e b ails , for th e wick e t had be e n put d o wn, a nd, fas t as thi s eccentric _ crick e t e r h a d run in th e firs t pl a c e , he had not been quick e nou g h t o r ea ch th e cr eas e in tim e . By all th e ru les o f th e game, a nd beyond the s h a d ow of d o ubt, h e h a d b ee n "run out." H e now r egar d e d t he s tu m p s m e dit a tively, with


36 THE CLOCKWORK MAN a finger jerked swiftly against his nose, as though recogni s ing a form e r state of consciousness . And then, with a s wift movement, he took up his position in readiness to receive the ball. This was too much for the equanimity of the spectators. Shout after shout volleyed along the line of the hurdles. The calm de liberateness of the Clockwork man, in so reinstating himself, fairly crowned all his previous exhibitions. And the fact that he took no notice of the merriment at his expense, but simply waited for something to happen, permitted the utmost license. The crowd rocked itself in unrestrained hilarity . But a second later there was stony silence . For the thing that happened next was as unexpected as it was startling. Nobody, save perhaps Dr. Allingham, anticipated that the Clockwork man was capable of adding violence to eccentricity ; he looked harmless enough . But apparently there lurked a d.:emonic temper behind those bland, meaningless features. The thing happened in a trice ; and all that followed occupied but a few cata strophic seconds . The umpire had stepped up to the Clockwork man in o rder to explain to him that he was expected to retire from the wicket. Not hearing any coherent reply, he emphasised his request by placing a hand suggestively on the other's


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 3 7 shoulder. Ins tantly, something bl a de-like flash e d in the s t amme rin g a ir, a l oud thwack broke upon the silence , and the unfortunate umpire lay pros trate. He had gone down like a lo g of wood. Pandemonium e n s u e d. The s c e n e of quiet play w a s tran s form e d into a mini a ture battle field. The fie lder s ru s h e d in a body at the Clockw o rk m a n, only to g o d own one aft e r the other, lik e s o m a ny nin e pin s . The y lay, stunne d and m o ti o nl ess . The Cl o ck w o r k m a n spun round lik e a t ee totum, hi s b a t flashing in the s un, whil s t the flanne ll e d fig ur e s flying from all parts of the fie ld approa ched him, only to be sent r ee lin g and s t agge r ing to earth. Some dodge d for a m o m en t only to b e caught on the r e b ound. Dus t fle w up, and to add to the whirl and confu s i o n the un ea rthly noi se th a t h a d s o s t a rtled Arthur Withe rs broke out a g a in, with t e rrific forc e , lik e th e en g ine of a p owe rful moto r sudde nly s t arte d. "I t o ld y o u h e was m a d ! " s houted Allingham, a s h e and Gr e gg l eapt through the aperture of the p a vilion and da shed to the rescue. But th e Cl o ckw o rk m a n sudde nly seemed panics tri cke n. Ju s t for o n e moment he surv e yed the p ros trate figur es lyin g ab out on the gras s l i k e so many s ac k s . Then he sent the bat flying in the di r ection of the pavilion and rushed s tr a i ght for the barrier of hurdles.


38 THE CLOCK WORK M A N The sp e ct a t o r s fle d with one accord . Allin g h a m and Gr egg doubl e d up in h o t purs uit. Arthur Withe rs, who had mu s tered the wit to fall down rather th a n t o be knocked down, picked himself up qu i ckly and joined them. "It's alright," he g as p e d, "He-he-won't be able to climb th e hurdles. " But ther e was no a ccou n t i n g for the activitie s of the Cl o ck w ork m a n. At a dist a nce of about a yard from the b a rri e r hi s w hol e body took off fr o m the g round, and he lit e r a lly floated in spa ce ov e r the obs tacle. It w as not jumping; it w as m o r e lik e flying. He l a nd e d lightly upon hi s feet, w ithout the lea s t difficulty; and, b e fore the onlook e rs could recov e r from their amazem e nt, this ex traordinary personage had shot like a cat apult, str a ight up the path along which he had tr a v elle d so pre cari o usly half an hour b e for e . In a f e w se cond s his diminutive figure p a ssed into th e horizon, leaving a faint trail of dust and th e dying echo of that appalling noi se. "My God," e x cl a imed Gr e gg, grasping a hurdle to steady himself, "It's it's-incredible." Allingham couldn't s a y a w o rd. He stood there p a ntin g a nd s w a llow i n g quickly. Arthur Withers cau ght up to them. "He-he-goe s by machin e ry, sir. He's a clockwork man." ..


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 39 "Don't be a damned fool," the doctor burst out, "you're talking through your hat.'' Gregg was very acutely. "But it is so," protested Arthur." You didn't see him as I did. He was like nothing on earth-and then he began to work. Just like a motor starting. And then that noise began. I'm sure there's something inside him, something that goes wrong sometimes," He was still a little sorry for the Clockwork man. "That's my conviction," he gasped out, too excited and breathles s for further spt!ech. "I think," said Gregg, with curious calm ness," I think we had better warn the police. He's likely to be dangerou s,"


CHAPTER THREE THE MYSTERY OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN AN hour and a half l a ter Doctor Allingham and Gregg had their t ea tog e th e r in the sitting room of the farmer's residence. Bay windows looked out upon th e bro a d High Street, already thronged with Saturday evening excursio nist s. An unusually larg e crowd was gathered around the entrance to the "Blue Lion," jus t over the way, for the news had soon spread about the town. Wild rumours passed from ear to ear as to the identity of the strange individual whose behaviour h a d resulted in so disturbing a conclusion of the cricket match. Those among the town speop le who had actually witne sse d not only this event but also the rapid flight of the Cl oc kwork man, related their version of the affair, adding a little each time and altering their theorie s , so that in the end those who li s ten ed w ere more frightened and impres sed than those who h a d seen . Allingham sat in stony s ilence, sipping tea at intervals and cutting pi eces of cak e into 40


THE CLOCKWORK M A N 41 n e at little squ a r es , wh i ch he s lipped into his m outh s p as m o dic a lly. N o w and ag ain he p asse d a hand across hi s bi g taw n y m o u s t a che and pull e d it savage ly . His s tate of t e nse nervou s irrit a ti o n was p a rtly due to th e fact that h e h a d b ee n o bli ge d to w a it so l ong for hi s t ea ; but h e h a d a l so vio lently di sa gr eed w ith G regg in the ir d is cu ss ion about the Cl oc k wo rk m a n. At th e present m o m e nt the youn g s tud ent s t oo d by th e window, w a tchin g the a nim a ted c ro w d outside the inn. H e h a d fini s h e d his t ea , and h e h a d n o w i s h t o pu s h his o wn theory a b o ut th e my s t e riou s circumsta nc e t o the ex t ent o f quar r elling w ith his fri e nd. Aft e r the di s a s t e r the re h a d be e n much to d o . F o ur times h a d All i n g h a m' s c a r tr ave lled b e tween the cricket ground and the l o c a l hos pit al, and it w as half pa s t s i x b e for e the elev.en pl ayers and the tw o umpire s h a d b e en c o nveyed thith e r, t r e a ted for th e ir w o und s and di s ch arged . N o one w as se ri o u s ly injure d, but i n e a c h c ase the a b ras i o n on the s id e of the h ea d h a d been s ev e re enou g h to deman d treat m e nt. One o r two h a d b ee n a l o n g w hil e recover in g full consc iou s n ess , and all w e r e in a co nd i ti o n of m enta l co nfusio n and gav e wildly inc o h e r ent report s o f the inci d e nt. There h ad been t imes , d u ring th ose j o urneys


42 THE CLOCKWORK MAN to and fro, wh e n Greg g found it difficult to save him se lf from outbursts of l aughter. He had to bite hi s lip h a rd in the effor t to h o ld in check an imagination that wa s apt to run to extremes. From one point of view it had c e rtainly been absurd that this awkward being, with his apparently limited range of m ove ment, s hould have mana ge d in a few seconds t o lay out so many healthy, active men. By compar i so n, his batting performance, s ingular as it had seemed, faded into in s ignificance. The breathl ess swiftness of the action, the unerring aim, the immens e force behind each blow, the incredible audacity of the act, almost persuaded Gregg that the thin g was too exquisitely comic to be true. But when he forced him self to look at the m a tter seriously, he felt that there were little grounds for the explanation that the Clockwork man was s imply a dangerous lunatic. The flight a t a prepost e rous speed, the flying leap over the hurdle, the su b sequent acceleration of hi s run to a pace altog ether beyond human po ss ibility, convinced the young undergradu a te, who was level-headed enough, although impress ionable, that some other explanation would have to be found for the extraordinary occurrence. Besides, there w as Arthur Wither's s tory about the flapping ears and the queer conversation of the Clockwork man, his peculiar


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 43 jerky movement s , his s udden exhibitions of uncanny efficiency contrasted with appalling lap ses , Once you had grasped the idea of his mechanical ori g in, it was difficult to thru s t the Clockwork man out of your head. He became something immensely exciting and sugge stive . If Gr egg's se n se of humour had not b een so violently tickled by the ludicrous side of the affair, he would have felt already tha t some great discovery was about to be reve ale d to the modern world. It had never occurred to him befor e that abnormal phenomena might be prese nted to human beings in the form of a sort of practical joke. Somehow, one expected this sort of thing to happen in so lemn earnest and in the dead of night, But the event had taken place in broad daylight, and already there was mixed up with its queer unreality the mo s t ridiculous tangle of purely human circumstance. Allingham had an explanation for everything. He said that the loud noise was due to some kind of machine that this ingenious lunatic carried in his pocket. He argued that the rapid flight was probably to be accounted for by a sort of electric shoe. Nothing was impossible so long as you could adduce some explanation that was just human ly credible. And the strange antics of the Clockwork man, his sudden stoppings and beginnings, his


44 THE CLOCKWORK MAN "Anglo-Saxon" gestures and hi s staccato gait, all came under the headin g of locomoto r ataxia in an advanced form. As the doctor concentrated upo n a d e layed tea, his mind l a ps ed into its usual condition of fretful s ceptici s m . Greg g's idea tha t the Clockwork man r ep resented a mys t e ry, if not a miracle, enraged him. At fo rty a m a n does not readily welcome d i s coverie5 that may upset his own world of accepted facts, and Allingh a m h a d l ong s inc e g iven up the habit of following the late s t results o f scientific investigat ion. Y ears ago he had made his own small researches, only to di scover that others were m a kin g them a t the same time. He h a d had his gleamings in common with all the other students of his year . Everybody was having gleamings then of vast p oss ibiliti e s in medical sc i e nc e , e s pecially in the direction of nervous pathology and the study of morbid dise ases re s ultin g from hi g hly complex methods of living . There had b ee n much sound w o rk, a good d ea l of irresponsible mud-raking, and, in Allingha m' s cas e , a growing suspicion that th e human organi s m was not standing very well the strains imposed upon it by modern civilisati o n. H e had wondered then if some experiments would n o t be made some d ay in


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 45 the pur s uit o f evol uti o n a ry d octri n es a s applied to ph ys i o l og i ca l progress-but th a t h a d been the m os t ep h e m e r a l of all hi s g l ea m s . H e h a d b ee n g lad t o a b a nd o n th e hospit als in fav o ur o f a c omforta bl e p r a ctic e and the leisur e d l i f e o f a c ountry town. Great Wymerin g h a d off ered him pl enty o f distra cti o n s th a t so o th e d the slight w ound to his v a nity caused by the di sc ov e r y that he had ov e res tim a t e d his origin a lit y . In a few year s much h a d h a ppen e d tha t h e lp e d to c o nfirm his new v i e w o f himself a s a s ocia l creatur e with a ta s t e for th e ame nities of e x i s t e nc e . And th e n he h a d b ee n abl e to k ee p up hi s c r i c k e t. In the wint e r th e r e wer e brid ge p a rti es , a m a teur th ea tric a l s , dinner p a rti es wit h q uit e ordin a ry but ag reeabl e pe o ple, l o cal a ffa i rs into which a man whose health w as unde r su s picion and whose sym path ies w e r e ju s t p e rc epti bly n a rrowing, could plun ge w ith out t oo much effort bein g required in or d er t o r ise t o such occas ion s . And he h a d th e w itt y t em p era m e nt. Qui te ea s ily, he m a intain e d a r eputa ti o n for turning o ut a bon m o t on the sp ur o f the mome nt, something wi t h a faint e lem ent o f par a d ox . H e would sa y such thin gs as , "Only those s ucc e ed in life who h ave bra in s and ca n for ge t th e fac t," or "To be i dle i s the goa l of all men, but only the indu strio u s achi eve it." Whe n t aunte d by


46 THE CLOC KWORK MAN a young lady who suspected him of wasted tal ents , eve n gen iu s , h e retorted that "Geni us is only an accumulation of neglected diseases." Latterly he had suffered from s trange irrita tions not easily to be ascribed to liver, mis givings, a sense of havin g d efi nit ely accepted a secondary edition of hims elf . An old ac quaintance w o uld h ave det ected at once the change in his cha ract er , the marked l eaning towards conservatism in politics and a c erta in reactionary t e nd ency in his ge n era l ide as . He was becoming fixe d in his views, and b elieved in a sta ble universe. His opinions, in fact, were as automatic as his Swedish exercises in the morning and his apple before breakfast. There was a slight compe n satory increas e in his sense of humour, and th ere was his approaching marria ge to Lilian Payne, the gifted daughter of a wealthy town councillor. That last fact occupied a central place in his mind just at present, but it was also another source of irrit atio n . Lilian was intellectual as well as fascinating, and the former attribute became more m ark ed as they grew more inti mate . In stead of charming little notes inviting him to tea h e now re ceived lon g , a nd, he was obliged to a dmit, quite exce llent essays upon the true place of woman in modern life . He was bound to ap p laud, but s u c h activity of mind w as by no means t o hi s taste. H e liked


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 47 a woman to have tho u ghts; but a thinking woman wa s a nu isance . All these cl a m o uring reforms r ep r esen ted to him mere ly a di s inclination to bother about the necessary affairs of life, an evasion of in ev it a ble evils, a refus a l to accept life as a school of learning by trial and error. Besides, if women got hold of the id ea of efficiency there would be an end to a ll things . They would make a worse muddl e of the " mad dream" than the men. Women made fewer mistakes and the y wer e temperament a lly in clined towar ds the pushing of everything that they undertook to the point of violent and uncomfortable success. Efficiency I How he h a t e d the w o rd I It reminde d him of hi s own heart-breaking struggles, n o t only with the difficulties of an exactin g science, but w ith the compl ex ities of the time in which hi s youth had been spent, a time when all the inte lligent young men had been trying to find some way out of the social evils that the n existed-and still existed, as an ironical memorial to their futile efforts. In those d a ys one scarce ly d a red to move in int e llectual circles without having evo lved o ne's p e rs o nal solution of th e so c i a l problem, an achievement th a t impli ed a great deal of h a rd reading, attendance a t Fabia n m ee tin gs , a nd a cert a in amount of vol untary thinkin g .


48 THE CLOCKWORK MAN If necessary, one could brush all that up again. How different life was, when it came to b e liv e d ; h o w unlik e the sagaci ou s prognos tication s of d o ubting y outh ! There was a substratum underneath all that surge of en quiry and inqui s itiveness, all that worry and distress ; and that wa s life itself, known and valued, somethin g that one clung to with increasing stre ngth. The mind grew out of its speculative stage and settled down to a careful consideration of concrete existence. And then, with a sharp jar, his thoughts reverted to the consideration of another irri tating circumstance, this ridiculous Cl orkwor k man, in whom Gregg believed even to the extent of thinking it worth while stating the case for the incredible before a man y ears his senior in experience and r a tional thought. II Allingham got up and stood behind Gregg at the window. The latter rai se d his head a littl e as though to catch any words that might float across from the bab e l of excited voices opposite. But there was nothing clearly distinguishable. " You see," said Allingham, nodding his head and wiping his moustache with a handkerchief, "let the thing work on your


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 49 mind and you ally yourself with these town gossips . They'll talk thi s affair into a nine days wonder." Gregg shrugged his s houlders in silence. Presently he look e d at hi s watch. " I wonder if Grey will be back soon." Gr ey was the local inspector of police, in whose hands they had placed the busi ness of rounding up the Clockwork man . Allingham had loaned out his car for the purpose . "I doubt if we shall see him before mid night," sai d the latt er. "Even supposing he catche s hi s man b efore du sk , which is unlikely, 1t will take him another hour or so to drive to the A sylum." Gr egg failed to suppress an abrupt snigger. He lit a cigarette to cover his confusion. Once more he envisaged that flying figure on the horizon. "At the rate he was going," he remarked, steadily, "and barring accidents , I should say h e's reached London by now." "There will b e an accident," retorted Alling ham. " Mark my words, he won't get very far." At th a t moment Mrs. Masters, the doctor's elderly housekeeper, entered the room in order to clear away the tea things . She was a country woman, given to talking without reserve, ex cept when the doctor's eye fell upon her, as it did upon this occasion. But for once she E


50 THE CL O CKW O RK MAN evaded this check to her natural proclivities ; s h e was not going to be cheated out of her share in the local go ss ip. She placed the tray on t h e table and made the visitor an excuse for h er loquacity . "Oh, Mr . Gregg , they say the Devil' s come to G reat Wymerin g at last , I'm not surprised to 'ear it, for the goings on in this town 'ave been something terrible since the war. W hat with the drinking and the young people doing just as they like . " Have you heard anything fresh ? 11 en quired Gregg, pleasantly. "Only about old Mr. Winchape," said Mrs . Master s , as she packed the t ea things. " H e's seen the man that knocked the cricketers down with the bat. That is, if he is a man, but they do say -11 "Where did Mr. Winchape see him?" broke in Allingham, abruptly . "Along t h e path from B apchurch, sir . " Mrs. Masters moderated her manner before the doctor's searching eye . "Poor old Mr . Wi nchape , he's not so young as he was, and it did give him a turn . He says he was 'urrying along so as to get 'ome in time for tea, and all of a s udden somethi ng flashed by 'im, so quick that he 'ardly reali se d it . He looked round. but it was gone in no time . He reckons it w a s the Old Man ' imself . There was fire


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 51 coming out of his mouth and 'is eyes was like two red 'ot coals-" Allingham stamped his feet on the carpet. " I will not listen to such talk, Mrs. Masters ! A woman of your age and supposed sense to lend ear to such nonsense. I'm ashamed of you." Mrs. Masters trembled a little under the rebuke, but she showed no sign of repentance. "I'm only repeating what's said," she remarked. "An' for all I know it might have been the Devil. It says in the Bible that he's to be unbound for a thousand years, and I'm sure he might just as well come here as elsewhere for a start. The place is wicked enough." "Superstitious nonsense," snorted Alling ham. And he continued to snort at intervals while Mrs. Masters hastily collected cups and plates, and retreated with dignity to the kitchen. " Perhaps you agree with Mrs. Masters?" said Allingham, as soon as the door was closed. Gregg laughed and lowered himself into an easy chair. "Superstition, after all, is a perfectly legitimate although rudimentary form of human enquiry. These good people want to believe in the Devil. At the least opportunity they evoke his satanic majesty. They


52 THE CLOCKWORK MAN are quite right. The y are s imply using the only material in the ir minds in order to in vestigate a myst e ry." "A sort of glamour," s ugge s ted Allingham, trying to look b o red. "If you lik e," admitte d Greg g , "only it . does help them to unde r s t a nd, jus t a s all our scientific knowled ge h e lps u s to unde r s t a nd, the future." "Why dra g in the future," s aid the othe r, opening his eyes quickly. " Because," sai d Gr egg , purpo se ly a d o ptin g a monoto n o u s drawl as tho u g h to concea l his eagernes s , " if my theory is correct, the n I assume th a t the Clockwork man come s from the future . " " It's a h a rmless enough as sumption," laughed Allingham. Gre gg re s ted hi s head upon the back of the ch a ir and puffe d s m o ke out. "We will pa ss over the circum s tance of his abrupt a ppearance at the top of the hill, for it is obvious that he might have come from one of the n eighbouring villa ges , although I don't think he did. You yourself admit that hi s m anner of approach was startling, and tha t it almo s t s eemed as though he had come from nowhere. But let th a t be. The re ar e , I a dmit, as yet few facts in support o f my the o ry, but i t i s a t lea s t significant that one of the first questions he


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 53 asked should h ave been, not wh ere h e was but when h e wa s." " I don't quite follow you," interjected Allingham. "He asked Arthur Withers what year it was. Natura lly, if he did come from the future, hi s first anxiety would be to know into what period of man's history he had, possibly by some a ccident, wandered." " But how could h e have come from the future?" "Time," said Gregg, quickly, " is a relative thing. The future has happ ened ju s t as much a s the past. It is happening at thi s moment." "Oh, well, you m a y b e ri ght there," blus tered Allingh a m, "I don't know. I admit I'm not quite up to date in the se abstruse speculations." " I regard tha t statement of his as highly significant," r esume d Gregg, after a slight pause. " For, of course , if the man really i s , as suggested, a semi-mechanica l being, then he c o uld only have come from the future. So far a s I am aware, the present has not yet evolved s ufficiently even to consider seriously the po ss ibility of introducing me chanical reinforcem e nts into the human body, although there h as been tentative speculation on the subject. We are thousands of years away from s uch a proposition ; on the other


54 THE CLOCKWORK MAN hand, the re i s no r eason why it should not h a ve a lready h appe n e d outside o f our limite d knowl e d ge o f futurit y . It h a s o ften occurre d t o me tha t the drift o f s c ienti fic progre s s i s s lowly but surely le ading u s in the direction o f some such s olution of phys i o logic a l difficulti es . The human orga ni s m shows s i g n s of breaking down under the strain of an increas ingly complex civili sation. There m a y b e a limit to our p ower of a d apta bility, and in that c as e humanity will h a v e to d ecide whethe r it will alte r its present mode o f livin g o r find in stead some means of supple m enting the n ormal functions of the b o dy. P erha p s tha t h as , a s I sugges t, alr eady h appened ; it d e p ends entire ly upon which road humanity h as ta k e n. If the mechanica l s id e o f civilisation h as deve l oped at its present rate, I see no r easo n why the man of the future should not h ave found m eans to ensure hi s effici ency by m echanical means applied to hi s n atural functi o n s." Gregg s a t up in hi s chair and b e c a m e more seriou s . Allingh a m fidget e d without actually interrupting. 11 Imagine an exce e din g ly c omplex kind of mechanism," Gregg re sume d, 11 a n exagg e r ation of the many intrica te typ e s o f modern m achines iQ use to-da y. It w ould h a v e to b e s o m e th ing of a very delic a te d escription, and y e t r athe r crude at first in its eff ect. One thinks of


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 55 s omethin g tha t w o uld w ork a ccur a t e ly if in r a th e r a l i m i t e d s ort o f w a y. Y o u see , th e y w o uld h ave to e n s u re s uc ce ss in so m e things a t fir s t eve n a t t h e sacrifice o f a ce rt a in ge ner a l awkwardness . It wo uld b e a qu e stion o f t a kin g o n e thi n g a t a t im e . Thu s , wh e n th e Cl ockwork m a n cam e to p l ay cric k et, a ll h e could d o was t o hit th e b a ll. W e h ave t o admit th a t h e did tha t e ffici e ntl y eno u g h , h o w e v e r futile w e r e t h e r es t o f hi s a cti o n s." "Ho t a ir," in terrupte d Alli n g h a m, re a ching for hi s t o b a cc o po uch, " th a t' s all this i s." "Oh, I won't admit tha t, " rejoin e d Gre g g, cheerfully, "we mus t a ckn ow l e d ge th a t wha t we sa w thi s afte rnoon was en t i r e ly abno rmal. E ve n whe n w e w ere ta lk i n g to him I h a d a s tron g f e e l ing c o m e over m e th a t our in t e rro gator was no t a no r m a l huma n being. I d o n ' t m e a n s im p ly hi s b e h av iour. His clothe s were a n o dd sort o f c o l o u r and shape . And di d yo u notic e hi s b oo t s ? Curi o u s , dull lo o kin g th i n gs . A s th oug h th e y w e re m a de out o f some k ind o f m e t al. And then, the h a t and wi g ? " "You're si m p l y im agi n i n g a ll these thing s," sa id Allin g h am, h o tl y , as h e ramme d tobacco i nt o his p i pe . "I'm n o t. I r ea lly n o tic e d th e m. Of course , I di d n't a t t a ch m uch im po rtance to the m a t the time , but a fterw ards , when Arthur


56 THE CLOCKWORK MAN Withers w as t e llin g his s tory, all that queer feeling about th e strange figure came back to me. It took posses s ion of me. After all, suppose h e 1's a cl ockwork man?" ii But what i s a clockwork m a n ? " de manded Allingh a m . ii Well, of course I can't explain that exactly, but the term so obviously explains itself. Damn it, he i's a clockwork man. He walks, talks, and behav es exactly like one would imagine-" ii Imagine ! " burst out Allingh a m. ii Yes, you can z'magz'ne s uch a thing. But you are trying to prove to me that this creature is something that doesn't and can't exis t outside your imagination. It won't wash." "But you agree," said Gr egg , unperturbed, "that it might be po ss ible in th e future?" ii Oh, well, everything i s pos s ible, if you look at it in that light," grudgin g ly admitted the other. ii Then all we have to do i s t o prove that the futur e i s involved. Our lun a tic mu s t convinc e us th a t h e i s n o t of our age, tha t he has, in fact, and probably by mechanical means, found his way back to an age of fles h and blood. So far, we are agreed, for I willingly s ide with y o u in your opinion that the Clockwork man could not e xi s t in the present; while I am open t o b e convinced


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 5 7 th a t he i s a quite credible inve ntion of t h e rem o t e futur e . " He broke off, for at that moment a car drew u p in fron t of the window, and the bu rl y form o f I n s pector G rey st eppe d down in compan y wi t h two constables and a lad of about fif teen, whom b oth G r e gg and th e doctor recognised as an inhabit a nt o f th e n e i ghbouring village o f Bapchurch. II I "We ll ? " sa id Allingham, as the pa rty stampe d aw kw ar dly int o the room, a f ter a prelimin a ry s hufflin g upon the m a t. "Wh at luck ? " "Not much, d oc t o r," announced the in spector, r emoving hi s hat and di s clo sing a fringe of carroty h a ir. "We 'aint found you r m a n, and so far as I can judge we 'aint l ike l y to. But we've found th ese . " He l a id the Clockw o rk man's h a t and wig on th e table . Gregg instantly picked them u p and b ega n examining th em with g r ea t c u r i osity . "And young Tom Driver h ere , he' s s ee n the m a n himself, " resumed the insp e c t o r. "That' s 'ow w e come by the 'at a nd wi g. Tell the gentlemen wh a t you saw, Tom. " T o m Driv e r w as a b ac kw a rd yout h at the b es t of times, but h e seemed quite overcome


58 THE CLOCKWORK MAN by the amount of re s pon s ibility now thru s t upon him. H e s huffl e d forward, pres sing hi s kn ees togeth e r and h o lding a tattered cap b etween hi s very dirty finge r s . A great s hock of curly yellow h a ir f e ll a lmo s t over hi s l a rge brown eyes, and hi s face w as lon g and pinche d. "I see the m a n,'' h e b ega n, timidly, " I see 'im as I w as going al o n g th e path to Bapchurch.'' " W as he goi n g ve ry fast ? " sa id Gregg . "No , s ir, he we r en't walking a t a ll. He'd fallen into the ch a lk pit ju st by R oc k' s B ottom." Allingh a m burs t o ut int o a great roar of laught e r ; but Gregg merely s mil e d and lis tened. "That's 'ow I c o me to see 'im," sa id Tom, shifting hi s cap about uneasi ly. " I wa s in a bit of a 'urry 'co s mothe r said I wasn't to be late for t ea , and I'd b ee n into the town to buy butter a s we w as a bit s hort. A s I come by Rock' s Bottom-and you know 'ow the path bends a bit sharp to the l e ft wher e the chalk pit lie s-it's a bit awk ward for anyone 'as don't know 1.he path-" "Yes, g o on," sa id Gr egg, impatiently. "We ll, as I was coming along I see something m oving about jus t at the top of the pit. At fir s t I thought it was a do g , but when I come near er I could see it was a pair of legs, kickin g . Only they w as g oin g so fas t you couldn't hardly tell one from t'other. Well, I


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 59 ran up, thinking 'a s v e ry lik e ly someone 'ad fallen in, and sure enough it was someone, I caught 'old of th e leg s , and ju s t as I wa s about to pull 'im out-" " Did the legs go on kicking ? 11 sai d Gregg, quickly. "Yes, sir, I 'ad a job to 'old them. And then, ju s t as I was going to pull 'im out, I noticed something-" Tom paused for a moment and began to tremble. His te eth chattered violently, and he l oo k e d appealingly at his li s teners as though afraid to continue. "Go on, Tom," commande d Inspector Grey. "Spit it out, lad. It's got to b e said.'' "He-He-hadn't go t no b ac k to hi s head," blurted out Tom at las t. " What ! 11 rappe d out Allingham. "There you are," sa id Tom, cowering and glancing reproachfully at th e inspector, " I told you as 'ow t' gentlemen wouldn't believe me. T 'aint lik e ly as anyb o dy would beli eve it as 'adn't seen it for themselves.'' "But what did you see?" enquired Gregg, kindly. "What was th ere t o b e seen?" Tom's eyes searc h ed th e room as though looking for so m e thing. Gregg was standing with hi s back to the fireplace, but noticing that Tom seemed to b e trying to lo o k behind him, he moved away. Tom immediately


60 THE CLOCKWORK MAN point e d t o th e cl oc k that stoo d o n th e m antelpie c e. "It w as a cl o ck," he s aid, s lowly, "jus t like that o ne, only m o re so , in a manner of speaking. I me a n it ' a d more 'ands and figure s , a nd they w as g o in g round v ery fa s t. But it 'ad a glass fa c e jus t lik e tha t one, and it w a s stuck o n 'i s ' ea d just w h e r e the back ought to b e . The sun w as s hinin g on it at fir st. That's why I c ouldn't be s ur e wh a t it w a s for a long tim e . But wh e n I looked cl ose r, I could see plain en o u g h, a nd it made m e feel all wobbly, sir." "Was ther e a loud n o i se?" a s ked Gr egg. "No , s ir, n o t then. But th e ' a nd s w as moving v e ry fas t, and the r e w a s a so rt o f 'umming go in g o n lik e a l o t of clocks all go in g o n a t once , only qui e t lik e . I w as s o t a k e n back I didn't kn o w w h a t t o d o , but presen tl y I c aught ' o ld o f 'i s l egs a nd tri e d to pull 'im out. It w e r en't a easy j o b, 'cos 'i s l egs w as kickin g all th e time , a n d a lth o u g h I ' olle r e d out t o ' im ' e t oo k n o n o ti ce . At last I drag g e d 'im out, and ' e l a y o n the g r ass , s till kickin g . 'E n eve r eve n t r i e d t o g e t up, and a t l as t I t ook 'old o f hi s s h o uld e r s and pic k e d ' im u p . And the n, as soo n as . I go t 'im u p a n d s t oo d 'im on hi s f ee t, a nd a f o r e I ' a d t i m e t o 'ave a good l oo k a t 'im, off h e g oes, lik e grease d lightning. An a wful no i se s t a rt e d, lik e


THE CLOCKWORK M A N 61 machinery, and a for e I ' a d time to turn round ' e wa s down th e p ath t o w ards B apchurch and out of s ight. I tell yo u, s ir, it gave me a pro p e r turn. " "But h o w di d yo u c o m e by these?" ques tion e d G regg , who w as s till h o lding th e h a t and wig . "I s e e the m l y in g in th e pit," ex plained T o m, "the y mus t 'ave d ro p pe d off 'i s 'ea d as he l a y the r e . Of c o ur se , ' e ' adn't fallen v e ry far, othe rwi se 'i s l egs w ouldn't ' a ve been s ti c kin g up. It 'aint very s t ee p ju s t th e r e , and 'i s 'ead m us t ' ave cau g h t in a bit o f furz e . But th e ' a t an d w i g ' a d roll e d d ow n to the bottom. Aft e r ' e'd go n e I climb e d down and p i ck e d th e m up. " Gregg passe d the h a t and w i g t o Allingham, and w hi s p e r e d so m e th i n g . The other looked at the i n si d e o f th e h at. The r e w as a sma ll l a b e l i n th e ce n t r e , w i th the follow in g m a tter printe d upo n i t : D UNN BRO THERS. U NIVERSAL HAT PROVIDERS. ESTABLISHED OVE R 2,000 YEARS. For a moment Allin g h am's fac e wa s a study i n b e w ilderme nt. H e tri e d t o s pe a k, but only s uc cee d e d in produ c in g a n a b surd snigge r. The n h e tri e d to l a ugh o ut r ight, a n d w a s forc e d into r a p i d s p e e ch. "Well, wha t did I s ay'


62 THE CLOCKWOR K MAN The wh o l e thing i s p re po s t e rou s . I ' m afr a id, inspector, we've t ro ubl e d you for n o thin g . The fac t i s , some b o dy h as b een g uilty o f a monstr ou s h oax . " "Loo k a t th e wig , l oo k a t the wig ,' ' in terrupted Gr egg , feveri s hl y . Allin g h a m d i d so . Ju s t on t h e edge o f the lining the r e w as a n o b l o n g s h ap e d t a b, with s m a ll g o l d l e t te rin g :-W. CLARKSON. Wig -m ak e r t o t he S e venth Int erna tion al. "We ll, w ell, it' s wh a t I s aid ," the doctor went on , swallo win g q u ickly , " some one has someo n e has-'' H e b ro k e off a bru ptly . Gregg wa s s t anding with hi s h ands b ehind him. H e shook his head gr ave l y . 11 It's n o u s e , d o c," he obse rved, quietly, "we've g o t to fac e it.''


CHAPTER FOUR ARTHUR WITHERS THINKS THINGS OUT I 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. Ro se 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, aqd so conveyed the comforting impr ess ion that they were not dead, Arthur felt himself ab l e to re s ume normal exi s tence. His lodging s were situated at the lower end of the town. The accommodation consisted 63


64 THE CLOCKWORK MAN of a small bedroom, which he shared with a fellow clerk, and a place at table with the other inmates of the house. The street was very dirty, and Mrs. Flack's house alone presented some sign of decency and respect ability. It was a two-storied red brick cottage. There was no front garden, and you entered directly into a living room through a door, upon which a brass plate was fixed that bore the following announcement :-MRS. FLACK Trained Midwife. Arthur stumbled into the room, dropped his straw hat on to the broken-down couch that occupied the entire side of one wall, and sat down at the table. "Well ? " enquired Mrs. Flack, as she poured him out a cup of tea, "who won ? " "Nobody," remarked Arthur , cramming bread and butter into his mouth. "Game off." Mr. who was seated in his armchair by the fire-place, looked up in amaze ment. His interest in cricket was immense, but chronic rheumatism prevented him from getting as far as the ground. He was dependent upon Arthur's reports and the local paper. "'Ow's that, then ? " he demanded, slowly. Arthur swallowed quickly and tried to


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 65 explain. But, although the affair was still hot in hi s mind, h e found it exceedingly difficult to describe exactl y what had tak e n 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. " Go hon I" exclaimed Mrs. Flack, leaning her rec! folded arms upon the table, "well I never ! " " 'Tain't possible," objected her husband, "'e's pulling your leg, ma." But Arthur persisted in his imitations, without caring very much whether his observers believed him or not. It at least afforded an entertaining occupation, Mrs. Flack's motherly bosom rose and fell with merriment. "It's as good as the pictures," she announced at last, wiping her eyes. But when Arthur spoke about the loud noise, and hinted that the Clockwork man's internal arrange ments consisted of some kind of machinery, Mr. Flack sat bolt upright and shook his head gravely. "You're a masterpiece," he remarked, F


66 THE CLOCKWORK MAN " that's what you are." This was his usual term for anything out the way. "You ain't a going to get me to believe that, not at my age.'' 11 If you saw him," said Arthur, em phatically, 11 you'd have to believe. It's just that, and nothing el se. He's like one of those mechanical toy s come to life. And it's so funny. You'd never guess." Mr. Flack shook his head thoughtfully. Presently he got up, walked to the end of the mantelpi e ce, pl a ced his s moked-out pipe on the edg e and took an empty one from behind an ornament. Then he returned to his seat and sat for a long time with the empty pipe in his mouth. "'T'ain't pos s ible," he ruminated, at last, "not for a bloke to 'ave machinery in s ide 'im. At least, not to my way of thinking." Arthur finished his tea and got up from his chair. Conscious that his efforts so far had not carried conviction, he sp ent a few moments of valuable time in an attempt to supplement them. '' He went like this," he explained, imitating the walk of the Clockwork man, and at the same time snapping his fingers to suggest sharp clicking nois es. 11 And the row! Well, you know what a motor sounds like when it's being wound up. Like that, only worse."


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 67 Mrs. Flack held the greater part of herself in a s emicircl e of r e d a rm. "You are a on e , " sh e d e cl a red. The n s h e looked at Mr, Flack, w h o sa t unmove d. "Why don' t you lau g h. It would d o yo u g o od. You take everything s o s e ri o u s." "I ain't a going to l augh," sa id Mr. Flack, "no t unl e s s I s ee fit to l a ugh." And he continu e d to st a re grav e ly a t Arthur's el a borate po s turing. Pre se ntly the l a tt e r remembered hi s urgent appointme nt and disappeared throug h the n a rrO\\ ' do o r tha t l e d upstairs. "Whoeve r ' e b e," sa id Mr. Fl a ck, referring to the s tran ge vi s itor to Grea t Wymering, "I sho uld judge 'im to b e a bit of a m a sterpiece." JI Up s tair s i n th e b e droom, Arthur hastily remov e d hi s fla nn e l s and pac e d the limited amount of floo r s p a c e betw ee n the two beds. Wha t a little bo x o f a pl a ce it was, and how absurdly crammed with furniture ! You couldn't move an inch without bumping into things or knocki n g some thing over. There wasn't room to swing a cat, much le s s to per form an elabor a te toil e t with th a t amount of leisurely comfort n e c essa ry to its successful accompli shme nt. Ordinarily he didn't notice these things ; it was only when he was in a


68 THE CLOCKWORK MAN hurry, and had all sorts of little duties to carry out, th at the awkwardness of hi s surroundings forced themse lve s into hi s mind and produced a sense of r evo lt. There were time s when everything seemed a confounded nuisance and a chair stuck in your way made you feel in clined to pitch it out of th e window. Just when you wanted to enjoy simply b eing your self, when your thoughts were running in a pleasant, easeful way, you h ad 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 becau se other people expected you to do the same as themselves. It wa sn't so much a waste of time as a wast e of life. He r es cu ed hi s trousers from und e rn ea th the mattress. It was only recently that he had di s covered this obvious substitute for a trouser press , and so added one more nuisance to existence. It was something else to be remembered. H e grinned pleasantly at the thought of the circumstance which had brought about the se careful h a bit s . Rose Lomas liked him to lo o k smart, and h e h a d manage d it somehow. There were plenty of dapper youths in Great Wymering, and Arthur had been astute enough to notice wherei n h e had differed from them, in th e first s t ages of hi s courting. Early rebuff s had l e d him to perceive that the


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 69 eye of love rests primarily upon a promising exterior, and only afterwards discovers the interior qualiti es that justify a wise choice. Arthur had been spurned at first on account of a slovenliness that, to do him justice , was rather the result of person a l conviction, how ever erring, than mere carelessness. He really had felt that it was a wa s te of life even to spend half an hour a month in side a barber's shop. Not only that, but the experience was far reaching in it s unpleasant conse quences . You went into the shop f ee ling agreeably i{amiliar with y ourse lf, conscious of intense personality; and you came out a none ntity, smelling of bay-rum. The barbe r succeeded in transforming you from a n individual brimming over with original reflections and impuls es into a stranger without a di s tinctive notion in your head. The barber, in fact, was a D e lilah in trousers ; he ravished the lock s from your head and b e witch e d you into the barga in. Arthur h a d a strong sense of originality, although he would have be e n the last p erson to cl a im origin a lity in his thoughts. He dis liked interference with any p ar t o f J:iis personal being. A s a b oy h e h a d b ee n p erturbed by the prospect of growin g up. It h a d seeme d to him such a hopel ess sort of process, a mere longitudinal extension, without corresponding gain in other magnitudes. He s uspected that


70 'rHE CLOC K WOR K MAN other dubious adva n t ages w e r e only t o b e purchased a t the expe n se o f a thinnin g out of the joy s of childho o d. L ater o n, he d i scovere d, sadly enou g h, that t h i s wa s the ca s e ; a lth o u g h it w a s pos s ible d e lib e r a t e l y t o protract o n e ' s adolescence. H e n ce h is untidin e ss, hi s inefficiency, and e v en hi s obtuse n ess , we r e le s s constitutional fault s tha n weap on s in t h e war fare ag a in s t th e en c roachment o f t ime. But the auth o rit i e s at the bank r egarde d t he m a s gr av e d e fect s i n hi s c h ara cter. F alli n g in l ove h ad revea l e d the m a tt e r i n a very diffi e r en t light. It was q u ite worth whil e yielding t o fashio n i n ord e r t o win th e affec t io n of R os e Lomas. A n d so h e had imi t a t e d hi s riv a ls. H e c as t as id e a ll ti es that r ev e aled th ei r lining s , trimme d u p the cuffs o f hi s s h i rt s ; overcame with a n effort a natur a l repu gn a nc e to w ea rin g hi s b est cl othes ; a n d gene r ally submitte d him se lf t o th a t d a ily s upervisio n o f superfici a l m a tter s w hi c h h e c o uld now regar d a s the p relud e to h appy h o u r s . A n d R ose , interest e d in th a t c onque s t of himse lf for h e r s ake, h a d soon l ea rn e d h ow much th e re wa s bene a th the poli s h e d s urfa ce to cap tur e he r heart. Y es , lo ve m a d e eve r yt hing diffe ren t ! Y o u wer e r ea dy t o put u p w ith a ll inconv e n ience s and indig niti e s for the sa k e of th a t s t r a n ge obs ession, Tha t thought c o nsol e d him as he


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 71 crept on hands and knees in order to pick up his safety razor that had dropped behind the bulky chest of drawers. Love accounted for everything, both serious and comic. He found his razor, plunged it into cold water-he had forgotten to ask Mrs. Flack for hot, and couldn't be bothered now-and lathered his face thoughtfully. How many times, in the course of a life time, would he repeat that operation ? And he would always stand in exactly the same way, with his legs straddled apart, and his elbows spanning out like flappers. He would always pass the razor over his face in a certain manner, avoiding those places where even the sharpest blade boggled a little, proceeding with the same mechanical strokes until the job was once more accomplished. Afterwards, he would laboriously separate the portions of his razor and wipe them methodically, always in the same order. That was because, once you had decided upon the right way to do a thing you adopted that method for good. He achieved th a t second grand sweep of the left side of his face, ending at the corner of his mouth, and followed it up by a swift upward stroke, annihilating the bristly tuft underneath his lower lip. Looking swiftly at the clock, he noticed that it was getting dreadfully late. That was another curious problem of existence.


72 THE CLOCKWORK MAN You were always up against time . Generally, when you had to do so m e thin g or get some where, there was this sense of bre a thl ess hurry a . .nd a di sco ncerting feeling that the world en d e d abruptly at the conclusion of every hour and then beg a n ag ain quite differently. The clock, in fact, was anoth e r tyrant, robbing you of that sensation of b eing able to go on for ever without changing . Tha t was why p eop le said, when they consulted th e ir watches " How's t h e enemy ? " He attacked the problem of hi s upper lip with sturdy resolution. It was important that this part of his fac e should b e quite smooth. There must not be even a s u spic ion of roughness. Tears started into hi s eyes as h e harrowed that tender surface . He drew in his b reath sharply, and in that moment of voluntary and glad trav ail achieved a metaphysic a l conception of the fir s t magnitude . All really important questions in lif e came under the he a ding of Time an d Space, thought of in capital l ette rs. R ecently , he h a d stru ggled through a difficult book, in which the author used the se expres s i ons a great m a ny times, although in a sense difficult to gra sp. Never theles s , it sudden l y became obvious, in a small way, exactly what the chap had been driving a t. And somehow , hi s thoughts instantly re turned t o th e Cloc kw ork man. He performed


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 73 the rest of his toilet swiftly, the major part of his brain occupied with reflections that had for their drift the curious ease with which you could perform so me operations in life without consciou s ly realising the fact. III "Oh, I'm not nearly ready yet ! " R ose L omas stoo d at the open window of her bedroom. Her bare arms and shoulders gleamed so ftly in the twilight, One hand held h er l o o s ened hair on the top of her head, and the other pressed a garment to her chest. "Alright," sa id Arthur, stan ding at the gate, "buck up. " Ro se lo o k e d cautiou s ly around a s though to make sure n o one el se was in a position to obs erve h e r decoll eti. But the road was empty. It seeme d plea sant to see Arthur standing there twirling his w a lking s tic k and l ooking upwards at h e r. She decided to keep him there for a few m oments . "Lovely evening," s he remarked, pre se ntly. "Yes, j o lly," sai d Arthur, "buck up . " "I am bucking up. " "You're not even dressed ! " "I am," R ose in s i s ted, di sta ntly, "much m ore than yo u think. I've got l o t s on." They l oo k ed s olemnly at one another for a


74 THE CLOCKWORK MAN long while without even approaching a 11 stare out." ''How many runs did you make," Rose asked . She had to repeat the question again before he could hear it di s tinctly. Besides, he never could believe that her interest in cricket was serious . 11 None," he admitted, "but I was not out." Ro s e cons idered . "That's not a s good as making run s though." Arthur heard a sli ght noi s e somewhere round the back of the cottage . "Someone coming," he warned . Rose retreated a few step s and lowered her head. 11 Walk up the lan e," she whispered, "I'll come pre sently." "Alright," Arthur nodded, "buck up." He walked a f e w yards up the road, and then turned through a wicket gate and mounted the hump of a meadow . The narrow path swerved s l ightly to right and left. Arthur fell to meditating upon paths in general and how they came into existence. Obviously, it was because people always walk e d in the same way . Countless foot s teps, following the same line until the gra s s wore away. That was very odd wh e n you c a me to think about it. Why didn't peopl e choos e different ways of crossing that particular meadow ? The n there would


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 75 be innumerable p;iths, representing a variety of choice. It would b e inte r e sting to start a path of your own, and see how many p e o pl e would follow you, even though you deliberately chose a circuitous or not obviously direct route. You could come every clay until the path was made. He climbed over the top of the meadow, d escende d again into a valley, and stopped b e fore a stile with h e d ge s running away on either si de. He decid e d to wait h e re for Rose. It would be pl easant to see her coming over the hill. It was gloaming now. The few vis ible stars shone with a peculiar individual brightness, and lo o k e d s tran ge l y pendulous in the fading blue s k y . H e l ea n e d b ac k and gazed at the depths above him. This time of the day was always puzzling. You c ould nev e r tell exactly at what m oment th e sky re a lly changed into the aspect of eve nin g , and the n, night. Yet there must be some s ubtl e moment when each star was b o rn. Perhaps by l ooking hard enoug h it would be possible to b ecome a ware of the s e things. It would b e lik e watching a bud unfold. Slow change was a n impe netrable myste ry, for actu a lly things see m e d to happen too quickly for yo u to notice them. Or rath er, you we re too bu s y to notice the m . Spring was like that. Every year you made up your


76 THE CLOCKWORK MAN mind to notice the first blossoming, the initial tinge of green ; but always it happened that you awoke one morning and found that some vast change h a d taken place, so that it really seemed lik e a miracle . He sat there, dangling an empty pipe between hi s teeth. H e was not conscious of a desire to smoke, and he felt strangely tolerant of Rose's delay. She would come presently. Presently his reverie was abruptly disturbed by a faint noise, strangely familiar although remote. It se emed to reach him from the right, as thoug h something crept slowly along the hedge line, hidden from his view. It was a soft, purring sound, very regular and sustained. At first he thought it wasJhe cry of a pheasant, but decided that it was much too persistent. It was something that made a noise in the process of walking a long. He held his breath and turned his head slowly to the right. For a long time the sound increased only very s lightly. And then, there broke upon the general stillness a series of abrupt explosions. Pfft-Pfft-Pfft-Pfft-Pfft-And the other n oi s e, the purring and whirring, resumed this time s o close to Arthur tha t he in s tinctiv e ly, and h alf in fe a r, arose from the stil e and looke d around him. But the tall hedges sweeping away on either side


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 77 made it difficult to see anyone who might be approaching under th e i r cover. The r e wa s a pause. The n a di ffere nt sound. Click-click-clickerty click-clicker clicker -clicker-And so on, becoming louder and louder until at last it stopped, and its place was taken by the dull pitter-patter of footsteps coming neare r and nearer. The re was a little harsh snort tha t mi ght have b ee n intended for a sigh, and then a voice. 11 Oh dear, it is trying. It really is most drea dfully trying-" The next moment the Clockwork m a n came into full view round the corne r of the hedge. He was swaying slightly from side to side, in his usual fashion, and his eyes stared straight ahead of him. He did not appear to notice Arthur, and did not s top until the latter politely stepp e d aside in order to a llow him to pass. The n the Clockworkm a n screwed his head slowly round and appeared t o be come faintly apprehensive of the presence of another being. Aft e r a pre limin a ry ear-flapping, h e opened his mouth very wid e . "You haven't," h e b egan , with great diffi culty, 11 see n a hat and wig?" 11 No," sai d Arthur, and h e glanced at the Clock wo rk man's b a ld foreh ea d and noticed something peculiar about the construction of the back of hi s h ead ; there seemed to be


78 THE CLOCKWORK MAN some obj ect the r e which h e could not se e b e c a u se they wer e facing eac h othe r. " I'm so rry, " h e continue d, l ooki n g rat h e r h ope l ess ly around him, "perh a p s we co uld find th e m s o mewher e . " " So m ew h e r e ! " e ch oe d th e Cloc k work m a n, "tha t' s wha t see m s t o m e so extra ordinary ! Eve ryb o dy sa y s tha t. The id e a o f a thing b e ing somewh e r e , y o u kn ow. Elsewhe re than whe r e y o u ex p ect it t o b e . It' s so co nfu s ing . " Arthur con sulte d hi s c ommon se n se . "Can't you remembe r the pl a c e w h e r e y o u l ost th em," he s u gges t e d , A faint w rinkl e of p erp l ex ity a pp ea r e d on th e othe r' s foreh e ad. H e s h o ok hi s h ead once ' Pla c e . The r e , agai n, I c a n't gr as p that id ea , Wha t i s a pl ace ? And how d oes a thin g c o m e to b e in o n e plac e and not in a n other ? " H e j e rked a hand u p as tho u g h to empha si s e the p o int. " A thin g eith e r i s or it i s n't. It c a n't b e i n a place.'' "But it mus t b e so m e wh e r e ," obj e ct e d Arthur, "that's obvi ous." The C lock wo rk m a n lo o k e d v ag u e ly di s tresse d . "The or e ti ca lly," h e ag r ee d, " w hat you s ay i s correc t. I can conce i v e it as a m athema tic a l p ro bl e m. But ac tu ally , y o u know, it i sn't a t all ob v i o u s." He j e rked hi s h ead s l ow ly round and g a z e d a t the surrounding o bj e ct s . "It's s u c h a n


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 79 extraordinary world. I can't get used to it at all. One keeps on bumping into things and falling into things-things that ought not to be there, you know," Arthur could hardly control an eager curiosity to know what the thing was, round and shiny, that looked like a sort of halo at the back of the Clockwork man's head . He ke p t on dodging from one side to the other in an effort to see it clearly . "Are you looking at my clock? 11 enquired the Clockwork man, without altering his tone of speech. 11 I must apologise. I feel quite indecent." "But what is it for?'' gasped Arthur. 11 It's the regulating mechanism," said the other, monotonous ly, " I keep on forgetting that you can't know these things . You see, it controls me , But, of course, it's out of o,rder. 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 re s pectful silence . 11 You see," the mechanical voice went on, 11 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. 11 I had been feeling very run down, and went to have myself


80 THE CLOCKWORK MAN attended to. Then some careless m echanic blundered, and of course I w e nt all wro ng." H e turned sw iftly a nd lo oked h a rd at Arthur. "All wrong. Abso lut e ly all wrong. And of course, I-I-lapsed , you see." "Lapsed ! " queried Arthur. 11 Yes, I lap s ed. Slipped, if you like that better-slipped back abo ut eight thousand years, so far as I can make out. And, of course, everything i s different." His arms shot up both to ge th er in an abrupt gesture of despair. "And now I am confronted with all these old problems of Time and Space." Arthur' s recent reflections returned to him, and produced a little glow in his mind. 11 Is there a world/' he questioned, "whe re the problems of Time and Space are different ? " "Of course," repli e d the Clockwork man, clicking slightly, "quite different. The clock, you see, made man independent of Time and Space. It solved everything." "But what h appens," Arthur wanted to know, ''whe n the clock works properly ? " "Everything happens," said the other, "exactly as you want it to happen." "Awfully convenient," Arthur murmured. "Exc eedingly." The Clockwork man's head nodded up and down with a regular rhythm, 11 The whole aim of man is convenience," He jerked himself forward a few paces, as though


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 81 impelled a g a in s t his will. 11 But my present s itu a t io n , you know , i s ex t reme ly inc onvenient." H e waddled swi f tly a l o n g , and, t o Arthur's g re a t disappointme nt, di s a p pear e d round the c orner of the h e d g e , so th a t it w a s imposs ible to ge t m o r e tha n a fleetin g glimps e of that fa sc in a t in g obj ec t a t the back of hi s h ea d. But he was s till sp e a k i n g . 11 I d o n ' t know what I s h all d o , I'm s u re," A r th u r hea r d him say, a s tho u g h t o himse lf. VIII R o s e L o m a s cam e s lowl y ove r the t o p of the hill. Sh e w as h a tl ess , and her short, curly h a i r bl e w about her fa ce , for a slight b r eeze had sprung u p in the w a k e of the s un s et. Sh e w o r e a n av y blue j ac k e t ove r a white mus lin blous e with a d eep V at the breast. There was a fai r stre t c h o f plump le g, stoc kin ge d in bl ack ca shme r e , b e tw ee n the e d ge of h e r dark s kirt and the b eginning o f the t all b oots tha t h a d t a k e n so l o n g t o b u tt o n up. S h e w a lk e d with h e r chin tilt e d upwa r d s and h e r ey es h a lf clo s e d, and h e r h ands we r e thrus t into the s lanting pocke t s o f h e r j ac k e t. "Whoe v e r w as tha t perso n y o u were talking to ? " she enquire d , a s s oon as th e y stood togethe r. "Oh, someone who had lo s t his way," said G


82 THE CLOCKWORK MAN Arthur, carelessly. He felt curiously dis inclined to explain matters jus t at present. The Clockwork man was di s concerting. He was a rather terrifying si d e -i ss u e . Arthur had a feeling that Ro se would proba bly be frightened by him, for she was a timid girl. H e h a lf h o ped now that this strange being would turn out to be so me kind of monstrous ho ax . And so he said nothing . They r e main e d by th e stile , courting eac h oth e r an d the si lent on-coming of ni g ht. They were very ordinary l ove r s , and b e haved just exact ly in the same w a y as other p eop le in the sa me condition. The y kisse d a t int e rv a l s and examined each other's faces with portentous grav ity and micro scopic care. L eaning against the stile, they w e r e frequ en tly int errupted by pedestrian s , so me o f whom took spec i a l care to light their pip es as they passe d. But the di sturbance scarcely affected the m. Being lover s , they belon ge d to eac h other; and the world about them also b e l onge d to the m, and seemed to fashion its law s in accordance with the ir d esires . They would not h ave offered you twop ence for a reformed House of Commons or a n en l ightened civilisation. "Oh, Arthu r," said Rose, su dd e nly, "I want t o b e like this a lw ays , don't you?" "Yes," murmured Arthur, and then caught


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 83 hi s breath s harply. For hi s ea r h a d d etected a faint throbbing and palpitation in the distance. It seemed to echo from the far-off hills, a sort of "chew chew," constantly repeated. And prese ntly, anothe r and more familiar s ound aroused his attention. It was the "toot-toot " o f an automobile and the j erk of a brake. And then the s teady whine of the engine as the c a r ascende d a hill. Perhaps they were pursuing the Clockwork man. Arthur hoped n ot. It see m e d to him the troubles of th a t s tr a nge b e in g were bad enough without there being added to them the persecutions s uff e r e d by those to whom existence represents an endless puzzle, full of snares and surprises .


CHAPTER FI VE THE CLOCKWORK MAN INVESTIGATES MATTERS I WHATEVER inconvenience s the Clockwork man suffered a s a result of having lapsed into a world of strange laws and manifestations, he enjoyed at least one advantage. His power of travelling over the earth at an enormous speed rendered the question of purs uit almost farcical. While Allingham's car sped over the neighbouring hills, the object of the chas e returned by a circuitous route to Great Wymering, slowed down, and began to walk up and down the High Street. It was now quite dark, and very few people seemed to have noticed that odd figure ambling along, stopping now and again to examine some object that arous e d his interest or got in his way. There i s no doubt that during these lesser perambulations h e contrive d somehow to get the silencer under bett e r control, so that his progress was now muted. It is posiible also that his faculties began to adjust themse lves a littl e to hi s strange surroundings, and that he now definitely tri e d to grasp his 84


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 85 environment. But h e still suffered relapses . And the fact that h e ag a in wore a hat and wig, although not hi s own, requires a word of explanation. 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 s light 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 wa s situated at the lower end of the town. Perhaps it was because of his own desperate hurry that he scarcely noticed that other figure app roaching him, and in a straight line. He swerved slightly in order to allow the figure to pass, and continued on his way. And then he stopped abruptly, aware of a cool s e ns a tion on the top of his head. His hat and wig had gone ! Aghast, he retraced his steps, but th e re wa s no sign of the articles on the pavem e nt. It seemed utterly incredible, for there was only a slight breeze and he did not remember knockin g into anything. He had certainly not collided with the stranger. Just for a moment he wondered. But duty to his parishioners remained uppermost in the conscientious Vicar's mind, q,nd it was not ff!,ir to them that he: shoyld


86 THE CLOCKWORK M A N catc h hi s dea th o f c o ld. H e h u rried b ac k t o the vicarage . For a q u a rter of a n h our h e pulled ope n drawers , ran sac k e d cupboards, s earching everywhe r e for a n o ld wig that h a d be e n discard e d and a n e w h a t th a t h a d n eve r b een worn. H e fo un d the m a t l as t a nd a rri ve d, brea thl ess and out of temper, in th e m i ddl e o f the cin e m a t og r ap h d i s pl ay which c o n stitute d the firs t part o f the p e r for m a n ce . " M y d ea r," h e gas pe d, as h e slid into th e sea t r eserve d for h i m n ex t t o h is wif e , " I c o ul dn't h e lp it. So m eo n e s t o l e m y h a t and . " wig. " S t o l e the m, Herbert," s h e expost ul a t e d . "No t s t o l e th e m." "Yes, s t o l e the m. I'll t e ll yo u af terward s I s thi s the Pal es t i n e picture? Oh, yes " II And s o the Clockwork m a n w a s a bl e t o c o n cea l hi s clock fr o m the gaze o f a curi o u s w o rld, and the grot esque n ess of h is appear a n ce w as h e ight e n e d b y the addition o f a n ea tl y trimme d c h estnut w i g and a sof t r ound c leri ca l hat. His percepti o n s mus t h ave b ee n ex t ra o rdinaril y rapi d, a n d h e mus t h ave acte d upon the i n s t a nt. Nor d id it seem to occur to him tha t in thi s world there are l a w s w hic h forb id theft. P ro b a bly, i n the world from w h ic h h e


THE CLOCKWORK MAN 87 came such r es tri c tion s a re unnece ssa ry, and the ex i gency would not h ave arisen, eve ry individual b e ing provided by p arl i a m e ntary s tatute with a s uitabl e cove rin g for tha t blatant and too obvious sign o f the modus operandi in the po s terior r eg i o n o f th e ir craniums . It was shortly after thi s e pisode that the Clockwork man experienced hi s fir s t moment of vivid illumin a ti o n a b o ut the world of brief mortal sp an. H e h a d become enta n g l e d with a l a mp-po s t. The r e is n o othe r way o f d es cribing his pre dicament. He came to re s t with his forehea d pre ss ed against the p ost , and all hi s efforts to get round it ended in dismal failure. His l e gs kick e d s pasmodically and hi s arms r evo lved irregularly. There we re inte rmittent ex pl osions, like the b ac k-firing o f a p e tr o l engine. The onl y p e rson who witn e s se d the se peculiar antics was P .C. Haw k i ns, who had been indul g in g in a quiet smok e beneath the shelt e r of a nei g hbourin g a r c hw ay . At fir s t it did not occur to th e constab le that the nois e proceeded fr o m the figure. H e cra n e d his h ead forward, expect in g every moment to see a m otor bic y cle c o me along. The noi se stoppe d a bru ptly, a nd he decided that the m ac hine mu s t h ave g o ne up a side s treet. The n he s t e pped out of his retreat and tapped the Clocl work man on the shoulder


88 THE CLOCKWORK MAN The latter was quite motionless now and merely leaning against the lamp-post. " You go 'omt::," suggested the constable, " I don't want to have to take you. This is one of my leni'ent nights, lucky for you." "Wallabaloo," said the Clockwork man, faintly, "Wum-\Vum" "Yes, we know all about that, " said the constable , "but you take my tip and go 'ome. And I don't want any back answers neither . " The Clockwork man emitted a soft whistling sound from between his teeth , and rubbed his nose thoughtfully against the post. "What is this?" he enquired, presently . "Lamppost," rejoined the other, clicking his teeth, 11 L . A . M.P. P.O.S .T. Lamp post." "I see curious, only one lamp-post, though. In my country they grow like trees, you know whole forests of them-galaxy of lightsnecessary-illuminate multiform world . " The constable laughed g ently and stroked his moustache. His theory about the con dition of the individual before him slowly developed . 11 You get a long," he per s uaded, "before there's trouble. I don't want to be 'arsh with you . " "Wait," said the Clockwork man, without altering his p osition, "moment of lucidityee things as . they are-begin to understand -


THE CLOCKWORK MAN S9 fini t e world-o nl y o n e thin g a t a tim e . Now we ' v e go t i t-a p l ace for eve r y thin g a nd eve ry t hin g in it s p l a c e ." "Jus t w h a t I'm a lw a y s t e lling my mi ss us," r efle ct e d th e c o n s t a bl e . The Clo ckw ork m a n shifted hi s head very s lightly, and on e e y e s cr ewe d s l owly round. " I want t o g r as p thing s," h e r es umed, " I want to gra s p you . So far as I c a n judge, I see b e for e m e a c o n s t able-minion of the l aw-curio u s r elic-primitive s t a g e of civil i sa ti on-or d e r p eo pl e about finite w orld-lock p e opl e up-fini t e c e ll." "Tha t 's my j o b, " ag re e d th e oth e r, with a w a rnin g glint in hi s r e d e ye. "Finite w o rld," p ro c ee d e d th e Clo ckwork man, "fixe d l aws-limite d d im e n sionsess entia lly l i m i t e d. N ow , w h en I ' m w orking prop e rly, I c a n m o v e a bout in all dimension s . Tha t i s t o say, in ad diti o n to m ov ing back w a rd s an d forw ar d s , and thi s wa y a nd that, I c a n a l s o m o v e X an d Y, and X2 and Y2." The c orners o f t h e c o n s t a bl e's eyes wrinkled a little. "Of cou rse," h e rumi n a t ed, " if y o u'r e g oing t o drag a l ge b ra int o th e discu ss ion I sh all 'ave t o cry off . I n eve r go t b e yond d e cimal s ." " L e t m e exp l a in," urge d th e Clockwork m a n, who w as ga i n in g in ver b a l e ase and i n tellectua l e l astic it y eve r y m o m e nt.


90 THE CLOCKWORK MAN I wa s to hit y o u h ar d. You would fall down . You \\ 1 o uld b eco m e s upin e . You would assume a h o rizontal p os iti o n at ri ght ang l es to your pre sent p e rp e ndicul a rity." H e gaze d upward s at the t a ll figur e of the con table. " But if you w e r e to hit m e , I s hould have a n alternative . I could, for exa mpl e , fall into th e middl e of ne x t week ." The c o nstabl e rubbe d hi s chin thoughtfully, as though h e thought this highly lik ely. "Wha tdy e mean by th a t," h e dema nded. "I sa id n ext week," exp l a in e d the other, ''in order t o m a k e my me a nin g clear. Actually, of cour se, I d on't d esc ribe time in s uch arbitrary terms . But when one i s in R o m e , you know. Wha t I m ea n to convey i s th at I a m cap a ble of go in g not o nly so m e wh e re, but also somewhen." "'Ere , stow that gammon," broke in the consta ble, impati e ntl y , " s 'nuff of tha t so rt of t a lk. You come a long with me." He spa t d e termin e dly an d prepared to take a ction. But at that mome nt, as th e constable after wards d escr ib e d it t o himse lf, it see med t o him th a t th e r e came b efo r e hi s e y es a sort of mi s t. The fig ure l ea n i n g again s t the lamp-p os t lo o k e d less obvious. He did n o t appea r n ow t o be a palp a ble individu a l a t all, but a so rt of outline of himse lf, blurr ed and in -

PAGE 100

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 91 di stinct. The c o n s tabl e rubbe d hi s ey es and s tr e t c h e d out a h and. "Alright," h e h eard a tiny, r emote voice, "I' m s till h e r e I h a v en't gone yet-I can't go-tha t' s what's s o di s tre ss ing. I don't r eally unders t and your w o rld, y o u know-and I c an't ge t back to my o w n , D on't be h a r s h with meit' s s o awkward-between the d e vil and the d ee p sea . " "What's up?" e x cl aimed the cons table, s tartled. "What y e r pl a yin g at? Whe re are y o u ? " "He r e I am," the thin voice echoed faintly. The c o n s t a bl e whee l e d round s h arply and b e c a m e awar e o f a vag u e , p a lp i t ating mass , h overing in the d ark m outh o f th e a rchway. It w as lik e some solid b o d y s ubj ected to inte n se vibration. The r e w as a hi gh-pitche d s p inning noi se . "'Ere," sa id the c o n s t a bl e , "cut tha t sort of c ape r. Wha t' s the littl e gam e ? " H e m a d e a grab a t where h e tho u ght the shadowy form ou ght t o b e , and his h and cl ose d on the empty a ir. "Gawd," h e g as p ed," it' s a blo oming ghost." H e fa nci e d h e h eard a voic e v e ry indistinctly b egging hi s p ardon. A g ain h e clutched w ildly a t a s h oulde r and m e r e ly s n a p pe d hi s fin ge r s . "Strike a l ight," h e mutte r e d, unde r hi s b reath, "this a i n't g o o d e nough. It a in ' t

PAGE 101

92 THE CLOCKWORK MAN n early g ood enough." R eac hin g forward h e stumbled , and t o save him self from fallin g pl ace d a h a nd agains t the wa ll. The ne x t mom ent he l eapt b ac kw ards wit h a yell. His hand and arm h ad gone clean th ro u g h the filmy s hape. "Gawel, it' s sp irit s-that's what it i s." "It's o nly m e," r ema rk ed the Cl oc kw o rk m a n , sudde nly looming int o p a l pa bl e form again. "Don't b e afraid. I mu s t apo l og i se for my e cc entric behaviour. I tried an ex periment. I thought I could get back. You sa id I was to go home, you kn ow . But I can't get far." His vo ic e shoo k a littl e . It jan g led lik e a badly struck chord. "I'm a poor, m a im ed creature. You mus t make allowances for m e . My clock won't work prop e rly." He began t o vibrate agai n, hi s whole fram e quiverin g and s h ak in g . Littl e blu e spar k s scintillat ed arou nd th e back pa rt of hi s head. He lifted o n e le g up as tho u g h t o t a ke a s t ep forward ; and then his ears fla pped wild ly, and h e r ema in ed with one l eg in mid-air and a finger to hi s no se . The constable gave way t o panic. He temporised with his . duty. "Stow it," h e begged, " I can't t ake you t o th e s t a tion like thi s . They'll never believe me." H e t oo k off his hq.t a,nd n1bb ed hi s tin g lin g for e h ea d ,

PAGE 102

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 93 "Sa y it' s a drea m, mate," he added, in a whinin g voic e . "'Ow ca n I go 'ome to the mi s s us with a t ale lik e thi s . Sh e' ll s a y it's the gin aga in. It's a lway s my luck to strike so m e thin g lik e thi s . Whe n th e ghos t c a me to Bapohurch churchyard, it was me w o t saw it first, and n obody b elie v e d m e . Y o u go along qui e tly, and w e 'll l oo k o ver i t thi s time." But the Cloc kw o rk m a n m a d e n o reply. H e w as ev i de ntly a b so rb e d in th e effort t o r es t a rt s o m e process in him self. Pre s e ntly hi s foo t w e nt d o wn on the p a v e m ent with a sma rt ban g . The r e follo w e d a s u cce s s i o n o f s h a rp e x pl os ion s , a nd the n ex t second h e glid e d s m oo thly a w ay . The c o n s t a bl e r e tu rne d furtiv e ly to hi s s h e lt e r b e n ea th th e arc h, h i tch e d him s elf tho u g htfull y , and found h alf a c i ga r e tt e inside hi s w a i s tc oa t p o ck et. " It' s the g in," h e ru m i na t e d, h a lf ou t loud, "I'll 'ave t o kn oc k it off . 'Tain't as thou g h I ain' t ' a d w a rnin gs eno u g h. I'v e see n thing s b efo r e and I s h all see th e m again-" H e lit th e ci g ar e tt e end a nd puffed out a clo ud o f s moke. "I nev e r se e 'im," he s o liloquised, "not really." IV Perha p s it w as th e s tron g g l a r e of light is s uing from the h alf-open do o r of the

PAGE 103

94 THE CLOCKWORK MAN T e mplar's Hall that attracted the a tt e ntion of the Clockwork m a n as he wandered along towards the low e r end o f the t o wn. He entered, and found himse lf in a small lobby curtained off from the m a in body of the hall. He must have made so me slight noise as he stepped upon the bare b oa rds, for th e curtain was swep t ha s tily back, and th e Curate, who was acting as chie f s teward o f the proceedings, cam e hurriedly forward. As he approa ch e d th e figure s t a ndin g beneath the inc a ndescent lamp, the clerical beam up o n the Cur a t e ' s cl ea ns h ave n features deepened into a more secula r exp r ess i o n o f h eartfe lt r elief . "I'm so g l a d you hav e c ome at l ast," h e began, in a s tron g w hi spe r, "I was beginning to be afraid you w ere going t o di sappoin t u s." " I am certainly l a t e," remarked th e Clock work man, " about eight thousand year s l a t e , so far as I can jud ge." The Curate sca rc ely see m e d t o catch this remark. "We ll, I'm glad you 'v e turne d up," he went on, "it's so pitiful when the littl e o n es hav e to b e di sappo int e d, and th ey have b een so lookin g forward to the conjuring. Your things have arrived." "What things ? " enquired th e Cl oc k wo rk man. " Y o ur properties," sa id the Curate, "the

PAGE 104

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 95 rabbits and mic e , and so forth . They c a m e thi s afternoon. I h a d th e m put on the stage . " He fing e red n e rv o u s ly with his w a tch, and then hi s eye rest e d for a second upon the other's he a d g ea r. "Exc u se m e , but you are the conjurer, aren't yo u? " h e enquired , a trifle a nxi o usly . Befor e the Cl oc kw o rk m a n had time to reply to thi s emba rr assing question, the curtain was a g a in swiftly drawn , a nd an a nxi o u s f e m a l e fac e a pp eared . "Ja m es , has the conjurerOh, ye s , I see h e has. D o be quick, J ames. The picture i s n ea rly over." The face di s appeared, and the Cur a t e's doubts e vaporated for the mome nt. " Will you come thi s way ? " he continued, and led the w a y through a l o n g , dark passage to the back of the h a ll. B ehind the sc r ee n, upon which the picture was bein g s hown, there was a s mall space , and h e re a s t age h a d been e r e ct e d . Upon a small t a ble in the centre s to od a large bag and so me p a ck ages. The Curate a dju s ted the small gas -jet so as to produce an illumination sufficient t o move a b o ut. "We mu s t talk low," he explained, pointing to the s cre e n in front of them, "the cinematograph is s till showing. We shall b e ready in about ten minutes. Can you manage in tha t time ? " But the Clockwork man made no reply. H e stood in th e middle of the s tage and slowly

PAGE 105

96 THE CLOCKWORK MAN lifted a fing e r to hi s n o se. The Curate's doubts returned, Som e thing seemed to occur to him as h e exa mined his c o mpani o n more clo se ly . " You haven't been taking anything, my g oo d m an , have yo u ? Anything of an alcholic nature ? " "Conjuring, " sa id the Clockwork man, slowly, ''obso l ete form of entertai nment. Quickn es s of the hand deceives the eye." "Er-yes," murmured the Cur a te. He l aug h e d, rather hy steri c a lly, and cl aspe d hi s hands behind hi s b ack. " I suppose y o u d o the-er-usua l things-gold watches and so forth out of-er-hats. The children h ave been so lookin g forward-" He paused a nd un c l asped hi s h an d s , The Clockwork m a n wa s l ooking at him ve ry h a rd, and hi s eyes w ere rolling in their sock ets in a m os t bewildering fashion. There w as a lon g p a u se . "Dea r m e," the Curate resumed at l ast , " there mus t be some mi stake . You don't look to m e lik e a conjurer. You see , I wrote to Gamages, and they promise d they would send a m a n. Natura lly, I thought when you-" "Gamages," interrupte d the Clockwork m a n, "wait-I see m to understand-it co mes back t o me-universal providers-cash account-nine and ninepence-nine and nine-

PAGE 106

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 97 pence-nine and ninepence-I beg your pardon." " Really I " The Curate's jaw dropped several inches. "I must apologise. You see, I'm really rather flurried. I have the burden of this entertainment upon my shoulders, It was I who arranged the conjuring. I thought it would be so nice for the children." He started rubbing his hands together vigorously, as though to cover up his embarrassment. " Then-then you aren't the man from Gamages ? " "No," said the Clockwork man, with a certain amount of dignity, "I am the man from nowhere." The Curate's hands became still. "Oh, dear." He wrestled with the blankness in his mind. 11 You're certainly-forgive me for saying it-rather an odd person. I'm afraid we've both made a mistake, haven't we? " 11 Wait," said the Clockwork man, as the Curate walked hesitatingly towards the door, 11 I begin to grasp things-conjuring-" "But are you the conjurer?" asked the Curate, coming back. 11 Where I come from," was the astonishing reply, "we are all conjurers. We are always doing conjuring tricks." The Curate's hands were busy again. 11 I really am quite at a loss," he murmured. H

PAGE 107

98 THE CLOCKWORK MAN " It was a characteristic of the earlier stages of the human race," said the Clockwork man, as though he were addressing a class of students upon some abstruse subject, "that they exer cised the arts of legerdemain, magic, illusion and so forth, purely as forms of entertainment in their leisure hours." 11 Now that sounds interesting," murmured the Curate, as the other paused, although rather for matter than for breath, 11 it's so authorita , tive-as though it were a quotation from some standard work. All the same, and much as I should like to hear more-" "It is a quotation," explained the Clockwork man solemnly, 11 from a work I was reading when I-when the thing happened to me. It is published by Gamages, and the price is nine and nine pence-nine and nine penceOh, bother-" " I'll make a note of it," said the Curate. " But )[
PAGE 108

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 99 invention of the clock and all that its action implies, including the di scovery of at least three new dimen s ions, or field s of action, man's simplest act of an utilitarian nature may be reg ar d e d as a sort of conjuring trick. Cer tainly our forefathers, if they could see us as we are now constitut e d, would regard them as such-" "So fri g htfully interesting," the Curate managed to interp ose, "but I really cannot spare the time." H e had reverted now to the alcoholic di ag nosi s . "The work in question," continued the Clockwork man, without taking any notice at all of the other's impatience, "is of a satirical nature. Its purpose is to awaken people to a sense of the many absurdities in modern life that result from a too mechanical efficiency. It is all in my head. I can spin it all out, word for word-" "Not now," hastily pleaded the Curate. "Some other time I should be glad to hear it. I am," his mouth opened very wide, "a great reader myself. And of course, as a professional conjurer, your intere s t in such a book would be two-fold." "When you as k ed me if I were a conjurer," said the Clockwork man, " I at once recalled the book. You see, it's actually in my head. That is how we read books now. We wear --

PAGE 109

100 THE CLOCKWORK MAN them inside the clock, in the form of spools that unwind. What you h ave said brings it all back to me. It suddenly occurs to me that I am indeed a conjurer, and that all my actions in this backward world must be re garded in the light of magic." The Curate's eyebrows s hot up in amazement. "Magic?" he queried, with a short laugh. "Oh, we didn't bargain for magic. Only the usual sleig ht of hand." "You see, I had lost faith in myself," said the Clockwork man, plaintively. " I had forgotten what I could do. I was so terribly run down." "Ah," said the Curate, kindly, "very likely that's what it is. The weather has been very trying. One does get these aberrations. But I do hope you will be able to struggle through the performance, for the children's sake. Dear me, how did you manage to do that ? " 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 hi s first conjuring trick. III Now the Curate, apart from a tendency to lose his head on occasion, was a perfectly

PAGE 110

THE CLOCKWORI{ MAN 101 normal individual. There was nothing myopic about him. The human mind is so constituted that it can only receive certain impressions of abnormal phenomena slowly and through the proper channels. All sorts of fantastic ideas, intuitions, apprehensions and vague suspicions had been dancing upon the floor of the Curate's brain as he noticed certain peculiarities about his companion. But he would probably not have given them another thought if it had not been for what now happened. It would require a mathematic a l diagram to describe the incid ent with abs olute accuracy. The Curate, of course, had heard nothing about the Clockwork man's other performances; he had scarcely heed e d the hints thrown out about the possibility of movement in other dimensions. It seemed to him, in the un certain light of their surroundings, that the Clockwork man's right arm gradually dis appeared 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 s ome shadowy plane. The n it went into nothing, e v aporated from vi ew. And ju s t as sudde nly, it swung back into the plane of the curate's vi s ion, and the hand at the end of it gra s p e d a silk hat.

PAGE 111

102 THE CLOCKWORK MAN The Curate's heart thumped s lowly. ''But how did you do it?" he gasped. "And your arm, you know-it wasn't there ! " So far as the Clockwork m an's features were capable of change, there passed across them a faint exp ression of triumph and satisfactio n. "I perceive," he remarked," that I h ave indeed lapsed into a world of curiously insufficient and inefficent beings. I have fallen amo ng s t the Unclocked . They cannot perceive Nowh e re. They do not understand Nowhen, They l ac k senses and move about on a single plane. Henceforth, I s hall act with greater confidence." He threw the hat int o infinity and produced a parrot cage with parrot. "Stop it I" the Curate gasped. "My heart, you know-I have been warned-sudden shocks." He staggere d to the wall and groped blindly for an e merg ency exi t, which he knew to be there somewhere. H e found it, forced the door open and fell limply upon the pavement outside. The Clockwork man turned slowly and surveyed the prostrate figure. "A rudimentary race," he soliloquised, with hi s finger nose wards, "half blind, and painfully restricted in their movements. E v idently they have only a few senses-five at the most." He passed out into the s treet, carefully avoiding the body.

PAGE 112

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 103 "They have a certain freedom," he continued, still nursing his nose, "within narrow limits. But they soon grow limp. And when they fall down, or lose balance, they have no choice but to embrace the earth." He waddled along, with his head stuck jauntily to one side. "I have nothing to fear," he added, " from such a rudimentary race of beings.'' v "Evidently," his thoughts ran on, "they must regard me as an extraordinary being. And, of course, I am-and far superior. I am a superior being suffering from a nervous breakdown." He stopped himself abruptly, as though this view of the matter solved a good many problems. " I must get myself see n to," he mused, "because, of course, that accounts for everything; my lapse into this defunct order of things and my inability to move about freely in the usual, multiform manner. And it accounts for my absurd behaviour just now." He turned slowly, as though considering whether to return and explain matters to the curate. "I must have frightened him," he whispered, almost audibly, "but I only wanted

PAGE 113

104 THE CLOCKWORK MAN to show him, and the parrot cage happened to be handy." He trundled forward again and lurched into . the middle of the street. " Death," he reflected, " that was death, I suppose. They still die."

PAGE 114

CHAPTER SIX "It w as not so , it i s not s o, and, indeed, God forbid it should b e s o." AT th e foo t of a hill, about five miles from Grea t Wyme ring, Doctor Allingh a m suddenly jammed d o wn the bra ke of his car, got out, and b e gan pacing the dusty ro ad. Gregg re m a in e d se ated in the c a r with hi s arms folded. "Aren't you going any further ? " he enquired, a nxiously. "No, I'm not," grumbled the Docto r, "I've had enough of this wild-goose cha se. And b es ide s , it's nearly dinner time." "But jus t now you were inclined to think . diff e r e ntly," sa id Gre g g , r e proachfully. "Well, I admit I w a s rather mystified by that hat and wi g . But when you come to rati o n alis e the thin g , wh a t i s th e r e in it?" The Doctor wa s takin g long s trides and flouri s hing his lea ther gloves in the air. " How could such a thing b e ? How can anybody in his right sen s e s enterta in the notion that Dunn Brothers are s till in e x istence two thou sand y ea r s henc e ? A nd th e Cla rk so n bu s in ess. It's a b s urd on th e fa ce of it." 105

PAGE 115

106 THE CLOCKWORK MAN "Eve n an ab s urdity," sai d Gre gg, qui e tl y , "may c o nt a in the p os iti ve truth. I admit it's ludicrou s , but we b o th ag ree tha t it' s in explicable. W e h av e to fall b a ck on conjecture. To my mind the re is something sugge s tive a bo u t that p ers ist ency in the future of thing s fam ilia r to u s . Suppose th e y hav e found a way o f k eep ing things go i ng, jus t as th e y are ? Hasn't the aim of man alway s been the permanenc e of his institution s ? And wouldn ' t it be charact e ristic of man, a s we know him to-day, that he should hold on to pure ly utilit a ri a n things , conve ni e nce s ? In thi s a ge we sa crifice ev e rything to utility. Tha t 's becau se w e're ge ttin g so m e wh e re in a hurry. M o d e rn life i s the l as t l a p in m;:in' s race ag a in s t Time." He paused, as though t o a dju s t the matter in his mind. " But s upp ose Time sto p ped . Or, ra ther, s uppo s e m a n ca u ght up with Time , r ace d the univer sa l en emy , tra cked him t o h is lair? That would account for the names being the s a me. Dunn s till brea th es and Clarkson endures, or the ir d es cend ants . At any r a t e , the i'dea of them p e r s i s ts. P e rh a p s thi s clock th a t they w ea r a boli s h e d d eath an
PAGE 116

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 107 Allingham, kickin g a loo se stone in his walk. "This clock, I mean. It' s-" He fumbl e d hope lessly for words with which to express n e w d oubts . "What i's this clock?" "It's an instrument," r e joined Gre gg, leaning over the side of th e car. "Evidently it has some sort o f effect upon the fundamental processes of the huma n organism. That's cl e ar, to me. Probably it replaces some of the ordinary functi o ns and alters others. One gets a sort of glimmer-of an immense speed ing up of the e ntire organism, and the brain o f m a n developing new se nses and powers o f apprehension. They would have all sorts of second sights and subsidiary senses. They would feel their way about in a larger universe, creep into all sorts of niches and corners unknown to us, because of the ir different con struction." "Yes, yes, I ca n follow all that," said Allingham, biting hi s mou s t ac h e , "but let's t a lk se n se ." "In a matter lik e this," put in Gregg," s ense is at a premium. Wha t w e h ave to do is to consult our intuition s." Allingham frowned. His intuiti o n s , nowa day s , were f e w and far b e twe e n. " Whe n yo u get to my age , Gr e gg, you'll have something else to do b es ides consult your intuitions. The fac t is, you want all these

PAGE 117

108 THE CLOCKWORK MAN wonderful thin gs to h a pp e n. You h a ve a fla ir for th e un e x p e ct e d, l i k e a ll children and adoie scents . But I t e ll y o u, the Clockwork man . i s a myth, and I think you ought to respect my opini o n . " "Even if h e ' s a myth," interrupte d G re gg, " he i s s till wo rth inv estiga ting. Wha t annoys me i s yo ur pos iti v e a nt a goni s m to the idea that h e mi g ht b e po ss ibl e . You s eem to want to g o out o f yo ur w a y to prove me in the wrong. I m a y a dd, th a t once a man h a s c ea sed to b elie v e in th e imp o s s ibl e he i s d a mn ed." Allin g h a m s h o t a l oo k of veile d a n ge r a t th e other, and pre p are d to r e ente r the c a r. "Well, y o u p rov e yours elf in the right," he mutt e r e d, "and then I'll a pologi se . I'm going to let th e Clockw o rk man dro p. I've got other thing s to think a bout. And I don't mind t e lling you th a t if th e Clockwork man turn s out to be all th a t you claim for him, I s h a ll still wish him at the othe r end of the earth." "Which is probably where he i s now," remarked Gregg, with a sli ght bantering n o te in his voic e . "Well, l e t him s top th e r e," growl e d Allin g h a m, re s t a rting th e car with a v1c1ous j erk, "let so m eone e l se both e r th e ir h e ad s a b o ut him. I d on't w ant him. I t ell y o u I don't c a re a brass farthing about the future of

PAGE 118

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 109 the human race. I'm quite content to take the good and bad in life, and I want it to go on in the same . damned old way," Gregg beat his fist into hi s open palm . . "But that's just wh a t h a s happened," he exclaimed, " they've found a way of keeping on just the same. That explains the Clarkson business. If the clock is what I think it is, that precisely is its function." Allingham shouted out some impatient re joinder, but it was drowned in the rising roar of the engine as they sped along the road. II So the argument had waged since the telling of Tom Driver's story. Gregg's chief difficulty was to get Allingham to see that there really might be something in this theory of a world in which merely trivial things had become permanent, whilst the cosmos itself, the hitherto unchanging outer environment of man's existence, might have opened up in many new directions. Man might have tired of waiting for a so long heralded eternity, and made one out of his own material tools. The Clockwork man, now crystallised in Gregg's mind as an unforgetable figure, seemed to him to stand for a sort of rigidity of personal being as opposed to the fickleness of mere

PAGE 119

110 THE CLOCKWORK MAN flesh and blood ; but the world in which he lived probably had widely different laws, if in . deed it had humanly comprehensible laws at all. The clock, perhap s , was the index of a new and enlarged order of things. Man had altered the very shape of the univer s e 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. That was Gregg's dimly conceived theory about the mystery, although, of course, he read into the interpretation a good deal of his own speculations. His imagination seized upon the clock as the possible symbol of a new counterpoint in human affairs. In his mind he saw man growing through the ages, until at last, by the aid of this mechanism, he was able to roll back the skies and reveal the vast other worlds that lay beyond, the un thinkable mysteries that lurked between the stars, all that had been sealed up in the limited brain of man since creation. From that extreme postulate it would be necessary to work backward, until some reasonable hypo thesis could be found to explain the workin g

PAGE 120

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 111 of the clock mechanism. That difficulty, even, might be overcome if only an opportunity occurred to examine this strange being from the future, or if he could be prevailed upon to explain matt ers himself. As the car sped swiftly along, Gregg sat back with folded arms and gazed upwards at the now crystalline skies, wondering, as he had never wondered before, about that incomprehensible immensity which for centuries of successive generations man had silently respected. No authoritative voice had ever claimed to penetrate that supreme mystery. Priests had evoked the gods from that starry depth, poets had sung of the swinging hemi spheres, scientists had traced comets and knew the qualit _ y of each solar earth ; but still that vast arch spanned all the movements of crawling mankind, and closed him in like a basin placed over a colony of ants . True, it was an illusion, and man had always known that. For generations he had known that the universe contained more than his limited faculties could perceive. And beauty. There had always been the consoling fact of beauty, lulling the race of man to content, while every now and again a great mind arose and made one more effort to sweep aside the bejewelled splendour that hung between man and his final destiny-to know,

PAGE 121

112 THE CLOCKWORK MAN And yet, a slight alteration in man's perceptive organs and that wide blu e s hell might s hatter and di s clo se a thousand new forms, like fan tastic cities shaped in th e clouds at s un se t. Physiol og i s ts claimed that the addition of a single lobe to the human brain might mean that man would know the futur e as well as the past. What if that miracle h a d been performed ? By such mean s man might have come to know not only the future, but other dimensions as yet unnamed or merely sketched out by the mathematician in brief, ar bitrary terms. Until that time came, man's deepest specu lations about ultimate r ea lity brought him no nearer to the truth than the child worrying himself to sleep over the problem of what happened before God made the universe. Man remained, in that sense, as innocent as a child, from birth to death. Until the ac tual structure of the cells in hi s brain s uffer e d a change man could not actually know. Einstein could say that we were probably wrong in our basic conceptions. But could he say how we were to get right ? The Clock work man mi ght be the be g inning. And then, when that change had been wrought, that physical reconstruction, what else might follow in its train ? The Truth at last, an end to all suffering a nd pain, a so lution

PAGE 122

THE CLOCKWORK MAN n3 of the problems o f civilisation, such as over population and land distribution, the beginning of human sovereignty in the univ erse . But Gregg had the sense to admit to himself that his generalisation was n o more than a faint aurora h overing around the rumoured dawn of the future. It was nec essary , in the first p la ce, to posit an imperfect thinking apparat us. After a ll, the Cl ockwor k man was still a my stery to be so lved, and even if h e failed to justify a single theory born of merely human conjecture, there s till remained the exhilarating tas k of finding out what actually h e was and how he had come t o earth. II I L eaving Gregg at hi s rooms in the upper part of the town, the D octor drove slowly along the H igh Street in the direction of his own house. Everything was qu iet now, and there was no s ign of further disturbance, no indication that a mir acle had taken plac e in the pros a ic town of Grea t Wymering . The D octor noted the fact with quiet sa ti sfaction; it h e lped him to simmer down, and it was n ecessa ry, for the sake of hi s digestion, that he s hould feel soothed and comforted. Still, if Gr egg's conjecture s were a nywhere near the mar k , in a very few hours it would be

PAGE 123

114 THE CLOCKWORK MAN known all o v e r England th a t th e jaw s o f the future had o p e n e d and di sc lo e d thi s mons tr o sity t o the e yes o f th e p re sent. The r e w o ul d b e a grea t s tir o f exc it e m ent; th e news papers w o uld b e full o f th e e vent. Indee d, the wh o l e co urse o f th e w orld might b e a lt e r e d as a r es ult o f thi s as t oundi n g re ve l atio n. He w o uld b e dragge d int o th e affair. In spite of himse lf, he w o uld b e obli ge d t o go Into some sort of witn ess b ox and d e cl are that from the fir s t he had th o u ght the Clo ckwork man pheno m e n al, wh e n, as a m a tt e r o f fact, he had m e rely th ought him a nui sance . But, a s one o f those who h a d fir s t s een th e s t r ange figure on th e hill, and a s a m e dical man, he would be expected to m a k e a n intellig ent s tatement. One h a d t o b e c o n sistent about s uch things . And the r ea l t r uth wa s th a t he h a d no de s ire t o int e r e st himse lf in the m a tter. It di sturbe d hi s menta l equil i brium, and th rea t e n e d the validity of th a t c a r e fully c o n s id e r e d world of a ssumptions which e nabl e d him to m a k e l i ght, easy jest s at it s incons i s tencies and incongruitie s . Be s ide s , it w a s di s tres sing to discover that, in middle lif e , h e w as no longer in the vanguard o f human h o pe s and fear s ; but a mi se rabl e back s lid e r, dating back to the time when thought and s erious living had become

PAGE 124

THE CLOCKWORK MAN us too difficult for comfort. Reg ar ded in this way, nothing could ever compensate for the wasted years, the ideal s extinguished, the rich hopes bargained for cheap doubts-unless, indeed, it was the reflection that such was the common lot of mankind. The comfortable old world rolled on from generation to genera tion, and nothing extraordinary happened to startle people out of their complacent pre occupation with passions, desires and ambitions. Miracle s were supposed to have happened at certain stages in world-history, but they were immediately obliterated by a mass of controversial comment, or hushed up by those whose axes were in a world that could be relied upon to go on repeating itself. A comfortable world ! Of course, there were malcontents. When the shoe pinched, anybody would cry out for fire from heaven . But if a plebiscite were to b e taken, it would be found that an overwhelming majority would be in favour of a world without miracl es . If, for example, it could be demons trated that this Clockwork man was a being in many ways superior to the rest of m an kind, he would be hounded out of existence by a jealous and conservative humanity. But the Clockwork man was not. He never had been, and, indeed, God forbid he ever should be.

PAGE 125

u6 THE CLOCKWORK MAN With that reflection illuminating his mind, the Doctor ran his car into the garage, and with some return of hi s usual debonair manner, with something of that abiding confidence in a solid earth which is a nece ssary prelude to the marshalling of dige s tive juices, opened the front door of his house. IV Mrs. Ma s ter s was standing in th e sitting room awaiting him. The Doctor strode in without stopping to remove his hat or place his gloves aside, a peculiar mannerism of his upon which Mr s . Masters was wont occasionally to admonish him ; for the good lady was not slow to give banter for banter when the opportunity arose, and she objected to these relics of the Doctor's earlier bohemian ways. But for the moment her mood seemed to be rather one of blandishment. "A young lady called to see you this evening," she announced, smilingly. The Doctor removed his hat as though in honour of the mere mention of hi s visitor. "Did you give her my love ? " was his light rejoinder, hat still poised at an elegant angle. " Indeed, no," retorted Mrs. Masters, "it wouldn't be my place to give such messages. Not as though she weren't inquis itive enough

PAGE 126

THE CLOC K WORK MAN 117 -with a s king questi o ns a b o ut thi s and th at. A s though it w e re a ny bu s in e ss o f ' e r s ' o w yo u choose to a rr a n g e your house'old." "On the contrary, I am fla ttered," s a id the D o ctor, inwa rdly cha fing a t this new ex a mple of Lili a n's ori g inal i ty. "But tell m e , Mr s . M as ters, a m I not b e c oming m o re succ ess ful with the l a di es ? " A s h e spok e , he flick e d with hi s glov e s the r efle ction of himself i n th e mirror. "You d on't need to be reminde d of th a t fact, I'm sure," s igh e d Mr s . Masters, "life sit s lightl y e n o u g h o n you. I fear, too lightly. If I might v e nture to s a y so, a m a n in your po sitio n ou ght to tak e lif e more se riou s ly." "My patients would di sagre e with you." "Ah, w e ll, I grant y o u that. They say you c u r e m o r e with your tongu e tha n with your ph ys ic." "I cert a inly value my wit more tha n my pre s cription s ," laughingly ag ree d the Doctor, "But, t e ll m e , wh a t w as the l a dy' s impr ess ion o f my m e n a g e ? And th a t r eminds m e , you h a ve not told m e h e r n a m e y et. Did she carry a red p aras ol, o r w a s it a white on e ? " "I'm s ur e I n e v e r noti ce d," frown e d Mr s . Master s , " s u c h thin gs don't int e r es t me. But h e r n a m e was Mis s Lili a n P ay n e-" The Doc tor int e rrupted with a guffah. " Come, Mr s . M as t e rs, we ne e d not b ea t a bout

PAGE 127

u8 THE CLOCKWORK MAN the bush. I rather fancy you are aware .of our relationship. Did you find her agreeable?" "Pretty middling," said Mrs. Masters, reluctantly, "although at first I was put out by her manners. Such airs these modern young women give themselves. But she got round me in the end with her pretty ways, and I found myself taking 'er all round the 'ouse, which of course I ought not to 'ave done without your permission." "Tell me," said the Doctor, without moving a muscle in his face, " was she satisfied with her tour of my premises ? " "There now I " exclaimed Mrs. Masters, hastily arranging an antimacassar on the back of a chair, " I won't tell you that, because, of course, I don't know." She retreated towards the door. "But did she leave any message ? " enquired the Doctor, fixing her with his eye-glass. "Botheration I" ejaculated Mrs. Masters, in aggrieved tones, "now you've asked me and I've got to tell you. I wanted to keep it back. Oh, I do hope you're not going to be disappointed. I'm sure she didn't really mean it." "What did she say," demanded the Doctor, irritably. "She says to me, she says, 'Tell him there's nothing doing.'" There was a pause, Mrs, Masters drew i11

PAGE 128

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 119 h e r lip and folded her arms s tiffly. The D octo r s t a r e d h a rd at her for a m o m en t, and almos t b etrayed himse lf . The n h e threw back hi s head and lau g hed with the ai r o f a man to whom all i ssues of life , great an d small, had b e c o m e the o bj ect o f a graduated hilarity. 'The n upon som e other lady will fall the ' supre m e honour," h e observed. 11 You mean-" b e g a n Mrs. Ma s ter s , and then eyed him with the meaning express i o n of a woman s c enting danger or happin ess for some other woman. 11 Tha t ypung l ady i s not s uit e d to you, a t all events," s h e c ontinued, shaking her head. 11 Evidently not," replied the D oc t o r, c a re lessly, "but it i s n o t of the slightest importa nce. A s I have sa id, the honour-" 11 Ah," broke in Mrs. Ma s t e r s, 11 there's only one woman for you, and you h ave yet to find h er." "There's only one woman for m e , and that is the woman who will marry me. Nay, don't l ect ure me, Mr s. Masters. I perceive the admonishment le ap in g to your e ye. I am d etermined t o approach thi s question of matrimony in the spirit o f levity which you admit i s my good or evil genius. Life is a comedy, and in ord e r to shine in it one mus t assume the r o l e of the buffoon who rollick s through the scenes, poking fun a t those sober-

PAGE 129

120 THE CLOCKWORK MAN minde d folk upon whose earnestness the very comedy d epends . I will marry in j est and r epent in l a u ghter." " I ncorri g ibl e man," sai d Mrs. Ma s ter s . But the Doctor had turn ed hi s back upon her, unwilling t o reveal th e sud d en change in his fea ture s . Eve n as he spo k e th ose light words, there c ame t o him th e reflection that he did not re a lly m ea n th em, and hi s po se seemed to crumble to du s t. He h a d lived up to the se nothing s for years, but now h e knew that they were nothings . As though to crown the irritations of a tryin g day, ther e c a me to him the conviction th a t hi s whole life had b e en an affair of st udi ed gestures, o f meticulou s ge s ticul a tions. v O ver an un satisfacto ry meal h e tri ed to think things o ut, conscious all the time that he was mi ss in g gastronomical op portuniti es through s he e r in a tt en tion. Of c o ur se , Lilian's i mpress i on of hi s menage w o uld hav e been unsati s fac t ory1 eve n thou g h h e h a d escorted her over th e h o u se him se lf ; but it was highly significant that s h e should have preferred t o come a l one . H o lding advanced opinions abou t the simplification o f the house, and of the woman's dutie s therein ,

PAGE 130

THE CLOC KWORK MAN 121 s he wo uld rega rd hi s es t a bli shment a s un wie ldy, overcrow d e d, o l d fas hioned, ev e n must y. It would rep resent t o h er un n e ce ssa ry r es p o n s ibiliti es , l a b our with out r e w a rd, m e a n in g l ess os t enta ti o n. The Docto r' s ow n t a s t e s l a y in the di rectio n o f m ass ive, o rn ate furniture , ri c h ca r p e t s and h a ngings , a multipli c ity o f o rn a m ents . H e l i k e d a h o u s e fill e d t o t h e brim w ith e x p e n s ive thin gs . H e w as a b orn c o ll e ct o r and a c c umul a tor o f odds and ends , o f thi n gs tha t h a d b eco m e ne c essa ry t o hi s v a ryin g m oods . H e was proud of hi s h o u se , w ith it s seven t een ro o m s , includ i ng tw o m ag nifi cent r ece ption rooms , four s p a r e b edroo m s in a s t a t e o f c o n s t ant r ea din ess , l i k e fir e s t a ti o n s , for old fri ends wh o a lw a y s sa id th e y w er e c o m i n g and n eve r did ; it s e l abora te kitchen a rr a n ge m e nt s and se r va nt s' qu a rter s . The n the r e we r e c osy littl e r oo ms which a w o m a n o f tas t e wo u ld b e ab l e to d e cor a te according t o h e r w h i m , work roo m s , s nu gge ri es , h alls a n d l a n d in gs. T h e r e w as much in the p l a c e t h at ou g h t to appea l t o a wo m a n with r ight i n sti ne t s . W as L i l ian go ing t o d es t ro y the ir h ap pin ess for the sa k e o f t h ese m o d ern h e re s i es ? Sur e ly s h e wo uld not throw him ove r n ow ; a n d yet h e r m essage l e ft tha t i mpress i o n . N owa d a y s wome n were so l e d by t h e ir se n s ibiliti es . L ilia n's hype r se n sit i ve n ature might r evo lt a t

PAGE 131

122 THE CLOCKWORK MAN the prospect of living with him in the sur roundin gs of his own choice . He would look such a fool if the match did not come off . He had made so many sacrifices for her sake, sacrifice s that were undignified, but necessary in a country town where every detail of daily lif e speedily becomes common knowledge. That wa s why he would appear so ridiculous if the marriage did not take place, It had been necessary, in the fir s t place, to establish himself in the particular clique favoured by Lilian's parents, and although this manceuvre had involved a further lapse from hi s already partly dis established principles, and an almost palpable insincerity, the Doctor had adopted it without much scrup l e. He had resigned his position as Vicar's churchwarden at the rather eucharistic parish church, and become a mere worshipper in a back pew at the Baptist chapel ; for Lilian's father favoured the humble religion of self-made men. He had subscribed to the local temperance society, and contributed medical articl es to the l ocal paper on the harmful effects of alcohol and the training of midwive s . In the winter evenings he gave lantern l e ctures on" The Wonde rs of Science." He organised a P.S.A., d e liver e d addresses to Young Men Only, and generally did all he cou ld to advance the Baptist cause, which, in

PAGE 132

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 123 Great \:Vymering, stood not only for simplicity of religious belief, but also for the simplification of daily life aided by scientific knowledge and common sense. All that had been necessary in order to become legitimately intimate with the Payne family; for they enjoyed the most aggravating good health, and the Doctor had grown tired of awaiting an opportunity to dispense anti-toxins in exchange for tea. But the class to which the Paynes belonged were not really humble. They were urban in origin, and the semi-aristocratic tradition of Great Wymering was opposed to them. They h a d come down from the London suburbs in response to advertis e ments of factory sites, and their enterprise had been amazing. Within a few years Great Wymering had ceased to be a pleasing country town, with historic asso ciations dating back to the first Roman occupation; it was merely known to travellers on the South-Eas tern and Chatham railway as the place where Payne's Dog Biscuits were manufactured. The Doctor, in establishing himself in the right quarter, had forgotten to allow for the fact that the force that had lifted the Paynes out of their urban obscurity had descended to their daughter. Lilian had been expensively e ducated, and although the Doctor denied it

PAGE 133

124 THE CLOCKWORK MAN to him sel f a hundred times a week, th ere was no evading the fact th at an acute brain slumbered behind her rath er immobile beauty. True, the fruits o f her l earning lan g uished a little in Gre a t Wymering, an d that beyond a slight permanent frown an d a disposition to argue about modern problems, s h e betrayed no rev o lt against the narrowness of her existence, but appeare d, graceful and willowy, at garden parties or whist driv es . It was the development of her mind th a t th e Doctor feared, especially as, all uncon sc iously a t first, he had acted as its chi e f s timulant. During their talk s to gether h e had spo ken too m a ny a true word in jest ; and his witticisms h a d revealed to Lilian a whole world about which t o think and theorise. He glanced up at her photograph on the mantelpiece. If there was a fla w in the composition of her fair, Saxon beauty, it was that the mouth was a little too large and opened r ather too eas ily, disclosing t eeth that were not as re g ular as they should be. Bnt nature's blunder often sets th e sea l on man's choice, and to the D octor this trifling fault gave warmth and vivacity to a face that might easily h ave been cold an d imp assive, especially as her eyes were steel blu e and she had no great art in the us , e of them. Her voice, too, often s t a rtled the listener by it s occasional note that

PAGE 134

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 125 sugge s ted an excitability of temperament b a rely under control, In vain the Doctor tried to throw off his heavy reflections and as s ume the air of gaiety usu al to him when drink i ng hi s coffee and thinkin g of Lilian. Such an oppressio n could hardly be ascr ib ed t o th e m a l ady of l ove . It was not Romeo's "heavy lightn ess , serio u s vanity." It was a d ee p perplexity, a gr ave foreboding that so methin g had go ne hideous ly wrong with him, something th a t he w as unable to diagnosEIt c o uld not be that he was grow in g old. As a medical man he knew hi s ag e t o an artery. And y et, in sp ite of his physical culture and rather d e lib e r a t e chastity, he felt suddenly that h e wa s not a fit companion for thi s young girl with her resilient mind. He h a d always been fastidious a bout moral s , without being exactly moral, but there w as something within him that he did not care t o conte mplat e . It almost seeme d as th oug h th e sins of the mind were more deadl y than those o f the fles h, for th e latter expressed themse lve s in action and re-acti o n, while the form er remained in the mind, there to poison and corrupt the very source of all activity . Wha t was it then-this feeling of a fixation of himself-of a slowing down of hi s faculties ? Was it so me strange n e w m a l a dy of the modern world, a state of mind as yet not

PAGE 135

126 THE CLOCKWORK MAN crysbllised by th e po e t or thinker ? It wa s d i fficult t o get a clear im a g e t o express hi s conditi o n ; y e t th a t w a s hi s need . The re was n o phrase o r w ord in hi s memory that could s ymbolis e hi s fee ling. And then ther e w as the Cl oc kwork m ansomething e l se t o th i nk a b o ut, t o be wonde red at. At thi s p o int in th e D o ctor' s r e flection s the doo r o p e n e d s u d d e nly and Mr s . Ma s ter s u s her e d in the Cura te, v ery di s hevelled and o bviously in need o f imme di a te medic a l att e nti on. His c olla r w a s all awry, and the look upon hi s fac e wa s th a t o f a man who has l oo ked l ong and fixedly at s o m e o bject utterly frightful and could not rid him s elf of the image. " I'v e h a d a sho ck," he began, trying pathetic a lly t o s mil e r e c o gnition. "Sorry disturb you-mea l time-" H e sank into a saddle-b a g ch a ir and waved limp arms expre s sively. "The r e w as a m an-" h e g o t out. The D o ct o r wip e d hi s m o uth and pro duced a st e tho s cop e . H is m a nner b ec am e s o o thingly profession a l. He murmure d s ympathetic phrases and pulled a ch a ir cl ose r to his patient. "There wa s a m a n," continued the Curate, in ancient-m a riner-like t o ne s , " a t th e Templa r s ' Hall. I thought he w a s th e c o njurer, but he wa s n 't-a t least, I d o n ' t think so . H e did things-imposs ibl e things-"

PAGE 136

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 127 ''What sort o[ things," enquired the Doctor, slowly, as he listened to the Curate's heart. "You must make an effort to steady yourself." "He-he made things appear," gasped the Curate, with a great effort, "out of nowherepositively." "Well, isn't that what conjurers are supposed to do ? " observed the Doctor, blandly. But the Curate shook hi s head. Fortunately, in his professional character there was no need for the Doctor to exhibit surprise. On the contrary, it was necessary, for his patient's sake, to exercise control. He leaned against the mantelpiece and listened attentively to the Curate's hurried account of his encounter with the Clockwork man, and shook his head gravely. "Well, now," he prescribed, "complete rest for a few days, in a sitting posture. I'll give y o u something to quieten you down. Evidently you've had a shock." " It' s very hard," the Curate complained, "that my infirmity should have prevented me from seeing more. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak." "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 to-er-hallucinations."

PAGE 137

128 THE CLOCKWORK MAN '' I wonder," said the Curate, grasping the edge of his chair, 11 I wonder, now, if Moses felt like this when he saw the burning bush." "Ah, very l ikely," rejoined the D octor, glad of the opportunity to enforce his analogy. 11 There's not the least doubt that many s o called miracles in the past had their origin in some pathological condition improperly understood at the time. Moses probably suffere d from some sort of hysteria-a sort of hypnosis. Even in those days there was the problem of nervous breakdown." His voice died away. The Curate was not actually shaking his head, but there was upon his features an expression of incredulity, the like of which the Doctor had not seen before upon a human face, for it wa s the incredulity of a man to whom all arguments against the incredible are in them se lves unbelievable. It was a grotesque expre ssio n, and with it there went a pathetic fluttering of the Curate's eye lids, a twitching of his lips, a cl as ping of small white hands. 11 I'm afraid your explanation won't hold water," he rejoined. 11 I can't bring myself not to believe in what I saw. You see, all my life I have been trying to believe in miracles, in manifestations. I h ave al ways said that if only we could bring ourselves to accept what is not obvious. My best sermons have been upon

PAGE 138

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 129 that suhject : of the desirability of getting our selves into the receptive state. Sometimes the Vicar has objected. He seemed to think I was piling it on deliberately. But I assure you, Doctor Allingham, that I have always wanted to believe-and, in this case, it was only my infirmity and my unfortunate nervousness that led me to lose such an opportunity." The Doctor drew himself up stiffly, and ju s t perceptibly indicated the door. " I think you need a holiday," he remarked, "and a change from theological pursuits. And don't forget. Re st, for a few days, in a sitting posture." 11 Thank you," the Curate beamed, "I'm afraid the Vicar will be very annoyed, but it can't be helped." They were in the h all now, and the Doctor was holding the street door open. • 11 But it happ e ned," the Curate whispered. " It really did happen-and we shall hear and see more. I only hope I shall be well enough to stand it. We are living in great days." He hovered on the doorstep, rubbing his hands together and looking timidly up at the stars as though half expecting to see a sign. "It distressed me at first," he resumed, "because he was such an odd-looking person, and the whole experience was really on the humorous side. I wanted to laugh at him, K

PAGE 139

130 THE CLOCKWORK MAN and it made me feel so disgraceful. But I'm quite sure he w a s a manife s tation of something, perhap s an apotheosi s ." 11 Don't hurry home," warned the Doctor. 11 Take things quietly." 11 Oh, yes, of course. The body is a frail instrument. One forgets that. So good of you. But the spirit endures. Good night." 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, m spite of instructions to the contrary.

PAGE 140

CHAPTER SEVEN THE CLOCKWORK MAN EXPLAINS HIMSELF I LATE that evening the Doctor r e turned from a confinement case, which had taken him to one of the outlying villages near Great Wymering. The engine was g rinding and straining as the car slowly ascended a steep incline that led into the town ; and the Doctor leaned forward in the seat, both hands gripping the wheel, and his eyes peering through the wind-screen at the stretch of well-lit road ahead of him. He had almost reached the top of the hill, and was about to change his gear, when a figure loomed up out of the darkness and made straight for the . car. The Doctor hastily jammed his brake down, but too late to avert a collision. There was a violent bump ; and the next moment the car began running backwards down the hill, followed by the figure, who had apparently suffered no inconvenience from the contact. Aware that his brakes were not strong enough to avert another disaster, the Doctor deftly turned th e car sideways and ran back-131

PAGE 141

132 THE CLOCKWORK MAN wards into the hedge. He leapt out into the road and ap pro ac hed the s till moving figure. 11 What the devil ! 11 The figure stopped with startling suddenness, but offered no explanation. 11 What are you playing at ? " the Doctor demanded , g lancin g at the crumpled bonnet of his car. " It's a wonde r I didn't kill you." And then, as h e approached nearer to that impassive form, staring at him with eyes that glitter e d luridly in the d a rkne ss, he recognised something familiar about his appearance. At the same moment he realised th a t this singular individual had actually run into the car without appar e ntly incurring the lea s t harm. The re flection rendered the Doctor speec hless for a few seconds ; he could only stare confu sedly at the Clockwork man. The latter remained static, as though, in his turn, t ry ing to grasp the significance of what had happened. It occurred to the Doctor that here was an opportunity 1o investiga te certain matters. "Look here," he broke out, after a c o llected pause, "once an d for a ll, who are you ? '' A question, sharply put, generally produced some kind o f effect upon the Clockwork man. It seemed to release the mechanism in his brain that made coherent speec h possible. But his reply was disconcerting.

PAGE 142

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 133 " Who are you ? " he dem anded , after a preliminar y click or two. "I am a doctor," said Allingham, rather taken back, "a medical man. If you are hurt at all-" An extra gleam of light shone in the other's eye, and he seemed to ponder deeply over this statement. " Does that mean that you can mend people?" he enquired, at last. " Why yes, I suppose it does," Allingham admitted, not knowing what else to say. The Clockwork man sighed, a long, whistling sigh. "I wish you would mend me. I'm all wrong you know. Something has got out of place, I think. My clock won't work properly." " Your clock," echoed the doctor. "It's rather difficult to explain," the Clock work man continued, " but so far as I re member, doctors were people who used to mend human beings b e fore the days of the clock Now they are called mechanics. But it amounts to the same thing." " If you will come with me to my surg ery," the Doctor suggested, with as much calmness as he could a s sume, "I'll do my best for you." The Clockwork man bowed stiffly . "Thank you . Of cour se , I'm a little better than I was, but my ears still fla p occa s ionally." The Doctor scarcely heard this. He had

PAGE 143

134 1'HE CLOCKWORK MAN turn e d aside and stooped down in order to rewind the engine of his car. When he looked up again he beheld an extraordinary sight. The Clockwork man was s tanding by hi s side, a comic expression of pity and misgiving animating his crude features. With one hand he was softly stroking the damaged bonnet of the car. "Poor thing," he was sa ying, " It must be suffering dreadfully. I am so sorry." Allingham paused in the turning of the h an dle and stared, aghast, at his companion. There was no mistaking the significance of the r e mark, and it had been spoken in tones of st range tendernes s . Rapidly there swept across the Doctor's mind a sensation of complete conviction. If there was any further proof required of the truth of Gr egg's conjecture, surely it was expressed in this a pparently in sane and yet obviously sincere s olicitude on the part of the Cl o ckwork man for a n inanimate machine ? He recognised in the m ec hanism before him a m ember of his own species ! The thing was a t once prepo s t e rous and ration al, and the D oc tor almost yielded to a desire to l aug h hysterically. Then, with a final jerk of th e handl e , h e s tart e d the e n gine and open e d th e do o r o f th e car for the Clockwork man to ente r. The l atter , after m a king severa l absurd attempts to mount the step in the

PAGE 144

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 135 ordinary manner, stumbled and fell head fore most into the interior, The Doctor followed, and picking up the prostrate figure, placed him in a sitting posture upon the seat. He was extraordinarily light, and there was something about the feel of his body that sent a thrill of apprehension down the Doctor's spine. He was thoroughly frightened by now, and the manner in which his companion took everything for granted only increased his alarm. "I know one thing," the Clockwork man remarked, as the car began to move, "I'm devilish hungry." II That the Clockwork man was likely to prove a source of embarrassment to him in more ways than one was demonstrated to the Doctor almost as soon as they entered the house. Mrs. Masters, who was laying the supper:, regarded the visitor with a slight huffiness. He obtruded upon her vision as an extra meal for which she was not prepared. And the Doctor's manner was not reassuring. He seemed, for the time being, to lack that urbanity which usually enabled him to smooth over the awkward situation s in life, It was unfortunate, perhaps, that he should have allowed Mrs. Masters to develop an attitude of distrust, but he was

PAGE 145

136 THE CLOCKWORK MAN nervous, and that was sufficient to put the good lady on her guard. "Lay an extra place, will you, Mrs. Masters," the Doctor had requested as they entered the room. "I'm afraid you'll 'ave to make do," was the sharp rejoinder, for there was not much on the table, and the Doctor favoured a light supper. "There's watercress," she added, defensively. "Care for watercress ? " enquired the Doctor, trying hard to glance casually at his guest. The Clockw ork man stared blankly at his interrogator, "Watercress,'' he remarked, "is not much in my line. Something solid, if you have it, and as much as possible, I feel a trifle faint." He sat down rather hurriedly, on the couch, and the Doctor scanned him anxiously for symptoms. But there were none of an alarming character. He had not removed his borrowed hat and wig. "Bring up anything you can find," the Doctor whispered in Mrs. Master s ' ear, "my friend has had rather a long journey. Any thing you can find. Surely we have things in tin s." His furth e r s ugge s tions were drowne d by an enormous hycena-like y a wn coming from the direction of the couch. It was followed by another, even more prodigious. The room

PAGE 146

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 137 fairly vibrated with the Clockwork man's uncouth expression o f omnivorou s appetite. "Bless us ! " Mr s . Mas t e r s could not help saying. " Mann e rs ! " " Is there anything you particularly fancy ? " enquired the Doctor. "Eggs ," announce d the figure on the couch. "La rg e quantitie s of eggs-infinite eggs." " S ee wha t you can do in the matter of eggs,'' urg e d the Doctor, and Mr s . M as t ers d ep arted, with th e light of expe dition in her eye, for to feed a hungry m an, even one whom she re garded with s u s picion, wa s part of her religion. "I'm a fraid I put you t o great inconv e nience," murmure d the visitor, s t ill yawning and rolling about on the couch. "The fact i s, I ought to be able to produ c e thin gs-but th a t part of m e seems to h ave gone wrong a g ain. I did make a start-but it was only a flash in the pan. So sorry if I'm a nui sa nce." "No t at a ll," sa id the Doctor, ende avouring without much s ucc ess to treat his guest as an o r dinary b ei ng, " I a m to blame . I ought to h ave re a li se d that y o u would require nourish ment. But, of course, I am s till in the dark-" H e paused a bru p tly, aware th a t certain peculiar changes w ere t aki n g place in th e physiognomy of th e Clockwork man. His strange orga nism seeme d to be unde rgoing a se ri es of exc eedingly swift and c o mplicated

PAGE 147

138 THE CLOC KW OR K MAN phys ic a l and chemical processes. His c o m plexion changed colour rapidly, passing from its u s ual pallor to a d ee p gre e ni s h hue, and then to a h ectic flu s h. Concurrei:ii: with thi s , there was a puzzling mov e m ent of th e corpu scles and c e lls ju s t ben eat h th e s kin. The Doctor wa s scarce ly as yet in th e m ind to s tudy the s e phenonema accura t e ly. At the b ac k of hi s mind th ere w as the thought o f Mr s . Ma s ter s returning with the s upp er. He tried to r es ume ordinary s p e ech, but the Clockwork man s ee m e d abstracted, and th e unfamiliarity of hi s appearance incr ea ed ev e ry second. It seemed to the Docto r th a t he h a d remembered a littl e dimpl e on the middle of the Clockwork man's chin, but now h e couldn't see the dimple. It was covered with som ething browni s h and delica.t e , something th a t was r ap idly spreading until it bec a m e almost o bvi o u s . "You see , " ex claim e d the D o ctor, making a viol ent effort to ignore hi s o wn p e rception s, ''it's all so unexpect e d. I'm a fr ai d I shan't be able to render you much assistance until I know the actual fact s , and even th en-" He gripped the back of a chair. It was no lon g er po ss ible for him to deceiv e himse lf about th e my s teriou s appearance o n the Clock work man's c hin. H e was g r ow ing a b eardsw iftly and vis ibl y . Alr ea dy some of the h airs had reach e d to hi s collar.

PAGE 148

TH:E CLOCKWORK MAN 139 "I b e g your pardon," said the Clockw o rk man, sudde nly b eco min g cons ci o u s of the hir s ut e d e vel opme nt. " I r r eg ular growthmos t inconvenient-it's due t o my conditionI'm all to piece s , yo u kn ow-things h a ppen spontaneous l y ." He ap pear e d t o be s tru gg lin g hard t o revers e some proc ess within him s elf, but th e beard continued to grow. The Doctor found hi s v o ic e a g a in. "Great h eave n s," he burs t out, in a hy s t e rical s hout. "Stop it. You must stop it-I s imply c an't stand it." H e had vi s ion s of a room full o f g o lden brown beard. It wa s the m os t a ppallin g thing he had ever witne sse d, and there wa s no tri c kery about it. The b eard had actually grown before hi s eyes , and it h a d n o w reached to the second button o f the Clo c k w or k m a n' s wa is tc o at. And, at a n y m o ment, Mr s . M as ter s might return ! Sudd e nl y , with a vio l ent effort in vo lving two s harp flappin gs o f hi s e ars, the Clo c kwork m a n m as ter e d hi s difficulty. H e a ppe ared t o s et i n a ction some s w ift d e pilat o ry proce ss . The be ard v a ni s hed as i f b y magic. The d octo r c oll aps ed int o a chair. "Yo u mu s tn ' t d o a n y th i n g like th a t a g a in," h e m utt e r e d h oarse ] y . "You-mu st-let-me -know-when you-feel it-co ming on. " In spite o f h is a git a tion, it o c curre d to him

PAGE 149

140 THE CLOCKWORK MAN that he must be prepared for worse shocks than this. It was no use giving way to panic. Incredible as had been the cricketing per formance, the magical flight, and now this ridiculously sudden growth of beard, there were indications about the Clockwork man that pointed to still further abnormalities. The Doctor braced himself up to face the worst; he had no theory at all with which to explain these staggering manifestations, and it seemed more than likely that the ghastly serio-comic figure seated on the couch would presently offer some explanation of his own. A few moments later Mrs. Masters entered the room bearing a tray with the promised meal. True to her instinct, the good soul must have searched the r e motest corners of her pantry in order to provide what she evidently regarded as but an apology of a repast. Little did she know for what Brobdingnagian appetite she wa s c a tering ! At the sight of the six gleaming white egg s in their cups, the guest made a movement expres s ive of the direction of his desire, if not of very sanguine hope of their fulfilment. Besides eg gs, there were several piles of sandwiches, bread and butter, and assor ted cakes . Mrs. Ma s t ers had scarce ly murmured h er apologies for the best she could do at such short notice, and retired, than the Clockwork

PAGE 150

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 141 man set to with an avidi ty that appalled a nd disgusted the Doctor. The s i x eggs were cracked and swallowed in as many seconds. The r est of the food di sap peared in a series of jerks, accompanied by int e n s e vibration of the jaws ; the whole process of swallowing re sembling the pul sa tions of the cylinders of a petrol engine. So rapid were the vibrations, t hat the whole of the lower part of the Cl ockwor k man's face was only visible as a multiplicity of blurred outlines. The commotion subsided as abruptly as it had begun, and the Doctor enquired, with as much grace as his outrage d instincts would allow, whether he could offer him any more. " I have sti ll," sa id the Clockwork man, locating his feeling by placing a hand sharply against hi s stomach, 11 an emptiness here." "Dear me," muttered the Doctor, "you find us rather short at present. I must think of something." He went on talking, as though to gain time. 11 It's quite obviou s , of course, that you need more than an av erage person. I ought to have realised. There would be exaggerated metabolism-naturally, to sustain exaggerated function. But, of course, theer-motivt force behind thi s extraordinary efficiency of yours is s till a mystery to me. Am I right in assu min g that there is a sort of mechanism ? "

PAGE 151

142 THE CLOCKWORK MAN " It makes everything go faster," observed the Clockw o rk man, "and more accurately." "Quite," murmured the Doctor. He was leaning forward now, with his elbows resting on the table and his head on one side, " I can see that. There are certain things about you that strike one as being obvious. But what beats me at present is how-and where-" he looked, figuratively speaking , at the inside of the Clockwork man, "I mean, in what part of your anatomy the-er-motive force is situated." "The functioning principle," said the Clockwork man, "is distributed throughout, but the clock-" His words ran on in coherently for a few moments and ended in an abrupt explosion that nearly lifted him out of his seat. " Beg pardon-what I mean to say is that the clock-wallabaloo-wumwum-" "I am prepared to take that for granted," put in the Doctor, coughing slightly, "You must understand," resumed the Clock work man, making a rather painful effort to fold hi s arms and look natural, "you must understand---click-click-that it is difficult for me to carry on conve rsation in this manner. Not only are my speech centres rather disordered-G-r-r-r-r-r-r-but I am not really accustomed to expressing my thoughts

PAGE 152

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 143 in thi s way (here there wa s a loud spinning noise, like a sewing machine, and ri sing to a rapid crescendo). My brain i s so-cons tituted that action-except in a multiform world-is bound to be somewhat spasmodicPfft-Pfft-Pfft. In fact-Pfft-it i s onlyPfft-because I am in s uch a hope-hopehope l ess condition tha t I am able to converse with you at all." "I see," said Allingham, s lowly, "it is because you are, so to speak, temporarily incap;icitated, that you are able to come down to the level of our world." "It's an extra-ordinary world," exclaimed the other, with a sudden vehemence that seemed to bring about a spas m of coherency. " I can't get used to it. Everything is so elementary and restricted. I wouldn't have thought it possible that even in the twentieth century things would have been so b a ckward. I always thought that this age was supposed to b e the beginning. History says the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were full of stir and enquiry. The mind of man was awakening. But it is strange how little has been done, I see no signs of the great movement. Why, you have not yet grasped the importance of the machine s," "We hav e automobiles and flying machines," interrupted Allingham, weakly.

PAGE 153

144 THE CLOCKWORK MAN "And you treat them like slaves," retorted the Clockwork man. "That fact was revealed to me by your callous behaviour towards your motor car. It was not until man began to respect the machines that his real history begun. What ideas have you about the relation of man to the outer cosmos? 11 "We have a theory of relativity," Allingham ventured. "Einstein ! " The Clockwork man's features altered just perceptibly to an expression of faint surprise. 11 Is he already born ? 11 " He is beginning to be understood. And some attempt is being made to popularise his theory. But I don't know that I altogether agree." The Doctor hesitated, aware of the useless ness of dissension upon such a subject where his companion was concerned. Another idea came into his head. "What sort of a world is yours ? To look at, I mean. How does it appear to the eye and touch ? " "It is a multiform world," replied the Clockwork man (he had managed to fold his arms now, and apart from a certain stiffness his attitude was fairly normal). "Now, your world has a certain definite shape. That is what puzzles me so. There is one of every thing. One sky, and one floor. Everything is fixed and stable. At least, so it appears to

PAGE 154

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 145 me. And then you h a v e obj e ct s placed about in c e rt ai n po s it i on s , tr ees , h o u ses , lamp-postsand th e y n ever a lte r thei r p o s ition s . It r e minds m e o f the s c e n e ry th e y us e d in th e old th eatres . Now , in my wo r ld everything is co ns tantl y movi n g , and th ere i s not one of everyth i n g , but a l ways th e r e a re a g r eat many of eac h thi ng . The u niver se h as no d e finit e s h ape at all . The sky d oes not l oo k, lik e yours d oes , simply a sort o f inverte d bo w l. It i s a s ha peless void . But w h a t s t r ik es me s o for ci bly a b ou t your worl d i s t h a t everythin g appe a rs t o b e leadi n g somew h e r e , and you e x pect al ways t o come t o t he end of things. But in my w o rl d eve r y thin g goes on fo r e ver." "But t h e s tr e et s and h o u ses?" hazarded Allin g ham, ''a r e n ' t th ey lik e o ur s?" The Clock wo rk m an s h oo k h is h ea d. "We have houses , b u t the y are not full o f things l ike yours ar e , a nd w e do n't live in them. The y are s im ply p l aces w h e r e we go wh e n we tak e ourse l ves to p i eces or overh aul ourse l v e s . The y are-" hi s m o u t h o pe n e d v e ry wide, "the n ea r es t approac h t o fixed o bj e ct s that we h ave, and we r egar d the m as jumpi ng-off pla ces for s u c c essive ex cu rsion s i nto va r ious dimen s i o n s . St ree t s a r e o f c ours e unnec ess ary, s in ce th e onl y object of a s t reet is to l ea d from one pla<;e to ano ther, and we d o th a t s o r t of thing in othe r wa y s . Ag a in, our hou s es are L

PAGE 155

146 THE CLOCKWORK MAN not placed together in the absurd fa shion of your s . They are anywhere and everywhere, and nowhe re and no when. For in s tance, I live in the d a y b e f o r e y es terday and my friend in the day aft e r to-morrow." "I begin to g rasp what you mean," said Allingh a m, di gg in g hi s chin into hi s hands, " a s an id e a, tha t i s . It s eem s to me that, to borrow th e w o rd s of Sha k e sp ea r e , I have long dreame d o f such a k ind of man a s you. But now tha t yo u a r e before m e , in the erflesh, I find myse lf un a bl e to a cc ep t you." The unfortuna t e D octor wa s tryin g h ard to substitute a genuine intere s t in the Clockwork man for a feelin g o f pa nic, but h e w as not very succe ss ful. "You seem to me," he added, rathe r l a mely, " s o ve ry the o retical." And th e n he remembered the sudden growth of be a rd, and d e cid e d that it w as u s ele ss to purs u e th a t l as t thin thread of sus pi cion in hi s mind. For se ve ral seconds he sa id nothing at a ll, and th e Clockwork man seemed t o take a d va nt ag e of the p a use in order t o wind himself up t o a n e w pitch of coherency, "It would b e ridiculou s , " h e b egan, after se v er al thoracic bifurcatio n s , " for me t o e x pl a in my self m o re fully t o y ou. Unle s s yo u h a d a clo c k y o u c ouldn't p ossi bl y under t a n d . But I hope I h ave made it cl ea r that m y world i s a multiform world. It ha s a thousand

PAGE 156

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 147 manife s t a tion s a s compared to one of your s . It i s a world of many dime11sions , and ev ery dimen s ion i s crowded with peopl e and thing s . Only they don't get in each o ther's way, like you do, b e caus e there are alwa y s other dimen s ions at hand." "That I can follow," s aid th e Docto r, wrinkling hi s brow s , " that see m s to me fairly cl e ar. I can jus t gras p th at, a s the h y p o the s i s of anothe r sort of world. But wh a t I don' t unders t a nd, wha t I can't b eg in to unde r s tand, i s how you w o rk, how thi s mechani s m which you talk about function s ." H e deliv e r e d thi s last se ntence rather in the manner of an ultimatum, and the Clockwork man s eem e d to brood over it for a f e w seconds He w as apparently puzzled by the que s tion, and hard mechanical lin e s appe ared upon his for e h ea d and b e gan slowly chas ing one another out of e xi s tenc e , It r eminded the Doctor of V e n e tian blind s b eing pulled up and down v e ry rapidly. "Well," th e reply w as shot out at la st, " how d o you work ? " The r e partee of the Clockwork man wa s none the less e ffective for being s u s pended, a s it were, for a s ec ond or two befor e d e livery. The doctor g a s p ed s lightl y a n d r e l e a s ed hi s hold u po n a m u s t a rd p o t. H e c am e up to the r e b ound with a new s ugg e s tion,

PAGE 157

148 THE CLOCKWORK MAN "Now, that' s a good idea. We mi ght arrive at so m e thin g by compari so n. I n eve r th o ught of th at." He gra ped the mustard pot ag ain and tried to arrange certain matters in hi s mind. "It's a littl e difficult to know w h ere to b egi n," he temporise d. "Beg in at th e e nd, if you like," suggested th e C l ockwor k man, affab l y." "It's all the same to me. Firs t and la st , upside or in s id e , front o r back-it a ll conveys the sa m e id e a t o m e . " "We a r e crea tur es of actio n," ha zard e d the Doctor, with th e air of a m a n embarking upon a l o ng m e nt a l voyage , "we act from ce rtain m o tiv es . The r e i s a principle known as C a use and Eff e ct. Eve rything i s related. E very ac tion h as it s equa l and opposite re a c tion. Nobody c an do a nything, or eve n think a n yt hing, without producing some change, h o w eve r s light, in the gener a l flow of thing s . E very m ov ement t h a t we make, a lm o s t every thou ght that passes thro u g h our minds , s t a rt s a n o th e r ri pp l e upon the s urf ace o f tim e , up o n this endle s s strea m of cause and effec t." "Ah," interrupted the Clock wor k man, placing a fing e r to th e s id e of hi s nose, " I begin to unde r sta nd. You work upon a different principle, or rath e r a n antiquate d principle. Y o u see, all that has be e n solved

PAGE 158

THE CLOCKWOR K MAN 149 now. The cl oc k wo r ks all t hat out in a d vance . It ca l cu l a t es a h ea d o f our consc iou s s elves . N o d o ubt we s till g o th ro u g h the sa m e p ro cesses, sub-con sciousl y , a ll s uch proce sses th a t re l a t e to C a u se and E ffect. But w e , that i s , ourse l ves , are th e r es ult ant of s uch ca lcul atio n s , and th e o nly ac tion s we a re c o n s ci o u s of a r e those w hi c h are expresse d as conse quents." Allingh a m p ass ed a h and acro ss his for e he a d. "It a ll see m s s o f eas ibl e ," h e r e m a rked, " once yo u gras p the m e ch a ni s m. But what I don't unde r stand-" H e r e , howe ver, the di s cu ss ion came to an abrupt conclu s i o n, for so m e thin g w as h a ppening t o the Cl oc kw o rk m a n.

PAGE 159

CHAPTER EIGHT THE CLOCK AT firs t it seemed to the Doctor th a t hi s companion w as a b out to exp la in m a tter s further. There w as s till something vaguely communicative about his manner, and a kind of noi s e i ss u e d from hi s r ap idly moving j a w s . But it w as not a human noise. It b eg an with a s uc cess i o n of d ee p-t o n e d growls and grunts , and ende d a bruptly in a di s tinct b a rk, "Hydro ph o bi a ," flas h e d through the Doctor's mind, but h e di s mi sse d the idea immediately. He had lit a cigarette in orde r to soothe hi s nerves . H e w as trying so h ar d to rati o n alise the whole proceeding, to fit the Clockwork m an into so m e remo t ely p oss ibl e o rder of things; but it w as a difficult process, for no soo n e r h a d h e grouped c e rt a in id e a s in his h ea d than some fr es h m an if e s tation to o k place which r ende r e d all previous th eo ri es futile. At the present moment, for in s tanc e , it w as o bviou s th a t so m e n e w kind of s tru c tur a l alteration wa s t a king place in the Cloc kwork m a n's physiognomy. The phenomenon c ould

PAGE 160

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 151 hardly be classed in the s ame category as the sudden growth of beard, although there were points in common. Hair wa s again visible , this time spread all over the rounded face and on the jaw ; the nose was receding and flattening out; the eyes were dwindling in s ize, and the expression in them change d into a dull stare . The bark was repeated and followed by an angry rumbling. The Doctor dropped his cigarette on the plate before him and grasped the edges of the table. His eyes were riveted upon that ghastly spectacle of transmutation. "Oh, God," he cri e d out, at last, and shiver ing from head to foot. "Are you doing these things on purpos e to frighten m e , or can't you, can't you help it? IJo you think I don't believe you? Do you think I can keep on deceiving myself? I tell you I'm ready to b e lieve anything-I capitulate-I only ask you to let me down lightly. I'm only human, and human nerves wer e n't made to stand this." "G-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r," growled the Clockwork man. "WOW-WOW-can't help itWOUGH-WOUGH-most r eg ret able-wow -wow-atavism-tendency to return-remote species-moment's notice-family failing darwinism-better in a moment-something gone wrong with the controls. There-that's clo ne it. Phew ! "

PAGE 161

152 THE CLOCKWORK MAN His face su d de nl y c l eare d, a nd all tr a ce of the c a nin e res e mbl ance v anished as if by magic. He got up and t o ok t wo or three j e rk-like strides up and down the ro o m. 11 Must keep g oin g-when I f e el like thi s eith e r food or violent stimul us-o therwi s e the confounded thin g run s do wn-and the re y o u a re.'' H e p a used Glnd c o nfront ed Allin g harn, who had risen from hi s ch a i r and was still tremblin g . 11 H o w can I h e lp i t ? " imp lore d th e Clock work m a n, in d es p a ir. "The y m a de me like thi s . I d o n't want to a larm y ou-but, y ou know, it ala rms m e so metime s . You c a n't im a gine how trying i t i s to feel that at a ny moment you mi ght c ha nge into something els e-some h o rribl e tr ee -cl i mbin g a nc e stor. The thing ou ght n o t t o h appe n, but it's always p oss ibl e . They shou l d have thought of that wh e n the y m a d e th e clo ck ." 11 It mustn't h appe n , " s aid th e D o ct o r, r e covering s l ig htly, 11 that's the flat fact. If it's food you re q uir e , then foo d y o u shall h ave." It h a d sudde nly fla shed across his fevered mind tha t down stai r s in the s urg e ry th e r e lay a coll ec tion of t i nn e d foods and pat ent medicine s , s a mpl es th a t had bee n s ent for him to te st. R a ther tha n ri s k a fur the r m a nif e ta tion of coll a pse on th e part o f the Cl o ck wor k man, h e would s acrifice the s e .

PAGE 162

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 153 II H e wa s only ju s t in time. On the way down th e s t a irs th a t l e d to th e b asement s ur g e ry th e Cl oc kwork m an beg a n to fla p his ears v i o l e n t l y , and it w a s th e n th a t the Doctor n o ticed fo r the first tim e thi s circum::.tance tha t had s o puzzled Arthur Withers. But the faculty see m ed, in compar ison with other exhibitio n s , a m e r e trifl e , a sort o f mannerism tha t one m ight e x p ect fr o m a b e in g s o strange ly con s tituted. P u sh i ng his co m p ani o n into the surgery, t h e D oc t o r comme n ced opening t i ns for all he w a s w orth. The process calm e d him, and he h a d tim e to think a little. For h alf a n hour h e ope n e d tins, and pass e d them over to the Cl o c kwo rk m an, without noticin g very much . w h a t the l a tt e r did w ith them. Then he w ent on to b ott les c onta ining pat ent foods, pho s p h a t es, h y p o ph o spha t e s, g l y cero-h y popho s p h a t es , a ll the phosp hat es in fact, com. bin e d wi th m a lt or othe r substanc es, which mi g ht be c o n s id e r e d a lmos t n ecess ary as an a u x ili ary di e t for th e C l o ckw o rk m a n . At lea st, 1 he l a tt e r s eemed g r a t e ful to recei v e w h a t e v e r w a s g i v en t o him, and hi s ge neral m anne r b eca me decidedly more p os s i ble. There s eemed le s s cha nce now of a drast i c

PAGE 163

i54 THE CLOCKWORK MAN relapse. The Docto r had locked the door of the s urgery. It would be embarrassi n g to be discov e red in such circumstances, and Mrs. Master s might faint with horror at the sight of the empty tins and bottles and the gorging visitor. It w a s symptomatic of the Doctor's frame of mind that even now the one thing he dreaded more than anything else was the intrusion of a curious world into this monstrous proceeding. He had been forced into accepting the evidence of his own eyes, but there still remained in him a strong desire to hush up the affair, to protect the world at large from so fierce a shock to its established ideas. The surgery was a low-pitched apartment, and it was approached by patients from the outside by way of the area steps. One door communicated with the dark pa ssage that led to the kitchen quarte rs, and the other opened directly upon the area. A double row of s helves, well stocked with bottles, occupied the centre of the room and divided it into two halves. Beneath the window stood the Doctor's nea t burea u, and to the left of this was a low couch beside the wall. A shaded lamp on the d es k was s ufficient to light the room for ordinary purposes ; but there was a gas burner near the furth er door, which had to b e lit when the Poctor wa s engaged upon

PAGE 164

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 155 some very close examination or had to perform a slight operation. Directly underneath this burner there stood an arm-chair of ample proportions, and it was here that the Clockwork man had seated hi ' mself at the beginning of his orgy. The Doctor sat upon the couch, with his hands limply hanging between his knees. He was conscious of perspiration, but made no attempt to wipe his forehead. His heart was knocking hard against his ribs, and occasionally missing a beat. He noticed this fact also, but it caused him little concern. Now and again he looked swiftly at the Clockwork man and s tudied his extraordinary method of mastica tion, the rapid vibratory movement of the jaws, the apparent absence of any kind of voluntary effort. Uppermost in the Doctor's mind was the reflection that he of all persons should have been s elected by an undiscriminating pro vidence to undergo this distressing and entirely unprecedented experience. It was an ironic commentary upon his reactionary views and his comfortable doctrine of common sense. He had been convinced in spite of himself, and the effort to resist conviction had strained his mental powers uncomfortably. He felt very strongly his inability to cope with the many problem s that would be sure to <1rise in

PAGE 165

156 THE CLOC KWORK MAN conne cti o n with t h e Clockwo r k man. It was too muc h for o n e m an's bra i n . There would have t o b e a c o n vo c a ti o n o f a ll the cl e v e re s t m e n in Europe in orde r to inve sti gate such a n appa llin g rev e l ation. H e picture d himse lf in the act o f introduc in g this genui n e b e in g fr o m a f uture age , and the d e s c ri p ti o n h e w ould h ave to g ive o f a ll that h a d h appe n e d in connection with him. E ve n tha t pros p ect se t hi s b rain re e lin g . H e w ould lik e t o b e able to shirk the i ss u e . It w as e n o u g h t o h av e look e d upo n this arche type of the future ; the probl e m n o w w as to forget hi s e x i s tence. But tha t would be impossi bl e . The Cl ockw ork m a n w as the r ealisat ion o f the future There w as no evading tha t. The future . M a n h a d evo l ve d into this . H e had succee d e d someho w in a d d in g t o hi s norm a l powers s o m e kind of mech a ni s m tha t o p e n e d up v ast p oss ibiliti es o f ac t io n in a ll sorts o f dime n s ion s . The r e must h ave bee n a n e n ormo u s pre p a r a t o ry p e ri o d b efore the thing b e c a m e fina lly p o ss ible, ge n e rati o n s o f s tri v in g and fa ilure and further experime nt. But th e indefatigabl e spirit o f m a n had triump h e d in th e e nd. H e had a ri sen a t l as t s uperio r to T i m e and Spac e , and taken hi s pl a c e in the c entre o f th e unive r se . It w as a fulfilm ent of a ll the prophecies o f the g r eat sc i entis ts since the di scovery of evolution.

PAGE 166

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 157 Such reflections flitted hazily through the Doctor's mind a s he strove in vain to find a practical s o lution of the problem. What was the clock ? He knew, from hearsay, that it was situated at the back of this strange being's head. Tom Driver had seen it, and described it in his clumsy fashion. Since that episode the Doctor had vis ualised somethin g in the nature of an in strument affixed to the Clock work man's head, and perhaps connected with his cerebral processes. Was it a kind of super-brain ? Had there been found some means of lengthening the convolutions of the human brain, so that man's thought travelled further and so enabled him to a rrive more swiftly at ultimate conclusions ? That seemed suggestive. It must be that in some way the cerebral energy of man had been stored up, as electricity in a battery, and then released by mechanical processes. At least, that was the the vague conclusion that came into the Doctor's mind and stuck there . It was the only theory at all consonant with his own knowledge of human anatomy. All physiological action could be traced to the passage of nervous energy from one centre to another, and it was obvious that, in the case of the Clockwork man, such energy was su bj ected to enormous acceleration and probably dis tributed along specially prepared paths. There

PAGE 167

158 THE CLOCKWORK MAN was nothing in the science of neuropathy to account for such disturbances and reactions There were neural freaks-the Doctor had himself treated some remarkable cases of nervous disorder-but the behaviour of the Clockwork man could not be explained by any principle within human knowledge. Not the least puzzling circumstance about him was the fact that now and again his speech and manner made it impossible to accept the supposition or mechanical origin ; whilst at other times his antics induced a positive conviction that he was really a sort of highly perfected toy. Presently the Clockwork man got up and began walking up and down the room, in his slow, flat -footed manner. " How do you feel now?" ventured the Doctor, arousing himself with an effort. ''Oh, so, so ," sighed the other, "only s o, so-I can't expect to feel my s elf, you know." He reached to the end of the room, and jerking himself round, started on the return journey. The Doctor aros e slowly and re mained standing. There wa s barely room for two people to walk up and down. 11 Anything might happen," the Clockw or k man continued, plaintively, 11 I feel as though I might slip again, you know-slip ba ck another thousand years or so ." He turned again. "I've got to get worse before I get

PAGE 168

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 159 better," he sighed, and then stopped t o examine the rows of bottles arranged along the shelves. "What are thes e ? " he enquired. '' Medicine s," s aid the Doctor, without enthus iasm. "Do they help people to work ? " "H' m, y es -che mical action tonics. Peo pl e ge t run down, and I have t o give them so mething t o stimul a te the s y stem." "I see," the Cl o ckwork m a n nodde d sagely. "But th e y wouldn't b e a ny u s e to me. Wha t I n ee d i s a dju s tm e nt, r egula ti o n. " H e looked h a rd a t th e doct o r, with a p a th e tic ex pre ss ion of e nquiry. "My cl ock-" he b e gan, and s t o pped a bruptly. They w e re facing o n e another now. The doct o r s wall o wed h ard se v e r a l times , and he felt th e bl oo d tin g ling in his t e mple s . The dread e d m o m ent h a d c o m e . He had got to s e e thi s s tr a nge in strume nt th a t distingui s hed the Clockw o rk m a n from o rdinary mortals. There wa s no s hrinkin g from the eerie ex peri e nc e . Underne ath that borrowe d hat and wig the r e w as so m ething-something utterly s trange and o ut s id e the p a l e o f human in genuity . In th e n a m e o f common humanity it wa s incumbent up o n the D o ct o r t o face the s h o ck o f thi s r evela ti o n, and y e t he shrunk fr o m it lik e a fright e ned child. H e f e lt n o

PAGE 169

160 THE CLOCKWORK MAN trace of curi o sity, no feveri s h a n x i e ty to inves tig a t e thi s myst e ry of th e futur e . His knee s tr e mbl e d vi o l e ntl y . H e did n o t w ant to see the clock. H e w o uld h a ve given a hundred p ounds t o b e s p a r e d th e orde a l b e fore him. Slo wly, with hi s cu stoma ry s tiffn ess of m o vem e nt, th e Cl oc kw o r k m a n r a i se d hi s arms upw ar ds and r e moved t h e soft cl e rical h a t. H e h e ld i t a l oft, as thoug h uncerta in w hat to do with it, and th e Doctor took it from him with a b a kin g h a nd. N ex t moment th e wi g came off, and there wa s di s clo s e d to th e Doctor's ga z e a bald cranium. The n th e Cl oc kwork m a n turned himself s lowly round. The Docto r shot out a h a nd and g ripp e d the fram e work of the s h e l ves . As his eyes r es t e d upon the obj e ct tha t no w confront e d him, h e s wung s lowly round until hi body w as partly s upported by th e s h e lves . Hi s mouth op e n e d wid e and r e m aine d s tr e t c h e d t o it s lim it. At first, wh a t he sa w looke d lik e a noth e r face, o n l y it wa s round and p olis h e d . A s econd g l a nce made it quit e pl a in th a t in s t e ad of a b ack to the Clo c kwork m a n ' s h e a d, there wa s a sor t of g l a ss di al, be n e a th " v hi c h th e doctor dimly made out myriad s of indi ca t o rs , tiny hands that moved round a circle marked

PAGE 170

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 161 with incon ce iv a bl y minute divisions. Some o f the h ands moved s l o wly, some only jus t visibly, whilst oth ers spu n round with such spee d that they l eft o nly a blurre d impress i o n of a vibratant rotary m ovement. Besides the hand s there we r e s tops, queers haped knobs and diminutive buttons, eac h one m a rked with a small, neat number. Littl e met a l flap s fluttered quickly and irr eg ul ar ly, lik e the in dicators on a t e lephone switchboard. The r e was a faint throbbin g and commotion, a suggestion of power a t hi g h pressure . Ju s t for a moment the Docto r tri e d to r ealise that h e was l oo kin g upon th e supreme m a rv e l of human ingenuit y . H e m a d e an effort to stretch hi s brain o n ce more in orde r to g rasp the significance of this paragon of e i ght thousand yea r s h e n ce . But h e did not s ucceed. The train o f the past hour r eac h e d its first climax. H e began t o tremble violently. His elbow went back with a sharp j e rk and smashed three bottles standin g on the s h elf b ehind him. H e made littl e whimpering n o i ses in hi s throat. "Oh, God," h e whispered, hoarse ly, and then agai n , as th oug h to comfort himse lf, "Oh, God." I II "If you open the lid," exp l aine d the Clockwork man ( and at the sound o f that human M

PAGE 171

162 THE CLOCKWORK M A N voice the doct o r jumpe d vi o l e ntly), "you will see c e rt a in s t o p s , m a rk e d with numbers ." Ob e di e nt, in sp it e of hims elf, the D o ct o r di s cov e red a minute hin ge and s wun g ope n the g l ass lid. The p a l p it a tin g cl o ck, with it s s t i r of n o i se s slig htl y a cce ntu a t e d, l a y exp o s ed to hi s touch. "Sto p XI," c o ntinu e d th e Cloc kw o rk m a n, in t o n es o f s h ar p in st ruct ion. " Press h a rd. The n wind Y 4 three times ." Sl o wly, with a wildly b ea ting h e art, th e D o ct o r in serte d a tr e mblin g finge r a m o ng th e int e r s tic es o f tho se multitudin o u s t ops and hand s , and as s lowly withdre w it ag ain. H e c ould n o t d o this thing . F o r o ne thin g , hi s fin ge r w a s t oo l a r ge . It w as a rid ic ul o u s l y clum s y in strume nt for so fine a purpose. Wha t if h e faile d ? Presse d a kn o b t oo h a rd or se t a h a nd sp innin g in th e w ro n g dir e cti o n ? The l eas t blunder-" I c an't do it," he gas p e d, "I can't re a lly. You must-e xcus e me." "Be quick," s a id th e Clo c kw o rk m a n, in a squ e aky unde rton e , " s omethin g i s go in g t o h appe n." S o it c a m e a b out tha t th e D octo r 's fin a l acti o n w as hurried a nd ill-c o n s id ere d. It s ee m e d to him th a t h e mus t h av e c ommitte d some kind of assa ult upon the m ec h anism . Actually, h e succ ee d e d in press in g the kn o b

PAGE 172

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 163 m ar ked XI, and the imm edia t e re s ult was a sor t of muffl ed ringing sou nd ari s ing from somewhere in th e depths of the Cl o ckwork man's organism. "Registered," exclaimed the latt er, trium phantly. "Now, the hand. " "The Doctor found the hand and tried to twi s t it very slowly and carefully. He had expec ted the thin piece of metal t o resist hi s t o uch ; but it swung round with a fatal facility five and a half times! The Clockwork man suddenly turned round. Immediate ly afterwards the Docto r became aware of a series of l oud popping noises, accompanied by the sound o f te ar ing and rending. Simultaneou s ly, so me hard object hit him just over the eye, an d the walls and ceiling of the little room were struck sharply by so mething violently expelled . And then he felt himself being pushed gently away by some pressure that was steadily insisting upon more space. It was an effect in startling dispr o p o rtion to the cause. Or, at least, so it seemed to the D oc tor, who w as , of course, totally ign orant about the m echanism with which he w as experimenting. "Reverse I" exclaimed the Clockwork man, in thick, suety tones , "reve rse . " Already he was several times s t outer than

PAGE 173

i64 THE CLOCKWORK MAN his original self. He had burs t all hi s buttons -which accounte d for the sudden explosions and hi s cl o th es were s plit a ll the way d o wn, back and front. Grea t po u c hes an d three new chin s appeared up o n his face, and l owe r down th e r e was v i s ibl e a n e norm ous stomac h. The Doctor se i zed h o ld o f the oth er's c olla r and turn e d th e hu ge body round. His h and fumbl e d wildly a m o ng th e stops . 11 Whic h o ne ? " h e gasped , hi s face livid with fright. 11 T ell m e wh a t t o d o . In h eave n' s n a m e , do y o u expec t m e to know ? " "Z 5," came th e faint rejoinder," and reverse Y 4-mos t important-reve rs e Y 4." It followed up o n thi s ex perim en t that the Cl oc kwork m a n pre e ntly e mitt e d a faint, quavering protest. H e h a d certainly dwindl ed in bulk. His clothes hung up o n him, and there was a di s tr essing f eeb le n ess of fr a m e . Slowly it dawned up o n th e D oc t o r that th e face p ee ring up at him was th a t o f a very o ld and d ecrep it indi v idu a l. P a inful lin es cro ssed hi s forehead, and the r e w e r e rhe umy l odge m e nt s in the corner of each eye . The change wa s rapidly progressive. By this time the Doctor's c o ndition o f hys t er i a had given w a y t o a sort of reckl ess n ess . He h a d somehow to r es tore the Cl oc kw ork man to so m e sembla nce of passable humanity. He pres sed stops and twi s ted h a nd s

PAGE 174

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 165 with an entire disregard for the occasional instructions bellowed at him by the unfortunate object of his random experiments. He felt that the very worst could scarcely surpass what had already taken place. And it was obvious that the Clockwork man had but the haziest notions about his own mechanism. Evidently he was intended to be adjusted by some other person. He was not, in that sense, automonous. 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 sno rtings. There was one short-liv e d episode of a tail. By the end of another five minutes the Doctor had sacrificed all scruple. His fingers played over that human keyboard with a recklessness that was born of sheer horror of his own actions. He a lm o s t fancied that he might suddenly arrive at some kind of mastery of the stunning instrument. He alternated

PAGE 175

166 THE CLOCKWORK MAN between that d e lu s ion and tru s ting blindly to chance. It wa s inde e d by accident that he dis c ov e red and presse d hard home a large stop mark e d simply 0. The next second he found him self contempl ati n g what was apparently an empty heap of cloth es l y ing upon the floor at hi s fee t. The Clockwork man h a d vanished ! "Ah I" screamed th e Doctor, dancing round th e room, and forgetting eve n G o d in his agony. "Wha t have I d o ne ? Wha t have I done?" H e kn e lt d ow n a nd searc h e d h as til y among th e clothes. There was a lump moving about very slightly, in the region of the wai s tcoat, a lump tha t was s tr ange ly so ft to the t o uch. The n h e f e lt the h ard s urf a c e of the cl ock. B efore he c o uld r e m o ve the mass of cl o thin g th ere bro ke upon th e stillness a strange littl e cry, to the D octor curi o u s ly familiar. It was th e wail of an infant, l o ng-drawn and pitiful. When the Doctor found him, h e appeared l o be a b ou t six weeks old, and r ap idly growing s mall e r and small e r. Only the promptest and most fortuitous act ion upon the D octor's part aver t e d something inc o n ceiva bly di sastro u s .

PAGE 176

CHAPTE R N INE GREGG I A N h o ur l a t e r the D octor a lon e p ace d the floor o f th e littl e s ur ge r y . H e h a d d o n e eve rythin g p oss ibl e t o c a lm him se lf. H e h a d t a k e n b ro mid e ; h e h a d been o ut for a s m art turn a rou n d th e ro a d s ; he h a d force d himself t o s it clow n and an s w e r so m e l e tt e r s . But it w as im poss ibl e to eas e th e press ur e o f hi s th o u g ht s ; h e f e lt th a t hi s bra in w o uld n e v e r cease fro m workin g r o und a n d rou n d in a c i rc l e o f h ope l ess enquiry . In t h e end, and l a t e as it was , h e h a d t e l ephoned fo r G r egg . T h e Cl oc k wor k m a n l ay in the c oa l c e ll a r, w h ic h was s it ua t e d in th e a r ea , jus t op p os it e the s ur ge r y d oo r. H e l ay th e r e , s tiff a n d stark, wi th a n i m m o bil e exp r ess i o n up o n hi s fea tures, an d hi s eyes and m outh wid e o p e n. Aft e r th a t fin a l c olla p se , the D o ct o r h a d succeeded some h o w in . r es t o rin g him t o h is no rm a l s h ape ; an d t h e n, by mi ra cul o u s ch a nc e , h e di s c ove r ed a h a n d that, w h e n turn e d, h a d 1 6 7

PAGE 177

168 THE CLOCKWORK MAN 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 ren dered the illusion almost perfect. He looked life-like without seeming to be alive. But he was alive. The Doctor had made sure of that by certain tentative experiment s ; and he had also taken advantage of his passive condition in order to make a thorough examination-so far as was possible-of this marvel of the future. As a result of his in vestigation, the Doctor had failed to come to any definite conclusion ; there was merely deepened in him a sense of outrage and revolt. It was impossible to accept the Clockwork man as a human being. He was a tissue of physiological lies. It could be proved beyond a shadow of doubt, and by reference to all known laws of anatomy, that he did not exist. His internal organs, heard in action through a stethoscope, resembled the noise made by the humming of a dynamo at full pitch. And yet this wildly incredible being, this unspeakable travesty of all living organisms, this thing most opposite to humanity, actually breathed and conversed. He was a sentient being. He was more than man, for he could

PAGE 178

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 169 be turned into something else by simply pressing a stop. Properly understood, there was no doubt that the mechanism permitted the owner of it to run up and down the evo lutionary scale of species according to adjustment. There were one or two other details which the Doctor had not failed to observe. The Clockwork man had no apparent sex. His body was scarred and disfigured, as though many surgical operations had been performed upon it. There was some organ faintly approximat ing to the human heart, but it was infinitely more powerful, and the valvular action was exceedingly complex. Fitted into the clock, in such a way that they could be removed, were a series of long tubes with valve-like endings. The Doctor had removed one or two of these and examined them very closely, but he could not arrive at any idea of their purpose . At every point in his examination the Doctor had found himself confronted by an elaboration, in some cases a flat contradiction, of ordinary human functions. He could not grasp even the elementary premises of a state of affairs that had made the Clockwork man possible.

PAGE 179

170 THE CLOCKWORK MAN II Shortly aft e r midni ght the D o ctor' s expect a nt ea r c aught th e sound o f someo n e ali g h ting from a bi cyc le . A moment late r footsteps clatt e r e d d ow n th e area s t ai r s , and Gregg , still a ttir e d in hi s cricket flanne l , appeared at the ope n doo r. The s mil e fad e d from hi s lip s as he b e h e ld th e dra wn, agitated features of th e Doctor. "H ull oa , " h e ex cl aimed , " you look pretty bent." The Doctor shut the lift e d a w a rnin g finge r. mus t n ever b e kn ow n. b eyond ourselves . " d o or carefully and "Gregg , thi s thin g It mus t n eve r go "Why not ? " Gregg sa t down o n the couch and twist e d hi s h a t idly b e tween hi s finge r s . " B e c a us e ," sai d the D octor , trying hard t o control the twitchi ng o f hi s featur es , "it's too t err ible . Wha t I h ave see n t o n i ght is not fit for m o rt a l eye to b e h o ld . It' s inhuman. It' s mon s trou s ! " He sank into a chair and covere d hi s face with hi s h ands. The presen c e of anoth e r p e r son brought a kind o f r e li e f to hi s p ent up feelings. H e l e t h i m self go. "Oh, God, it's th e end of all thin gs , Gregg .

PAGE 180

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 171 It's the end of all sane hopes for the human race. If it is true that in the future man has come to this, then the whole of history is a farce and mockery. The universe is no more than a box of conjuring tricks, and man is simply a performing monkey . I tell you, Gregg, this discovery, if it is made known, will blast everything good in existence." " Stop a minute," exclaimed Gregg, arising in sheer ast oni shment, ''you seem to be upset. I don't understand what you are raving about." The Doctor stabbed a finger wildly in the direction of the . coal cellar. 11 If you had seen what I have seen to-night, you would under stand. You would be feeling exactly a s I am now." Gregg placed a hand soothingly upon his friend's shoulder. 11 Why didn't you send for me before? You're over-strung. This ex perience has been too much for you." 11 I grant you that," said the Doctor, hollowly, 11 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." 11 But where is the Clockwork man ? " demanded Gregg, presently. The Doctor's finger again indicated the coal cellar. He-he's in there-I-I managed to stop him. He-he's in a kind of sleep ."

PAGE 181

172 THE CLOCKWORK MAN And th e n, as G regg t oo k a l e i s urely s tride towards the d o or, a s th o u g h t o in ves tigat e m atte rs on hi s o wn, th e D o ct o r c a u g ht hold o f hi s s leev e . "Don't d o that. Li s t e n, firs t, to wh a t I h av e to t ell you. I r a th e r fancy it will t a ke th e ed ge off y our curio s ity." Gre gg s wun g round and sa t o n the couch. H e lit a cig a r e tt e . H e m a de no e ffort to co nc ea l hi s se n s e o f s up e ri o r s e lf-p osses si o n. The d o ct o r took th e ci ga rett e th a t w as pro f erre d t o him, and l ea nin g forw ard tried t o t a k e a light from hi s companion. But hi s h and s hook s o vio le ntly th a t h e c o uld n o t m a n age the s imple ope rati o n. In the end G regg lit a n o th e r match and h e ld it with a s t ea dy h and. A s th e Doctor told th e s t or y of wha t h a d t a k e n pl a c e s o r e c e ntly in the little roo m, Gregg sa t nursing a n uplifted kn e e b e t wee n hi s h a nd s and with th e ci g ar e tt e dro o pin g idl y from hi s lip s . O n c e o r twic e h e inte rru p t e d with a g e s tur e , but if h e ex peri e nced a s toni s h m ent h e never b e tr a y e d th e fact. Eve n the d es cri p t i on of the sudden growth of be ard did n o t di sturb th e l oo k of c alm enquiry upon h i s hard-se t fea tur es . He see m e d to b e foll o win g so m e thi ng in h is mind th a t elucid a ted th e fact s as the y cam e out; and as the n arrative dre w to a cl os e h e n odde d hi s h ea d very slig htl y , as th o u g h h a vin g found c orrobo rati o n

PAGE 182

THE CLOCKWORK M AN 173 • for th ese s tr ange eve nt s in so me th eory of hi s o w n, and vi"ce versa. Whe n at las t the Doctor r eached the clima x o f hi s t a l e th e r e w as n o h o rr o r written up o n Gre gg ' s countenance. H e r e m a in e d imp assive , a sor t of buffer ag ain s t whi c h the D o ctor' s hy s t e ric a l phrases re co iled 111 vam. There w as a m o m e nt' s si l e nce . The Doctor had be e n talking so r ap idly, and h e h ad b een so swaye d by hi s fe e lin gs , th a t he h a d sca rc ely notic e d the oth er ' s d emea nour. When he l oo k ed up Gregg w as wa lkin g with a measured tread up and d ow n the floo r. H e h a d droppe d hi s cigarette, and hi s m outh was formed in th e a ct o f whi s tlin g . The Doctor s tart ed to hi s f ee t. "'What! Y o u believe it th en? Y ou, who h ave not seen thi s myst ery-you believe it? 11 ''Why not ? 11 Gr egg paused in his w alk and lo o k e d genuinely s urpri sed. "But-s urely ! 11 The Doctor sa t down again and groaned. "Surely you c annot accept such a s tory witho ut a sig n of incre dulity? What s tat e of mind i s that which can b e lieve s uch things without h av ing see n the m ? Why, yon credulous fool, I might have inv ented th e whole thin g ! 11 Gregg smiled. "I am o ne o f th ose who are prepare d to accept the miracu lou s at secondhand. Besides, you forget that I h ave already

PAGE 183

174 THE CLOCKWOR K MAN w itn esse d so m e o f th e Cl o ckwork man's m a nif es tati o n s o f inge nuity. N othin g that you h a v e t o ld m e c a u se s m e m o r e a s t on i shment than I e x p erie nc e d o n th e firs t o cc as i o n w e h a d r easo n to b elieve th e Cl o ckwork m a n w as -wha t h e i s . It i s a ll, to my mind, quite n a tu ra l and l og ic a l." "But yo u mus t admit," inte rp o la t ed th e D o ct o r, "tha t I mi ght b e d e c e ivin g you. I co uld easily d o it, ju s t t o pro ve y o u in th e wrong. I ca n a s s ur e y o u tha t n othing would s uit m y humour b e tt e r a t the pre se nt m oment ! In s t ea d o f w hi c h it is I who ap pear the fool. I n e v e r w a nted to belie ve in th e Clockwork m a n. I was a n g ry with yo u for b elie ving in him. Admit th a t it wo uld b e a j us t r ev en ge o n my p a rt t o h oax you." Gr egg s h oo k hi s h ea d. "You mi ght try to do s u c h a thin g , but yo u would c e rt a inly fail. B esides, I kn o w y o u a re t e llin g th e truth. Your m a nn e r pl a inl y s h o w s it." H e sat d o wn on the c o u c h aga in. " P e rhaps it i s ju s t a s w e ll that I did believ e in the Clockw o rk m a n from the fir s t ; for while you ha v e b ee n g oing throug h thes e unpleasant exp e ri e nc es I have been thinking very hard, and h ave ac tu a lly a rri ve d a t c e rt a in conclu s ion s whi c h a r e , I v e ntur e t o think, a mply confirm e d by your s t o ry. Tha t i s why I h a ve sh o wn no surprise a t y our s t a tem e nt s . The Cl o ckwork

PAGE 184

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 175 m a n i s indeed true to his type a s h ave imagined him; he i s the very embodiment of the future as I hav e long envisage d it." At th ese words the Doctor threw up his arm s in de s pair. "The n I write myse lf down a fool," he exclaimed, "I had no such wild hope , or such equally wild despair, with r egar d to the future of the human race . I admit th a t I have been behindhand. These matters h ave slipped from my gra-;p. The calls of ordinary life have claime d me, as they must every m a n past his fir s t youth. But I am r eady to b elieve anything that can be explained." "It is precisely becau se th e Clockwork m a n can be explained," interrupte d Gregg, with some eagerness, "that I find it e a sy to believe him." "But how can you exp l a in him?" protested the Doctor, with some trace of his old irritation . "You have not eve n seen the c lock." "Your d esc ripti o n of it is quite good enough for me," r ejoined the other, with emphasis, "I can see it in my mind's eye. Moreover, i t wa::> obvious to me, from the fir s t , tha t there must exist some such in strument in order that th e Clockwork m a n mie-ht be adjus ted when n ecessary. One deduced th at." The Doctor shuddered slightly, and leaned his head upon his arm, " C o n s ider yourself

PAGE 185

176 THE CLOCKWORK MAN lucky that you n eve r did see the clock, and that you never had the opportunity of testing it s efficiency. It i s all very well for you to wax enthusiastic ov e r your theories , but facts are hard maste r s ." "Precise ly," sa id Gregg, who was beginnin g to grow impati e nt with the other's m an ner, "and since the facts have revealed themselves, what is the use of trying to eva de them ? Here we hav e a Clockwork man, a creature entirely without precedent, for there i s no record of his h aving existed in the past, and so far as we know th e r e has been no succesdul attempt to create s uch a b e ing in our own times . Every thin g favours my original hypothesi s ; that he has in some way, and probably through some fault in the mechanism that controls him, lapse d into these e arli e r years of human ex ist e nc e . That seems to me feasible . If man has indee d conquered tim e and space , then the s lightest irr egula rity in thi s new functi oning principl e would r esu lt in a c atas trophe such as we mus t suppose has h appe ned to the Clockwork m a n . It i s more than probable that a slight adjustment would re s ult in hi s speedy return to c o nditions more proper to hi s true state." "But this does not explain him," brok e in the Doctor, bitt e rly. "Wait, I am c oming to that. 'vVe hav e t o

PAGE 186

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 177 ge t the fact s firmly in our head s . Firs t of a ll, there is a me c h a ni s m, a functi oning principle, which causes cert ain processes to t ake place, and ena bles th e Cl oc kwork m a n to b e h a v e a s no ordinary huma n bein g ever c o uld behave. Wha t th a t functionin g principl e i s we do not yet kno w ; we can only posit it s exis t ence we must d o th at-and dra w what infer e nc e we can from it s result s . Now, th e effect of the principl e is cle a r to m e , if th e c ause is hidd e n. Obviou s l y , th e effect of th e mechani s m is to accelerate certain processes in the purely human part of th e Cloc kwork m a n's o r ga nism to s uch an extent that what w o uld t ake years, or ev e n g e ner a ti o n s , t o take place in ordinary morta l s , tak es place in s t a ntaneou s ly. Witness th e growth of be a rd, th e changes in a ppear a nce, the t o t a l collapse. Obvi o u s ly, the se physiolog i ca l variations occur in the case of the Cl o ckwork man very rapidly ; and by ad justment any cha n ge may be produced. The problem of hi s n o rm a l ex i s tence h a ng s upon the ve r y careful r egula tion o f the clock, which, I take it, is the keyboard of the functionin g principle. But what conc e rn s u s a t present is the fact that thi s power of r a pid growth makes the Clo ckwo rk m a n a ble to act in complete defiance of our accepte d l aws r e lating to cau s e and effect." "We h a d a n argument about th a t," sa id the N

PAGE 187

178 THE CLOCKWORK MAN Doctor, dismally. "He tried to explain that to me, but I must say he was no more s uc ce ss ful than you a re. The whole thing is a complete haze." But Gre gg took little notice of the in terruption. "Once you have grasped this idea of a new sort of relativity," he continued, "once you have realised that the Clockwork man beh01ves in accordance with laws quite different to our own, you can proceed to find so me ba sis for s uch a phenomenon. The Clockwork man b e haves in a certain manner; th erefo re there mu s t be some cause , however improbable it may appear to u s , to account for such behaviour. Now, what i s the cause of ordinary human action ? It is something equally unaccountab le. We can explain it in terms of a system, of a series of proce sse s, but we do not really know what is the se cret spring upon which the human animal moves. W e can describe the m achinery of the human body, but we do not r ea lly know what life is, or what is the real nature of the force that produces our actions. So far we know as much about the Clockwork man as we do about ourselves. The difference i s c o nfined to proces ses." "All thi s is obvious," said the Doctor, "I have seen enough to convince me of th a t. " "Precise ly. And b eca use you have seen

PAGE 188

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 179 more than I h a v e you are less a bl e to unders t and the m a tt e r th a n I a m. You cannot see the wood for the tr ees . A ga in, you were fri ghtene d out of your lif e . Your scientific in s tinct s w e r e s t a m pe d e d. You sa w only a h i d e ou s m a lform a tion, a n e ur a l freak, a pre p os t erous huma n m a chine. It w as in conceiva bl e tha t you should h a v e be e n able to think cl ea rly unde r th e circum s t a nce s . Con s id e r the m a tt e r in the sobe r aftermath of r eas on, and yo u mu s t a g r e e with m e tha t it is r ea lly n o t more ex traordin a ry that a man s h o uld funct io n b y m ec h a ni ca l m e an s than that he s h o uld function a t all." "I d o n ' t agre e," r e torted th e D o ctor, with un ex pect e d s h a rpn ess . "I think it is far more a m a zin g th a t a huma n b e in g s hould function as he d oes , th a n that h e sh o uld be made to fun c tion d iffe r e ntl y by m ec h a nic a l m ea ns . The Clo c kw or k m a n i s no more wond e rful, in tha t se n se , tha n y o u or I. H e i s s imply diff e r ent-damna bly d iffe r ent." Gr egg l a u g h e d s oftly. "We ll, th a t i s only a n o th e r w ay of say in g w h a t I h a ve a lready s aid. Y o u seem to r ega rd t h e Cl oc kwork man as a sort o f offence ; h e up s et s your se n s e of d e c e n cy . T o m e h e is pro foun d ly int e r es ting. I a cc ep t him, and all th a t h is curi o u s con s titutio n im plies . Think of the triumph for th e huma n br a in. For man , th a nk s to

PAGE 189

180 THE CLOCKWORK MAN this stupendous invention of the cl o ck, h as actually enlar g ed the universe." "A multiform world," murmured the Doctor, recoll e ctin g the Clockwork man's descript i on, "a world o f many dimen s ions." "Yes ," echo ed Greg g enthus i as tic a lly, "a multiform w o rld. A world in which m a n moves a s h e will, grow s as h e w ill, b e haves in e v ery w a y exa ctly as h e will s . A world set fr e e ! Think of wh a t it rhe a n s ! " "Stop," c r i e d the D o ct o r, and the re was almo s t a n ge r in hi s fea tur es as h e l ea pt to hi s fee t, " It i s you who a r e r a vin g now. How can the re exi s t such a w o rld ? And wh a t plight has ov e rtak e n the huma n r a ce, th a t it i s now dependent up o n m e ch a nic a l contrivance for it s action s ! But, no. I refu s e to beli ev e that the Cl o ckw o rk m a n r eprese nt s the fina l :lestiny of man. H e i s a myth, a c a ric a tur e , at the mo s t a s o rt of e xp e rim e nt. This multiform w o rld of which h e t a lk s so g libly is an extrav a g ant b o a s t. B es id es , who would care to live in s uch a w o rld, and with ev e ry action conditioned by a n e xact m e ch a ni s m ? Your optimi s m about thi s extraordinary affair amazes m e ev e n m o re th a n the thin g itself. At the b es t wha t it m ea n s i s tha t m a n has come to final ruin, n o t that h e h as achieved any r e al m as ter y of lif e . If all th e creatures in t-he w o rld eight tho u sa nd ye ar s

PAGE 190

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 181 hence are indeed clockwork men, then it is because some monstrous tyranny has come to birth in the race of man ; it i s because some diabolical plan has been evolved to make all men slaves . The clock may make man independent of time and space, but it obviously condemns him to an eternity of slavery. That is why I am still loath to believe in the evidence of my own eyes. That is why any explanation of this phenomenon is better than the obvious one ! " "But the proof," interjected Gregg, "you cannot escape from the facts. There lies the Clockwork man. Explain him otherwise if you <;an." "I cannot," groaned the Doctor, h is 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 explamtion, 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 clown, I can forget this night of horror; but not if there is an exp lanation to fit the case. Not if I can satisfy my reason ! " "As I remarked before," Gregg resumed, coolly, "you were not in a fit state to carry

PAGE 191

i82 THE CLOCKWORK MAN out the in vestiga tion. Y o u c o uld not brin g yo urs elf to a ccept eve n the o b v iou s . F o rtuna t e ly yo u r e m embe r e d so m e o f the m os t salient facts. Those tubes fitt e d into the cl o ck, for e x a mpl e ; I r ega rd th ose as hi g hly s u gges ti v e. Think o f it, All i n g h a m ! The e n e r gy o f ge n e r a ti o ns c ompresse d into a tu be a nd so utili se d b y a s ingl e indi vi du al. F o r tha t i s wh a t mu s t h a v e h a ppe n e d in the year 8000. The s ci e nti s t s mu s t h a v e di s co ve r e d m e an s o f gathe rin g up and s t o r i ng n e rvou s en e r gy . Eve r ybody has thi s extra r ese rve of for ce . Tha t so lved o ne p ro bl e m. The n the r e w as th e qu estio n o f a b e tt e r di s tributi o n. The y had t o in vent a n e w n e rv o u s sys t em. If we e ver h a v e an opp o rtunity o f exa mining the Cl o ckw o rk m a n tho r o u g hl y , w e s h a ll find out wh a t th a t sys t e m i s . Sp ea kin g in ro u g h t erms , w e m a y assu m e that it i s probably a n e nl a r ge m ent o f th e c o mp ass of wh a t w e c all affer ent a nd effe r ent impul ses . The r e will a l so b e n ew c e ntr es , b o th of r eflex and vo lunt a ry a cti o n. E a ch impul se , in this n e w sy s tem, h as a l o n ge r range o f effe ctiv e n ess , a greater duratio n in time." Gregg pau se d a bruptly, a s thou g h arriving at some cri s i s in hi s tho u g ht. "It mu s t b e so . The r e is no othe r e xpl a n atio n to c ove r wh a t w e have seen. M a n, as w e kn o w him, i s no m o r e o r l es s tha n wh a t his n e rv o u s sys t e m allo w s him

PAGE 192

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 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 Jess than what we think it is." In his growing excitement Gregg rose and paced the floor of the room, walking away

PAGE 193

184 THE CLOCKWORK MAN from the Doctor. He did not hear the slight snigger that broke from the latt er ; nor had he observed any signs of deeper incredulity in the features of his friend that might have l ed him to moderate his enthusiasm. He continued, in an exultant voice. "Think of what this means ! We know the future! The accidental appearance of the Clockwork man may save the human race generations of striving and effort in a wrong direction. Or rath e r, it will save u s from passing through the intermediate stages consciously, for everything has already happened, and the utmost we can hope is to escape the knowledge of its happening. We shall be able to take a great l eap forward into the future. Once we have gra s ped the principle of the Clockwork man, the course of humanity is clear. It may still be several thousa nds of years before the final achievement, _but we can at least begin." "NO," thundered the Doctor, suddenly leaping to his feet. "By heavens, no. Not that ! " Gregg swung round with a gesture of annoyance. Both men were now pitched to their highe s t k ey, and every word that was spoken seemed to be charged with terrific import. "Why not?" said Gregg, catching his breath. The D octor's reply was equally breathless.

PAGE 194

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 185 " Because I, for one, refuse to accept !>uch a responsibility. If this monstrosity is indeed the type of the future, then I reject the future. I will be no party to any attempt to reproduce him-for that, I can see, is what lurks in your mind. You would have us all clockwork men before our time! But I tell you, rather than that should happen, rather than the human race should be robbed of a few more generations of freedom, I will take steps to prevent it ev e r being known that the Cl ockwork man has paid us this visit. I will hide him. Not even you shall set ey e s on him again. H e shall remain an unfathomable myst e ry. No pagan priest ever guarded the sacred mysteries of life from an unthinking populace as I shall this enigma sprung from the womb of time! Nobody shall know. He shall remain in my keeping, a memorial to the final fall of man ! " "But why do you persist in adopting this attitude," demanded Gregg, in tones of frank disgust, "it is so frightfully reactionary." The doctor pulled at his moustache. " I have no u s e for such phrases," he muttered, angrily, and began striding up and down the narrow floor space. Gregg leaned against the wall, his expression still critical. " I won't have him," the Doctor's voice broke out again, and there was a kind of sob in it, "I won't have the Clockwork man at any

PAGE 195

186 THE CLOCKWORK MAN price. Eve ry n e r ve in my b o dy cri es out a ga in s t him. H e i s th e sca n da l of the a ge s. H e mu s t b e hu s h e d up, h idden-forgo tt en." "Tha t i s a lr ea dy imposs ibl e . His e x pl o its a r e the t a lk o f the vill age ." " L e t the m t a lk," cri e d th e D octo r, b ea tin g his h ea d with hi s clo se d fis t. '' In h e av e n 's n a m e , l e t them t a lk the thin g int o a nin e d a y s w o nd er, L e t th e m think he's the d evila n y thin g r athe r than th a t th e y should kn o w th e truth. The r e m a y b e a hundre d e x pl a n a ti o n s of thi s m ys tery, an d y o ur s m ay b e th e r i ght on e ; I o nly kno w th a t I r e pudi a t e it. I c a n no t e s c a p e fr o m the ev id e nc e of my own ey es ; but th e r e i s some thin g in m e that deni es th e Cloc k wo rk m a n. H e s tick s in my gorge . C all m e wh a t yo u will ; I a m not to b e s hak e n with phrases . The whol e o f m a n' s p as t s hri e k s out aga in s t thi s m o n s tr o u s incubus of th e future. D o n o t as k m e t o offe r my o wn e x pl a n a t io n o f th e ph enome non . I have n o n e In va in I h ave s tr e tch e d my bra in to it s burs ting p o int in orde r to so l ve thi s probl e m. Y ou, a ppa r e ntly, ar e re a dy t o a ccept th e Cl oc kwork m a n a s a for ego n e c o nclu s ion. Time a l o n e will r evea l w hich of u s i s n e ar e r the truth." Gr egg s mil e d. "After all," he rem a rk e d, a ll o win g a s uit a bl e p a use t o foll o w the D o ctor' s imp ass ion e d words, "it will not b e for you or

PAGE 196

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 187 me t o d e cid e the m a tter. Our humble p a rt w ill b e t o p roduce the obj ect of th e p ro bl e m . Wi se r m e n tha n ourselves will h a v e t o interpre t it s s i g n ificance ." This st a t e m ent mi ght ha ve ende d the arg u m ent for the time b ei n g , h a d n o t a n accident occurre d that alt e r e d the w h o le c o m p le xi o n o f t h e affair. Gregg h a d the w i s d o m t o see th a t his friend w as liter a lly b esi d e himse lf with fright and r e pu g n a nc e ; h e w o uld h a ve b ee n q u ite c ontent to awa it a n o th e r opp o rtunity for th e di sc u ssio n to b e r e n ewe d. But a t th a t m o m ent th e D oc t o r gave a cry of surp ris e , and s t oo pin g d o wn pick e d up an obj ect fr o m th e floo r. The nex t m o m e nt b o th m e n wer e s t a nd i n g si d e by si d e , exa minin g with f e v e rish int e r es t a furth e r clu e t o th e m ys t e ry. The obje ct th a t the D oc t o r pi c k e d up fr o m th e floo r w as a n o bl o n g s h ape d pi e c e o f met al, almos t as thin as p a p er, and slig htl y blui s h in co lour. Upo n its s ur fa c e , p rint e d in r e d e m bosse d l e tt e r s , wa s th e foll o win g m atte r :-THE CLOCKWORK MAN. DIRECTIONS FOR USE. I. R e mo ve h a t a nd wi g and d i sc l ose Clock. 2. Op e n lid o f Cloc k b y me a n s of ca t c h. 3 . P l ace Cloc kwork m a n in recumbent po sition, face downw a rd s .

PAGE 197

188 THE CLOCKWORK MAN 4. Press stops A and B well home, and wind up by turning r e d h a nd. N.B.-Great c are s h ould be tak e n 11ot to o v er-wi nd. 5. The Clockwo r k m a n s h o uld now s it up and t a k e a l i ttle nouri s hment. This s h o uld be s u p pli e d a t onc e in the form of two green tabl o i ds ( s olid s ) and one blu e c a p s ul e (liquid s). Stop C should n o w be presse d, and the press ure maint ained until a r e d li ght appea r s within the bulb X. I. This r eg i sters that di g e s tion h as taken pl a ce . On no account must any a dju stment be m ade before the red light has appea red . Any attempt to cau s e function on a n empty s tomach will re s ult in failur e . The Cl o ckwork m a n i s now re ady fo r adjust ment. The chart s hould b e s tudied with c a re, and a choice m ade fr o m on e of the t ypes indic a ted. H aving m a d e a se l e cti o n, proce e d to a rran g e indic a tors in accordance with d e t a iled ins tructi o n s , t a king the utm os t c a re to follow the directi o n s with abs olute accu ra cy, as the slightest error m a y l ea d to ser iou s confu s i o n. A good pl a n i s to hold the chart in the l e ft h a nd, and m a nipul a te the r eg ul a to rs with the right, ch e ckin g e ach a dju s tment as it i s m a de. Now wind bl a ck central h and fourteen and a h a lf times, press centre knob until bell rin gs , clo s e lid, repl a ce wig and h a t, and Clockwork m a n i s re a dy for a ction.

PAGE 198

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 189 The expres s ion on Gregg's face, as he read th e se amazing instructions, changed slowly from avid curiosity to puzzled alarm. He wa s frankly embarras sed by this sudden turn of events, and for a few moments he could make nothing at all of the matter. Yet the wording wa s 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 examina tion, and its discovery was undoubtedly of supreme importance. But what could it mean ? Gregg rather prided himself upon the resiliency of his mind, but not all the ela s ticity of whch he wa s capable c o uld enable him to overcome a sudden sense of unea s ine s s. Was the Clock work man, after all, no more than a very elaborate and highly complex puppet? But how could that be, s ince he breathed and s poke and gave every s ign of the possession of an individnal consciousness ? Considered in this new light he wa s even more difficult to explain. But when Gregg looked up, rather sheepi s hly, wary of me e ting the Doctor's eye, he beheld a s i ght that se nt an uncomfortable thrill down hi s spine. For the latter l a y at full length upon the couch, his chest and stomach ri sing and falling in the convulsion s of tha t excessive

PAGE 199

r90 THE CLOCKWORK M A N la ughter that a t fir s t s i ght r a i ses a d o ubt o f d ange r in th e m ind o f the b e h o ld er-for m e n h a v e di e d o f mi r th. Gregg s t a r e d a t hi s prostra t e fri end, and hi s o wn c o unten a nce was t ra n sfixe d wi th a larm. M any minutes e la p se d b efore a n y kind of d efin it e sound bro u ght a relie f to the s t r a in ; for th e D octor's laug h w a s primc:eval ; it r a ck e d hi s vit a l s , shook him fr o m h ea d to foot, b ega n and s topped, p ro c ee d e d i n a se r ies o f exp l os i o n s , n o t unli ke th ose o f the Cl ock work man himself, until a t las t i t r eac h e d th e th roa t and found expressio n. " H a ! h a ! h a ! 11 broke a t l as t u po n t he sile nc e of th e ni ght (and Mr s . Mas t e r s in h e r top attic h ear d th e n o i se a n d tho u ght o f th e d evil climbin g o ve r the roofs ). "Ha ! h a ! h a ! h a ! II Gregg pull e d himself t oge th e r and c ros se d t o th e couch. H e undid th e D octo r's coll a r, a n d forc e d him t o s it up. H e thumpe d hi s b a ck v i o l e ntly, at firs t r e mon s tr a t e d an d th e n fell t o th e u se o f so othin g phrases . For the re was s till a n e le m ent o f h ys t e ri a in the D o ct o r's m anner; o nl y n ow it was a sy m p t o m of r e lease fr o m unendura bl e _ s tr a in. It w a s the hil ar it y of a m a n who h as jus t s ave d hi s r eason .

PAGE 200

CHAPTER TEN L AS T APPEAR ANC E O F THE CLOCKWORK MAN I IT mus t r e m a in for eve r a qu estio n for c uri o u s speculatio n as t o wh a t a cti o n m ight h ave b ee n t a k e n by D oc t o r Allin g h a m and Gregg in c onjunction, h a d the y b ee n abl e t o purs ue th e ir inv es tig a ti o n o f the Cl o ckw o rk m a n upon a th o r o u g hgo in g s c a le ; for whil e th e ir di s cussio n s we r e t a kin g p la c e th e s ubj ect o f them es c ape d fro m hi s c o nfin e m e nt in th e coal cella r. Indee d, it w as h a rdly t o b e e xp e ct e d th a t h e wo uld r e m a in th e r e for very l o n g . A s Gregg p o inted out, s u c h v ery d e l i c a t e m e ch anism ne e d e d co n stant a ttent io n, and the un ex p e ct e d w as a l ways lik e ly t o oc cur. The r e mus t hav e been so m e d ee ply-ro o t e d auto m a ti s m that g r a du a lly r e l e a se d the Cl oc kwork m a n fr o m hi s s l eep; and h a vin g a w a k e n e d, th e g rimy walls o f th e c ella r n o d o u b t s tru c k him a s di s t as t e ful. It w as n o t t o b e exp e ct e d th a t th e D o ctor, in hi s hurry and p a n ic , s h o uld have s u ccee d e d in m as t e r i n g the intric a cie s of the cl ock. H e h a d m e rely b ro u g ht about a 191

PAGE 201

192 THE CLOCKWORK MAN t emporary quiescence which had gradually worked off . It h a d t o b e b o rne in mind, a l so, that although the Cl oc kw o rk man was d e pend e nt upon a dju s tm en t in order that h e should b e made t o w ork in a ri ght fashion, it w as on l y to o plain th a t h e c o uld act in d e p ende ntl y and quite wrongly . The truth i s that D octor Allin g h a m h ad not been able to summo n the courage t o m a ke a further examination of the Clockw or k man ; and he had permitted h i m self t o assume th a t there would b e n o immediate development s . S o far as was possi bl e he h a d allo w e d himself th a t very n ecessary rel axatio n, and he had in s i s t e d up o n Gregg h aring it with him. The Clo c kw o rk m a n w as n o t q uit e what either o f them h a d, a lt e rn ative ly, h ope d or f ear ed. From Allin g h a m' s point o f view , in p a rticul a r, he w as not th a t b ogey o f th e inhuman f ear which hi s origina l conduct h a d sugges ted . True, he was s till a n unthinkable m ons tro s ity, an awful revel ation; but si nc e th e di scove r y of th e printe d instructions it h a d been possi bl e to regard him with a little more equanimity. The Clockwork m a n wa s a fig m ent o f the futur e , but h e w as n o t the wh o l e futur e . And n o w th a t h e had dis appea red there was a strong c hance that h e would n ever return, and th a t hi s personality an d all that was connecte d with h im w o uld dis so lve from

PAGE 202

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 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. The Doctor's conclusion may be taken as a fair expression of his character. Naturally, the effect of such a preposterous revelation upon a sluggish and doubting mind would be to arouse it to a kind of furious defence of all that man has been in the past, and a scarcely less spirited rejection of that grotesque possi bility of the future which the Clockwork man presented to the ordinary observer. Gregg, on the other hand, may be excused, on the score of his extreme youthfulness, for the impetu osity of his actions. His attempt to persuade the editor of the Wi'de World Magazi'ne that his version of the affair, put in the shape of a magazine story, was actually founded on fact, ended in grotesque failure. His narrative power was not doubted; but he was advised to work the story up and introduce a little humour before offering it as a contribution to some magazine that did not vouch for the 0

PAGE 203

i94 THE CLOCKWORK MAN truth of it s tall stories. As this was beneath Gregg's dignity, and he could find no one el se to take him seriously, he shut up like an oyster, and jus t in time to forestall a suspicious attitude on the part of his friends. It was only years later, and after many experiences in this world of hard fact and difficult endeavour, that he began to share the Doctor's view, and to cherish the memory of the Clockwork man as a legend rich in significance. 11 One evening Arthur Withers and Ros e Lomas sat together on their favourite stile talking in low whispers. The summer dusk lagged, and the air about them was so still that between their softly spoken words they could hear the talk of innumerable in sects in the grass at their feet. There had been few interruptions. So familiar had their figures become in that position, that it had grown to be almost a tradition among the people who passed that way during the evening to cross the stile without disturbing the lovers. There are ways, too, of sitting upon a s tile without incommoding the casual pedestrian. This evening there had been one or two labourers with red, wrinkled faces, too hungry and tired to make much comment. Then

PAGE 204

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 195 Mrs . Flack had come hurrying along with her black bag (they had to get off for her as she was not so young as she had been), and soon afterwards the Curate, who beamed affably, and enquired when it was to be , He was so looking forward to uniting them. But it was not to be yet. That was the burden of their subdued murmurings. It couldn't be done on Arthur's present income, and he was still less certain than ever that it could be regarded as cumulative or even per manent. Rose understood . To her countrybred mind it was marvellous that Arthur should succeed in adding up so many figures during the course of a day, even though the result did not always meet with the approval of the bank authorities . They would have to wait. "It's such a responsibility," said Arthur, presently. " If we were to get married, I mean. I might come home with the sack any day." " I shouldn't mind," protested Rose, "but I couldn't bear you to feel like t h at about it. We shall have to wait." "I wonder why I'm not clever," Arthur remarked, after a long pause. Rose clutched him indignantly towards her. "Oh, you are. The things you say. T h e things you think ! I never knew . "

PAGE 205

196 THE CLOCKWORK MAN And although he shook his head vigorously, Arthur inwardly contemplated that region in his mind wherein existed all the matters that comprised a knowledge quite irrelevant to the practical affairs of life but very useful for the purpose of living. "I do have ideas," he admitted, thoughtfully. " I suppose I'm really what you might call an intellectual sort of chap." "Dreadfully," said Rose, without a trace of disrespect. "The books you read!" "Of course, I'm only a sort of amateur," Arthur continued, modestly. "But I do like books, and I can generally get at what a chap's driving at-in a way." He stared hard at a grasshopper, who seemed to be considering the possibility of an enormous leap, for his great hind legs were taut and his long feelers caressed the air. "Sometimes I think the chaps who write books must be a bit like me-in a way. They seem to like the same things as I do. There's a lot about beauty in most books, and I like beauty, don't you ? " "Yes," breathed Rose, wondering what exactly he meant. The grasshopper hopped and landed with a quite distinct thud, almost at their feet. They both looked at it without thinking about it at all. But its advent produced a pause.

PAGE 206

THE CLOCKWORK M A N 1 9 7 "In th e b oo k s I've r ea d, " Arth u r r esume d, "the r e's ge n e r a lly a ch a p wh o m y o u might r egard as bein g n o t mu c h goo d a t a n y thin g and yet p re tty d ecent." " H eroes ," s u g g e st e d R ose, wh ose kn o wledg e of lit e r a tur e w as n o t ve ry wid e . "So m e tim es . Chaps p eo pl e d on't und e r s t a nd. Tha t' s b e c a u se th e y like beauty more th a n a n y thin g e l se , a nd n o t m a n y p e o p l e re ally ca r e a b o ut b ea uty. The y only think of it w h e n th e y see a s un se t o r l o ok a t pictures . If y o u c a n for ge t b ea uty, then y o u ' r e a lri g ht. N o b o d y thinks you're s tr a n ge . You d o n ' t h a ve a ny d iffic ulties." The slight s tirr i n g o f R ose's b o dy, a nd a s igh s o l o w th a t Arthur s carc e ly h e ard it, seemed t o s u gges t th a t m a tt ers w e r e b ecomi ng r a th e r t oo de e p for c ompre h e n s i o n. The g ra ss h o ppe r s prun g agai n, and thi s tim e l ande d upon the s til e , whe r e h e r e m a in e d for a l o n g while, as tho u g h wo nd e rin g wh a t p er v e r s i o n of the commo n se n se n a tur a l to gras shopper s could h ave p rompte d him t o ch oose s o barren a l a ndin g pl a c e . Durin g the lon g pau se R ose did not see th e l oo k o f str aine d p e rpl ex it y u po n Arthu r ' s fa c e . "But th e y a lw a y s ge t married," h e s aid, suddenly . "The ch aps i n b oo k s , I me a n. The y a lw ays ge t m a rri e d in th e e ncl." "Oh, Arthur!" H e r h and w ent up to pull

PAGE 207

198 THE CLOCKWORK MAN down his, for the m o ment, unwilling he a d. "Oh, Arthur, we get marri e d so m e day . " 11 Y o u're so pretty," h e whi spe r e d. "Yo u're so very be auti ful. " "Oh, am I? D o you think so ? I'm s o glad-I'm so sorry ." Her t ea r s gushe d fort h, inexplicably, eve n t o Arthur, who tho u ght h e understood so much th a t was difficult t o understan d. H e had l e t lo ose hi s feeling without any rea l kn ow l e d ge of it s d ep th, or tha t which it arou se d in Ro se . " I c a n ' t bear you not t o h ave m e," she so bbed. "It's cruel. It o u ght t o be arranged . Peo pl e ou ght t o understand . " Arthur w as startled b ac k to commo n sense. "They d o n't," h e whispered, as they h eld one another in tr e mbling arms. " If th ey did they would b e lik e u s ." And th e n h e r e m e mb e red a po ssi ble se qu e l to the sear ch for beauty. " B es ide s , " he added, in a formal whi s per, "there's the children . " III Alo n g th e path th a t l ed from Bapchurch to Great Wyme rin g th ere w a lk ed t wo p erso n s , slowly, a nd with a n air o f h avirr g t a lked themselves into embarrassed silence . Their s tep s

PAGE 208

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 199 were gradually bringing them to the stile upon which Arthur and Rose sat. "That last remark of yours cut me to the quick," said the Doctor, at last. 11 I meant it to," said Lilian, firmly. "I want you to be cut to the quick. It's our only chance." "Of what ? " enquired the Doctor, conscious of ma s culine stupidity. "Of loving somehow. Oh, don't you understand ? I want to care for you, but you're making it impossible. You will jest about the th. ings sacred to me. Your flippant tongue de s troys everything. It's as I said just now. I like my friends to be humorous; but my lover mus t be serious." "But I can't help it," pleaded the Doctor. 11 Take away my humour and I'm frightened at what's l eft of myse lf. There's nothing but an appalling chaos. " "Because you are afraid of life," said Lilian. " Men have laughed their way through the ages; women have wept and lived. I can't share your world of assumptions and rule of thumb l a ws. To me l ove is a chaos, a dear confusion-a divine muddle. It's creation it se lf, an indefinite proceeding beginning with God." The Doctor harked back in his mind to the beginning of their talk. "But you objected to

PAGE 209

200 THE CLOCKWORK MAN my hou se," he mu se d, "that wa s h o w the dis cussi o n a r ose . And n o w w e've go t somewhe r e up in the s t a r s." Lili a n g l a nc e d up a t th e m. " If only w e c o uld k ee p th e r e ! By the ir h a b i t a ti o n s are m e n known. A h o u se o u ght t o b e a sort o f r es tin g pl a ce. N o m o r e . Once yo u e l a b o r a t e it, it b e c o m es a pri so n, with h ard l abo u r attac h e d." "But whe r e d oes all thi s l ea d ? " p onde red the D o ct o r, h alf fallin g in w ith h e r m oo d . "Why n o t m a k e so m e thin gs p er m a n ent and as g o o d as th e y c a n b e ? " "Be c a u se the y a r e only p a rt o f o ur se l ves , o nl y so m a n y a dditi o n s t o th e huma n o r ga ni s m, ex tr a bit s o f bra in. W e' r e s l ow l y di s c ove rin g th a t. Huma nity d a r en't b e p erma nent, ex cept in it s fund a m enta l s , an d all t he fund a m enta l s h ave t o d o w ith liv in g a n d b eing . Ju s t think wha t w o uld h a pp e n if the bl oo d in y o ur vein s b eca m e p erma n ent ? " "Death," sa id th e D o ctor, spea kin g from kn ow l e d ge r ather th a n fr o m symbolica l c o nvicti on." "We ll, th en," r esume d Lili a n, triumpha ntl y , "isn't all this p ossess i o n o f th i n gs, a ll thi s w a nt i n g t o h a v e and k ee p, a sort o f d ea th, b e g inn i n g fr o m th e extre mit ies ? W o uldn ' t i t b e a wful if th e huma n b o d y didn't ch a n ge , i f w e g o t fix ed in so m e w ay , didn't g row o ld o r l os e o ur h a i r , o r h av e in flu e nza ? "

PAGE 210

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 201 The D o ct o r p a u sed in hi s w a lk. How s tr ange th a t Lili a n s h o uld s ay th a t ! It a lm os t see m e d as th o u g h sh e mus t h a v e he ard ab out the Cl o ckw o rk m a n ! And th e n th e y b oth s t o pp e d, and a t the s a m e moment sa w R ose and Arthur se a t e d on the s tile. "Le t' s go b a ck," whi s p e r e d Lili a n, and they turne d and retra c e d th e ir s t e p s . The s i ght of th e lov e r s se aled th e ir l i p s . D o ctor Allingh a m s tru gg l e d for a few m o m e nt s with a s tr a n ge se n se o f bi g n ess w anting t o es c a pe. Alm os t it w as a phys i c al s en sa tion ; as thoug h th e nerv o u s en e r g y in his bra in h a d b egun to flow independe ntly o f the c ontro l s th a t usu a lly g uid e d it through the ch a nn e l s g r a v e n by kn o wled ge and ex peri e nc e . It was Lili a n who s poke n e xt, and the r e was a note o f p a in in h e r voic e . "Oh, why a r e we troubled like thi s ? Why c an't w e b e like them? W e shan't e v e r ge t any n earer h a ppin es s this way. W e shan't e ver be bett e r tha n th ose tw o . We've simply go t a f e w more th o u ghts , a littl e m o r e kn o w l e d ge-and it m a y b e quit e the wrong kind o f kn ow le d ge ." "The n why-" beg a n th e D o ct o r, as though thi s b eg g e d th e wh o le questio n. "Oh, w a it," said Lilian, " I h a d to h a ve it out with you . I h a d to t a lk o f thes e things,

PAGE 211

202 THE CLOCKWORK MAN as though t a lkin g ' s any g oo d I I couldn't let you ju s t t a k e m e for gr a nt e d. D o n ' t y o u see ? I s upp os e all th is t a lk b e tw ee n u s i s n o thin g but a n ext e n s i o n o f th e a ge-l o n g proc ess of m a tin g . I'm ju s t lik e the primitive w o m a n running a w a y from h e r m a n." The D o ct o r p a u se d in hi s walk and t oo k h o ld o f h e r e lbow s . "Does th a t mea n th a t y o u'v e b ee n p l a yin g wit h m e a ll thi s tim e ? " "Coque tt e , " s mil e d L i l ia n, " o nly it' s n o t been c o n sc i o u s u n til thi s m o m e nt. S o m e h ow those two r eminde d m e . The r e's alw ays t hi s drea d o f c apture with u s w o m e n, and n owa day s it' s m o r e c o mpli ca t e d and ex t ende d. Y es , tho u ght do es give u s l o n ge r life. E ve ryth ing h a s a l arge r pre lu de . I 've b ee n afra id of y o ur bi g hou se , wh ic h w ill b e s u c h a n u i san c e t o l oo k a fter. I've been afra i d o f a t o o b r i e f honey mo o n, and th en o f yo u b e c o min g a cheerful c ompa ni o n a t m ea l s and a r e gular wind e r up o f cl o ck s." Sh e l aug h e d h ys t e ri ca lly. "And th e n y o u mi ght d o w oo d c a rvin g in the wint e r eve nin gs." "No t on y o ur lif e , " r oa r e d th e D octo r. "At the wor s t I s h all b o r e y o u w ith my m a ny ti mes -t o ld j es t s . " "And a t the b es t I s h all l earn to p ut u p with them," sa id Lili a n. "Tha t' s wh e r e my s en se of humour will c o m e in." The D octor sudde nly to o k h e r in his a r ms .

PAGE 212

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 203 "But y o u c a r e?" he whi spe red. "Yo u c o ns ent to m a k e m e y o un g aga in ? " Sh e s tirr e d curi o u s ly in hi s arms , h e r mind n e wly a l ert. "Oh, I never th o u ght o f th at. H o w s tupid w e cl eve r p eo pl e are I I nev e r tho u ght th a t bein g a lo ve r would m a k e y o u y o un g ." "Ig no ra mu s ," l a u g h e d th e D oc tor. "A woma n 's fir s t child i s a l ways h e r hus b and." "Yo u a n d your ep i g r a m s ! " "Yo u a n d your th oughts ! " Sh e j o in e d in hi s mirth. A littl e l a t e r it w as b efo r e s h e h a d th e last word. "Crea tion, " s h e whi s p e r ed , "I d o n ' t b elieve it 's h ap p e n e d y et. Tha t seve n da ys and s even nig ht s i s s t i ll goi n g o n. Ma n h as ye t t o be crea t ed, and wo m a n mu st h e l p t o crea t e him. " IV "I mu s t b e g e ttin g ba ck, " sai d th e Cl o ck work m an t o himse lf, as h e trundle d s l o wl y over th e hump of th e m ea d ow and a pp roa ch e d the stil e . "I s h a ll o nly mak e a mud dl e o f t h i ngs h e r e ," The r e w as s till a t o u c h o f compl a i n t in hi s v oice , as th o u g h h e f e lt sorry n ow to leav e a world so full o f pitfalls and c uriou s a dv e nture s . Somethi ng b ri s k e r about hi s ap p ea r a nc e s e e m e d t o s ug ges t th a t a n imp roveme nt h a d taken

PAGE 213

204 THE CLOCKWORK MAN place in his working arrangements. You might have thought him rather an odd figure, stiff-necked, and jerky in his gait; but there were no lapses into his early bad manner. "I have a feeling," he continued, placing a finger to his nose, "that if I put on my top gear now I should be off like a shot." 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. "Such a jolly little place," he mused. "You could have such fun-and be yourself. I wonder why it reminds me so of something -before the days of the clock, before we knew." He sighed, and suddenly stopped in order to contemplate the two figures seated together on the stile. Rose was asleep in Arthur's arms. "Don't bother," said the Clockwork man, as Arthur stirred slightly, "I'm not going that way. I shall go back the way I came." "Oh," said Arthur, smitten with embarrass ment, "then I shan't see you again ? " "N c:it for a few thousand years," replied the Clockwork man, with a slight twisting of his lip. "Perhaps never." "Are you better now ? " Arthur enquired. "I'm working alright, if that's what you

PAGE 214

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 205 mean," said the other, averting his eyes. Then he looked very hard at Rose, and the expression on his features altered to mild astonishment. "Why are you holding that other person like that ? " he asked. "She's my sweetheart," Arthur replied. "You must explain that to me. I've forgotten the formula." Arthur considered. "I'm afraid it can't be explained," he murmured, "it just is." The Clockwork man winked one eye slowly, and at the same time there begun a faint spinning noise, very remote and detached. As Arthur looked at him he noticed another singularity. Down the smooth surface of the Clockwork man's face there rolled two enormous tears. They descended each cheek simultaneously, keeping exact pace. "I remember now," the mechanical voice resumed, with something like a throb in it, " all that old business-before we became fixed, you know. But they had to leave it out. It would have made the clock too complicated. Besides, it wasn't necessary, you sei!, The clock kept you going for ever. The splitting up process went out of fashion, the splitting up of yourself into little bits that grew up like you-offspring, they used to call them." Arthur dimly comprehended this. "No children," he hazarded.

PAGE 215

206 THE CLOCKWORK MAN The Clockwork man shook his head slowly from side to side. "No children. No lovenothing but going on for ever, spinning in infinite space and knowledge. He looked directly at Arthur. "And dream ing," he added. "We dream, you know." "Yes?" Arthur murmured, interested. "The dream states," explained the Clock work man, "are the highest point in clock evolution. They are very expensive, because it is a costly process to manufacture a dream. It's all rolled up in a spool, you see, and then you fit it into the clock and unroll it. The dreams are like life, only of course they aren't real. And then there are the records, you know, the music records. They fit into the clock as well." "But do you all have clocks ? " Arthur ventured. "Are you born with them? " "We're not born," said the Clockwork man, looking va guely annoyed, "we just are. We've remained the same since the first days of the clock." He ruminated, his forehead corrugated into regular lines. "Of course, there are the others, the makers, you know." "The makers? " echoed Arthur. "Yes, you wouldn't know about them, although you're not unlike a maker yourself. Only you w ear clothes like us, and the makers rlon't wear clothes, That was what puzzled

PAGE 216

THE CLOCKWORK :MAN 207 m e a bout you. The l oo k in your eyes re mind e d me of a maker. They c a me after the l as t wars. ll's all writt e n in history. There w as a great d e al of fighting and killing and blowing up and poi s oning, and the n the m a k ers c a m e a nd th ey didn't fig ht. It wa s they who invented the cloc k for u s , and after t h a t every m a n h a d to hav e a clock fitt e d into him, a nd then he didn't h a v e to fight any more, because he c o uld mov e about in a multiform world wh ere the re was plenty of room for everybody." "But didn ' t the other people object? " said Arthur. "Object to what?" "To having the clock fitted into them." "Would you object," said the Clockwork man, "to having all your difficulties solved for you ? " " I suppo se not," Arthur admitted, humbly. "That wa s what th e makers did for man," resumed the other. 11 Life had become im possible, and it was the only pr a ctical way out of the difficulty. You see, the make rs were very clev e r, a nd very mild and gentle. They w e re quite different to ordinary human beings. To begin with, they w e r e real." 11 But aren't you real?" Arthur could not refrain from asking. "Of course not," rapped out the Clockwork man, "I'm only an invention."

PAGE 217

208 THE CLOCKWORK MAN "But y ou look r ea l," obj e cted Arthur. The Clockw o rk m a n emitted a faint, cacophonous c a ckl e . " W e f e el r ea l wh e n th e dream s t a t es unroll within u s , or the mus ic r ecords . But the maker s are re al, and the y liv e in the r ea l world. No cl o ckwork m a n i s a llowed t o ge t b a ck into the r e al w o rld, The cl o ck pre vent s u s fro m doin g th at. It w a s b e c a u se we wer e s uch a nu isa nce and got in the w a y of the mak ers th a t they in vented th e cl o ck. " "But wha t i s the r ea l w o rld lik e ? " ques tion e d Arthur. "Ho w c a n I kn ow?" sa id the Clo ckw ork m a n, flapping hi s ea rs in d es p a ir. " I'm fixed. I c a n ' t b e a nything bey on d wh a t the clo c k p e rmit s m e t o b e , Only, s inc e I'v e been in your w o rld, I' ve h a d a s u s pici o n. It's s uch a jolly little pl a c e . And y o u h a v e wome n." Arthur c a u ght h is brea th. "No w omen?" "No . You s e e , th e mak e r s k ept a ll th e w o men b e c a u s e they wer e m o r e r eal, and th e y didn' t w ant the fightin g t o g o on, or the world that the m e n w a nted. So th e makers t oo k the w o m e n aw a y from u s and shut u s up in the clock s and g a v e us th e w o rld we want ed. But the y l e ft u s no lo o ph o le o f e s c a pe into the r ea l w o rld, and we c a n n e ith e r l a ugh nor cry properly." " But y o u try, " s u gges t e d Arthur.

PAGE 218

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 209 " It' s only brea kd own," sa id th e Clockwork man, s a dly. "With u s l a u g hin g o r cryin g are s ympt o ms of brea k d o w n. Whe n w e l a ugh or cry that me a n s th a t w e h a v e to g o and get o iled o r a dju s t e d. S o m e thing has g o t out o f g ea r. B e c a u se in o ur lif e th e r e ' s no n e c ess ity for these thin gs." His voi c e tr aile d a w a y and e nd e d in a soft, tinkling sound, lik e s heep b ells he a rd in the di s tanc e . Durin g the l o n g pau se th a t follow e d Arthur h a d time to r e c all th a t s en se o f pity for thi s g rot es qu e being which h a d a ccomp a nied hi s fir s t impress ion o f him; but now hi s fee ling s w elle d int o a n infinit e compas sion, and with it th e re c a m e t o him a fierce qu estio nin g f e v e r. "But mu s t you a lw a y s b e lik e thi s ? " h e beg a n, with a suppresse d cryin g note in hi s v o ic e . "Is th e re n o h o p e for y o u ? " "No n e," sa id the Cl o ckw o rk m a n, and the word w as b oo m e d out o n a holl o w, bra s sy note. "We are made , y o u see . For us crea tion i s fini s hed . We c a n only improve our se lves very s lowly, but we sh a ll never quite escape the body of thi s death. W e 've only ours e lves to blame. The m a k e r s g av e u s our chance. The y are b e ing s of infinit e p a tience and forbear ance . But th e y sa w th a t we were d e t e rmin e d t o go on a s w e w e r e , and so they devi s ed this means of gi v in g u s our wish. p

PAGE 219

210 THE CLOCKWORK MAN You see, Life was a Vale of Tears, and men grew tired of the long journey. The makers said that if we persevered we should come to the end and know joys earth has not seen. But we could not wait, and we lost faith. It seemed to us that if we could do away with death and disease, with change and decay, then all our troubles would be over. So they did that for us, and we've stopped the same as we were, except that time and space no longer hinder us." He broke off and struggled with some queer kind of mechanical emotion. "And now they play games with us. They wind us up and make us do all sorts of things, ju s t for fun. They try all sorts of experiments with us, and we can't h e lp ourselves because we're in their power ; and if they like they can stop the clock, and then we aren't anything at all." " But that's not very kind of them," suggested Arthur. "Oh, they don't hurt us. We don't feel any pain or annoyance, only a dim sort of revolt, and even that can be adjusted. You see, the makers can ring the changes endlessly with us, and there isn't any kind of being, from a great philosopher to a character out of a book, that we can't be turned into by twisting a hand. It' s all v e ry wonderful, you know."

PAGE 220

THE CLOCKWORK MAN 211 He lifted his arms up and dropped them again sharp ly. " You wouldn't believe s ome of the things we can do. The clock is a most wonderful invention I And the economy. Some of the hands, you see , can be used for quite different purposes. Twist them so many times and you have a politician ; twist a little more and you have a financier. Press one stop slightly and we talk about the divinity of man ; press harder and there will issue from us nothing but blasphemy. Tighten a screw and we are altruists ; loosen it and we are beasts. You see, generations ago it was known exactly the best and worst that man could be ; and the makers like to amuse themselves by going over it again. There isn't any be st or worst with them." ''But you," entreated Arthur, "what is your life like ? 11 Again the tears flowed down the Clockwork man's cheeks, this time in a sequence of regular streams. "We have only one hope, and even that is an illusion. Sometimes we think the makers will take us seriously in the end, and so perfect the mechanism that we shall be like them. But how can they ? How can theyunless-unless-'' "Unless what? 11 eagerly enquired Arthur, fearful of a final collapse,

PAGE 221

212 THE CLOCKWORK MAN "Unless we die," said the Clockwork man, clicking slightly, "unless we consent to be broken up and put into the earth, and wait while we slowly turn into little worms, and then into big worms ; and then into clumsy, crawling creatures, and finally come back again to the Vale of Tears." He swayed slightly, with a finger lodged against his nose. "But it will take such a frightful time, you know. That's why we chose to have the clock. We were impatient, We were tired of waiting. The makers said we must have patience ; and we could not get patience. They said that creation really took place in the twinkling 0 an eye, and we must have patience." 11 Patience!" echoed Arthur. 11 Yes, I think they were right. We must have patience. We have to wait." For a few moments the Clockwork man struggled along with a succession of staccato sentences and irrelevant words, and finally seemed to realise that the game was up. " I can't go on like this," he concluded, in a shrill undertone. 11 I ought not to have tried to talk like this. It upsets the mechanism. I wasn't meant for this sort of thing. I must go now." He began to grow dim. Arthur, instinctively polite, stretched out a hand, keeping his left arm round Rose. The Clockwork man veered

PAGE 222

THE CLOC K WORK M A N 213 s l ig htly forwar d. H e s e e m e d to r ealise Arthu r ' s int entio n and offe r e d a vibr a tin g h and. But th ey mi sse d e a ch othe r by se ver a l d ays . "Oh, d on't y o u see ? " th e fa int voice a ssevera t e d. "But wh a t ar e w e t o do ? " sa id Arthur, r ais in g hi s vo i ce . "Tell u s wh a t w e mu s t do t o avo id foll ow i ng yo u ? " " I d o n ' t kn o w." The thin v o i ce sounde d lik e so m one s h o utin g i n th e di s tance. "Ho w s h ould I kn ow ? It's all so d i fficult. But d o n ' t make it more d ifficu lt tha n y o u can h e l p . Keep s m i lin g-la u ghter-such a j o lly littl e w o rld. " H e was fad in g rapi dl y . "Co m e b ac k," shoute d Arthu r , s c a r ce l y kn o win g w h y h e was so in earne s t. "Yo u mus t c o m e b ac k and t ell u s . " "Walla b a lo o," echoe d throug h the m onths . "Wum-wum-11 "What's tha t," R os e e xcl a imed, sudde nly awa k e n e d. "Har k, " sa id A r thur, clutching h e r tig htly. "Be qui et-I want t o li s ten for some thin g ." " N ine and ni nepence-" he h ear d a t la st, very thi n and distin ct. And th e n the r e w a s stilln ess . THE END

PAGE 223

P r inted in Great B r itain by WOODS & SONS, Ltd., 338-340, Upper Street, N . 1 .

PAGE 224

.s {'/I? ,"" I A (Vl 1. -0;,

PAGE 226

Odle, E[dwin] V. The Clockwork Man . London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1923. First edition. 213pp. Duodecimo [19 cm] Original brown cloth with an orange ink stamped title on the spine, a small orange ink stamped mechanical design on the front cover, and the publisher's windmill device stamped in orange on the rear cover. Noticeably dinged at the edges of the spine and covers; several crayon marks on the front endsheet; darkened free endsheets. From the collection of Berkeley book collector and letter press printer, John Ruyle. Bleiler CFL. Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Early Years, 1702. In Locke, A Spectrum of Fantasy, p. 168. Clareson, Science Fiction in America l 870s-l 930s, 606. Clarke, Tale of the Future (1978), p. 50. Reginald 10916. Good+. Hardcover. [38126] $200.00 A futuristic tale of a malfunctioning clock and time machine, and a maa who is erroneously thrown back in time to Britain in the 1920s.


Download Options


Download PDF


Choose Size
Choose file type

Cite this item close


Cras ut cursus ante, a fringilla nunc. Mauris lorem nunc, cursus sit amet enim ac, vehicula vestibulum mi. Mauris viverra nisl vel enim faucibus porta. Praesent sit amet ornare diam, non finibus nulla.


Cras efficitur magna et sapien varius, luctus ullamcorper dolor convallis. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Fusce sit amet justo ut erat laoreet congue sed a ante.


Phasellus ornare in augue eu imperdiet. Donec malesuada sapien ante, at vehicula orci tempor molestie. Proin vitae urna elit. Pellentesque vitae nisi et diam euismod malesuada aliquet non erat.


Nunc fringilla dolor ut dictum placerat. Proin ac neque rutrum, consectetur ligula id, laoreet ligula. Nulla lorem massa, consectetur vitae consequat in, lobortis at dolor. Nunc sed leo odio.