2021-04-18 10:33:51

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ENGLISH "She's still very weak," said Aunt Martha when we came to her; "the moment her bed was made up she asked to lie down again.""None," said the Clockwork man, and the word was boomed out on a hollow, brassy note. "We are made, you see. For us creation is finished. We can only improve ourselves very slowly, but we shall never quite escape the body of this death. We've only ourselves to blame. The makers gave us our chance. They are beings of infinite patience and forbearance. But they saw that we were determined to go on as we were, and so they devised this means of giving us our wish.[Pg 210] 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."

Gregg pulled himself together and crossed to the couch. He undid the Doctor's collar, and forced him to sit up. He thumped his back violently, at first remonstrated and then fell to the use of soothing phrases. For there was still an element of hysteria in the Doctor's manner; only now it was a symptom of release from unendurable strain. It was the hilarity of a man who has just saved his reason.Arthur nodded.

The Doctor stabbed a finger wildly in the direction of the coal cellar. "If you had seen what I have seen to-night, you would understand. You would be feeling exactly as I am now."

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There was still a touch of complaint in his voice, as though he felt sorry now to leave a world so full of pitfalls and curious adventures. Something brisker about his appearance seemed to suggest that an improvement had taken[Pg 204] 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.

"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."The strange figure stopped flapping his ears and opened his mouth. He opened it unpleasantly 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, as though endeavouring to arouse himself from an enormous apathy. And then he appeared to be waiting for something to happen.His further suggestions were drowned by an enormous hy?na-like yawn coming from the direction of the couch. It was followed by another, even more prodigious. The room[Pg 137] fairly vibrated with the Clockwork man's uncouth expression of omnivorous appetite.

"The two were right here together," he said, "and Mr. Smith's was marked 'valuable' and had something hard in one corner of it." Camille brought a candle, Estelle another; Gholson rose from his knee: "Smith, it's gone! I've lost it! And yet"--he slapped his breast-pockets--"no, it's somewhere in the grove; it's between here and that cornfield gate! I counted all the papers just this side of that gate, and I must 'a' dropped yours then!" Ccile brought a third light and we sallied forth into the motionless air, Estelle with a candle and Gholson, Camille with a candle and me, Ccile with a candle and Mrs. Wall, Miss Harper and the Squire, and Charlotte and Ferry. In the heart of the grove Estelle gave a soft cry, sprang, stooped, straightened, and handed me the letter."Mr. Gholson, when does the command move?"

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How busy we were kept, and how much oftener I wrote to Ferry, and to Camille, than to my mother. And how much closer I watched the trend of things that belonged only to this small story than I did that great theatre of a whole world's fortunes, whose arches spread and resounded from the city of Washington to the city of Mexico. In mid-August one of Camille's heartlessly infrequent letters brought me a mint of blithe news. Harry and Ccile were really engaged; Major Harper, aunt Martha, General Austin, Captain Ferry and Charlotte had all written the distant father in his behalf, and the distant father had capitulated. Furthermore, Captain Ferry's latest letter to Charlotte had brought word that in spite of all backsets he was promised by his physician that in ten days more he could safely take the field again. But, best of all, Major Harper, having spent a week with his family--not on leave, but on some mysterious business that somehow included a great train of pontoon bridges--had been so completely won over to Charlotte by her own sweet ways that, on his own suggestion to his sister, and their joint proposition, by correspondence, to Ferry, another group of letters, from Miss Harper, the Major and the General, had been sent to the Durands in New Orleans--father, mother, and grandmother--telling them all about Charlotte; her story, her beauty, her charms of manner, mind, and heart. And so, wrote my correspondent, the Wall household were living in confident hope and yet in unbearable suspense; for these things were now full two weeks old, and would have been told me sooner only that she, Camille, had promised never to tell them to any one whomsoever.IIIHarry huffed absurdly. "You go mind yours," he retorted, and then more generously added, "we'll be with you in a minute." The surgeon went, and the aide-de-camp, as we began to pace the hall, fairly took my breath by remarking without a hint of self-censure, "Damn a frivolous man!" Then irrelatively he added, "Those two out at that gate--this is a matter of life and death with them;" and when I would have qualified the declaration, he broke in upon me--"Right, Dick, you're right, it is worse; it's a choice between true life and death-in-life; whether they'll make life's long march in sunshine together or in darkness apart."

"We're not born," said the Clockwork man, looking vaguely 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."

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Apr-18 10:33:51