2021-04-18 11:15:12

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ENGLISH "You think so? But I have done. I will keep it no longer! Ah, I never kept it; 'twas she! Without taking it from me she kept it--'with all diligence'; otherwise I should have lost it--and her, too--and all that is finest and hardest to keep--long ago. Give me that paper; come; saddle up; you may go with me if you want, as my courier." No bugle had sounded, yet the whole camp was softly and diligently astir. We rode toward the staff tents; the pulse of enterprise enlivened him once more, though he clung to the same theme. "I have her heart now, Smith, and I will keep that with all diligence, for out of that are the issues of my life--if I live. And if I do live I will have her if I have to steal her even from herself, as last night from the Yankees.""Oh, well, you may be right there," blustered Allingham, "I don't know. I admit I'm not quite up to date in these abstruse speculations."

At first it seemed to the Doctor that his companion was about to explain matters further. There was still something vaguely communicative about his manner, and a kind of noise issued from his rapidly moving jaws.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, as though he were really afraid things were not quite as they should be.[Pg 189]

"It is nothing to me," Hetty said coldly. "If you desire to avoid a scandal for the sake of the house, my lips are sealed. If you have nothing further to say to me, I will go and see if Mamie is still asleep."The thing was at once preposterous and rational, and the Doctor almost yielded to a desire to laugh hysterically. Then, with a final jerk of the handle, he started the engine and opened the door of the car for the Clockwork man to enter. The latter, after making several absurd attempts to mount the step in the[Pg 135] ordinary manner, stumbled and fell head foremost 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.Gregory's approach interrupted us, but I remembered a trait in Charlotte of which I have spoken, and gave myself the hope that their prediction might prove well founded.

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"Be quick," said the Clockwork man, in a squeaky undertone, "something is going to happen."Another day arose. A courier brought passes for our three or four other wounded to go home as soon as they were fit to travel, and by night they were all gone. At early bedtime came two surgeons of high rank all the way from Johnston's army up in Mississippi. General Austin had asked this favor by telegraph. Harry had been gone thirty-six hours, and Ferry was just asking if he had not yet got back, when the surgeons came in to the room. A pleasantry or two consumed a few moments. Then the surgeon in charge of us told of a symptom or two, to which they responded only "hmm," and began the examination. Miss Harper sent her three nieces away. I lay and listened in the busy stillness. Presently one of the examiners murmured with a certain positiveness to the other, who after a moment's silence replied with conviction; Miss Harper touched our surgeon's arm inquiringly and he looked back in a glad way and nodded. Miss Harper nodded to me; they had located the ball! Now the conversation turned upon men and events of the day, while one of the visitors, with his back to the patient, opened a case of glittering knives. Presently the professional heads came so close together as quite to hide the patient; they spoke once or twice in a manly soothing tone. Miss Harper stroked my temples to keep me down, one of the busy ones spoke again, and lo! the thing was done, there was the ball in the basin. As the men of blood sped through their kind after-work the news flew to and fro; Camille wept,--since she could not hurrah,--Ccile told Charlotte, the heavenly-minded Estelle was confirmed in her faith, Miss Harper's black eyes, after a brief overflow, were keener and kindlier than ever, and as the surgeons spoke the word "done," Ferry asked again if Harry had not got back yet. Pretty soon Harry did arrive, with news of great feats by our cavalry against our old enemy Grierson, in which Austin's brigade had covered themselves with glory, and in which he had had his own share; his hand was swelled as big as his heart. In all the Confederacy no houseful went to sleep that night in sweeter content. I sank into perfect bliss planning a double wedding.

"How can I know?" said the Clockwork man, flapping his ears in despair. "I'm fixed. I can't be anything beyond what the clock permits me to be. Only, since I've been in your world, I've had a suspicion. It's such a jolly little place. And you have women.""You do not! Gholson, Oliver's been food for worms these four months. I know he wasn't dead at Gilmer's; but he died--now, let me tell you--he--""Really!" 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. "Thenthen you aren't the man from Gamages?"

He had done everything possible to calm himself. He had taken bromide; he had been out for a smart turn around the roads; he had forced himself to sit down and answer some letters. But it was impossible to ease the pressure of his thoughts; he felt that his brain would never cease from working round and round in a circle of hopeless enquiry. In the end, and late as it was, he had telephoned for Gregg."Stop it!" the Curate gasped. "My heart, you knowI have been warnedsudden shocks." He staggered to the wall and groped blindly for an emergency exit, which he knew to be there somewhere. He found it, forced the door open and fell limply upon the pavement outside."It's only me," remarked the Clockwork man, suddenly looming into palpable form again. "Don't be afraid. I must apologise for my eccentric behaviour. I tried an experiment. I thought I could get back. You said I was to go home, you know. But I can't get far." His voice shook a little. It jangled like a badly struck chord. "I'm a poor, maimed creature. You must make allowances for me. My clock won't work properly."

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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.II"Its devilish hard," he announced, presently, "this feeling, you knowClickAll dressed up and nowhere to goClickClick"

"Hark," said Arthur, clutching her tightly. "Be quietI want to listen for something.""Well,--all the others; Major Harper, Colonel Dismukes, Harry Helm, Squire Wall, Mrs. Wall, the four Harper ladies, and--eh,--let me see, is that all?--ah, no, the old black man and his daughter, and--eh,--the two little mule'! that's all--stop! I was forgetting! What is that fellow's name we used to know? ah, yes; Charlie Toliver!" In a moment he sobered: "Yes, all will be yonder, and I wait only for Quinn to get back in the morning, to come myself." In the fulness of his joy he had to give my horse a parting slap. "Good-night! good-bye--till to-morrow!"The Clockwork man bowed stiffly. "Thank you. Of course, I'm a little better than I was, but my ears still flap occasionally."

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Apr-18 11:15:12