2021-04-18 10:44:37

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ENGLISH "You must not flirt with my governess, Dr. Bruce," she said. "I would have given a great deal not to have seen what I saw just now.""But what is it for?" gasped Arthur."Yes, our side does the same. If I wanted such a fate to overtake him I should only have to let him alone. At risks too hideous to name I have saved him from it twice. I am here to-day chiefly to circumvent his purposes; but if I may do so in the way I wish to propose to you, I shall also save him once more. I am willing to save him--in that way--although by so doing I shall lose--fearfully." She dropped her glance and turned aside.

"Oh, someone who had lost his way," said[Pg 82] Arthur, carelessly. He felt curiously disinclined to explain matters just at present. The Clockwork man was disconcerting. He was a rather terrifying side-issue. Arthur had a feeling that Rose would probably be frightened by him, for she was a timid girl. He half hoped now that this strange being would turn out to be some kind of monstrous hoax.The Doctor hesitated, aware of the uselessness 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?"

"I ain't a going to laugh," said Mr. Flack, "not unless I see fit to laugh." And he continued to stare gravely at Arthur's elaborate posturing. Presently the latter remembered his urgent appointment and disappeared through the narrow door that led upstairs.Over the crest we swept after them at a gallop and saw them half-way down an even incline, going at a mad run and yelling "Saddle up! saddle up! the rebels are coming! saddle up!" The bugles had begun the reveill; it ceased, and the next instant they were sounding the call To Arms. It was only a call to death; already we were half across the short decline and coming like a tornado; in the white camp the bluecoats were running hither and yon deaf to the brave shoutings of their captains; above the swelling thunder of our hoofs rose the mad yell of the onset; and now carbines peal and pistols crack, and here are the tents so close you may touch them, and yonder is one already in a light blaze, and at every hand and under every horse's foot is the crouching, quailing, falling foe, the air is one crash of huzzas and groans, screams, shots and commands, horses with riders and horses without plunge through the flames and smoke of the burning tents, and again and again I see Ned Ferry with the flat of his unstained sword strike pistol or carbine from hands too brave to cast them tamely down, and hear him cry "Throw down your arms! For God's sake throw down your arms and run to the road! run to the public road!"

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Arthur considered. "I'm afraid it can't be explained," he murmured, "it just is.""Look at the wig, look at the wig," interrupted Gregg, feverishly.But Gregg had the sense to admit to himself that his generalisation was no more than a faint aurora hovering around the rumoured dawn of the future. It was necessary, in the first place, to posit an imperfect thinking apparatus. After all, the Clockwork man was still a mystery to be solved, and even if he failed to justify a single theory born of merely human conjecture, there still remained the exhilarating task of finding out what actually he was and how he had come to earth.

Arthur had a strong sense of originality, although he would have been the last person to claim originality in his thoughts. He disliked interference with any part of his personal being. As a boy he had been perturbed by the prospect of growing up. It had seemed to him such a hopeless sort of process, a mere longitudinal extension, without corresponding gain in other magnitudes. He suspected that[Pg 70] other dubious advantages were only to be purchased at the expense of a thinning out of the joys of childhood. Later on, he discovered, sadly enough, that this was the case; although it was possible deliberately to protract one's adolescence. Hence his untidiness, his inefficiency, and even his obtuseness, were less constitutional faults than weapons in the warfare against the encroachment of time.I

"Such a jolly little place," he mused. "You could have such funand be yourself. I wonder why it reminds me so of somethingbefore the days of the clock, before we knew."All the while that I recount these scenes there come to me soft orchestrations of the old tunes that belonged with them. I am thinking of one just now; a mere potsherd of plantation-fiddler's folk-music which I heard first--and last--in the dance at Gilmer's. Indeed no other so widely recalls to me those whole years of disaster and chaos; the daily shock of their news, crashing in upon the brain like a shell into a roof; wail and huzza, camp-fire, litter and grave; battlefield stench; fiddle and flame; and ever in the midst these impromptu merrymakings to keep us from going stark mad, one and all,--as so many literally did."Well?" enquired Mrs. Flack, as she poured him out a cup of tea, "who won?"

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"Thank you," the Curate beamed, "I'm afraid the Vicar will be very annoyed, but it can't be helped.""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 noises. "And the row! Well, you know what a motor sounds like when it's being wound up. Like that, only worse."III

The Clockwork man emitted a faint, cacophonous cackle.The next day found me so robustly happy that I was allowed to dress and walk out to the front door. Three days later the surgeons were gone, all three, and at the approach of dew-fall Ccile and Harry, Camille and I, walked in a field-path, gathered hedge roses, and debated the problem of Mrs. Roy's daughter's book, which all of us were reading and none had finished.

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Apr-18 10:44:37