2021-04-18 10:33:01

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ENGLISH "Just what I'm always telling my missus," reflected the constable.

[Pg 26]"You mustn't do anything like that again," he muttered hoarsely. "Youmustletmeknowwhenyoufeel itcoming on."

He fancied he heard a voice very indistinctly begging his pardon. Again he clutched wildly at a shoulder and merely snapped his fingers. "Strike a light," he muttered, under his breath, "this ain't good enough. It ain't[Pg 92] nearly good enough." Reaching forward he stumbled, and to save himself from falling placed a hand against the wall. The next moment he leapt backwards with a yell. His hand and arm had gone clean through the filmy shape."Who was it?" I asked. "Where is he?""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 everything. One sky, and one floor. Everything is fixed and stable. At least, so it appears to[Pg 145] me. And then you have objects placed about in certain positions, trees, houses, lamp-postsand they never alter their positions. It reminds me of the scenery they used in the old theatres. Now, in my world everything is constantly moving, and there is not one of everything, but always there are a great many of each thing. The universe has no definite shape at all. The sky does not look, like yours does, simply a sort of inverted bowl. It is a shapeless void. But what strikes me so forcibly about your world is that everything appears to be leading somewhere, and you expect always to come to the end of things. But in my world everything goes on for ever."

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"Sometimes. Chaps people don't understand. That's because they like beauty more than anything else, and not many people really care about beauty. They only think of it when they see a sunset or look at pictures. If you can forget beauty, then you're alright. Nobody thinks you're strange. You don't have any difficulties.""Yes," guilefully said Charlotte, "Richard's letter!" and we all followed Gholson to where his saddle lay on the gallery. There he handed out Ferry's document and went on rummaging for mine.I hesitated, but a single flash of authority from his eye was enough and I had passed half-way to the door, when, through the window over the front veranda, I saw a small body of horsemen trotting up through the grove. The dusk of the room hid me, but there was no mistaking them. "Too late, Captain," I said, "they've got us."

"How can I help it?" implored the Clockwork man, in despair. "They made me like this. I don't want to alarm youbut, you know, it alarms me sometimes. You can't imagine how trying it is to feel that at any moment you might change into something elsesome horrible tree-climbing ancestor. The thing ought not to happen, but it's always possible. They should have thought of that when they made the clock."Quinn hustled the captives "down a lane," as the fiddler might have said, of Ferry's scouts, mounted them on their own horses at the door, and hurried them away. Charlotte had vanished but was back again in hat and riding-skirt. Ferry caught her hand and they ran to the front veranda steps just as the prisoners and guard rode swiftly from them. Kendall and I had the stirrup ready for her; the saddle was a man's, but she made a horn of its pommel, and in a flash the four of us were mounted. Nevertheless before we could move the grove resounded with shots, and Ferry, bidding us ride on after the fleeing guard, wheeled and galloped to where half our troop were holding back their assailants in the dark. But then, to our distraction, Charlotte would not fly. "Richard, I'm paroled!"--"Charlotte Oliver, you're my prisoner!" I reached for her bridle, but she avoided me and with a cry of recollection wheeled and was on her way back. "I forgot something! I can get it, I left the room lighted!"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.

"That's my job," agreed the other, with a warning glint in his red eye.It would require a mathematical diagram to describe the incident with absolute accuracy. The Curate, of course, had heard nothing about the Clockwork man's other performances; he had scarcely heeded the hints thrown out about the possibility of movement in other dimensions. It seemed to him, in the uncertain light of their surroundings, that the Clockwork man's right arm gradually disappeared 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 some shadowy plane. Then it went into nothing, evaporated from view. And just as suddenly, it swung back into the plane of the curate's vision, and the hand at the end of it grasped a silk hat."What is this?" he enquired, presently.

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"Death," he reflected, "that was death, I suppose. They still die.""Lieutenant," I began eagerly as he was drawing away, "is--?"Efficiency! How he hated the word! It reminded him of his own heart-breaking struggles, not only with the difficulties of an exacting science, but with the complexities of the time in which his youth had been spent, a time when all the intelligent young men had been trying to find some way out of the social evils that then existedand still existed, as an ironical memorial to their futile efforts. In those days one scarcely dared to move in intellectual circles without having evolved one's personal solution of the social problem, an achievement that implied a great deal of hard reading, attendance at Fabian meetings, and a certain amount of voluntary thinking.

"Here come the real heroes, Harry," said my crippled leader; "we are dandies and toy-soldiers, by the side of those infantry boys, Doctor, we cavalry fellows;" and we cavalry fellows would have hid if we honorably could. Yet hardly had he spoken when he and a passing field-officer cried out in mutual recognition, and from that time until the rear-guard was clear gone by we received what the newspapers call "a continuous ovation." A group of brigade officers went back with us to Squire Wall's, to supper, and you could see by the worship they paid Charlotte that they knew her story. Her strength was far overtaxed, and the moment the last fond straggler had gone we came in out of the splendid moonlight.Charlotte resumed. "I have come to you in the common interest, to warn you against that man. I believe he is on his way here to offer his services as a guide. He is fearless, untiring, and knows all this region by heart.""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."

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Apr-18 10:33:01