2021-04-17 12:33:30

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ENGLISH He paused abruptly, aware that certain peculiar changes were taking place in the physiognomy of the Clockwork man. His strange organism seemed to be undergoing a series of exceedingly swift and complicated[Pg 138] physical and chemical processes. His complexion changed colour rapidly, passing from its usual pallor to a deep greenish hue, and then to a hectic flush. Concurrent with this, there was a puzzling movement of the corpuscles and cells just beneath the skin."Along the path from Bapchurch, sir." Mrs. Masters moderated her manner before the doctor's searching eye. "Poor old Mr. Winchape, 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 sudden something flashed by 'im, so quick that he 'ardly realised it. He looked round, but it was gone in no time. He reckons it was the Old Man 'imself. There was fire[Pg 51] coming out of his mouth and 'is eyes was like two red 'ot coals""Yes, jolly," said Arthur, "buck up."

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 humanly credible. And the strange antics of the Clockwork man, his sudden stoppings and beginnings, his[Pg 44] "Anglo-Saxon" gestures and his staccato gait, all came under the heading of locomotor ataxia in an advanced form. CHAPTER NINE

He made a motion of pain--"Don't say it!" and we read in each other's eyes the one conviction that from a surgeon's personal knowledge this man had written to warn Charlotte that Oliver was alive. Come yo' lily-white hand,When the time came there were partners for eight gallants, and the gallants numbered sixteen. They counted off by twos; the evens waited while the odds danced the half of each set, and then the odds waited and cooled, tried to cool, out on the veranda. But when a reel was called the whole twenty-four danced together, while the fiddler (from the contraband camp) improvised exultant words to his electrifying tunes.

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"Stop," cried the Doctor, and there was almost anger in his features as he leapt to his feet. "It is you who are raving now. How can there exist such a world? And what plight has overtaken the human race, that it is now dependent upon mechanical contrivance for its actions! But, no. I refuse to believe that the Clockwork man represents the final destiny of man. He is a myth, a caricature, at the most a sort of experiment. This multiform world of which he talks so glibly is an extravagant boast. Besides, who would care to live in such a world, and with every action conditioned by an exact mechanism? Your optimism about this extraordinary affair amazes me even more than the thing itself. At the best what it means is that man has come to final ruin, not that he has achieved any real mastery of life. If all the creatures in the world eight thousand years[Pg 181] hence are indeed clockwork men, then it is because some monstrous tyranny has come to birth in the race of man; it is 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!""Young lady, listen to me. I know your story is nearly all true. I know some good things about you which you have modestly left out; one of the rebels who stopped where you did last night and rode with you this morning was brought to me a prisoner half an hour ago. But he said your name was Rothvelt. How's that?"

I"Which is probably where he is now," remarked Gregg, with a slight bantering note in his voice.

"Come back," shouted Arthur, scarcely knowing why he was so in earnest. "You must come back and tell us."

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Now the lightning seems nearer. Hark, that was thunder; soft, but real. At last the air moves; there is a breeze, and the girls come out on the gallants' arms to drink it in. As they lift their brows and sigh their comfort the lightning grows brighter, the thunder comes more promptly and louder, and the maidens flinch and half scream, yet linger for one more draft of the blessed coolness. Suddenly an inverted tree of blinding light branches down the sky, and the thunder crashes in one's very ears; the couples recoil into a group at the door, the lightning again fills heaven and earth, it shows the bending trees far afield, and the thunders peal at each other as if here were all Vicksburg and Port Hudson, with Porter and Farragut going by. So for a space; then the wind drops to a zephyr, and though the sky still blazes and crashes, and flames and roars, the house purrs with content under the sweet strokings of the rain.But the authorities at the bank regarded them as grave defects in his character.

XLV STAY TILL TO-MORROW"I think," said Gregg, with curious calmness, "I think we had better warn the police. He's likely to be dangerous."

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