And so the Clockwork man was able to conceal his clock from the gaze of a curious world, and the grotesqueness of his appearance was heightened by the addition of a neatly trimmed chestnut wig and a soft round clerical hat. His perceptions must have been extraordinarily rapid, and he must have acted upon the instant. Nor did it seem to occur to him that in this world there are laws which forbid theft. Probably, in the world from which he[Pg 87] came such restrictions are unnecessary, and the exigency would not have arisen, every individual being provided by parliamentary statute with a suitable covering for that blatant and too obvious sign of the modus operandi in the posterior region of their craniums.
"I regard that statement of his as highly significant," resumed Gregg, after a slight pause. "For, of course, if the Clockwork man really is, as suggested, a semi-mechanical being, then he could only have come from the future. So far as I am aware, the present has not yet evolved sufficiently even to consider seriously the possibility of introducing mechanical reinforcements into the human body, although there has been tentative speculation on the subject. We are thousands of years away from such a proposition; on the other[Pg 54] hand, there is no reason why it should not have already happened outside of our limited knowledge of futurity. It has often occurred to me that the drift of scientific progress is slowly but surely leading us in the direction of some such solution of physiological difficulties. The human organism shows signs of breaking down under the strain of an increasingly complex civilisation. There may be a limit to our power of adaptability, and in that case humanity will have to decide whether it will alter its present mode of living or find instead some means of supplementing the normal functions of the body. Perhaps that has, as I suggest, already happened; it depends entirely upon which road humanity has taken. If the mechanical side of civilisation has developed at its present rate, I see no reason why the man of the future should not have found means to ensure his efficiency by mechanical means applied to his natural functions."[Pg 112]Pfft—Pfft—Pfft—Pfft—Pfft—"What's that," Rose exclaimed, suddenly awakened.
Gregg sat up in his chair and became more serious. Allingham fidgeted without actually interrupting.IIISuddenly, with a violent effort involving two sharp flappings of his ears, the Clockwork man mastered his difficulty. He appeared to set in action some swift depilatory process. The beard vanished as if by magic. The doctor collapsed into a chair.The Clockwork man was standing by his side, a comic expression of pity and misgiving animating his crude features. With one hand he was softly stroking the damaged bonnet of the car.He sat down rather hurriedly, on the couch, and the Doctor scanned him anxiously for symptoms. But there were none of an alarming character. He had not removed his borrowed hat and wig.Was Lilian going to destroy their happiness for the sake of these modern heresies? Surely she would not throw him over now; and yet her message left that impression. Nowadays women were so led by their sensibilities. Lilian's hypersensitive nature might revolt at[Pg 122] the prospect of living with him in the surroundings of his own choice."Death," he reflected, "that was death, I suppose. They still die.""My dear," he gasped, as he slid into the seat reserved for him next to his wife, "I couldn't help it. Someone stole my hat and wig.""It's an instrument," rejoined Gregg, leaning over the side of the car. "Evidently it has some sort of effect upon the fundamental processes of the human organism. That's clear, to me. Probably it replaces some of the ordinary functions and alters others. One gets a sort of glimmer—of an immense speeding up of the entire organism, and the brain of man developing new senses and powers of apprehension. They would have all sorts of second sights and subsidiary senses. They would feel their way about in a larger universe, creep into all sorts of niches and corners unknown to us, because of their different construction."
- "What the devil!"
- "Nobody," remarked Arthur, cramming bread and butter into his mouth. "Game off."
- 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.
- Allingham sat in stony silence, sipping tea at intervals and cutting pieces of cake into[Pg 41] neat little squares, which he slipped into his mouth spasmodically. Now and again he passed a hand across his big tawny moustache and pulled it savagely. His state of tense nervous irritation was partly due to the fact that he had been obliged to wait so long for his tea; but he had also violently disagreed with Gregg in their discussion about the Clockwork man. At the present moment the young student stood by the window, watching the animated crowd outside the inn. He had finished his tea, and he had no wish to push his own theory about the mysterious circumstance to the extent of quarrelling with his friend.
- "To having the clock fitted into them."
- "Its devilish hard," he announced, presently, "this feeling, you know—Click—All dressed up and nowhere to go—Click—Click—"
- "Aren't you going any further?" he enquired, anxiously.
- "I see them lying in the pit," explained Tom, "they must 'ave dropped off 'is 'ead as he lay there. Of course, 'e 'adn't fallen very far, otherwise 'is legs wouldn't ave been sticking up. It 'aint very steep just there, and 'is 'ead must 'ave caught in a bit of furze. But the 'at and wig 'ad rolled down to the bottom. After 'e'd gone I climbed down and picked them up."
- The Doctor scarcely heard this. He had[Pg 134] turned aside and stooped down in order to rewind the engine of his car. When he looked up again he beheld an extraordinary sight. 更多 CPK 推荐