ENGLISH ²¨¶àÒ°½áÒÂ²»´÷¿ÚÕÖÍ¼Æ¬ËÑË÷"Alright," he heard a tiny, remote voice, "I'm still hereI haven't gone yetI can't gothat's what's so distressing. I don't really understand your world, you knowand I can't get back to my own. Don't be harsh with meit's so awkwardbetween the devil and the deep sea."He was already doing so, and nodded laughingly to his superior. Charlotte spoke on. "I tell you the truth only, gentlemen, though I tell you no more of it than I must. I have run many a risk to get the truth, and to get it early. If it is your suspicion that by so doing, or in any other way, I have forfeited a lady's liberty, let me hear and answer. If not--"
The Doctor shot out a hand and gripped the framework of the shelves. As his eyes rested upon the object that now confronted him, he swung slowly round until his body was partly supported by the shelves. His mouth opened wide and remained stretched to its limit.Charlotte did not move an eyelash. Gradually a happy confidence lighted her face. "Freedom or prison is to me a secondary question. I came here determined to use only the truth. No wild creature loves to be free more than I do. I want to go back into our lines, and to go at once; but--I am Charlotte Oliver."I held them up and scowled from them to Harry, and we both laughed, so transparent was Gholson's purpose to get every one away from our patient who yearned to be near her. "One in front of each pistol," I said, so tying them; "but use the pistols first, I suppose."
"Then fetch me an ice. By the time you return I shall have thought of something pretty to say. Ah, I have pricked my finger. The ice, my dear boy, the ice. The finger will not hurt till you return.""But didn't the other people object?" said Arthur."Didn't you intend to call, too?" "No," he said; yet the moment the operator turned the key in his door we sauntered away from the station, tavern, town, and out into the rain-famished country. We chose a road on high ground, under pines; the fact that a few miles of it would bring us to Squire Wall's was not sufficient reason for us to shun it, and we loitered on and on, discoursing philosophically on man and woman and the duties of each to other. Through habit we went softly, and so, in time, came up past a small garden under the house's southern side. Here silence was only decorum, for every window in the dark upper rooms was thrown open to the sultry air. The house's front was away from the direction of the town, and at a corner of this garden, where the road entered the open grove, the garden fence turned north at a right angle, while the road went on through the grove into wide cornfields beyond.
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."Hehegoes by machinery, sir. He's a clockwork man."
But what could it mean? Gregg rather prided himself upon the resiliency of his mind, but not all the elasticity of which he was capable could enable him to overcome a sudden sense of uneasiness. Was the Clockwork man, after all, no more than a very elaborate and highly complex puppet? But how could that be, since he breathed and spoke and gave every sign of the possession of an individual consciousness? Considered in this new light he was even more difficult to explain.Joyous was the dawn. With their places in the hospital filled for the brief time by Brookhaven friends, here were all our fairs, not to speak of the General, the Colonel, the Major, idlers of the town and region, and hospital bummers who had followed up unbidden and glaringly without wedding-garments. Ccile, Harry, Camille "and others" prepared the church. The General kept his tent, the Major rode to Hazlehurst, and the Colonel, bruised and stiffened by a late fall from his horse, lounged amiably just beyond talking range of the ladies and grumbled jokes to Chaplain Roly-poly, whose giggling enjoyment of them made us hope they were tempered to that clean-shaven lamb.
He climbed over the top of the meadow, descended again into a valley, and stopped before a stile with hedges running away on either side. He decided to wait here for Rose. It would be pleasant to see her coming over the hill."How do you feel now?" ventured the Doctor, arousing himself with an effort."Oh," said Gregg, and his face became blank. "Anyhow, just tell him that he must run when he's called."
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"She can't want you half so badly as I do," Gordon laughed as he bent down and kissed the shy lips. "And that queer little creature will have to learn to do without you altogether before long. Four new patients today, Hetty. And I have taken the house in Green-Street."It followed upon this experiment that the Clockwork man presently emitted a faint, quavering protest. He had certainly dwindled in bulk. His clothes hung upon him, and there was a distressing feebleness of frame. Slowly it dawned upon the Doctor that the face peering up at him was that of a very old and decrepit individual. Painful lines crossed his forehead, and there were rheumy lodgements in the corner of each eye. The change was rapidly progressive.Fitted into the clock, in such a way that they could be removed, were a series of long tubes with valve-like endings. The Doctor had removed one or two of these and examined them very closely, but he could not arrive at any idea of their purpose.
After that last glimpse of the Clockwork man, and the conversation with Doctor Allingham and Gregg that followed, Arthur had hurried home to his tea. No amount of interest in the affair, however stupendous it might appear both to himself and others, could dissuade him from his usual Saturday night's programme. Rose Lomas, to whom he had recently become engaged, was a hundred times more important than a clockwork man, and whether a human being could actually exist who walked and talked by mechanical means was a small problem in comparison with that of changing his clothes, washing and tidying himself up in time for his assignation. As soon as the cricketers showed signs of stirring themselves, and so conveyed the comforting impression that they were not dead, Arthur felt himself able to resume normal existence."H'm, yeschemical actiontonics. People get run down, and I have to give them something to stimulate the system."I meekly gave them and she turned to go into the house; her head gradually sank forward as she went, and her unparagoned ear and neck flushed to a burning red. On the threshold, by some miscalculation, her burdened arm struck the jamb, and the whole load fell again. I sprang and began to gather the stuff into a chair, but she walked straight on as though nothing had occurred, and shut the nearest door behind her.
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