《【PmQ】》He glanced up at her photograph on the mantelpiece. If there was a flaw in the composition of her fair, Saxon beauty, it was that the mouth was a little too large and opened rather too easily, disclosing teeth that were not as regular as they should be. But nature's blunder often sets the seal on man's choice, and to the Doctor this trifling fault gave warmth and vivacity to a face that might easily have been cold and impassive, especially as her eyes were steel blue and she had no great art in the use of them. Her voice, too, often startled the listener by its occasional note that[Pg 125] suggested an excitability of temperament barely under control."It's only me," remarked the Clockwork man, suddenly looming into palpable form again. "Don't be afraid. I must apologise for my eccentric behaviour. I tried an experiment. I thought I could get back. You said I was to go home, you know. But I can't get far." His voice shook a little. It jangled like a badly struck chord. "I'm a poor, maimed creature. You must make allowances for me. My clock won't work properly."
"Hark," said Arthur, clutching her tightly. "Be quiet—I want to listen for something."
[Pg 19]Gregg beat his fist into his open palm. "But that's just what has happened," he exclaimed, "they've found a way of keeping on just the same. That explains the Clarkson business. If the clock is what I think it is, that precisely is its function."
His voice trailed away and ended in a soft, tinkling sound, like sheep bells heard in the distance. During the long pause that followed Arthur had time to recall that sense of pity for this grotesque being which had accompanied his first impression of him; but now his feeling swelled into an infinite compassion, and with it there came to him a fierce questioning fever.
She retreated towards the door.The Doctor, in establishing himself in the right quarter, had forgotten to allow for the fact that the force that had lifted the Paynes out of their urban obscurity had descended to their daughter. Lilian had been expensively educated, and although the Doctor denied it[Pg 124] to himself a hundred times a week, there was no evading the fact that an acute brain slumbered behind her rather immobile beauty. True, the fruits of her learning languished a little in Great Wymering, and that beyond a slight permanent frown and a disposition to argue about modern problems, she betrayed no revolt against the narrowness of her existence, but appeared, graceful and willowy, at garden parties or whist drives. It was the development of her mind that the Doctor feared, especially as, all unconsciously at first, he had acted as its chief stimulant. During their talks together he had spoken too many a true word in jest; and his witticisms had revealed to Lilian a whole world about which to think and theorise.
"You must understand," resumed the Clockwork man, making a rather painful effort to fold his arms and look natural, "you must understand—click—click—that it is difficult for me to carry on conversation in this manner. Not only are my speech centres rather disordered—G-r-r-r-r-r-r—but I am not really accustomed to expressing my thoughts[Pg 143] in this way (here there was a loud spinning noise, like a sewing machine, and rising to a rapid crescendo). My brain is—so—constituted that action—except in a multiform world—is bound to be somewhat spasmodic—Pfft—Pfft—Pfft. In fact—Pfft—it is only—Pfft—because I am in such a hope—hope—hopeless condition that I am able to converse with you at all."
Yes, love made everything different! You were ready to put up with all inconveniences and indignities for the sake of that strange obsession. That thought consoled him as he[Pg 71] crept on hands and knees in order to pick up his safety razor that had dropped behind the bulky chest of drawers. Love accounted for everything, both serious and comic.There was still a touch of complaint in his voice, as though he felt sorry now to leave a world so full of pitfalls and curious adventures. Something brisker about his appearance seemed to suggest that an improvement had taken[Pg 204] place in his working arrangements. You might have thought him rather an odd figure, stiff-necked, and jerky in his gait; but there were no lapses into his early bad manner.
At first, what he saw looked like another face, only it was round and polished. A second glance made it quite plain that instead of a back to the Clockwork man's head, there was a sort of glass dial, beneath which the doctor dimly made out myriads of indicators, tiny hands that moved round a circle marked[Pg 161] with inconceivably minute divisions. Some of the hands moved slowly, some only just visibly, whilst others spun round with such speed that they left only a blurred impression of a vibratant rotary movement. Besides the hands there were stops, queer-shaped knobs and diminutive buttons, each one marked with a small, neat number. Little metal flaps fluttered quickly and irregularly, like the indicators on a telephone switchboard. There was a faint throbbing and commotion, a suggestion of power at high pressure.
"You mean—" began Mrs. Masters, and then eyed him with the meaning expression of a woman scenting danger or happiness for some other woman. "That young lady is not suited to you, at all events," she continued, shaking her head.
There was still a touch of complaint in his voice, as though he felt sorry now to leave a world so full of pitfalls and curious adventures. Something brisker about his appearance seemed to suggest that an improvement had taken[Pg 204] place in his working arrangements. You might have thought him rather an odd figure, stiff-necked, and jerky in his gait; but there were no lapses into his early bad manner.
He paused and confronted Allingham, who had risen from his chair and was still trembling."But what is the real world like?" questioned Arthur.
"'Tain't possible," objected her husband, "'e's pulling your leg, ma."
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