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      "Strange thing," said Balmayne to himself. "A most remarkable thing! Miss Lawrence, will you do a favour for me. I would not trust anybody else. But if you will give me your promise I shall be easy. There is only one thing I have done that I really am sorry for, and you can set it right for me.""Quite right," responded the Doctor; "it is a machine used in every country where Buddhism is the religion."

      "Why,--yes,--I do. I--I thought everybody did." She averted her face and toyed with the sweet-pea vines. Suddenly she gulped, faced me, blinked rapidly, and said "If I oughtn't to call him--that,--then I oughtn't to have called--" she dropped her eyes and bit her lip.Turn again thine eyes, maiden passing fair. O maiden passing fair, turn again thine eyes!"

      "Is not that your signature endorsed on every one?" he asked.

      "Everything. Maitrank reaches Charing Cross in a little over half an hour, and it is absolutely imperative that I should see the arrival and find out where he stays. I suppose you can see that?"

      "But how could it be?" exclaimed[Pg 107] Allingham, kicking a loose stone in his walk. "This clock, I mean. It's" He fumbled hopelessly for words with which to express new doubts. "What is this clock?"

      "I cannot," groaned the Doctor, his face hidden between his hands. And then he looked up quickly, and his eyes cleared. "Perhaps, after all, that is the consoling feature of the affair. If the Clockwork man were really capable of explanation, then indeed there would be an end to all sanity. But since he is inexplicable, there still remains the chance that we may be able to put all thought of him out of our minds. I tell you, Gregg, I can live this down, I can forget this night of horror; but not if there is an explanation to fit the case. Not if I can satisfy my reason!"

      "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!"He smiled into the face of the man whose good name he might have cleared, but he gave no sign. So hard and callous a nature was impervious to kindness. Anybody who did a kind action for its own sake was a fool in Balmayne's eyes.


      The figure stopped with startling suddenness, but offered no explanation.




      "You are welcome;" he said; "it is so dull here that even the conversation of a mere detective is pleasing."