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Caddy's Clock Party, from Harper's


The great hall clock was not asked to the party, but it was there, all the same. It was Milly Holland's birthday party. Milly was just fourteen years old, and most of the boys and girls near her own age whom she knew had been invited, and among them little Caddy Podkins, too little and young to care for at all, Milly thought; but kind Mrs. Holland had asked Caddy, because she was the only child of her nearest neighbor, and used to sit for hours in the bay-window across the way as if she did not have anything to amuse her.

The Hollands lived in a large, handsome house, and to-day it was pleasanter than usual, there were so many flowers about the rooms, and pretty moss baskets, and vines twisted around the chandeliers.

At half past five, the hour set for the party to begin, Milly's guests began to come; and Milly herself, in a soft white merino dress, came down the wide stairs to the polished oaken landing, and received them as they came up the lower steps from the big hall doors. There were nearly fifty boys and girls—more girls than boys—and as the party would be over at ten o'clock, they wisely lost no time, and came almost all at once. It made a pretty sight as they shook back their wrappings from their gay dresses, and crowded around Milly. It was as if a good-natured giant had spilled a huge basket of red and white rose-buds over the oaken landing and stairs, up which the children followed Milly to the dressing-room and the parlors, where the fires glowed in the cheerful grates, and the lamps in beautiful tinted globes made a brightness that seemed to the children more wonderful than day.

Now it is not so much about Milly's party as about one little girl who was in it that I am going to tell you; because parties are very commonplace things, and little girls, at least some little girls, are not.

When the party had been going on for a long time, and the children were being taken in to supper—and a very nice supper, too, with plenty of milk, white bread, and sparkling jellies—one of the largest girls stopped with Milly Holland for a moment where the staircase turned and looked down upon the oaken landing. There stood the tall, old-fashioned clock, looking very old and rather proud in its rich dark case, and against it leaned a very little girl, not more than eight years old, with a good deal of brown hair, and big gray eyes. Her folded hands and her little cheek were pressed against the edge of the clock case. The hall lamp from the bracket overhead shone on her hair and her crumpled dress, and left her face in the shadow.

"Who's that?" asked the other girl of Milly.

"What! don't you know Caddy Podkins?" said Milly. "The idea of mother asking such a baby as that to my party!"

Then the two girls went to supper. The supper-room was farther from the landing than the parlors, and when the door had closed, the hall became quite still. All at once Caddy thought the clock ticked louder than she had ever heard a clock tick in all her life before. And she was quite right, for the clock was trying to speak to Caddy, and except just to state, without a single needless-word, the hour, this clock had never tried to speak before. But the clock liked Caddy very much. It had seen that Caddy was very bashful, and that the other children took hardly any notice of her, or any care for her pleasure, and it liked the feeling of Caddy's little cheek and warm hands upon its side.


Now Caddy had a little invisible key. It was finer than refined gold, and stronger than adamant (which is the very hardest kind of stone there is, you know), and there was not a lock—no, not even the lock of the tongue of a clock—which could help opening to Caddy's little key. Caddy herself knew nothing about this key, not even its long name—Im-ag-i-na-tion. But the key did not need to have Caddy know; it staid in a little pearl of a room full of the brightest thoughts of Caddy's mind, and whenever these thoughts began to stir about and say, "I wonder," away the little key would fly, and open some new delightful secret to Caddy. There are thousands and thousands of children who have keys of this sort; but, oh! there's such a difference in the keys and in the secrets that they find! Caddy's key was one of the very best, and even while she was noticing that the clock ticked so loud, her little key had turned itself in the very centre of the wheels, and the clock whispered, close in her ear, "Caddy, little Caddy, shall I—tick-a-tock—talk to you?"

Caddy was not at all surprised or bashful with the clock, but asked, quickly, "Were you ever at a party?"

"Hundreds of them," said the clock. "Tiresome things, parties are."

"Guess you don't get any supper, perhaps," said Caddy, with a queer little smile.

"Guess you are hungry, perhaps," laughed the clock, with a dozen little sharp ticks all together. "Now, you dear little Caddy, I'm a clock of a very good family. As far back as I can remember—and that's a very long time—there has never been a clock in my family which did not keep perfect time, and tell the truth exactly to a second every time it spoke, and I know how a little girl who is invited to a party ought to be treated, so I invite you now, Caddy Podkins, to my party."

"What! a really, truly clock party?" exclaimed Caddy, and in the same moment the big clock had swung its long pendulum wire around her waist, and lifted Caddy as if she were a feather, whirled her so fast that Caddy saw nothing at all, and then set her down very gently in a room whose floor was shaped like the flat side of a wheel, and the edges of the floor were notched just like the edges of the wheels in a clock. The walls of the room were like brass that has been rubbed very bright, and were covered with net-work of fine curling wire. In the middle of the room was a long table, set with wheel-shaped plates, which were heaped with large sweet raisins and nut meats, fresh flaky biscuits, and there were the most delicious fruits, so ripe you could see through to the seeds and stones in their cores. Over the table hung a chandelier, shaped like a pendulum, which gave a soft yellow light. The big clock stood at the head of the table, tapping her forehead with her long minute-finger. She smiled at Caddy's wonder, and ticked out, merrily,

"Well, Caddy, Caddy, Caddy,
How's this for a clock?
Ha! ha! It's not so bad—eh?"

Caddy leaned against her tall friend, and asked, very comfortably, "Are your little clocks coming?"

At this question the old clock ticked slowly off on her minute-finger,

Ap-ple seeds and ap-ple thorn,
Wire bri-er, lim-ber lock,
Three wheels in a clock!"

At that last word suddenly the curling wires all over the walls gave out a curious tinkling, and letting themselves swiftly down in long slender spirals, like the dandelion curls you make in the spring, each set a tiny little clock on the floor. Then all the wires snapped back to their places on the wall. There were as many as fifty of these little clocks, beautifully made, and no two of them alike, though they all had little brass hands reaching out of the sides of their cases, and they all had little brass feet, on which they hopped about nimbly, and they all ticked together in the funniest way.

It's Caddy's party,"

said the old clock, and the little clocks instantly made a circle around Caddy, and each bent one knee and slid back one little brass foot in the most polite courtesy to Caddy. One of the oldest of the little clocks then hopped off to a tiny wire harp that stood in a corner, and began to play a sweet lively waltz with her queer brass fingers. The rest of the clocks came one after another and led Caddy out and waltzed with her. Caddy had never danced so much in all her life, and had never liked it half so well.

"Tick-a-tock, stop feet,
Little Caddy must eat,"

said the old clock. And, oh! what a supper that was to hungry, happy little Caddy! and how happy the little clocks were to have such a good little girl as Caddy with them! They gave her the best of everything upon the table, and waited to see that she had all she wished before they even thought of eating for themselves. They told her all sorts of droll stories, and one little clock astonished Caddy very much by opening her little silver tunic and showing Caddy—who had not quite believed it before—that the little wheels actually did eat up the juicy fruits. "I wonder if I am full of little wheels," said Caddy. Then Caddy's little key sighed, for it was just the least bit tired, and Caddy's "I wonder" meant work for the key. But the old clock suddenly exclaimed,

"Tick-a-tock, 'most ten,
Little Caddy, come again."

"Caddy! Caddy Podkins!" said Mrs. Holland, in great surprise. The children were putting on their things in the dressing-room up stairs, and Mrs. Holland had just noticed that Caddy was not with them, and coming hastily down stairs, saw Caddy, just as we did, leaning against the tall old clock. "My poor little dear, why, how cold you are! Have you been asleep? Milly ought to have taken care of you. I'm afraid you have not had a good time."

"I've had a clock party," said Caddy, rubbing her eyes, while Mrs. Holland tied on her hood, "and I'm to come again."