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
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.
CADDY LEANED AGAINST HER TALL FRIEND.
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
"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
"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."