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The Clock Bewitched - Harper's

 

I was once at one of those little social gatherings which the Scotch call a "cooky-shine," and the English a "tea-fight," where two young ladies appeared escorted by a rustic beau (for be it known this was in the country), who, like many beaux from both city and country, had a very well-developed opinion of his own shrewdness and sagacity, of which opinion he gave several rather obtrusive illustrations during the course of the evening. This peculiarity, added to the fact that, quite early in the festivities, he displayed an anxiety to hurry the young ladies home in the midst of their enjoyment, made him anything but popular. The fact was that the young man, having exhausted his limited stock of conversation, grew bored and sleepy, and wanted to go home himself. Not being able to accomplish this, he seated himself in an obscure corner of the room, where he soon dropped off into a doze. Now among the company was a little imp of a boy, a son of the hostess, who seemed to feel himself called upon to amuse the rest of the guests. He whispered a few words in his sister's ear, and then left the room. In about fifteen minutes the drowsy beau woke up with a start, and asked what o'clock it was.

"I really don't know," responded one of the ladies. "What time was it when you went to sleep?"

"Sleep—sleep! I haven't been to sleep—'wake all the time."

"Indeed you have," chorussed the party; "nearly two hours, and saying all sorts of things."

WHAT TIME IS IT? WHAT TIME IS IT?

The youth looked blank, and rather frightened, but tried to brave it out. "Oh, pshaw! two hours. Sleep!—why, I haven't been to sleep ten—that's to say, I've been awake the whole time. Now we'll see." And he arose and walked into the next room, which was rather dimly lighted, to look at the clock. He remained there a long time, shuffling about, and emitting sundry whiffs and snorts, and then rejoined the company, rubbing his eyes, and rumpling his hair all over his head, with an expression of bewilderment on his countenance which set every one present tittering.

"All right," he said. "Guess't's 'bout time to start home."

"Oh no, not yet," answered the hostess. "We are going to have some cider and doughnuts."

The cider and doughnuts were brought in and handed round, the sleepy beau receiving his last. He took a good Irish bite. A pause. Something was the matter. He pulled, he gnawed, he wrestled, he grunted, he struggled: it was no use; that doughnut was too much for him. Suddenly, with a quick motion worthy of the late lamented Mr. Grimaldi, he whipped the doughnut out of his mouth and into his pocket. He thought he was unobserved, but a roar of rustic laughter from all sides of the room soon undeceived him. We will draw a veil over the scene, etc., etc., as the novels say. In a few seconds his two fair charges, in charity, proposed to go home; and they went.

Now what was this all about? I will tell you. When the young imp left the room, as before mentioned, he slipped into the back parlor, turned down the lights, and carried the clock off into the kitchen, where with some Indian ink and a brush he marked on its face half a dozen extra hands. He then replaced the clock on the mantelpiece in the parlor, and returning to the kitchen, procured two small balls of cotton batting, which he soaked in some batter the cook was using for doughnuts, and these he fried till they exactly resembled the genuine article the cook had just made. He had previously let the ladies into the secret, so that when the sleepy beau went into the back parlor to look at the clock, as they took care he should, they perfectly knew the bewildered frame of mind he was in while trying to find out the time. The sister, too, while handing round the doughnuts, managed to reserve the cotton ones for the same gentleman.

The next day our hostess received a polite note from the discomfited escort, thanking her for the gift of the doughnut, which he said had been of infinite value to him, as he had given it to a neighbor's dog which kept him awake all night, and the dog had since died. So he took it good-naturedly, after all.