The Duke's Ruse

by Unknown

The eccentric Duke of Bridgewater, who owned extensive coal-mines near Manchester, and spent a large fortune in opening them out, and in constructing a canal to carry the coal to Manchester and Liverpool, took great pleasure in watching his men at work. He used to come every morning to the place where they were boring for coal, and stand looking on for hours at a time. He was often there when the bell rang at twelve o'clock, at which hour the men ceased work for their noonday meal and rest. But the men scarcely liked to give up work while the Duke was watching them, and they continued on until he went away. As it was not pleasant to have their dinner-hour deferred day after day in this way, the men tried to avoid working at the boring which the Duke was accustomed to visit, and the Duke's engineer, Brindley, had great difficulty in finding sufficient men for that particular work. Upon inquiry, he discovered the reason of it, and explained matters to the Duke, who took care after that to walk away before the bell rang at noon.

The Duke was a shrewd, observant man, and he did not fail to notice that his workmen ceased working the moment the bell began to strike at twelve o'clock, but they were not so prompt in resuming work at one o'clock. They came leisurely up one by one, some minutes after the clock had struck. When the Duke inquired the reason of this, the men excused themselves by saying that while they heard the clock well enough when it struck twelve, they did not always hear it when it struck only once. The Duke thereupon had the clock made to strike thirteen at one o'clock, so that the men could no longer plead this excuse for their dilatoriness. This clock was still in use not many years ago, and may be even yet striking its thirteen strokes at one o'clock.