The House of Silvery Voices, by Samuel Hopkins
From A Bench
in Our Square
Wayfarers on the far side of Our Square used to stop before Number 37
and wonder. The little house, it seemed, was making music at them.
"Kleam, kleam, kleam, kleam," it would pipe pleasantly.
"BHONG! BHONG! BHONG!" solemn and churchly, in rebuke of its own levity.
"Kung-glang! Kung-glang! Kung-glang! Kung-glang! Kung-glang!"
That was a duet in the middle register.
Then from some far-off aerie would ring the tocsin of an elfin
silversmith, fast, furious, and tiny:
We surmised that a retired Swiss bell-ringer had secluded himself in our
remote backwater of the great city to mature fresh combinations of
Before the Voices came, Number 37 was as quiet a house as any in the
Square. Quieter than most, since it was vacant much of the time and the
ceremonious sign of the Mordaunt Estate, "For Rental to Suitable
Tenant," invited inspection. "Suitable" is the catch in that
innocent-appearing legend. For the Mordaunt Estate, which is no estate
at all and never has been, but an ex-butcher of elegant proclivities
named Wagboom, prefers to rent its properties on a basis of prejudice
rather than profit, and is quite capable of rejecting an applicant as
unsuitable on purely eclectic grounds, such as garlic for breakfast, or
a glass eye.
How the new tenant had contrived to commend himself to Mr.
Mordaunt-Wagboom is something of a mystery. Probably it was his name
rather than his appearance, which was shiny, not to say seedy. He
encountered the Estate when that incorporated gentleman was engaged in
painting the front door, and, in a deprecating voice, inquired whether
twenty-five dollars a month would be considered.
"Maybe," returned the Estate, whereupon the stranger introduced himself,
with a stiff little bow, as Mr. Winslow Merivale.
Mr. Wagboom was favorably impressed with this, as possessing
"The name," he pronounced, "is satisfactory. The sum is satisfactory. It
is, however, essential that the lessor should measure up in character
and status to the standards of the Mordaunt Estate." This he had adapted
from the prospectus of a correspondence school, which had come to him
through the mail, very genteelly worded. "Family man?" he added briskly.
"How many of you?"
"No, sir," said the little man, very low.
"Son? Daughter? What age?"
"I have never been blessed with a child."
"Willy Woolly would share the house with me, sir."
For the first time the Mordaunt Estate noticed a small, fluffy poodle,
with an important expression, seated behind the railing.
"I don't like dogs," said the Mordaunt Estate curtly.
"Willy Woolly"—Mr. Winslow Merivale addressed his companion—"this
gentleman does not like dogs."
The Mordaunt Estate felt suddenly convicted of social error. The feeling
deepened when Willy Woolly advanced, reckoned him up with an appraising
eye, and, without the slightest loss of dignity, raised himself on his
hind legs, offering the gesture of supplication. He did not, however,
droop his paws in the accepted canine style; he joined them, finger tip
to finger tip, elegantly and piously, after the manner of the
The Estate promptly capitulated.
"Some pup!" he exclaimed. "When did you want to move in?"
"At once, if you please."
Before the Estate had finished his artistic improvements on the front
door, the new tenant had begun the transfer of his simple lares and
penates in a big hand-propelled pushcart. The initial load consisted in
the usual implements of eating, sitting, and sleeping. But the burden of
the half-dozen succeeding trips was homogeneous. Clocks. Big clocks,
little clocks, old clocks, new clocks, fat clocks, lean clocks, solemn
clocks, fussy clocks, clocks of red, of green, of brown, of pink, of
white, of orange, of blue, clocks that sang, and clocks that rang,
clocks that whistled, and blared, and piped, and drummed. One by one,
the owner established them in their new domicile, adjusted them, dusted
them, and wound them, and, as they set themselves once more to their
meticulous busy-ness, that place which had for so long been muffled in
quiet and deadened with dust, gave forth the tiny bustle of unresting
mechanism and the pleasant chime of the hours. Number 37 became the
House of Silvery Voices.
* * * * *
Thus came to Our Square, to be one of us, for better or for worse, Mr.
Winslow Merivale, promptly rechristened Stepfather Time. The Bonnie
Lassie gave him the name. She said that only a stepfather could bring up
his charges so badly. For his clocks were both independent and
irresponsible, though through no fault of their own. When they were
wound they went. When they were unwound they rested. Seldom were more
than half of them simultaneously busy, and their differences of opinion
as to the hour were radical and irreconcilable. The big, emphatic
eight-day, opposite the front door, might proclaim that it was eleven,
only to be at once contradicted by the little tinkler on the parlor
mantel, which announced that it was six, thereby starting up the
cathedral case on the stairway and the Grandfather in the dining-room,
who held out respectively for eight and two, while all the time it was
really half-past one. Thence arose in the early days painful
misunderstandings on the part of Our Square, for we are a simple people
and deem it the duty of a timepiece to keep time. In particular we were
befooled by Grandfather, the solemn-voiced Ananias of a clock with a
long-range stroke and a most convincing manner. So that Schepstein, the
note-shaver, on his way to a profitable appointment at 11 A.M., heard
the hour strike (thirty-five minutes in advance of the best professional
opinion) from the House of Silvery Voices, and was impelled to the
recklessness of hiring a passing taxi, thereby reaching his destination
with half an hour to spare and half a dollar to lack, for which latter
he threatened to sue the Mordaunt Estate's tenant. To the credit side of
the house's account it must be set down that MacLachan, the tailor,
having started one of his disastrous drunks within the precincts of his
Home of Fashion, was on his way to finish it in the gutter via the
zigzag route from corner saloon to corner saloon, when the Twelve
Apostles clock in the basement window lifted up its voice and
(presumably through the influence of Peter) thrice denied the hour,
which was actually a quarter before midnight. "Losh!" said MacLachan,
who invariably reacted in tongue to the stimulus of Scotch whiskey,
"they'll a' be closed. Hame an' to bed wi' ye, waster of the priceless
hours!" And back he staggered to sleep it off.
Then there was the disastrous case of the Little Red Doctor, who set out
to attend a highly interesting consultation at 4 P.M. and, hearing
Grandfather Ananias strike three, erroneously concluded that he had
spare time to stop in for a peek at Madame Tallafferr's gout (which was
really vanity in the guise of tight shoes), and reached the hospital,
only to find it all over and the patient dead.
"It's an outrage," declared the Little Red Doctor fiercely, "that an old
lunatic can move in here from God-knows-where in a pushcart and play
merry hell with a hard-working practitioner's professional duties. And
you're the one to tell him so, Dominie. You're the diplomat of
He even inveigled the Bonnie Lassie into backing him up in this
preposterous proposal. She had her own grievance against the House of
"It isn't the way it plays tricks on time alone," said she. "There's one
clock in there that's worse than conscience."
And she brought her indictment against a raucous timepiece which was
wont to lead up to its striking with a long, preliminary
clack-and-whirr, alleging that twice, when she had quit her sculping
early because the clay was obdurate and wouldn't come right, and had
gone for a walk to clear her vision, the clock had accosted her in these
"Clacketty-whirr-rr-rr! Back-to-yer-worr-rr-rrk! Yerr-rr-rr-rr wrong!
wrong! wrong! wrong!"
"Wherefore," said the Bonnie Lassie, "your appellant prays that you be a
dear, good, stern, forbidding Dominie and go over to Number 37 and ask
him what he means by it, anyway, and tell him he's got to stop it."
Now, the Bonnie Lassie holds the power of the high, the middle, and the
low justice over all Our Square by the divine right of loveliness and
kindliness. So that evening I went while the Little Red Doctor, as a
self-constituted Committee in Waiting, sat on my bench. Stepfather Time
himself opened the door to me.
"What might they call you, sir, if I may ask?" he inquired with timid
"They might call me the Dominie hereabouts. And they do."
"I have heard of you." He motioned me to a seat in the bare little room,
alive with tickings and clickings. "You have lived long here, sir?"
From some interminable distance a voice of time mocked me with a subtle
and solemn mockery: "Long. Long. Long."
My host waited for the clock to finish before he spoke again. As I
afterward discovered, this was his invariable custom.
"I, too, am an old man," he murmured.
"A hardy sixty, I should guess."
"A long life. Might I ask you a question, sir,' as to the folk in this
Square?" He hesitated a moment after I had nodded. "Are they, as one
might say, friendly? Neighborly?"
I was a little taken aback. "We are not an intrusive people."
"No one," he said, "has been to see my clocks."
I began to perceive that this was a sad little man, and to mislike my
errand. "You live here quite alone?" I asked.
"Oh, no!" said he quickly. "You see, I have Willy Woolly. Pardon me. I
have not yet presented him."
At his call the fluffy poodle ambled over to me, sniffed at my extended
hand, and, rearing, set his paws on my knee.
"He greets you as a friend," said my new acquaintance in a tone which
indicated that I had been signally honored. "I trust that we shall see
you here often, Mr. Dominie. Would you like to inspect my
Here was my opening. "The fact is—" I began, and stopped from sheer
cowardice. The job was too distasteful. To wound that gentle pride in
his possessions which was obviously the life of the singular being
before me—I couldn't do it. "The fact is," I repeated, "I—I have a
friend outside waiting for me. The Little Red Doctor—er—Dr. Smith,
"A physician?" he said eagerly. "Would he come in, do you think? Willy
Woolly has been quite feverish to-day."
"I'll ask him," I replied, and escaped with that excuse.
When I broke it to the Little Red Doctor, the mildest thing he said to
me was to ask me why I should take him for a dash-binged vet!
Appeals to his curiosity finally overpersuaded him, and now it was my
turn to wait on the bench while he invaded the realm of the Voices.
Happily for me the weather was amiable; it was nearly two hours before
my substitute reappeared. He then tried to sneak away without seeing me.
Balked in this cowardly endeavor, he put on a vague professional
expression and observed that it was an obscure case.
"For a man of sixty," I began, "Mr. Merivale—"
"Who?" interrupted the Little Red Doctor; "I'm speaking of the dog."
"Have you, then," I inquired in insinuating accents, "become a
"A man can't be a brute, can he!" he retorted angrily. "When that
animated mop put up his paws and stuck his tongue out like a child—"
"I know," I said. "You took on a new patient. Probably gratis," I added,
with malice, for this was one of the Little Red Doctor's notoriously
"Just the same, he's a fool dog."
"On the contrary, he is a person of commanding intellect and nice social
discrimination," I asserted, recalling Willy Woolly's flattering
acceptance of myself.
"A faker," asseverated my friend. "He pretends to see things."
I sat up straight on my bench. "Things? What kind of things?"
"Things that aren't there," returned the Little Red Doctor, and fell to
musing. "They couldn't be," he added presently and argumentatively.
Receiving no encouragement when I sought further details, I asked
whether he had called the new resident to account for the delinquencies
of his clocks. He shook his head.
"I didn't have time," said he doggedly.
"Time? Why, there's nothing but time in that house."
The Little Red Doctor chose to take my feeble joke at par. "No time at
all. None of the clocks keep it."
"How does he manage his life, then?"
"Willy Woolly does that for him. Barks him up in the morning. Jogs his
elbow at mealtimes. Tucks him in bed at night, for all I know."
Thus abortively ended Our Square's protest against Stepfather Time and
his House of Silvery Voices. The Little Red Doctor's obscure suggestion
stuck in my mind, and a few nights later I made a second call. Curiosity
rather than neighborliness was the inciting cause. Therefore I ought to
have been embarrassed at the quiet warmth of my reception by both of the
tenants. Interrupting himself in the work of adjusting a new
acquisition's mechanism, Stepfather Time settled me into the most
comfortable chair and immediately began to talk of clocks.
Good talk, it was; quaint and flavorous and erudite. But my attention
kept wandering to Willy Woolly, who, after politely kissing my hand, had
settled down behind his master's chair. Willy Woolly was seeing things.
No pretense about it. His mournful eyes yearned hither and thither,
following some entity that moved in the room, dimmer than darkness, more
ethereal than shadow. His ears quivered. A muffled, measured thumping
sounded, dull and indeterminate like spirit rapping; it took me an
appreciable time to identify it as the noise of the poodle's tail,
beating the floor. Once he whined, a quick, quivering, eager note. And
still the amateur of clocks murmured his placid lore. It was rather more
than old nerves could stand.
"The dog," I broke in upon the stream of erudition. "Surely, Mr.
"Willy Woolly?" He looked down, and the faithful one withdrew himself
from his vision long enough to lick the master hand. "Does he
"Oh, no," I answered, a little confused. "I only thought—it seemed that
he is uneasy about something."
"There are finer sensibilities than we poor humans have," said my host
"Then you have noticed how he watches and follows?"
"He is always like that. Always, since."
His "since" was one of the strangest syllables that ever came to my
ears. It implied nothing to follow. It was finality's self.
"It is"—I sought a word—"interesting and curious," I concluded lamely,
feeling how insufficient the word was.
"She comes back to him," said my host simply.
No need to ask of whom he spoke. The pronoun was as final and definitive
as his "since." Never have I heard such tenderness as he gave to its
utterance. Nor such desolation as dimmed his voice when he added:
"She never comes back to me."
That evening he spoke no more of her. Yet I felt that I had been
admitted to an intimacy. And, as the habit grew upon me thereafter of
dropping in to listen to the remote, restful, unworldly quaintnesses of
his philosophy, fragments, dropped here and there, built up the outline
of the tragedy which had left him stranded in our little backwater of
quiet. She whom he had cherished since they were boy and girl together,
had died in the previous winter. She had formed the whole circle of his
existence within which he moved, attended by Willy Woolly, happily
gathering his troves. Her death had left him not so much alone as alien
in the world. He was without companionship except that of Willy Woolly,
without interest except that of his timepieces, and without hope except
that of rejoining her. Once he emerged from a long spell of musing, to
say in a tone of indescribable conviction:
"I suppose I was the happiest man in the world."
Any chance incident or remark might turn his thought and speech,
unconscious of the transition, from his favorite technicalities back to
the past. Some comment of mine upon a specimen of that dismal songster,
the cuckoo clock, which stood on his mantel, had started him into one of
his learned expositions.
"The first cuckoo clock, as you are doubtless aware, sir"—he was always
scrupulous to assume knowledge on the part of his hearer, no matter how
abstruse or technical the subject; it was a phase of his inherent
courtesy—"was intended to represent not the cuckoo, but the blackbird.
It had a double pipe for the hours, 'Pit-weep! Pit-weep!' and
His voice trailed into silence as the mechanical bird of his own
collection popped forth and piped its wooden lay. Willy Woolly pattered
over, sat down before it, and, gazing through and beyond the meaningless
face with eyes of adoration whose purport there was no mistaking,
"When the cuckoo sounded," continued the collector without the slightest
change of intonation, "she used to imitate it to puzzle Willy Woolly. A
merry heart! … All was so still after it stopped beating. The clocks
forgot to strike."
The poodle, turning his absorbed regard from the Presence that moves
beyond time and its perishing voices, trotted to his master and nuzzled
the frail hand.
The hand fondled him. "Yes, little dog," murmured the man. His eyes, sad
as those of the animal, quested the dimness.
"Why does she come to him and not to me? He loved her dearly, didn't
you, little dog? But not as I did." There was a quivering note of
jealousy in his voice. "Why is my vision blinded to what he sees?"
"You have said yourself that there are finer sensibilities than ours," I
He shook his head. "It lies deeper than that. I think he is drawing near
her. He used to have a little bark that he kept for her alone. In the
dead of night I have heard him give that bark—since. And I knew that
she was speaking to him. I think that he will go first. Perhaps he will
tell her that I am coming…. But I should be very lonely."
"Willy's a stout young thing," I asserted, "with years of life before
"Perhaps," he returned doubtfully. A gleam of rare fun lit up his pale,
vague eyes. "Can't you see him dodging past Saint Peter through the
pearly gates" ("I was brought up a Methodist," he added in apologetic
explanation), "trotting along the alabaster streets sniffing about for
her among all the Shining Ones, listening for her voice amid the sound
of the harps, and when he finds her, hallelujahing with that little bark
that was for her alone: 'Here I am, mistress! Here I am! And he's
coming soon, mistress. Your Old Boy is coming soon.'"
When I retailed that conversation to the Little Red Doctor, he snorted
and said that Stepfather Time was one degree crazier than Willy Woolly
and that I wasn't much better than a higher moron myself. Well, if I've
got to be called a fool by my best friends, I'd rather be called it in
Greek than in English. It's more euphonious.
* * * * *
The pair in Number 37 soon settled down to a routine life. Every morning
Stepfather Time got out his big pushcart and set forth in search of
treasure, accompanied by Willy Woolly. Sometimes the dog trotted beneath
the cart; sometimes he rode in it. He was always on the job. Never did
he indulge in those divagations so dear to the normal canine heart.
Other dogs and their ways interested him not. Cats simply did not exist
in his circumscribed life. Even to the shining mark of a boy on a
bicycle he was indifferent, and when a dog has reached that stage one
may safely say of him that he has renounced the world and all its
vanities. Willy Woolly's one concern in life was his master and their
Soon they became accepted familiars of Our Square. Despite the general
conviction that they were slightly touched, we even became proud of
them. They lent distinction to the locality by getting written up in a
Sunday supplement, Willy Woolly being specially photographed therefor, a
gleam of transient glory, which, however it may have gratified our local
pride, left both of the subjects quite indifferent. Stepfather Time
might have paid more heed to it had he not, at the time, been wholly
preoccupied in a difficult quest.
In a basement window, far over on Avenue D, stood an old and battered
timepiece of which Stepfather Time had heard the voice but never seen
the face. Each of three attempts to investigate with a view to
negotiations had been frustrated by a crabbed and violent-looking man
with a repellent club. Nevertheless, the voice alone had ensnared the
connoisseur; it was, by the test of the pipe which he carried on all his
quests, D in alt, and would thus complete the major chord of a chime
which he had long been building up. (She had loved, best of all,
harmonic combinations of the clock bells.) Every day he would halt in
front of the place and wait to hear it strike, and its owner would peer
out from behind it and shake a wasted fist and curse him with strange,
hoarse foreign oaths, while Willy Woolly tugged at his trouser leg and
urged him to pass on from that unchancy spot. All that he could learn
about the basement dweller was that his name was Lukisch and he owed
for his rent.
Mr. Lukisch had nothing special against the queer old party who made
sheep's eyes at his clock every day. He hated him quite impartially, as
he hated everybody. Mr. Lukisch had a bad heart in more senses than one,
and a grudge against the world which he blamed for the badness of his
heart. Also he had definite ideas of reprisal, which were focused by a
dispossess notice, and directed particularly upon the person and
property of his landlord. The clock he needed as the instrument of his
vengeance; therefore he would not have sold it at any price to the
sheep-eyed old lunatic of the pushcart, who now, on the eve of his
eviction, stood gazing in with wistful contemplation. Presently he
passed on and Mr. Lukisch resumed his tinkering with the clock's
insides. He was very delicate and careful about it, for these were the
final touches, preparatory to his leaving the timepiece as a memento
when he should quietly depart that evening, shortly before nine. What
might happen after nine, or, rather, on the stroke of nine, was no worry
of his, though it might be and probably would be of the landlord's,
provided that heartless extortioner survived it.
Having completed his operations, Mr. Lukisch sat down in a rickety chair
and gazed at the clock, face to face, with contemplative satisfaction.
Stepfather Time would have been interested in the contrast between those
two physiognomies. The clock's face, benign and bland, would have
deceived him. But, innocent though he was in the ways of evil, the man's
face might have warned him.
Something within the clock's mechanism clicked and checked and went on
again. The sound, quite unexpected, gave Mr. Lukisch a bad start. Could
something have gone wrong with the combination? Suppose a premature
release…. At that panic thought something within Mr. Lukisch's bad
heart clicked and checked and did not go on again. The fear in his eyes
faded and was succeeded by an expression of surprise and inquiry.
Whether the inquiry was answered, nobody could have guessed from the
still, unwinking regard on the face of the victim of heart failure.
By and by a crowd gathered on the sidewalk, drawn by that mysterious
instinct for sensation which attracts the casual and the idle. Two bold
spirits entered the door and stood, hesitant, just inside, awed because
the clock seemed so startlingly alive in that place. Some one sent
upstairs for the landlord, who arrived to bemoan the unjust fates which
had not only mulcted him of two months' rent with nothing to show for it
but a rickety clock, but had also saddled him with a wholly superfluous
corpse. He abused both indiscriminately, but chiefly the clock because
it gave the effect of being sentient. So fervently did he curse it that
Stepfather Time, repassing with Willy Woolly, heard him and entered.
"And who"—the landlord addressed high Heaven with a gesture at once
pious and pessimistic—"is to pay me fourteen dollars back rent this
dirty beggar owes?"
"The man," said Stepfather Time gently, "is dead."
"He is." The landlord confirmed the unwelcome fact with objurgations.
"Now must come the po-liss, the coroner, trouble, and expense. And what
have I who run my property honest and respectable got to pay for it?
Some rags and a bum clock."
Willy Woolly sniffed at one protruding foot and growled. Dead or alive,
this was not Willy Woolly's kind of man. "Now, now, Willy Woolly!"
reproved his master. "Who are we that we should judge him?"
"But I don't like him," declared Willy Woolly in unequivocal dog
"I think from his face that he has suffered much," said the gentle
collector, wise in human pain.
"Me; I suppose I don't suffer!" pointed out the landlord vehemently.
"Fourteen dollars out. Two months' rent. A bum clock."
He kicked the shabby case which whizzed and birred and struck five. The
voice of its bell, measured and mellow and pure, was unquestionably D
"My dear sir," said Stepfather Time urbanely, but quivering underneath
his calm manner with the hot eagerness of the chase, "I will buy
A gust of rough laughter passed through the crowd. The injurious word
"nut" floated in the air, and was followed by "Verrichter." The landlord
took thought and hope.
"It is a very fine clock," he declared.
"It is a bum clock," Stepfather Time reminded him mildly.
"Stepnadel, the auctioneer, would pay me much money for it."
"I will pay you much money for it."
"Seven dollars. That is one month's rent that he owed."
"Two months' rent I must have."
"One," said Stepfather Time firmly.
"Two," said the landlord insistently.
"Urff! Grr—rr—rr—rrff!" said Willy Woolly in emphatic dissuasion.
Stepfather Time was scandalized. Expert opinion was quite outside of
Willy Woolly's province. Only once in the course of their years together
had he interfered in a purchase. Justice compelled Stepfather Time to
recall that the subject of Willy's protests on that occasion had
subsequently turned out to be far less antique than the worm holes in
the woodwork (artificially blown in with powder) would have led the
unsuspecting to suppose. But about the present legacy there could be no
such question. It was genuine. It was old. It was valuable. It possessed
a seraphic note pitched true to the long-desired chord.
Extracting a ten-dollar note from his wallet, Stepfather Time waved it
beneath the landlord's wrinkled and covetous nose. The landlord
capitulated. Willy Woolly, sniffing at the clock with fur abristle,
lifted up his voice and wailed. Perhaps his delicate nose had already
detected the faint, unhallowed odor of the chemicals within. He
stubbornly refused to ride back in the cart with the new acquisition,
and was accused of being sulky and childish.
* * * * *
The relic of the late unlamented Lukisch was temporarily installed in a
high chair before the open window giving on the areaway of Number 37.
There it briefly beamed upon the busy life of Our Square with its bland
and hypocritical face, and there, thrice and no more, it sounded the
passing of the hours with its sweet and false voice, biding the stroke
of nine. Meantime Willy Woolly settled down to keep watch on it and
could not be moved from that duty. Every time it struck the half he
growled. At the hour he barked and raged. When Stepfather Time sought to
draw him away to dinner he committed the unpardonable sin of dog-dom, he
snarled at his master. Turning this strange manifestation over in his
troubled mind, the collector decided that Willy Woolly must be ill, and
therefore that evening went to seek the Little Red Doctor and
Together they came across the park space opposite the House of Silvery
Voices in time to witness the final scene.
The new clock struck the half after eight as they reached the turn in
the path. A long, quavering howl, mingled of rage and desperation,
answered in Willy Woolly's voice.
"You hear?" said Stepfather Time anxiously to the Little Red Doctor.
"The dog is not himself."
They saw him rear up against the clock case. He seemed to be trying to
tear it open with his teeth.
"Willy!" cried his master in a tone such as, I suppose, the well-loved
companion had not heard twice before in his life. "Down, Willy!"
The dog drooped back. But it was not in obedience. For once he
disregarded the master's command. Perhaps he did not even hear it in the
absorption of his dread and rage. Step by step he withdrew, then rushed
and launched himself straight at the timepiece. Slight though his bulk
was, the impetus of the charge did the work. The clock reeled, toppled,
and fell outward through the window; then—
From the House of Silvery Voices rose a roar that smote the heavens. A
roar and a belch of flame and a spreading, poisonous stench that struck
the two men in the park to earth. When they struggled to their feet
again, the smoke had parted and the House of Silvery Voices gaped open,
its front wall stripped bodily away. But within, the sound of the busy
industry of time went on uninterrupted.
Weaving and wobbling on his feet, Stepfather Time staggered toward the
pot calling on the name of Willy Woolly. At the gate he stopped, put
forth his hand, and lifted from the railing a wopsy, woolly fragment, no
bigger than a sheet of note paper. It was red and warm and wet.
"He's gone," said Stepfather Time.
The Clock of Conscience took up the tale. "Gone. Gone. Gone," it pealed.
As the collector would not leave the shattered house, they sent for me
to stay the night with him. A strange vigil! For now it was the man who
followed with intent, unworldly eyes that which I, with my lesser
vision, could not discern. And the Unseen moved swiftly about the
desolate room, low to the floor, and seemed finally to stop, motionless
beneath a caressing hand. I thought to hear that dull, measured thumping
of a grateful tail, but it was only the Twelve Apostles getting ready
Only once that night did Stepfather Time speak, and then not to me.
"Tell her," he said in an assured murmur, "that I shan't be long."
"Not-long. Not-long. Not-long. Not-long. Not-long," confirmed
Grandfather from his stance on the stairway.
In that assurance Stepfather Time fell asleep. He did not go out again
with his pushcart, but sat in the rear room while the Mordaunt Estate in
person superintended the job of putting a new front on the house.
The night after it was finished I received an urgent telephone call to
come there at once. At the entrance I met the Little Red Doctor
"The clocks have stopped," said he gently.
So I turned to cross the park with him.
"I shall certify," said he, "heart disease."
"You may certify what you please," said I. "But what do you believe?"
The Little Red Doctor, who prides himself on being a hard-bitted
materialist, glared at me as injuriously as if my innocent question had
been an insult.
"I don't believe it!" he averred violently. "Do you take me for a
sentimental idiot that I should pin silly labels on my old friend,
Death?" His expression underwent a curious change. "But I never saw such
joy on any living face," he muttered under his breath.
* * * * *
The House of Silvery Voices is silent now. But its echo still lives and
makes music in Our Square. For, with the proceeds of Stepfather Time's
clocks, an astounding total, we have built a miniature clock tower
facing Number 37, with a silvery voice of its own, for memory. The
Bonnie Lassie designed the tower, and because there is love and
understanding in all that the Bonnie Lassie sets her wonder-working hand
to, it is as beautiful as it is simple. Among ourselves we call it the
Tower of the Two Faithful Hearts.
The silvery voice within it is the product of a paragon among
timepieces, a most superior instrument, of unimpeachable construction
and great cost. But it has one invincible peculiarity, the despair of
the best consulting experts who have been called in to remedy it and,
one and all, have failed for reasons which they cannot fathom. How
It never keeps time.