Polly's Lover by Charles M. Skinner
In about the middle of this century a withered woman of ninety was buried
from a now deserted house in White Plains, New York, Polly Carter the
name of her, but "Crazy Polly" was what the neighbors called her, for she
was eccentric and not fond of company. Among the belongings of her house
was a tall clock, such as relic hunters prize, that ticked solemnly in a
landing on the stairs.
For a time, during the Revolution, the house stood within the British
lines, and as her father was a colonel in Washington's army she was left
almost alone in it. The British officers respected her sex, but they had
an unpleasant way of running in unannounced and demanding entertainment,
in the king's name, which she felt forced to grant. One rainy afternoon
the door was flung open, then locked on the inside, and she found herself
in the arms of a stalwart, handsome lieutenant, who wore the blue. It was
her cousin and fiance. Their glad talk had not been going long when there
came a rousing summons at the door. Three English officers were awaiting
Perhaps they had seen Lawrence Carter go into the house, and if caught he
would be killed as a spy. He must be hidden, but in some place where they
would not think of looking. The clock! That was the place. With a laugh
and a kiss the young man submitted to be shut in this narrow quarter, and
throwing his coat and hat behind some furniture the girl admitted the
officers, who were wet and surly and demanded dinner. They tramped about
the best room in their muddy boots, talking loudly, and in order to break
the effect of the chill weather they passed the brandy bottle freely.
Polly served them with a dinner as quickly as possible, for she wanted to
get them out of the house, but they were in no mood to go, and the bottle
passed so often that before the dinner was over they were noisy and tipsy
and were using language that drove Polly from the room.
At last, to her relief, she heard them preparing to leave the house, but
as they were about to go the senior officer, looking up at the landing,
now dim in the paling light, said to one of the others, "See what time it
is." The officer addressed, who happened to be the drunkest of the party,
staggered up the stair and exclaimed, "The dó-d thing's stopped." Then,
as if he thought it a good joke, he added, "It'll never go again."
Drawing his sabre he gave the clock a careless cut and ran the blade
through the panel of the door; after this the three passed out. When
their voices had died in distant brawling, Polly ran to release her
lover. Something thick and dark was creeping from beneath the clock-case.
With trembling fingers she pulled open the door, and Lawrence, her lover,
fell heavily forward into her arms, dead. The officer was right: the
clock never went again.