Gateway to the Classics: Fairy Tales Too Good To Miss: Between Two Worlds by Lisa M. Ripperton
 
Fairy Tales Too Good To Miss: Between Two Worlds by  Lisa M. Ripperton

[Illustration]

The Clocks of Rondaine

C ENTURIES ago, there stood on the banks of a river a little town called Rondaine. The river was a long and winding stream which ran through different countries, and was sometimes narrow and swift, and sometimes broad and placid; sometimes hurrying through mountain passes, and again meandering quietly through fertile plains; in some places of a blue color and almost transparent, and in others of a dark and sombre hue; and so it changed and changed until it threw itself into a warm, far-spreading sea. But it was quite otherwise with the little town. As far back as anybody could remember, it had always been the same that it was at the time of our story, and the people who lived there could see no reason to suppose that it would ever be different from what it was then. It was a pleasant little town, its citizens were very happy, and why there should be any change in it, the most astute old man in all Rondaine could not have told you.

If Rondaine had been famed for anything at all, it would have been for the number of its clocks. It had many churches, some little ones in dark side streets, and some larger ones in wider thoroughfares, besides, here and there, a very good-sized church fronting on a park or open square; and in the steeple of each of these churches there was a clock. There were town buildings, very old ones, which stood upon the great central square. Each of these had a tower, and in each tower was a clock. Then, there were clocks at street corners; two clocks in the market-place; clocks over shop doors; a clock at each end of the bridge, and several large clocks a little way out of town. Many of these clocks were fashioned in some quaint and curious way. In one of the largest a stone man came out and struck the hours with a stone hammer, while a stone woman struck the half-hours with a stone broom. In another an iron donkey kicked the hours on a bell behind him. It would be impossible to tell all the odd ways in which the clocks of Rondaine struck. But in one respect they were alike; they all did strike. The good people of the town would not have tolerated a clock which did not strike.

It was very interesting to lie awake in the night and hear the clocks of Rondaine strike. First would come a faint striking from one of the churches in the by-streets—a modest sound, as if the clock was not sure whether it was too early or not; then from another quarter would be heard a more confident clock striking the hour clearly and distinctly. When they were quite ready, but not a moment before, the seven bells of the large church on the square would chime the hour, after which, at a respectful interval of time, the other church clocks of the town would strike. After the lapse of three or four minutes, the sound of all these bells seemed to wake up the stone man in the tower of the town building, and he struck the hour with his hammer. When this had been done, the other municipal clocks felt at liberty to strike, and they did so. And when every sound had died away, so that he would be certain to be heard if there was any one awake to hear, it would be very likely that the iron donkey would kick out the hour on his bell, though there were times when he kicked before any of the clocks began to strike. One by one the clocks on the street corners struck, the up-town ones first, and afterwards those near the river. These were followed by the two clocks on the bridge, the one at the country end waiting until it was quite sure that the one at the town end had finished. Somewhat later would be heard the clock of Vougereau, an old country house in the suburbs. This clock, a very large one, was on the top of a great square stone tower, and from its age it had acquired a habit of deliberation, so that when it began to strike people were very apt to think it was one o'clock, until, after a considerable interval, another stroke would assure them that it was later or earlier than that, and if they really wanted to know what hour the old clock was striking they must give themselves time enough to listen until they were entirely certain it had finished.

The very last clock to strike in Rondaine was one belonging to a little old lady with white hair, who lived in a little white house in one of the prettiest and cleanest streets in the town. Her clock was in a little white tower at the corner of her house, and was the only strictly private clock which was in the habit of making itself publicly heard. Long after every other clock had struck, and when there was every reason to believe that for a considerable time nothing but half-hours would be heard in Rondaine, the old lady's clock would strike quickly and decisively, and with a confident tone, as if it knew it was right, and wished everybody to know that it knew.

In an unpretentious house which stood on a corner of two of the smaller streets in the town lived a young girl named Arla. For a year or more Arla had been in the habit of waking up very early in the morning, sometimes long before daylight, and it had become a habit with her to lie and listen to the clocks. Her room was at the top of the house, and one of its windows opened to the west and another to the south, so that sounds entered from different quarters. Arla liked to leave these windows open so that the sounds of the clocks might come in.

Arla knew every clock by its tone, and she always made it a point to lie awake until she was positively sure that the last stroke of the clock at Vougereau had sounded. But it often happened that sleep overcame her before she heard the clock of the little old lady with white hair. It was so very long to wait for that!

It was not because she wanted to know the hour that Arla used to lie and listen to the clocks. She had a little clock of her own, which stood in her room, and on which she depended for correct information regarding the time of day or night. This clock, which had been given to her when she was a small girl, not only struck the hours and half-hours and quarter-hours, but there was attached to it a very pretty piece of mechanism which also indicated the time. On the front of the clock, just below the dial, was a sprig of a rosebush beautifully made of metal, and on this, just after the hour had sounded, there was a large green bud. At a quarter past the hour this bud opened a little, so that the red petals could be seen. Fifteen minutes later it was a half-blown rose, and at a quarter of an hour more it was nearly full blown. Just before the hour the rose opened to its fullest extent, and so remained until the clock had finished striking, when it immediately shut up into a great green bud. This clock was a great delight to Arla, for not only was it a very pleasant thing to watch the unfolding of the rose, but it was a continual satisfaction to her to think that her little clock always told her exactly what time it was, no matter what the other clocks of Rondaine might say.

Arla's father and mother were thrifty, industrious people, who were very fond of their daughter. They not only taught her how to employ herself usefully, but insisted that she should take the recreation and exercise that a young girl ought to have. All day she was so occupied with work or play that she had little opportunity of thinking for herself. But even if they had considered the matter, this fact would not have troubled her parents, as they looked upon Arla as entirely too young for that sort of thing. In the very early morning, however, listening to the clocks of Rondaine or waiting for them, Arla did a great deal of thinking. And it so happened on the morning of the day before Christmas, when the stars were bright and the air frosty, and every outside sound very clear and distinct, that Arla began to think of something which had never entered her mind before.

"How in the world," she said to herself, "do the people of Rondaine know when it is really Christmas? Christmas begins as soon as it is twelve o'clock on Christmas eve, but as some of the people depend for the time upon one clock and some upon others, a great many of them cannot truly know when Christmas day has really begun. Even some of the church clocks make people think that Christmas has come when, in reality, it is yet the day before. Not one of them strikes at the right time! As for that iron donkey, I believe he kicks whenever he feels like it. And yet there are people who go by him! I know this, for they have told me so. But the little old lady with white hair is worse off than anybody else. Christmas must always come ever so long before she knows it."

With these important thoughts on her mind, Arla could not go to sleep again. She heard all the clocks strike, and lay awake until her own little clock told her that she ought to get up. During this time she had made up her mind what she should do. There was yet one day before Christmas, and if the people of the town could be made to see in what a deplorable condition they were on account of the difference in their clocks, they might have time to rectify the matter so that all the clocks should strike the correct hour, and everybody should know exactly when Christmas day began. She was sure the citizens had never given this matter proper consideration, and it was quite natural that such should be the case, for it was not every one who was in the habit of lying awake in the very early morning; and in the daytime, with all the outdoor noises, one could not hear all the clocks strike in Rondaine. Arla, therefore, thought that a great deal depended upon her, for she knew exactly how this matter stood.

When she went down to breakfast she asked permission of her mother to take a day's holiday. As she was a good girl, and never neglected either her lessons or her tasks, her mother was quite willing to give her the day before Christmas in which she could do as she pleased, and she did not think it necessary to ask if she intended to spend it in any particular way.

The day was cool, but the sun shone brightly and the air was pleasant. In the country round about Rondaine Christmas-time was not a very cold season. Arla put on a warm jacket and a pretty blue hood, and started out gayly to attend to the business in hand. Everybody in Rondaine knew her father and mother, and a great many of them knew her, so there was no reason why she should be afraid to go where she chose. In one hand she carried a small covered basket in which she had placed her rose-clock. The works of this little clock were moved and regulated like those of a watch, and therefore it could be carried about without stopping it.

The first place she visited was the church at which she and her parents always attended service. It was a small building in a little square at the bottom of a hill, and to reach it one had to go down a long flight of stone steps. When she entered the dimly lighted church, Arla soon saw the sacristan, a pleasant-faced little old man whom she knew very well.

"Good morning, sir," said she. "Do you take care of the church clock?"

The sacristan was sweeping the stone pavement of the church, just inside the door. He stopped and leaned upon his broom. "Yes, my little friend," he said, "I take care of everything here except the souls of the people."

"Well, then," said Arla, "I think you ought to know that your clock is eleven minutes too fast. I came here to tell you that, so that you might change it, and make it strike properly."

The sacristan's eyes began to twinkle. He was a man of merry mood. "That is very good of you, little Arla—very good indeed. And now that we are about it, isn't there something else you would like to change? What do you say to having these stone pillars put to one side, so that they may be out of the way of the people when they come in? Or those great beams in the roof? They might be turned over, and perhaps we might find that the upper side would look fresher than this lower part, which is somewhat time-stained, as you see. Or, for the matter of that, what do you say to having our clock-tower taken down and set out there in the square before the church door? Then short-sighted people could see the time much better, don't you think? Now tell me, shall we do all these things together, wise little friend?"

A tear or two came into Arla's eyes, but she made no answer.

"Good morning, sir," she said, and went away.

"I suppose," she said to herself, as she ran up the stone steps, "that he thought it would be too much trouble to climb to the top of the tower to set the clock right. But that was no reason why he should make fun of me. I don't like him as much as I used to."

The next church to which Arla went was a large one, and it was some time before she could find the sacristan. At last she saw him in a side chapel at the upper end of the church, engaged in dusting some old books. He was a large man with a red face, and he turned around quickly, with a stern expression, as she entered.

"Please, sir," said Arla, "I came to tell you that your church clock is wrong. It strikes from four to six minutes before it ought to, sometimes the one, and sometimes the other. It should be changed so that it will be sure to strike at the right time."

The face of the sacristan grew redder and twitched visibly at her remark.

"Do you know what I wish?" he almost shouted in reply.

"No, sir," answered Arla.

"I wish," he said, "that you were a boy, so that I might take you by the collar and soundly cuff your ears, for coming here to insult an officer of the church in the midst of his duties! But, as you are a girl, I can only tell you to go away from here as rapidly and as quietly as you can, or I shall have to put you in the hands of the ecclesiastical authorities!"

Arla was truly frightened, and although she did not run,—for she knew that would not be proper in a church,—she walked as fast as she could into the outer air.

"What a bad man," she then said to herself, "to be employed in a church! It surely is not known what sort of person he is, or he would not be allowed to stay there a day!"

Arla thought she would not go to any more churches at present, for she did not know what sort of sacristans she might find in them.

"When the other clocks in the town all strike properly," she thought, "it is most likely they will know for themselves that their clocks are wrong, and they will have them changed."

She now made her way to the great square of the town, and entered the building at the top of which stood the stone man with his hammer. She found the concierge, or doorkeeper, in a little room by the side of the entrance. She knew where to go, for she had been there with her mother to ask permission to go up and see the stone man strike the hour with his hammer, and the stone woman strike the half-hour with her broom.

The concierge was a grave, middle-aged man with spectacles, and, remembering what had just happened, Arla thought she would be careful how she spoke to him.

"If you please, sir," she said, with a courtesy, "I should like to say something to you, and I hope you will not be offended when I tell you that your clock is not quite right. Your stone man and your stone woman are both too slow. They sometimes strike as much as seven minutes after they ought to strike."

The grave, middle-aged man looked steadily at her through his spectacles.

"I thought," continued Arla, "that if this should be made known to you, you would have the works of the stone man and the stone woman altered so that they might strike at the right time. They can be heard so far, you know, that it is very necessary they should not make mistakes."

"Child," said the man, with his spectacles still steadily fixed on her, "for one hundred and fifty-seven years the open tower on this building has stood here. For one hundred and fifty-seven years the thunder and the lightning in time of storm have roared and flashed around it, and the sun in time of fair weather has shone upon it. In that century and a half and seven years, men and women have lived and have died, and their children and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren, and even the children of these, have lived and died after them. Kings and queens have passed away, one after another, and all things living have grown old and died, one generation after another, many times. Yet, through all these years, that stone man and that stone woman have stood up there, and in storm and in fair weather, by daylight or in the darkness of night, they have struck the hours and the half-hours. Of all things which, one hundred and fifty-seven years ago, were able to lift an arm to strike, they alone are left. And now you, a child of thirteen or perhaps fourteen years, come to me and ask me to change that which has not been changed for a century and a half and seven years!"

Arla could answer nothing with those spectacles fixed upon her. They seemed to glare more and more as she looked at them. "Good morning, sir," she said, dropping a courtesy as she moved backward toward the door. Reaching it, she turned and hurried into the street.

"If those stone people," she thought, "have not been altered in all these years, it is likely they would now be striking two or three hours out of the way! But I don't know. If they kept on going slow for more than a century, they must have come around to the right hour sometimes. But they will have to strike ever and ever so much longer before they come around there again!"

Arla now walked on until she came to a street corner where a cobbler had a little shop. In the angle of the wall of the house, at the height of the second story, was a clock. This cobbler did not like the confined air and poor light of his shop, and whenever the weather allowed he always worked outside on the sidewalk. To-day, although it was winter, the sun shone brightly on this side of the street, and he had put his bench outside, close to his door, and was sitting there, hard at work. When Arla stopped before him he looked up and said cheerfully:

"Good morning, Mistress Arla. Do you want them half-soled, or heeled or a patch put on the toes?"

"My shoes do not need mending," said Arla. "I came to ask you if you could tell me who has charge of the clock at this corner."

"I can easily do that," he said, "for I am the man. I am paid by the year, for winding it up and keeping it in order, as much as I should get for putting the soles, heels, tops, linings, and buckles on a pair of shoes."

"Which means making them out and out," said Aria.

"You are right," said he, "and the pay is not great. But if it were larger, more people might want it and I might lose it; and if it were less, how could I afford to do it at all? So I am satisfied."

"But you ought not to be entirely satisfied," said Arla, "for the clock does not keep good time. I know when it is striking, for it has a very jangling sound, and it is the most irregular clock in Rondaine. Sometimes it strikes as much as twenty-five minutes after the hour, and very often it does not strike at all."

The cobbler looked up at her with a smile. "I am sorry," he said, "that it has a jangling stroke, but the fashioning of clocks is not my trade, and I could not mend its sound with awl, hammer, or waxed end. But it seems to me, my good maiden, that you never mended a pair of shoes."

"No, indeed!" said Arla. "I should do that even worse than you would make clocks."

"Never having mended shoes, then," said the cobbler, "you do not know what a grievous thing it is to have twelve o'clock, or six o'clock, or any other hour, in fact, come before you are ready for it. Now, I don't mind telling you, because I know you are too good to spoil the trade of a hard-working cobbler,—and shoemaker, too, whenever he gets the chance to be one,—that when I have promised a customer that he shall have his shoes or his boots at a certain time of day, and that time is drawing near, while the end of the job is still somewhat distant, then do I skip up the stairway and set back the hands of the cloth according to the work that has to be done. Then when my customer comes I look up to the clock-face and I say to him, 'Glad to see you!' and then he will look up at the clock and will say, 'Yes, I am a little too soon.' And then, as likely as not, he will sit down on the door-step here by me and talk entertainingly; and it may happen that he will sit there without grumbling for many minutes after the clock has pointed out the hour at which the shoes were promised. Sometimes, when I have been much belated in beginning a job, I stop the clock altogether, for you can well see for yourself that it would not do to have it strike eleven when it is truly twelve. So, if my man be willing to sit down, and our talk be very entertaining, the clock being above him where he cannot see it without stepping outward from the house, he may not notice that it is stopped. This expedient once served me very well, for an old gentleman, over-testy and over-punctual, once came to me for his shoes, and looking up at the clock, which I had prepared for him, exclaimed, 'Bless me! I am much too early!' So he sat down by me for three-quarters of an hour, in which time I persuaded him that his shoes were far too much worn to be worth mending any more, and that he should have a new pair, which, afterwards, I made."

"I do not believe it is right for you to do that," said Arla. "But even if you think so, there is no reason why your clock should go wrong at night, when so many people can hear it because of the stillness."

"Ah me!" said the cobbler, "I do not object to the clock being as right as you please in the night, but when my day's work is done, I so desire to go home to my supper that I often forget to put the clock right, or to set it going if it is stopped. But so many things stop at night—such as the day itself—and so many things then go wrong—such as the ways of evil-minded people—that I think you truly ought to pardon my poor clock."

"Then you will not consent," said Arla, "to make it go right?"

"I will do that with all cheerfulness," answered the cobbler, pulling out a pair of waxed ends with a great jerk, "as soon as I can make myself go right. The most important thing should always be done first. Surely I am more important than a clock!" And he smiled with great good humor.

Arla knew that it would be of no use to stand there any longer and talk with this cobbler. Turning to go, she said:

"When I bring you shoes to mend, you shall finish them by my clock, and not by yours."

"That will I, my good little Arla," said the cobbler, heartily. "They shall be finished by any clock in town, and five minutes before the hour or no payment."

Arla now walked on until she came to the bridge over the river. It was a long, covered structure, and by the entrance sat the bridge-keeper.

"Do you know, sir," said she, "that the clock at this end of your bridge does not keep the same time as the one at the other end? They are not so very different, but I have noticed that this one is always done striking at least two minutes before the other begins."

The bridge-keeper looked at her with one eye, which was all he had.

"You are as wrong as anybody can be," said he. "I do not say anything about the striking, because my ears are not now good enough to hear the clock at the other end when I am near this one, but I know they both keep the same time. I have often looked at this clock, and have then walked to the other end of the bridge, and have found that the clock there was exactly like it."

Arla looked at the poor old man, whose legs were warmly swaddled on account of his rheumatism, and said:

"But it must take you a good while to walk to the other end of the bridge."

"Out upon you!" cried the bridge-keeper. "I am not so old as that yet! I can walk there in no time!"

Arla now crossed the bridge and went a short distance along a country road until she came to the great stone house known as Vougereau. This belonged to a rich family who seldom came there, and the place was in charge of an elderly man who was the brother of Arla's mother. When his niece was shown into a room on the ground floor which served for his parlor and his office, he was very glad to see her, and while Arla was having something to eat and drink after her walk, the two had a pleasant chat.

"I came this time, Uncle Anton," she said, "not only to see you, but to tell you that the great clock in your tower does not keep good time."

Uncle Anton looked at her a little surprised.

"How do you know that, my dear?" he said.

Then Arla told him how she had lain awake in the early morning, and had heard the striking of the different clocks. "If you wish to make it right," said she, "I can give you the proper time, for I have brought my own little clock with me."

She was about to take her rose-clock out of her basket, when her uncle motioned to her not to do so.

"Let me tell you something," said he. "The altering of the time of day, which you speak of so lightly, is a very serious matter, which should be considered with all gravity. If you set back a clock, even as little as ten minutes, you add that much to the time that has passed; the hour which has just gone by has been made seventy minutes long. Now, no human being has the right to add anything to the past, nor to make hours longer than they were originally made. And, on the other hand, if you set a clock forward even so little as ten minutes, you take away that much from the future, and you make the coming hour only fifty minutes long. Now, no human being has a right to take anything away from the future, or to make the hours shorter than they were originally intended to be. I desire, my dear niece, that you will earnestly think over what I have said, and I am sure you will then see for yourself how unwise and even culpable it would be to trifle with the length of the hours which make up our day. And now, Arla, let us talk of other things."

So they talked of other things until Arla thought it was time to go. She saw there was something wrong in her uncle's reasoning, although she could not tell exactly what it was, and thinking about it, she slowly returned to the town. As she approached the house of the little old lady with white hair, she concluded to stop and speak to her about her clock.

"She will surely be willing to alter that," said Arla, "for it is so very much out of the way."

The old lady knew who Arla was and received her very kindly. But when she heard why the young girl had come to her, she flew into a passion.

"Never, since I was born," she said, "have I been spoken to like this! My great-grandfather lived in this house before me; that clock was good enough for him. My grandfather lived in this house before me; that clock was good enough for him. My father and mother lived in this house before me; that clock was good enough for them. I was born in this house, have always lived in it, and expect to die in it; that clock is good enough for me. I heard its strokes when I was but a little child; I hope to hear them at my last hour. And sooner than raise my hand against the clock of my ancestors, and the clock of my whole life, I would cut off that hand!"

Some tears came into Arla's eyes. She was a little frightened. "I hope you will pardon me, good madam," she said, "for, truly, I did not wish to offend you. Nor did I think that your clock is not a good one. I only meant that you should make it better. It is nearly an hour out of the way."

The sight of Arla's tears cooled the anger of the little old lady with white hair. "Child," she said, "you do not know what you are talking about, and I forgive you. But remember this: never ask persons as old as I am to alter the principles which have always made clear to them what they should do, or the clocks which have always told them when they should do it."

Then, kissing Arla, she bade her good-by.

"Principles may last a great while without altering," thought Arla, as she went away, "but I am sure it is very different with clocks."

The poor girl now felt a good deal discouraged.

"People don't seem to care whether their clocks are right or not," she said to herself, "and if they don't care, I am sure it is of no use for me to tell them about it. If even one clock could be made to go properly, it might help to make the people of Rondaine care to know exactly what time it is. Now, there is that iron donkey. If he would but kick at the right hour it would be an excellent thing, for he kicks so hard that he is heard all over the town."

Determined to make this one more effort, Arla walked quickly to the town building at the top of which was the clock with the iron donkey. This building was a sort of museum. It had a great many curious things in it, and it was in charge of a very ingenious man, who was learned and skilful in various ways.

When Arla had informed the superintendent of the museum why she had come to him, he did not laugh at her, nor did he get angry. He was accustomed to giving earnest consideration to matters of this sort, and he listened attentively to all that Arla had to say.

"You must know," he said, "that our iron donkey is a very complicated piece of mechanism. Not only must he kick out the hours, but five minutes before doing so he must turn his head around and look at the bell behind him, and then, when he has done kicking, he must put his head back into its former position. All this action requires a great many wheels and cogs and springs and levers, and these cannot be made to move with absolute regularity. When it is cold some of his works contract, and when it is warm they expand. There are also other reasons why he is very likely to lose or gain time. At noon on every bright day I set him right, being able to get the correct time from a sun-dial which stands in the courtyard. But his works—which, I am sorry to say, are not well made—are sure to get a great deal out of the way before I set him again."

"Then, if there are several cloudy or rainy days together, he goes very wrong indeed," said Arla.

"Yes, he truly does," replied the superintendent, "and I am sorry for it. But there is no way to remedy his irregularities except for me to make him all over again at my own expense, and that is something I cannot afford to do. The clock belongs to the town, and I am sure the citizens will not be willing to spend the money necessary for a new donkey-clock. For, so far as I know, every person but yourself is perfectly satisfied with this one."

"I suppose so," said Arla, with a sigh. "But it really is a great pity that every striking clock in Rondaine should be wrong!"

"But how do you know they are all wrong?" asked the superintendent.

"Oh, that is easy enough," said Arla. "When I lie awake in the early morning, when all else is very still, I listen to their striking, and then I look at my own rose-clock to see what time it really is."

"Your rose-clock?" said the superintendent.

"This is it," said Arla, opening her basket and taking out her little clock.


[Illustration]

The superintendent took it into his hands and looked at it attentively.

The superintendent took it into his hands and looked at it attentively, both outside and inside. Then, still holding it, he stepped out into the courtyard. When, in a few moments, he returned, he said:

"I have compared your clock with my sun-dial, and find that it is ten minutes slow. I see also that like the donkey-clock its works are not adjusted in such a way as to be unaffected by heat and cold."

"My—clock—ten—minutes—slow!" exclaimed Arla, with wide-open eyes.

"Yes," said the superintendent, "that is the case to-day, and on some days it is, probably, a great deal too fast. Such a clock as this—which is a very ingenious and beautiful one—ought frequently to be compared with a sun-dial or other correct time-keeper, and set to the proper hour. I see it requires a peculiar key with which to set it. Have you brought this with you?"

"No, sir," said Arla. "I did not suppose it would be needed."

"Well, then," said the superintendent, "you can set it forward ten minutes when you reach home. And to-morrow morning if you compare the other clocks with it, I think you will find that not all of them are wrong."

Arla sat quiet for a moment, and then she said: "I think I shall not care any more to compare the clocks of Rondaine with my little rose-clock. If the people are satisfied with their own clocks, whether they are fast or slow, and do not desire to know exactly when Christmas day begins, I can do nobody any good by listening to the different strikings and then looking at my own little clock with a night-lamp by it."

"Especially," said the superintendent, with a smile, "when you are not sure that your rose-clock is right. But if you will bring here your little clock and your key on any day when the sun is shining, I will set it to the time shadowed on the sun-dial, or show you how to do it yourself."

"Thank you very much," said Arla, and she took her leave.

As she walked home, she lifted the lid of her basket and looked at her little rose-clock. "To think of it!" she said. "That you should be sometimes too fast and sometimes too slow! And, worse than that, to think that some of the other clocks have been right and you have been wrong! But I do not feel like altering you to-day. If you go fast sometimes, and slow sometimes, you must be right sometimes, and one of these days, when I take you to be compared with the sun-dial, perhaps you may not have to be altered so much."

Arla went to bed that night quite tired with her long walks, and when she awoke it was broad daylight.

"I do not know," she said to herself, "exactly when Christmas began, but I am very sure that the happy day is here."

"Do you lie awake in the morning as much as you used to?" asked Arla's mother, a few weeks after the Christmas holidays.

"No, mother dear," said Arla. "I now sleep with one of my windows shut, and I am no longer awakened by that chilly feeling which used to come to me in the early morning, when I would draw the bed-covers close about me and think how wrong were the clocks of Rondaine."

The little rose-clock never went to be compared with the sun-dial. "Perhaps you are right now," Arla would say to her clock each day when the sun shone, "and I will not take you until some time when I feel very sure that you are wrong."


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