"Dad doesn't harbor any grudge against you, Mr. Hollings!" repeated the lad for the twentieth time, in a hope of consoling the unfortunate clerk. "Neither does Mr. Norcross. I heard him tell my father so."
"That isn't the point, sonny," his listener responded dejectedly. "Of course it's kind of them not to blame me. They'd be well within their rights were they to turn me off. What bothers me is that I should let such a thing happen."
"You couldn't help it."
"I know—I know. It doesn't seem as if I could," the man answered, shaking his head. "But I ought to have helped it—somehow."
That was Hollings' constant lament.
Round and round in a circle went he and Christopher, the lad constantly trying to brighten and encourage, and the clerk as invariably bringing up with this same doleful plaint. He was not to be comforted.
In the meantime Christopher, along with offering optimistic and repeated assertions that the diamonds would surely be found, was gleaning a surprising amount of information as he flitted about the store. He learned not only of clocks but interesting bits concerning the value and cutting of gems, the repairing of jewelry; the patterns of silverware, strange facts about pearls.
Since he was free to browse wherever he chose, he found no monotony in his environment. Furthermore he gradually sifted out the men who had made something of their calling and attached himself to them because they invariably proved to be the most interesting. Those who merely sold what they had to sell and received the money he classed as bores and thereafter avoided.
It was amazing how many more of the latter there were than the former. The man possessing a broad knowledge of the wares he handled was rare. Several clerks, for example, were behind the gem counters but the boy soon discovered that when they wished an expert opinion they with one accord turned to a stumpy little fellow with a bald head who appeared to know every stone in the showcase by heart and knew just what country it came from; whether it was well cut; if it was perfect or marred by flaws; whether it was a tinge off the desired color, and numerous other facts concerning it. Christopher had not dreamed there was so much to know about precious stones, let alone all the wealth of romance connected with them as Mr. Rhinehart had stored up.
He could tell you where were the largest diamonds, rubies, and emeralds in the world; who owned them, and what they were worth; could give the history of many of the finest pearls and celebrated necklaces made from them; and at his tongue's end were stories regarding various gems as thrilling and delightful as any Arabian Night's tales. He it was who also had not only read about but had actually seen many of the crown jewels of the world and knew where celebrated collections of cameos, jade, and quaint Egyptian ornaments were exhibited. Indeed he seemed to have read and studied omnivorously and not a week passed that he did not add to his store of learning some interesting romance of a pair of old Sheffield candlesticks or a royal ruby.
In fact Mr. Rhinehart was not just a man; he was a walking story-book, and, like McPhearson, a thoroughly delightful companion. Oh, he did not consider his job a humdrum one, it was easy to see that. He had lifted the traffic of jeweled ornaments, by means of which he earned his daily bread, out of the class of mere salesmanship.
"You never get tired of your work, do you, Mr. Rhinehart?" commented Christopher, when on a day trade was light, he stood listening to the alluring adventure of a string of black pearls.
"Tired of it? Why should I?"
"But lots of the men do," was the naive observation. "They come in yawning in the morning, and seem bored to death at having to do the same old thing."
Mr. Rhinehart smiled.
"Work is what you make of it. A job can be interesting and carry you far beyond its narrow limitations or it can sink into becoming a daily grind. It's all as you see it. You get out of it just about what you put in."
"I begin to think you do," agreed Christopher. "I'm sure Mr. McPhearson, who repairs clocks upstairs, gets a hundred times more fun out of them than do the other men."
"McPhearson, the old Scotchman, you mean? A fine old chap, isn't he? So you have picked him out already! Well, you have chosen well, for there is almost nothing about clocks that he doesn't know," asserted Mr. Rhinehart with enthusiasm.
"I had no idea there was so much to know about them," confided the boy. "All I ever thought about a clock was to look and see whether it was right or not, and blame it if it wasn't. Now I've begun to believe it is pretty wonderful when it is."
"It is pretty wonderful," Mr. Rhinehart agreed. "The trouble with us is that we live in an age of wonders and have come to accept with complacency the fruit of the many brains that have given us myriads of perfect mechanisms. Almost every convenience and luxury about us was produced by toil and patient experiment. Clocks, for example, were very long in becoming the fine, reliable products they now are, as no doubt you have already learned. When their first makers got them to go at all the feat seemed so remarkable that the fact they did not keep good time was entirely lost sight of. But just you let our clocks or watches vary a minute or two a week, and we are quite out of humor with them, never taking into consideration how we jolt them about and subject them to heat, cold, and irregular winding. Where can you find any other piece of machinery that will run as long or as faithfully with so little care?
"A drop or two of oil, a cleaning now and then, and on they go without whimper or complaint, always ticking cheerfully. And the only thanks they ever receive is to be scolded at when they fail to any small degree." Mr. Rhinehart paused, then added drily, "Did any of us human machines do our work as well, we should have earned the right to belabor them. As it is I consider we stand on rather delicate ground when we berate either a clock or a watch—especially an old one."
"Mr. McPhearson is fixing now a bracket clock made about 1720."
"He is? That means it has ticked and ticked over two hundred years, doesn't it! Neither your machinery nor mine will last that long. Think of the changes a veteran like that has outlived. It would be interesting, wouldn't it, if it could recount its history and tell us where it has been all that long time? A clock that survives for such a stretch of years is lucky, for it must have changed hands many times and traveled far from its birthplace. Moreover, fashion is fickle and owners are seldom loyal enough to respect what is shabby and old. In consequence many a clock has been sentenced to the attic or cellar, there to lie idle and rust out its life. That is the reason a genuine antique clock made by one of the fine makers is so valuable, and why so many of them have disappeared. There are types that are scarce as hen's teeth. Their owners, carried away by more modern designs, could not get them to the junkman fast enough."
Christopher would have laughed at Mr. Rhinehart's indignation had it not been so genuine.
"Oh, I won't pretend some of the more recent products may not be better than some of those of the past. Nevertheless an old clock, every part of which was carefully fashioned by the hand of an intelligent maker in deliberate, painstaking manner, is a far finer product than most of those turned out by poor machinery. For you know—or will learn—that there are clocks and clocks. Many firms make them but all do not excel. Therefore I would counsel those who own the old aristocrats produced by skilled makers to hold on to them, even if they venerate neither their history nor their age. They may discard a treasure they cannot equal or replace. On the face of it, it stands to reason that any mechanism which will run two centuries or more was turned out by a workman who knew what he was about."
"That's what Mr. McPhearson thinks," said Christopher, rising. "Clocks are almost people to him."
"Are you going, sonny?"
"Yes, I guess I'll quit bothering you and bother Mr. McPhearson for a while. Dad said I mustn't make too long calls on people."
Moving off, the lad called the elevator and ascended to the fourth floor where he found his friend, the Scotchman, in the lowest of spirits.
"Well, she's gone!" exclaimed he mournfully. "I couldn't in conscience keep her here any longer when she was running so well."
"The bracket clock, you mean?"
"I do. I sent Hammond with her. He should have brains enough to land her at home without jouncing the life out of her; and he ought to be able to put her in place and make sure she is ticking even. If not, I shall have to go up where she lives and make sure for myself."
"You don't often leave the shop, do you?"
"Oh, sometimes. I haven't lately because it hasn't happened to be necessary. Moreover, I have had a good deal to do right here. The fall is my season for trotting about. After houses have been closed all summer and owners have neglected their clocks, I have to go round and start them again. What a barbarous custom it is to let clocks run down and stand idle for months! Why, if asked to do so, we can always send reliable men into houses to wind the clocks and keep them regulated. It costs only a trifle and pays in the end, if people were only aware of it. A clock neither wants nor needs a rest. On the contrary it is never so happy as when it is ticking. The woman who stopped her clock nights so it should not be wearing out the works did it no kindness."
A peal of appreciative laughter came from Christopher.
McPhearson reached for a small traveling clock and unscrewed the back of it.
"Humph!" sniffed he. "Solid with dirt! I'll wager it hasn't been cleaned for years. Still, it is expected to go all the same. If its owner had half that amount of dust in his eye he would be off to an oculist as fast as ever his feet would carry him. Such creatures do not deserve to have clocks. They should have lived when there weren't any."
"Back in the thirteenth century, you mean?" queried Christopher, not unwilling to display his knowledge.
"Oh, they were just beginning to get them by that time," McPhearson objected instantly. "By the fourteenth century there were clocks that really began to be clocks. In 1326, for example, the Abbott of St. Albans made a marvelous clock which not only showed the course of the sun and moon but the ebb and flow of the tide. In the meantime more big clocks began to be put up on the church towers. But remember, none of these could boast any nice degree of accuracy; it was many, many years later before the secrets of correct time-keeping were mastered. Nevertheless every little while a leap forward would be made, and one of these jumps came about 1340 when Peter Lightfoot, a monk, made for Glastonbury Abbey a clock with an escapement and regulator for securing equitable motion."
Christopher, passing over the latter facts, seized upon the former.
"Another monk!" cried he.
The Scotchman nodded.
"I told you it was the monks who packed their time the fullest and paid the greatest heed to the hours in those days."
The boy did not answer immediately and when he did it was to venture politely:
"I suppose equitable motion was a fine thing."
McPhearson peeped at him over the top of his glasses.
"Have you any idea, laddie, what it was?" he interrogated.
"Not the remotest," came frankly from Christopher.
They both laughed.
"Well, what I am talking about is our dead beat escapement."
"And what might that be?"
McPhearson became thoughtful.
"Well, there are various methods of reaching the desired result, the chief aim of which is that at the end of each swing of the pendulum the escape teeth shall be made to stop until the pendulum starts to swing back again. This can be achieved by beveling both tooth and pallet until the teeth, instead of recoiling by the downward motion of the pallet, shall slip by and give the pallet a jolt onward, thereby keeping it in motion. Look here, and I'll show you what I mean. Even this small clock has an escapement that works after that plan."
The boy rose and peered into the mysterious works of the clock.
"Oh, I see now," he exclaimed. "That would help to make the beat more even, wouldn't it, and insure better time? And now what about Peter Lightfoot's clock? Of course it isn't in existence now?"
"That clock had quite a history, son," was the old man's reply. "When the Reformation came and there was danger of its being destroyed, it was moved to Wells Cathedral, and there a part, at least, of the original structure still remains. In 1835, however, its works were found to be pretty well worn out (scant wonder, too) and therefore new works were put in and the dial was repaired. Evidently, long before, the clock had had at its base some revolving horseman which probably delighted the people of that time who were always pleased by automatic figures and scenes in pantomime. Many ancient clocks reflected this childish taste by having attached to them all sorts of figures representing the hours, days of the week, or feasts of the Church. Probably one reason for this was that as the education of the populace was too meager to give them much knowledge of numerals, and as they had but little business of importance to transact, they were far less interested in the time than in the dumb show gone through with by the little carved dolls. Furthermore, having no calendars, these figures served the purpose of telling them what day it was and reminding them of the church holidays. This explains why so many of the early clockmakers devoted such a degree of energy and skill to fashioning all sorts of pantomimes to be enacted by miniature figures at certain hours.
"There was the Exeter clock, for instance, which Jacob Lovelace took thirty-four years to make, and which had thirteen different mechanisms. It did no end of ingenious things. Figures passed in procession at the arrival of the hour; tiny bell ringers rang miniature chimes. In fact, so many things went on that to see it was almost as good as a play. No wonder that when Jacob Lovelace died in 1716 it was called his masterpiece."
"Wasn't there some sort of wonderful clock at Venice?" Christopher asked timidly.
"Yes, indeed! There was a very celebrated seventeenth century clock there, with a blue and gold dial which had above it bronze figures that struck the hour on a bell. Moreover, when the noon of Ascension Day came, the people were reminded of this holy feast by seeing the Magi issue forth from a little door and how before the Virgin, who held in her arms the Christ Child. Every noontime for two weeks this scene was enacted, to the vast delight of a simple, childish people. This is the reason why most clocks of the period had only an hour hand and stressed events of the calendar rather than pointing the flight of the minutes."
"It seems funny to think of clocks without minute hands, doesn't it?" Christopher mused.
"Not so funny when you consider what life was at that time and how poorly equipped the public was in arithmetic. Many of them knew nothing of hours or quarter hours. But when the chimes in the village church played a different tune each day of the week—a tune they knew—they soon came to understand, for example, that the Blue Bells of Scotland meant Tuesday, and that Annie Laurie, perhaps, meant Thursday."
"You do get horribly mixed on the days of the week when you have no calendar and nothing especial to do," asserted Christopher quickly. "I remember once when I was in the Maine woods with dad, we both got so confused we hadn't a notion what day it was."
"Ah, then you have some understanding of the dilemma of your long-ago ancestors," smiled McPhearson, "and can comprehend why they were so thankful to have the cathedral clock set them right. Noblemen who owned outlying castles would send their servants to the village square, not only to find out the hour but to learn of the sun, moon, stars, and the religious feasts and fasts. For, you see, the majority of the clocks were put up by the clergy for the purpose not only of regulating their own monastic life, but to prod worshipers to remember the masses and prescribed feasts of the abbeys.
"Later on when clocks and watches came into more general use, and the making of them was done by artisans instead of monks, time-keeping passed out of the hands of the Church (just as the printing of books did later on) and into the hands of guild members and manufacturers. It was when this change became effective that the character of clocks shifted very materially. The religious figures disappeared together with the elaborate pantomimes that accompanied them, and the clockmakers directed their energies to making the clock primarily a time-telling agency. However, all that was not accomplished in a minute, and when you go abroad, as you will some day, and see some of the quaint old clocks with their procession of Biblical figures, just remember how it was they happened to be made, and what interesting curiosities they are."
"I'm afraid by the time I ever get to Europe there won't be any such clocks to be seen," sighed Christopher.
"Oh, yes, there will! You will see, for example, the great clock of Straasburg. Not, to be sure, the original one, for that was made in 1352; neither will you view its successor put up in the latter part of the sixteenth century. Both of those have long since disappeared. Still the third one, which succeeded them and is now well on to a hundred years old, is wonderful enough to excite your admiration. It was inaugurated October 2, 1842, and is one of the marvels of the Old World. Certainly it incidentally provides the people with all they could ask in the way of information and entertainment. On a level with the ground is a globe telling of the stars visible to the naked eye—their rising, setting, and passage over the meridian. Behind this is a calendar indicating the year, month, and day, together with all ecclesiastical feasts and holidays. Above these two is a gallery where allegorical figures passing from left to right symbolize the days of the week.
"Apollo, drawn in his chariot by prancing horses, typifies Sunday; Monday we have Diana with her stag. Tuesday comes Mars, Wednesday Mercury, Thursday Jupiter, Friday we have the goddess Venus, and Saturday Saturn."
"Some clock!" gasped Christopher.
"Oh, that isn't half of it," protested McPhearson, "although it sounds amazing enough; there is yet more. Above all these gods and goddesses is a clock dial showing ordinary time; a contrivance that gives the movements of the planets; and a globe indicating the phases of the moon. Nor have we reached the end of the marvels yet. Still higher up are figures to symbolize childhood, youth, manhood, and old age, each of which strikes one of the quarter hours. Beside the ordinary clock dial you will see a moving figure that strikes with its scepter the first note of each quarter hour, while at the same time a figure opposite it turns an hourglass to mark the complete passing of the hour."
"Oh, don't imagine you are through with this marvelous clock yet. There is in addition a grim statuette of death which is to remind man of his frailty and the shortness of his days; this strikes each hour with a bone. It is at the very top that we get the touch of more modern Christianity in a procession of the twelve apostles, who at noon pass before a figure of Christ, bowing at his feet, while he makes the sign of the cross in response, and it is at this instant that the tragic denial of Peter is portrayed by a cock, which from its perch on one of the turrets, flaps its wings and crows three times."
"Why, it would almost be worth a trip to Europe to see such a wonder!" burst out Christopher.
"Almost. You could also see the clock at Berne while you were about it—a clever mechanism made by the Swiss in 1527. Berne, as you doubtless know, if you have faithfully studied your geography, took its name from the word baeren, meaning bears; and you know, too, how it came about that the Swiss selected that name for it. In all the shops you will find large and small bears for sale, all carved from wood and converted to every imaginable purpose."
"And the clock—has it bears too?"
"It certainly has. Three minutes before the hour a cock gives warning of the time by crowing and flapping its carved wings. Then out comes a procession of bears that march solemnly round a bearded Father Time, whereupon the cock crows again, and a jester, hammer in hand, strikes a bell. At the sound the bearded old man raises his sceptre, opens his mouth, and turns an hourglass. And at each stroke of the bell a bear nods his head. All this done, the cock crows again and the fantastic pantomime is finished.
"You therefore can see how it came about that when the nobles and the rich began to wish to have clocks of their own, in order to save the trouble of sending their servants to the public square to find out all the big clocks had to tell, clockmakers felt they must give them at least some of the things to which they had become accustomed, and therefore made clocks showing the sun, moon, stars, or tides, or those that would play tunes on miniature chimes of six or eight bells. It was all a relic of the past. Possibly, too, clockmakers were curious to see what they could do in more limited space. Be this as it may, musical clocks died hard. The old bracket clock we have just sent home, you will recall, played seven different tunes. Purchasers liked the notion of having music to mark the hours. Later on, however, when they became better educated, the frivolous little tinkling jigs and dances gave place to a more dignified and sonorous striking of a single rich-toned bell, or a group of such bells, and resulted in the Westminster chimes or others not unlike them."
"The little tunes were mighty jolly though," observed Christopher, with evident regret.
"Very jolly indeed. Nevertheless one tired of them sooner than of the graver notes. I think I told you how, when Richard Parsons' clock made its first appearance here in the shop, everybody within hearing distance dropped his work and came running to listen to its music. The men were eager as children. For days they watched the time so to be sure not to miss nine, twelve, and three o'clock. Then the novelty wore off, and the audience gradually diminished."
"I should never be tired of listening," Christopher announced.
"Nor I. Perhaps, though, that is because the quaintness of the themes appeals to us more than does the tone of the bells themselves, for their cadence is, you must admit, a bit thin and suggestive of a music box."
"Maybe. But I like music boxes."
"In that case, Richard Parsons' music cannot fail to please you. Who knows but you may be owning one of these bracket clocks of your own some day? You better begin to save up your pennies."
"It would take too many, I'm afraid."
"I grant that it would take quite a few."
Another week passed and still no tidings of the stolen diamonds came. The inspector, to be sure, asserted with high confidence that he had clews but apparently they were tangled tracks reaching too far away to bring immediate results; neither would he confide what they were. Instead he shook his head sagely, cautioned patience, and merely observed he was giving the culprits plenty of rope.
This information was disheartening enough to Mr. Burton, his partner, and Christopher himself, but to the unfortunate Hollings it was well-nigh exasperating.
"Anybody'd think we had half a century to land those thieves," snarled he. "Why, they have had almost time enough to get to Holland or Siam, and dispose of their loot. I can't see what the police are thinking of not to round them up quicker than this. Since they have a description of the men and can even call them by names there is no excuse for them—none."
"My father seems to think the men at headquarters know what they are about," Christopher said, making an attempt to soothe the ire of the distressed clerk.
"Maybe they do," sighed Hollings. "I hope so." Nevertheless, there was no spontaneity in his optimism.
Thus the days went along and Christopher came to find in them great contentment. Perhaps his serenity was due in part to the fact that the weakness of his eyes shut him out so completely from almost every other diversion that he welcomed any sort of companionship with disproportionate appreciation. He could not read, he could not write, he could go neither to the theater nor the movies. And while he thus halted and marked time, the world and everybody in it marched along without giving him a thought. What marvel, therefore, that he attached himself eagerly to any person who was kind and willing to bother with him?
It had not taken him long to sift out those who tolerated him from motives of pity or policy and those who really liked him, and he was not a little proud to class in the latter group both Mr. Rhinehart and the Scotchman, McPhearson. Mr. Rhinehart not only had boys of his own but was in addition enough of a boy himself to be dowered with a keen sympathy and understanding of them.
McPhearson, on the other hand, was a solitary creature whose forlornity prompted him to take with gladness any hand stretched out to him. He lived alone in dingy bachelor quarters, where, save for his books and his flute, he had few companions. Therefore he came to look forward to Christopher's daily visits with an even greater degree of anticipation than did the lad himself.
"I've got to go out to-day," was his greeting when Christopher made his appearance on a cold December morning.
The boy's face fell.
"What do you say to coming with me? Would your father be willing?"
"Oh, he wouldn't care. Where are you going?"
"Out to Morningside Drive to look at a clock that they want me to see."
"When are you leaving?"
"Right away. I was waiting a second or two to see if you'd put in an appearance."
"That was awfully good of you. I'll get my coat."
"You'd better ask your father."
"Don't worry. He'll think it's all right."
"Still, I'd rather you asked him."
"If it will make you any easier in your mind, I will. It won't take a second."
Off rushed Christopher, only to return breathless a moment or two later.
"Dad says I can go as long as it's with you. And he told me to tell you we needn't rush the trip. Here's money for our fares."
Christopher extended a fresh new bill.
"Pooh! Pooh! Nonsense!" growled McPhearson. "We'll not need that. I've money enough. Besides, we're only going in the bus."
"No matter. Dad said—"
"Come along," interrupted the Scotchman, catching up his bag of tools and cutting short further discussion. "If we stand here arguing we shall never get off at all."
Docilely Christopher followed him into the street where amid surging crowds they hailed the bus and began rolling up the avenue.
"New York couldn't get along very well without clocks, could it?" commented Christopher, as he looked down upon the maelstrom of hurrying humanity.
"Not very well," laughed his companion. "I suppose the majority of this rushing mob is aiming to arrive somewhere at a specified time. There are probably men with business engagements; women with dressmakers' and dentists' appointments; students hastening to lectures; people going for trains and cars. You may be reasonably certain it is the clock that is spurring them forward. Earlier in the day the throngs would have been denser than this, for then we should have seen the workers who pour into the city every morning. As it is there are quite enough of them. So it goes from dawn until dusk. Everybody moves on schedule and it is precisely because the day is cut up into this checkerboard of hours that we can fit our work and play together and accomplish so much in it."
"It doesn't leave us much time for play," suggested Christopher mischievously.
"No, I am afraid it doesn't—not enough time. Somehow the proportions have become distorted. We consider play almost a waste of time and with life short as it is, to fool time away has become little short of a sin. Certainly to waste another person's time is criminal—the actual stealing of a valuable commodity that can never be replaced."
"People who are late never seem to consider themselves thieves," grinned Christopher.
"They ought to," McPhearson answered solemnly. "Everybody's time has a money equivalent in these days. If a man keeps me waiting or talks my time away, he robs me of five or ten or twenty dollars, according to the length of the interval he has kept me from my work."
"Great Scot!" exclaimed the boy in consternation. "At that rate I've run up a whale of a bill."
McPhearson laughed at the ejaculation.
"Cheer up, son! I shall not attach your bank account yet," said he. "You see, when I talk to you I can work at the same time, which puts quite a different phase on the matter; and when I cannot both work and talk, why I stop talking. But if I were with some one else it might be my work that would have to stop, and my talk go on, and that would make all the difference."
"It is useless for us to kick against the rush of the age in which we live," continued McPhearson. "We are here and must move with the tide. But if we had been born a few hundred years ago, one day would have been so like another that to waste moments or even hours would not have greatly mattered. In fact, people expected to waste time and wait about for nearly everything they wanted. Clothing was made by hand and it took a long time to make it. Even the cloth was spun at home after the day's work was finished, and there was nothing else to do. When you traveled, roads were poor and the stage-coaches obliged to halt at intervals for fresh horses. In the meantime you stopped at an inn and hung about, waiting not only for your own dinner but until the drivers and horses had had theirs. Afterward more precious moments were consumed in harnessing up the new steeds and getting once more under way. Then if no wheels came off, or reins broke, or horses stumbled, not to mention possible onslaughts of highwaymen who beset unfrequented districts, you eventually arrived at your destination."
"At that rate I should never expect to get anywhere," announced Christopher.
"All living proceeded at that ratio or even a slower one, for if you could not afford coach fare you walked to where you were going. Nevertheless, in spite of the defects of the period, it was considered a very comfortable era, and people were well content with it. Fortunately nobody wished to travel very extensively, for as knowledge of geography was scant they did not know there was anywhere to go. Hence they cheerfully remained in the spot where they happened to be born or within a short radius of it.
"About the great estates hung swarms of retainers who in times of peace had little to do. Some of these helped dress the venison brought in from the hunt, some dragged in logs for the fires, some cared for the horses; and with all that there were several times as many retainers as there were duties. Therefore it was unavoidable that many men were idle the greater part of the day. Indeed they had not resources enough to be anything else, for scarce a one of them had any education. They could neither read nor write, and in many cases, their masters could do no better. The bare fact that a nobleman sent his servant to the public square to find out what time it was proves that such little things as quarter or half hours did not concern them much.
"Ladies worked tapestries, danced and sang their days away; gossiped with one another or quarreled with their maids, while the gentlemen of the household hunted, hung about the court, loitered at the inn or rowed on the river. For such an existence as that one did not need to slice his time up into very fine pieces. An idle, leisurely life it was, with little cause for haste. What wonder the clocks had no minute hands when even hours were of such minor importance?"
The bus halted with a jerk, to escape running over an abnormally daring pedestrian.
"A second made some difference to him," said Christopher, when once more the vehicle was in motion.
"All the difference between being in this world and out of it," was the terse reply. "He'd better have lost a minute rather than take a chance like that. But, alas, we have got into the habit of thinking we cannot stop for anything. From morning to night we race about as if the bogey man were at our heels. Sometimes I wish myself in the forest of Arden, where there were no clocks."
"You'd have nothing to repair there, certainly."
"I know it. And before a week was out I should be the most miserable of mortals, in consequence," retorted the Scotchman quickly. "No, no! It is better to be perched up here on a bus whizzing to doctor a balky old clock than to be idle day in and day out."
"Where is the balky old clock you mention?" Christopher inquired.
"In a fine mansion not far from here," replied McPhearson. "A rich old gentleman who is a clock collector lives there all alone with enough servants to man a warship. You may be sure our shoe leather will not be wasted, for none of his clocks are ever out of commission because of neglect or foolish handling."
Signaling the bus, the travelers descended into the street and walked a few blocks.
"You are sure your old gentleman won't mind my coming with you?" murmured Christopher, as they neared the house.
"Oh, Mr. Hawley won't mind. I have been coming here for years. He never lets anybody else touch his clocks. If he is at home, he will probably be proud as a peacock to show you his treasures; and if he isn't you can look about by yourself. He never minds what I do."
On investigation, however, it proved that Mr. Hawley was not at home.
"He done gone to some board meeting this morning," explained the colored butler. "And sorry enough he'll be to miss you too, Mr. McPhearson, for he always likes havin' a talk with you."
"Which clock is it this time, Ebenezer?"
"Number Seventeen, sir," answered the darky gravely. "She done been kickin' up something vexatious. She absumlutely won't strike with the others—absumlutely won't! After the rest of 'em are through, in she comes a minute late, chiming away on her own hook, all independent like, as if she was runnin' the world. You know what that means. Mr. Hawley, sir, he won't stand for no nonsense like that—not for a second. If there's any strikin' to be done round here, or chimin' either, it's got to be done in chorus or not at all. Ain't he been well-nigh a year trainin' those clocks? We've got 'em down now almighty fine too—'cept for Number Seventeen."
"I'll have a look at her."
"Do, sir! She's on the stairway, you know, halfway up."
"Oh, I remember her, although I don't believe I could give her number offhand."
"I could. I could recite the numbers of them clocks frontways an' backways," answered Ebenezer. "You could, too, if you had 'em to wind."
"Oh, you wind them now, do you?"
"I certainly do!" affirmed the negro, with no small degree of pride. "Mr. Hawley's been a long time comin' to it, but at last he's let me. Yes, sir! I wind 'em, every one."
"Yes. You see, Mr. Hawley ain't so young as he was, an' mor'n that, he's got rheumatism in his arm. So one mornin' he say to me 'Ebenezer,' he say, 'I reckon you'll have to take on the windin' up. My hand is gettin' shaky.' Well, sir, had he given me the management of a railroad I couldn't have been prouder. That's why, when Seventeen begun branchin' out for herself, I was so 'specially upset. I wondered what I'd done to her."
"We'll look and see," McPhearson smiled. "Very likely she's just taken a whim, Ebenezer."
"I hope so—I do indeed, sir."
Following the old butler, Christopher and the Scotchman ascended the stairs until they came to a niche where stood the clock in question.
It was perhaps four feet tall—an exact replica of a long-case clock.
"I never saw such a little grandfather's clock as that," commented Christopher.
"It is a bracelet clock of early Colonial make," McPhearson explained. "Many of them were made in Massachusetts in the early days."
"And its works are like the big ones?"
"Practically, yes. This one, as you see, was made by John Bailey of Hanover, a small town on Cape Cod. Probably its date is about 1812 or 1815."
"It is over a hundred years old already."
"Yes. And considering it is, don't you think, Ebenezer, it has earned the right to a little independence?" McPhearson inquired of the darky, a twinkle in his eye.
But Ebenezer shook his head.
"Mr. Hawley done say no clock can go strikin' by herself—no matter how old she is," Ebenezer asserted, without hint of a smile. "He say there's no excuse for it—no excuse!"
McPhearson opened the door and glanced inside.
"Can you see anything wrong, sir?" queried the old butler eagerly.
"Not yet. I've got to make a more thorough examination."
"Likely you have. But whatever's the matter, you'll find it—I know that. I never see such a man for clocks as you in all my born days; an' the master, he say the same. 'Mr. McPhearson will soon get Seventeen into line,' he says, an' I know you will, sir. Don't you always?"
In the meantime Christopher had peeped inside the clock.
"Why, look at the great lead weight!" ejaculated he.
"Yes. Many old clocks had weights such as this, which were pulled up when the clock was wound and gradually dropped as the clock ran down. Sometimes a stone was used; sometimes even a pail of small stones."
"But where were springs and pendulums?" gasped the astonished boy.
"Springs came a good deal later. Even pendulums were not introduced in any practical form until 1657. Up to that time a balance did the work. The advent of the pendulum, invented probably by Christian Huygens, a Dutch mathematician, opened up no end of complications for the early clockmakers. In the first place they could not decide where to put this new article. Some placed the pendulum at the front of their clock, letting it dangle down across the face; others tried to conceal it by hanging it outside the back. Still others made a dial that would project enough at either side to cover it up.
"Nor did the novel innovation of the pendulum do much good at first, although theoretically makers of clocks conceded pendulums to be a scientific advance over older methods. Of course the theory of the pendulum had been for a long time in the minds of many thoughtful persons. Galileo had seized on its principle when observing the swinging of lanterns in the church at Pisa, and had written a scientific treatise on it. But to get an idea is one thing and to apply it is quite another. Pendulums were very complicated mechanisms. In the first place the length of the pendulum decides, you see, the rate of the clock's vibration; a short one resulting in a quick, nervous tick; and a long one in a slow, quiet one. Therefore pendulums meant more even vibration and more accurate time-keeping, and it was just when makers were rejoicing over these advantages that it was discovered the temperature of the place in which a clock stood affected the rod the bob hung on and threw the whole timepiece out of adjustment. Here was a pretty kettle of fish! A hot room, for example, would expand the rod and lengthen it."
"And make the clock tick slower," put in Christopher eagerly.
"Then the clock would go slower sometimes than others."
"Exactly that! The variation was not great, of course, and we now have learned how to meet it by lengthening or shortening the pendulum by means of a screw placed near the bob. Nevertheless the variation is there. A common wire pendulum will vary approximately a minute a week; a brass rod will, on the other hand, vary that same minute in five days instead of seven. Wood, a material showing less change than metal, will vary only a minute in three weeks.
"All this we have learned to make allowance for. But the poor old clockmakers had to gather these facts by long and tiresome experiment. At length brass pendulums which, they discovered, made the most trouble, were replaced by those of iron or lead which, being of softer material, expanded and contracted more readily. In our day you will sometimes see a very finely adjusted astronomical clock whose pendulum terminates in a hollow glass or iron receptacle filled with mercury, instead of the usual metal bob."
"There are two of them at the store."
"To be sure there are! For the moment I had forgotten that."
"And all this time while clockmakers were fussing round about bobs and pendulums, did the people have to keep on running to the cathedral or the public square to find out what time it was?"
"No, indeed! By 1600 you could buy for a moderate sum a clock to use at home. Not that it was a very accurate timekeeper. Nevertheless it gave a fair idea of the hour, which was all that was demanded of it," laughed McPhearson, busying himself with his screwdriver.
"What sort of clocks were the first ones?"
"They were not like ours, you must remember that. There was, for instance, the bird-case clock, a small chased or perforated brass affair from four to five inches square, and named because its shape suggested a cage for birds. I spoke of it before. Then there was the lantern clock. Both these varieties were made to hang on the wall and were wound by pulling down the weights that dangled from them."
"They had no springs, pendulums or things?" questioned Christopher wonderingly.
"That was before the days of springs. This particular type of clock, however, had a pendulum; but it was only a pendulum driven by weights showing the pendulum idea in its crudest form. Not until the long-case (or grandfather) clock made its advent into England did the pendulum, scientifically applied, come into being; and before that era many years intervened during which bracket clocks held the center of the stage."
"Clocks like Richard Parsons'!" interrupted Christopher triumphantly.
"Yes, the very same. These were better yet because they had no weights hanging down and so could be put on a table, a shelf, or mantelpiece. In the meantime, somewhere about the year 1500, a Nurenburg locksmith named Peter Henlien had made a clock so small that it could be carried in one's pocket—if that pocket was of pretty ample size. It had works of iron, one hand, and no crystal, and was, to be sure, both thick and clumsy, but it boasted one amazing feature. Since it was too small to depend on weights, it contained a coiled mainspring—something entirely new to the clockmaking world. Now this article fashioned by Peter Henlien cannot be termed a watch as we know watches; but still it was the nearest approach to one that had yet been produced. The fact that this egg-shaped concoction was no great timekeeper was a secondary matter. The important thing was that a small, compact article that would keep some sort of time had been made, and a coiled mainspring was inside it."
"How funny to have a blacksmith—or rather a locksmith, making a watch!"
"Not at all. Records show that a great many of the best clockmakers belonging to the Clockmakers' Company were, or had formerly been, blacksmiths."
"But it seems odd, doesn't it?" mused Christopher. "And did everybody start making watches after this queer article of Peter Henlien's was produced?"
"Not very extensively. Indeed, there was nothing very appealing or attractive in Peter Henlien's watch. Moreover, since such objects failed to keep good time, what earthly inducement was there for owning one? Nevertheless horologers themselves were not discouraged. They kept right on trying to turn out something better, and in 1525 Jacob Zech, a Swiss mechanic from Prague, hit on a remedy to prevent these crude watches from running fast when first wound up and slower when they began to run down. In other words he discovered something that would equalize the mechanism."
"And what was that?"
"I'm afraid that doesn't help me much," was Christopher's rueful plaint.
"Well, a fusee was a short cone having a spiral groove round it, with a cord or chain wound to the groove and fastened at the big end of the cone. It was a simple device but it did the work. The shaft of the fusee was attached to the large wheel that moved the gears, and the other end of the cord was fastened to the mainspring barrel. Therefore as the mainspring slowly turned the barrel, it gradually uncoiled the cord from the fusee, making it turn and as soon as it turned, the wheels had to turn too, and the watch began to go. Since from the very start the cord unwound from the small end of the cone where the leverage was least, and as the force of the mainspring decreased it, the leverage of the cord strengthened in the same proportion. So you see, the power which turned the wheels was constantly the same. Do not dream, however, this result was reached all in a minute. The crude fusee of Zech had to be perfected by Gruet, another Swiss clockmaker, and by still others. Nevertheless the scheme did work and caused a revolution in clock and watch making. There was now some hope that ultimately timepieces would furnish correct time, which after all is, I suppose, the only excuse a clock has for being."
McPhearson brought from his bag a small copper oil can.
"Wants oilin', does she?" interpolated the butler, who had been standing anxiously near by.
"A drop won't hurt her."
"Much wrong with her, sir?"
"Next to nothing, Ebenezer. She just needed a little readjusting and tightening up."
"Praise de Lord! Then you're most through, sir."
"I'm clean afraid Mr. Hawley won't get back before you finish."
"I'm not gone yet."
"Oh, I ain't in any hurry to shoo you out, Mr. McPhearson," declared the darky hurriedly. "No, indeed, sir. I could listen to you talk all day."
"I forgot you were listening, Ebenezer."
"Listening? 'Deed an' I was listenin'! My two ears was pricked up like a rabbit's."
The clockmaker flushed and smiled.
"They's silver to clean; an' brasses to polish, an' I dunno what—" continued the butler, "but I'm lettin' 'em all lie 'til by an' by—I's improvin' my mind—I is!"
"So am I," rejoined Christopher, laughing.
"I seem to be furnishing a lecture free of charge to a very select audience," the Scotchman returned drily; "and having once started, I suppose I may as well finish it. You can testify that at least I have not been idle while talking.
"Nor was the era, of which I have been speaking, an idle one. Like Rip Van Winkle, it began slowly to awaken from its long sleep and become alert. Printing was invented and the Bible, along with other books, gradually reached the hands of the common people. In the meantime, Columbus had made his voyage to America and returned with tales of new lands, stimulating in others a spirit of adventure. The recently evolved compass, as well as the fact that larger and more staunch ships were now to be had, lured persons previously shy of the sea to voyages of discovery. On every hand new ideas were coming to light. In the clock world somebody began making screws to replace the primitive little pins and rivets hitherto employed to fasten wheels and dials in place; glass came into more general use, and by 1600 crystals began to be quite generally in evidence; and the appearance of the minute hand gave evidence that the universe was a busier place and short intervals of time becoming of greater worth. But although the sale of clocks increased, watches were not yet in general use. They were too much of a luxury. People therefore consulted their clocks (if they were lucky enough to have them); hied them to the village square if not; or depended upon their sundials of which there were still many in use. Watchmen also went about the streets crying the hours.
"The rich, to be sure, purchased watches, but they bought them more for ornaments than for use. Those who could afford it frequently owned several, wearing them around their necks on chains or ribbons, and displaying a different one to suit either their costume or their fancy."
"But weren't those old egg-shaped watches heavy and ugly?" asked Christopher.
"Oh, by this time watches had got far beyond that original design and had now become monuments to the goldsmith's art, being small and fashioned in every imaginable design. I regret to say that a great portion of the labor went into the cases, which were beautifully made by hand. There were flowers with watches concealed in their centers; baskets of tiny fruits, hearts, animals, death's-heads—every form that was novel or original. Some cases had on their covers miniatures set in jewels; and there were cases of leather studded with decorations in nail heads. In every instance it was the outside of the watch that interested both purchaser and goldsmith—not the inside. Can you wonder, therefore, that the watch deteriorated into being a mere toy and ornament?"
"How could people be so ridiculous!" exclaimed Christopher with scorn.
"It would have been ridiculous had the art of making watches stopped there," McPhearson acquiesced. "But fortunately, if the public was content with such pretty, silly toy affairs, the horologers were not. Patiently they continued the struggle to make timepieces better; and to prove that all this nonsense about pretty watches was not without value, I will tell you that it was while making a white enamel base on which to paint a miniature that some clever person bethought him how nice a watch face of white enamel would be with black figures printed upon it."
"It is never all loss without some gain, is it?" smiled Christopher. "And clocks?"
"Clocks, too, were sharing the general improvement," answered McPhearson. "The old system of the balance with its accompanying weights and chains had passed, and the pendulum, now becoming less of a puzzle, was coming into vogue. Makers had, however, been convinced by this time that pendulums did not look well hanging down across the faces of clocks, and so they now put them at the back, their swingings being frequently concealed by projecting dials. So you see, the world was moving on."
As he concluded this speech, McPhearson took off his working glasses, substituted for them another pair, and began packing up his tools.
"There!" exclaimed he to Ebenezer, "I think you will find Seventeen will do better after this. Don't blame the poor thing. It wasn't her fault."
"I'm glad to hear you say so, sir," returned the butler with a broad smile. "I always did like that clock."
"The others, you say, are all right."
"Mostly, sir. Number Fifteen lagged a little and kept the master botherin' for a while, but she's catchin' up now. I wouldn't dare have you touch her 'cause she's runnin' too close to be disturbed."
"Then I'll go along. Give my respects to Mr. Hawley, Ebenezer."
"I will, sir," and the butler let his visitors out.
As they went out to board a returning bus, Christopher remarked regretfully:
"I'd have given a cent to see the rest of those clocks."
"What clocks?" inquired McPhearson with surprise.
"Why, Mr. Hawley's."
The Scotchman halted abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk.
"My goodness!" ejaculated he. "I never thought of it! Why under the sun didn't you speak up, laddie?"
"I didn't like to," replied the boy with diffidence. "I was afraid it might bother somebody."
"Not an atom. On the contrary Ebenezer would have been proud as a peacock to show them off. You could have been wandering round with him while I was fussing over Seventeen as well as not. It's a pity."
So genuine was the regret in the clockmaker's tone that Christopher hastened to add:
"Oh, it's all right, Mr. McPhearson. Please don't think of it again. I oughtn't to have mentioned it. It doesn't really matter, you know."
Still his companion was not satisfied.
"We might go back," suggested he.
"No, no! It will make you late at the store. Maybe you'll be going up there again some other day and can take me along."
"I'm afraid not," replied McPhearson, ruefully. "At least I hope not. If Seventeen behaves herself as I expect she will, I shall not be needed. Well! Well! I am sorry. It wasn't very thoughtful of me."
They walked on and hailing a bus climbed aboard it.
The vehicle was crowded and they made their way in with difficulty, jostling aside its closely packed occupants as they entered.
"Lots of these people will be leaving at the next stop," McPhearson remarked. "They always do."
The prediction was true. At the next corner the passengers poured out, leaving the seats only thinly filled.
As Christopher sank into a seat and drew a long breath of relief his eye wandered idly over those sitting near him, and a stranger opposite arrested his attention.
He was a working man shabbily clothed, and wearing a dingy brown ulster and slouch hat. Between his feet was a much worn leather bag which obviously contained tools. His hair was gray and so was the grizzled beard that partially concealed his features. But it was none of these that held the boy's attention. Something in the way the fellow's collar was pulled up and his hat pulled down; something in the gesture with which he moved his hands to turn his paper aroused a vague memory. Fascinated, the lad watched. What was it that rendered the figure so familiar? He had never seen the man before in his life—he was certain of that. And yet, had he? And if so, where? What was the haunting association that held him spellbound and made it impossible for him to remove his gaze from this person whose features were almost entirely screened from view behind the outspread pages of the morning Herald?
Christopher looked away. Of course he didn't know the fellow. Why stare at him? But do what he would, back came his gaze to the same brown-ulstered traveler.
Then the bus lurched, stopped suddenly, and he knew! The man had lowered his paper, and as he turned his head to look out, the boy saw on his right cheek, almost concealed by hat and whiskers, a telltale scar.
The shock of the discovery was so great that it was with difficulty Chris checked a cry of surprise. Yes, it was the hero of the ring adventure—there could be no possible doubt of it. And yet, after all, was it? This person's hair was white and his whiskers too; he was shabby and wore spectacles. The lad began to doubt the conclusion to which he had leaped.
It couldn't be Stuart! A diamond robber would not be journeying about in an electric bus in broad daylight. Such a notion was absurd. Probably it was merely a mannerism that had suggested him.
Nevertheless Christopher continued to regard him attentively, studying the white hand with its long, slender fingers. It was a very clean hand for such a poorly dressed individual to boast. It did not look at all in keeping with the clumsy boots, the frayed trousers, the worn ulster, the battered satchel. It did not appear ever to have done a stroke of work in its life.
Suppose the hand was genuine, and the rest only a disguise? Suppose in reality this was Stuart, the criminal for whom both the Chicago and New York police were searching? Oh, it wasn't likely—it could not be likely. Why should a boy of his age hope to track down a thief when agencies such as these had failed? It was preposterous.
Yet, notwithstanding the argument, the doubt would persist. What if, after all, this was Stuart? Yet if it were, what should he do?
If he began to whisper his suspicious to McPhearson, the thief might overhear and, put on his guard, leave the vehicle; and should he call the conductor to his aid, the man would in all probability be unwilling to believe such a tale and refuse to act. Moreover, perhaps he had no authority to do so anyway.
Poor Christopher! His heart beat until it seemed as if the stranger opposite must hear its throbbing and take warning. If only it were possible to alight from the bus without exciting attention, maybe he and McPhearson could get an officer. He sadly wanted somebody's help and advice. The adventure was one he felt to be too big for him to handle alone.
Nevertheless were he even to suggest leaving the car he knew his companion would not only be surprised but would instantly voice aloud his consternation, and then, of course, the man behind the newspaper would hear.
Still, something must be done. The bus was whizzing on down the avenue, and at any moment his prey might take flight.
A mad resolve formed itself in his mind.
"I think we'll have to get out," he said suddenly. "I don't feel well."
McPhearson wheeled on him, amazed.
"What's the matter?"
"My—my—breakfast, I guess. Can you stop the car?"
"Do you mean you want to get out right here?"
"Yes. I'm dizzy. If I can get some air—"
"Not going to faint away, are you?" queried the Scotchman in consternation.
The kind old clockmaker slipped an arm about his shoulders.
"We'll get out at the next stop, sonny. Too bad you feel mean. It's probably the lurching and bumping of this infernal vehicle. You'll be all right when you get outside."
Without attracting anything more than passing notice, they found themselves in the street and saw the bus disappear down the avenue.
"Feel better?" interrogated McPhearson, anxiously.
"I'm all right. There's not a thing the matter with me. The trouble is that the man opposite us was the chap who pinched that ring from Hollings."
"Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure. At any rate, it's worth tipping off headquarters. Where's there a telephone?"
"There's a drug store just across the street, Christopher. But hold on! What do you mean to do?"
The Scotchman's mind was at best a slow-moving machine, and now it appeared to be too stunned to move at all. Sensing that explanation and argument would delay him, Christopher dashed ahead, the clockmaker panting at his heels.
Fortunately he knew the number, for he had talked with the inspector before. Fortunately, too, he had a nickel in his pocket. Therefore he called headquarters, admonishing the operator to make haste.
A second later a reply came singing over the wire.
"Is Mr. Corrigan, the inspector, there?"
"Just gone out."
"Is Davis, his assistant, in?"
"Rush him here. I want to speak to him."
"Who shall I—"
"No matter who. Get him here quick."
There must have been something in the tone that carried a command, for almost immediately a weak, panting voice answered:
"I'm Christopher Burton, the son of—"
"Yes, sir, I get it."
"I've left at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Fifty-seventh Street a bus numbered 1079 that's on its way down town; in it was a man that looked like Stuart. Know who I mean?"
"Jove! You bet I do! Well?"
"He was togged out in an old brown ulster, worn trousers, and boots that were all splashed with plaster or paint, and he had white hair, a white beard, a slouch hat, and a bag. It may not be he at all, you know; but his hands—say—hello—hello—Davis—hello—the darn operator's cut me off."
"Maybe not. More likely Davis hung up the 'phone."
"But I wasn't through," declared the boy indignantly.
"He'd got all he wanted, I imagine, and had to get to work."
"Perhaps so." Christopher, however, was not satisfied.
Moreover, now that the excitement of the incident was over and he began to look back on what he had done, it seemed madness. What right had he to turn the whole police force of the city of New York loose on a poor old working man, solely because his hands happened to be white! It was audacious. A pretty kind of a fool he'd feel if he had started them off on a false scent! They would not thank him. He had fumbled the affair from the beginning, and doubtless was continuing to fumble it.
All the elation died in his face, and noticing this, McPhearson, who loitered in the meantime at the door of the telephone booth, remarked:
"What's the trouble, son?"
"If I was only sure it was Stuart."
"That's what I was trying to tell you, laddie, when you ran pell-mell in here to call the police. You ought to have made sure before you gave the information."
"But how could I?" retorted Christopher irritably. "I couldn't go up to the man and ask him politely whether he was the burglar who took a diamond ring from my father's shop, could I?"
The absurdity of the question brought back his good humor.
"No. I grant that," McPhearson agreed. "Still you might have proceeded with a grain less speed. I always think an action can bear considering."
"But all actions can't be considered," was the crisp reply. Again an edge of sharpness had crept into the lad's voice.
"Well, well. Maybe no harm's done," the clockmaker hastened to say soothingly. "No doubt the police chase about on a hundred false clews a day. Their information can't always be right."
"You feel like a fool, though, if you give them the wrong clew."
"Yes, you do."
The promptness of the concession was anything but comforting. Obviously McPhearson felt that in the present instance, at least, the tip offered had been both valueless and absurd. A strained silence fell between them.
"I suppose we may as well hail another bus and get back to the store," the clock repairer at length suggested. "There's no good hanging round here."
Although he did not actually say in so many words that they had already wasted two fares, Christopher, well aware of his Scotch thrift, felt his manner implied it.
They did not say much during the ride down town. McPhearson was a bit ruffled and annoyed, and Christopher crestfallen and mortified. He was thinking, too, that he would have to confess to his father what he had so impulsively done, and receive from him more jeers and ridicule linked with probable admonitions to greater deliberation and caution in future. He hated to be preached at. Therefore he was entirely unprepared for the ovation that greeted his return to the shop.
Hollings was near the door when he went in and had evidently been waiting for him.
"Birdie is securely in his cage!" announced he, dropping his voice so that the thrilling tidings might not be overheard by customers close at hand.
"What?" gasped Christopher.
"Yes, he's bagged for fair! Your father is delighted. They're all upstairs waiting for you—Corrigan, Davis, and all. We're to go down to headquarters and identify the chap."
"Then it really was Stuart!"
"Sure thing!" Hollings was actually trembling with joy. "Oh, I hope they'll find those diamonds on him! At least, they'll probably be able to make him tell where they are. If we can only get that ring back, I shall die happy."
"So you were right after all, Christopher," McPhearson put in.
The cry, "I told you so!" rose like a wave to the lad's lips and then as speedily receded. Why should he feel triumphant? Mistakes are always possible, and he might have been mistaken. Fortunately this time he had not been, that was all.
"I'm glad!" the clockmaker declared.
"So am I!" replied the boy modestly.
No further comment was made except as they went up in the elevator, the old man added:
"It's never amiss to have your eyes about you, son. The majority of folks might as well have two glass beads in their heads, so little do they really observe of what they see. To have your eyes open and your mouth shut isn't a bad notion."
It was like McPhearson to turn his praise into good council. He never flattered. Perhaps, too, it was just as well, for Christopher received that noon all the adulation that was good for him.
Corrigan, the big inspector, clapped him on the shoulders, calling him a little general; and Davis almost wrung his hand off. Even the silent Mr. Norcross announced he was a son to be proud of. As for Mr. Burton, Senior—well, he merely settled back into his office chair and beamed about him.
"I made no mistake when I christened that boy Christopher Mark Antony Burton, fourth," announced he, as if every whit of responsibility for the boy's good judgment were traceable to his name. "He has the stuff in him—has had since babyhood."
But Mr. Inspector did not wholly agree.
"You've got to do more than have good blood in your veins," he asserted, with a hint of scorn. "The young one used his brains, he did, and used 'em quick without thanks to his ancestors. Had he loitered about and depended on his great-grandfather, Stuart would have got away."
There was a general laugh, in which even Mr. Burton, chagrined though he was, joined.
Afterward the two police officers, Christopher, his father, Mr. Rhinehart, and Hollings rolled away to headquarters to identify the captured diamond thief.
CHRISTOPHER RECOGNIZES AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE
Yes, it was Stuart! There could be no possible doubt about that; nor, indeed, did the culprit attempt to deny his identity. Perhaps he realized that to do so would be futile. There he was in his wig, whiskers, glasses, ulster, and slouch hat; and the next moment, presto, valeted by Mr. Inspector, there he was in his fur coat—the elegant gentleman who had invaded Burton and Norcross' jewelry store!
Hollings recognized him in a twinkling and without a shade of hesitation singled him out from twelve other men; so, also, did Mr. Rhinehart and Christopher.
Poor Stuart! He was too genuine a sport to whine when he saw the game was up. On the contrary he assumed a good-natured, almost humorous stoicism, as if his capture were nothing more than a feature of the day's work. Only one fact regarding it did he appear to resent and that was that a person wary as himself should have been tracked down and trapped by a mere boy. Incontestably this wounded his pride. Nevertheless he tried valiantly to conceal his chagrin, maintaining throughout the ordeal of identification his jaunty pose and saluting Christopher, whom he instantly remembered having seen on the car, with a mocking bow and a smile of admiration.
"It was a neat trick you played me, youngster," announced he, as the lad approached. "They will be annexing you to the staff here if you don't look out."
"I had to do it, you know," Christopher answered, half apologizing for the double-faced role he had played. "I'm not usually a squealer—honest, I'm not. But the diamonds belonged to my father, and I saw you take them."
"Of course, sonny, of course. I'm not kicking—it was a fair game," the big fellow returned without a shadow of anger. "So you saw me take them, did you? Why didn't you sing out at the time?"
"It all happened so quickly that I could hardly trust my eyes," was the response. "Besides, you looked so much like a gentleman that I couldn't believe you were just a—a—"
"Thief," cut in Stuart sharply, supplying the word at which the boy had halted. Nevertheless despite the glibness with which he uttered it, he cringed and a flood of telltale color rose to his hair. It was the first time he had exhibited the slightest feeling.
Uncomfortably Christopher nodded.
"Well, that's what I am, you see," continued the man who had now regained his former debonnaire manner, "so the next time look out and don't be taken in. There are gentlemen who are thieves, sonny, and then again there are thieves who are gentlemen—at least I hope so."
So unruffled was his temper, so brave the front he put on the inevitable, that as Christopher saw him led away between two guards a momentary pang of regret passed over him. If Stuart had only happened to have turned his talents to some profession besides diamond stealing, what a delightful acquaintance he might have proved.
But the next instant Corrigan, the head inspector, broke in on this reverie, and his words banished further repining:
"The scoundrel won't open his lips," declared he to Mr. Burton. "What he's done with those diamonds we can't find out. He's mum as an oyster. I hoped we might tempt him into making a clean breast of the matter—but not he! He's too hardened a chap for repentance, I reckon."
"His pal, Tony, may have them."
"No doubt," acquiesced the chief. "The two probably have a cache where they stow their loot."
"I wish we could find it."
"So do I, with all my heart. We may, too, if we succeed in running down the other chap," Corrigan returned. "I shan't give up hope with Mr. Christopher on the job."
"I fancy my son isn't going into the business of tracking down criminals permanently," Burton, Senior, retorted a bit stiffly.
"Like enough not," came tartly from Corrigan.
"Still, he can keep his peepers open, eh, youngster?"
He smiled down upon Christopher from beneath his shaggy brows, and Christopher smiled back. There was something very likeable about Corrigan.
"I'll look alive," grinned the boy. "Only of course you know this kill was just a fluke."
The modest words evidently pleased the inspector.
"That's all right," said he. "You may make another. Who knows?"
He patted the lad's shoulder encouragingly and in friendly fashion added:
"Nobody bags a diamond robber every day."
They went out—Mr. Burton, his son, and the two clerks.
"We may as well go to luncheon now," announced Christopher's father, when the men had left them. "Where shall we go? We'll have a real celebration in honor of Stuart's capture."
"Poor Stuart!" murmured the lad.
"Mercy on us! Surely you are not regretting that you landed him in jail."
"No-o. Still, I'm sorry for him."
"Of course. We're always sorry to see a person of his ability go wrong. But he has only himself to thank for his fate. He might have known at the outset where he would bring up. They all are trapped sooner or later."
"I suppose so."
"Come, come, son! Don't go wasting any romantic sympathy on Stuart—or whatever his name is. He wouldn't appreciate it. Why, he would rob us again to-morrow if he got the chance," the head of the firm asserted harshly.
"Probably he would."
"You know he would."
"Y-es. But he was such a good sport."
"He knew there was nothing to be gained by whining and making himself disagreeable."
Nevertheless, in spite of his father's arguments, Christopher could not entirely put the unlucky Stuart out of his mind. Nor did the fried scallops, grilled sweet potatoes, and salad which his father ordered for him wholly blot out a lurking depression or the haunting memory of the criminal's face. It took two chocolate ice creams and an ample square of fudge cake to dispel his gloom and bring his spirits back to their accustomed cheerfulness.
By the time he and his father returned to the store, however, they were practically normal, and he ascended to the fourth floor to hunt up McPhearson, who amid the general excitement he had left somewhat abruptly.
"Well, so you landed your light-fingered friend, did you, laddie?" remarked the Scotchman.
"Mr. Corrigan did."
"It was thanks to you, I guess."
"Humph! You don't seem very triumphant about it." The old man peered at the boy over the top of his glasses.
"I'm not. It made me sick—the whole thing."
"I know, sonny—I know. But we can't have such persons about," McPhearson said gently. "Of course you are sorry to put a fellow behind the bars, but—"
"He was so darned decent about it—and so plucky," exclaimed Christopher. "Why, he was almost a gentleman."
The sentence ended in a tremulous laugh.
"No doubt he may have started out to be a gentleman—poor chap—and then got on the wrong track. Well, you did what was right. You know that."
"I hope so," was the dull answer.
"We'll not talk about it any more. Come, let's shift the subject to something else."
"Aren't you tired of clocks?"
"No. Are you?"
"I never get tired of them," smiled McPhearson. "If I did, it would be fatal. They are my daily bread."
"And mine, too, for that matter," rejoined Christopher.
"Perhaps," admitted the Scotchman. "Still you do not subsist wholly on clocks. Your bread is studded with pearls, emeralds, and rubies."
The fancy pleased the boy, and he laughed.
"Rather indigestible eating," he protested.
"And yet you look fit as a king."
There was a moment's pause; then the man said:
"Well, if we are to talk clocks, where shall we begin?"
"Anywhere you like," returned the lad, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Suppose, then, since you are so docile and accommodating, we leap to somewhere near the year 1650, when the inspiration to attach the pallets of the escapement to the pendulum rod, thereby making the escapement horizontal, came almost simultaneously to an Englishman named Harris and a Dutchman named Huyghens. These, together with the later ideas of anchor escapement evolved by Graham, put clocks, within the span of a few years, on an almost modern basis. Other improvements such as using steel springs in place of weights and the perfecting of movements have of course been made since; but this period covers the time of most vital improvement in the art of clockmaking. At this time, too, some of the finest of old English watches and clocks were made. Thomas Tompion, sometimes called the father of English clock making, took his place at the head of these, and to this day beautiful old clocks that are still in service testify to his skillful workmanship."
"What sort of clocks did he make?" inquired Christopher with interest.
"Just about every design of the period—bracket clocks similar to those of Richard Parsons'; long-case, or what we call grandfather, clocks; even brass clocks with projecting dials; and in addition, the greater part of the finest watches turned out at this time were of his making. There were few who could equal him. Possibly Daniel Quare and Joseph Knibb made clocks as good, but they certainly made no better. Were you to visit Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, you would find there wonderful chiming grandfather clocks made by this same Thomas Tompion. They are genuine treasures and would bring almost any price. So remember, in journeying through the world, if you ever run across a clock or a watch made by Thomas Tompion, you are looking at a very fine bit of handicraft."
"I'm afraid I never shall," Christopher shook his head.
"One never can tell where his path through life will take him," McPhearson said. "For example, I never expected my wanderings would lead me from Glasgow to America. Nor, probably, did Stuart dream when he woke up to-day that his morning ride in a Fifth Avenue bus would land him in jail. So you must not despair of seeing London and some of Thomas Tompion's clocks. Moreover, should you go there, I hope you will hunt up in Westminster Abbey the grave of this famous man."
"Was he buried at Westminster? Why, I thought only kings, queens, poets, and great people had places there," Christopher ventured, a trifle incredulous.
"Usually they do, but Thomas Tompion well merited the honor due him, I assure you. To begin with, he was no ordinary tradesman. He was a person of culture who all his life associated with the foremost philosophers and mathematicians of his day. So widely was his ability recognized that he was made leading watchmaker to the court of Charles II. Now, although timekeepers had vastly improved, they were still pretty faulty, experimental contrivances, whose outside trappings counted with the public far more than did their interior mechanism. Tompion changed all this. Seizing upon all that was good offered by the inventors preceding him, he carefully re-proportioned the various parts and produced English clocks and watches that were at once the pride and despair of his brother craftsmen. Watches were something of an avocation with him, for his primary trade was in clocks, to which for many years he devoted his entire labor. Probably, however, the problems a watch presented won his interest and led him to try his skill in this new field, with the result that he was soon making watches that as far surpassed his associates' as did his clocks. He made a watch for the king, the fame of which traveled to France and prompted the Dauphin to order two like it. These watches all had two balances and balance springs fashioned after the scheme Hooke had worked out. They also, like most of Tompion's timekeepers, had an hour and a minute hand. One more innovation which he presented (and it was a very practical one) was the numbering of his watch movements for purposes of identification—a plan very generally followed since by present-day workmen. And yet all this which I have told you does not give you half an idea of what Tompion really was."
McPhearson paused thoughtfully.
"Thomas Tompion stood for something more than any of these things. He was a genuine lover of his art, and when we see or read of the many kinds of clocks and watches he produced, we cannot but feel the joy he had in making them. He made, for example, a marvellous clock that would run a year without winding, which William III had in his bedroom at Kensington Palace, it having been left to him by the Earl of Leicester. This clock, although small, struck the hours and quarter-hours, and was of ebony with silver mountings. And to prove to you that it was no novelty timepiece to be used merely for ornament, I will tell you that now, after a hundred and fifty years, it is still running and faithfully doing its duty."
"Who owns it?" queried Christopher.
"It has for a century and a half been in the possession of the family of Lord Mostyn and so famous has been its history that this nobleman has kept the names of those who have wound it during the last hundred years."
"All sorts of bigwigs, I suppose," put in Christopher.
"A list of celebrated persons, you may be sure."
"Was Ebenezer on it?" Christopher chuckled mischievously.
"Most likely he would have been had he not been so busy winding Mr. Hawley's treasures," replied the Scotchman, smiling at the jest. "Then in 1695 Tompion made a very fine traveling striking and alarm watch with case beautifully chased. The Pump Room at Bath boasts a tall clock of his make—a present from him to the city in acknowledgment of the benefits he derived from its mineral waters. There are also examples of his craft in famous clock collections both here and in England, the Wetherfield collection owning eighteen made by him."
"And did his tall clocks have weights?"
"Yes, their driving power was a big lead weight. The clock at Bath has a thirty-two-pound weight of lead which drops monthly six feet."
"Is it only wound each month?"
"That's all. Some of these tall clocks made by Tompion ran a year without winding. Nor must you get the impression that clocks and watches were the only things this remarkable mechanic produced, for at Hampton Court is a barometer of his construction, proving him to be a master of more intricate science than the mere art of time-keeping. In fact many of his clocks show the days and the months, as well as the difference between sun time and mean time."
"I don't quite understand what mean time is. Isn't all time alike?"
"Mercy, no! Sun time and our time are two quite different things. Some day I will tell you why. Of this Thomas Tompion, although he lived long ago, was well aware. You see, therefore, he was no ordinary uneducated clockmaker. What wonder that he and George Graham, one of the illustrious pupils he trained, should have been buried together at Westminster Abbey!"
"You haven't told me anything about Graham."
"He was a nephew of Tompion and a very clever craftsman whose clocks did honor to his teacher. Honest George Graham, he was called—not a bad way to come down through history. Personally I would rather have that handle before my name than to have Lord or Duke precede it and I fancy George Graham was of a type who felt that way too! So devoted were he and Tompion and so closely linked was their work that when Graham died, the grave of Tompion was opened in order that the two men might be buried together. Then a stone was made reading:
Here lies the body of Mr. Tho. Tompion who departed this life the 20th of November 1713 in the 75th year of his age.
* * * * *
Also the body of George Graham of London watchmaker and F.R.S. whose curious inventions do honour to ye British genius whose accurate performances are ye standard of Mechanic Skill. He died ye XVI of November MDCCLI in the LXXVIII year of his age.
"Now a bit of interesting history is attached to this stone. Several years after it had been put in place a younger generation came along who knew very little of either Tompion or his pupil Graham, and seeing the large tablet, some of them decided to take it up and put instead smaller stones with only the inscriptions:
Mr. T. Tompion 1713 Mr. G. Graham 1751
upon them. Perhaps the authorities felt the big stone took up too much room; or perhaps they felt it heaped undue honor on two men who in their estimation were really nothing but tradesmen; or, worse yet, perhaps they had forgotten all Tompion and Graham did for the rest of us. However that may be, in 1842 a Bond Street watchmaker had loyalty and courage enough to protest, and through the late Dean Stanley the old stone, fortunately uninjured, was hunted up and reinstated in its original position, thereby proving that England does not after all forget her debt to these splendidly intelligent workmen."
"I'm glad the first stone was put back," Christopher asserted. "Who on earth would ever know from the skimpy marking on the other one who Mr. T. Tompion or Mr. G. Graham were?"
"Probably very few persons—only those, most likely, who had made a study of clocks. To my mind it is far better to remind the ignorant who perhaps never heard of Tompion or Graham, to hold their memory in grateful respect. Possibly, too, the inscription on the tablet may prompt the casual passer-by to look up what these two men did, and if so a keener appreciation of them will be established."
"I shall go and see that stone if I ever go to London," Christopher declared.
"Do, laddie. And see some of their clocks, too. Graham was a clever, broadly educated man, who worked out many astronomical instruments in addition to his clockmaking. When you view either his handiwork or that of Tompion, you will see the product of master craftsmen. And in the meantime don't forget Daniel Quare, Samuel Knibb, or Ahasuerus Fromanteel, who although unhonored by stones in the Abbey, are well worthy of being remembered."
AN AMAZING ADVENTURE
Within a day or two Christopher was once more reminded of the diamond robbery by having Corrigan call up the firm and announce that Stuart, wanted in Chicago for the rifling of a safe, had been taken west under guard.
"As yet," concluded the inspector, "we have made no progress toward the recovery of the ring. It has neither put in its appearance at any of the pawnshops nor have we been able to trace the stones. We do not, however, despair of getting some clew and shall still keep on the lookout."
"I suppose you have no track of Tony—Stuart's accomplice, either?" inquired Mr. Burton over the wire.
"None, I am sorry to say."
With a sigh of discouragement the senior partner hung up the receiver.
"I guess the incident is as good as closed," remarked he. "In my opinion we can bid good-by to those diamonds and accept our burglar insurance with thankfulness that our loss was not greater."
"But Stuart's pal may show up yet, Dad," ventured the optimistic Christopher, who chanced at the moment to be in the office.
"I doubt it." Skeptically Mr. Burton shook his head. "More likely he has decided New York is too hot for him and has left town for pastures new."
"He may be lying low," asserted the habitually silent Mr. Norcross.
Nevertheless, despite his acquiescence, Mr. Burton returned to his letters with an air indicative that at least, so far as he was concerned, the possibility he granted was an exceedingly remote one—too remote to merit further consideration.
And indeed it did appear to be so until one day, like a meteor out of the heavens, a grimy communication postmarked Chicago was brought to Christopher, who in a fit of boredom was roaming aimlessly about the lamp department.
"I guess this is meant for you, Mr. Christopher," announced the messenger, whose duty it was to distribute the store mail. "Funny way to address it, though. You'd take it for a valentine:
Mr. Burton's son Care Burton and Norcross, Jewellers, New York City."
"That's me all right," cried Christopher, forgetting in his excitement and curiosity such a trivial incidental as grammar.
He took the letter, regarding with amusement its disreputable appearance.
"Humph! They didn't waste very dressy stationery on me, did they?" laughed he.
"It isn't deckle-edge paper with a ducal seal, if that is what you're expecting," grinned the boy, not unwilling to air his knowledge of such matters.
As with an impish grimace he disappeared Christopher tore open the envelope he held and drew from it a single crushed manilla sheet on which was scrawled:
I told you it was not impossible for a thief to be a gentleman, and to prove it, I am tipping you off about that ring. I wouldn't do this either for your father or for Corrigan, but you're such a decent little chap I'd like you to have the thing back again. Besides, as I am in quod for a long term, the sparklers will do me no good. At 184 Speedwell St. (Suite 6) I hold a room under the name of Carlton. You will find the loot hidden in the flooring under a narrow board between the radiator and the window. The police will be only too glad to help you reclaim it. There are a few other trinkets there too they will like to have. The stuff is all mine. I quarreled with my pal after the affair at your father's store, and since then have been playing a lone game. Good luck to you, little chap. Maybe if I'd started out with your chance, I should not be where I am to-day. I wish to Heaven I had.
Twice Christopher read the letter, his eyes wide, and his throat a bit choky with emotion. To say he was surprised at the contents of the strange communication would have been to put it mildly. Not only was he astounded, he was somewhat incredulous. And yet, overmastering this disbelief was a certainty that the writer of the letter was speaking the truth. Urged on by some whim of his own, some impulse so subtle it defied analysis, Stuart was returning the property he had stolen. Perhaps remorse had overtaken him; perhaps shame; or possibly these gentler motives did but mingle with the realization that the gems, as he himself asserted, would now be useless to him. At any rate, repentant or not, here he was giving them back to their rightful owner!
What wonder the letter needed neither salutation nor signature to identify its sender? That Stuart had penned the note and contrived to find some one he could trust to mail it was obvious. And yet Christopher, fingering it, could not but speculate as to how it had struggled to freedom. Through what strange hands had it passed,—what mazes of strategy and concealment? Ah, it was futile to attempt to trace its devious trail. Here it was in his possession, and with a sudden inrush of joy, his bewildered senses stirred to action, and he hastened with his tidings to his father's office, where he burst in on Mr. Burton in the act of dictating a letter:
"Oh, Dad!" ejaculated he. "I've the biggest sort of a surprise for you. He's written me! Think of that! Written to say where it is."
"Christopher!" thundered his father. "What do you mean by dashing in here like a madman and interrupting my work? Have you forgotten this is my private office? Offer your apologies to me and to Miss Elkins and then sit down and wait until I am at leisure."
"I'm sorry, Dad. I was so excited that—"
"There, there! That will do. You don't need to tell me you are excited. Pray calm yourself and sit down quietly until I am at liberty to hear what you have to say."