Only once that night did Stepfather Time speak, and then not to me.
“Tell her,” he said in an assured murmur, “that I shan’t be long.”
“Not-long. Not-long. Not-long. Not-long. Not-long,” confirmed Grandfather from his stance on the stairway.
In that assurance Stepfather Time fell asleep. He did not go out again with his pushcart, but sat in the rear room while the Mordaunt Estate in person superintended the job of putting a new front on the house.
The night after it was finished I received an urgent telephone call to come there at once. At the entrance I met the Little Red Doctor coming out.
“The clocks have stopped,” said he gently.
So I turned to cross the park with him.
“I shall certify,” said he, “heart disease.”
“You may certify what you please,” said I. “But what do you believe?”
The Little Red Doctor, who prides himself on being a hard-bitted materialist, glared at me as injuriously as if my innocent question had been an insult.
“I don’t believe it!” he averred violently. “Do you take me for a sentimental idiot that I should pin silly labels on my old friend, Death?” His expression underwent a curious change. “But I never saw such joy on any living face,” he muttered under his breath.
* * * * *
The House of Silvery Voices is silent now. But its echo still lives and makes music in Our Square. For, with the proceeds of Stepfather Time’s clocks, an astounding total, we have built a miniature clock tower facing Number 37, with a silvery voice of its own, for memory. The Bonnie Lassie designed the tower, and because there is love and understanding in all that the Bonnie Lassie sets her wonder-working hand to, it is as beautiful as it is simple. Among ourselves we call it the Tower of the Two Faithful Hearts.
The silvery voice within it is the product of a paragon among timepieces, a most superior instrument, of unimpeachable construction and great cost. But it has one invincible peculiarity, the despair of the best consulting experts who have been called in to remedy it and, one and all, have failed for reasons which they cannot fathom. How should they!
It never keeps time.
Long ago I made an important discovery. It comes under the general head of statics and is this: by occupying an invariable bench in Our Square, looking venerable and contemplative and indigenous, as if you had grown up in that selfsame spot, you will draw people to come to you for information, and they will frequently give more than they get of it. Such, I am informed, is the method whereby the flytrap orchid achieves a satisfying meal. Not that I seek to claim for myself the colorful splendors of the Cypripedium, being only a tired old pedagogue with a taste for the sunlight and for observing the human bubbles that