The tinker paused again, crossing the room and watching the swing of a pendulum.
“Boy, boy,” said he, returning to his chair, “think’ o’ that complaining, immovable heap lying there like the blood of a murder. An’ thy reader must feel the toil an’ sweat an’ misery an’ despair that is in a great sum, an’ how it all presses on the heart o’ him that gets it wrongfully.
“‘Well, sor,’ the poor fellow continued, ‘now an’ then I met those had known me, an’ reports o’ me poverty went home. An’ those dear to me sent money, the sight o’ which filled me with a mighty sickness, an’ I sent it back to them. Long ago, thank God! they ceased to think me a thief, but only crazy. Tell me, man, what shall I do with the money? There be those living I have to consider, an’ those dead, an’ those unborn.’
“‘Hide it,’ said I, ‘an’ go to thy work an’ God give thee counsel.’”
Man and boy rose from the table and drew up to the little stove.
“Now, boy,” said the clock tinker, leaning toward him with knitted brows, “consider this poor thief who suffered so for his friends. Think o’ these good words, ’Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ If thou should’st ever write of it, thy problem will be to reckon the good an’ evil, an’ give each a careful estimate an’ him his proper rank!”
“What a sad tale!” said the boy, thoughtfully. “It’s terrible to think he may be my father.”
“I’d have no worry o’ that, sor,” said the clock tinker. “There be ten thousand—ay, more—who know not their fathers. An’, moreover, ’twas long, long ago.”
“Please tell me when was the boy taken,” said Trove.
“Time, or name, or place, I cannot tell thee, lest I betray him,” said the old man, “Neither is necessary to thy tale. Keep it with thee a while; thou art young yet an’ close inshore. Wait until ye sound the further deep. Then, sor, write, if God give thee power, and think chiefly o’ them in peril an’ about to dash their feet upon the stones.”
For a moment the clocks’ ticking was like the voice of many ripples washing the shore of the Infinite. A new life had begun for Trove, and they were cutting it into seconds. He looked up at them and rose quickly and stood a moment, his thumb on the door-latch. Outside they could hear the rush and scatter of the snow.
“Poor youth!” said the old man. “Thou hast no coat—take mine. Take it, I say. It will give thee comfort an’ me happiness.”
He would hear no refusal, and again the coat changed owners, giving happiness to the old and comfort to the new.
Then Trove went down the rickety stairs and away in the darkness.
A Certain Rick Man