“Can I do anything for you?” Allen asked.
“Ay—cure me o’ poverty—have ye any clocks to mend?”
“Clocks! Are you a tinker?” said Allen.
“I am, sor, an’ at thy service. Could beauty, me lord, have better commerce than with honesty?”
They all surveyed him with curiosity and amusement as he tied the mare.
All had begun to laugh. His words came rapidly on a quick undercurrent of good nature. A clock sounded the stroke of midday.
“What, ho! The clock,” said he, looking at his watch. “Thy time hath a lagging foot, Marry, were I that slow, sor, I’d never get to Heaven.”
“Mother,” said Allen, going to the doorstep, “here is a tinker, and he says the clock is slow.”
“It seems to be out of order.” said his wife, coming to the step.
“Seems, madam, nay, it is,” said the stranger. “Did ye mind the stroke of it?”
“No,” said she.
“Marry, ’twas like the call of a dying man.”
Allen thought a moment as he whittled.
“Had I such a stroke on me I’d—I’d think I was parralyzed,” the stranger added.
“You’d better fix it then,” said Allen.
“Thou art wise, good man,” said the stranger. “Mind the two hands on the clock an’ keep them to their pace or they’ll beckon thee to poverty.”
The clock was brought to the door-step and all gathered about him as he went to work.
“Ye know a power o’ scripter,” said one of the hired men.
“Scripter,” said the tinker, laughing. “I do, sor, an’ much of it according to the good Saint William. Have ye never read Shakespeare?”
None who sat before him knew anything of the immortal bard.
“He writ a book ‘bout Dan’l Boone an’ the Injuns,” a hired man ventured.
“‘Angels an’ ministers o’ grace defend us!’” the tinker exclaimed,
“I’ll give ye a riddle,” said the tinker, turning to him.
“How is it the clock can keep a sober face?”
“It has no ears,” Trove answered.
“Right,” said the old tinker, smiling. “Thou art a knowing youth. Read Shakespeare, boy—a little of him three times a day for the mind’s sake. I’ve travelled far in lonely places and needed no other company.”
“Ever in India?” Trove inquired. He had been reading of that far land.
“I was, sor,” the stranger continued, rubbing a wheel. “I was five years in India, sor, an’ part o’ the time fighting as hard as ever a man could fight.”
“Fighting!” said Trove, much interested.
“I was, sor,” he asserted, oiling a pinion of the old clock.
“On which side?”
“Inside an’ outside.”
“I did, sor; three kinds o’ them,—fever, fleas, an’ the divvle.”
“Give us some more Shakespeare,” said the boy, smiling.
The tinker rubbed his spectacles thoughtfully, and, as he resumed his work, a sounding flood of tragic utterance came out of him—the great soliloquies of Hamlet and Macbeth and Richard III and Lear and Antony, all said with spirit and appreciation. The job finished, they bade him put up for dinner.