Once upon a time <now, that’s a good way to start a story about clocks, isn’t it?> – once there was an alarm clock called Samuel, who lived in a bedroom. He was a cheerful, round-faced clock, and he stood very squarely on squat, little legs on a bedside table next to the bed. He had a loud, rather busy sort of tick, and he had a flat round bell on his head; and every morning at seven o’clock, provided he was wound up and set properly, he would suddenly ring his bell very loudly – “ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling”, and he would go on ding-a-ling-ing until he was tapped on the bell on top of his head. Then he would stop.

Now, Samuel wasn’t the only clock in that bedroom. Just across the room, on a small shelf just above the fireplace, was another clock. She was just a small clock with a pretty face with little flowers painted on it, and she stood upright in a little glass case, and her name was Angelina.

I should explain that neither of these clocks were battery clocks; they were clockwork clocks, full of levers and wheels and springs in their insides, and all this machinery was called “clockwork,” and it was called clockwork because it made the clockwork. So long as you wound them up.

The bedroom was used by a man and a woman, and it took Angelina quite a time to find out their names, because when they spoke to each other they just called each other “dear” or “darling”, but no other name. However, they had a phone in the bedroom, and by listening very carefully Angelina heard the man call himself “The Householder”, and when he spoke about the woman he called her “Mywife”.

” But why he’s called The Householder,” Angelina used to say,” I really don’t know. He’s more clever with his hands than I am, because mine only go round and round on my face, and he can put his trousers on and scratch his head and hold a cup of tea, but he certainly can’t hold a house; he can hold a conversation, but he can’t hold a house. But there, that’s his name.”

Actually, Angelina wasn’t too impressed by Householder and Mywife, because generally they just came up to the bedroom, got into bed and slept all night, until Samuel woke them up in the morning. “Here am I,” Angelina used to think, “standing on this shelf all day and all night, and I have to tick away all the time. What would they say if I stopped ticking, and slept all night? They’d soon start trying to over-wind me or something.”

Angelina and Samuel got on very well. In fact, Samuel was rather fond of Angelina, though he was too shy to tell her so, and he sometimes got depressed because he couldn’t think that a pretty little clock like her would ever look twice at a squat, round clock like him.

“Oh, Angelina,” he said one day, “I do wish I was a nice-looking clock like you, that everybody admired, instead of a squat round clock like me that they just tap on the head in the morning to keep him quiet.”

“That’s nonsense, Samuel,” said Angelina. “You’re a very useful sort of clock, much more than I am. I’m sure I don’t know how  Householder and Mywife would ever get up in the morning if you didn’t wake them up with your ding-a-limg- ing. And it’s all very well being a little clock in a glass case with a pretty face, but it strikes me that all that means is they take a look at you, and then say ‘Good Gracious, is that the time?’ and rush off. They don’t really stop to take much notice of me. But they really couldn’t do without you.”

And Samuel felt a bit better.

But he didn’t feel a bit better shortly after that. One morning Angelina noticed that his tick wasn’t nearly so brisk and business-like as usual, and he was even a little bit slow, and instead of a bright ding-a-ling-a-ling at seven o’clock he just gave a dull sort of brrr-brrr that didn’t sound like him at all.

Well, it did sound enough like him to wake up  Householder and Mywife, but when they had dashed off to work <and they were a little bit late, because Samuel was a little bit slow>, Angelina thought she had better find out what was wrong with Samuel.

“Samuel,” she said, “You’re not yourself this morning. You’re not ticking right, and you’re slow, Samuel, you’re slow. And when you rang your bell, you didn’t ding-a-ling-a-ling like you usually do, but just did a nasty sort of brrr-brrr. What’s wrong with you, Samuel, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, Angelina,” answered Samuel sadly, “They’re not going to keep me. They’re going to let me wind down and stop, and put me away in a drawer in case.” And a big tear ran down his face, and he was so upset that he didn’t really care even if it did get into the clockwork.

“Now come along, Samuel,” said Angelina sharply, trying to make him snap out of it; “You’re not quite making sense. Are they putting you in a drawer or a case?”

“They’re putting me away in a drawer in case I’m needed again if my replacement goes wrong.”

“Your replacement?” said Angelina, aghast.

“Yes,” Samuel went on. “They’re going to get a clock called a Teasmade that tells the time and rings a bell and boils the water for a cup of tea. And I can’t make a cup of tea with my hands, so they’re putting me away in a drawer. – In case,” he added, just to make it clear this time.

“But that’s terrible!” exclaimed Angelina. “They can’t do that!”

But they could.  And they did.

Not long after that, Samuel disappeared from the little bedside table, and was put in a drawer – in case. And in his place they brought in a Teasmade, which was a sort of electric clock on a tray, with a little pot for hot water, a little teapot and two cups and saucers.

It didn’t look much like an alarm clock to Angelina, – nothing like dear old Samuel; and it hadn’t got Samuel’s loud, friendly tick. Actually, Angelina had always found Samuel’s tick a little loud for her taste, but she certainly missed it now.

Altogether, Angelina wasn’t at all sure that she was going to find it as easy to get on with Teasmade as she had with Samuel, but she needn’t have bothered, because the Teasmade didn’t appear to want to be friendly anyway. It seemed a proud sort of clock, not prepared to talk to anyone, and would probably have stuck its nose in the air if it had one, Angelina was sure.

And in the morning at seven o’clock it didn’t ding-a-ling, – it BUZZED! And when it buzzed it started to boil the water in the water heater, and when the water had boiled it GURGLED, and the boiling water gurgled up the spout of the water-heater and poured into the little teapot for a cup of tea.

Well, it woke Householder, and he stopped the buzz, and he looked in the teapot at his pot of tea, and he actually smiled.

“Now, that’s what I call an alarm clock,” he said as he turned to Mywife.

“You don’t know what an alarm clock is,” muttered Angelina to herself crossly. “And I don’t think Teasmade knows what he is, either. But then, you call yourself The Householder, but you couldn’t hold a house. You could hold your nose if you saw a smell,” <you can tell how cross she was>” you could hold a cup of tea, you could even hold an                    opinion, but you certainly couldn’t hold a house.”

And Angelina couldn’t believe that she’d heard an alarm clock that buzzed and gurgled instead of ringing a bell on top of its head, and she missed Samuel more than ever.

But things didn’t go all that well for Teasmade and his buzzes and gurgles.

One morning he buzzed and he gurgled and he boiled all right, and Householder poured out two cups of tea all right, but, perhaps because she wasn’t used to early morning cups of tea, Mywife turned suddenly when she woke up, and knocked her cup of tea all over her and the bedclothes and Householder. Well, that woke them up all right, and they got out of bed pretty smartly, because that water was beautifully boiled, but they weren’t very pleased. Angelina knew she shouldn’t have, but she couldn’t help laughing all over her pretty little face, and she laughed until she nearly broke a spring.

And  Householder wasn’t all that used to early morning cups of tea either, because on another morning Teasmade buzzed and gurgled and boiled, but it turned out that Householder had forgotten to put the tea in the little teapot the night before, and the cup of tea turned out to be a cup of hot, clear water. So they weren’t very pleased that morning either.

And they weren’t very pleased the morning that somehow the little teapot had got jogged, and it wasn’t quite sitting under the spout of the water-heater, and the hot water poured all over the tray instead.

Poor old Teasmade! Very soon after that, just before everything was due to happen at seven o’clock, he blew a fuse, perhaps because some of the hot water had gone in the wrong place, and he just stopped completely. There was no buzz, no gurgle, no boiling, so no hot water and no tea. And when they did wake up,  Householder and Mywife had to dash about like anything in case they were late for work.

But while they were dashing about Mywife did find time to say to Householder: “I’m not sure these electric appliances are a good idea. As far as I’m concerned I’d be quite happy to go back to the old alarm clock.”

Angelina heard her say that very clearly, because it was just after she had taken a look at Angelina’s pretty face and said: “Good Gracious! Is that the time?” And she rushed off before she saw a great big smile spread over Angelina’s face.

Sure enough, the very next morning, just as it was getting light, Angelina heard a rather loud ticking coming from the little bedside table, and then — Ding-a-ling-a-ling, and there was Samuel ringing away so happily that he nearly rang himself off his feet. In fact, Householder had to tap him on his bell twice to make him stop.

“Oh, Samuel!” she called out to him when Householder and Mywife had gone off to work. I’m so glad you’re back. For I did miss you when you were shut away in that drawer in case!”

Samuel was so pleased that he couldn’t stop his bell giving a little ding-a-ling all by itself, for Angelina had never actually shown that she was fond enough of him to miss him.

“Well, I’m so happy to be back,” he said. “And I do love you so, Angelina!”

And those two little clocks went on ticking away happily in that bedroom, while downstairs in the hall -but that’s another story, another time.

next story Edooard the Grandfather Clock, or Time is Money