Taking your Time.

Let’s go back to the bedroom where Householder went to sleep every night, until every morning they were woken by Samuel’s ding-a-ling, and Mywife looked at Angelina’s pretty face and said :”Good Gracious, is that the time!”, and they rushed off to work.

That left Angelina and Samuel on their own again, except that tucked away in the left-hand drawer of the dressing table was Mervyn, waiting for the next big race; for the left hand drawer was the one Householder kept for his belongings. But the right-hand drawer was used by Mywife for her belongings, and the very special thing in that drawer was Penelope, a beautiful little ladies’ wrist watch.

You see, Householder and Mywife found they needed all sorts of clocks and watches for different things. For instance, they wouldn’t be comfortable walking about with a clock the size of a plate on their wrist, like Daniel, any more than they would hang a little wrist watch like Penelope on the wall to tell the time by; and as for asking Edooard to go and stand in a great big field in order to time some races, – well, I think they could probably see Edooard shuddering at the very idea.

So one year, on their Wedding Anniversary, Householder thought he would buy Mywife a very special present, and he bought her Penelope. And Penelope was a very small wrist watch, set in a gold case, with a gold strap, and her face was surrounded by a lovely setting of little diamonds and other sparkling jewels, so that she was to Mywife a dear little watch, partly because she was very fond of her, and partly because she was very dear and worth a lot of money. And, being so precious, she was kept in a little case lined with dark blue velvet. Everybody knew her as Penelope, for you couldn’t really call a valuable watch like her  Penny Watch, could you?

I wouldn’t say Angelina was jealous of Penelope, for she could see she was a very valuable, well-made clock, and designed to be very eye-catching, but she did say sometimes that she thought Penelope rather spoilt. After all, Angelina had to stand on her shelf all day, whether it was hot or cold, and was never wrapped up in velvet.

“A bit molly-coddled, if you ask me,” she used to say, even if nobody did ask; “Just reclining on velvet all day in that case of hers, and then being taken out on special occasions to go to some party or exciting dinner, and see all sorts of different things and people. What a life!”

And she thought it a bit much when Householder came in one day and actually took a photo of Penelope! The very idea left Angelina speechless, which was perhaps just as well, but she was so cross that she lost a couple of minutes in disgust.

But on the whole Angelina was a very friendly sort of clock, and she never said anything to hurt Penelope’s feelings, so that overall the clocks all got on very well.

Now, every day, except at week-ends, Householder and Mywife did their bit of rushing about in the mornings, and went off to work, leaving Samuel and Angelina ticking quietly away, and sometimes having little chats about this and that. And Penelope was ticking away on her velvet bed, but very quietly indeed, for a teeny little watch, of course, only has a teeny little tick, and from inside a case in a drawer it wasn’t easy for her to join in the conversation.

But one of these ‘every-days’ turned out to be a bit different.

It was getting on in the afternoon, and I wouldn’t say that Samuel and Angelina were getting sleepy, because clocks can’t sleep if they’re going to keep proper time; but they had reached that sort of stage where your eyes are staring ahead without actually seeing anything. Suddenly, downstairs somewhere they thought, there was a crash of breaking glass. Neither of them said anything, but they listened out very carefully. Then they could hear what they thought were footsteps, and it sounded as though someone was walking about downstairs.

“Samuel,” whispered Angelina, “It sounds to me as though someone is walking about downstairs,”

“That’s just what I was going to say,” he whispered back.”It sounds as though someone is walking about downstairs.”

Then there were more little creaks, and it began to sound as though someone was walking up the stairs.

“I think a burglar has broken in,” said Angelina. “Oh, Samuel, what are we going to do?”

“Well, if he comes in here and walks across my table, I could always try and stick out one of my legs and trip him up,” answered Samuel.

It’s not easy to sound cross when you’re whispering, but Angelina whispered as crossly as she could: “There’s no need to be sarcastic!”

“No, I’m not, Angelina,” whispered Samuel, who was really just as scared as she was; “but what can we do? I’m an alarm clock, not a burglar alarm, and it’s not easy to ring my bell when it’s set at seven o’clock. – Besides, if I did manage a ring, he’d only tap me on the head and turn me off again.”

Then the creaks got nearer, and the door opened quietly, and Angelina saw she was right: it was a burglar coming into the room. At least she thought it must be a burglar. She wasn’t sure he looked like a burglar, but then she wasn’t sure she knew what burglars were supposed to look like. He looked pretty ordinary, just dressed in jeans, a pullover and jacket. The only special thing about him was that he was wearing white trainers.

“But then I suppose they’re to keep his feet quiet,” she thought. If she hadn’t been rather frightened she would have thought “keep his shoes quiet”, because if you come to think about it, feet always are quiet; even if you tread on them, it’s the person who owns the feet that shouts out, not the feet themselves.

Anyway, Angelina watched as the man crept about the room,and decided he definitely was a burglar. “Burglar Bill” she christened him, thinking that was a very good name for a burglar. Which it was, especially if you didn’t know his real name, which it wasn’t. His real name, would you believe, was Neville Thoroughgood. And who would have called a burglar that? Perhaps Thoroughbad, but certainly not Thoroughgood.

By mow, Burglar Bill, or perhaps we who know should call him Neville Thoroughgood, had obviously realised that there was nobody in the house except a few clocks, so he didn’t need to creep about quite so silently, and he began to open cupboards and drawers to see what he could find.

He opened Householder’s wardrobe, and saw a money-box inside. Quickly he grabbed it, and managed to prise it open, and he got hold of a few notes and pushed them in his pocket. Then he moved on to Mywife’s wardrobe. Here he found Mywife’s jewel case, and that, too, he broke open, and a handful of necklaces, rings and brooches went into his pocket.

He took a quick look round the room to see what else he could grab. Both Angelina and Samuel tried to tick as quietly as they could in case he might want to grab them, but they soon realised that he hadn’t got a big bag with him, and all he was taking were things he could stuff in his pockets.

But of course, he moved round to the dressing table, and there in the right-hand drawer was something he could stow away in his pocket. He opened Penelope’s little case, and when he saw her, with her gold face surrounded by the brightest jewels, he could hardly stop himself shouting out with delight.

Penelope, tucked away in her drawer, had no inkling of what was going on in the bedroom, so she was very surprised and very frightened when she suddenly found herself whisked off her velvet bed, and bundled into a dark and dusty pocket, along with various brooches and necklaces, some of which she recognised because she had noticed them being worn by Mywife on one of her evenings out.

Neville obviously thought he had done rather well, particularly after he’d found Penelope, and without looking any further, he strode out of the room. Samuel and Angelina heard him go downstairs, for with no one in the house he didn’t have to be quiet any more, but just needed to get out of the house as soon as he could.

“Samuel,” said Angelina, “he’s taken Penelope! Whatever can we do?”

Well, whatever could they do? As Samuel had said, he was an alarm clock, not a burglar alarm, and there was nothing left for it but to wait until  Householder and Mywife came home. They wished and wished they could go a bit faster so that  Householder might come back sooner, but they were sensible enough to realise that, though that might make the time seem to go faster, it would only be in their bedroom, and the only real result would be that they would end up telling the wrong time. And that’s something clocks never willingly do.

Eventually  Householder and Mywife did arrive home, and as soon as they got in they realised what had happened; and Mywife was especially upset to see that her beautiful wrist watch had been taken. And all that they could do was to inform the police, who promised to come round and investigate.

Mywife was looking out of the bedroom window when the detective arrived.

“Oh, it’s not a policeman in uniform,” she said to Householder.

“No, it’s probably a plain clothes man,” he replied.

He didn’t look much like a plain clothes man to Angelina when he came in the room; he had a bright blue anarak, a check shirt and a vivid red tie.

“If that’s plain clothes,” she said to herself, “I’m glad he didn’t come all dressed up.” But she thought it was probably one of those odd expressions like “Householder” that humans use.

“And you are, of course, the householder?” asked the detective.
“Yes, yes, of course,” answered Householder.

“There you are!” exclaimed Samuel quietly to Angelina. “All that stuff about him being called George!”

“Well, it’s difficult to catch these fellows once they’ve got away,” went on the detective. “But obviously, we’ll do what we can. And you never know, we might be able to track down some of the jewellery and that watch.”

“I do have a photo of the watch,” said The Householder, and Angelina forgave Penelope for having her picture taken.

“That’s a good idea, – always useful,” commented the detective.

“Ah, well, you see, we belong to a Neighbourhood Watch, they advised it.”

Angelina would have snorted if snorting was a thing clocks were given to doing.

“These humans!” she exclaimed to herself. “Householders who can’t hold houses, plain clothes that are far from plain, and a Neighbourhood Watch that can’t tell the time! I shall never understand them.”


*        *        *        *

Meanwhile, what about Penelope? Where was she? – Which was just what she was wondering.

Well, Neville Thoroughgood was not a stupid man. Like many of his sort, he was often cleverer than the people he stole from. And he certainly thought about his job. He had to, in case he got caught.

Samuel and Angelina had noticed that he hadn’t carried a big bag, as you might expect, if he was stealing things all the time. And Angelina had thought he didn’t actually look like a burglar as far as she knew. But Neville Bill knew that the more he looked like quite an ordinary person, and the less like a burglar <whatever a burglar looks like>, the more likely he was to get away without being suspected.

He also knew that if he got away with something particularly unusual and valuable, as he had seen Penelope was, the more the local police would be on the look-out for it if he tried to sell it. And Neville never sold these things himself. It’s not easy to open a Burglar’s Shop where you can sell the things you’ve stolen. So he had one or two Jeweler’s shops he knew, where the Jeweler, I’m afraid, was no more honest than Neville was. He sold them to the Jeweler, and the Jeweler, who swore he had no idea where they came from, sold them to customers.

One of these Jewelers that Neville knew had a shop in Brighton, a nice long way from Householder’s home, so the watch could be sold before anyone could trace it.

And that’s where Penelope was now, – on a train on the way to Brighton.

Well, Brighton’s a nice enough place if you know you’re going there, or if you can see it; but Penelope was still in a dark and dusty pocket; – more carefully wrapped up now, because Neville wanted her to look her best when Mr.Jennings the Jeweller saw her, but it was still all very dark and frightening.

When Mr.Jennings saw Neville Thoroughgood come into the shop, he knew what was up.

“Come into the back room,” he said, and Neville followed him into the room behind the shop. A room behind the shop rather like Mr.Tickspring’s, but Mr.Jennings was no Mr. Tickspring. Far from it.

Neville laid a few brooches and necklaces on the table, at which Mr. Jennings just said “H’mmm” a few times. Then he put Penelope down.

“There y’are,” he said. “Wassat worth?”

Mr.Jennings could see straight away that this was something special.

“You mean what am I going to give you for it?”

He took out his little jeweller’s eyeglass. Rather like the one Mr.Tickspring used, but he hadn’t got nice old wrinkled eyes like Mr.Tickspring, and he couldn’t screw the glass in like a stopper. “A hundred pounds?” he suggested.

Neville nearly fell off his chair.

“An ‘undred pound!” he exclaimed. “Wot d’yer take me for? Well, you’re not taking me for that! ‘Ave you any idea of the value of that watch? ‘Ave you any idea wot I went frough to get lt?”

Actually, all he had gone through to get it was a broken window, but he wasn’t going to tell Mr.Jennings that. Mr.Jennings tried to calm him down.

“For now,” he went on. “A hundred pounds for now. But I have to sell it, you know. I take a risk as well, you know. What I will do – for you – is – er – display it, sell it at the proper price, and then, – er – well, part of that price I shall pass on to you.”

Neville Bill didn’t know any other shops he could use in Brighton, and he hadn’t a lot of choice. Mr.Jennings knew that. So they agreed that was the best thing to do, and that was how Penelope came to find herself, a long way from home, amongst a lot of strange clocks and watches, in Mr.Jenning’s shop.

At least Mr.Jennings was a proper jeweller, or rather, not being very honest, you could say an improper jeweller. And he did know how to treat an extremely valuable watch like Penelope. So she wasn’t just bundled into a dark and dusty pocket, but she was lifted up very carefully, and placed gently, not on the sort of soft velvet bed she was used to, but on to quite a comfortable piece of dark cloth on a small tray with some other watches.

It was not like home, but it was reasonable. The only thing was that the tray was then put in a glass-topped counter, with electric light in it to show off the watches, and it soon got very hot.

“Phew!” gasped Penelope. “Oh dear!”

“A bit warm for you?” asked a small silver watch next to her. “It could be worse. Last week I was put in the shop window, right in the sunlight. I nearly stopped with the heat.”

“What’s going to happen to us now?” asked Penelope. “I ought to be getting back to my owners.”

“So did we all,” replied the silver watch. “By the way, I’m Susan. What’s your name?”


“And were you stolen?” went on Susan. “Quite a few of us were. But as far as I know we’re here till somebody comes along and buys us.”

“But I’m not for sale!” exclaimed Penelope. “I was just whisked away from my nice velvet bed by someone I’d never seen before, and brought down here. But really I belong to Mywife, and she’ll be wondering where I am.”

“I know,” said Susan. “I’m just the same. But I’m not too sure where we are, – I think it’s a shop in Brighton; and I’m pretty certain that my owner has no idea where I am. As far as I can see, Penelope, all we can hope for is that somebody who appreciates a good watch comes in and buys us, and takes proper care of us. I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening, but I never thought it would happen to me.”

“No, I’d no idea!” wailed Penelope. “Oh dear, oh dear, what are we going to do, Susan?”

“Well, I was taught, by a very wise old clock,” answered Susan, “that when you can’t do anything about a thing, the only thing you can do is grin and bear it and hope for the best. You never know, Penelope, you just never know.”

Right then, nobody knew. And if you’d told them, they wouldn’t have believed you.

*        *       *        *

Now, this story is a bit like buying a return ticket on the railway; – what the Italians call a “going and coming back ticket.” We’ve had the “going to Brighton” bit, but how about the “coming back” part?

Well, Householder and Mywife were very depressed after the Neville’s visit. None of the jewellery had been traced, and Mywife missed her beautiful, little watch. They had actually had a promise from their insurance company that if they found a watch to replace Penelope, the company would pay, but so far Mywife had seen nothing like her.

So they felt they needed a little holiday to cheer themselves up, or at least a week-end away. And the famous place for a week-end away is Brighton.

There’s a prom and a pier and a famous Pavilion and a theatre, and lots of shops to look at.

So that’s where they went. And with a whole week-end to spend, they did a lot of walking round shops. A bit too much, Householder thought, but he wasn’t too keen on shopping anyway. And if you happen to be just browsing round shops, it is always possible you might look in a few jewellers shops, particularly if, at the back of your mind, you know you are looking out for a new watch. And if you’re looking in a few jewellers shops, one of them might be Mr.Jennings’ shop. You never know.

That’s why Mywife said, when she saw that jewellers with “Jennings – High Class Jewellery” written over the door: “Let’s just look in here, George.”

Householder didn’t think they’d find the sort of watch they were after in that particular shop, but it was a sort of little holiday for Mywife, so he thought he’d humour her. And you never know …

They told Mr. Jennings they were looking for something special in the way of ladies’ wrist watches, and had he got anything to show them?

Had he!

He showed them one or two fairly ordinary watches at first, and then he thought he might be able to interest them in some of his more expensive ones, and he brought out the tray with Penelope lying on it in the corner.

“Why!” exclaimed Mywife, ” That’s — ouch!”

And she gave a little squeal. Something heavy had suddenly landed on her foot. It was Householder’s foot, and we know that feet themselves take these things very quietly, – it’s the owners of the feet who make the noise. So Mywife did.

“I think, Margaret,” interrupted Householder quickly, “as we’re just browsing and looking at what’s available, what we ought  to do is make a note of this watch, and the price of the watch, and so on, and just compare it with that other one we’ve seen in the other shop. But we are very interested,” he added, looking at Mr.Jennings. “Do you think you could possibly hold it for us for an hour or two while we make up our minds?”

Mr. Jennings was only too happy to hold it for them if he thought he had a good customer. He told them what he was asking for the watch, and when they didn’t go white, he felt this was a good prospect, so he said he would certainly give them time to decide.

So Householder and Mywife walked out of the shop, and Penelope was put back in the counter. She was furious, and Susan had to warn her that if she went on ticking as fast as that she’d gain half an hour.

“But they didn’t recognise me!” said Penelope. “That lady was Mywife, – she’s my owner! All those times she’s made such a fuss of me, and the way she looks at her wrist when I’m strapped to it, and she sees me in this awful place, and doesn’t know me!”

And nothing Susan could say, –  and she couldn’t very easily explain it, made Penelope feel any better.

Outside the shop Mywife was pretty cross, too.

“George,” she almost shouted, “What are you thinking of? That watch is my stolen watch. It’s mine, George, I know it is!”

“I know it is, too, Margaret,” said Householder, trying to calm her down. “And that Jeweller is not quite the High Class one he claims to be. He obviously deals in stolen property. And we’re not going to that other shop, we’re going straight to the police station. Mr. Jennings is keeping the watch for us, and we’ll keep a little surprise for him.”

Well, I know Householder had said to Mr. Jennings that they were very interested, but the police were even more interested. They had had their suspicions about Mr. Jennings’ shop for some time, but hadn’t been able to catch him out and prove anything.

“Well, I can prove this,” said Householder,” because I can send you a photo of this watch, so I know it’s ours.”

You can’t say this story has an entirely happy ending, for Mr.Jennings wasn’t too pleased at being caught out selling stolen property. And Neville Thoroughgood, whom the police were able to track down, wasn’t at all happy at being taken off and charged with stealing any amount of brooches and necklaces and watches.But as they had no one to blame but themselves, they couldn’t complain. Well, they did, but they ought not to have done.

But the police were very happy, for they had caught two criminals, and found goodness knows how much stolen property, which they were able to return to their rightful owners. And the insurance company were very happy, for they didn’t have to pay Householder a lot of money to buy a new watch or any of the other jewellery that had been taken.

And Susan was very happy, because she was another of the wrist watches that were restored to their rightful owners, and she was so glad she’d remembered what the wise old clock had told her about looking on the bright side and hoping for the best, as you never knew.

But that was nothing compared with how happy Mywife was to have her beautiful little wrist watch back, and seeing her so happy made Householder happy, too.

And Penelope? Why, she was more happy than she could possibly say to be back with Angelina and Samuel, and to be tucked up in that luxurious velvet bed of hers, and she couldn’t stop telling them about all her adventures, for looking back on them, now she knew she was safe, adventures they seemed to be.

“And I know you think how lucky I am to be able to go out and about,” she told Angelina and Samuel,” but I don’t think I ever want to go out to Brighton again. Oh, and by the way,” she added, “When Householder came into the shop with Mywife, he called her Margaret; so that must be her name.”

“Oh, come off it!” said Samuel; “First of all Householder’s George. Now Mywife is Margaret. Are you sure it’s not the other way round?”

Clocks aren’t too well up on boys and girls, and boys’ and girls’ names. And anyway, he was only being cheeky again.

Ignore him,” said Angelina. “The main thing is you’re back safe and sound, whatever anybody’s name is.”

“Well, my names’ Penelope,” she said, snuggling down in the velvet,” and I’m glad I’m home.”

Housewife and Mywife were very relieved to have Penelope back, and so glad they had photographed and insured her. They realised a very valuable watch needs great care.

“I think,” said Mywife, “that next time we go on holiday, we should perhaps put my watch in the bank for safety.”

So next time they were due to go away – but that’s another story, another time


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